Saturday, June 27, 2009

a day at the beach

Since our arrival we have had 1 full day with no rain, so after school and mowing the area around the house with the riding mower we decided to hit the beach. Now, while Maine boasts of hundreds, if not thousands of miles of coastline, most of these beaches consist of gravel, not sand. Children don’t seem to mind, but gravel does tend to stick to the legs and feet, getting deposited all over the inside of the car and the bottom of the bathtub. While it was hot and sunny on the farm, by the time we drove the 20 minutes down to the coast there was a light cover of fog, which hung over the boats in the harbor.

Luckily for us the tide was going out and the kids found seaweed to decorate their castle and moats, emerging rocks to climb on, as well as starfish and periwinkles to collect (and return to the sea). I talked a bit with the harbormaster about the summer sailing program and then packed up the car and headed back home in time for supper. Sometimes capturing summer memories here is like trying to catch a butterfly, you have to be willing to run when the moment arrives, for the sunshine does not stay for very long.

Friday, June 26, 2009

up in Vacationland

Except for the accident, the trip up to Maine was pretty uneventful. I suggest lessons in all aspects of driving a trailer, including backing up, before setting off. The silver lining in the past few days has been that I like my big-mama van much better than the hulking SUV that we are renting while the dent in the van is fixed. I can’t imagine having to fold down the middle seat every time everyone gets in/out, and the thing uses gas like my kids drink chocolate milk through a straw.

On the down side it has been raining for an entire week and only 1 day this week looks to be lovely. Eventually it will stop and the fields will be hayed so we can take long walks and explore. My garden plot looked indistinguishable from the surrounding grass field and when Tim tried to till it on the first dry day he and the entire tractor were soon covered in mud. But soon enough I will plant my box full of veggie seeds. Apparently I’m not too late; folks who planted a few weeks back had all their seedlings killed by frost.

As for school, the older children are whittling down their workload and progressing through the tall stack of piano books their teacher handed me at the recital. They really like to experiment with the different sounds on the electronic keyboard we bought last year for them to practice on. The church organ and harpsichord settings seem to be the most popular, but Will played Old Susanna that made it sound like a real banjo.

Our first outing proved to be a success when we pulled up and Charlie piped up, “This is my favorite library! They have a train table, fish, AND a turtle!” The older children appreciate the finer things, the ability to confer with a knowledgable and enthusiastic children’s librarian who directed Will to Eoin Colfer’s books and showed him the new purchases in the space exploration section. Without my knowing it, the oldest child has learned to Google, but has limited his searches to NASA and Apollo sites. I guess when we get back to Maryland I will have to put a filter on the internet. I can’t imagine what sort of sites might pop up if he searches for “space games.”

We are certainly all glad to be back in Maine: the views are prettier, the pies at the truck stop are sweeter, and our family is able to get out into nature more, even in the damp and drizzle.

Friday, June 19, 2009

on the road again...

The next time I post it will be from the local library in Maine using their WiFi. As they are 10 miles away it is likely I will only be able to post a few times a week. This time tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that we will be mowing the fields, tilling the garden, planting seeds, and moving everything from the garage into our new barn. I'll be sure to post pictures of our progress!

but I'm sure their social skills will make up for it...

While the yellow bus has stopped hurtling down our street every morning, two of our children are still hunched over the books. Will has to finish his last week in Wordly Wise and write 2 book reports, while Mary will continue working on spelling and math. We still haven't even received the California Achievement Test and the piano teacher gave me a huge stack of books for them to work on all summer.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that there is no opportunity to play the blame game; I am the teacher and the parent. If one of the children isn't doing well in a subject then we can immediately review, concentrate on, or experiment with another method to learn the information.

A startling number of children are falling through the cracks at one Chicago Public School.

The mother of a one student who failed eighth grade says she got no warning her son was struggling. The school says she was notified, and other parents insist she did not do enough. Tatianna Dennis says she had no idea her son was about to fail English; no written notices from Bradwell Elementary, she says, and no warning from his teacher. Tarrell had failed English two times before, but Dennis thought he was doing better. "They told me that he was fine. He was starting to come around and his grades were picking up," Dennis said. "They never gave me any indication that he was going downhill."

It was a disastrous year for the eighth grade at the south side Bradwell Elementary school in a tough neighborhood with high poverty. More than half the class, 44 of 77 students, did not graduate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

stylish luggage

Since we leave for Maine in just a few days I have been frantically cleaning, organizing, sorting clothes, making lists, and returning books to the library. After looking and sweeping under beds searching for that last Boxcar Children book that was on the card we headed over to the other branch library and found two copies. "Are either of these still checked out?" I asked the librarian and found out that it had been sitting prettily on the shelf for two weeks. I guess I should be irritated, but at least now there isn't anything under the beds, not even dust.

Our plan today is school, piano, and while the children's auntie comes to say goodbye, I'm going to scoot out and hit IKEA for a few new rugs and under the bed storage bins. Two dressers are not enough for 6 children and there isn't enough room for another. I also have to pick up some more boxes from the local storage place, I don't have nearly enough suitcases for 8 people to pack clothes in for 14 weeks.

Schoolbooks, hairclippers, raincoats, sweatshirts, don't forget the blue potties for Timmy. Coolers, lifejackets, camera, and computer, squeeze in 4 dolls and Geraldine the giraffe. It could be worse, the last two summers we have PCSed and then headed up to Maine, at least I don't have to unpack too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

orphanages for children with parents

My favorite quote from Dr. Laura is when she was on a panel of one of those daytime shows like Oprah and was getting hammered by the anti-stay-at-home crowd. She asked, "Suppose you were to come back to this world as a little baby. Raise your hand if would you want to be put in day care as opposed to being taken care of at home by your own mother?" It immediately shut down all opposition.

This news article reminds me of her question, Why have children if you aren't going to raise them?" How on earth can someone consider warehousing their small child in an institution for over 10 hours a day?

( - A sweeping change that would combine day care with kindergarten in Ontario schools is being proposed by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. The plan would allow parents of 4- and 5-year-olds to leave their children at school from 7:30 in the morning to 6 in the evening.

John Campbell, chairman of the Toronto District School Board, approved of the proposal, saying many parents will welcome the possibility of leaving their children in care facilities for a longer period of time.

"With so many households where you have two working parents or if you have a single-parent family where the sole parent is working, they're already looking for these kinds of solutions," he said in a Canadian Press report.

Chair of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Lynn Scott said, “I think some parents will certainly welcome it. I’m not sure that’s true of all parents,” she told the Ottawa Citizen, and added that acceptance of the program "will depend on how much importance people place on parents interacting with their young children."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Super Angels is hosting this week's carnival.

serving God at the altar

Our parish had a surprise this past Sunday when we read the bulletin and found that Bishop Peter Elliott of Melbourne, Australia was saying Mass. He gave a wonderful and orthodox homily on the banquet feast of Holy Communion. When he was introduced to the parishioners afterwards in the social hall one of the ladies asked me, "Can Will serve Mass tomorrow and Tuesday for Bishop Elliot?"

Unlike our former parish, St. Benedict's in Chesapeake, VA, where 15-20 boys rotate serving duties, our parish here only has 2-3 servers so Will serves every week we are in town. I agreed that we would be there and made sure he practiced the responses and gestures that evening. When we arrived before Mass on Monday he found out that no one else was available to serve and he would be doing it alone for the very first time. All my prayers were for my son that he would do his best and glorify God in his actions and words. I especially held my breath after the Sanctus that he would not forget to ring the bell once at the Hanc Igitur (not that the ceiling would come crashing in if he didn't, but I wanted it to be perfect).

After Mass everyone congratulated Will on his fine job and I suggested that doughnuts would be a fitting treat for everyone. While we were sitting at the kitchen table chomping away, Charlie asked, "Is Will going to be a priest soon?" I can only hope and pray that God grant one of our children a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

happy birthday Charlie

Someone woke up on Saturday morning and the first thing out of his lips was, "When can we make my cake?" Charlie had picked out a funfetti mix and decided that blue icing was just the thing to make it special. We did wait until breakfast was eaten and cleaned up before we started, but our brand-new 5 year old got to crack the eggs and work the mixer.

I have been keeping a list of gift ideas for each family member so when it comes time for birthday shopping I can recall what they have mentioned wanting or needing. Charlie's list was: windup flashlight, play dough, and a replacement Thomas the Tank Engine (which he lost at the hospital one day a few months back). All the children asked if they could play play dough on Sunday afternoon and the older children made these and baked them in the oven to save their artwork.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

piano recital

Yesterday we all dressed up and drove down to the local Unitarian church (which, from the snapshots on the wall, seems to be where only chubby middle-aged pantheists worship) and watched Will and Mary participate. From little 7 year old Sarah to high school senior Alec (who has been taking lessons for 12 years) the kids were all impressive. All the children also scored honors on the Maryland Piano Teachers music theory test.

I asked some of the other moms at dinner the other evening if they thought that more homeschoolers play musical instruments than public school kids. They seemed to think so, especially since several of us were getting ready for spring recitals. Mary played Sonatina in C by Costly and March of the Wee Folk by Gaynor before playing Alligator Blues by Bastien in a duet. Will played Gavotte by Bach and The Clown by Kabalevsky (his teacher said he learned this faster than any child she has taught) before playing Rondo Capriccio by Beethoven in a duet with his friend John.

Everyone was impressed by Charlie and Timmy who sat for the entire hour without saying a word or making a noise. As for Julia Ellen? She fell asleep in her daddy's arms and certainly didn't ruin her outfit, which she did to me twice the day before at the IHM Conference.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

had a blast!

What would help you in your homeschooling? Vendors selling every curriculum/book that interest you? Speakers who have been in the trenches for years and know just the trick to dealing with whatever is hampering your daily life? A dinner out with new and old friends to bounce ideas off of and affirm your radical decision to homeschool?

Well... yesterday at the IHM Conference it was all these things and more. It was being immersed in a micro culture of life with babies and hugely pregnant women everywhere you looked. It was being able to say grace in a fast food restaurant and not have anyone look at you funny ('cause they are all saying it too). It was chatting with other moms who were right where you were 5-10 years ago and have 800 questions about how to homeschool. If you have the opportunity to attend such a conference then just ball up the courage and go!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ready for the IHM Conference

Tomorrow is the IHM Catholic Homeschooling and Family Life Conference in Chantilly, VA. I have gone twice before, but since we lived so far away I stayed in the hotel. This time I can only go for one day with Will and Mary's piano recital and Charlie's birthday on Saturday, but I am looking forward to the exciting speakers, the myriad of items for sale, and seeing many old friends. I had to scramble to find someone to watch the kids, Tim is on call that day and he couldn't stay home (he said he would take them all to work- bad idea) but luckily my cousin Ann volunteered to come over at 8am through lunchtime. I then asked on the local Catholic homeschool Yahoo group if anyone had a teenage daughter who could sit and voila! lovely college student Shelia called and is going to relieve Ann until Tim gets home.

With that logistical nightmare figured out I then set my brain to deciding how I was going to nurse Julia Ellen without showing too much flesh. After seeing several ladies with new nursing covers I decided to make myself one.

Now if I could just figure out how to cart around the baby, my purse, and my new books without resorting to buying a new stroller at BabysRUs.

fat baby

My grandmother said when I told her how well Julia Ellen was doing, "You have to put that child on a diet!" I won't even think about how one would go about doing that, but fat babies are healthy and happy babies. I love the little folds on her thighs, the perpetually damp neck that never sees the sun, and the cheek jowls that hang below her chin. (yes, that is a little milk curd on her lip)
There will be plenty of time in her life to be neurotic about her weight, 3 months is far too early for all of that. Plus, every pound she gains is likely 1 pound that I lose, though I'm not sure it works out quite that evenly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

missing child

Yesterday afternoon I wanted to swing by the library before dropping off Will and Mary and then hitting the Commissary. I called down the stairs, "Time to go, shoes on! Grab your piano stuff!" I had given Julia Ellen a good feed and went to wake up Timmy from his nap. The door to the boy's room was ajar and no blonde head was in the bed. I ran outside and yelled, "Timmy?"

Upstairs, downstairs: no Timmy.

Then we looked in the girl's room and amidst the piles of stuffed animals and doll babies on Mary's bed was a little sleeping boy. I didn't particularly want to play our version of Where's Waldo? but all is well and we made it out the door in time. One of my big chores before we leave for Maine is to return every one of the 50 books we still have checked out, but I have to keep the 6 children entrusted to my care safe every minute of every day.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Dana at Principled Discovery is hosting this week's carnival with a Field Guide to Homeschoolers.

Monday, June 08, 2009

laws forcing adult children to pay for ma's care

I heard this talked about a few days ago on the radio and it was interesting to hear both of the Baby Boomer hosts say, "Everyone should take care of Mom and Dad. It is horrible that we should have to resort to laws to make people do it." While it of course is the Christian thing to take care of your elderly parents, what about the millions of adult children (of Boomers) who had their childhoods ripped apart by divorce? One of my college roommates couldn't even figure out where to go for Christmas break since her mother was on her 3rd marriage and her father on his 4th. Does sending a paltry check once a month for child support count as evidence that would later be used as justification for garnishing wages from their adult children?

Did you know you could be responsible for your parents' unpaid bills? Thirty states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves. While these laws are rarely enforced, there has been speculation that states may begin dusting them off as a way to save on Medicaid expenses.

These laws, called filial responsibility laws, obligate adult children to provide necessities like food, clothing, housing, and medical attention for their indigent parents.
According to the
National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research organization, 21 states allow a civil court action to obtain financial support or cost recovery, 12 states impose criminal penalties on children who do not support their parents, and three states allow both civil and criminal actions.

Generally, most states do not require children to provide care if they do not have the ability to pay. States vary on what factors they consider when determining whether an adult child has the ability to pay. Children may also not be required to support their parents if the parents abandoned them or did not support them.

The passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 made it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid, which means there may be more elderly individuals in nursing homes with no ability to pay for care. In response, nursing homes may use the filial responsibility laws as a way to get care paid for. Senior Journal

Saturday, June 06, 2009

economic difficulties

This week I have been told of 5 people who have lost their job in the past few weeks, 4 homeschooling dads and a single mom. Things are getting bad out there and likely to get worse. The worse places to be financially are Michigan and California, according to the National Stress Index up at AP. With unemployment at 9.5%, even folks who have steady jobs are asking themselves, "What would/could I do if I lost my job?"

It is more important than ever to be aware of every dollar going out the door and asking, "Do I really need to buy this product or service?" Something that I have been doing lately is finding school supplies at the thrift shop rather than hitting Office Depot. I wouldn't be able to find these deals in Maine since folks up there epitomize the stereotypical Yankee spendthrift, but down here in wasteful government spending land I can find pens, pencils, rulers, index cards, binders, notepads, preschool workbooks, storage baskets, flashcards, maps, and drawing pads for next to nothing.

In the book Cheaper By the Dozen the father made the children listen to French records while they were brushing their teeth. Copying his method of instruction I've hung calender pages of Leonardo da Vinci paintings in the upstairs bathroom, a poster of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on the back of the half bath door, and a topographic map of the United States in the basement bathroom next to the potty. I figure I shouldn't restrict their time in the bathroom, but I sure can make it educational.

Friday, June 05, 2009

one fabulous homeschooled speller

A West Palm Beach eighth grader is among the 41 spellers advancing to the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.. Serena Laine-Lobsinger, 13, sailed through the preliminary round on Wednesday. Serena, who is home schooled, said she learned many of her words from reading classic books. But since winning the regional competition in February, she's also been studying word lists between one and three hours every day.

It's not always easy to step up to the microphone in an instant-elimination contest on national television. But thanks to her bee experience, Serena has a cool head and a good perspective.
Eventually, she said, "everyone but one person gets a word they don't know."
Palm Beach Post
Serena's bio reads:

Serena enjoys interior design, sewing, and learning to play guitar and piano. In her spare time she likes photographing nature or cityscapes and going shopping. Serena has a passion for writing and literature, namely historical fiction and classics. Her favorite author is Jane Austen. Serena participated in the 2008 national finals.

She made it to round 8, correctly spelling peculiar, typhlology, agrestic, hircocervus, imprimis, and omphaloskepsis, before spelling the word conchiliated incorrectly. I know that I couldn't stand up on that stage and even spell my own name due to nerves. I have the greatest admiration for all the children that participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

new look

Yesterday was hot. Not tropical hot, but it was too hot to not run the AC and I hate having hair sitting on the back of my neck 'cause it makes me sweat. So after a shower and with most of the children watching I took some scissors to my head. Since I cut all the kid's hair as well as keep Tim's military buzz in check I wasn't scared. After several really horrible haircuts as a child I have been mostly snipping my own hair for several years but was the first time I dared cut it so short.

Now I have a simple bob, think Katie Holmes (+ 15 years). All the fake blond has finally grown out and while I was tempted for about 30 seconds to dye it again, I like it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Why Homeschool is hosting the Carnival this week with a Baby Bop edition.

hysterically funny and educational

Yesterday at the library the little kids and I were picking out picture books and videos while Will and Mary were at piano lessons. I was glancing at the CDs and pulled out Beethoven's Wig 2. On the way we played it and were roaring over Stuck in the Saddle Again sung to the Light Cavalry Overture by Suppe and an introduction to opera with Sing Verdi Very Loud. I think the folks in the car next to us were giggling at seeing everyone laughing and me tapping on the steering wheel.
This collection is a fun way to learn some classical pieces, bits about composers, and a easy transition into the Music Masters Series that we have enjoyed on car trips. Unfortunately our "new" van (it is only 3 year old, but that is pretty new to me) only has a CD player and I bought the MM series in tapes. I guess I know what to get for some one's upcoming 11th birthday.

Monday, June 01, 2009

there are some pretty mean people out there

Yeah, I was out of the loop this weekend with 3 Boy scout activities, a trip to the NRA range, extra piano practice for the upcoming recital, cleaning my house for company, and a trip to the thrift shop to restock Julia Ellen's wardrobe. While perusing my favorite blogs Sunday evening, I read great rebuttals to this anti-homeschooling post by Michelle and Spunky.

Apparently we homeschoolers are selfish, going against God's wishes, arrogant, intolerant, racist, and raising geeks. I can say with my whole heart that none of these things are true of any homeschooler I know. We see a broken system that doesn't care about children, is atheist in teaching, and is supremely arrogant and we don't want to sacrifice the gifts we have been entrusted with on the altar of government education. We can do a better job teaching our children, even if we don't have multiple degrees after our name because we want these children to succeed much more than any paid stranger and will do everything we can to train them to be good people.

Then poor Tim had to put all the little ones to bed while I was immersed in the saga posted by Milehimamma after she was attacked for not properly feeding or educating her 7 (soon to be 8) children. After reading her blog for over a year now I can say that she feeds her kids a lot more nutritious diet than I ever could and I think I'm doing a better job than the average. Her kids eat lentils and brussel sprouts for crying out loud!

"If you loved them, you would want them to have the attention and time it takes to make them the best they can be. Good schools limit the number of children in a classroom. Why? Because teachers need time to teach and care for each child. Good mothers are the same way. And special needs children need even more time."

Guess what? Most teachers have classes of 28-35 kids in their class, down to 12 in a special education room. That is far more than Milehimamma has in her "school." She blows me out of the water with her highly organized Montessori style toys in her living room, her training the kids to save $$ by using dry-erase markers in workbooks, and the obvious patience she exhibits with her kids. Some mothers are called to raise children with more needs than others and I have all the respect in the world for them.

In the slightly modified words of Dr. Laura, "Which of you would want to be homeschooled by your loving mother or sent away to the local public school?" I would definitely want to be in one of these Mommy's homes being taught my ABCs.

this is sick

A candlelight vigil has been scheduled for 8 p.m. today at Old Town Square to show support for George Tiller's family and to oppose violence.
Dustin Deckard, 20, organized the vigil and is hoping it will be "a quiet show of support for Dr. Tiller and a moment to remember his medical and political triumphs."

A candlelight vigil for a man who has murdered thousands of innocent children. While any killing is wrong, I can't exactly shed tears of sorrow for George Tiller, abortionist.