Monday, September 29, 2008

Calming Thoughts of a Simpler Life

This summer while they were visiting us, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a lovely little book: The Simple Life: Devotional Thoughts from Amish Country.

It's not a very big book, but it's got some really nice stories in it. The author, best-selling writer Wanda E. Brunstetter, uses 60 fictional vignettes from Amish life to illustrate biblical principles.

In scary economic times like what we're living in right now, reading something that emphasizes the simple life along with God's sovereignty and grace is just what I need. And to sweeten the pot, the author includes an Amish recipe after each devotion. Our family loves Amish recipes!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Homeschoolers = Green?

Susan notes that her homeschooling lifestyle is just naturally green (i.e. environmentally beneficial). I think she's right. I think ours is green, too. We don't use individually packaged anything either. We don't need to, because, like Susan's family, we eat using plates and silverware at home.

What do you think? Is your homeschooling lifestyle green, too?

Friday, September 26, 2008


Remember when you were a kid and you got hold of a special treat, like a box of Chiclets or a bag of M&Ms, and you couldn't wait to share some with someone special?

That's how I feel about Elisabeth Elliot. Anything she does is so wonderful that I just want to share it with my friends. She's so encouraging, so wise, so Biblically accurate that I can never get enough of her work.

Here are some Elisabeth Elliot treasures I want to share with you. First off, here's a list of back issues of her newsletters. At her Web site, you will find a link to her very encouraging radio broadcasts, which she stopped doing in 2001. (Here's a direct link to the transcripts of those broadcasts.)

I was fortunate to receive one of her books for my birthday: Keep a Quiet Heart. The most recent book of hers I read was Discipline: The Glad Surrender, and it was certainly a good one!

I included her fantastic book Shaping of a Christian Family, The: How My Parents Nurtured My Faith in the reading list found in my own book, Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, Second Edition: A Parent-Friendly Curriculum For Teaching Teens To Handle Money, Live Moral Lives And Get Ready For Adulthood, and all three of my older kids have read it.

One of her most famous books is Through Gates of Splendor, the story of her first husband, missionary Jim Elliot, who was murdered by some of the Ecuadorian Indians he and his fellow missionaries were trying to reach with the Gospel (the movie End of the Spear is also about that sad event).

You'll enjoy Elisabeth Elliot's work. And lest you think she can't understand what your life is like because she only ever had one child, you should know that her daughter is a homeschooling mom of eight :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some Links and a Timely Reminder

We're still working out the details on my new site, Barbara Frank Online, and recently discovered that the links to the September articles had self-destructed (who knows why these things happen!) But they're fixed now, and since those articles will be coming down in a week or so, you might want to check them out while you can:

"Knowing When to Back Off" answers one of the most important questions a homeschooling mom can ask.

"The School Buses are Out Again" reminds us that the school bus is a good symbol, not an ominous one.

Also, don't forget, there's only one week left to get a special price on my latest book, The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling. You'll find the link to that special price in Melissa Markham's review of the book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tonight's Assignment

Tonight dd17 attended a charity art auction in Green Bay as part of an assignment from one of her teachers. She's taking two classes at the local technical college (Wisconsin's version of community college) this semester, in addition to her studies at home during this, her last year of homeschooling.

One of our older kids also attended community college while homeschooling for high school. This is a great way for young people to try college and see if it's what they want before committing to attending a college or university after high school.

I think it's good for the kids to take these classes, not only because of what they can learn about the subject of the class, but because they get to try out the classroom. Of course, there's a lot more freedom than there would be at a public school, so it's a good fit for kids who've never been to school.

A prime advantage, of course, is that they earn both high school and college credit for the courses they take. It really makes a nice transition between high school and college, i.e. between doing things because your mom says so and doing it because the teacher assigned it. Kind of a nice breather for Mom, too :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different....

Last year we moved to beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is primarily known for being a tourist area. However, it's also comprised of small communities that spend 2/3 of the year without many visitors. Having come from the rush and anonymity of the Chicago suburbs, we're really enjoying the small-town atmosphere here.

This fall there has been a particularly neat development. A young man from this area, son of a local artist, has been moving up on one of the musical contest-type talent shows on television. This week he made it to the top ten, and his friends and family gathered at a local establishment to watch him on the show. They all brought their cell phones so they could vote for him at the same time. (There was a cute article about this in the local paper.)

Now everyone is excited because he made it to the top five on the show. Later this week they'll learn if he makes it to #1 and wins $1 million and a show in Las Vegas.

He seems like a nice kid. We saw him perform live soon after we moved here and were impressed with him. Good luck this week, Eli!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thoughts on Turning Fif....Fif...25x2

It’s true: time flies when you’re having fun. That’s why I’m having a hard time believing that I turn 50 today…I just don’t feel like I’ve been alive that long. And yet when I consider how much the world has changed since I arrived well into the Baby Boom years, I realize that 50 years is a long time (gulp).

When I was little, ladies wore hats and gloves to church; now some wear jeans and show cleavage. My dad, my grandpa and all of my uncles smoked, as did several of my aunts. Many of the adults I’d see in cars, restaurants and on the street smoked; now I don’t see many smokers in public at all, and no one in my family smokes except one aunt.

As a child, I rode in heavy metal cars with lots of chrome; now cars are plastic or thin metal, and they’re smaller and have more safety features. I remember holding my baby sister in the car; no, she wasn’t in a baby seat, nor did I wear a seat belt.

Like the rest of the kids in my neighborhood, I walked to school in the morning, walked home for lunch (and Bozo’s Circus on channel 9 at noon), walked back to school after lunch and walked back home at 3 o’clock. I always felt safe, because most of the houses I passed had moms in them. In fact, I didn’t know anyone whose mom had a job outside the home until I was in high school.

I never thought much about what it would be like to be 50 someday, but I have to admit there have been a few surprises. I didn’t think I’d need bifocals until much later, and who knew all those fillings my childhood dentist gave me would give out in my 40s, so that I now have more crowns than the Queen of England?

I don’t mind the gray hair (my crown of glory, according to the Bible) or the crow’s feet and smile lines (from lots of good times and laughter), but gravity is definitely taking its toll in a few places. Luckily, I don’t have my glasses on when I come out of the shower, which faces the mirror.

A sad surprise has been how many friends I would lose before I hit 50. A couple of my high school friends passed away within a few years of graduation. One of my childhood friends was murdered the year we turned 30; a pregnant homeschooling mom I knew passed away in her sleep two years later. My friend Linda died four years ago this month after fighting an aggressive cancer. My friend Gary died suddenly a few months ago. I guess I assumed all of us would make it to old age.

Other surprises: My dh and I bought our first house when we were 22, which might explain why I never dreamed I’d be renting a home at 50. But that’s how it worked out, and I’m certainly not complaining! God has blessed us with a nice home in a beautiful area, and while I don’t know what the future holds, I know He has it in His hands.

I also assumed I’d be working full-time outside the home by now, but instead I have a small business and can work at home, plus I’m fortunate enough to still have two kids at home, and to be able to homeschool them. This sure beats the high-powered career the 1970s feminists told my generation we’d need in order to be happy.

A few things do not surprise me. I’m not surprised that I’m still married…I never had any doubts that it would last, because God gave me a wonderful husband. Nor am I surprised that I love motherhood every bit as much as I thought I would. It’s been a fantastic experience that I continue to enjoy as the mom of two adults and two teens….and since last year, mother-in-law to one more!

As for the future, and the thought of turning 60, or 70, or 80, or even older (my great aunt lived to be 104!), that’s in God’s hands. Each year, more and more, I see His hand in everything, as He patiently reminds me that He’s in charge, and it’s all good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A True Story of God's Provision

An American playwright, known not only for his highly acclaimed works ("Death of a Salesman," "The Crucible") but also for his marriage to the world's most famous screen siren, dies without admitting to the big secret in his life...the son with Down syndrome whom he institutionalized soon after birth. But after the playwright's death, it's discovered that he left his son a portion of his enormous wealth equal to that of his siblings, and now his son is set for life financially.

You know what struck me after reading this true story? How God looked out for the young man with Down his life turned out to be full of the love of others, even though his earthly father rejected him.

A friend of mine and I (we both have children with Ds) recently discussed wills and special needs trusts. She reminded me that God loves our boys and will look out for them. This article told me the same thing.

As a writer, I also found the ramifications of this father's act to be especially interesting:

It would be easy to judge Arthur Miller harshly, and some do. For them, he was a hypocrite, a weak and narcissistic man who used the press and the power of his celebrity to perpetuate a cruel lie. But Miller's behavior also raises more complicated questions about the relationship between his life and his art. A writer, used to being in control of narratives, Miller excised a central character who didn't fit the plot of his life as he wanted it to be. Whether he was motivated by shame, selfishness, or fear—or, more likely, all three—Miller's failure to tackle the truth created a hole in the heart of his story. What that cost him as a writer is hard to say now, but he never wrote anything approaching greatness after Daniel's birth. One wonders if, in his relationship with Daniel, Miller was sitting on his greatest unwritten play.

Who knows if he could have gotten his greatest play out of it? What matters is that he missed out on knowing his son, which was an enormous price to pay:

He had a bank account and a job, first at a local gym and then at a supermarket. He went to parties and concerts, and he loved to go out dancing. He was also a "natural athlete," says one social worker. He learned to ski, and competed in the Special Olympics, in that sport as well as in cycling, track, and bowling. "Everyone loved Danny," says Rich Godbout, who ran the supported living program. "His greatest joy was helping people. He would insist. If someone needed help moving, Danny was always the first guy to volunteer to help."....

Some wonder why Arthur Miller, with all his wealth, waited until death to share it with his son. Had he done so sooner, Daniel could have afforded private care and a good education. But those who know Daniel say that this is not how he would feel. "He doesn't have a bitter bone in his body," says Bowen. The important part of the story, she says, is that Danny transcended his father's failures: "He's made a life for himself; he is deeply valued and very, very loved. What a loss for Arthur Miller that he couldn't see how extraordinary his son is."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeschoolers are Everywhere!

The high school years have been pretty exciting for 17-year-old Isabelle Erb. Her mom began homeschooling her at the start of high school, which freed up enough time for her to follow her current passion: high-fashion photography.

And yes, she's right in there scrambling with professional photogs for the best shot; here's a photo of her along with the rest of them during the recent Fashion Week in New York City. Don't miss the article that goes with it---the description of her quiet persistence will make you smile.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away

Oooh, an 80% chance of rain tomorrow! I love warm rainy days.....they're perfect for staying inside and curling up with something good to read.

Right now I have a stack of library books to skim through (a book has to be fantastically good to get me to actually read straight through anymore). And of course, I'm going to spend some time reading the posts over at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling: "The Hero Edition," to be specific. It's hosted by the Cates....don't miss it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We're Going to School!

Cooking school, that is.

I've known about the Taste of Home cooking schools for years because my mil and fil regularly gift me with a subscription to Reiman Publications' Country Woman (wonderful magazine, btw....lots of nice articles, recipes, crafts, no ads...what's not to like?), and Reiman also runs the cooking schools.

Recently I heard on the radio that a cooking school event was scheduled near me in a few weeks, and that tickets would go on sale at the local grocery store Sept. 10. While running errands yesterday, my wonderful dh picked up tickets for dd17 and I!

We're really excited, as I've heard lots of good things about this event, which includes food, coupons and samples. We can't wait :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homeschool Encouragement in Your Email Box

Just sent out the September issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" should be landing with a thump in your email box any second.

This month's issue covers topics like
school buses,
when to ignore your curriculum's timetable
and how to get a free copy of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Plus there's a limited time special price on my new book, but you'll have to read the newsletter to find out how to get it.

If you're not already a subscriber, check out the newest issue here. If you'd like a free subscription, you can get yours here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lookin' Good, Little Brother

A lot has happened politically and culturally since I posted last week about Sarah Palin's baby boy. Let's not go there. Instead, I want to share this cute moment at the convention last night. Dd17 and I loved this! We just about fell off the sofa laughing. Anyone who's ever had or been a sister can understand :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Help I Wish I'd Had...

I wonder if you realize how lucky you are.

Back in the day, I’d have given my eye teeth to have somewhere to go and learn about other homeschoolers. After all, there weren’t all that many of us around yet, and the homeschoolers I knew didn’t usually have much in common with me other than the fact that we were all weird enough to enjoy being with our kids.

I recall that one used Christian Liberty Academy Satellite School, a few used Bob Jones and pretty much everyone else used A Beka, including me. But it wasn’t long before I began to see my children becoming bored, and I started reading up on different ways to homeschool.

Also, I learned about homeschool advocates like John Taylor Gatto, whom no one else seemed to have heard of, and I wished I knew others with whom I could talk about these things. And of course, at that time I was the only homeschooler I knew with a disabled child that I hoped to eventually homeschool. How I wish I’d had access to other parents homeschooling their kids with Ds back then.

I would have loved being able to visit the blogs of other homeschooling parents! The beauty of the blogosphere is that you choose whether you want to be “the fly on the wall” of someone else’s homeschooling life, become close friends with them, or end up somewhere in the middle.

That’s why I tell new and prospective homeschooling parents to visit each week’s Carnival of Homeschooling. It’s a great way to get to know others who homeschool their kids. I’ve "met" many awesome homeschooling moms because of their blogs, or because they’ve come to mine.

This week’s Labor Day edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is hosted by Carol Topp. Last week’s edition was hosted by a terrific homeschool mom named Renae. If you have a blog, you can submit one of your posts each week just by going here.

If you ever want to know where upcoming carnivals will be held, or where a past carnival was posted, just visit the Cates. They started the Carnival of Homeschooling nearly three years ago, and we all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. It’s because of their work that parents who homeschool today have such a wonderful source of homeschool friendship and information, right at their fingertips!

Speaking of blogs, I’ve been asked what happened to my old blog. I’m sorry to say it’s been taken down by Homeschool Blogger. Of course, it’s their right to do as they please with their bandwidth, but I wish they'd left my old blog up because recent readers found many of the posts useful. I stopped blogging at HSB in December 2006 because of all the technical difficulties I was encountering there. However, the good news is that I did save the posts, and I hope to use some of them in an upcoming book and/or ebook. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Balancing Work and Family: Some Labor Day Thoughts

I've written before that homeschooled kids tackle adult life with great gusto. At least that's been my experience. My adult kids have eagerly embraced their schooling and/or work. In today's world, that means lots of work hours and steady commitment to the job.

My son and his wife both have jobs that they love and in which they're successful. Work takes up enough of their lives that they have to commit to spending time together. It doesn't just happen. This is a lesson we all learn sooner or later, but they're learning it right now; so far they appear to be keeping up with the balancing act.

But at some point they're going to want children, and that's when the balancing act becomes more complex. Men in particular feel the need to excel at their jobs in order to feed, clothe and shelter their growing families. But sometimes they can become so involved with their jobs that work takes priority over their families, and they can't see it.

That's what happened to Sir Richard Attenborough, the acclaimed British actor and director. Over the course of his life, he achieved fame and fortune while staying married to one woman (for over 60 years!) with whom he had three children.

While on vacation in 2004, his daughter and granddaughter died in the tsunami that hit the areas around the Indian Ocean. This tragedy forced Sir Richard to reassess the way he spent his life (as excerpted from his recently released autobiography):

When I look back, I see the whole of my adult life crammed with ceaseless activity. But in all my roles as actor, director, producer, charity fundraiser, chairman of this, president of that, I've always been aware that it was Sheila, not me, who held us together as a family.

Yet, eternally optimistic and, to a degree, selfish and egocentric, I always believed in a future when I would make it up to the children. In determining the allotment of my time between public and private, work always took precedence.

Supposedly, weekends were set aside for the family. But not as conscientiously as I would now wish. If it needed a Saturday morning to conclude some business, then I took it.

When we lost Ginny - my nickname for Jane - and Luce, that opportunity was gone, never to be recovered. And that has changed my relationship with those who are left to the extent that I will do anything to be with them and we spend much more time together.

I can talk to people about Jane now, although sometimes I can't get the words out. I can also see her. I can feel her touch. I can hear her coming into a room. She comes in laughing or excited or determined, but always full of commitment. That was the very essence of Jane - commitment.

And music. After they died, I started to hear music in my head all the time. Handel is Jane; Puccini is Lucy. I can no longer turn on the radio or listen to CDs because they clash with their music in my head.

Just thinking about Jane now, I am listening to the Messiah: I know that my redeemer liveth. How about that? Me, an agnostic.

I have, I know, been one of the privileged creatures on this Earth, not just slightly but hugely privileged. Even as early as my mid-20s, I was aware of leading a charmed life.

I won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Then, unlike many of my contemporaries, I survived the war unscathed and went on to marry the most wonderful girl in the world.

My career blossomed in so many different areas. I had fame, fortune and good friends.

I became a knight, an ambassador, a president, a commandeur and a chevalier, several kinds of chairman, a university chancellor and latterly a lord. And although I now have hearing aids in both ears and my heart is ticking courtesy of a pacemaker, I have made it to my mid-80s.

Before the tsunami, I had always thought of myself as a sort of ridiculous male Mary Poppins, the eternal optimist whose glass is always half full. But, after the loss of my daughter and granddaughter, nothing would ever be the same again.

In case you're wondering, yes, I did send this to my son :) And as a side note, isn't it interesting that Sir Richard hears "The Messiah" in his do you suppose that got there?