Thursday, December 29, 2005

Link Incest or I Made the Top 10!

Anne had a great post on her techie blog, Anne 2.0 linking to reddit's report of another blogger's scam to catapult blog stats or some such (okay, I don't know what these things are, blogs or website or what -- but its really funny). She then proceeded to list me in her top 10 blog post on Barely Attentive Mother.

So, let all hop into that great blog bed out there and have a good old time!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New Year's Intentions

I've blogged before about New Year's Resolutions and how I don't make them. As in so many other aspects of my life, I am changing my tune a bit. There are some things I'd like to change or improve or work on.

I'm taking yoga more seriously these days, as in, I'm appreciating more than simply the exercise aspect of it. Its not a religion, but I think that the focus it helps me cultivate might help me to be more religious or spiritual. As such, I've started subscribing to Yoga Journal on-line e-newsletters. The one I received recently really speaks to my condition. It talks about intentions rather than resolutions -- to this I can relate probably because I feel that any resolution is destined to fail.

I've never really been goal-oriented, or at least no more so than a vague idea that I'd like to be a lawyer or a mother or a homeschooler. I think my goal-avoidance is mainly the result of how I was raised. My parents specifically stated time and again the importance of enjoying and appreciating life and emphasized the point that there will always be goals and that if life is all about pursuit of goals, its easy to forget to enjoy attaining a goal because another goal just moves in -- nature abhors a vacuum, lets say. But I don't judge those who have goals -- I admire them because it also reflects a purpose and a discipline. I guess a second reason for my goal-avoidance is because I doubt my ability to predict where life is headed and I have no interest in trying -- it would spoil the fun for me. What is that saying, angels laugh at our plans? I guess I think of plans and goals as the same.

However, I do have a series of intentions that have been brewing in my head and it seems timely to write them down at the New Year. I imagine I'll be sharing them in another post.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Santa Ain't Satan, but He Sure Ain't St. Nick, Either

I was just reading Anne's post and I enjoyed it. I take her point -- myths and stories have a powerful effect on us and can teach us well, they need not be true (its why Jesus used parables -- sorry, couldn't let that pass). Anyway, the problem is that one never knows what that message is.

Anne points out that her DD picked up from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas that the Grinch can't steal Christmas because Santa will always bring more presents. So, it kind of misses the point about good cheer and the triumph of the human spirit. But thats okay, because many have missed the point of more important stories, like many of those in various holy scriptures. As an unschooler, I'm certainly not going to tell anyone what they should get from something.

But, its the child's interpretation of Santa and Christmas as being gift-getting free-for-alls that makes me so cranky about it all. The Washington Post ran a couple of articles about Santa and the business of Christmas and all that that really spoke to me. Suffice it to say, Christmas is out of hand and Rudolph was the product of a marketer at Montgomery Ward. Dunno, but that sort of sums it up for me.

The Washington Post was running articles about the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" dispute. This really makes me scratch my head -- excerpted from here

It is an emotional campaign -- a petition against Target for not including Christmas" in its advertising drew more than 600,000 signatures -- but it is also an easy one. Virtually all of the stores that conservative groups have targeted have quickly changed their advertising to feature "Christmas" more prominently, as have many of the groups that had "holiday trees."

Okay, I did a stint as an evangelical (though not conservative) Christian. I'm sorry to see Christ taken out of Christmas -- but I'd be pretty happy to see Christmas taken out of advertising circulars. Does anyone remember Jesus getting upset about what was going on at his father's temple? I will admit that I think 'holiday trees' are a bit ridiculous, but, again, what is the significance of the Christmas tree? Its not in the Bible. It comes from Europe and was probably passed down from pagan celebrations. I have nothing to back that up, but I still don't see how the tree got tied to the religious celebration. I'll concede that the evergreen may have symbolic significance to Christ, but as a Christian, I see symbolic significance in nearly everything no matter how mundane.

Another excerpt from a different article about the same subject:

The Church created Christmas in 4th century Rome to compete with a December Saturnalia that had become increasingly focused on the veneration of Mithras, the sun god. Faced with what appeared to be the emergence of a competing monotheism, the Christian fathers countered with a Feast of the Nativity to be celebrated, strategically, on Dec. 25, in the very midst of the Roman revels. That Christmas survived for centuries after was due to the fact that it made ample room for the profane.

Basically, I see today's Christmas to be a cultural celebration. Christ was taken out of Christmas a long time ago. Why are we just noticing now?

Io Saturnalia.

Disclaimer: if this post is disjointed, and I know it is, please forgive me and understand that my house is cluttered with toys and my kids are driving me crazy. Please feel free to comment or ask about anything that doesn't make sense. And, for some good books (be sure to read the second customer's review of this one) about Christmas, check out these by Gail Gibbons.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Preschool for Free for All

Preschool free-for-all. Universal preschool is the term used for free preschool, basically, extending public schooling to 4 year-olds, but its more complicated than that, of course. Its being done in California and Florida, its on the ballot or under consideration in many other states, including my own. I think I also saw something about it in British press too, but I don't have any links for you.

There are lots of articles you can read about it. The Wall Street Journal doesn't seem to like it -- it would create quite a bureaucracy for existing preschools. Also, it would upset the daycare industry, which would find itself facing obstacles if it wanted to come under the program or competition. And there is a whole website devoted to the issue.

What do you think? I'm not exactly sure what I think. I think its unnecessary and fiscally wasteful. I guess my view would be to extend HeadStart into higher income levels rather than going the UP route.

In some ways, UP seems to be benefitting the middle class and above by giving them something they would have paid for on their own. However, I wonder how many in the higher income brackets would take the state up on its offer -- I mean people who have money to spend on preschool might want something better or different (Montessori, Waldorf) than what the state is offering. An example is people who choose to pay for private schools instead of public school, so I think this might play out on the preschool level. But maybe not, I know someone in Georgia who paid for preschool for her kids but the youngest was able to get it for free through the state's lottery sponsored program [or whatever, but thats a different situation than taxing everyone, I guess. I don't know how the program works].

As a homeschooler, I think preschool is unnecessary, so I'm concerned that UP sends a misleading message about the critical importance of preschool, of early learning that can only take place in institutional settings with 'trained' professionals.

If UP is optional and one can choose to homeschool preschool (or skip preschool, however you'd like to term the phenomenon), I guess its not that big of a deal. Except for the money -- but, as a homeschooler (and like those who send their kids to private schools), I'm used to paying for an educational system I don't use and I get the public policy argument. Only I don't think the public policy argument is persuasive as to preschool.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ode to a Neti Pot

Oh how I love my Neti pot
a finer implement I know not

its makes my breathing clear and true
I think I shall get one for whoever is reading this

*** *** *** *** ***

I am a victim of seasonal allergies every fall and spring. Sometimes I think I have allergies, sometimes I think its a cold. Whatever it is, its a pain and I'm sick of it. I hate taking decongestant because it makes me spacey and doesn't seem to help me breathe clearly. Also, nowadays its harder to get your hands on pseudoephedrine lest you be mistaken for someone running a meth lab.

Anyway, I had seen the neti pot for sale in the Chinaberry catalog some time ago. I always read the ad, but the idea of "irrigating my nasal passages" was just too gross a concept for me. Until I got my second cold/allergy attack in a month. Luckily, I didn't have to wait for shipping, netis are sold at most yoga studios, it seems, so I was able to buy one in person.

So, how is it? My breathing is much, much clearer. Clearer than if I was on meth or Sudafed. And I'm drug-free.

No, really, how is it? You know, pouring saline into one nostril while it runs out the other? Quite frankly, it seemed bizarre and unpleasant at first. Its sort of like drowing in the sea, and yet being able to breathe. It makes me feel positively aquatic -- only I don't have any gills (at least not that I'm going to show YOU). There is something about using a neti that forces you to be aware and calm, because if you're not, you will sputter saltwater all over the place.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Its Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas

I was reading Pioneer Christmas and saw an activity for making pomanders. Suzanne seems to like these books (I previously mentioned Pioneer Thanksgiving, well, the exact words I used were "this book") -- they weave some story in with some history and activities. She was looking through the book and asked to do the pomander activity. You can google it and find many websites that tell you how to make them.

We shopped for supplies yesterday. Whole cloves are not cheap, but when they are on sale, they are not available. Sigh -- but at the third store, we were able to get some. We also bought limes, lemons, apples, and wooden skewers to poke the fruit.

We made the pomanders today. Note to self, if you have paper cuts or other little cuts in your hands, making citrus pomanders will be a bit painful.

I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged my kids were in this activity and quite pleased to note that all their poking was great for small muscle development which helps with writing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Just Another Reason to Unschool

One reason I'm drawn to unschooling is because it allows a child to follow her interests without forcing someone else's notion of what she needs to know on her. The basics are the basics because we all need to know them. If we all need to know them, we will all learn them in due time, without being forced to learn them at a certain time. At least thats how my theory goes.

Anyway, I just don't see the need for parental control in the name of cultivating a child to be his best self. This article encourages me.

Monday, December 05, 2005

But how will they adjust to college?

Stephanie talks about this over at ThrowingMarshmallows. Since my kids are so young, I don't worry about adjustment to college much, but it is a question in my mind. However, I'm a dice roller and I'm willing to roll the dice. I've seen plenty of high school seniors fail to adapt to college -- I can't believe a homeschooler could do any worse.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Scarry Updates

Check this out -- side by side comparison of Richard Scarry's The Best Word Book Ever editions from 1963 and 1991. Be sure to read the comments -- some are hysterical! Particularly funny are the comments on the page demonstrating sex change by a simple ribbon.

Thanks to my DH for finding and sharing this gem which he found on bookslut.

By the way, Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever (1995) contains original versions of some of these pages. I knew I had seen the 'beautiful screaming lady' recently.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Museums and Patches

and miscellaneous homeschool information

I recently picked up a brochure from the library about the Virginia Association of Museums. Their website has all kinds of information on it -- including a listing of various museums throughout the state.

There is also a Time Travelers program in which many of the museums participate. The 2005 program is over, but the 2006 program will begin in March. I was told to check the website in February for more information.

Finally, when I shared this information with other homeschoolers, I learned about another resource for activities (and patches).

So many things to do!

I wanted to give a little linky love to my friend Stephanie. She writes about her homeschooling journey with her sons and is a great source of information generally and especially if you're interested in learning more about right-brained learners. And here's a post I really enjoyed about typical homeschool learning (i.e. there is nothing typical about it).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Harvest Home

I'm a bit tired of the whole Thanksgiving rigamarole (the crowds, the traffic, the stress, the whole dysfunctional family thing), but I've enjoyed reading this book to my daughter and I learned a lot about the history of harvest home feasts. I found a richness that I hadn't in the typical American story of Pilgrams and Indians.

Unfortunately, I've recently developed a friendship with someone who is opening my eyes a bit more than I wanted -- not unfortunate to have such a friend, just unfortunate because I was so enjoying my slumber. Anyway, reading about what happens in poultry slaughterhouses does put a bit of a cloud over the feast. Well, this was foreseeable, I knew Thich Nhat Hanh's angry chicken theory wasn't going to leave me alone.(1)

Anyway, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and I'm passing along a link that I received from a good friend with a great sense of humor!

(1) See Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh, below is an excerpt, taken from this website

Nowadays, chickens are raised in large-scale modern farms where they cannot walk, run, or seek food in the soil. They are fed solely by humans. They are kept in small cages and cannot move at all. Day and night they have to stand. Imagine that you have no right to walk or to run. Imagine that you have to stay day and night in just one place. You would become mad. So the chickens become mad.

....There is a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, and much suffering in the chickens. They express their anger and frustration by attacking the chickens next to them....

So when you eat the flesh or egg of such a chicken, you are eating anger and frustration. So be aware. Be careful what you eat. If you eat anger, you will become and express anger. If you eat despair, you will express despair. If you eat frustration, you will express frustration.

The ultimate point was that if you are not a vegetarian, at least seek out organic, free-range poultry that lived more freely and therefore were not angry.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Girls' Wardrobe Choices

nothing startling in this opinion piece. Maybe I should have sent in my opinion piece. Right.

No Surprises Here

Salvador Dali Melting clocks are not a problem in
your reality. You are an unschooler. You will
tolerate a textbook, but only as a last resort.
Mud is your friend. You prefer hands-on
everything. If your school had an anthem, it
would be Dont Worry, Be Happy. Visit my blog:

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kids Are Getting Older Younger

so says an analyst discussing popular toys this holiday season as reported in the Washington Post.
Analyst John G. Taylor of Arcadia Investment Corp. said the trend is part of a broader sociological change that he calls "age compression."
The article goes on to say:
Toys R Us, for example, predicts that Mattel's shimmering doll Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (based on the best-selling DVD, of course) will be one of the top new toys for children ages 2 to 4.
In some ways, playing with Barbies at ages 2 to 4 seems about right these days and its a welcome relief from those slutty looking Bratz dolls (oh wow, there are some fun articles out there about this line). But it definitely is a downward trend. I was still playing with Barbies at age 11, I think, though that was definitely the twilight of my Barbie playing days.
I'm generally pretty neutral on the Barbie issue, though I remember reading someone somewhere (and I wish I could cite and give credit to the writer) bemoaning that younger and younger children are playing with Barbies because of her adult body (can't say adult proportions because those don't exist in nature -- hmmm...anyone study the link between breast augmentation and Barbie play? There might be one.). Food for thought. I played with lots of Barbies as a kid and other than a penchant for long, fluffy blond hair and tight clothes, I turned out fine.
Anyway, I thought that with the holiday season impending, I would share some venues for more 'childish' children's toys:
The Magic Cabin -- for those familiar with the Waldorf method of education, you'll find lots of Waldorf type toys here. Their toys encourage the use of imagination -- you won't find prepackaged Barbie or superheroes fantasy stories to reenact here. Its all about gnomes and elves and fairies and stories your kids make up themselves. Okay, so I've only purchased from them once, I bought a wooden nesting rainbow because I thought it would be great for open-ended play. My kids do play with it sometimes. Our home is filled with toys, so they go in cycles of what they play with. I will be placing another order as my daughter has requested a doll bicycle basket for Christmas.
HearthSong -- their offerings are similar to the above. In fact, I first received The Magic Cabin catalog in a shipment from HearthSong. My impression is that TMC is more overtly Waldorf-y. My dds each have a large doll they received as gifts that came from this catalog and they love them. I may have to place an order from here because my oldest wants an accordian?! I really don't know where that came from, but what the heck.
One of the best toys we've ever received was a large set of blocks -- these are played with almost on a daily basis (usually while I'm doing an exercise tape). Another set of blocks was a gift from HearthSong, these are nice because they are colorful.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Junior National Park Rangers

We visited a local national park recently and I was looking at a display of Junior National Park Ranger badges and thought it was an interesting program.

Our local park has such a program and from what the Ranger there told me and showed me, they give you a short activity booklet that your child works on [ages 5 to 7]. There is a different activity book for older kids. He said it need not be done in one visit, that it could be over the course of a few visits. After the child completes it, they get a pin [I'm not thrilled about the rewards aspect of it, but I suppose if the child is motivated to do it for its own sake and not just to get the pin, that I can deal].

The link above has a list of all the National Parks that have this program and links to them.

Freedom in Education

I may have linked to this in the past, but I'll do it again. This is a website by the author of one of my favorite homeschooling books (One-to-One) and his daughter. I was just reading their very anti-institutional school newsletter for the month. I loved it, of course, because I find encouragement in it.

I especially enjoy this site because they are European. Sometimes its a relief to get away from U.S.-centric thinking.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Social Skills Suffer with Too Much Preschool

So says this article. I haven't read it yet, I'm posting it here mainly to preserve it for myself to read later.

Here's another, less recent, one. Again, its for my reading pleasure later. I've been known to beat the anti-UP drum.

Though many feel that preschool is important and are willing to lay out the bucks. Even those across the pond.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't Give Me Credit

I was talking with a friendly acquaintance the other day. I don't know her well enough to call her friend, but if we had the time and inclination, I think we would be great friends. I've always liked her.

We were chatting about our lives and our kids. She told me where her kids were going to school and she asked about mine. She had known that I was planning to homeschool.

At one point, she said that she gives me credit for homeschooling. While I appreciate the compliment, I can't accept it. I'm not doing a good, selfless thing by homeschooling -- I'm actually being very selfish.

I want to enjoy my life and that means not being a slave to the clock and the calendar. I want my kids to be able to follow their interests and learn at their own pace without being labelled in any way. Even a positive label is a negative thing that puts you in a box. Being called 'gifted' is as much of a trap as being called 'learning disabled' or 'special needs.'

I want to rejoice in my children's special gifts, in their uniqueness without being tempted into competition with others. Especially when that competition is the hell of arrogance and fear that comes with kids who 'advanced.' That only leads to looking over your shoulder and the dread that one day, someone will outdo you (because its really about you and not your kids). Of course, I don't want that gripping fear of worrying that my kids are behind, either. When we're 'at home', we are us, fearfully and wonderfully made.

I don't want others who deem themselves experts telling me that I don't know my child and making it so by taking her away from me for a large part of the day. I've heard many stories of parents being tapped for all sorts of slavish duties -- running the fundraisers, planning the parties, providing the food -- but I also hear of how they are cut off from their children's learning, often treated as if they are interfering.

I don't deserve any credit and I don't want any credit. I just want the freedom to homeschool without undue interference.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I'm a 7

No, not out of 10...

Enneagramfree enneagram test

I'm reading a book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram. In addition to using the book to determine my personality type, I thought I'd head over to their website and take the on-line quiz. The results are consistent.

I am trapped in a cycle -- I took a similar quiz on another website awhile ago and kwakersaur noted in the comments that it was probably based on the enneagram. Actually, I remembered his comment and thats why I grabbed the book when I came across it. I think the book will help me use this knowledge because its not about simply knowing what our personality is, but what its strengths and weaknesses our and how it affects our spiritual journey.

I'm really enjoying the book and hoping it will lead me to a spiritual breakthrough as I've been stalled for quite some time now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fairies and Fat Men

The link in my last post reminded me to update my readers regarding my outlook on the tooth fairy.

Since Suzanne actually lost her first tooth, there was nothing to put under the pillow. She never asked about the tooth fairy and I thought, phew, dodged a bullet. But later, I figured out she really would like a visit from the TF and just thought she couldn't get one. I told her the TF would visit if she wanted, so that night, I put a little magnetic chess set under her pillow. In the morning, she asked where I got the chess set and how I got it under her pillow. So, she clearly understands that the TF is a story and the real giver is mom.

This time, she put the tooth under her pillow and I asked what she wanted. "A paper doll, one of the ones that I made." Wow, I'm getting off cheap.

As to Santa -- he's not my favorite guy and I'm not playing up the myth by telling her stories pretending that he's real. I'll treat him as any other mythology -- isn't it a neat story? Plus a lot of historical background. I tried telling her only nativity stories in years past and then I hear her telling her sister about Santa's reindeer. I don't even know where she learned it. Oh well, as long as I emphasize that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, if she wants to talk Santa to others, fine.

Loosing Teeth

Suzanne, 5 and 5 months, just lost her second tooth today. It didn't fall out, I pulled it out amidst much 'complaint.' Her adult tooth had grown up behind it and I kept waiting for it to fall out. I asked many people for their opinions and went with the advice to wait it out and encourage her to wiggle the baby tooth.

Every evening before I brushed her teeth, she'd tell me that she wiggled it. I think by 'wiggled' she meant she touched it, because that thing was not progressing but for my aggressive wiggling once a day during which she would wail and scream. Her father, from another room, suggested that I leave it alone. I kept muttering about $60 for a dentist to yank the thing and refused. After weeks of this routine, it is finally over. As I felt the tooth give a bit this evening, I was spurred on to finish the hideous task. What a relief.

Just to check, I wiggled some of her other teeth. Great -- the tops ones are loose. I just hope they act as the first tooth did, it fell out when were were unaware of it. Otherwise, I'm auditioning for a horror movie.

Monday, October 31, 2005

I Don't Know How You Do It

well, I don't know how you do it, either.

I recently got an e-mail from a friend, which said, in part:

How is home schooling going? I don’t know how you do it. Brunnhilde is loving school. I go in a few times a month to read to the class or cook or help the kids with library. Today we did our Halloween party. That is definitely all I can handle of the rugrats. You should have seen me trying to get them to make spiders out of tootsie pops and pipe cleaners. Step one was hold up the pipe cleaners and the sucker. Step two, wrap the pipe cleaners around the stick. Step three, say Mrs. Rodham I can’t do it, can you help me. I turned my back for a minute on one kid and the next thing I knew he had his whole tootsie pop covered in glue. I hadn’t even mentioned glue yet. The kid and craft thing is definitely not my strong suit.

My response:
That is exactly why I'm homeschooling -- I don’t want to trudge into a school and deal with 20+ kids acting crazy because they are showing off for each other. My own two kids at home with me don't act like rugrats -- there is no divide between teacher/student, adult/kid like there is in school; theres no authority dynamic going on, we're just us. I don't direct crafts, anyway -- I ask Suzanne what she wants and give it to her and leave her alone and she makes her own thing.
We're really relaxed, I don't teach, I'm more like a resource person (I answer her questions and teach her if she asks for something). Right now, we're mainly going to playdates and park days because the weather is so wonderful and Gabrielle can be difficult about being read to -- she's acting very 3. It works for us, we're complying with the law, and I've got my eye on the standards of learning and what she should be doing. Actually, it makes me really happy.

Just to clarify, I'm not one of those "I'm-friends-with-my-kids kind of parents." My kids are 3 and 5, I'm not an age-appropriate friend and they need a mom. So, our dynamic is parent/child. Though I would hasten to add, I do really enjoy the company of my kids, I think they are cute and smart and funny and really interesting. When I mentioned "adult/child" above, I was referring to how I think kids in large groups with few adults tend to act like a pack of animals, very different from how they act on their own. I see a little of this with homeschool groups, but the groups are smaller and the kids don't tend to ask for things by chanting in unison as I've seen some groups do. I can't stand that -- it treats the adult like some sort of zookeeper who is supposed to throw them whatever they request -- not like one person asking another person for something. Its very odd. Kids may be kids, but I think large groups just tend to encourage immaturity.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I'd like my children to learn Spanish. I don't know the language myself and I'd like to learn. I keep monitoring the class offerings in the area, but with a 3 year-old, I don't think now is the right time for it. I'd like for us all to take classes together in the future.

So for now, I'm strewing Spanish. Some things we have around the house:

A CD of Spanish songs by Twin Sisters productions that cover the basics like colors and the days of the week. There is also an alphabet song, which blew my mind, because I'd never known there was a different alphabet in Spanish. Its not much different, but it was news to me (I took 3 years of Latin in high school). I picked this up for a few bucks at TJ Maxx. It includes a little book with song lyrics and activities. We have some other Twin Sisters tapes that I got from Christian Book Discounters on sale. One of them is about Chemistry -- its pretty funny, I think. Another is about safety and another is about zoo animals.

Muzzy video tapes -- these are always being marketed to homeschoolers and we receive mailings about the program now and then. I got these for free at a homeschool curriculum swap. Each level contains about 4 or 6 videotapes and some workbooks. The videos are various cartoons in Spanish and there is a corresponding English version. I think the idea is to plop the kid down and have them watch and just absorb. I have Level II and my friend grabbed Level I. I may try to swap to see what Level I is like. Level II is okay, but there are a couple of creepy characters that didn't really jazz my kids, so I don't know if I want to fork out the bucks to buy this.

Leap Frog Leap Pad and Spanish workbook -- we have one of these toys and I bought the Spanish workbook. I must say, Suzanne, 5, does not play with this toy much at all. Every now and then, she'll pull out the Leap Pad and play with it over the course of a few days, but then its gets put away for awhile. She has several books that go with this, so I'm not sure that she even used the Spanish one much. I would note that we have a few of the Leap's Pond books (from Marshall's) and they include a bit of Spanish in each.

A few years ago, we got a bilingual doll who teaches some Spanish words. The kids don't play with her much, but when they did, I can't say they either learned much or that they retained it. Maybe they did. At this point, I must note, that I like it when products have both audio and visual components -- I'd fault this doll on not having an accompanying book to see the words she was saying.

I recently got an Usborne video, First Fun with Spanish. It follows the Usborne book, First Hundred Words in Spanish (which we don't have). For $15, I figured I'd give the video a try. Its animated and follows a little girl through her day with her family. The family is Spanish speaking and she is bilingual, so she translates. Its pretty interesting, but I grew tired of it after awhile. However, I'm glad to have it and think I may pop it it now and then and see what we learn. Getting the book is probably a good idea, but I don't have an Usborne rep and don't feel like looking for one. I suppose if I come across a vendor at a fair or something, I might pick it up. However, the Scholastic book clubs are offering First Thousand Words in Spanish for less than $5, I think, so I think we'll get that. I kind of like Usborne books, but they don't seem to do anything for my kids, so I try to limit my purchases.

I'm always reading homeschooling books for their suggestions on teaching foreign languages. I really enjoyed the tips in Homeschooling on a Shoestring. It advised to first just listen to the language to get a feel for it. It suggested getting a Spanish instruction tape from the library and just listening to it for about 15 minutes on a daily basis for awhile before even attempting to learn the language.

We're planning to participate in a Spanglish play with a friend on mine. She taught a Spanish class last year that we missed, I hope she teaches one in the future.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Oh the Shame!

I just caught my husband looking at this website. Some people do really weird things with their time. Maybe he should start a support group for people with hyphen-issues (opps, no hyphen there? Deal with it.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I'm not a project person, but I always admire those who are. I love to read books about projects, or activities, for kids, but I can never seem to actually set them up and get the kids involved. Its too much of a hassle and I suspect that the kids might not be all that interested if its not something they've chosen to do.

So far, my experience seems to support my stance of not doing projects. The few times I've been around people who set up projects, it always seems to me that I'm either pushing the kids to finish them because we're running out of time, or I'm the one finishing them. For instance, my mom thought it would be great fun to do a model solar system (from a purchased kit). I think the kids each painted a couple of planets and were on to something else while my mom and I finished painting the plants. Actually, it was pretty fun bonding with my mom over our pathetic color concoctions -- but the activity was of limited use with the kids.

This is one reason why I love Sunday school and library programs -- they have simple little crafts all set to go. For some reason, I cannot bring myself to do it myself -- I have in the past, especially when we did a playgroup where the host provided an activity. However, this quickly fell by the wayside as we moms decided that we really needed time to chat with each other and the kids play just fine on their own (and didn't necessarily get anything from the activity anyway).

The one area where I can, sometimes, do a 'project' with my kids is baking. Though I don't like to have fattening sweets in the house for me, or a meal alternative for my kids (especially my oldest who seems to subsist on air, but will gladly scarf down cookies if we have them). We recently made Rebecca's muffins. Yum.

What I really need to get in gear with is sewing -- Suzanne needs help with that and could probably use some direction from me. I'll put it on my 'to do' list.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

What Love Isn't, What Love Is

My eldest was feeling a bit insecure this morning, so I explained to her that love doesn't stop, "its not like a faucet that you can just turn off."

Mr. Unclimber added, "right, but the water eventually goes cold."

I pondered this awhile, amused by my husband's wit. Breakfast was eaten, the children left to play in another room. I complemented DH on his humor.

He continued the thread, saying: Its like taking a shower, and suddenly the water gets cold and you wonder if someone is running the washing machine and whether the water will get warm again.

I said: But it doesn't and you've got shampoo in your hair

He said: You rub your eyes trying to get it out

I said: but you can't and the shampoo stings. The burning of your eyes contrasts with the icy water pounding on your back. Then you wander around, cursed and blind, like Oedipus, only you never [bleep]ed your mother.

Ah, yes, the endless romance of raising small children...
I love building our home library. I enjoy going to used book sales and buying anything I think might be useful or interesting. Some time ago, I picked up a science textbook by a Christian publisher and often used by homeschoolers who take a more traditional approach to homeschooling. While I'm not homeschooling primarily for religious reasons and am not a "Christian," I am a Christian and have no problem appreciating the wonder of Creation and giving thanks to God.

Thus, I don't mind when I glance through the text and it claims all sorts of scientific processes, such as the water cycle, are based on God's plan for the world. While the book mentions God frequently, it does not mention Him on every page or with regard to every topic discussed. Though I did wonder to my husband that I could not find the chapter on Evolution.

Then we started to try to think up tag lines for the book -- to go along with what they had already written, that is, acknowledging God's role in everything. I tried "gravity -- because God wants it that way." My husband topped me with:

Gravity -- because God doesn't want your junk floating up to heaven.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Funny Vermonters and the Anti-Atkins

Ever see a Stop sign with a sticker underneath it? I've seen a red sticker with white letters that blends perfectly with the sign to say "Stop eating animals." I've seen that many times.

During our recent trip to Vermont, I saw one that was new to me -- I don't recall whether it also adopted the same colors as the sign, but nonetheless, it said:

Stop blaming carbs

And Now for Some Book Recommendations...

I should stick with what I know, but sometimes I can't help dabbling in a bit of social commentary.

I was just writing with my friend and recommending some books his daughter might like and thought that I should go ahead and post what I recommended. Its amazing how quickly I forget what we've read and loved in the last few years. I used to read to my kids a lot, then I stopped because of the protests of the now 3 year-old. I'm just now getting back into the swing of reading. I love it -- its my favorite part of homeschooling (okay, its really my only part of 'homeschooling' other than finding resources).

So, here are my most recent recommendations:

Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie dePaola -- about Charlie, a shepherd, and it takes you through the process of making a cloak -- shearing the sheep, spinning, dyeing the wool, weaving, sewing. Whats also nice, is that it takes you through the seasons of the year, so it reinforces that learning. (Sorry, Mike, I got the title wrong and misspelled the author's name)

Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle -- Jack wants pancakes and he has to cut the wheat, get it milled, get eggs, milk, etc, all the ingredients of pancakes.

I love those books because its neat to learn how things are made.

How to Bake and Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman -- a trip around the world to get ingredients for an apple pie.

My DH loves The Magic Wings and another book, The Seven Chinese Brothers (I find it a bit violent, but my daughter has always enjoyed it). Oh, if you're into Zen, try anything by Jon J. Muth.

If you're interested in Latin, you might want to see if you can find any Roman myths -- though I think it might be easier to find Greek myths, but you could probably work in that the Romans copied the gods and gave them different names. We have a few books about this but haven't started reading them yet. Fairy tales can be fun, too -- we get non-Disneyfied ones, often in storybook treasuries with gorgeous illustrations.

A great resource for excellent books is Sonlight. They sell homeschool curricula with 'living books' but you can order individual titles. I find the on-line catalog hard to use, but recommend their printed catalog. I have great affection for Sonlight -- though I don't use their curriculum, when I felt panicky about homeschooling a few years ago, I find great comfort in their offerings. I did order parts of their Pre-K curriculum and I love the books, but I found the schedule a bit stifling. Still, I should throw some business their way by buying some of their books.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When You're a Jet...

you're a Jet all the way...

There are many different ways to homeschool. I'm taking the unschool approach. So far, I've found that we're learning what we're supposed to learn without lessons or direction from me. I'm a resource, I answer questions, I watch her interests and encourage her. I get books and toys and have them lying around for her to find. If I really want her to learn something, I might mention it and see if she's interested, if she is, I'll probably try to read her a book about something or show her something (like addition).

Sometimes, homeschoolers take a dim view of those who homeschool differently. Other times, they simply don't care and realize that all families are different and we're all trying to do what is best for our kids and our families. Some kids want structured lessons, some parents love to teach -- and for others, any attempt to teach is a power play.

Since I'm so new to homeschooling, my cohort and I tend to be more dogmatic. I'm sure we'll soften a bit with time.

I've mentioned I'm an unschooler. Another approach in homeschooling is the Classical Approach (aka the Trivium). While the earlier years students in this method are given a lot of leeway to play, it is a structured approach. One of the ideas behind the approach is that it is rigorous academically. I have a copy of The Well-Trained Mind, but I stopped reading it after a footnote said that young children should be given short reading lessons each teaching day. Even if they are crying. Sorry -- that doesn't work for me. Well, I'm just the kind of undisciplined person that the book later warns of. [With good reason, did you see that preposition at the end of the sentence?] I haven't read this far in the book, but have been told that in talking of support groups, the book advises that a support group filled with unschoolers is not the right support group for a Classical Approach proponent.

I'm in a field trip group that has mostly Classical homeschoolers -- the kids are all very young, so none have been homeschooling very long and they all take a more laid back approach because there are younger siblings in the house. I always feel a bit out of it with the group as I listen to them talk about what they use to teach what. I keep my mouth shut. I enjoy the moms and my kids like the kids.

We went on a field trip the other day. I felt like a rebel -- I almost immediately abandoned the group to go do the activities that interested us, instead of staying with the group and waiting through activities that didn't interest us. I thought it was an analogy to my educational approach, I'm not going to drag us through subjects that don't interest us before we get to what does.

We later caught up with the group and enjoyed our time with them and I don't think they held it against me that I jumped ship (why would they care?). It was funny though, Suzanne asked me about something she saw. I asked her what the sign said (this is how I assess what she can read). She read the sign aloud and I explained what it meant. One of the moms turned around and said "she's reading that much?" I got embarrassed because I felt guilty for showing off -- but I didn't alter my normal behavior and I didn't expect that anyone was paying attention to us. Anyway, I said, "yeah." She asked -- "what program did you use?" I love that. I said something dopey like "she's a sight reader. We didn't use anything."

When I told my DH about this and repeated the question "what program did you use?" He said "umm, ABBA Gold." It reminded me that when she was first learning to read, she'd always as for the CD case of the music that was playing in the car. I'd hand it back to her and she's pour over it. I never really knew what she was doing. Once she told me that Voulez Vous was number 13. I wondered if she read it or just recognized the "V" and figured it out. As DH puts it, not only was she reading, she was reading French! Who'd have guessed?

Next time I'm telling people our reading program is ABBA Gold. Given that I lucked out with an early sight reader for my oldest, I figure my youngest will probably start reading around age 9 or later and want phonics instruction (its so boring, I tried briefly with Suzanne and we quit after a few lessons. I hope it will be fun if thats what my younger child wants). I'll have to remind myself to be patient.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Au Pair Article

I found this article really interesting this morning. There are lots of au pairs in this area and I'm always a bit intrigued by them.

The only au pair I've ever known was my friend's au pair. She was nice and friendly and involved with the kids the few times I saw her in action. I haven't known any other au pairs, but I've seen them around. I've seen some good ones, but mostly, I haven't been too impressed. Granted, they are often no worse than uninvolved moms (of which I am one), but if you're paying for childcare, I'm guessing your expectations are a bit higher than someone sitting by the pool or hanging out at a playground, chatting on a cell phone, and ignoring your kids. I can do that for free. Alright, I suppose there is lost income. But I want to be the one to ignore my kids.

I recently saw a small group of au pairs at a local playground. They were talking with each other while their charges played together. I was particularly interested, because I'd seen a couple of the kids before at library programs with a different nanny. The prior nanny was an older woman, the new caregiver was a young au pair.

While the young au pair talked with her friends, the older of her charges pushed over the younger of her charges -- i.e. the older brother pushed the younger brother over. The younger brother just sat there crying for a few minutes. It was pretty pathetic. Meanwhile, I'm looking around, trying to figure out who is in charge. To add to the interest, a full-time dad of foreign origin (his accent and looks suggested to me that he could be Scandinavian) was also watching the action. He actually said something to the older boy, that he shouldn't push his brother.

Later, the Scandinavian dad was commenting to me about the boys. We were both trying to figure out who was 'watching' them. I might have mentioned that I'd seen them before with a nanny. Later, when the au pairs were closer by and interacted briefly with the kids, the ScanDad went up to the one in charge of the boys and told her what had happened. She didn't have much of a response.

I would love to know what was going on in ScanDad's head. I imagine he was wondering about me as I watched the brutish behavior and did nothing. He was probably also wondering why I was not moved to say anything to the au pair. I admired him for saying something, but also sort of felt it was none of my business and it wouldn't make any difference anyway. Or at least, not unless I pretended to know the mom and could be seen as a threat.

As much as I thought it was terrible that these poor kids were left to a Lord of the Flies existence on the playground while the au pair chatted with her friends, I could not escape the fact that this could have happened if their parent was there, similarly distracted. I've heard many stories of my husband's childhood that involved brotherly hazing and his mom was an at-home mom throughout his childhood. I also know that I've missed happenings on the playground because I've been talking to someone or looking the other way (two kids -- one goes one way, the other another way).

So, I'm off my high horse. But it was really interesting to read about that article about the au pairs' perceptions, their ambitions, as well as their views of the lodging they receive.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Horror, The Horror

Grab your fiddles, dearies, Rome is burning.

I've actually read a bit of the newspaper this week and I've been following two stories that have graced the front page of the Metro section of the Washington Post. One story has been going on for a month, the disappearance of a 17 year-old local girl from her college campus. Through these articles, we have learned how a beautiful college freshman disappeared after she was sexiled from her dorm.

It gets worse. Turns out this girl was carrying on with a 38 year-old "amateur photographer." First we are told they had a "personal relationship." He was a "person of interest" in the disappearance of the girl which led to a search of his apartment which uncovered kiddie porn. Nice. A few days later, the paper reports he had a sexual relationship with the girl (big surprise there, right?). A 38 year-old father of two who keeps kiddie porn having sex with a 17 year-old. Real nice. Oh, by the way, in case anyone was wondering, the girl's remains have been found (its not even a body anymore, the grave was too shallow to keep the animals away). Did anyone really think she'd be found alive except for her loved ones who were probably hoping and praying beyond all reason. I cannot tell you how much I hurt for her mother. Your baby is killed. You learn that she was sleeping with a man 21 years older than her who doesn't seem like the nicest of folks. The horror.

I followed this story over the past month, partly because I could relate to the story of a naive freshman making foolish choices -- leaving her dorm at night with only car keys, a cell phone and some cash. I made lots of foolish choices in college and I know many others who did as well. I could also sympathize with the mom, I'm the mother of two young daughters.

In the last few days, there has been another story that has attracted my attention. The local mall opened up a large wing. A Victoria's Secret had a provocative display that provoked many into protesting and demanding it be changed. I guess the mannequins were getting too racy. I am outraged to think of a business trying to use sex to sell its wares! Shocking and horrifying. Imagine.

Well, from what I've read and the newspaper pics, it does look like it was the B&D version of Victoria's Secret and I can definitely understand the outrage of parents who don't want their kids seeing that smut in the local mall where they are allowed to roam unsupervised. I also remember what it was like to be a young woman without kids and I probably would have applauded the sexual freedom it represented.

In the end, its exploitation. Sex sells. It makes lots and lots of money. So, we put a little light B&D mannequin action in the store windows and displays, we get LOTS of free press and attention over the controversy, we change the display and, well, its no biggie, right?

As a teen, I roamed the mall unsupervised. I would have seen the display and thought -- 'you go, girl! You celebrate your sexuality and do what you want! More power to you.' Of course, I'd be talking to a bunch of mannequins. Then, maybe, I'd go off to college and see nothing wrong with dating a 38 year-old who likes to take pictures of me. I'm young! I'm beautiful! Here is a man 21 years older than me who thinks I'm interesting and wants to be with me! I'm awesome! I'm free to do as I please. [update: actually, I wouldn't think that. I remember being an 18 year-old college freshman and going on a date with a 31 year-old. He was a grad student, so I knew he was older but when I found out how old he was all I could think of was "how can he legitmately find me interesting?" He seemed like a nice guy, I met him at church. After that, I decided to skip church and find my dates at fraternity parties. That wasn't the best plan, either.]

I think I've seen it suggested in feminist literature that mannequins can been seen as representations of dead women.

Oh well, these issues are for another day. My girls are so young, so far away from such concerns. I'll go to the mall but avert my eyes from Vickie's House of B&D. I'll just take my little girls over to Club Libby Lu. There, they can be little girls and dress up in black sequins, bare their midriffs, and shake their small bodies to the music while dancing in the store front for passersby to watch. Thats an innocent celebration of girlhood, no? Maybe I'll even take their pictures.

Fiddle lessons, anyone?

UPDATE: for a post about the look and feel of the aforementioned mall, go read Rob's post.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

To Require Word Verification or Not? That is the Question

I've noticed that blogger has given us the option of requiring commentors to pass a word verification quiz in order to prove our humanity. I have resisted this. I'm not too thrilled when I run across it on other blogs, but its never stopped me from commenting. And its always nice to find something in my comment notification in-box.

Well, I'm getting a little sick of the ad comments -- its a pain to delete them, more so on unclimber because the template is not as easy to work with. Its not too bad yet, I only get a few ads a day. I note that the ads have gotten a lot better, they seem to tie-in to the subject of the post much better now.

However, sometimes they miss big time. For instance, I still post now and then on chocolate and peanut butter when I've got a more purely parenting post as opposed to a homeschooling/education/parenting post. I recently did a post on Booh Bah over there and what was the ad that was posted in the comments? It was for a product that has not yet been advertised on unclimber or elsewhere on choc&pb. It was for a penis enlargement product. I found this very funny, since the post was about a children's show and I noted how my 5 year-old is terrified of Booh Bah. What was the ad trigger? Does some crawler or whatever look for the words "terrified" and "child" and say 'whoa, boy, here's just the spot to put the penis enlargement ad!'

Now I kind of wish I'd left it there.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Where Do You Go To School?

Suzanne started Sunday school last week -- we missed the first two classes because of our "homeschool field trip." There was a list on the wipe-board in the classroom with the children's names and listed next to each was the school they are attending. I assume this list was started in the first or second classes as an ice-breaker.

The list would certainly demonstrate to the kids that they shouldn't feel left out if there weren't any kids from their school in class. Of the approximately 14 children on the board, there were at least 6 different schools represented. I reflected on this list for awhile. Suzanne was not listed, I assume because she was not in attendance at the first two classes and that no one took much notice of the list anymore. However, while I was there, in the last minutes of the third class, one of the teacher's wrote up another child's name and his school (its possible that it was her son since it was her first Sunday teaching). It was a school I hadn't heard of -- I was informed it is an exclusive private school. Its funny, because my town in not short on exclusive private schools, and yet there exists a higher plane elsewhere. I can only wonder...

Anyway, based on the list, I'd say less than half of the kids go to public schools -- within that, there were three or four different public schools listed (as far as I know; a couple of them may have been private). What I found most interesting about this list was following the money trail -- it was interesting to see who was forking out how much for their kids' education. I'm being crass, this was probably just a simple ice-breaker for the kids.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Have You Started Yet?

I've been asked this question a lot recently. As is my wont, I have no idea how to answer question. I'm hoping that with experience, I'll work out my insecurities and irritations and be able to give a meaningful and considerate response. Until then, here are some possible replies:

"No, we really don't do anything."
Meaning I don't use any formal curriculum and we don't have a schedule. I wouldn't mind having a loose structure or schedule, but this simply isn't our season for it. I've got a preschooler and a kindergartner. The preschooler is alternatively the sweetest thing in the world or an annoying, whining, negative mess. And its unpredictable. So, thus far, we go with the flow.

"Yes. Truth is, we never stopped."
Actually, she has been learning continually from birth and there is no way I could stop her even if I tried. Nearly everything the kids do is a learning experience. They learn constantly. I don't teach, I facilitate and stay out of the way. Here, have some fairy dust...lalalalala...

I don't sit them down for lessons and we don't have a class schedule. I suppose we might someday, but we haven't started yet. Right now, we just follow our interests and the learning flows.

"Your question simply demonstrates that you ascribe to a system which deems itself to be an expert and you to be incidental, at best, and a nuisance, at worst."
But thanks for asking. This question highlights the divergence in our thinking. Or in other words, no matter what I say, you'll probably think I'm crazy.

"Kind of."
Look, I know you're really not interested in my diatribes and liberal, feel-good approach to education, but thanks for your interest.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

oh how annoying

I just wrote a post and instead of publishing it, I decided to 'save as draft' before I reviewed it again and then published it. Well, 'save as draft' seemed to work as a delete key. Its gone, its not there. I did a few more tests that I saved as drafts, they are gone too.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Are You an Exhibitionist or a Voyeur?

I'm an exhibitionist, my husband is a voyeur -- the marriage works well.

No, I'm not being perverse -- I'm talking about blog personalities. I love to pour my heart out, rant and rave, and chatter my head off on my blog. I love getting comments and talking to people. When I read other blogs, which is not too often, I almost always comment and I always read the comments others have left. I love the dialogue potential.

My husband reads blogs but he doesn't write one and he doesn't comment. Also, I don't think he reads the comments. He'll tell me he read something on my blog and I'll always say, "oh, did you see so-and-so's comment?" He never does. I don't know if this is a Mars/Venus thing or if its a personality thing.

I talk, he listens -- it works for us. As far as I know.

Maybe there are some who are have achieved equilibrium -- I know lots of bloggers who have comments galore and who reference other blogs frequently -- maybe they are in blog nirvana.

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging as frequently as I used to, is that I hang out on homeschooling listservs where there is more dialogue. I don't know if I had realized this before, but I realize it now, it feeds my need for dialogue.

Talk to me, please.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Lets just say that when we were in New Jersey, we heard some concerns about structure in homeschools. Unfortunately, I was not the addressee of these remarks, so I'm not sure what the exact concern is.

Structure as in routine? We have a weekly routine -- playdate on Monday, parkday on Tuesday, dance class on Wednesday, visit to Gaga on Thursday or Friday and assorted errands. Hmmm...that may sound like we're too socialized. So, the socialization concern goes out the window, but what about teaching? You see, the real concern here is teaching, not learning, which goes on all the time and cannot be stopped. Well, it can be stopped if you make learning deadly dull and force it on a child and then tell them that they aren't doing it right.

We have a daily routine. We have breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evening. Our bedtime routine includes reading to the girls. As for the rest of the day -- well, it depends on the day. I love to read to my kids, but thats gotten hard to do since the 3 year-old screams "no read book" whenever I read to the 5 year-old. I hope that this phase will pass quickly enough and we can have a routine reading time together.

We also play games -- yes, thats right, we sit around and play all day. And my 3 year-old is learning her numbers from a deck of cards. And she's learning her alphabet from the numerous other toys strewn about the house. The 5 year-old is learning, well, I don't really know what because I refuse to quiz her and when others try, she often refuses to answer, but she knows what an aeronaut is. I didn't. Anyway, according to the state standards of learning and the Core Knowledge Series, she's at or above grade level, so I figure we've got some time to play. While I don't agree that these are a proper measure of learning or knowledge, its a nice place to hang my hat while we get settled.

Does routine mean that I'm supposed to sit a 5 year-old down at the table and ply her with workbooks? Fifteen minutes in the morning for math? Twenty for handwriting? This doesn't make sense to me. Structure such as this certainly isn't about learning -- my children learn so much more from playing than they would with stilted, limited, forced workbook or lesson time. In addition to this view, I also have a 3 year-old which would make attempting to 'teach' a Sisyphean task -- or would it be Promethean punishment? It would certainly feel like my liver was being plucked out on a daily basis. Imagine how the kids would feel.

If the structure is for discipline, than I must still ask why? So a 5 year-old can learn to be bored but to 'take it like an adult' because we all know adults need to get used to confinement and limiting their brain use so that they can be productive, earn a good wage, and then go spend it. How 'bout a little linky to Gatto just so you can see either how far gone I am or how deluded such thinking is.

Running around and playing at 5 does not mean she won't be able to sit in a college lecture hall or have the discipline to study. Those skills can be picked up later if need be. She's only 5.

Perhaps we shall agree to disagree. Perhaps this is why no one discusses such matters with me. And a nod of admiration to my DH who doesn't rant in public.

Mountains, History, Baseball and In-Laws

We're back! We had a nice field trip to Vermont, Cooperstown, NY, and New Jersey.

In Vermont, we were asked how long we plan to homeschool. An interesting question, I thought -- how long do you plan to breathe air? Seriously, I suppose some people homeschool with the idea that they'll send the kids to school when they are older -- for instance, kindergarten is optional, but first grade requires an institution. Or perhaps to get a kid 'back on track' -- I've heard of people who homeschooled for a year or two to get their child's skills up to grade level or some such (Dan Riley's School for a Girl).

How long do we plan to homeschool? As long as it works but we take it one day at a time.

History and baseball were covered in Cooperstown, New York. We went to the Farmer's Museum, where we learned about processing flax, a bit about typesetting and smithing, and hung out in a tavern. We also visited the Baseball Hall of Fame. My favorite were the World Series rings -- have you seen the Arizona Diamondbacks? T-a-c-k-y. Then again, they'll all gotten a bit too bling-bling in recent years. Please.

Suzanne announced in Vermont -- "I love Vermont." She announced in New York -- "I love New York." I thought the silence was conspicuous in New Jersey -- but she loves her relatives there, so it more than makes up for it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Going on a Field Trip

I'm not known for blogging regularly, though I am trying to get back into the swing of it. I just wanted to let it be known that I won't be posting for a week as we'll be on a homeschool field trip.

I hope to have many interesting things to say upon my return. I can always hope!

Saturday, September 10, 2005


We don't need no stinkin' curriculum.

I was asked a couple of times yesterday what curriculum we're using. I really don't see a need to use a curriculum for kindergarten. I'm not quite sure a curriculum is ever necessary.

I am terrible at answering questions about our homeschooling. Awful. I blather on about natural learning. I get blank looks. So I mention the stuff we have in our house -- books, toys, items that can be used as manipulatives. More blank looks. Okay -- we've got workbooks -- thats like a curriculum -- and when Suzanne is interested, she does work in them.

The trouble with curriculum is a grade-based curriculum would not work. Suzanne is far beyond what it taught in language arts and social studies (with the exception of handwriting, where she's probably average or a bit behind). For math, I think she's probably dead-on -- she's interested in more advanced things, but I don't think she gets it. Then again, I'm not sure that she learns everything in a sequential manner, so why make her suffer through boring lessons if she gets to the 'clicking point' by other means?

Another big problem is that we are not home enough to homeschool in the way that many non-homeschoolers view to be homeschooling. This week, we had a couple of days at playgrounds with other homeschool kids, we ran errands and we visited my mom. What did Suzanne learn? I don't know, but she was playing chess with my dad last weekend -- does that count for something? In the car on the way somewhere, she was rattling off various time measurements -- 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, by increasing unit up until decades. I had to help her out with centuries. Thats got to count for something. [She learned all this from reading Me Counting Time by Joan Sweeney].

But wait a second, I'm the one who doesn't want to count anything.

Word got back to me that a mom (who doesn't read this blog) and whose child is in a local Montessori school is amazed at the progress I'm making with Suzanne. Whats even more amazing is that I'm not making any progress with her. She's doing it on her own, with assistance from me when requested.

My DH keeps reminding me that our curriculum is similar to the response given by Napolean Dynamite at the beginning of the movie when he is asked what he's going to do that day. What are we doing today? I already told you. Whatever she wants. Gosh!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The First Day of School

I feel the need to post because today is the first day of school in my county. The first official day of homeschooling for us. Wow. It seems so bizarre, so surreal, and yet, likes it no big deal at all. I didn't even hear or see the school buses go by this morning.

Whats on the agenda for today? We're going to a large playground for a homeschool park day.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Back to School with Suzanne

I'm a unschooler at heart -- I see how much my kids learn just by living and by my providing them with books and toys to stimulate their interests and guide them in their learning.

Suzanne,5, has been very interested in writing recently -- I should say, in printing capital letters. We've got magnadoodles and paper and pens/crayons/pencils. We've got workbooks scattered around the house. She is doing a great job all by herself and is very motivated.

A friend was cleaning her closet and recently gave me several handwriting workbooks which I gladly took and handed over to Suzanne. The idea is she can work in them whenever she likes, however she likes.

Suzanne is not an unschooler at the moment. She wants school-at-home. "Teach me, mama!" Is her refrain. She wants me to walk her through the workbook. Egads! I HATE it. As a former honor roll student, I'm great at following directions. I could use a bit of work on free-thinking, but I'm a great direction follower. So, if the book says 'start at the top of the letter and make a downward stroke,' I'm going to get annoyed if Suzanne goes from bottom to top. I know I should work flexibility in, but I'm most flexible when I'm completely removed -- hence, my love of unschooling.

We'll work it out somehow, but right now, Suzanne has dictated to me a schedule as follows:

Morning: letters
Noon: numbers (printing numbers, I assume)
Afternoon: workbooks
Evening: encyclopedia and dictionary (I have NO idea what she means by this, maybe that she'll be reading them)

I'm worn out already.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Homeschooling Apologetics

I was just e-mailing a former work colleague of mine about my plans to homeschool. I thought I'd share my response to his questions.

>>>Are there any requirements that you have to have to qualify to home teach?

In Virginia, you have to give notice and provide evidence of ability to teach as well as a description of your program of study. Evidence is satisfied by a college degree or a statement of why you think you can provide adequate instruction [i.e. prove you are literate], a teacher's certificate or using a specified curriculum with a teaching service. The description can be brief, just something to show that you've thought about it.

>>>Are there guidelines/requirements of content/curriculum for home schooling?

You don't have to follow them, but there are plenty of places you can look -- at the Virginia Standards of Learning [SOLs], the Core Knowledge series [What your first grader should know, etc], the World Book encyclopedia scope and sequence, there are lots of places on the internet you can find suggestions about what kids should be learning and when.

I just looked at the SOLs and found that she's already learned nearly all of what is supposed to be covered for kindergarten and has surpassed a lot of it. Which is why I like homeschooling, she doesn't have to slow down or speed up just in order to keep pace with the class. If she's getting something quickly, she can move through it fast; if she's not ready for something else, we can wait until she is rather than stress her out by pushing her.

>>>How do you deal with the socialization issues?

Ah, this is always a big worry but it doesn't really hold up on examination. I can't tell you how many times I was yelled at in school for socializing -- you're not supposed to be talking to your classmates. What is school socialization? Learning to wait in line? Go to the bank or a fast food restaurant or the grocery store, library, etc. Taking turns? Go to a playground and try to get on a swing or play with a popular toy at a playgroup. Raising your hand to speak? Go to a library storytime or museum program. And things that aren't learned in real life can be learned very quickly when the need arises.

As to playing with other kids -- we go to ballet class and we have playdates and go to park days and on field trips; when they're older they can volunteer. The problem quickly becomes limiting the social outings; its easy to get overextended. Another nice aspect of homeschooling is that socializing is not limited to the child's same-age peers, you can socialize by visiting nursing homes; you meet people at the grocery store and the library.

>>>Since you live in an area considered to have good public schools, what made you decide to home school?

Not only that, I was educated by the county's public school system! Just 3 years ago I was asking DH why would anyone live here and homeschool? Well, its mostly about freedom for me -- freedom from the school schedule and calendar. We don't have to have our daily lives controlled by school -- when we get up and when we get time together and when we can take a vacation.

We also get freedom from standardized curriculum. Like I said, Suzanne can move at her own pace in her learning -- she can advance far ahead of her age-mates without becoming intellectually arrogant [a real problem; I was in the GT system and looked down on those who weren't], or she can take longer in other parts of her learning without feeling like she's stupid. She can also learn what she wants to when she wants -- she's not told she has to wait until the subject is covered.

There are lots of other reasons why I like homeschooling, but freedom was what drew me to it in the first place. Plus, I don't think school is necessary for learning to occur -- I think it occurs better outside of it, really. You'll see with baby daughter how much she grows and learns and she doesn't need outside interference or the bribery of rewards to do it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Club Libby Lu Brought to You by the Public School

A few months ago, I was aghast at what parents were paying Club Libby Lu to do to their daughters.

Never fear, the local public school system is getting a piece of the pie. I guess you really have to see the pictures in the local paper to appreciate the strutting and preening of the grades 1 to 8 set. Grades 1 to 8 -- we're talking, what, like 6 years old to 14 -- these are not budding fashion designers, these are kids who would probably tell you what came between them and their Calvin Klein jeans if this were a different decade.

Can't wait to find out what the Fairfax County Public Schools Marketing Advisory Board is. Probably no big deal, just the schools trying to pair up your kids (i.e. consumers) with local businesses to take a lot of your money so the kids can look like streetwalkers or eat junk food or play video games.

But not to worry, the school system will then provide peer counselors to help your oversexualized kids; use public funding to research how to cut back on childhood obesity; and hire special education teachers to address the needs of your ADHD/ADD kid. Cause and effect or just a really efficient way to make money -- or both?

The 5 Things Meme

I've been tagged for a meme by Purple Kangaroo via my blog with Anne, chocolate and peanut butter.

The 5 Things Meme

But first the rules to this meme game:
Remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place;
add your blog's name in the #5 spot;
link to each of the other blogs for the desired cross pollination effect.

1. Melody
2. -A-
3. Heather
4. Purple_Kangaroo
5. Unclimber

Next: select new friends to add to the pollen count. (No one is obligated to participate).
You can just put blogs you read if you want to.
1. Donna at Sunny Side Up
2. Robbo at Llamabutchers
3. Mike at Clanlally
4. Rat Boy's blog
5. Julie's blog
Honorary 5. My cousin Kaila's blog, but I can't reveal her address lest her dad find it...
Honorary 5. Anne over at EconoMom (she's technically already been tagged via our joint blog, chocolate and peanut butter, but I want to send some linky-love her way)

Here's the game:
What 5 Things do you miss about your childhood?
1) Being in daily contact with my brother, Richard
2) Living with my family, it was a loving house and a lot of fun
3) Very few responsibilities -- doing well in school and that was pretty easy
4) The family cat
5) Vacationing with the family -- we went interesting places and had lots of fun, and I only had to pack for me!

Name your 5 favorite cartoons -- I haven't watched any of these in awhile, but I still love them
1) Simpsons
2) South Park
3) The Family Guy
4) King of the Hill
5) hmmm...I liked the Smurfs as a kid

Following the Purple Kangaroo: "I'm going to add a few more lists of 5 things I found on selkie's blog just now"

Five snacks I enjoy:
1) Nestle's Treasures -- chocolate candy with a peanut butter filling
2) Hershey's Dark Chocolate kisses
3) popcorn
4) nuts
5) cheese

Five songs I know all the words to -- I think I'll do a little creative writing here...
1) Paradise by the Dashboard Light -- Meatloaf
2) Trapped -- Bruce Springsteen
3) We're Not Gonna Take It -- Twisted Sister
4) Heart and Soul -- Ta Pow
5) Hit With Me Your Best Shot-- Pat Benetar

Five things I would do with $100 million:
1) Get therapy -- with all that money, I'd probably need it
2) Feel really, really guilty
3) Get more therapy to deal with the guilt
4) Worry about: where to give it, how to keep it, losing it, wanting more
5) Get more therapy to deal with the stress of having too much money

Five places I would escape to:
1) My home
2) Escape from what?
3) My parent's home
4) My brother's home
5) home

Five bad habits: easy enough, I'm probably immune to a couple of the Seven Deadly
1) Pride
2) Self-centeredness
3) Sloth
4) Not lustful enough -- sorry, but raising a couple of little kids is tiring
5) Bad language

Five things I like doing:
1) buying used books
2) scrapbooking and reading -- these are my evening activities
3) unschooling
4) volunteering with my state's homeschool organization
5) doing things with my family when no one is cranky, whining, or needs a diaper change

Five things I'd never wear:
1) a tattoo -- my views change constantly, I can't commit to something so permanent
2) a navel ring, tongue piercing, etc.
3) a studded leather collar -- well, not anymore
4) a chasubule
5) stiletto heels

Five TV shows I like: ohh, I can get all haughty here, I don't watch TV shows for myself
1) Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
2) Barney
3) Reading Rainbow
4) yeah....I've run out of steam
5) but when I did watch: Dawson's Creek, Felicity, Gilmore Girls

Gosh this is long....

Biggest joys of the moment:
1) My marriage
2) My kids
3) My family of origin
4) The freedom to spend lots of time with the above
5) The lack of worries

Five favorite toys:
1) The internet
2) Digital camera
3) My minivan
4) Whatever book I'm reading
5) My husband (and you know he's going to complain about ranking #5)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Exhausted by Religion

Do you ever feel that way? I've been feeling this way for many months now. I used to do a canned, fundy-ish Bible Study. I really enjoyed that, but then I began to feel too spoon-fed. And then I met people who were clearly Godly, but would have been labelled otherwise by the Bible Study I was taking.

Now I'm just tired. I feel a bit left behind by great minds such as Larry and Kwakersaur. I'm not bothered by that so much, God has given me a mind that works, so even if I'm passed by others, I have enough to get along.

I'm leading a lectionary Bible study session in a week at my church and I can't get excited about it. I can't get excited about Christianity at the moment and I'm not interested in looking for another religion. As I see it, as mucked us as the Christian church may be by political interests beginning with Constantine [or earlier], Jesus is my man. Maybe the church has him all wrong, maybe we all do, but Jesus is my man. I'm not looking to replace him with Mohammed or Buddha or Abraham or Sophia or anyone. He's my man and I'm sticking with him.

I just wish I could be more excited by all of it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hurry Up or You'll Get Left Behind in Kindergarten!

Oh please. My husband brought home the Wall Street Journal just so he could rile me up. He subscribed so he can read it on the train on the way to work and it usually does not make the return trip. Not today's paper, though, the possibility of an entertaining dinner hour was too tempting for him. Preschoolers' Prep made the front page of the Marketplace section today -- below the fold, but the color picture is in the center of the page, so maybe it counts as above the fold -- across the fold?

Hmmm...seems the WSJ is not feeling generous enough to make this gem available in the free part of its website. No bother, I'll summarize for you. The article discusses the growth of various tutoring and learning centers as parents fret about whether their kids have learned enough to succeed in kindergarten.

What the article neglects to mention is whether and what preschools these children have attended. Its moot to me but suggests a certain deficiency in reporting for not addressing the obvious question of whether it was the preschool that failed or the child. Opps -- there was one mention of preschool. The mother of a 4-year-old and a high-school English teacher who panicked when her son's preschool teacher reported that he couldn't write his name, identify his letters, count to 30 or wield scissors. Not that I think any of these things are panick-worthy, what I want to know is how could she not know the skill level of her child? She's a teacher and doesn't know what her own child can and cannot do? Sorry, but I can't help but read a bit of commentary into the quality of the education system itself given that she's a teacher.

Anyway, the part that chaps me is when the article gets around to presenting the "opposing view." You know, those oafs who don't care enough about their kids (or themselves, really) to pressure them to excellence; those losers who can't fork out $45 an hour for tutoring in basic skills; those idiots who couldn't possibly review colors, letters and numbers with their children themselves. They trot out David Elkind, a professor of child development, "whose books lament that children no longer have time to play." What, no column space for the titles after including important quotes like PR fluff from Sylvan and Kaplan?

I'll help you out, WSJ, Elkind is the author of Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk and The Hurried Child , among others-- and no, these books don't help sell tutoring services. Also, his point is not that kids should be sitting around 'playing' all day (the horror!), its that overcompetitive parents may actually be harming their kids when they pressure and overschedule them and don't leave them time to play, think, and dream. Maybe a 30- or 40-something has the time, understanding, and money to put into therapy but they should lay off their kids.

Honestly, the kids will learn to read, but maybe not early enough for you to brag about it to all your friends. They will learn their colors and letters and numbers -- but they may not be doing it aloud at age 2 so that you can feel proud in the grocery store or other public venue.

Elkind points out (I believe, I've only read Miseducation and that was a couple of years ago) that while you may not be able to prove that the parents are harming their children by pressuring them, they are risking it for no reason at all. Early learning and achievement are not accurate barometers of future success. The kid may go on to do wonderful things, but might have done them anyway without the pressure. Maybe they could have enjoyed their childhoods more and the parent could have enjoyed the child more without all the worrying and stress. Maybe for some kids the pressure actually prevents them from achieving their potential -- that’s the real horror and Elkind says its pointless to risk it.

Am I getting Elkind wrong? Maybe, read him for yourself, but don't dismiss him as some wacko who thinks kids should play all day -- he's got reasons for saying what he does. He's not anti-education or anti-school, he just wonders what the rush is all about.

I'm the wacko who says let the kids play all day.

Monday, July 11, 2005

This From a Priest?

My brother, who is an Episcopal priest, forwarded this list to me. Its probably all over the internet and you're yawning and thinking 'how could she have not seen this one before?' Welcome to the slow lane.

If I knew who wrote it, I'd give proper credit; but I don't, so I won't other than to say that I didn't write it.

The Guys' Rules

Finally, the guys' side of the story. We always hear"the rules"from the female side.
Now here are the rules from the male side.
Please note...these are all numbered "1"ON PURPOSE!

1.Learn to work the toilet seat.
You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down.We need it up, you need it down.You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports.
It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport.
And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:Subtle hints do not work!Strong hints do not work!Obvious hints do not work!Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it.
That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become null and void after7 days.

1.If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both.
If you already know best how to do it,just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1.Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings.
Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing,"we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying,but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wearis fine...Really.

1.You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round is a shape.

1. Thank you for reading this.Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight;but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.