Notes from the vomitorium

We’ve been having something of a norovirus (probably) plague at Butterscotch Sundae headquarters. It started with Poppy on the night of March 20th, hopped to Pete for a bit and then returned to Poppy. Here’s a handy graphic I made, which should be just as informative and helpful as that terrifying one about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the ocean:

I have done so much laundry.

I have done so much laundry.

It’s a really odd virus. No fever, no aches and pains, no 24-hours-and-everything-is-fine-and-dandy. The kids only feel truly awful when they’re in the middle of an incident. The rest of the time they’re feeling well enough to watch movies, play video games, wrap blankets around themselves like capes and tell me that they’re very, very bored.

I’ve bleached every surface in the house, I’ve washed everything I can put into the washing machine and I’ve even put a cut-up onion in the room just in case it really does soak up the germs, but nothing seems to be getting rid of it. Fortunately — knock on wood — neither Rockford nor I 1 have come down with it. I’m especially happy that Rockford’s been OK, since he’s been out of the country for business since Saturday. I think being sick in a hotel in Morocco would be worse than being sick in a hotel in Virginia. At least there’s no marathon plane voyage to worry about if you’re just in Virginia.

Homeschooling at ButterscotchSundae.comAs you may have already surmised, it’s taken a toll on the schoolwork. We had planned to do a field trip day while we were in Virginia for Rockford’s grandmother’s memorial service (I wouldn’t choose to be sick in a hotel, but it was a relief to just stuff the linens in a large garbage bag and leave them in the hallway. With the staff’s blessing, of course. I wouldn’t have left them a surprise like that. I also asked them to leave a bucket of cleaning supplies with me so I could clean and disinfect after every incident. TMI? Maybe, but keep it in mind in the event that you ever have the same problem.), and we were supposed to meet The Ivey League in Atlanta for a mega-awesome-fun-fest but I like Bridget too much to give her the plague.

So. Things haven’t exactly fallen to pieces at home, but we’ve definitely been on a reduced schedule.

Spelling & Vocabulary

Pete finished Step Six — the short A sound — of All About Spelling this week. He hasn’t been super-enthusiastic about it, but I think part of that is the virus talking. He gets pretty crabby when he doesn’t feel well; it’s a trait he inherited from his mother.

Poppy finished her SpellWell book last week, and I decided to let her take on a vocabulary curriculum rather than replacing it with more spelling. She’s doing the internet-based WordlyWise3000, and she seems to be enjoying it so far. You can only buy subscriptions for an entire school or classroom on the WordlyWise site, but they offer single-kid subscriptions through the Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op. (I get some kind of points if you buy through that link. It isn’t money, exactly, but I figured I’d go ahead and disclose that anyway.)


History has really taken a hit lately. We started back to it this week, but the only activity we did was gluing pieces to the timeline.


Since I was adhering to the 24-hour rule, the kids have been going to their activities sporadically. I feel very guilty about that, although I haven’t heard from anyone saying they’d gotten sick. I just kind of figured if they hadn’t thrown up in three days we were safe, you know?

Anyhow, Pete started tennis lessons this week. His first lesson was on Wednesday, and he loved it.


We’re still working our way through “The Mysterious Benedict Society.” Progress there has been a little slow, too, because I’ve had a touch of a cold (or allergies or hey why not a sinus infection?) for a few weeks and sometimes I lose my voice.

Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!


  1. I’m having chills and an increasingly sore throat as I write this, though, so we’ll see.

Elementary Filmmaking 101 with Pete

Remember when the kids were all about the stop-motion videos? The fascination hasn’t ended. This is a little something Pete cooked up today. He calls it: “Zoom.”

In which we study “Great American Artists” at homeschool co-op

We’ve been attending our homeschool co-op since 2011, and I’ve taught or assisted in a class during every session since. Like so:

  • Fall 2011: Co-taught Outdoor Games and assisted in the History of Video Games.
  • Spring 2012: Taught “Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Other Things That Go.”
  • Fall 2012: Assisted in “Story of the World” history and Clay Exploration.
  • Spring 2013: Taught “Superheroes 101.”
  • Fall 2013: Co-taught a baking class.

    Which is as it should be, considering that it’s a “cooperative” learning environment. Five of those previous classes were rambunctious, though, and at the end of the last session I was ready for a break. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to teach anything in the spring session.

    Then the time to enter classes into the system arrived, and there weren’t enough classes to go around. So I tried to think of something that would be the very easy-peasiest thing for me to do. That’s when I remembered that MaryAnn Kohl’s “Great American Artists for Kids” was sitting on my bookshelf. And that’s how we added this to my homeschool co-op curriculum vitae:

  • Spring 2014: Teaching “Great American Artists.”
    John Singleton Copley's "Watson and the Shark"

    John Singleton Copley’s “Watson and the Shark”

    Yesterday was the second co-op day for the spring, and I can say without a doubt that this has been my least stressful co-op experience so far. There are four 9- to 12-year-old girls in my class, and using Kohl’s book means all I have to do is gather the supplies and hand them over because the research part is already done.

    I was very impressed with the kids’ work this week, and I thought you might like to see it. In fact, I’ll be sharing the results of our art class with you over the next 8 or so weeks. Let’s go!

    John Singleton Copley & narrative drama.

    Last week we started talking about John Singleton Copley. Copley was a well-regarded portraitist in his day, but the painting we focused on is what Kohl calls a “narrative drama,” or a picture that tells a story. “Watson and the Shark” is based on a shark attack that took place in 1749 in Havana. Fourteen-year-old Brook Watson was swimming in the harbor when the shark attacked him. It took three attempts to rescue him, and he lost a leg in the attack. He went on to become the mayor of London. Way to bounce back, Watson!

    Anyway, we watched a National Gallery of Art video about “Watson and the Shark” and then did some brainstorming to think of thrilling tales that the kids could illustrate. They declined to use the ideas my fellow teacher and I offered up — bear attacks! volcanic eruptions! a bear fighting a volcano! — instead choosing to use a favorite book or their own imaginations for inspiration. They spent the rest of last week’s class sketching their exciting scenes, and yesterday they finished their sketches and added color using oil pastel crayons.

    Four works in the style of John Singleton Copley

    I think they did a bang-up job.

    (Please send me any and all of our own narrative paintings, especially if they feature bears and volcanos.)

  • I need to find more ways to fit Christian Bale into our homeschooling

    This Week in Homeschooling

    Guess what I didn’t do this week! I didn’t write down anything at all about what the kids did in school. Which means today’s Week in Homeschooling post is going to be extremely brief.

    1. Our spring session of co-op started this week. In separate classes, Poppy made a marshmallow shooter and Pete made a marshmallow catapult. We’re totally prepared for the marshmallow revolution.
    2. We talked about working conditions and unions this week in history, so of course we watched the first half of “Newsies” yesterday. We’ll watch the rest of it today. Viva la baby Bale
    3. I thought I’d really enjoy “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” but so far I am not loving it. Poppy and Pete like it well enough, though. Onward we press.
    4. Pete and I are moving along v e r y slowly with All About Spelling. He’s remembering all of the phonograms, though, so I’m not in any hurry to speed things up.
    5. Poppy is two lessons away from finishing her McRuffy math book. She’s been doing a lot of work with fractions recently, and she really seems to love them.

    So. What’s your favorite movie-musical for children about unions in the late 1800s?

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!

    What do homeschoolers do all day?

    I thought I’d change our (kind of, when I remember to write it) weekly homeschooling update up a little this week. Instead of writing about individual subjects, I tried to jot down a bit about what we did every day. This is by no means an all-inclusive accounting. That would be far too tedious for all of us.


    It was a very grey, very rainy Monday, and we didn’t get started on schoolwork right away. Once everyone was finally breakfasted, dressed and ready to go, we gathered at the dining room table, where Poppy worked on her grammar and Pete and I reviewed some phonograms. He’s mastered all of them but one; that tricky Y makes lots of sounds. Then we moved on to Pete’s grammar. He’s nearing the end of level one of “First Language Lessons,” and I’m trying to decide whether to order level two or to look for something else for him.

    The Imperator, upon which Nichole great-grandfather came to the United States. Alex Duncan photo, courtesy

    The Imperator. Alex Duncan photo, courtesy

    Next Pete tackled his math, which was a quick worksheet on addition and skip-counting, and I sat with Poppy while she practiced her piano. We met up again on the couch to read this week’s history lesson about immigration to America, after which we pulled up the Ellis Island web site so I could show the kids the ship that brought their great-great-grandfather Maurice to the United States in 1920.

    Then we took a break. Pete retreated to his room to listen to the first Harry Potter book and play with action figures, and Poppy spent some time with the Kindle in her room. After lunch and some chores — laundry for Pete; unloading the dishwasher for Poppy — the kids worked on their handwriting while I read them most of a very long chapter of “The Mysterious Benedict Society.” Pete went back to his action figures afterward, and Poppy recited her memory work and did a few Duolingo Spanish lessons. And then we took another break.

    The kids eventually did the rest of their work; Poppy was still doing her math when Rockford got home from work. Sometimes the kids make their school days very long.


    And other days they get everything done really early. By 1:15pm, the only schoolwork they hadn’t finished was handwriting, Poppy’s poem recitation and Pete’s grammar. Go kids!

    They ate breakfast Tuesday morning and then just started lining ‘em up and knocking ‘em down. They would’ve finished everything before lunch, but when we pulled out the history notebooks to work on their timelines I realized that I’d neglected to print and add the section covering 1882 to 1880. Whoops! So they played while I printed the pages and then disassembled and reassembled the timelines, and then we worked on the day’s history project.

    Tuesday’s work also included:

  • A Teaching Textbooks math lesson on the computer; one page in her spelling workbook; reading a chapter of Growing with Grammar 2 and completing the corresponding assignment; piano practice; tae kwon do; and soccer practice for Poppy.
  • A math lesson on counting-by-5s and telling time; spelling review and starting on the next step of All About Spelling; and tae kwon do for Pete.

    I know school happened on Wednesday. I’m sure of it. I just didn’t write anything down.


    I turned my alarm clock off on Thursday morning, and by the time I’d gotten up, gathered my wits, etc., it was already 10 o’clock and the kids were deep into a game that involved ID cards, lasers and bypassing security systems. They were getting along so well that I just let them play. I did laundry, played Scrabble on Facebook and pulled the too-small clothes out of Pete’s dresser, and we didn’t start on schoolwork until lunchtime.

    We kicked things off by reading a few pages of “If Your Name Was Changed At Ellis Island” while they ate. It’s about what the immigration process was like in the early to mid 1900s, and we’ve talked a lot about what it would have been like for G-G-Grandpa Maurice. I wish someone had written down his Ellis Island story.

    The kids did their weekly Lego Quest Challenge after lunch. This week’s theme was “Metamorphosis.” Pete made a vehicle that turns from a four-wheeled cart into a three-wheeled scooter into a boat, and Poppy made a car that turned into a tower. They were most interested in the video posted on the Lego Quest site showing another kid’s creation’s transformation, so the next thing we did was create a few very short stop-action movies. We were so caught up in our film-making that we nearly forgot to go to tae kwon do, and the kids now want to do nothing but make stop-action videos.


    I did wake up on time today, but it was with a brain-squashing headache. I had a bunch of grown-up stuff (finances, ugh) to get done, too, so here it is nearly noon and the kids are playing in their rooms and I’m writing this and browsing through the newly embeddable Getty Images, and we still haven’t started school. Friday is always our most free-wheeling day anyway, though, so I’m not stressing about it.

    Here’s a smattering of what will eventually happen today:

  • Poppy will take a spelling test.
  • Pete will review phonograms and work on segmenting short words.
  • They’ll each do a math lesson.
  • We’ll finish reading “If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island.”
  • Poppy will write a letter to someone.
  • We’ll make the stop-motion “Star Wars” video that Pete has spent his morning planning.
  • One thing that definitely won’t happen today is Pete’s grammar, because he reached the end of “First Language Lessons: Level One” yesterday and Level Two (with which I decided to proceed) isn’t slated to arrive until tomorrow. He’s pleased to have a day without grammar.

    I noticed a trend as I read over this again: We have not been getting to work any where near the crack of dawn lately. I think I’m just going to have to accept that we are not early birds. But that’s OK; I don’t like worms anyway.

    How was your week?

    Wanna read more about homeschooling? Check out the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers weekly linky thing!