Sunday, July 31, 2011

Planning fool

Yesterday I bragged about having my science curriculum all figured out for our next academic year.  Today I carried on and came up with a (nearly) complete plan for our homeschool for the entire year.   There are some odds and ends missing but it's mostly done.

I can't even believe it.  I've never done so much planning before.  Never ever.

It's really rather exciting.  I might not be flying by the seat of my pants this year.  I could be organized.  I could avoid wasting a lot of time wandering around muttering to myself.

I might have time to leave my kids alone one morning a week to go out and sit in a cafe and drink coffee while I read and/or write.

Wow.  I might even participate in Curriculum Week at the Not Back to School Blog Hop at Heart of the Matter Online.   But not tonight.  I'm kind of tired of typing.   Planning is a lot of work.  But oh, so satisfying, know what I mean?    It'll be even more satisfying if I can pull it all off!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011/2012 Science plans

Today, I spent a lot of time doing homeschool planning, mostly for science.  I may have done more planning today than I have ever done in my homeschool mom career.  I mean, more today than in the entire 7 or 8 years I've already been homeschooling.  I've not been much of a planner.

Science has always been tough for me; this is not unusual for homeschool moms.  I've never found a curriculum I liked, at all.  We've done a lot of reading, and experiments, and some lab sheets, but never anything really formal.  I think my kids are on grade level with science; that's what the standardized test scores show, anyway.  James does a lot of reading on his own; Eleanor comes a long a bit reluctantly.   They both loved studying the Leafcutter ants and now are enjoying a book (and Netflix documentaries, and youtube videos) on giant squid

But James is moving into high school and now we're talking about credits.  Unschooling science doesn't work for me anymore.  So, I've been researching and reading and buying, and today I planned everything out.

Our main text is Biology: A Self-Teaching Guide by Steven D. Garber.  I got the idea for this from The Well-Trained Mind, and I think most of us are going to like it.  It's a very straightforward text; there are some drawings and charts but no color illustrations or photos.  Each chapter has a list of terms to know, multiple choice questions with an answer key, and "questions to think about" with no answer key.   Most of the chapters will take two weeks:  the first week for reading, the second week for going over the terms and answering the questions.  I probably won't have the kids answer all the essay-type questions, but rather a few each time.

I also pulled out my copy of Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Biology.  The Home Science Tools catalog says that all the activities in this book are equivalent to a year of biology; the age range is 9-14.  We're not going to do every activity.  I looked through it and picked the ones that looked most interesting and scheduled them out through the year.  Some are keyed to the chapter of our main text; some are not.  I couldn't find an activity to fit each chapter perfectly.  I included everything needed for the experiment/activity so I won't be walking around muttering angrily at myself for forgetting to save milk jugs or buying iodine and distilled water. We'll also mess around - finally - with the soil test kit we bought last year.

While I was doing all this my eye fell on our Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of Science (the link is to a newer edition than we have).  Hey!  We could use that too!  So I went through that and keyed pages to chapters in our main text.  This will most likely be helpful to Eleanor more than James.

She is not high school age yet, so this might be a little difficult for her.  Or she might make it difficult for herself; she's that kind of girl sometimes. So I'll have to see how it goes for her; she doesn't need a science credit yet.  I think the use of the Usborne Encyclopedia will really help her out.  The format is a little more engaging and perhaps more accessible for her.

When I was almost finished, I remembered that we own the book The Way We Work by David Macaulay.  I am not sure I need another resource, or can squeeze anything more in, but I may check out the chapters and see what fits where.  That might also be more accessible to my 7th grader. 

I have our plan mostly typed up and scheduled.  The hard part will be keeping up with the schedule.  I've never, ever had a schedule in our homeschool.  We've always reveled in our freedom to take days off when we want or need to, and I've never tried to finish a particular book by a particular day.  I built in some vacations (including 3 weeks off for Christmas) and we're going to try to stick to it.  I'm very good at letting distractions sidetrack me, so it will be a challenge for all of us!

I don't want to make our first high school year tedious, or boring, or schoolish.  Still, it might be time to get a little more serious around here.

Better than free cheese

Last night while we were out enjoying a lovely dinner with friends, a wild storm came up.  The wind was blowing, there was lightning and thunder, and sheets of rain coming down hard.  By the time we left (the moment the resident 4-year-old hit her oops-we-missed-her-bedtime meltdown), the rain had stopped.

We pulled into our driveway and were caught up short.  There was a huge tree limb in the space the car usually sits. It had come off a tree that stands right next to the driveway.

But, while the tree limb was coming down, our car was in our friends' driveway and we were eating delicious fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans so delicious my kids asked for more.  Or, maybe we were on the blueberry cobbler at the time the tree fell.

It doesn't matter where we were; it matters where the car wasn't:  under the tree. Crushed.  It would have been totaled.   And it's an old car; even if the insurance does cover tree-crashing, we wouldn't get enough to buy another car.

We just stood there gaping and marveling at God's providence to us.  This was even better, way better, than the free cheese I came across earlier this week.  A huge blessing.

As we cleaned up today I thought about this blessing.  I thought about people I know who might scoff at my thankfulness and bring up all the terrible things people endure:  devastating illness, the loss of a child, foreclosure and homelessness.  Why doesn't God fix those things?  Why bother with the small stuff, like cheese and cars?

I came to this conclusion: in these small things, God reminds us that he is in control.  And that he does take care of us, in big things and small.  We just have to remember that in his care, he allows unpleasant, difficult events and circumstances along with the blessings.

This might not be so easy for me to say if I had, say, a child dying of cancer or was in the midst of losing my home.  I don't have any insurmountable trials to endure right now, which is not to say I have no trials at all. 

But in my experience, even people undergoing great trials see small things as blessings too.  And these small gifts from God help them to go on.

So I am very thankful for the providence that caused us to be out when the tree fell apart.  And I will add that to my list of blessings to remember, when I am in a situation that causes me to wonder how much God really cares.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So much for summer school

Two months of summer vacation is too long.   Kids get bored, they forget important skills such as how to get up in the morning and do basic math, they get lazy.

So I try to avoid a long summer vacation in my little homeschool when I can. This year, as in the past,  I had some nice summer school plans made. 

And then, it all just went out the window.  Yesterday, I decided to surrender to summer and set a back-to-school date.  I've never had a back-to-school date before.  But this year I need one, because at some point we need to get back to school work.

So why didn't summer school happen?

I am not sure.  We did go on a vacation; that took three days.  The kids participated in Vacation Bible School; that took a week (and counted as school hours).   Both of my kids went to day camps that were educational and fun.  They also spent time working for other people!  Babysitting and yard work took up a bit of time.  Both kids have done a lot of  reading on their own, and we have done some reading together.  We've been to the movies and we've gone hiking. We've had a lot of doctor and dentist appointments.  Boy Scout summer camp is coming up and there is always a lot of preparation for that. 

Some of those activities count as school time, but... it wasn't the summer school that I had planned on.

Well, we know that planning doesn't equal getting it done, does it?

So school starts on August 23.  I have to admit that once I made the decision to call of the summer school that wasn't happening anyway, I felt better.   The pressure is off a little, so I feel like I can take some time to do some better planning than I usually manage to do.  Most homeschool moms like the planning better than the actual schooling, anyway. We can achieve something close to perfection in the planning stage; that's not possible during implementation.

Maybe there is a good reason for summer vacation after all. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My free cheese story

Today I was tasked with contributing to a reception at church.  I was supposed to bring cheese.

Since I hadn't planned on going to the store today and didn't need anything else, I decided to go to the closest store. That's the only thing good about it - it's close. It's also poorly stocked, has poor produce, and high prices on most things.  But I figured they would have some sort of spreadable cheese.

Their selection was slim but I did see some tubs of cheese on special - buy one get one free!  So I took two tubs, swung by the cracker aisle and picked up some Wheat Thins or something, and got in the long express line.  I wasn't sure I was supposed to bring crackers but didn't want to show up with cheese and no way to eat it.

As I stood in line I wondered if I would have a problem with my buy-one-get-one-free cheese. I have had a lot of problems with sale items in that store.   And sure enough, when the cashier rang up my order, I was charged for two tubs of cheese.  I started to protest but the guy stopped me:  "Is this on sale?" "Yes."  "OK, let me go check."  Oh man, here we go.  I had to tell him where the cheese was and he ran off.  I apologized to the lady right behind me.  She was gracious.

The cashier came back quickly enough and told me that I was right.  Yeah, I knew that. So he fiddled with the transaction and told me my total was $1.99.  What?! That was just for the crackers.  I said "you still need to charge me for one thing of cheese."

No, it turns out he did not.  He told me that because of the error, I got the first tub of cheese free. The 2nd tub was free because of the sale (which was really over, but the sign was still on the shelf).  So I got $15 worth of cheese for nothing. 

Can't beat a deal like that! 

Jumping on the Pinterest bandwagon

Do I have time for a new social media site?

No, not really.  But I was fascinated when a friend told me about Pinterest, the online bulletin board site.  Even before I signed up I could see it was a dangerous place.  I could spend hours looking at peoples' pins of crafting ideas, recipes, flowers, colors...

It took me a few days to sign up, and then even longer to feel comfortable with it.  I was suspicious.  How is this site ever going to make money?   What kind of information is the "pinmarklet" in my toolbar (the device that allows me to grab the pictures and pin them) gathering?  What about copyright?

I searched the web for negative information about the site but couldn't find any.  I am still unsure about a few things, but once started, it's hard to stop.  I've found lots of new recipes and tons of craft ideas for Eleanor. 

Ah, Eleanor.  She fell in love when she saw it too, and immediately wanted her own account.  But, you've got to be 13, baby.  She's got half a year to go.  Sigh.  Online life begins at 13.

But when she's browsing craft sites and finds something she loves, she pins it to my board.  I don't let her browse all of Pinterest herself.  I'm not sure I'll want to even once she is 13.  Sandy noticed this problem too:  there is so much that is beautiful and useful there, but there's the ugliness too.  The fashions that - really, you'd wear that? In public?  The "cute" sayings in pretty script but with vulgar or profane language.  (Why are women all of a sudden so vulgar and profane, anyway?)  Pictures of and links to products I don't want my child to know exist.

I'll be looking for boards to follow that my daughter can look at and enjoy with me.   So if you have a Pinterest account, and it's family-friendly, please let me know.  Or come find me there.  You can see the red button on the left.  It rather stands out in my blues, doesn't it? 

You might find things you don't like in my boards, but you won't find anything your daughter shouldn't see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

VBS Guilt

Last week our new church had VBS:  Vacation Bible School.  Three-fourths of my family participated either as helper or student.  I declined.

Well, technically I didn't decline; I was never directly asked to participate.  No one walked up to me and said "can you please help with VBS next week?"  But there is always a need for volunteers.

My husband is the pastoral intern at the church, so his participation was a no-brainer.

My son helped out at VBS at our last church, in the games area, and had a great time.  So he was ready to help again.  Only thing: this year he didn't get games. He was placed in the kindergarten class!  He was a good sport, though: "I would have liked to do games, but, I guess this is where they need me."  That's the spirit a mom wants to see.

My daughter's participation was not certain till the last moment.  Last year she was a helper at VBS, but this church's classes go up to age 12.  So, she had to go back to being a student.  Not an easy thing to do!   But she was a good sport and went along with it.

I think most 12-year-old who have been consistently going to church and Sunday School are too old for VBS.  I'm sure it's great for kids who aren't immersed in Bible stories all the time.   But the kids who are?  They need something more, and that is not generally provided by VBS.   Besides, the prizes are just so silly and little kid-ish.   She would have learned more by helping in a classroom.  But, oh well.

I'm glad she went because I took those mornings for myself.  I had a to-do list to conquer and I did get a good bit of it done.  When they walked out the door on Monday morning, I hit the list and didn't stop till it was time to pick up the kids at noon.

By Wednesday, though, we were down to one car.  I lost some time driving everyone church in the morning.  That was unfortunate, but, you know, things happen.  It reminded me of our first two years here, when life with one car was the standard.   We got used to having two cars! 

On Friday I did stop and have some cafe time in between dropping everyone off and going to an appointment.   Coffee at home is cheaper, but reading in a cafe feels so luxurious. 

There wasn't time for the hammock, and mostly it was too hot anyway.  I'm mostly happy with the work I got done.

But throughout the week I did feel that pang of guilt for not helping at the VBS.  There were women there who'd been teaching VBS for 15 years.  It never occurs to them to take a break.  I've done it, oh, I don't know, 5 times.  Maybe 4. And I needed a break.

So maybe next year I'll work VBS again.  Next summer we should be moving.  Maybe we can time it so that we're traveling during VBS week.  Or maybe the timing will be such that we'll catch VBS and both old church and new.  I don't think I want to contemplate that too hard.

Everyone's sleeping a little late this morning.  VBS is tiring.  Well, I'm not sleeping in because I'm not that tired.  I feel pretty good!  And not guilty anymore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Give a girl a challenge...

About two weeks ago my girl received a challenge.  

We were at the library and she was checking out a huge number of books.  Well, probably 10, maybe 15.  Not so huge. The man in line behind her looked at her stack and asked:

Are you really going to read all those books in 3 weeks?

She smiled nicely and said yes.  She turned to me and rolled her eyes.  The librarian gave her a wink. 

In the car, she grumbled a little.  It was hard to read the man's voice (given that we didn't know him); was there a slightly sarcastic or condescending edge to it, or was he just being friendly?   We opted for friendly.  We try never to assume malice when clumsiness will do as an explanation for behavior.

Of course she read them all.  It wasn't even that hard.  She's on the upper edge of the juvenile section so she can chew through those books pretty handily.  We face the "young adult" section with trepidation.  YA authors are vying to be seen as the most cutting-edge and we are not cutting-edge people.   Anne of Green Gables is about our speed right now.   We're skipping the teen paranormal romance.  

We returned them within about two weeks.  She's unlikely to ever encounter that man again, and it wouldn't matter if she did.  But she won't forget him for a while, that man who doubted her.

Do you remember lovely summers spent buried in books?  I do.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One of my problems

I am always trying to find just the right notebook(s) for my little homeschool.  I don't need much; just something to record our daily activities. A calendar with enough, but not too much, space.  Pages to write notes and lists.   The other day I thought I'd found it, but I hadn't.  I am still looking. 

I could find these things online, or I could make them up myself.  I never like what I make, though.  Today I figured out one of my problems:  I want my notebooks pages to be pretty.  I want paper with a little flowered border, or some stripes or dots or something that is not just black and white.

So if I could just find the right printer paper, in the right colors with the right design on it, I could make some snappy notebook pages and then, look out world, I would be effective, organized, efficient.

OK, at least I'd have pretty notebooks. 

Why does that make a difference to me? 

I can't be the only person who writes more carefully and neatly when I have nice paper to write on, can I?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Many books, little reading

2011 was going to be my year for reading.   I was going to reclaim my status as a reader.  Now the year is half over.  How am I doing?

Not so well, really.

I've completed 20 books; 9 were read-alouds in our homeschool.  I guess those count, particularly books like The Odyssey and Chosen by God, which were just as valuable for me as they were for the kids.

I have two books listed as "in process" on my "2011 Reading" page.  But that is really not quite true.  I have a few books in process right now.  I just can't settle on one, sit down, and read it through right now. 

I wanted a fun adventure story so I picked up The Three Musketeers.  Then I heard about Blackout - a novel involving time travel and World War II - so I started that for myself and as a preview for my 14-year-old.   While browsing the library I came across Farthing, an alternate history wherein the Nazis prevail in World War II; I had just been talking about alternate history so that piqued my interest.  I am still reading Bonhoeffer; it is very good but not always what one wants to read on a summer day in the hammock.  Yesterday I started reading Herodotus' Histories for our summer school.  (Yes, ancient history as summer reading. It's a good antidote to all the Tom Clancy and Royal Diaries my kids are inhaling right now.)

I've been managing just a few pages a night with my own personal reading.  It's been a busy  summer.  That comment about the hammock? Wishful thinking!

Still, I think I am doing better than last year, though I didn't keep records then.

My kids are doing better than I am.  As part of their homeschooling, I require them to log the books they read.  Each child read about 50 this year; not all of it high quality, as noted above.  Many times I have regretted not logging the books I read as a kid.  Wouldn't it be fun to see what you were reading at 10, 15, 22?  I don't think my kids see the value of logging their books yet.  They do it because I make them.  But I'll keep those logs and someday they will enjoy marveling over the books they read when they were teens.

Or, they'll recycle them with hardly a glance.   Who can predict?

What are you reading this summer?  Do you keep track of your books?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The ant project

[This post has been in draft status since May 15.  That's how long it's taken me to get at the photos.]

Right now there are "pavement ants" dropping dirt onto my dryer from the ceiling above. We can't seem to get rid of them.  I hate them. Who doesn't hate ants in the house, or at the picnic?

But there are other ants that are not so hateable.  We had a good time last month reading about Leafcutter Ants.  The Leafcutters are so interesting my kids did a project around them.  I've told you before that my kids don't produce anything, at least not willingly.  Yet, they decided, or maybe agreed, to do it.  That is how cool Leafcutter Ants are.

The diagram is from Enchanted Learning, and no, we are not subscribers.  We used to be, when the kids were younger.  I haven't printed anything from them in a few years, but since I had subscribed for a while, I didn't feel too guilty taking this one thing.  The subscription was worth it when the kids were younger.

It started with a library book.  Doesn't just about everything?  Whenever I step into our local branch I scan the new nonfiction shelves. There are always new books that look interesting there, and I never fail to pick something up.  Sometimes we never get around to reading what I bring home.  But this time we did.

The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct is a beautiful book.  Yes, the photographs of ants are gorgeous.  And amazing.  We couldn't stop marveling over the pictures in this book.  And then we started reading it.

I'll admit that the beginning was tough.  Lots of technical terms, not all explained in the glossary.  (But that's what dictionaries are for, right?)   I thought maybe we wouldn't get beyond the first chapter.   But we kept going, and the book just got better and better.  My kids even took notes while I read it.  OK, I did demand it.  But they didn't argue.  They always argue about taking notes.  There is a lot of evolution talk, so some folks won't like that.  If that bothers you, you could skip those bits and go right into ant behavior. 

Eleanor had fun cutting out the leaves and drawing the little ants.  This doesn't look much like a leafcutter, but it's still cute.

We don't belong to any kind of homeschool coop, and our support group really doesn't exist as such anymore, so we didn't have a science fair.  But we decided to pretend that we did, so the kids could make a display. They also made a papier-mache model of an ant mound, with the intent of making a cross-section to show tunnels.  They didn't plan ahead, though, and it didn't work out.  It was still fun, and an interesting, if not completely satisfying, learning experience. 

Here are some of the sites they used for their research:

University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web (usually our first stop when researching animals of any kind)

National Science Foundation has a video about Leafcutters.

National Geographic, of course.

I wonder what science project we'll do next!

Mean blogger

So someone told me (privately, of course) that I was a mean blogger the other day, when I commented on seeing a homeschool portfolio with the child's picture on the front when I was at the school district office picking up my own portfolios.  Here is what I said:
As I was walking out, one last binder caught my eye.  The cover sported a photo of a cute smiling boy.  I recognized him from some homeschool activities; I don't really know his family but we have crossed paths a few times.   If I wanted to be a mean person, I would point out that that portfolio looked like the cover of the stereotypical homeschool magazines we all love to mock. If you are a homeschooler, you know what I'm talking about - the one with the child joyfully doing math or helping a younger sibling with a science experiment, maybe with a smiling mom in the background, all perfectly coiffed and wearing cute plaid shirts or jumpers.
That was mean?  Really?  I said the boy was cute!  (He was.)

I guess I will give a nonapologetic politician-style apology and say:

I'm sorry if anyone was offended.   It was meant as a light-hearted sort of commentary, and was my true first reaction on seeing the photo. 

I don't hate you if you put a photo of your kid on his portfolio.  I don't understand you, but that's OK. You don't understand me either.   Fair enough?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A funny homeschool phenomenon

Summer is homeschool planning season.  Even year-round homeschoolers seem to take some time in summer to plan ahead for the next academic year.  And along with the curriculum talk comes the talk about grade levels.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to work at different grade levels in the various subjects.  A child could be great at math and able to work at a higher grade level than, say, at language arts.  Some kids chew up the language arts books and write well, while their math is a little weaker.  It doesn't much matter for a child not in school.   Most kids I know, homeschooled or not, do not perform equally well in all subjects.  Grade levels are necessary for mass education, but not for individuals. 

For a long time my kids were typical homeschoolers, clueless when asked what grade they were in.  That's just not something that comes up at home.  We don't worry about what grade our math books are written for; we do a book, then do the next book.  We don't think about what grade level novels are written for; if the child can read and respond to a book (and the content is appropriate, of course), it's the right level.

But, people do ask. We're getting that question a lot lately, because we recently changed churches and are meeting a lot of new people.  In our family, the answer is the grade the child would be in if he or she had gone to school like a normal person.  So this summer I have a rising 7th grader and a rising 9th grader.  Easy.

The phenomenon?  Some people like to answer that question with a little more detail, but, apparently, only if it reflects well on the child.  When the grade level conversation comes up among homeschoolers, I might hear or read things like this:

"My daughter tells people she's in 4th grade but that she reads at a 7th grade level."

"I tell people my son would be in 5th grade but is reading at 9th grade level and doing 7th grade math."

"My son answers with 'I'm in 3rd grade but can read 7th grade books and do 5th grade math!'"

Do you see a pattern here?

Do you notice that no one says "I'm in 7th grade but doing 5th grade math, 6th grade language arts and 9th grade science"?

No, and you're not going to.  Despite all the talk about freedom to work at the child's own pace, and lack of concern about grade levels on the parents' parts, you are unlikely to hear anyone mention that they are below grade level in any subject area.  Oh, a small group of moms, friends, will talk about it together.  But publicly, every homeschool child is well above grade level, even when grade level doesn't matter.

My kids have only a vague idea what grade levels they are working in.  I guess my son knows he's slightly below his age peers in math because the boys engage in math talk sometimes.  But we don't talk about it much.  I don't show my kids their standardized test scores; I just tell them they did fine. 

It's not good for the children to hear their parents telling people (or tell people themselves) all the ways in which they are superior.  It sounds like bragging.  It sounds like insecurity.

"What grade are you in?" is a simple question, generally requiring a simple answer. There is no need to get into detail in most conversations. Most people are just asking in order to place the child in their world. They're really asking "will your child be in youth group with mine?" or "What Sunday School class will he go to?"  Or it's just a way to make brief conversation.  The grocery store clerk is just being friendly; she doesn't really care, and saying anything more than a simple "6th grade" isn't going to make them think more highly of you, your kids, or homeschooling in general.

And, think how it sounds to other kids.  You meet up with someone and people exchange grade levels.  Your kid has to tell the subjects he's above grade level in. You think the other kids are impressed?  You think the other kids are going to like him better because he's in 5th grade but doing 9th grade math?   Think again!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Back from the land of the 3-inch binder

My school district homeschool liaison - the person who reviews homeschool portfolios - called today to tell me mine were ready to be picked up.  I was surprised at the quick turnaround; the deadline was just yesterday and usually it's mid-July before the reviews are done.  Since I was going to be out driving all over town today anyway, I stopped right in to pick them up.

Good thing I did, too, because the office is small and there were a lot of portfolios in there.  As always, my 1-inch binders were a little hard to find in the midst of all the packed 3-inchers.  I admit that I gazed around in wonder at the huge binders, packed full.  I wanted to peruse them!  How do people generate so much paperwork?

The liaison interpreted my wonder as insecurity.  She reassured me that our portfolios were fine (though she will send the official approval letter later on) and that the big ones were... unnecessary.  She quickly added that she enjoys looking through them, even though they contain much more than they need to.  There was one binder that must have been at least 5, maybe 6 inches thick - probably the biggest binder I've ever seen.  It was so packed things were falling out.  She did sigh a little when she saw me staring at that one. 

I told her that the size and contents of the portfolio is a constant topic of discussion among homeschool moms. She just laughed, and said "well, some people do like to keep it all, like a scrapbook."

Yes, indeed.  I'd heard that before, from a very earnest mom who proclaimed "I can't bear to throw any of it out!"  She seemed unable to comprehend the plain fact that "not turning it all in" does not have to equal "throwing it all out."   I am not kidding.   

No doubt I have ranted about minimal compliance here before.  This is the concept that we give the state what the law requires of us; no more and no less.  It doesn't mean having an adversarial relationship with the school district; it just means we  know what we are required to do, and we do it.   Some people complain that over-achievers who turn in every math worksheet and composition make it harder for those of us who don't.  I don't usually get into that argument, but I understand it.  If it appears homeschoolers want to be give the school district everything, they may come to expect it, and then require it.   But, it doesn't really matter to me what other people do, as long as I am not required to follow suit. 

I also see the difference between a scrapbook full of keepsakes and a legal document, which is what the portfolio is while it is in the hands of the school district.  I will keep some of my kids' work samples, their book lists, and the photos they took to document trips and projects.  But the daily log proving we fulfilled our 180 days?  The daily checklist on which I dutifully marked off every subject we covered?  Who cares? 

As I was walking out, one last binder caught my eye.  The cover sported a photo of a cute smiling boy.  I recognized him from some homeschool activities; I don't really know his family but we have crossed paths a few times.   If I wanted to be a mean person, I would point out that that portfolio looked like the cover of the stereotypical homeschool magazines we all love to mock. If you are a homeschooler, you know what I'm talking about - the one with the child joyfully doing math or helping a younger sibling with a science experiment, maybe with a smiling mom in the background, all perfectly coiffed and wearing cute plaid shirts or jumpers.

(What do our covers look like? They bear the child's name, my name, and our home address and phone.  Last year Eleanor drew some flowers on hers; she was going to do a new cover this year but never got around to it.  James didn't decorate his.  He's into minimal compliance too.)  

At that I decided I was getting too close to invading someone's privacy and got out.  I would have enjoyed talking to the liaison about the finer points of portfolio construction.  But she was busy.  She had a lot of huge binders to get through.

I felt so light as I walked out the door.