Friday, May 30, 2008

Flames Across the Susquehanna by Glenn Banner

We were supposed to spend 2 weeks reading and talking about the Civil War. It turned into... a lot more than that. The boy is very interested in war and weaponry. The girl, not so much, but she likes to be read to, (almost) no matter what the topic.

I came across Flames Across the Susquehanna while doing a library search on Civil War books my kids could read on their own. When I brought it home, I knew neither of them would read it, so it turned into a read-aloud.

It's a fictional account of a young Pennsylvania boy who joins the Union army as a drummer boy. There is a lot of background story before he actually goes off to war - interesting, not compelling, except for some references to the underground railroad. The climax of the story is the night of June 28, 1863, when the bridge over the Susquehanna River (between the cities of Wrightsville and Columbia) is burned. The author says:

"I don't believe the Battle of Gettysburg would have been fought if it wasn't for the burning of the bridge. But that story is something that has been lost."

This book's reading level is probably around 10-14 years, give or take, you know. As I read, the Hardy Boys books kept coming to mind - the writing style was similar. The edition I had - probably the only edition available - was a little hard to read. Trying to conserve paper, I guess, the publisher did not leave enough white space on the pages. Also it did not follow normal page numbering conventions, so the right-hand page was not always an odd number. (Pages with a drawing were not numbered.) These sorts of problems bother me a little. I like books; I like nice books. Yes, I am peculiar that way.

The story itself was quite exciting once it got into the actual war, and I'm glad I read it to my kids instead of just handing it off. The descriptions of battles were a little rough. It did not shy away from death - it is a war story, after all. A beloved character dies. It is written from a Christian viewpoint, though, so there is always a feeling of hope and comfort of meeting again. It does not glorify war but this was presented as a just war, at least in my view.

I see that each year on June 28 the cities reenact the bridge-burning. We can't go this year, so I haven't told my kids about that. I hope to go while we are still living here. It's the day after my boy's birthday, and I can't imagine a more exciting way to spend it.

One more thing on that Subway deal...

A friend emailed with this bit of information: some homeschooler, somewhere, publicly proclaimed that Subway sucks. OK. Wow.

Once again: homeschoolers talk about the superior education they are giving their children. Presumably that would include teaching them to articulate their thoughts without resorting to common slang, vulgarity or profanity.

Maybe some homeschools are lacking in logic and rhetoric, eh?

Heart of the Matter Friday Meme: Most Exciting Homeschool Moment

The good folks at Heart of the Matter Online ask for our most exciting homeschool moment.

Our most exciting homeschool moment is yet to come. It'll be the moment(s) each of my kids...

- enters university.

- makes the first step on chosen career path.

- is a self-supporting, life-long-learning adult.

- becomes a homeschooling parent.

Check in to to see others' most exciting homeschool moments! Add your own!

I don't like Subway, but I feel like eating there today.

Wow, I had seen the HSLDA alert about the Subway contest that was closed to homeschoolers. But it took a few days to realize people were organizing boycotts and petitions to allow homeschoolers to participate, even though the prize is obviously not meant for someone's backyard: $5,000 worth of sports equipment.

Way to not look like a bunch of goofballs, guys. Here we homeschoolers talk about the superior educations we give our kids. We teach them to think, really think, not like those public-schoolers who just learn facts to spit out on the test, only to forget them, right? And then we go nuts over a dumb contest put on by a sandwich shop.

Yes, I know that they could have included a clause that if a homeschooler won, they'd have to donate the equipment to a school. They just didn't.

If people have to get cranked up about it, how about a writing a nice letter to Subway reminding them that homeschoolers exist (which they know, of course, since the contest had a clause excluding us), and to think maybe of having a contest next time that wouldn't be obviously inappropriate for them? Maybe they'd write back and send some coupons. Still, it would be better to just ignore it, keep buying subs where you normally do and get on with your life.

There is real discrimination going on in this country, people, and it's not about homeschoolers and sandwiches. There are bigger problems than whether or not the CEO of Subway thinks homeschoolers are cool. I've read a few pieces here and there about children feeling bad about it. Great, now homeschoolers are raising their children to be victims, too. Don't we have enough of that going on?

Dana has some thoughts on the subject, and as always she says it better than I do: the original post, and her followup, requesting protesters to call off the dogs. I like the way that sounds.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling: The End of the School Year

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling (at Walking Therein) theme is: the end of the school year. I didn't plan ahead and once again didn't contribute anything to this carnival.

But, I'm always curious about homeschoolers' ideas about the "school year." I think as long as I've been an adult I've wondered why schools still have 3 months of summer vacation. If my kids were in school I'd be a proponent of year-round schooling. It just doesn't make sense to me to just stop for such a long time, especially for little kids who lose skills so quickly. OK, mine do. So everyone's kids must, right?

So we don't take summer off. We keep doing certain things. Reading, for sure. History, but we love that anyway. Geography goes with history. Writing, math, phonics for the one who needs it - all those go on. Bible and Catechism, of course. But that's not really school. That's life. But so is everything else, right? So why quit for 3 months? Why not take shorter breaks throughout the year instead of one long one?

And yet... I think goals and deadlines are good for everyone, so for our next school year (which according to Pennsylvania law, runs from July 1 to June 30) we'll be setting goals on a quarterly basis. This will be a good exercise for me this year; next year, if it works out well, the kids will get involved in setting some of their own. I need a year of practice because I'm not so good at it.

This does not mean my kids are chained to a chair for 8 hours a day all summer (they're not in the fall or winter either). We'll probably take most of June off, about 3 weeks. But Daddy starts school again in July, so we will too: an hour (sometimes more, sometimes less) of "tablework" most days, lounging in the hammock reading, taking short close to home day-trips to the science museum and historic sites, swimming lessons, park days with friends... sounds like a good summer to me. And, no review, no catching up on some magical day in September when we restart.

Now, go over to the Carnival and see what others have to say.

Oh, and everyone might not like Alice Cooper, so click below at your own risk.

And now for something funny

While one kid does a math test and the other works on an art project (I am a homeschooling mom, after all), I read this hilarious article my husband sent me:

Cold Irony: Arctic Sea Ice Traps Climate Tour Icebreaker

You can figure out the punchline already. It's a fun read.

"The Cost of Diversity"

Here's a story that will make you mad (or should): "The Cost of Diversity" at Right on the Left Coast. Darren tells the story of a qualified Air Force Academy Cadet who was passed over for an assignment in the name of diversity. The person who got the assignment: a woman who had not even wanted it.

He also told me that the list of squadron commanders for next year contained 35 or 36 white males, and that to make the list more "diverse" he had been removed from the list and replaced by a woman--who hadn't even applied for the position. He'll take his position as Squadron Operations Officer, a 2nd in command.

He wasn't denied this position because of anything he did. He was denied it solely based on his sex. He was denied it not based on what he's done, but on who he is.


There is a cost to these equal opportunity/affirmative action programs--and sadly, this young man seems to be bearing much more than his share of that cost.

Who else shares that cost? The whole squadron, if she's a lousy commander. But wait! After graduation, she'll probably get a high position in the Air Force, and keep moving up - because if there are diversity quotas at the Academy, there probably are in the Force (sorry if I don't know the appropriate military term), so who knows how high the cost could be? But what the heck, what's a little national security compared with diversity?

I feel sorry for this woman who is commanding a squadron when she apparently doesn't want to. I hope she gets a more appropriate position later on. She must be smart, talented, etc., to be in the Academy - I don't want to run down her own accomplishments. But passing up a qualified person for a position simply because he's white and male is just wrong.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now here is an intriguing google search...

that led someone to this very blog:

equivalent to Winco Foods, east coast.

Winco is a large, cheap, grocery store chain that is bulk-food heaven. The search was by someone in Portland, OR - my last hometown.

It led to a long and rambly post about the lack of decent grocery stores here in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I am quite sure it did not help the searcher.

Hey, if you are still there: There is really NO equivalent to Winco Foods, at least in my part of the east coast. Giant Stores come close, but no cigar. It's missing the bulk foods and the cheap yet decent bakery bread. Winco's whole wheat... ahhh... I've had to start baking my own.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Memorial Day celebrations. Parades, grilling, hot dogs, ice cream, water balloons.

How about a somber (yet uplifting) ceremony to honor the war dead? That's how we spent the early part of our day today, and I hope to do it every year from now on. I wish we'd started sooner.

Looking for a meaningful way to spend the day, we came across the ceremony at Washington Crossing Historic Park. Yes, the place General Washington crossed the Delaware River. It is so close to home; I don't know why we hadn't gone before. The park is large and widespread; the ceremony was held at the site of 23 gravestones, commemorating soldiers, mostly unknown, buried in the area.

The ceremony began with a procession of soldiers, from Revolution reenactors all the way to Iraq vets. Everyone up and singing the National Anthem. I always cry while hearing or singing that song. I wonder sometimes: is the US really the home of the brave anymore? How long will this be the land of the free? Some speakers, then a surprise visit from a redcoat followed by a rebuke from a colonel in Washington's army. Then Washington himself. That was fun.

Then came the somber part. Placing of wreaths by 3 "Gold Star" families and the widow of one of the pilots of Flight 93 (Shanksville is only a couple hundred miles from here). Then placing of flags along the line of headstones, commemorating people (Washington himself, other Revolutionary heroes) and all the wars this nation has participated in. Couple of gun salutes (our dog did not like that).

It was a long ceremony, and sometimes boring for the kids. There weren't many other kids there, which bothered me. OK, it made me a little angry. It shouldn't, but it did, I confess. No teens. Mostly middle-aged people, a few 30-ish-looking couples, a few with kids. Why aren't more people bringing their kids to these free, close to home events? Who knows, maybe last year it was crawling with kids. Maybe this year was an aberration. I doubt it, though. Kids don't want to sit through boring ceremonies. My kids didn't, really. But they did it, and even if they are not glad they did, I am. They might not care now about seeing those mothers and widows placing those wreaths, but someday they may remember. But if only old people come to these kinds of ceremonies, who's going to come when they're (we're) all gone? Will there be anyone who cares?

One of the speakers quoted a few lines from the poem It is the Soldier:

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

©Copyright 1970-2005 by Charles Michael Province

Whatever your opinion on the US Armed Forces, the current administration, and this current war, if you are an American you need to study your American history and understand how you came to have the freedom you take for granted. You need to know what's going on in other countries that don't have the freedoms we have. If you think the country is on the wrong track, you need to figure out what you can do to get it back on the right one. That includes voting in November - maybe choosing the least objectionable candidate, but the one who you believe will be the best. And you need to think about the people who came before you and made it possible for you to enjoy your grilled steak in peace today.

And before next Memorial Day, look for commemorative events in your area. Then go, and take your kids. We're on the verge of forgetting, and we can't. I looked General George Washington in the eye today; I don't want to disappoint him.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This is how Saturday should be spent

OK, in my opinion.

Up early-ish, long leisurely breakfast (see previous post) with lots of conversation.

Then outside to work - dig, mow, weed, prepare planting holes... whatever.

Quick lunch, dinner prep.

Quick run to the nursery to buy some more plants: a hydrangea, basil, cilantro, red bell pepper, thyme, a maple tree!

Come home and don't even go in the house: just get those plants in the ground. Plant those seeds that you've saved from 2 summers ago. (They might grow.) While planting, discuss the concept of 6 days of work, 1 day of rest each week. Though how anyone can consider planting work is beyond my comprehension.

Clean up and relax: read, sew, play with the dog (who does not like shovels or the tiller), a new computer game, whatever.

Put away the mountains of clean laundry generated by multiple loads of wash. Really away, in the right drawers and everything.

Simple dinner: beef roast rubbed with cinnamon, cumin, paprika and red pepper, browned and put in crockpot early in the day with some chicken broth and red wine. Tunisian carrot salad made early in the day. Brown rice in the cooker. Don't forget that open bottle of wine.

More sewing, more reading, more playing.

Then sleep for those weary muscles.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Breakfast out, at home

Since we started this seminary gig certain things we took for granted have become luxuries. Breakfast out, for one. We've been wanting to go out but, really, unless we're traveling there's no need. So today we satisfied our craving with a restaurant breakfast at home. The seminarian made eggs and hash browns; we had homemade bread for toast, and berry smoothies. Lots of coffee for the grownups, too. No cute little packets of honey but the big jar worked as well.

Breakfast took an hour, too, just like at a restaurant because we spent the time talking about creation, evolution, the coelacanth (that's what started it all), the big bang theory, humility, disagreeing with people in an undisagreeable (made up word) way, and Deuteronomy 29:29 (you could look it up).

Hey, that's science, philosophy, and 20% of a Pennsylvania school day.

So I probably won't have much time to browse the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon today. I've been trying to finish one of the 3 or 4 books I'm reading now to submit a comment. Maybe next week. I have flowers to plant and a dress to sew for my girl. What blog comment could be more important than that?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blogging or doing?

Whenever I find myself blogging, or thinking of blogging, frequently, I find... the rest of my life diminishing. When I blog about reading, I'm not reading. When I blog about homeschooling, I'm not homeschooling. Sometimes I feel like I have to blog and other times I think, "Oh, who cares!"

So I'm in a "who cares" mode right now. But maybe not for long.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New disability for homeschoolers to claim

Dr. Helen and Rachel Lucas are talking about this story out of Pennsylvania:

Girl's fear of school costs district thousands

Rebecca Maykish is 17 and dreads school so much that she stopped going regularly.

In fourth grade.

Those days off have come at a price to her school district and the Palmerton taxpayers who support it. Since 2004, the Palmerton Area School Board has authorized payments of more than $45,000 to help Rebecca make up for her missed school days. Rebecca's mother, Barbara, has used the money for at-home tutoring and education software purchases. She has also spent it on modeling classes for Rebecca, subscriptions to teen magazines, and travel to New York and Toronto with a summer camp.

All of the expenses were approved by the district (via a compensatory education fund for students with disabilities.)

I don't like to make fun of disabilities, but this really sounds like a stretch. Especially you consider that she went to modeling classes - that's school - and camp, which is usually set up sort like school. But wait! It gets worse:

... her writing skills are weak and she can only do basic multiplication and division on downloaded worksheets. She estimates she spends three hours a day learning. Barbara Maykish has opted not to homeschool her, saying she worried that she would not be able to help Rebecca with her math and writing problems.

Emphasis mine. The girl gets no education because her mother can't provide her with an education, even after the thousands the school district has spent on her.

In PA I am required to submit all sorts of documentation to appease the school district's demand that I provide an "appropriate education" for my child. All at my own expense, I might add, including the evaluation by a certified teacher that is required. Oh, and I have to provide 900 hours for my elementary-aged children - that works out to 5 hours a day within a 180-day school year.

But here's the real punchline of this unfunny joke:

Because her daughter has gone the past year without any formal education, Barbara Maykish said she thinks she might need another compensatory education fund.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The perfect pop song

Last week Dr. Helen was talking about dumb pop songs. That generated a lot of youtube searches and wasted time in this house.

As an antidote, I decided to revisit the perfect pop song: Don Henley's Boys of Summer. I have loved this song for years and never, ever tire of it, and if there is a more perfect song I don't want to know about it. Or, maybe I do; share yours!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Did it cost you $500 to teach your child to read?

That's what an acquaintance told me a cyber-charter school will charge for a phonics program if his child is not enrolled in full-time kindergarten. The full-time kindergarten is free, I mean taxpayer-funded, this being a charter school. But if he does not want to enroll his child in kindergarten but just get the phonics program, it's 500 big ones.

We probably spent less than $100 on materials to teach our kids to read. Would have been less if I'd not been so enthralled by curriculum and made a few buying mistakes.

One child taught herself, mostly. She heard the blow-back from me teaching her brother, caught on and never looked back. I could have spent $20 on Explode the Code workbooks and called it good.

The other learned to read once we gave up on phonics, which he still doesn't get. Now he's a good reader, but he can't spell. We're remediating phonics now, with some new materials, but still nowhere near $500 or even $200. If we have to seek professional help the bill will likely go higher. But he is not in kindy and at that point he'd be diagnosed with a learning disability.

Most kids are probably somewhere in between my 2 kids, I'd guess.

I don't know what that $500 buys, exactly.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will we ever go back to Oregon?

My pal Mrs. Darling (whom I only got to meet in real life twice) asked if we will be going back to Oregon after my husband graduates from seminary.

That is a really good question.

When we left Oregon, we had the plan to return in 4 years. People at our church said they would welcome us back and though never, ever were there any commitments, there was a feeling that there would be work for him there. We kept our house (we have the most wonderful people renting it) so we would have a place to go. We looked at this as a temporary move.

Now that we have been here for a full academic year we are not so sure about going back. First, the life of our church moved on without us. People left, new people came - people who don't know us and who won't necessarily care if my husband comes knocking on the door looking for a job.

Of course our lives have moved on too. The pull back to Oregon isn't as strong as it once was. We wouldn't plop right back into our old lives. People change. The friends my kids miss so much now will be 4 years older when we return. From 10 - 14, from 8 - 12. Those are some years full of change for a kid. Who knows how much they will still have in common? Who knows who will be the best friends of the girls my daughter misses the most?

I miss my house and big yard, but I was never real comfortable there. We were alone, no neighbors, on a busy road. I was always edgy at night. Here, I'm more at ease. And, our old place is changing too. Where there was a field across the road from us, and then a view across the valley to Mt. St. Helens, now there are houses. They were just starting to build when we left. That view is gone. Next year it's likely that a big hunk of land adjacent to ours will be open for development. They will cram 6 houses to the acre there. We will be an island surrounded by walled subdivisions. Who needs it?

So we don't know. We think we would like to, but we are not sure. Now this will sound weird to some of you, but we are just waiting on God to lead us. That's how we ended up here, you know? I would never have picked this life. Really, can you imagine me a pastor's wife? I sure can't. But here I am.

But if we do get back to Oregon, either to stay or for a visit, I have a lot of people to catch up with!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Can kids' clothing get worse than this?

Time for a kids' clothing rant. I just got off and ordered my girl some cute t-shirts. Plain, bright-colored shirts, some with flowers, none with words. Not too tight, not too short. They'll look great with the flowered skirts and capris we're going to sew together.

The I went to my mailbox and saw that my husband had sent me this from Michelle Malkin:

Beyonce’s new brand of pedophilia chic

Yeah, those are real clothes you can buy for your preschooler. More pics at the link. Don't miss the shoes. There is a particular term for that type of shoe...

I truly fear for the future of the United States when I see... stuff... like this. We are becoming more decadent and disgusting by the minute. Nero's Rome. Anyone still read history?

The first year

We've reached the end of the first school year of our seminary adventure. The student had his last final yesterday afternoon. Now he's free till the end of June, when he starts an intense month-and-a-half of Hebrew classes. Yee ha.

This has been an interesting year. The transition from Oregon to Pennsylvania is not really complete. Nor is the transition from employed-dad family to student-dad family. But we've done OK, and are now 1/4 of the way through.

Of course the kids have had the worst time of it. They are still lonely, still missing their friends. So am I! I miss the days of kids running around the house while the moms and I drank tea and talked curriculum. We have not made friends like we had back home. Casual friends, more than acquaintances, yes we have those. But not deep friendships. But then, it usually takes time to make friends and we just haven't had that much time here yet.

A big improvement that came with the move was getting our dog Max. Can't beat that. We'd never have gotten a dog in Oregon because fencing our yard would have been too daunting a task.

We miss our house, but I don't miss our neighborhood (or lack thereof). This house is still too small for us. And I feel guilty about that, because larger families than ours live in smaller houses than this one. Face it, we are spoiled after having loads of space. We miss our huge back yard; the boy desperately misses the woods and the creek. I don't miss the ugly lack of landscaping in the front - here we have a presentable, if unexciting, front yard. I miss the wild blackberries, though. There is a promising-looking vine in the backyard by the fence right now - I think it might be raspberry.

I do love being able to go for long walks through the neighborhood - our road in Oregon was too busy for that. I like walking and looking at peoples' houses, and their plants. I don't miss the slugs that ate up my hostas in Oregon. There are no slugs here. For plants, this area is a lot like Portland - everything grows here. I need to get on that. All I've planted are some bulbs and a single salvia plant (can't even remember the variety).

We haven't missed our seemingly limitless book budget. I do miss Powell's - there is no equivalent bookstore here. Is there anywhere? I miss Exodus Provisions. But, we are not buying many books. If there is something we need to own, we try to use ebay or Amazon's used books. The kids tell me that they have not felt deprived by not buying new books very often.

Obeying the homeschool laws hasn't been as difficult as I'd thought, and I have to admit I am happy to have kept all the records of our reading. The kids did more projects, too, which we are all happy about.

I got to take a class at the seminary too, as an auditor (no credit). That was so nice, even though I did not keep up with the reading. I am thinking of taking a survey of Reformed Theology in the fall. Not sure if I want to go for credit for just audit again.

Really, life isn't all that different except for living on lots less money (which is good for us) and not having so many friends around (which is not so good for us, maybe). Maybe this time of few friends is meant to help us grow closer together. Both the kids joined Scouts so there is the possibility of new friendships developing there.

Am I glad we moved? Yes and no. Still, I know without a shadow of a doubt this is where we are supposed to be. And there is great comfort in that, even on the lonely days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another great singer

Eva Cassidy. Unfortunately she is no longer with us. More on the sidebar because there are just so many great songs.

The evolution of tuna casserole; or, a food snob repents

The Splendid Table is a great site for recipes. The three variations on tuna casserole brought back a few memories. My family likes the most recent version. If you'd asked me 10 years ago if I'd ever willingly make and eat tuna casserole, I'd have laughed out loud.

At the newsletter link you can sign up to get recipes in your mailbox.

Irony is...

...seeing my son's Cub Scout "Leave No Trace" materials strewn about the house...

Homeschool Hi-Light: Evaluation complete!

My Homeschool Hi-Light for this week is easy:

We got our homeschool evaluation done!

Pennsylvania has a tough homeschooling law. One requirement is the evaluation, wherein a certified teacher reviews work the child has done throughout the school year, talks with the child about it, and reviews books/materials used. I'd heard horror stories about evaluators who were not homeschooling-friendly (why were they doing it, then?) so when we moved here I started looking for an evaluator right away.

She came to me via our homeschool group, of which she is a member. A former elementary teacher, she keeps up her credential as she homeschools her own kids.

It turned out to be a fun experience for my kids. First off, she is a very kind, gentle, soft-spoken soul - so unlike me. My kids enjoy her greatly. My daughter paid her a compliment: "she seems like the kind of person who will be interested in anything a kid does." And she was right.

Ms. Eval looked through the book lists we'd made and asked a few questions about books - and took some titles down for her own homeschool. She noted my daughter's standardized test scores and list of places we visited. She went through their portfolios (which have to be submitted to the school district) to see their work samples.

Then she handed me the forms that assure the school district that my kids have received an appropriate education.

Aaahhhh! My first evaluation, and I guess I passed. Now, I need to finish logging our 180 days - 10 days to go! - and be ready to submit our portfolio by June 30. I'll get a few more books listed before then. The school district could find something lacking in the portfolios, but I doubt it.

I must admit that the process wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Coming from Oregon, a very homeschool-friendly state with few requirements, I found Pennsylvania's law very daunting. Now I have confidence to carry on for the next "school year."

Finding new confidence is always a hilight for me! Go to Fun Learning for more.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Am I dumb to disable word verification on comments?

I didn't even know I had it turned on till I was messing around there today. I don't like typing in those codes to leave comments - though it doesn't stop me. Nearly always make a mistake and have to retype. So, let's see if the spam starts pouring in. I've had to delete two advertising comments since starting this blog... how many years ago?

Mother's Day

I don't like a big fuss over "hallmark holidays" or even my birthday, but I do admit that I enjoy it when my family acknowledges Mother's Day. This morning nothing was said till my girlie looked up suddenly and said "Oh, Happy Mother's Day, Mom!" Then there was much whispering and eye-signaling between her, the boy, and Dad, with Dad closing it by saying "we're in kind of a rush this morning." (We are always in a rush on Sunday morning, even though church starts at the same time every week. Amazing. It's like being stressed out because Christmas is coming too fast. Easter, I can understand.)

Then she presented me with an "oral coupon" for help with the dishes. Which is pretty funny since she usually helps with the dishes anyway. I'd love an oral coupon for a good room cleaning without complaint. Ah well, we can dream, eh?

I am usually a little sad on this day, not because I don't get appropriate veneration but because I miss my Mom, still, after 6 years.

Last night I checked out "cafemom." (Thanks, Ed.) Interesting site. I was dismayed to run across a conversation thread wherein many women complained about their husbands' lack of care to provide gifts or other acknowledgment of the day. I wanted to shake them by the shoulders and say "Then tell him what you want!" I just don't know that most men think about these days the way women do. If he didn't have a Dad to buy a gift for, I am not sure my husband would notice Father's Day. Hey, wait a minute... I buy that Father's Day gift for his Dad... Well, actually it's a team effort. As it should be.

Father's Day is usually a little bit bigger deal around here for one simple reason: I am home with the kids, I have the time and opportunity to take them on secret shopping trips, I know where the card paper and glitter glue are. Though as my festive little girl gets older, she is taking this kind of thing over from me. Go for it, girl!

Why am I blogging and rambling on Mother's Day? The kids are out playing with the dog, Dad is busily finishing up his Sunday School lesson for tonight. I am off to read.

I wish all mothers a happy day. And keep your expectations in check, please. Then get ready for Father's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Patsy Cline

Just in the mood for some Patsy Cline this afternoon, and remembered this gorgeous song:

What current singer has such a rich voice?


And it's time for Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books! I put my post about The Voyage of the Narwhal in this week. It's only 7:45am East Coast time, but there are already 27 posts up there.

Also I once again missed the Carnival of Homeschooling. I can't comment on any of the posts because I haven't read one yet. This afternoon when everyone's flaking out after the Little League game... batting practice for which starts in less than an hour.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Blogging may not be for the faint of heart.

Apropos of some recent bloggy reading, I just feel like pointing out that blogging is a public event. Unless a blog is password-protected and open only to invited guests, anyone can read it. Unless comments are closed, anyone can comment.

So, if someone posts something controversial, they should not be surprised to get comments on it, maybe even negative ones. It's not nice to go to someone's blog and blast their opinions, of course, but if a blog post is insulting to a group of people, it might not be surprising if a comment is insulting right back.

Though I try hard not to be condescending and insulting here, sometimes I do slip. I think I have called the American public education system a "hellhole" once or twice. Or maybe that was on someone else's blog; I don't remember. That doesn't mean I dislike everyone who sends their kids to public school. I might have said some nasty things about some corporations too. I wouldn't get upset if someone found those posts and was nasty right back at me.

It's a dangerous world out here. Play nice. Or, be prepared for the consequences.

Literary confession

We just started The Prince and the Pauper as our "pleasure book" which is my kids' term for a family read-aloud not associated with schooltime. I'd never read it before, though am quite familiar with the story, as are the kids. (Jim Weiss has a fun retelling.) I think my girl had some exposure to Barbie's version too. But that's not the confession.

I don't like it. I am not enjoying reading it. I don't know why. Mark Twain is someone we're supposed to like, no, love, and get a lot out of. I know there is good social commentary to be had from this book. But I just want to get through it because the kids are enjoying it and I don't want them to know that I'm not.

I feel better now.

Heart of the Matter Friday Meme: How We Socialize

I just laughed when I saw this topic come up. I was getting things set up to leave early in the morning for a field trip with our homeschool group. The family room was messy because we'd had friends over earlier in the day. We're in the midst of planning some summer reading get-togethers with friends.

How do we socialize?

We know "the S word" comes up with people who don't understand homeschooling. People worry that our kids will be isolated and develop no social skills. Like all kids who go to school have stellar social skills?

Anyway. Here are ways we socialize:

- Homeschool group activities, including weekly park days during nice weather.

- Church.

- Neighborhood friends.

- Girl Scouts/Cub Scouts.

- Little League.

- Soccer (upcoming in the fall).

- Other classes, such as at the nature center, or a PE class.

Since we moved last summer, our homeschool group has been a real help. I actually got connected with them before we even moved here. When my husband and I came out on a fact-finding trip, I was able to join some of the moms as they waited for their kids during an art class. We kept in touch throughout the summer as I prepared to move, and within the first week we were at a park day. I can't say we have made any deep friendships yet, certainly not like those we had back home. But we are out and about and having fun.

Soon we will take our dog to obedience training and might meet some folks there. We are thinking of agility training (he is a fast and happy runner!) so might meet people that way. There are no shortages of ways to socialize.

And, let' s not forget about our family. Even though it's just the 4 of us, we like to be together. We don't always need other people around. We want to be our own best friends.

Read more at Heart of the Matter Online.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spring Reading Thing Update

When I decided to take a class, I said I would keep up with the reading even though I was just auditing and didn't have to. I wanted the discipline, I said. Well, I didn't quite keep up with the reading, but I got pretty close. Close-ish. So I will try to fulfill my self-imposed obligation to the Spring Reading Thing from Callapidder Days.

Here is my status so far:

- Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton: Completed; read this for my class. It was good; not as good as I'd expected given how many people have told me they love it.

- The Plague by Albert Camus: Flaked on this one. Just need to be in the mood for French existentialism to read Camus, and I'm not.

- Seeing With New Eyes by David Powlison: in process.

- The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett: Completed! Fun book imagining QE2 becoming an avid reader.

- The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett: Completed! Written about here.

- Flying Cloud by David W. Shaw: I had it in my hand the other day, can't find it now. This is a very small house, I don't know how I can lose things so easily.

- The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse: Completed! Fun Jeeves and Wooster book.

- The Pope's Rhinoceros by Lawrence Norfolk: Still planning on this one. I've actually started it a number of times but the beginning at least is quite dense and does not lend itself to short snatches of time.

- Faith at Work by Carol Ruvolo: Started and rejected. Maybe I'll find something to substitute for it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett

This book has sat on my shelf for several years. I thought 15, but when I finally opened it to read, I saw that it was published in 1998. Still, that's a long time to keep an unread novel around. When I decided to attempt Callapidder Days' Spring Reading Thing, I thought it was a good time to haul this out and read it, or not - and if not, move it along.

Well, I am so glad I finally read it, and wish I had done sooner. But, it was timely: set, at the beginning, in Philadelphia, if I'd read it while living in Oregon the place names Conshohocken, Skippack, and Fairmount Park would have been meaningless to me. I'd not have known about Elisha Kent Kane, a 19th century Arctic explorer, with whom I became acquainted during an impromptu visit to the museum of the American Philosophical Society in downtown Philadelphia.

But, you don't have to know where Skippack is to enjoy this novel. It's not a perfect novel. You can read lots of reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. But it is a big, satisfying story. Part adventure - Arctic exploration, part family story - with all the complexities that come with large family relationships, part love story. A story of dreams, realized and not. Bitter failure. Friendships formed and friendships broken by death and by betrayal. Beautifully written, with characters who can be annoying and make you say "why did you do that for, you idiot?" - just like real people. Ethical questions of exploration among unfamiliar, innocent people.

Now I'm in the mood for more Arctic exploration books. I've got The Endurance:Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition sitting next to me. (OK, Arctic, Antarctic - they're both cold.) Just today I read about Tuning the Rig, story of an Arctic journey. I've requested a book about Elisha Kent Kane from the library. I don't know how long I'll stay interested in Arctic exploration literature. This may be it for a while. Maybe I'll decide to read something else by Andrea Barrett. And, I have other books that have been waiting a long time to be read. Hm, like those books I said I'd read for the Spring Reading Thing. Oh well.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Homeschool Hi-Light: New Ideas

Fun Learning has a Monday meme: Homeschool Hi-Light. Last week was not a big week for us. We just plodded along, doing our things, finishing up the last days of the 180 days the state of Pennsylvania wants me to document. When our "school year" is over, we'll celebrate and go back to what we usually do. Then, on July 1, we'll start a new "school year" and start documenting all over again.

My kids wouldn't think this is a hi-light but it is for me: finding a great new idea, and thinking of how to incorporate it into our homeschool. The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room posted a "template" of sorts for Charlotte Mason educators. Now, I am not a pure Charlotte Mason homeschooler, but I am familiar with her and like her philosophy and methods. Finding this template has started some wheels turning for new ways to shake things up in our homeschool come July 1. And that is a hi-light for me!

Go over to Fun Learning and read about other hi-lights, and add your own. You might even get the cute graphic to work; I couldn't this time for some reason.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Saturday Review of Books

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books is up. I put up my posts on Journey to the River Sea and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I messed up my link for one of them - forgot to put the book title in... I hope Sherry can fix it.

That is what happens when one is posting about 6:30 am while half-watching tv with a sick child. The only thing we could find was a dog show on Animal Planet. So every time there was a new dog on - which about about every 5 seconds, no attention span problems here - my boy said "Mom, you've gotta look at this one!" Of course none compared to our cute dog Max.

Anyway, as always lots of good reading at the Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This is another book I would never have thought to pick up on my own. It was recommended to me by 2 women in a counseling course I took this past semester. They had read it in a class on counseling children.

But it's a novel, not a textbook. It's a story told by a 15 year old boy, beginning the day he found his neighbor's dog dead in her front yard. We know right away Christopher is a little different; though it is never explicitly stated, he is autistic. He is also a mathematical savant, and relates better to numbers than to people.

My boy and Christopher share some characteristics. Though my guy has never been diagnosed with autism or Asperger's Syndrome, he is likely on that spectrum. I see my boy a little bit in this passage:

And sometimes when I am in a new place and there are lots of people there it is like a computer crashing and I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and where I am meant to be going.

This is how I picture what's going on in my boy's brain when we are working on a simple math problem and he can't get the answer out of his head, either verbally or by writing it down; when he feels me getting impatient with him, it becomes even harder for him to get the answer out.

It's a charming and harrowing story. Christopher's family life is not so hot. There are not-nice people around him. There is a lot of bad language.

The author is Mark Haddon, and according to his bio he has worked with autistic children. I recommend this to anyone who knows a kid who is a little different, whether diagnosed with "something" or not.

Update: I should thank Sarah at Smallworld for this book too. I had not realized, till I saw her comment here and went looking on her site, that I'd seen and commented on her review back in March!

The Heart of the Matter: Favorite Books

This weeks' Heart of the Matter meme is: favorite books.

Oh my. How can I come up with a list? There are so many! Favorite history books, fiction, science, fun books, grownup books... I asked my girlie and she just stared at me. "That's a really hard question, Mom!"

But then I knew what question to ask next: "What is our favorite readaloud book or series of books?" Before I had the question completely out of my mouth, she called out

Swallows and Amazons!

Yes, if you have read this blog for any length of time you have heard that song and dance before. The Swallows and Amazons books (the first in the series is conveniently titled Swallows and Amazons) is a 12-book series written in the 1930s and set during that time in England's Lake District and other areas. They are beautifully-written (by Arthur Ransome), exciting stories of adventure, independence, self-reliance, fun!

I clearly remember reading the first book. It was almost 2 years ago. We were reading slowly; my girlie was not too into it - there's a lot of technical sailing information at the beginning. But we had taken it on vacation with us, it was the only book we had, so one evening in our hotel room in Fernandina Beach, FL, we picked it up, and - it clicked. Something happened (my girlie says it was the appearance of the fearsome pirate Nancy Blackett) and we were hooked. Over the course of the next year we read the whole series, loving almost* every book.

You can read some of my old blogs posts on the topic here, if you like. You also might want to browse the home page of the Arthur Ransome Society, and this Guide to Swallows and Amazons.

Oh, some details: written for the 9-12 set, I suppose, but they would have been hard for one of my 9 year olds to read, and would probably be interesting to older kids, depending. They are long - 300-400 pages. They have lots of information on sailing but that is not tedious for long, and may not be tedious at all for some kids. A great, great, family readaloud. I cannot recommend them highly enough, and I tell everyone I meet who has any interest in excellent children's literature to read them.

For some reason I could not get the little button for the Heart of the Matter Friday meme, but
you don't really need that anyway. After you go there and read some of the other favorite book posts, go find yourself a copy of Swallows and Amazons! I have a feeling we're going to be rereading it soon ourselves. Probably won't make it through all 12 again as a readaloud, though I hope my kids read them all again someday.

*Missy Lee is not so hot, and contains what, to our modern eyes, are stereotypes of Asians, typical of the time it was written.

I updated my video bar to the right with some short videos of England's Lake District. It's a gorgeous place.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Journey to the River Sea

One of the best things about homeschooling is the time to read. So often I wish I could fully educate my kids by just reading great books to them. They can't learn geometry that way, unfortunately (should I have said "alas?") There are few things better than having a good "pleasure book" going.

Journey to the River Sea was our most recent readaloud. We read it so fast I never updated our "current reading" in my sidebar. (I don't know why I even set stuff like that up; I rarely remember to update it.) What a fantastic book. The story sounds quite cliche: set at the end of the Victorian era, a sweet and intelligent child is orphaned, and though wealthy, is sent with a new governess to some nasty relatives. This time, though, the relatives live in Brazil, on the Amazon. This is an exciting book but of course we were never fearful of a sad ending. My kids couldn't wait to get to it every day. I couldn't either.

There was also a bit of serendipity in the book for us. One of the characters is a child actor in a company bringing Little Lord Fauntleroy to the Amazon. Well, that book by Frances Hodgson Burnett was our last readaloud. Those connections just make the reading all the better. My kids love hearing about a familiar book in another book.

The author, Eva Ibbotson, is best known for her fantasy. Several years ago I had read Which Witch and thought it only so-so. I am not sure why I even picked Journey to the River Sea up from the library. Maybe I had read a review of it. In any case, I'm glad I did.

The book had a very satisfying ending for me, but my kids were not quite happy with it - not because it was bad, they just wanted more. More! They asked about a sequel, but I don't think there is one. Tomorrow I might have them write some further adventures to get the ending they'd like to see.

And that is one of the signs of a good book: one we want to go on and on. OK, two signs: one that inspires us to write something of our own.