Friday, August 31, 2007

A Message of Hope

This is from our church's bulletin for this week:

We received two responses to our Rally Day balloon
messages. (One girl)'s balloon landed on a farmer who was
in his tractor near Knox, Indiana, about 4:00 p.m. last Sunday.
Another balloon landed in a boat that a woman was sitting in
because the area near Merrillville, Indiana, was flooded! Please
keep Stephanie and all flood victims in your prayers.

As I recall from my days as a Sunday school teacher, the balloons the kids launch to celebrate Rally Day usually have a message attached that says "Jesus Loves You." Imagine sitting in a boat in your flooded neighborhood, praying for a sign that everything's going to be ok, and then that balloon lands in your boat. How cool is that? :)

Putting the Kids on the Bus (or Not)

Janet made an interesting comment regarding my last post, and that got me thinking. I don't recall ever looking at a school bus and wishing I could put my kids on it so I could have some time to get things done. I'm not trying to make myself out to be a saint or something, it's just the truth. And I think I know why I never felt that way.

I had my first two children when I was 25 and 26; they were 18 months apart in age. Being a typically self-centered 20-something, I struggled with giving up my life and interests to raise them 24/7. Not that I didn't enjoy them, because they were a lot of fun (ok, exhausting fun, but fun just the same). But my dh worked 50-60 hours a week back in those days (before his industry went to China), and I was alone with the little ones a lot. The hardest thing for me was not having time to read, to write, to sew, to garden whenever I felt like it....those are things you can't do very easily with two little people running around.

My dh, being the wonderful husband he is, often gave me time in the evenings to do my thing. He'd play with the kids while I sewed in another room with a gate up, or push them on the backyard swings while I went shopping alone (so much easier than taking them with every time!) Despite his own exhaustion, he gave me as much time alone as he could. We both figured I would come out of my time alone refreshed and ready for another long day of life with toddlers.

The reality, however, was that instead of coming back with my batteries recharged, I came back cranky and a bit resentful. It was not enough. I wanted more. My selfish nature was dissatisfied with occasional time off.

But I loved my kids, and wanted to be home to raise them, so what I finally decided was that for me, it was better to make time to pursue my interests while I was home with my kids instead of leaving them to do things. From then on, I read the paper while they played in the morning. I gardened while they were on the swingset. I sewed during their naptimes. And I gave up writing because I couldn't concentrate on it while the kids were around. Writing ended up being put on the back burner (with occasional lapses) until the kids were teens.

And I learned that while I couldn't do everything I wanted to, I could do just enough reading, writing, sewing and gardening to keep me satisfied. I've stayed in that pattern ever since, even after having two more kids. So I guess over the course of homeschooling for the past 20 years, I made just enough time for my interests that I didn't ever think about sending the kids to school so I could get things done. Having them home was just part of daily life.

The School Buses Are Out Again......

The school buses are out again, those yellow beacons that remind us we’ve chosen a different path for our children. There’s a certain energy floating around during these first few weeks of school that can be felt as the buses drive past, or when you’re in the school supply section of Target, surrounded by other parents with their mile-long preprinted school supply lists, that can make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by keeping your children home.

Don’t let that energy fool you. It’s an annual occurrence, and within a month or so, it will be replaced by the boredom of school. I still remember the hope I’d have as a child on each first day of school: maybe this year will be better. I’d arrive at each class optimistic about the school year. Maybe this class will be fun. Maybe it will be interesting. Maybe this will be the year that it gets better.

But by the end of that first day, once the last class of the day was over, I could see it would be just another year. Sure, there would be the occasional interesting class, and once in a while I’d get a teacher who was really into the subject and sharing his or her enthusiasm about it. But by the end of that first week, I’d find that I had lost all hope that things would be much different than the year before.

Our kids have no way of knowing this if they have never been to school. They grow up accustomed to learning on their own timetable, and take for granted the rhythm of day-to-day family life. School (particularly these first few weeks of the school year) can look like something foreign and exciting to them. They may feel like they’re missing out on something good.

They don’t know the truth, but we do, and if they feel like they’re missing out, they’re just going to have to trust us that we’re doing the right thing by keeping them home. Usually it only takes a few years before their neighborhood friends begin to discover what I discovered: that for all the hype, the shiny yellow buses and the new school supplies, school is no fun. It quickly becomes monotonous, a sameness of day and situation that runs on endlessly, while out in the real world, people come and go and do interesting things.

Our family was fortunate, because by about third grade, the neighbor kids had not only discovered this truth, but were more than willing to share it with our kids:

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to go to school!”

“I asked my mom to homeschool me and she said no. Could your mom homeschool me?”

“I hate school.”

This certainly made my life easier, because as my children’s eyes were opened to the reality of their friends’ daily lives at school, my concern that they felt they were missing out was erased. They could plainly see that they were not missing out on much.

Before long, the annual first day of school in our neighborhood became our cue to celebrate our family’s freedom. We started to take vacations in the fall, when it was still nice outside but all the crowds at the tourist attractions had disappeared. As we’d drive along, occasionally the kids would see a school bus full of children. And I’d usually hear a comment from the back of the van along the lines of,

“Aren’t we lucky?”

They certainly are, and the return of the yellow buses each fall has become a reminder of that fact.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The World is Their Potty, Apparently

This new trend in childrearing is all over the Internet today. I'm sorry, but if I come into the ladies' room and find you holding your baby over the sink so she can pee into it, I am not only going to look at you funny, but I'll probably say something to you, too, because my kids need to wash their hands in that sink.

As for teaching baby boys to pee on trees in the backyard, good luck breaking them of that habit when they're older!

(Funniest line in this article: "She says finding a supportive daycare center is the biggest challenge for parents who choose not to use diapers." I'll bet they laugh her right out of the room, lol.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dressed for Suspension

Several students in a Florida high school were given in-school suspension for breaking the dress exceeding it. That's right, despite being warned not to do it, they showed up in (brace yourself) suitcoats and ties, and were promptly suspended for doing so. Kids these days! What will they think of next?

This is silly. High school supposedly prepares kids for adulthood, which is a big job. With all the important things school officials should be teaching these kids, nitpicking over exceeding the school dress code belongs at the bottom of the to-do list.

We're starting another year of homeschool high school in our family next week. The "principal" is usually here during the day (he works at home), and he prefers we all be dressed before we start school. The kids are pretty good about following that rule, but sometimes I wake up with the urge to write before we begin our studies for the day, so I end up teaching in my pj's. Fortunately, I haven't been suspended yet...

T-shirts and Totes for Homeschoolers

I stumbled onto this site and liked several of the homeschool t-shirts and totes they sell....what do you think of them?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back Online...Better Late Than Never

Ok, so maybe I was a bit optimistic when I said I'd be back online early this week. It's been 19 years since we last moved, and I forgot how hard it is to find things once you start unpacking! Before we could get online, we had to find the computers, the modem, the keyboards, the right cables and wires....what a project! But my wonderful dh got it all working...woohoo!

This whole moving thing was a rush job to begin with. After nearly 10 months on the market, we got an offer on July 26 (four weeks ago yesterday, but who's counting?) The buyer wanted possession of the house by 8/15 or 8/22. Choosing the latter was a no-brainer, but as we soon learned, moving out of your home of two decades in less than a month is not easy.

The buyer's mortgage was not approved until the last day the contract allowed, 8/15, which meant this deal wasn't close to being official until a week before the closing. Considering how many mortgage lenders have gone belly-up lately, I did not breathe a sigh of relief until we got the call two days ago that the closing went without a hitch. Thank God (and that's not just a phrase, it's the truth! Selling in this market is the work of God, without a doubt.)

If Budget Car Rental's stock went up in August, they can thank us. Truckload #1 made the trip north to storage unit #2 10 days ago. Truckload #2 (all 24 feet of it plus a trailer carrying our minivan) left last Sunday, but unfortunately we were unable to fit the rest of the mess in it, thus we came back to IL on Monday night, rented Truck #3, and finished moving north on Tuesday. Add the cost of three truck trips worth of diesel fuel to three truck rentals, plus the wear and tear on my poor dh, and I have to wonder if we should have hired movers. But by the time we knew the sale was probably going through, the movers were booked up (we checked).

But the important thing is that we're here. We've left the Chicago suburbs, crossed the Cheddar Curtain and landed in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Yes, this is a smaller house, and we have no idea where we're going to put all our stuff (most of which is in the one-car garage and storage units #1 and #2. I'm thinking mega garage sales next spring.) But we're a half-mile up the hill from the bay, and we're enjoying the background noise of the boats blowing their horns. I've stopped trolling the realtor blogs (they were getting awfully depressing!) And I've already got a line on two local homeschool support groups, one of which has a teen group. So things are looking up :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Someone Who Got It Right

We hear about so many people behaving badly these days that it's a real treat to read about someone who did good in his life. That's why this story about a man who died after living a truly wonderful Christian life touched my heart. Hope it does the same for you.

I'll be going offline tomorrow while we pack up the computers for our move to another state. Hope to be back online early next week. Please keep us in your prayers.....thanks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Valuable Lesson

Not much time for blogging this week, what with packing up our belongings for our out-of-state move while hoping our buyer's mortgage comes through in time.....with so many mortgage lenders going belly-up lately, the real estate world is a scary place to be right now.

So, here's a little message for those who helped create the financial problems we're seeing these days by buying houses they couldn't afford or using their homes as ATMs:

BTW, this should be required viewing for all teens; they can save themselves a lot of future pain by following the advice in it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Back to Homeschool Week

Randi came up with a great idea: Back to Homeschool Week. I would have loved to post about each of her topics this week, but between going out of town and playing catch-up once we got back, I didn't get a chance until just now, so I guess I'm just a Friday-only participant in her clever blog idea.

Today's topic is curriculum. I cannot even imagine how many different materials I've used over the past 20 years I've been homeschooling, but several favorites come to mind:

1) Rod and Staff preschool workbook series.
I'm not big on formal preschool work, but child #3 insisted on her own schoolwork at age 4 so she could be like the big kids, and this workbook set wonderfully filled the bill. I ended up buying two more sets when #4 reached that level developmentally (he's my guy with Down syndrome), and he loved them, too. They've got great activities, including cut and paste, and not a superhero in sight.

2) The Miller Series
These readers are fantastic family read-together books. You can get them with workbooks, or just keep them around for good reading material. Titles include Prudence and the Millers and Wisdom and the Millers. They're available at Rainbow Resource, among many other places.

3) Miquon Math
After giving up on the overly stringent (at least for our family) A Beka Math Grade 3, a trip through the series of six Miquon books, along with a lovely box of colorful wooden Cuisenaire rods, was just what the doctor ordered. We got our books from the Timberdoodle and the rods from God's World Books.

4) Saxon Math (54 and on, skipping one or two, through Advanced Math)
Yes, Saxon can be dry and repetitive, but once they were old enough, my kids got a great math foundation from these books. Combined with a separate one-year geometry course, I credit them with my son's high ACT and SAT scores in math.

5) Childhood of Famous Americans series
These terrific biographies are now being reprinted; I grew up on the originals, and loved them so much I read every one that my school's library owned, most more than once.

6) Geography: A Literature Approach by Rea Berg/Beautiful Feet Books
This inexpensive guide, when combined with available maps and some wonderful books by Holling Clancy Holling, is worth its weight in gold.

I know I have used lots of other good products over the years, but those are the ones that immediately came to mind. Of course, I don't need to buy much new curriculum these days, so I'm not up on all the good stuff that's come out over the past few years, but I hear from others that they're finding some real gems.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Back Again

We're back home after a house-hunting trip. Yes, we have a contract on "the homeschooling house," although if you feel like praying, we sure could use prayers that this deal goes through, because they want us out in less than two weeks but their mortgage isn't approved yet. You know what they say, God is never late, rarely early and always on time....we're counting on it!

NerdMom has posted an awesome Carnival of Homeschooling this week despite the invasion of her home and family by an evil stomach bug. If she does this good of a job while dealing with illness (her own and her family members', plus her poor hubby's bout with gallstones), imagine what she accomplishes when they're all healthy!

The August issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter is out. If you're a subscriber, it should be landing with a thump in your email box any second. If you're not a subscriber (and why aren't you, hmm?), you can go see it here, I suppose :)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Another Growing Family

As long as I'm blogging about good news from fertile families today, I will mention the actor Chris O'Donnell and his wife. I've never seen this actor's work, but I have to say his attitude and the way he appears to lead his life is a breath of fresh air compared to the stench of celebrities behaving badly that emanates from the entertainment world these days.

The O'Donnells have announced that they are expecting a baby, their fifth. This shocking development is compounded by the fact that they are married, to each other, and that their first four children are also theirs, not the results of previous 'relationships.'

Add to that the fact that they appear to be quite excited about this new arrival, and I have to ask facetiously, what is this world coming to? I can already hear the protests of the population Nazis, complaining that this world already has too many people in it. To them I say read America Alone by Mark Steyn. What he reveals about current demographics alone is worth the price of the book.

Homeschooling a Dozen

With all the gloom and doom in this world, it's so nice to hear good news for a change. I just read that the Duggars, a homeschooling family from Arkansas, had their 17th child this week. How cool is that?

Judging by the ages of the Duggar children, I'm guessing Mom D. now homeschools about a dozen of her kids at any given time. That may sound overwhelming, but when you consider that she's been doing this for a while, she could probably run homeschooling rings around the rest of us! Also, now that the eldest is 19, every other year or so, she graduates a child. OTOH, if she keeps having babies (she's only 40), she'll keep her "school enrollment" at 12 or so for some time yet.

When I compare her to the many young women of America's past (my husband's grandmother was one of them) who taught school in one-room schoolhouses to a good-sized group of local children of a wide range of ages and from different homes, and still managed to keep our country's literacy rate high (a lot higher than it is today!), I see that Mom D.'s job can be done, and done well. After all, she's raised these children to comply with her behavior standards. The young ladies who taught in one-room schoolhouses did not have that advantage, nor did they have her wisdom stemming from life experience, since they were usually fresh out of high school themselves.

I've tried several times to visit the Duggar family's site today, but could not get in. I'm guessing it's overwhelmed with visitors who also feel that the Duggar's news is good news.