Homeschool Happenings

Let’s talk about charity mail. This year as part of our homeschool I wanted to make giving a part of our school day. Jason and I came up with a weekly giving budget and asked Gage to kick in $1 a week of his money to make it an even number.

Starting in August each school day we looked at a charity request we received in the mail. We read the literature they sent and looked them up on Charity Navigator, making a note of their financials and how much they spend on programs, fundraising, and administrative costs. At the end of the week we put the 5 charities on a chart with relevant information (including whether they sent any ‘free gifts’). Then we discussed how we’d like to donate our money.

We kept track of every incoming request. In these last two months we received…61 mailings asking for money from 33 different non-profits. That’s right, 61.

I’m going to call out the worst three for the sheer amount of stuff they sent. World Wildlife Foundation sent many gifts along with their SEVEN requests for money. That’s right. They sent almost a request every week. Habitat for Humanity and The City Mission tied for second place with 4 requests each in a two month period. Three charities sent three requests.

And no, we didn’t give money to all of the repeat requesters. The worst is when they sent a letter thanking us for a donation and asking for more money at the same time ☹️
I’m going to give a shout out to Rescue Village for being the ONLY one to send us a thank you letter without a request for more money. Much appreciated.

This has been an interesting learning experience for us both. We’ll continue to track the information and requests, but we’ll be doing things a little differently in October.

I love making projects like this a part of our school day. It’s real world math education and decision making. How can this $1 make the biggest impact and what things are important in making the world a better place are discussions we had every single day.

And, yes, Gage was annoyed when a charity wasted the money we gave them to send more gifts and request more money. An important lesson learned.

A few excellent reads

City of Thieves by David Benioff, historical fiction, 4.5/5 stars, 258 pages, pub. 2008

This novel takes place during the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I bought it as a blind date book at a fundraiser. I’m so glad I did!

This coming of age story about the friendship between Russians, one a young looter and the other a seasoned soldier, is riveting. Lev and Kolya are sent out in search of a dozen eggs for the wedding of and official’s daughter. I’m not a huge fan of WWII fiction, but the siege of Leningrad books always fascinate me. The inhumanity up against real people and their will to live is always a story worth reading.

It’s at times harsh, crude, and absurd. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it!

I listened to the audio and picked up the book to read the parts I wanted to think about a little more. The cannibal scene alone will have your heart racing.

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka, 4.25/5 stars, thriller, 323 pages, pub. 2017

The Last Place You Look is set in the Columbus area, so that was a big draw.

Roxane is a private investigator dealing with grief and a drinking problem. This is not unique in this genre, but the addition of her relationships with both men and women added a new layer to her personal story.

She was hired to get her client’s brother out of jail and she’s pressed for time because he’s set to be executed in two months. When she starts nosing around the problems with the local police begin.

This was a fast paced mystery with a flawed lead character and dysfunctional family and I liked it I see that this is the first of four books (so far) about Roxane so there’s hope for her yet.

Dark and Shallow Lies by Ginny Myers Sain, 4/5 stars. YA, 432 pages, pub. 2021

This was a fun, swampy, mystical thriller. Eleven teens bound together in the Louisiana bayou town known for its seers and those with special powers. When one of them disappears the one who got away, Grey,, comes home to find her.

The audio performance was great and I really liked it. It’s not a planned series, but I can see another book being written about these kids.

This Week – Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week. I hope to get at least oft challenged book read this week.

This past week my book club met in person and we were all there! I don’t remember the last time all 10 of us made it to the same meeting. We discussed two books, but I only finished one, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki. It’s a very interesting historical fiction about a woman who inherited a fortune and had better business sense than men sense. I liked it quite a bit, but would have liked it more if there had been more of a focus on her as a woman outside her four failed marriages. I’d still recommend it to historical fiction lovers, I learned a lot!

I posted about how our homeschooling is going so far this year here. These are the books we read for Peru. The two picture books and Where Is books were great.

Sharuko: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello by Brown and Chavarri is a fantastic picture book, with the story told in Spanish and English. Tello is still much beloved, even all these years after his death in 1947.

Fourteen Monkeys: A Rain Forest Rhyme by Stewart and Jenkins shows the 14 monkey species that live at Manu National Park, one of the most diverse parks anywhere in the world. 

Where is Machu Picchu? by Megan Stine not only told of the country’s favorite destination, but also of some of the history of the Incas and the Spanish conquistadors.

Gage and I are also listening to The Series of Unfortunate events series and finished 3 and 4 this week. He’s addicted. Fiction isn’t his favorite so to see him excited and wanting to talk about them makes me very happy.

I’ve read 220 books of my 300 yearly goal.

On the Screen

Jason and have been watching the Sandman series on Netflix when we’ve had time, but hat hasn’t been often so I think we’re only halfway through.

We watched the first episode of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power with Gage.

This gave us all of the laughs we needed last night!

Plans for the weekend

Jason is staining our deck and then we’re headed to Lake View Cemetery at Gage’s request. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree 🙂 What’s going on with you this weekend?

Homeschool Happenings

We started our third year of homeschooling about a month ago and this year feels different. We started because I didn’t like the plan Gage’s school had in place for Covid and I thought I could manage 4th grade at home. We did, but due to Covid it was isolating. There were still Covid issues last year so we thought we’d do another year at home. Thankfully he was able to join a weekly nature group, but as a whole it was still isolating. For that reason I contacted Gage’s previous school in the spring to see if he could go back this year, but there wasn’t an opening in his grade unless we wanted to travel 30 minutes away to a new school they just opened. That was an easy no.

Am I still concerned about Covid? Sure. We still wear masks inside if there are a lot of people. Am I more concerned about my son’s mental health? Yes, I am. So, this year homeschool looks different. He goes to tutoring everyday at an office (not at home), he still has his weekly nature group, he takes a homeschool art class at the local art center, he just started chess club last night, and there are a few more in person activities I’ve signed him up for in the next few months. I planned a game day with other homeschool kids at our library last month and 22 kids showed up so I’m going to make it a monthly thing. He’s in two Outschool Zoom classes with the same kids week to week. It feels like a new homeschool beginning.

This year I wanted to make what we learned interested Gage so I’m letting him choose a country each week and I base our learning time on that country. I ask him for 3 countries then I go to the library and request everything I can. I start reading/searching usually the Thursday or Friday before and plan our activities and learning for the week. Not only does he learn about the country and its history and geography, he learns some of the language (he’s done French and Spanish so far) we also cook something, listen to the music, and do some kind of art. I can include math by having him do currency conversions and word problems.

Our homeschool days are more fun and varied this year and we’re both having a lot of fun. After three weeks of the countries of his choice, he spends a week doing a project from something we learned. This way he delves a little deeper into something that interests him. (Also this gives me a week where I don’t have to start a country from scratch!) His first three countries were Canada, France, and the UK and for his project he researched British high teas, wrote about the history, planned a menu, and put on a tea for his dad, grandma and me with minimal supervision and he did a fantastic job.

I know this is long, but I feel like the blog needed a little TLC and this is what’s happening in our lives right now, so I hope to do more of these, either long rambling thoughts like this one or just what we’ve studied for the week. As a bonus for making it this far I’ll share the recipe we made yesterday for this week’s country Peru. Gage loved learning how to use our zester and garlic press. This was a super yummy dish.

from The Big Peruvian Cookbook.

This Week – NYC

I tagged along with Jason to NYC this past week and had a great time, even though I came home a sneezy congested mess. I tested negative for Covid on Wednesday night and yesterday, but still being careful around the kid. I don’t feel like I’m getting worse so I’ll just assume I came home with the big city crud that my body isn’t used to, lol.

I was able to visit The Strand, my favorite NYC bookstore, for visit #12 in Zibby Books 22 in 22 bookstore challenge. I love this place. Eighteen miles of books makes for a magical morning.

Charles Dickens writing desk.

I also visited the New York City Public Library Treasures collection, a perfect activity for a rainy afternoon.

We did more of the usual NYC things and a few that were new to us. We’d never taken the tram over to Roosevelt Island so that was fun. From there we took the ferry to downtown and we’d never done that before either. We lived there in 2000 for almost 6 months and we visit every 5 years it seems. The last two times we’ve taken Gage so it was kind of fun to just make it the two of us this time.

I never posted about my August favorites. I read 26 books, but only 5 adult books. Homeschooling has begun so it’s been a J book parade over here!

My 6 favorites were
When You Are Mine by Michael Robotham
Year One by Nora Roberts
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
Walking To School by Eve Bunting
The Mutter Museum by Anna Dhody
A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener and John Harris

In the next few weeks we’ll be learning about Peru, Australia, and Egypt, so if you have any book or movie recommendations please send them my way.

We’re headed to a battle of the high school bands tonight since it’s right in town at the football field. What are just up to this weekend?

July & August Movies and Money for Charity

You know the drill, add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity. Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity. Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to. Anyone is welcome to join in at any time. Click here to see past movie posts.

We’re at $85 right now.  Your charity could be next 

We watched the Terminal List, it was okay, but not great, and finished up the second half of season 4 of Stranger Things, loved it!

Top Gun Maverick, 2022 (Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Glenn Powell, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris) Grade A

All the feels of original +

The Age of Adaline, 2015 ( Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker) Grade B

Lightning and aging connection, lol.

I Want You Back, 2022 (Charlie Day, Jenny Slate, Scott Eastwood, Manny Jacinto, Clark Backo, Gina Rodriguez) Grade B-

Dumpees team up for mischief.

Hampstead, 2017 (Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson, James Norton, Simon Callow) Grade B-

Sweet romance for older set 🙂

The Man From Toronto, 2022 (Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Kaley Cuoco, Jasmine Mathews, Ellen Barkin, Lela Larkin, Pierson Fode) Grade B-

Funnish buddy mistaken identity comedy.

Minions: The Rise of Gru, 2022 (Steve Carrell, Piere Coffin, Taraji Henson, Michelle Yeoh, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Alan Arkin) Grade B-

Cute addition to the franchise.

The Duff, 2015 (Mae Whitman, Robbie Arnell, Bella Thorne, Bianca Santos, Skyler Samuels, Romany Malco, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney) Grade C-

No one to root for.