Sunday, December 31, 2006

Catholic prayer tag

Tracy over at Woodland Word tagged me with this about prayer life:
1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?
The Fatima prayer, O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell...
2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?
Hail Holy Queen
3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
I wear a Miraculous medal, though I lost mine a few weeks ago at my last road race. My sweet husband bought me another for Christmas. I got the chain at the pawn shop and now realize that it is better to buy chains new. Maybe I'll get one for Valentine's Day (hint, hint).
4. Do you have holy water in your home?
Yes, I bought an exquisite ceramic font in Vietri, Italy when we were stationed in Naples. It is elaborately sculpted with a small roof and columns with a small bowl underneath. A painting of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus is positioned above the bowl. I use it every time we leave the house. Watching Charlie dip and smear some water on his head makes me laugh every day!
5. Do you offer up your sufferings?
As a convert I find this one of the lovely things about the Catholic faith, a constant offering of oneself to others, even one's suffering. However, this is one of those things I haven't yet learned to do well. Pray for me that I will do this more. Think how many souls in Purgatory could be released if I stopped griping and silently offered up my difficulties.
6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
One of us usually tries to go to Mass these days, if only because Will is serving. It's another one of those things my mind hasn't fully grasped yet.
7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How frequently?
No. Going to Mass with my crew is enough crowd control for the present time. Maybe when the little ones get older or I have a live-in babysitter.
8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?
Sunday morning.
9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts... Maggie is our prayer police (not that we need it), "Say GRACE!" In the past few days she hurries to her seat, says grace alone and starts eating. She doesn't understand that we should say it together if possible, "I SAID grace already Daddy!"
I have finally gotten over my own childhood embarassment over saying grace in public, hopefully something the kids will never pick up.
10. Favorite Saint(s)?
St. Therese of Liseux. She made it possible for the ordinary of us to know the way to become a Saint. I don't particularly want to become a Saint by martyrdom and can't consecrate my virginity (too late with 5 kids and being married).
11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?
12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
Though usually it's "Help me Lord Jesus".
13. Where is your favorite place to pray?
We have a little prayer corner in a quiet room in the house. Kneeling in front of the crucifix and a statue of the Blessed Mother helps me focus.
14. Bonus Question: When you pass by a automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
Yes, we say a Hail Mary when we hear an ambulance or fire engine too.
If you read this you are tagged!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Perfect Christmas Gifts

We really try to limit the number of gifts the children receive at Christmas. We don't have room for too many things in our house and the more toys they have the less they appreciate them. So, we and the relatives try very hard to look for what would suit each child. This year seems to be a success with perhaps some ideas you might use for your children in the future:
Will: Snap Circuits Extension Kit (he got the Jr version last year) with lots of electrical projects, just right for an inquisitive boy. Physics Workshop with lots of experiments. I Spy Fantasy computer game. (I still like playing the Pirate one better)
Mary: Let's Ride computer game with barrel racing. Paint-by-number of a horse's head. Horse puppet to go with the new puppet theater. (see a theme?)
Maggie: I Spy Puppet Theater computer game. Squeeze n Brush paintbrushes (the paint is in the handle-easy clean up) and a roll of paper to fit the easel.
Charlie: lots of cars and vehicles (I think 10 total!)
Poor Timmy didn't get anything from us but the usual love, kisses, mush, and Mommy milk. That is all a 6 month old needs anyway.

Charlotte's Web

I don't take the kids to movies very often, in fact, I don't go to movies very often myself (2 in the last 2 years). However, when my mother suggested we take several of the big kids to go see Charlotte's Web I agreed. (Boy, ticket prices are really through the roof! It was over $30 for 5 matinee tickets alone)

I really liked this movie. It was very close to the book (which in my eyes is a good thing) and the Maine scenery was breathtaking. The state really is full of hills and fields in soothing greens in the summer and brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds in the fall which is one of the reasons why we like to spend lots of time there. The story was funny, full of puns and jokes and then heart-tugging when poor Charlotte (with the voice of Julia Roberts, I believe) dies. My first reaction when the lights went up was, "Well done!" I highly recommend it to the 4 year old and up crowd in your family.

However, the preview for Bridge to Teribithia was horrid, full of scary fairies, a terrifying living tree, and magic castles. It is a far cry from the story of a innocent friendship and adventure that I read and loved as a child. My mother kept looking at me during the trailer plaintively saying, "What have they done!"

Friday, December 29, 2006

Praise of Homeschooling

According to this mostly positive Business Week article, homeschooling is the hip "new" thing, and some parents think that it might be the fast track to a Harvard acceptance letter.
No longer the bailiwick of religious fundamentalists or neo-hippies looking to go off the cultural grid, homeschooling is a growing trend among the educated elite. More parents believe that even the best-endowed schools are in an Old Economy death grip in which kids are learning passively when they should be learning actively, especially if they want an edge in the global knowledge economy. "A lot of families are looking at what's happening in public or private school and saying, 'You know what? I could do better, and I'd like to be a bigger part of my kid's life,"' says University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski.
In some circles homeschooling is even attaining a reputation as a secret weapon for Ivy League admission.Homeschooling is also more prominent in the popular culture, which is helping to de-stigmatize the choice and lend it some cachet among kids and their parents.
The near-perfect SAT-scoring Scot, a contestant on last year's ABC (DIS ) reality show The Scholar, was homeschooled. Home-learners have long swept the national spelling and geography bees. This year the $100,000 prize awarded by the famed Siemens Westinghouse Competition went to homeschooled 16-year-old mathematician Michael Viscardi.Viscardi's neuroscientist mother and engineer father pulled him out of the tony, oxford-and-shorts private school St. Mark's in Dallas because administrators wouldn't accelerate Viscardi in math, even though he was doing high school-level work in the fourth grade. Michael's mother, Eunjee Viscardi, says Michael initiated most of his own learning. The challenge was dealing with her fears that she was ruining his life by isolating him, something he countered with heavy involvement in the community youth orchestra. Michael is set to enter Harvard University this fall.
(It makes me chuckle, because we are members of the religious AND off the cultural grid crowds)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Homeschool Carnival

A Year and A Day is up, looks like it is full of interesting reads. Take a look!

And you thought they were there to learn

New York City education officials last year quietly approved more than 50 research projects related to health, psychology, race, ethnicity, gender and religion - mostly on kids in the poorest neighborhoods, a Post investigation has found.
Nearly 200 studies - some of them financed by multimillion-dollar grants - were OK'd.
All of the studies were conducted with parental consent. But as an incentive, parents and kids often were compensated. The city allows "modest cash payments" to parents and teachers and gift certificates for kids, education officials said.
"We have a laboratory of guinea pigs," said Granville Leo Stevens, a parent activist who refused to allow his daughter, Savanna, to participate in an NYU study at MS 104 in Manhattan last year.
"The Department of Education markets our kids like they're a piece of meat," said Stevens.
Some of the studies target students by race and ethnicity.
Maria Kromidas of Columbia Teachers College is doing a project about "Children and Race in New York City" by observing kids in a Queens elementary school with a largely immigrant student base. She wants to find out how children of different races get along.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It was inevitable that we homeschool

A recent research paper has been published by Eric Isenberg, titled: The Choice of Public, Private, or Home Schooling. It is a weighty tome, 36 pages in length and full of algabraic formulas calculating which families are more likely to homeschool or send their children to private school if they are dissastified with the local public school. Some of the of the variables studied include family size, other adults in the home, religion, public school quality,population density, and mother's education.
Situations which increase likelihood of homeschooling:
Low academic public school quality, especially when the parents are well educated
Mother is better educated (when children are young)
Father with higher education
Rural areas with no or few private schools
2 or more school-aged siblings
Families which include an infant and/or a toddler
Religious families (70% of homeschooled children are in very religious families, compared to 61% of private school children and 45% of public school children)
Evangelical Protestants (Catholics are more likely to use private schools)
Mothers with much time and little income (those with little time and much income tend to choose private schools)
The cumulative effects of all these factors can be strong.
The combination of our household having 2 educated married parents, being very religious, having an infant and a toddler at home, and having a mother with lots of time and no income has seemingly made it statistically impossible not to homeschool.
The decision to homeschool is not just a rational one, but emotional as well. Our decision about schooling incorporates what we think and feel about each choice available. We decided long before we had children that we would not send them to public school with its secular humanistic world view, its low academic standards, and the incredible peer pressure among students to be popular rather than smart. We would have considered private school if any offered a genuine Catholic education. However, our local Catholic elementary cost $4500 per child for a watered-down: "Jesus loves me, this I know; but I don't know much else" curriculum. That left homeschooling as our best option.
With 3 years of experience and test results under our belt we feel that we have made the right choice. However, homeschooling is the most challenging school option. It requires sacrifice, pure devotion, and courage to be successful. The more positive examples we hear from veteran homeschoolers the more it strengthens us. The internet has become a wonderful tool in encouraging homeschooling with email groups, bulletin boards, and of course blogs! So, if you know of a family that fits in some of the criteria above tell them your experience, they might decide to take a closer look at homeschooling.

Monday, December 25, 2006

From our family to yours

Merry Christmas!
We watched A Christmas Carol with G. Scott after dinner and baths last night. I had forgotten how scary and exciting this movie is. Will ducked his head behind a chair occasionally. Mary curled up into the smallest ball possible on Tim's lap to be protected during any frightning scenes. Maggie kept racing down the stairs and hiding in the kitchen so she didn't have to see or hear anything eerie. Gratefully Charlie was put to bed about 5 minutes into the movie. Timmy nursed and fell asleep before the opening credits even rolled. Afterwards we tucked everyone in with extra hugs and kisses, extra blankets and sips of water and said our usual, "Goodnight, sleep tight, see you in the morning."
This morning Will is serving 8am Mass, his best possible gift to Jesus. We will all attend 10:30 Mass and then come home and open gifts. Later this afternoon there is the obligatory extended family cocktail party.
"May God bless us every one," Tiny Tim said as he raised his cup.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Teacher Truency

Boy, don't I wish I could take a day off from teaching and head for the beach on a sunny day. I can imagine the breeze blowing my hair, the sun beating down on my face, a tacky romance novel in my hand while resting in a low-slung chair and my feet nestled in the sand. Or I could spend the day at the outlet mall, my arms laden only with packages and spending lunch in a cute cafe with exotic fare, then indulging in a chocolate treat.

I relinquished that option when I started homeschooling.
However, I'm possibly more deserving of a mental health day than public school teachers. They work 185 days a year and get 10 days paid sick leave. (a standard professional career requires 260 days of work with perhaps 10 days vacation) I teach well over 180 days of school, chaperone all field trips, act as the lunchroom monitor, serve as the bus driver, function as an advisor for music and sports activities, and supervise my students as well as their siblings for all other days of the year as well.
On the other hand, I don't have a school district tracking my sick days and trying to find out if I am home coughing into a hanky or skipping school for the day. If I want to brave the beach trying to balance a baby in arms and keeping fearless children out of the waves I am perfectly free to do so. If I want to slog through traffic for an hour listening to Toddler Time tapes and then drag cranky kids through outlets looking at fine china, then that is my decision (however insane it may be).
No matter how few days vacation I receive (0) or how little compensation I am given ($0) I am still glad that we are homeschooling. It isn't just a job, it is an exercise in love and commitment. Sometimes I just need a little reminder of that when I hear that siren song from the sand and surf.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rice Mush- Yum!

Timmy has started eating cereal and pureed fruit, but since he can't sit up in the high chair yet he is on the floor in his bouncy seat. Today the kitty sat next to Timmy and kept pushing on my hand for a scratch- while I was holding the long-handled feeding spoon. After a bit he became interested in what I was feeding the baby and gave Timmy's face a few swipes with his rough tongue. It was pretty humorous, if you are not neurotic about kitty germs (which I'm not). Of course when I put the bowl on the floor he completely ignored it. "I just wanted to lick the kid, not the mush," was my translation.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Homeschooler's Christmas poem

Twas the Night Before Christmas Homeschool Style(Author Unknown)
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the home,
Children were still studying for their test on Rome.
Mom was planning, she had just an hour,
To teach 'one more lesson' before their night shower.
A whole week of vacation, the children were thrilled,
But Mom saw the lesson plans, and the blocks were still filled.
"Can I stop for a day, much less a whole week?"
Just the thought of time off made me shudder and shriek!
Would they remember anything, would they fall behind?
"Lord, I need your help, just give me a sign!!!"
Then out on the sidewalk, I saw my four boys,
And I heard them say, "it's not about toys."
To the neighborhood kids, they explained Jesus' birth,
And how through Jesus, not toys, we gain our worth.
At that point, math and spelling and learning to write,
Meant little to me as I had lost the sight
Of what teaching at home was truly about.
Then I sat at my desk and began to pout.
The pouts turned to sobs, "Lord what have I done?
It's not about grades, but to follow your Son!"
"Please guide me and show me my job is to teach,
and turn them to you, and of Jesus I'll preach."
Now we'll put away books and not open them 'til later,
We'll focus on Jesus, our Lord and Creator.
It's His day and so we will all celebrate,
I'll never mention the words "behind" or "we're late".
So, Thank You, Lord, for blessing me,
With such a great husband and family
.Now homeschooling moms, TURN OUT THE SCHOOL LIGHT!
And, "Happy Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!"
This week is our Christmas vacation, other than a few wrap-up writing assignments. The rest of the week will be spent on Advent activities, Mass, and cookie baking.
I just let the kids loose in the kitchen with icing and sprinkles to decorate our 5000 Christmas cookies while I type. While they are not the most beautiful cookies (they still wouldn't be even if I did it myself), the kids are extra proud that they helped bake them. What are Christmas baking days if not a day to leave a floury cloud on the counter, a mess of crumbs on the floor, and a spattering of sprinkles on the table?
Don't worry dear, it will be cleaned up before you get home!

Moments like these

There is nothing more funny than to glance out the window and spy a little girl sprinting across the lawn wearing a dress and a matching blue latex swim cap. Unless you look up a minute later to notice that she has added wings and a halo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Homeschool Carnival

The next-to-last Carnival of the year is up at Principled Discovery.

Glad we are Roman Catholic now

The storm clouds in the Episcopal church have been building for years now, first with the acceptance of contraception, then the ordaining of female priests, and now with a openly gay "married" bishop. I converted to the Catholic faith from this Protestant denomination and feel that while the social aspects are somewhat lacking (those Anglicans do know how to give an elegant party), there is much more hope for reform within the Catholic Church. Certainly there are similarities liturgically and a "High Church" Anglican service is aestheticly more satisfying than a Novus Ordo Mass. However, I know that the Catholic faith alone contains the fullness of Truth. I am proud of these parishes for separating themselves from the Episcopalians, but would prefer them to jump the Tiber completely and come home.

© 2006
Bush, who has not made any secret of his Christian faith during his presidency, sometimes has attended St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington while he's in the area. But the Episcopal church as an organization is being torn into pieces these days because of the dispute over endorsing homosexual relationships.
... two of the leading Episcopal parishes in Virginia,
Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church, whose members announced plans to leave the Episcopal denomination and place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.
Akinola has described the church organization's widening acceptance of homosexual lifestyle choices as a "satanic" attack on the historic church organization.
The Episcopal denomination in the United States is a local division of the Anglican Church worldwide, and has been roundly condemned by many Anglican leaders in other parts of the world for its approval of an openly-homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson, as well as other related moves, in recent years.
"We are saddened when individuals decide they must leave the Episcopal Church, for we are diminished when any brother or sister departs from the community," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement.
Four Virginia congregations earlier announced their disaffiliation with the denomination, and several others have scheduled a vote. And one entire diocese, in Fresno, Calif., has begun the process of leaving the denomination.
The arguments going on now will be much more than spiritual, too, since under the Episcopal church structure, the denomination itself retains ownership of church buildings and property.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mindless Eating

I noticed the title of this book, Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink on Danielle Bean's blog, so when I spotted it on the new bookshelf at the local library I snatched it up. It is a combination of diet book and research study on such topics as how much people eat if their soup bowl mysteriously refills itself and if people eat more of a food with a fancy description on the menu. The results of these and other studies conducted by the author show us how we can easily be fooled into eating more and therefore gain weight. One of the studies had to do with eating favorite foods first or last.
"almost nobody ate either their favorite food or their least favorite food in the middle. The seemed to use one of two "eating strategies." They either "saved the best for last" or "ate the best one first."
...we discovered that people who ate the best one first often shared one of two characteristics: they either grew up as a youngest child or came from large families.
The people most likely to save the best for last, on the other hand, had grown up as only children or as the oldest. They could afford to save their favorite foods as a reward, knowing it would still be waiting for them at the end of the meal. It's different for children in big families, particularly of they're not the oldest. There is competition for food, even when there is plenty to eat. If you don't eat your favorite food first, you might lose out all together. Get it while you can."
I still remember being in cahoots with my mother on grocery shopping days. After the food was put away we would sneak some special treat like an huge platter of hot nachos or two entire tubes of Pringles before my brother realized they were there. He was the typical teenage boy with seemingly hollow legs, Mother could never make enough food to fill him up. On weekend mornings she would find him still comotose from his late night TV and snacking episodes, empty ice cream cartons and potato chip bags scattered around him. If there was no sweet items in the pantry he would just pull out the sugar bowl and eat heaping spoonfuls, leaving nothing for the next person who wanted a sprinkling on their cereal.
For a long time I would chow down after grocery shopping to mimic this childhood behavior. However, since now I have a husband who is content with only one comfort food: Breyers ice cream, the rest is left alone. I do realize though that in a few short years I will have several teenage boys in the house who might have inherited their uncle's hollow legs.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas pagent time

Our little Latin Mass chapel has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years and likely now has more children than adults in the congregation. Our family fits right in as there are many homeschoolers and 5 children is pretty close to the average. Participating in the Mass here has really given me hope and joy and is one of the few things I will miss when we move.

Today is the parish's 3rd annual Christmas pagent. One of the parishoners wrote it and it is the most Catholic pagent I have seen. Entitled "The Saints Visit the Manger" the play tells the traditional story of the Nativity and then announces, "there are some already with the Holy Family in Heaven, the Saints, who bring their gifts to the baby Jesus." A brief biography of each Saint is read as they come forward with their gift, they kneel before the infant and present it to Him.
Every child in the parish is welcome to be in the pagent and be any Saint they choose. Many of the great Saints are portrayed such as St. Joan of Arc, St. Rose of Lima, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Martin of Tours, St. John Bosco, St. Michael, St. Agnes, St. Patrick and of course St. Nicholas. Yesterday was the dress rehersal and it was the typical zoo, with lots of noise, confusion, and exasperation on the part of the CCD director. Amazingly enough, it all comes together on the day of the pagent and looks smooth and almost professional.
Our family is well represented in this year's production. Will is St. Maximillian Kolbe again and Mary is going to be St. Martin of Tours. She wanted to be a girl knight but St. Joan of Arc was already spoken for. Maggie is an angel for the second year and Timmy plays the part of the baby Jesus.
It is a beautiful pagent and I'm sure the Holy Family and the Saints in Heaven will be pleased.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

homeschool carnival submissions

If you would like to submit your blog article to you might have it read by thousands (okay, dozens) of other homeschool moms. It's fun, easy, and informative (do I sound like a late-night infomercial yet?) They are looking for articles and it does get your blog out there-try it!

Friday, December 15, 2006

I was wrong

Charlie is terrified of the Advent Wreath candles. When I put it on the dinner table he gets down from his high chair and runs to hide upstairs. Even if Will blows out the candles Charlie still says, "Put eath way! Put way!"
We constructed our little bedraggled wreath 7 years ago while in Italy and this is the first Advent we have not lit it and said the special prayer before dinner. While it upsets me to not continue the tradition, Charlie will be a year older and more reasonable next year. However, I am aware that it is entirely possible that Timmy will then be old enough to make a similar protest.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's all about the money

Our school doesn't have substitute teachers, movie days, sick days, field trip days, or teacher prep days. Well, we have them, but I certainly don't count them as one of our official 180 days of "school". Substitute? Poor Tim tried to teach them once. Math alone took 2 hours. Movies are relegated to afternoons (after schoolwork is finished) with bad weather. If a kid is sick then they don't have school or we do a bit in bed, but I don't count it. Field trips are great, but we still get our regular work done too. Teacher prep is on Sunday afternoons with a cup of tea. See a trend? We, and most homeschoolers, only count a day of school as a day when we get get schoolwork done, unlike the public schools.
Superintendents seem to believe that if a child is in the building they are learning something and now they give prizes for just showing up. Somehow I don't think the Wyoming schools are giving any of the homeschoolers with perfect attendance a free car.
CASPER, Wyoming (AP) -- Public schools commonly reward excellent attendance with movie tickets, gas vouchers and iPods. But some diligent students ...are now hitting the ultimate teenage jackpot for going to school: They have won cars or trucks.
In most cases the car or truck is donated by a local dealership, and the prizes typically are awarded through drawings open only to students with good attendance.
"I can't tell you that it's increased attendance," district spokesman Terry D'Italia said. "But what it has done over the years is just kept a focus on it and kept it at the top of kids' minds."
Jack Stafford, associate principal at South Tahoe High School, said attendance increased slightly last year, the first year the school system gave away a car, and is up slightly so far this year. He said changing times call for such incentives.
Only 98 of Natrona County's 3,200 sophomores, juniors and seniors were eligible for last year's drawing. They were allowed only one excused absence, and no unexcused ones.
Districts have a lot to gain and little to lose by holding car drawings. The vehicles are usually free. And in Wyoming, even a one-student increase in average daily enrollment means another $12,000 in state funding for the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

North Carolina, here we come!

Tim just got word that he was invited (and given permission from the Navy) to do a fellowship. We are all so excited! Sure, it will involve work such as packing up, house hunting, and leaving friends and family, but there are new adventures in front of us. My mind races, "What do I need to do now to get ready," but I caution myself, "there will be plenty of time. Focus on the here and now-Advent and Christmas". One thing I can and must do now is to say, "Thank you, dear Jesus for this opportunity. May we remember to thank you every day for this gift and not grumble when things get difficult".

Family roots and branches

A few weeks ago, while reading Seton's 3rd grade history text The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas Will and I stumbled across something interesting. Apparently, after the Maryland Colony's Toleration Act of 1649 was passed, a Virginia Protestant named William Claiborne led military attacks into Maryland. He hated Catholics and captured Father White, SJ. The priest was put in chains and sent back to England.
Well, that struck my interest, especially because I have a cousin named A. Claiborne. We pulled out the huge geneology charts that everyone in the family were given as gifts one year for Christmas (great for looking for baby names) and ah-ha, found old William (1600-1677). I looked him up in Wikipedia and in the on-line Encyclopedia Britannica, but struck paydirt when I spoke to a pleasant girl also named Katherine at The Virginia Historical Society. She directed me to several promising titles I could request over inter-library loan: Virginia Venturer, A Historical Biography of William Claiborne and Papists and Puritans in Early Maryland (a doctoral dissertation). Well, the library called yesterday so I am eager to begin reading to see what I can find.
This reminds me of doing research for a paper in my History of Virginia class in college. I spent hours scrolling through microfilm rolls to find census records and Civil War paybooks. My finished paper was bound at Kinkos and given as gifts to all the aunties for Christmas that year. I somehow don't think they would be as keen to receive a story of how old anti-Catholic William Claiborne is likely rolling over in his grave due to some of his decendants converting to the Catholic faith.

new homeschool carnival is up

At Apollos Academy. It's a huge carnival and promises to include lots of ideas to help make your Christmas a little calmer and your homeschooling more festive. (or is it the other way round?)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If I do say so myself

Getting ready for Mass on Sunday I told Maggie, "You look as cute as a button."

She shook her head no and said, "I look as cute as a flower growing."

Yesterday, after I put her wispy hair into two curly "pinktails" she announced, "Mommy, look at me. I'm adorable."

We sent out our Christmas cards a few days ago and while Mary is sulking in the picture, Maggie more than makes up for it with her impish little grin and her head sporting those adorable "pinktails."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas blog quiz

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Christmas Story

Loving, fun, and totally crazy.
Don't shoot your eye out!

It still takes a family

Ol' socialist Hillary is out there warming up, getting ready for her big presidential run in '08 and one thing she felt she needed to do was update her "parenting" book, It Takes a Village.
Maybe Hillary grew up in a place and time when most children had intact families and neighbors felt free to offer advice and correction to all the kids on the block. But, it isn't like that anymore, due to folks like Mrs. Clinton. The feminists, the liberals, and their ilk left America a much more expensive and more lonely place to raise children. The 50+% rates of divorce and illegitimacy have wiped out the financial and social stability effect of the family. Fewer mothers stay home with their children due to the oppressive tax structure we now have, not to mention the social stigma of "wasting a college education to change nappies". Elites have also turned parenting into a competitive sport, trying to pit moms against each other in every aspect of child-rearing.
Her entire concept of big goverment replacing what is a simple and efficient structure is horrifying to me. We have seen where this is leading socialist Europe: a increasingly elderly population with high taxes and very few children. According to social scientists Italy, Greece, Spain, and Germany will, in the next 40 years, basically cease to exist simply because of demographics.
This was one of the reviews of her original edition on Amazon:
The book in its introduction describes how family life used to be.
Its primary focus is the need for "investment" to end great social ills such as poverty, homelessness, and illegitamacy. While well intentioned this ignores the failure of government intervention to solve these problems. In the almost 40 years since the New Frontier was first proposed we have seen only limited results, from increased "investment" (taxes). That increased tax dollars have marginally narrowed poverty, abuse, and neglect found within inner cities.
Government funded good intentions are often the greatest enemy to the same people Ms. Clinton is trying to protect. Often leading many to be unable to escape griding poverty, illegitamacy, and abuse she is trying to protect.
The focus should be on greater self reliance, rather than on creating a whole new generation of children who are unable to escape the stranglehold of increasingly repressive Orwellian system.
I am a big advocate of a limited goverment that doesn't take most of the money we earn, stays out of our personal lives, and allows parents to exercise the God-given right to educate our children as we see fit.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

great race!

Yesterday I braved the icicles on my nose and freezing fingertips- (okay, it was only 35F) to run another 5K. I beat my previous best (adult) time by almost 90 seconds. I really don't think I should count times from 20 years ago as a reasonable goal. Do you?

New best time: 23:40.

Tim took all 5 kids to Mass and then hung around at church for Mary's Little Flowers meeting.

Isn't he a great husband and father? I think so too.

Especially since I got home late, due to having to stick around longer than I anticipated to collect my 3rd place medal (thank you very much), and poor Tim was shoving rice mush in Timmy's screaming mouth to pacify his hunger. We all pitched in making lunch, I nursed Timmy and got all the babies in the bed. Then I could finally share the race highlights with my husband. He runs, but doesn't see the point in racing for fun. However, he encourages me and listened to my play-by-play of the race. The not-being-able to find my friend, Coralie, until 5 minutes before the race started, the easy 7 min first mile, the back and forth battle between myself and another woman runner for 2 miles, her encouragement "come on, keep it up!" at the last turn, the pulling out all the stops at the end, and the doughnuts (Krispy Kreme, yum) and hot chocolate feast afterwards. After my report, I took the girls Christmas shopping while the boys worked on a model airplane.
The only downside was when I got into the shower I realized that my Miraculous Medal was missing. I must have pulled it off when I took off my sweatshirt before the race. Please pray that I find it. Tim gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago and I haven't taken it off since.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

homeschoolers get to hug

This article doesn't explain why a 4 year old is in school, but it does show why it would be better for them to be at home. In a Texas government school system a small child that gives a hug can be suspended for "inappropriate touching". What rot!! Little children need to be hugged and to give hugs- that is just the way they are designed. It makes me so grateful, yet again, that we homeschool and I don't have to worry about such nonsense. Maggie, our 4 year old, loves to have her back scratched, to give Italian kisses (on both cheeks), and to lie down with her head in my lap. All these acts are sweet and innocent and natural.
By homeschooling, our children are also not exposed to "sex ed" in their early years, destroying their innocence and purity. Will finally asked on the eve of his 8th birthday how a baby come out of a mommy's tummy. I gave a scant explanation and assume one day in the next few years he will ask how the baby gets in there. These subjects should be discussed in the context of living a moral life, by parents.
However, the government schools can't seem to keep truly scandalous predators away from our children. From this story we can read:
No single national agency tracks sex-related cases against teachers. However, it's estimated there are at least several hundred such incidents each year across the country, said Nan Stein, director of a project on sexual harassment in schools at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.
In 1998, Education Week searched newspaper archives and computer databases and found 244 cases in a six-month period involving allegations ranging from unwanted touching to sexual relationships and serial rape.
(We had one of these teachers at my school when I was in junior high and while she eventually went to prison it destroyed the youth of several boys)
Parents instinctively protect their babies and toddlers from all harm, physical and emotional but then hand over complete control when the child reaches the tender age of 5. Protect them from the public schools, which seem to be chock-full of adults who at the same time do not know what is natural behavior for children and also desire to scandalize them. If you don't homeschool your children, consider it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Raising Citizens, not Consumers

I have written about this before, how grateful I am that our children have not been sucked into the materialistic culture, mostly by our not having a TV. Tim and I also try to emphasize that "things" are not important and how living simply brings us closer to God. We haven't bothered giving the kids an allowance, but do pay them for extra chores like vaccuming out the van. So these few bucks might get spent at the Dollar store for a plastic gun, but usually it just languishes in their piggy banks.
Children under 14 influenced as much as 47 per cent of American household spending in 2005, amounting to more than $700 billion, marketing consultant James McNeal estimates. That figure is made up of $40 billion of children's own spending power, $340 billion in direct influence ("I want a Dell") and $340 billion in indirect influence ("I know little Timmy would prefer us to buy the Lexus"). "The parents have ceded control. Children are making decisions about most household products," says McNeal. Companies have discovered that it is often more effective to recruit a child as an in-home marketer than to try to convince a parent to buy their products. Advertisers are lining up to buy time on Nickelodian, a children's TV channel. offers games and colouring pages to teach children about the joys of owning a colossal sport-utility vehicle. ~ The Economist, November 30
At first I laughed at the thought of the kids asking me for specific purchases. Will and Mary got the idea yesterday of writing Christmas lists. Mary went through the dictionary and came up with 15 items, including a puppy, fish, and a turtle (all her items were spelled correctly, I might add). Will's paper was titled: "Wat I want for Cristmas: 1. a gun 2: a cell fone 3. butse" (boots).
Their Christmas gifts are already purchased, and let me say now, there will be no animals, guns, or electronic devices under the tree.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Joy

Charlie (2) is so excited about Christmas and his enthusiasm is catching. We haven't put up our tree yet, but wherever we go, the YMCA, Walmart, the library, he runs to the Christmas Tree displayed hollering, "Mismus Tee, mismus tee!" Don't get between him and tinsel, ornaments, or lights, I'm warning you now. He touched the lights yesterday at the YMCA, "ot, Mama, ot." "Yes, Charlie, they are hot." Mary then reached to touch. "No, Ary, ot!" It's all so new for him and makes us all smile and removes all possible wearyness about preparations for the holiday. Even the molded chocolate image of a Christmas Tree under the flap on his Advent Calender made him burst out in excitement at finding yet another decorated tree.
Will lights the Advent wreath at dinner after we say grace each evening. Charlie's eyes get huge, "ire, ire!!" At first I thought he was frightened by the flame, but soon figured out that he wanted them all lit.
We started playing Christmas music a few days ago so Charlie likes to lie on his tummy in front of the speaker listening. When one song ends and the random shuffle is randomly shuffling he begins to despair, "uhhhh, no usic!" I can't tell you how many times I have had to say, "It's okay Charlie, the music will start...," as I hear the strains begin, ""
I am a little wary of what is going to happen when we bring our own tree home and then Tim puts the Lionel train around the tree. Charlie is going to generate so much friction racing around that he may just spontaneously combust.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Domestic Monastery

I came across this beautiful article while reading my friend Tracy's blog archives.
Here is a snippet:
" Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her (the mother) with what St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called the "monastic bell". All monasteries have a bell. Bernard, in writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them... The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time for that task and time isn't your time, it's God's time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's agenda.
Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while raising children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times during the day and she has to drop things in mid-sentence and respond, not because she wants to, but because it's time for that activity and time isn't her time, but God's time."
Boy, this sums up hard-hitting reality that I fight with every day. My time is not my own. I am called by God to respond to the needs of the moment, to serve with love. My selfishness comes to the surface many times a day when that bell rings (a baby with a nasty nappy, a thirsty toddler, a hungry infant, a injured preschooler) and I don't want to stop what I am doing to respond. But I do, and need to learn to do it without grumbling. For this is what God wants me to do, to hear that bell and respond with a cheerful heart.
Last night I read a beautiful prayer by Mother Theresa, which I had to add to this post:
Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

new homeschool carnival is up

The week seems to fly by, everytime I turn around there is a new homeschool carnival (boy, they sure have a lot to say). Here is this week's at Corn and Oil.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Baby teeth

Will lost a baby tooth yesterday (his 4th) at breakfast so I put it in a ziplock baggie and placed it on the kitchen counter. Last night as I was shooing the kids up the stairs to bed I remembered it and went into the kitchen to retrieve the bag.

"Where is Will's tooth?" I asked Tim.

"Ooops. I accidently put it in the trash."

Usually Tim is not concerned with things I consider valuable like newborn wristbands from the hospital, treasured stuffed animals, a child's first scribblings. You know, the stuff you want to present to them when they grow up to prove you loved them and treasured every stage of their life. Luckily, he realized how precious this baby tooth was to me and averted a crisis by immediately offering to go through the trash can, already at the curb. Ten minutes later the baggie with tooth was safely under Will's pillow with a quick explanation.

The dollar the tooth fairy left (yes, they know there is no such thing, but they play along for the cash) has been burning a hole in Will's pocket all day. He hasn't spent it yet, but had a lot of ideas of what he could do with his precious dollar.
I am so grateful that I have a husband who is willing to go out on a cold night with a flashlight to search for an 8 year old's bit of childhood.
Maybe one day I could make a necklace out of all the children's baby teeth, like the bear hunters of yore. With 5 children's worth of ivory hanging around my neck people would hear me coming from a mile away. Luckily, I'm not much of a jewelry enthusiast.

How much does it cost to educate a child?

Some homeschoolers can educate their children for almost free with resources from the internet and the library and a lot of imagination. Other parents can end up spending thousands on every new book, workbook, game, reading program out there.
We use a middle approach, enrolling in Seton, which costs about $450 per child per year, but not spending much beyond that in extras. I really benefitted from reading a lot of homeschooling book from the library. All the authors stressed not going overboard on spending at conferences and over the internet. I recall hearing Ginny Seuffert (a homeschooling mom of 12) relate how she hears from moms, "I tried Singapore Math and MCP Math, and then Saxon, and I found all these flaws in each. We are going to try Math Power game next..." Ginny said, "The mom spent so much time and money trying out all these programs to "best" fit her child. If she had spent some of that time teaching the child math using nothing but a stick in the dirt outside he would have learned the math by now!"
Can you imagine spending $50,000 to homeschool one teen? An article from explaining how homeschooling has even penetrated the Big (liberal) Apple with parents who want the absolute best for their children.
The most wasteful example is Washington DC, which spends over $9000 per child in the public school system and has the worst results of any state/district. Bill Gates (who sends his 3 children to private school) finds big problems with public schools, but he simply wants more money thrown at the problem. "Pay teachers more, find better teachers" is the mantra.
No amount of money alone will help a child learn. That comes from love, a stable family, and parents who are inspired to help their children learn.
And that is priceless.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Our Jesse Tree

Well, I had grand intentions, envisoning a beautiful tree with delicate ornaments hanging from its branches. I had high hopes of children calmly sitting at my knee, each taking turns raising the pictures from the Bible onto the branches, and asking eagerly, "please Mommy I want to hear more stories before we open our Advent calender."
"Get real," I should have told myself.
The kids decided that they would draw the pictures for the tree, so we had 5 ornaments to put on the first night and 6 the second. Each is only identifiable by the owner, "That's an apple! No, it looks like the world." These handcrafted pieces of art are each tied with red ribbon to hang on the tree. The tree itself is made of branches fallen in our yard and spray painted silver. They are sitting in a quite lovely Chinese bowl filled with sand.
As soon as I start tying the ribbon on someone gets distracted by the Advent calenders, one of which is a charming wooden nativity scene that you add a figure to each day. Today Maggie lost the first piece we hung up last night (will Leaflet Missel sell us one shepherd?) Then the commotion grows as they realize that soon, and to them it means now, it will be time for opening the chocolate Advent calenders from the commissary. I lose my temper and threaten, "No Advent calenders if you don't sit down!"
I did buy several Christmas stories at Barnes and Noble today, including Advent Storybook (the link is on the sidebar) and The First Christmas Stocking. A few days ago I pulled all my Christmas books so we have a large stack to choose from, but I always include The Little Golden Book version of the Nativity story each evening. However, I change the part of the angels speaking to the shepherds to read "peace to men of good will".
So, it might not be the most beautiful Jesse Tree out there, and it may not be the calm I sought, but through reading about and creating, and hanging those soon to be dozens of ornaments, we will hopefully see the true meaning of Christmas.
(update: Charlie found the missing shepherd Monday morning)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Manners 101

It tickles me everytime I am downstairs on the computer early in the morning and I hear the slap of tiny feet on the stairs. "Why? Doesn't that disturb your only quiet time?" you ask.
Well, yes, but it's because I get to hear Maggie's or Charlie's squeeky voices say, "Good morning... May I please have some hot cocoa (Maggie) or milk (Charlie)?" I couldn't stand it a while back when they would come downstairs and demand me to fetch them breakfast. This way is much more civilized and leaves everyone in a better mood.
I am so glad we have taught our children to say please and thank you, to address other grownups as Mr. or Miss, and to call us Sir and Ma'm. And I am glad we are not the only ones doing it as this article from the Washington Post shows. The key is starting young. Charlie is able to say a lot of words now, but at 2 he is still at the "look Mommy big boat!" "two school bus!" phase. He sounds so darn cute that usually I will give in when I hear "Uce Peas" and pull myself away from the computer to fetch him that juice. My reward? "Tank ewe".