Friday, January 29, 2010

Urban Treasure Hunting

Ok, so it's not exactly treasure. In fact, our first find was just a sign-in sheet, but IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I think Kylie was beginning to doubt me when we couldn't find the first two caches, but you should have seen her eyes light up when I said, "I think I found it!"

After our first three geocachings, I am already noticing that some locations aren't the best spots for kids. Who wants to take their kid on a tour of a dumpster anyway? I don't even want to do that alone. But this one was great. It was an easy location to access, clean and isolated enough that passers-by don't eyeball you like you're looking for trouble.

So far, geocaching has my vote as a great family activity. The excitement of the hunt and finding new places that you may not have even known existed is so much fun.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Retrospect - Week 3

Week 3 can best be described as a complete meltdown. It wasn't a meltdown for Kylie. It was more of a meltdown for me. The activities for week 3 focused on "life on a farm" and "the definition of family". These topics seem simple enough, but the fact that once again I couldn't find any of the recommended books available anywhere finally took its toll on me. Additionally, the limited number of stores that I searched for toy farm animals either had very high priced toys ($3 each) or none at all. I think between my wife and myself, we checked WalMart, Target, Walgreens and Toys 'R' Us. Not a huge list of places, but we have limited time to shop. We couldn’t even find the alternate choice of farm animal stickers. The toy part is my fault, I just wasn't prepared, but the rigidity of the curriculum is becoming a huge problem.

So basically, we did a whole lot of nothing. The meltdown got progressively worse as my own school work piled up and I began my daily exercise routine again. In a nutshell, I really need to focus on time and resource management. I was going to give week 3 another go this week, but our weekend proved to be far too busy for me to prepare properly…again. I need a new plan of attack. I'm glad that this whole thing is a "dry run" to prepare for the real thing. I know that there aren't any perfect rules for when homeschooling should begin. I've just been gauging it on when Kylie would normally begin public school which would be this Fall. My hope is that she would actually be classified as first-grade level when she would normally be starting kindergarten. It's not really a homeschool way to look at it, but it's a big paradigm shift that I am still adjusting to and learning about.

Part of my developing a revised plan has been reviewing homeschooling methods. Since I seem to have fallen into the "school at home" approach more than I wanted to, I have been reading about the other end of the spectrum, "unschooling". What I've read so far seems extreme to me. I don't think it's all bad, but some of it just feels risky. I understand that there are various degrees of unschooling, but some of the more extreme approaches border on neglect in my opinion. Letting your kids choose to play video games and watch TV all day simply because that's what they are into at the moment doesn't seem like education at all. But before any of the great unschoolers out there rip my head of for being ignorant or close-minded, I will admit that some of what I read is very insightful. Allowing a child to choose subjects that they want to learn and sometimes even how they want to learn it makes a lot of sense to me. Kids (all humans actually) are more likely to retain what they learn when they learn it on their own terms. I just think that because we live in a society that primarily consists of products of the public school system, developing some of those same skills along a similar timeline is important in order for the child to relate to his/her peers. Perhaps I will change my mind if we make some friends in the homeschool/unschool community so that we don't feel so isolated. People really do treat you like you are crazy when you tell them that your kid won't be attending a formal school.

Anyway, the primary purpose of this post is to remind you and myself that there will be setbacks and that we can overcome them. I'm not giving up. I'm just finding my way. Kylie is having a blast, so that keeps me going. For the rest of this week we will focus on trips to the library, the park and planning our geocaching…which reminds me. I ordered a handheld GPS unit so that we can start geocaching. If you aren't familiar with it, I think of it as mini-treasure hunting. There is an entire site dedicated to it. Basically, geocachers hide various sized containers in locations all over the world. The GPS coordinates are then provided, and other geocachers use the coordinates to hunt for the containers. Each container has some kind of "treasure" inside. Once you find it, you can take the treasure, sign the visitor log (if there is one) and then leave a new treasure for the next person. The cool part is that these caches are everywhere. I did a search using my zip code and nearly 2500 results popped up. At first I thought we would only do this while on the road with mom, but with that many results, we can go geocaching any time we want. You can learn more at or

I will also work on the new lesson plans for next week. It will most likely be a more eclectic approach.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Last week we finally made it over to our favorite "park", the Riparian Preserve. If you've never been there before, it's not like your average everyday park. It's more like that secret place (if you grew up in the lower elevations of Arizona) that you would go to when your parents told you to go outside and play. I guess I would qualify as a "free range" kid growing up. For the most part, my mother would kick us out of the house for the day and we would take off for the nearest dry wash or semi-shady urban area. To be fair, my mother always gave us the option of staying indoors to help with chores, but we chose the 115 degree heat (sometimes in bare feet) over the slightly more comfortable swamp-cooler and doing dishes. Of course there is one huge difference between a dry-wash and the Riparian Preserve. The preserve is actually a carefully balanced eco-system that is routinely maintained by loving hands. As an added bonus, the preserve contains the Town of Gilbert Drinking Water Treatment Plant among other cool stuff like the Southeast Regional Library.

The "playground" is rather unique. You won't find swings or monkey bars here. Instead, they have what I would call an abstract concrete castle-like structure that kids (and parents) can climb on. When I was a kid, this would have been a perfect spot for a game of cops and robbers. The rest of the park would have been ideal for adventure games. I had an overactive imagination when I was a kid and I could conjure up stories out of thin air. I would give each of my siblings a role to play. Sometimes I was even nice enough to allow them to choose their own "character". I was the oldest if you haven't figured that out yet. I think I'll stop right there before things get out of hand. I'm already imagining my younger self roaring down the hills and through the brush on my bike pretending it was a horse. Below is a picture of the "castle":

I was also obsessed with treasure hunting (what kid wasn't?), and the dino-dig in the picture below would have been favorite of mine. Of course I would have added other cool stuff for us to dig up, but I think it's cool that they already have built-in "treasures" to find. Any kid that likes dinosaurs will love this spot.

Obviously, since the place is a preserve, you can find numerous desert plants throughout the park. Signs are posted with plant names and information, and there are so many great spots for a picnic that I wouldn't even try counting them all. Kylie wasn't too happy that I asked her to stand in the middle of a bunch of cacti for a picture, but I think it came out well. It's not as crowded as it looks. Plus, the house in the distance reveals the proximity of city life. Which brings me to another excellent feature. You can actually camp overnight in this park. You are required to make a reservation and pay a $30 fee, but I am already considering this as a good way to introduce Kylie to camping. If things don’t go well, our house is ten minutes away!

Next, the observatory. We haven't taken advantage of this great opportunity yet, primarily because my work schedule doesn't allow me to visit when the observatory is open. They allow visitors on Friday and Saturday evenings. The East Valley Astronomy Club runs it. If you have participated in it's operation, please share what you experienced. Eventually we will make time to visit, and when we do I will post the details.

The last two photos are of Kylie's favorite feature (second only to feeding the ducks). By the way, they have rules about feeding the ducks. The yeast in bread is bad for them, so we take one of the approved foods…chicken scratch. There is a feed store/Uhaul rental place on the Northwest corner of Power and Williams Field Roads…I can’t remember the name. I'll add it to the comments if I remember it. You can pick up a good sized bag of chicken scratch for about $2.

Anyway, the photos below are two-halves of a giant snake…I guess it would be called a sculpture. The reason Kylie likes it so much is because over the last few years, we have used it as an obstacle course of sorts. I used to watch a lot of TV, so bear with me. G4 has a show called Ninja Warrior (from Japan). In this show, contestants go up against an intense obstacle course. The race is timed (except for the second to last course which is endurance-based) and at the end of each course is a huge round button that the contestant must hit to stop the clock (assuming they have time remaining). Well, nearly every kid at the park wants to climb up on this snake and run from one end to the other. The first time Kylie tried it, she had some trouble. She was about three and hadn't had much experience with uneven terrain. As you can see, the snake has all kinds of contours and bumps. So when I watched her navigating it, it reminded me of Ninja Warrior. As luck would have it, each end of the snake has a bump near the end. So each time Kylie would reach the end, I would tell her to smack the bump as if it were the timer button. It has turned into a ritual whenever we visit the park. Now that she has it down, I may actually start timing her.

I could go on and on for many more pages about the guided tours, the hiking trails, the different types of birds, the fishing, the biking, etc. Instead, check out their website and go check out the park for yourself. Pack a lunch and take the whole family down. You will easily spend a few hours just wandering around and playing with the kids. This is prime Arizona weather time. Get out there and explore!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Retrospect - Week 2

Week 2 went well. Here are a few things that I learned this week:

1. Bowls are surprisingly useful for just about everything.

2. I don't own enough bowls.

3. It is important to have a place to hang projects that require glue.

4. Cats like glue.

5. The concept of a family tree can be confusing to a 4-year-old.

6. My family tree is more like a forest fire. It disorients people and is nearly impossible to escape.

7. Expo sells low-odor dry erase markers.

8. Too much time in front of a dry erase board with standard markers...wait, what was I saying?

Which reminds me, I figured out that it's a good idea to write some of the lesson plans on the whiteboard ahead of time in order to save time during lessons. It doesn't need to be the entire plan, just some notes on daily assignments so that I don't need to refer to the book every 5 minutes. I'm beginning to understand why some parents have a crate or box containing the daily lesson. Having everything ready to go the day before makes things go much smoother. I probably should have figured this out sooner...I blame the markers.

As I mentioned in Week 1, I wanted to start some kind of mobile home-schooling kit (not to be confused with a mobile-home schooling kit). Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyway, here's what I have so far:

It needs some work, but I think it's a good start.

My favorite part is the backpack.  Since Christmas, I have been trying to find the perfect backpack for Kylie.  Why is it that the creators of children's backpacks think that our kids need giant backpacks relative to their size?  Every type that I found seemed to be huge on Kylie., and these were branded Dora, Spongebob, Super Mario...even Barbie.  She's petite, but not a tiny kid.  If I were to put one of them on her and fill it, she would fall over.  To top it off, they want $20 - $25 for a pack that doesn't even fit right.  I had nearly given up on ever finding one that fit her age and size until I stumbled on this beauty at Walmart.  According to the tag, it's an "Accessory Backpack".  I found it with the toiletry kits.  The best part was that it was only $9.  To give you a point of reference as far as size, the red pack of flash cards is the size of a deck of playing cards.  Plus, it's cool is that?

Next, I added Pip-Squeaks Colored Pencils by Crayola.  Also at Walmart, it was a bit pricey at $5, but it came with 18 colored pencils and a sharpener.  After considering the likelihood that the backpack would be left in my truck at least once during the summer, I decided that crayons were a bad idea.  The Arizona sun can melt just about anything you leave in your vehicle.  Crayons don't stand a chance.

The Primary Journal by Mead was also more than I wanted to pay, but I'm probably just getting cheap in my old age.  It was just under $3.  The pages are split into two parts.  The upper half is blank for drawing pictures.  The bottom half is lined for beginning writers and has red lines that "cues students to sit letters on the baseline."

Finally, the flashcards are just a couple from a stash I picked up at Target for $1 apiece.  I can rotate them in and out.  We have letters, simple math, phonics and sight words.  I also picked up some with presidents and the states, but she doesn't like them yet.  Thankfully, mom pitched in the purple water bottle.  Maybe we can get Kylie to drink more water now.  I'm starting a betting pool.  Any takers?

Of course, we also added her Nintendo DS (thanks a lot Santa).  I'll let her keep it in there as long as she doesn't use it exclusively.  For now she only uses the DS about half the time.

So far, I've been able to drive up to an hour without her complaining about being bored or starting the never ending question "where are we going next?"  She'll play with an item for 10-15 minutes and then move on to the next item.  I think that it will continue to work as long as I keep the contents fresh with new stuff.

Here's the best picture I could get of her wearing it.  I've learned not to get between her and the computer unless absolutely necessary.  She was busy helping Dora save mermaids from garbage.  She doesn't get too much time on the computer during the week, so I try to stay out of her way when she gets a chance to play.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Booster Seat Driver

From the time that Kylie was able to speak, she has demonstrated a keen sense of her surroundings, specifically landmarks when we are driving. At first I thought it was limited to a few of her favorite places, but I quickly realized that she had this ability with nearly every place she had ever visited. For the last year or so, I have really gotten a kick out of it because she will tell me when I miss a turn or that I am going the wrong way if I take a different route. She is finally beginning to understand that many routes can be taken to arrive at the same destination. But what she did today just blew me away.

We were on our way back from our almost daily McDonald's routine (I know, I'm a terrible father, but we both dig the playgrounds) and she asked to go to a specific park. The park she described was a dog park that we hadn't gone to in over a year because, well, it’s a dog park and we don't own a dog. The playground is small, but she insisted. I explained to her that we hadn't been there in so long that I couldn't remember where it was. Without hesitation, she told me that she could tell me how to get there.

Now at this point, I am willing to bet that most parents would laugh it off and continue to their original destination, but I was curious. I decided, what the heck? Worst case, I drive around in circles for a bit and then drive home. So I let her navigate. She started by telling me to go straight. Being the cruel great dad that I am, I had to mess with her test her. I kept asking, "Should I turn here?" She would always answer, "No, keep going straight." Finally, she said, "Turn here. Turn that way.", because we are still working on "left and right" she still tends to point out the direction. Well, I couldn't make it easy for her, so I turned in the opposite direction. She got a bit flustered and told me that I went the wrong way. I apologized and made a u-turn, sure that she would be turned around, but she said, "Now go straight." As soon as we could see the railroad tracks she said, "Ok, slow down, it's coming up."

Now, I drive this road a lot. I drive on it multiple times daily. For whatever reason, some of us "tune out" certain things that we consider irrelevant to our daily routines. I honestly had no idea where the park was, but I was sure that it wasn't on this road. But lo and behold, we crossed the railroad tracks and up on the left I saw the sign for the park. She immediately said, "Turn here, it's right there!". I was flabbergasted and couldn't stop laughing. She didn't understand what was so funny.

This probably isn't that amazing. Kids know what they want and they probably catalogue things like locations differently than adults do. But when you have a 4-year-old successfully navigating a road trip for you, it makes you question your sanity.

Know the Law - Addendum

Shortly following my post mentioning the couple in New York that were arrested for failing to register home-schooled kids, I was reading Rational Jenn's blog. She mentioned that it's a bad idea to trust sites such as HSLDA for verification of the laws in your area. Allowing a third-party to translate or summarize the laws in your area increases the chance that you may receive bad information. Considering the stakes, it is imperative that you know this specific corner of law inside and out. Anything less is just asking for trouble. I will admit that I myself still need to read through the Arizona Statutes in order to make sure that I will be in compliance when the time comes for me to register Kylie. I will be reading through them, and if I come across anything specific worth mentioning, I will post it. But please keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and any other third-party may not be either. Even if they are lawyers, they can make mistakes. The point is that we all need to go to the source and do our best to understand the law. It's the only way to be sure.

I recommend visiting and doing your own search for the relevant statutes. I checked it out and I was finally able to find what I was looking for. However, they must have changed their website recently because their FAQ is misleading as to how to perform a search. It asks you to use a link on the main page that doesn't exist (unless my browser doesn't support it for some reason). Anyway, this is how I navigated to the proper area of their site:

1. Go to

2. Roll your mouse over "Legislative Council" on the menu bar just below the banner photo of the capitol building. This will drop down a menu.

3. From the menu select "Arizona Revised Statutes".

4. In the "Search Phrase" box type, "home school". I tried "homeschool" and "homeschooling", but neither of these produced any results. So make sure you have a space between "home" and "school".

5. Click the Search button. This will yield results that I think include the relevant statutes and some that aren't so relevant.

If you happen to find more related statutes, please post your comments here so others can benefit from the time you spent searching.

As Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Homeschooling Restrictions, Gilbert, AZ

I try not to get worked up about articles like this because the media tends to blow things out of proportion. However, it is still my chosen responsibility to mention such stories when I find them, just in case the story turns out to be accurate. No laws have been passed, but if these types of restrictions are placed on Gilbert homeschoolers, I will certainly consider moving. It would be a shame because I thoroughly enjoy living here, but not at the cost of my freedom of choice.

Board to consider homeschool, online class restrictions

Balloon Starts With "B"

As usual I am falling behind in posts, but I wanted to share last Saturday's adventure.

My wife learned that there was going to be a hot air balloon festival on Saturday.  It just so happens that last week Kylie and I were studying the letter "b".  The festival was a great way to finish off the week while learning a few things about a craft that is often overlooked.

The festival took place in Cave Creek at Rancho Manana (that's manana, as in the Spanish word for tomorrow...I'm just not setup to add the tilde over the "n").  We started with the KTVK Channel 3 balloon.  The guys were just hanging out waiting for things to get started, so I asked for a closer look at the basket, or the "gondola" as the pros call it.  The gondola pictured below is designed to hold 4 passengers plus a pilot.  This makes for a rather cozy ride.

Kylie liked the bumble bee balloons best.  All of the balloons, including the bees, started out lying flat on the ground.  Then each team began to inflate their balloon using a large fan.

Once the team fills the balloon to a certain point, they fire up the burners, heating the air inside of the balloon to give it buoyancy.  Kylie wasn't too sure about the fire.  At first she was concerned for our safety, but she finally decided that as long as we kept our distance we would be fine.

The Spiderman balloon was the most impressive color-wise.  It's red glow was very intense at night.

They ended the show with a skydiving show.  The skydivers wore suits that lit up during their descent.  It was difficult to capture any good pictures, but here are the two best shots.  The first one is of the skydivers directly overhead.  The second photo is of one of the skydivers landing in the sand trap (we were on a golf course).  They sure came in fast!

Kylie is still talking about the show.  I highly recommend a show like this if you find one in your area.  In Arizona, we only have a short time to experience them.  From what I understand, they don't fly very well once the weather gets hot.

If you want a better look at the bumblebee balloons, they have a picture posted on Wikipedia:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Retrospect - Week 1

The first week went reasonably well. We had a few interruptions, but nothing major. I strayed from the plan a few times due to project supplies that I failed to buy and a last minute appointment. Kylie had a great time and every morning she asked if we were going to have class again. She loves sharing the day's activities with her mom when she gets home from work. Kylie also continues to carry on some of the daily lessons for the rest of that day. For example, today we had a scavenger hunt (in the house) for things that start with the letter "b". She did a lot better than I expected. The list included about 20 unique items. Of course one of them was the cat's "butt"…I couldn't really argue. It does start with "b". Later when we were out running errands, she continued to point out things that started with "b". This is exactly the kind of unbridled desire to learn that I hope to maintain.

For the most part, distractions were kept to a minimum. Our cats (Molly and Benjamin), that never show up when you want them to, seemed baffled as to why Kylie and I were spending so much time in a room that was previously reserved for piles of unused items and cat naps. Molly has made it clear that she is also a student and will come and go as she pleases, primarily in the middle of a lesson that requires Kylie's undivided attention. I think it was Wednesday that Kylie gently explained to Molly that she had to wait in the other room until class was over. Molly seemed unimpressed. Today, Kylie's solution was to headbutt Molly until I asked her to stop. It's stuff like this that makes it difficult to discipline with a straight face. Headbutting a cat…who does that?

So far, our biggest challenge has been fine motor skills. In this case, using scissors to cut out shapes and pictures from magazines and worksheets. Overall, I think Kylie did well considering she's never used a pair of scissors before (unless you count the Ken doll incident). She was a little bit frustrated. I helped her by holding the paper for her or showing her a better cutting angle and then she was fine. Another week or two of cutting and she'll be cutting everything in sight. Whose idea was this again?

Finally, I have decided that I need to create a mobile homeschooling kit. It needs to be compact and light, with lots of easy to open pockets. I will need to add some basic art supplies (crayons, paper, etc.), small books and maybe a pair of kid's binoculars or one of those cool collapsing telescopes that all of the movie pirates use. In my opinion, a kit like this is absolutely essential if you spend a lot of time driving around town with the kids or as a backup plan for days that are interrupted by "emergencies" that force you to leave the house in the middle of a lesson. I will let you know what I come up with.

That's it for this week. For those of you waiting with intense anticipation (is there really anyone reading this?), I haven't forgotten about my promise to post photos of the classroom. The truth is that I still have a few items to clear out before it's picture-worthy. I also have a couple of maps that I want to mount on a board that can be moved around. I'm hoping to finish it this weekend. I definitely need to start posting more photos, and I will. I just need to plan better.

Coming soon! Kylie and I will spend a day at one of our favorite places, the Riparian Preserve. We will take lots of pictures and I will give a detailed report.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Princess Parenting

I found this video at and had to share it. I am proud to say that I held my ground last Christmas against the My Little Pony cavalry. I matched the pony gifts with a Bosch toy tool set. Unfortunately, the ponies had a huge headstart from past birthdays and random shopping sprees. I have my eye on a complete Bosch toy workbench that just might even the score.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Know the law

Please don't let this post scare you. This is just an example of what can happen when the law is ignored.

Parents arrested for failing to register home-schooled kids

If you live in Arizona, The Home Education Network of Arizona is a great place to begin learning the laws that affect homeschoolers. I am thankful that Arizona is a very homeschool friendly state.

If you live outside of Arizona, try the HSLDA. They actually have a color-coded map that gives a basic description of the level of regulation for each state. As you can see, New York is heavily regulated which is why this couple had such a bad experience.

Tech Tip #1 - Portable Favorites

As a computer technician, I feel it is my duty to offer helpful computer advice whenever possible. With each tech tip that I post I hope to save you time and/or money. As we all know, both of these resources are in short supply and using them efficiently is essential to success in any endeavor. My tips won't always be tremendously insightful to everyone, but I recognize that not all computer users are created equal. For some, a simple tip can be a big help in making life easier.

Today's tech tip will give you a way to carry all of your favorite Internet links with you. Whether you call them "Favorites" or "Bookmarks", you saved them because you plan on accessing them over and over again. I often find myself at the library or at a friend's house and for whatever reason I want to share a website with someone. Typically it's a site that has a complicated address (which is why I bookmarked it in the first place), so I tell my friend that I will email it to them later. Sometimes I do, but most of the time I forget. Or worse, I send it and it gets lost in their spam folder. I finally decided to carry my list of Favorites with me so that I can share them wherever I am. You can do the same. All you need is a small USB drive and the instructions below.

In case you don't know what a USB drive is, it's a device about the size of a small cigarette lighter (although size and shape vary) that plugs directly into a computer's USB port. You can save files, pictures, music, etc to the USB drive for use on any computer. You may have also heard them called "thumb" drives or "zip" drives. The name really doesn't matter. I just think that USB drive is the most straight-forward description. You can purchase a good size USB drive for $5 - $10 at places like Fry's Electronics, Best Buy or Walmart.

Instructions (assuming you use Internet Explorer as your browser):

1. Insert the USB drive into your computer's USB port. The computer should display a message indicating that it has recognized the drive.

2. Open Internet Explorer.

3. Select "File" from the menu bar at the top.

4. Select "Import and Export" from the list.

5. At the Welcome screen, click "Next".

6. Select "Export Favorites" and click "Next".

7. Select the folder that you want to export. You can choose to export the entire "Favorites" folder if you want to, or you can export a more specific folder. For example, you may have a folder named "Homeschooling Links". I mention this in case you only want to carry certain links with you and keep the more private ones at home. You most likely have links saved for your bank or other private information that you may not necessarily want to share with your friends.

8. Click "Next".

9. Make sure the "Export to a File or Address" is selected, then click the "Browse" button.

10. Click the "Save in" drop-down box and navigate to your USB drive.

11. Click "Save".

12. Finally, click "Finish" and "OK".

If the steps above didn't match what you found on your computer, you may be using a different version of Windows or Internet Explorer. You may need to try it a few times to figure out how to do it with the version you are working with, but the steps should be similar. After completing these steps, you will have a file named "bookmark.htm" saved on your USB drive. From any computer, you can open this file (by double-clicking it) and it will open in Internet Explorer giving you an easy to use menu containing your favorite links. This file can be emailed to a friend, copied to their computer or even imported into their Favorites (with their permission of course).

If you don't want to purchase a USB drive and you have an email account that can be accessed via webmail, you can also email the file to yourself and later access the bookmark file from any computer that has Internet access by opening that email. Additionally, there are many websites that provide a place for you to save your links to (Google "bookmark managers"). I just prefer to avoid the hassle of going to their site, logging in, etc.

There you go! Now you can share that addictive Sudoku site with everyone you meet. Have fun!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ready or Not

Today was our first "official" homeschool day. I had been putting it off because I wanted to be prepared for anything. I have come to realize that it isn't possible. No matter how much I prepare, something will come up that I hadn't considered and I will need to make adjustments on the fly.

For example, I wasn't able to find any of the books suggested by the "Learning at Home" curriculum. I tried Bookman's and my local library. I'm sure I could order them online, but this would be a bad path to take as the cost of books would add up very quickly. Instead, I adapted the curriculum to the objective. After reading the description of each book, I noticed that nearly all of the books were focused on the Fall season. I had to tweak the objective slightly because the curriculum was designed to be started in the Fall. Now that it's Winter, I chose books about Winter instead of Fall. I will most likely need to make similar adjustments in the future.

I've also decided that stocking the classroom is similar to stocking a kitchen's pantry. It isn't necessary to go out and purchase an extensive list of ingredients all at once. Most people buy ingredients as needed based on what a specific recipe calls for. Over time, the pantry fills up with useful ingredients that will most likely be needed for future recipes. A classroom project is just a recipe for learning. Over the past weekend, I purchased the "ingredients" that I needed for this week's "recipe". Eventually I won't need to buy as much stuff every week because I will have already stocked the necessary supplies.

Today went reasonably well. I had a couple of distracting phone calls that I had to take which required me to adjust the plan. I originally had two half-hour classroom sessions with an hour in between for a trip to the park. We skipped the park, went to the library instead (to pick up the books mentioned above), and finished the day with an hour and a half of classroom time. At first I was concerned that Kylie would get bored working in the classroom for that long, but the time flew by and she wanted to keep going after the lessons ended.

My point is, if you are trying to design the "perfect" evironment, system or plan prior to getting started...relax. Figure out what you need for the first week, layout a basic plan and then just let it happen. Getting started is a great feeling. If you make mistakes, brush off the glitter, glue and crayon shavings and make corrections for the next week. Remember, this should be fun!