Thursday, March 21, 2013

isn't today the first day of Spring?

The big kids finally got their first snow days of the year Tuesday and Wednesday. Every big storm previously hit on the weekend or late enough in the day to have the roads clear by morning. So they caught up on homework, Will also prepared for Scout University this weekend, and Maggie, Timmy, and I got lost in the woods. We could have followed our tracks back, but we kept plowing through on snowshoes and skis before ending up in a hay field at the far end of our road.  Our reward was seeing the carcass of a calf that had been eaten by some predator, possibly the bald eagles I saw a few weeks back near that same spot. Yes, it was pretty gross, but Charlie was disappointed that he had declined to go with us when he heard Timmy tell all about it.

Yesterday afternoon Tim got home from work and climbed on the tractor to make some paths to the compost bin and down the hill for a really wide sled run. (Yes, those dark dots are two children climbing back up the hill)

This morning after the boys finished their schoolwork we all hit the slope for hopefully, the last day or two of sledding for the winter. After all, it is officially spring, even in Maine.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

underachieving boys

I just finished reading Boys Adrift, The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Dr. Leonard Sax. He outlines the reasons he believes there is an whole generation, and soon to be two generations, of slacker boys and men, who don't bother growing up. 

As I have a 14 year old son who is starting to slip into this category, I read this book with a sense of doom and optimism. Doom that I have done things unknowingly that may have contributed to his slacker status and optimism that I haven't done as badly as I could have and may still have time to change his destiny. Since starting Catholic school, Will has become addicted to the computer, which means a fight every night over the Mac laptop that is issued to every middle school student in the state of Maine. He plays MineCraft and Skypes his friends for hours, switching screens back to school assignments when a grownup enters the room. He has even been known to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to retrieve it for more game playing.

 I have been tempted on several occasions to call Dr. Ray Guarendi, Catholic clinical psychologist and dad of 10 for advice or just throw the laptop out the window (but then I would have to pay for another one). We have told him that next year's school options are the fancy and expensive private school (no Catholic high school in the area) or back to homeschooling and with his attitude and grades, it is likely that his experiment in going away to school will have only lasted a year and a half. Luckily I am prepared to enroll him in Seton, a highly rigorous program with no opportunity to slack off or mess around on the computer. The local public school is not an option,especially since they give every student their own iPad. 

Dr.Sax points out 5 factors that have contributed to the exact problem I am facing: changes in school, video games, medications for ADHD, endocrine disruptors, and the revenge of the forsaken Gods. School has become more intense sooner, which is not good for little boys. Five year old males are not designed to sit still for hours and hours each day. Luckily we homeschool our little ones and with several subjects already completed for the year,formal  school is lasting less than 2 hours total. Dr. Sax blasts video games for their mind-sucking ability, the creation of males who can't function in the real world because they can't control it the way they can in games, and the fact that they take up time that could be spent doing something real- a sport, a hobby, reading, learning, interacting with others. He goes into the stimulant drugs that can make kids lazy and phthalates in the plastic water/soda bottles we all drink from that leach chemicals into our bodies that can cause boys to become more feminized and girls to develop earlier. The fifth factor he discusses is the fact that our culture no longer teaches boys to become men, responsibility is mocked and we are left with the resulting mess, a nation of 13 year olds in men's bodies. 

I'm not sure I completely buy into all of the factors the author proposes, but it does make me think about why a very clear phenomenon is happening. Girls are developing earlier and earlier, girls are graduating from college in every increasing percents each year, leaving their male counterparts in the dust, and more and more men are refusing to take on adult responsibilities but instead living out their 20's and 30's in their parent's basements drifting from job to job and being lazy. Why and how we can change our sons so they have every opportunity to fulfill their potential are questions that many of us should all think about.   

Sunday, March 10, 2013

unexpected race

I debated for a few weeks over whether to participate in the Chamberlain March 1/2 marathon or the 5K. I sent in my registration for the shorter race a few weeks back, knowing that I hadn't really done the distance runs necessary, only one 10 miler last weekend. But when I got to the Brewer Armory my running bud Dave only had to twist my arm a little to get me to switch races. He promised 8-8:30/min miles and I thought I could handle that. We started off running together for 2 miles or so, but then I slowly pulled away on the downhills and just kept clicking up 8 minutes at every mile marker. I beat my previous PR by 5 minutes and won not only a box of whoopie pies, but a Road ID gift certificate as a door prize. The compitition in my age bracket is fierce this year, I only came in 3rd, but with my new weekly program including lifting weights and speed workouts, I think I'll do okay. 

Friday, March 08, 2013


One of the things that is satisfying about homeschooling is the feedback, the almost instant information that a child is learning. It has been a learning experience for me, this being our first year sending any of the children away to school, of how little I now know about their academic lives. From knowing everything they do each day to only hearing bits and pieces in the car on the way home, from seeing each piece of work to only having a general idea of how their grades are. Luckily I trust the school (up to a point) that they are being educated. 

My little boys, on the other hand, are still fully under my tutelage, and so I knew a few weeks back that Timmy was struggling in reading to the point of tears and head banging (his leaky eyes and my achy head). I made an executive decision to start over again with Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons and now, I can say that it was the right thing to do. He is now back up to lesson 30, sounding out letters and reading short stories with much more ease and confidence. It doesn't really matter in the long run if he finishes first grade by June or even by next winter, the important thing is for him to learn the basics of reading and to learn to love to read. 

Charlie has really made great progress in his reading skills as well, faster and with better pronunciation than he had even a few weeks ago. We finished both boys science and history books for the year, so I started reading aloud a few chapters every day as part of "sofa stuff," biographies of famous Americans. Timmy and I have read about John Paul Jones, Betsy Ross, Abraham Lincoln, and now George Washington. Charlie really has gotten interested in all things mechanical so I started him on The History of Flight. Yes, he could pull them off the shelf and read them on his own, but part of my job is to select the right books for each child's level and interest.

Reading today about the 80% illiteracy rate of New York City graduates at community colleges, helped reinforce my basic philosophy that the most important job I have as a homeschooling mom is to make sure that my children are excellent readers. Without those skills and eagerness to read for fun, they will still be living at home when they are 30, unable to graduate from college, find a job, and provide for themselves. And after 15 years of nursing babies, changing nappies, potty training, cooking large meals, doing multiple loads of laundry, chauffeuring two hours a day, that is something I don't even want to joke about.