Saturday, March 31, 2007

the drum beats are getting louder...

Breaking news: Bertone confirms motu proprio

In an interview for the cover story (pages 56-60) of Le Figaro Magazine (weekly magazine of the French national daily Le Figaro), published today (not yet available on the newspaper's website); excerpt:

Is a Decree widening the possibility of celebrating the Latin Mass according to the rite from before Vatican II (the so-called Mass of Saint Pius V) still expected?
[Secretary of State] Cardinal Bertone: The merit of the conciliar liturgical reform is intact. But both [for reasons of] not losing the great liturgical heritage left by Saint Pius V and for granting the wish of those faithful who desire to attend Masses according to this rite, within the framework of the Missal published in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with its own calendar, there is no valid reason not to grant to priests in the entire world the right to celebrate according to this form. The authorization of the Supreme Pontiff would evidently preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI. The publication of the motu proprio which specifies this authorisation will take place, but it will be the pope himself who will explain his motivations and the framework of his decision. The Sovereign Pontiff will personally explain his vision for the use of the ancient Missal to the Christian people, and particularly to the Bishops.
For the Record: American Episcopal Conference (USCCB) news agency: motu proprio "expected soon"

Article by John Thavis, Rome correspondent of the Catholic News Service, the news agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
By John ThavisCatholic News ServiceVATICAN CITY (CNS) --
Sometime soon, Pope Benedict XVI is expected to broaden permission to use the Tridentine Mass, a long-standing request of traditionalists who favor the rite used before the Second Vatican Council.
h/t to Rorate Caeli

When did I go from Mommy to Mom?

A few months ago I was overwhelmed with the amount of paper bits accumulated from 3 children's art projects, first scribblings, awards, and such. After several were destroyed by baby Timmy I bought cardboard boxes, wrote their names on them and put them up high for safety. With limited space only the most precious papers go in the boxes, but these notes written by Will are certainly worthy. The children made a tree fort yesterday in the crape myrtle out front, dragging every toy, boot, helmet, and chair to furnish it. I was upstairs reading and these messages were delivered to me.

To MOM From will We have a new house, in Main. And It is nice out here. Will
To MOM The nabor chidren are comeing ni our house. It is anoiing, and I would like to have you come over to our house to chat and talk aboute it. 3719 Tree rd. 23329
(the neighbor children were their younger brother and sister) Did you notice all the commas? Just covered that in English, as well as addresses.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Catholic schools

My brother attended a Catholic high school for a few years before it closed due to increased costs and dwindling enrollment. The order of nuns that taught for over 100 years had disappeared due to an embrace of liberalism in the 1960's. Interestingly, the newer, outer shell of the building was dismantled, leaving the small original structure intact. It was rehabbed, per the historic committee's orders and is currently for sale. Perhaps someone could buy it, charge a fortune for tuition, and call it an academy. Instant success, according to this article in the New York Post.
The New York Archdiocese is inviting youngsters back to a Greenwich Village parish schoolhouse it shuttered last year - at $25,000 a pop.
Now, working-class parents who had paid about $2,500 to send their children to the former St. Joseph's School on Washington Place are calling its conversion to a private academy targeting well-heeled New Yorkers this fall the height of hypocrisy.
We had a similar transformation this past year at the local Episcopal school when they upped the price of tuition and started calling themselves Christopher Academy, rather than St. Christopher's.
I can't justify spending several thousands per child for tuition to a "Catholic in-name-only" school, much less a six-figured sum for an "academy" education. The only way to return to a solid system of parochial education is for many more families to be open to life and encourage vocations in their children. Rather than close schools, parishes could open their doors to parents who want special classes for their home and public schooled children. Priests and bishops could promote authentic Catholic education and vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Bishops could set high standards of orthodoxy and punish dissenting priests. Catholics could be taught the basics of the Faith, instead of wishy-washy garbage and then be more likely to follow Church teaching. Perhaps if all these come to pass, there will be oodles of nuns to teach our grandchildren and scads of priests to administer the sacraments.

field trips

Nose in a Book has a good post about a recent trip to a science museum.
Back when we were first homeschooling we took a trip to the opening of a big exhibit at the local zoo. The flyer said that the opening day would be reserved for members only, so I figured we would have exclusive time with the animals, especially the elephants. However, when we arrived I knew it was going to be a zoo, literally. There were dozens of city schoolbuses in the parking lot, all filled with chattering, screaming, and out-of-control children. The morning was a disaster with my biggest concern not losing one of the kids in the chaos. After an hour I gathered my crew to hit the road and the local diner for lunch. We came back a few days later when there was peace and quiet.
My recommendations for field trips include, getting to the museum as early as possible, sit down and wait for the crowd to pass by (they only stay at each place for 5 minutes), and figuring out which direction the biggest groups are going and go the opposite direction. Schelduling trip at the very beginning and end of the school year usually results in only encountering other families. If crowds in general are not your thing then outdoor exhibits like Jamestown and Williamsburg are best enjoyed in the late fall and winter, not in the steamy summer months.
Also, if a museum is a big hit with your kids, like the Virginia Living Museum was with ours, buy a family membership. It usually is only slightly more money than one admission, and you can get newsletters announcing special perks and classes, as well as the freedom to visit anytime for an entire year. Some of our member specials included seeing special planetarium shows, gazing at the biggest snapping turtle in captivity, touching a blue tongued skink, crawling inside a LEGO sub, and patting pythons. Some were not my cup of tea, but the kids loved it and learned so much more than they would have if they had come in a big yellow bus.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

happy 9 month birthday

to my little blue eyed Gerber baby. Timmy has been on the speed track developmentally, trying to keep up with his siblings. He has already crawled up the stairs several times in the past week. Do you know how hard it is to deal with baby gates with 4 other children in the house? He is also the most delightful baby, going down for naps without a fuss, smiling with that still toothless grin, and giggling uncontrollably when tickled.
As much as I dislike changing nappies and spooning mush into mouths I hope he is not our last. For someone who didn't plan to have any babies, I certainly think they are marvelous now!
Speaking of Gerber babies, if you go to their web site, you can order these really cool and cheap frames. I have one for each of the children engraved with their name and birthday on our mantel. The short handled spoons are great too, just the right size for little mouths.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

a general daily scheldule

My husband considers me an extraordinary woman, juggling homeschooling and keeping up the house. I run a tight ship, that's for sure, and if you walked in the door right now you would find a clean house, laundry folded and put away, bread baking in the machine, the babies napping, and the older ones watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Okay, some days I don't think about what we are having for supper until 5pm and then weakly say, "How about Chinese takeout?" but most days I am on top of things. How? By having a routine, sticking to it and at the same time being flexible.

Our general daily routine begins with wake up about 7am, followed by breakfast, dressing, brushing teeth and tidying rooms. School starts at 9 and we are usually finished by 12. During school I am up and down getting juice, keeping the little ones busy, and nursing the baby. I also bring down the laundry and clean up the kitchen. After lunch I put the babies down for a nap and get a lie down to read while the older ones play quietly. Afternoon is filled with reading books, playing, and games for the kids and I tidy up and vacuum. Supper is usually early and followed by baths, stories, prayers and bed. I usually fold the laundry and put it on dresser tops during bathtime. Another help is our cleaning lady who scrubs everything once a week.

I have read Holly Pierot's Mother's Rule of Life and was inspired, but then got bogged down in her scheldule broken down into 15 min increments. My life changes every day with one in preschool and riding and piano lessons for the others that I need something much more flexible. I think I have hit on the answer and am amazed that my home is much more organized with 5 children than it ever was when I only had 1 or 2.

Baby #6

Congratulations to Michelle on the announcement of her pregnancy. God bless all unborn babies, but especially those whose mommies have to undergo the, "Don't you know what causes that?" question 8 times a day for the entire pregnancy. She wrote a great post that I want to xerox and give out to busybodies in the grocery everytime I am asked dumb and rude questions.
I was blessed yesterday during a long expedition at the commissary to have 5 well behaved children. Two people even told me how beautiful they were (of course they are, they are MY children). An older gentleman asked, "How do you keep them so quiet and good?" I responded, "I bribe them, plain and simple!" The grocery and Mass are the only places I do this, the first with candy at the checkout if they are good and doughnuts for children that I don't have to take out for the second. It only took a few times without for even a 2 year old to understand.
We have been asked numerous times in the past few weeks if we want to have more children (do they know something I don't?) and have taken the cheater's way out by saying, "I would like another girl to even things up." Sunday I was asked by an older lady, "Why you have so many children? Why you not normal?" She was Japanese so I didn't take offense at her word usage and tried to explain that we follow Church teaching regarding contraception and how much we love our children. What makes a family with 2 children "normal" and a family with 5+ children not? I so wish that more Catholic families would be open to life and welcome more babies, even if the culture at large does not. I expect many more rude comments and questions, but I am grateful for the internet, connecting friends who help celebrate and commiserate about our large broods!

65th Carnival of Homeschooling

Is up at Alasandra. There are some great post titles that sound like they will be great to read!

oh, what a beautiful morning

One of the greatest pleasures is waking refreshed, listening to the birds singing, feeling the spring breeze, and seeing the blooms of flowering trees. It gives me hope in the future and peace in my soul. I recall feeling this same way as a child when I went walking in the woods hearing the call of mourning doves and seeing the sun rise over the river. The magnificence of God's love is so apparent to those who look and listen carefully.
I promise to help my children learn to sit quietly to see and hear God in prayer and in the beauty of the world around us.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I love these little quizzes!

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have low extroversion.
You are quiet and reserved in most social situations.
A low key, laid back lifestyle is important to you.
You tend to bond slowly, over time, with one or two people.


You have high conscientiousness.
Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.
Most things in your life are organized and planned well.
But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have medium neuroticism.
You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.
Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy.
Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is low.
You're a pretty conservative person, and you favor what's socially acceptable.
You think that change for novelty's sake is a very bad idea.
While some may see this as boring, many see you as dependable and wise.

house still for sale

After 3 weeks, over a dozen showings, and one offer, our house is still on the market. I eagerly read articles titled "How to Sell Your Home" and listen to the real estate show on the radio for secrets in this slow market. Last week the gal on the radio said that what every home needs is outside sprucing up so the warm weather found me weeding and sweeping the street in front of the house. Yesterday I got a new magazine that featured an article about staging a home for sale, promising a speedy and lucrative closing.
Staging is a step beyond cleaning and de-cluttering a home- it is de-personalizing it so it resembles a model. Apparently if a buyer sees pristine, sparse, and neutral decor then they are more likely to purchase. The suggestions include taking down personal items, taking out toys and photos, keeping garbage cans out of sight, removing everything from the front of the fridge, putting away small appliances from the counter, and removing rugs. So I immediately got to work, even though I really needed to do a bit of school with the kids, make dinner, and visit my mother in the hospital. I did clean out the hall closet, then reality hit. There are 7 people living in this house and we aren't gone all day at work or school- we live here, this staging thing is impossible. Where am I supposed to put the trash can? Do I want the children to think I am ashamed of our Catholic faith by taking down icons and statues? Do I want to fight with everyone else every day about having games and stuffed animals on their beds rather than hidden in the attic? Why should I take down photos of family and friends? Do I want to have to lug the toaster out every time I want to make toast?
The house itself is beautiful and is clean and tidy. It will sell and I don't need to stage it or bury St. Joseph in the yard to have it happen.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I won!

This morning was a combination of perfect race weather and the perfect setting. The Botanical Garden's azaleas and camellias fragrance filled the air as we looped through the woods. It was chilly enough for a sweatshirt, but warm enough for a tshirt during the race itself. I ran a adult best time of 23:08 and placed 1st in my age group. I had planned to take off a few months from any races, but now I'm going to see if I can find another easy 5K in a few weeks. Running helps me mentally and physically and I need the carrot at the end of the stick to get me motivated.

Friday, March 23, 2007

story of the world

Will and I just finished reading together Story of the World Vol 2, The Middle Ages. While we didn't use the study guide and just read a few chapters every week, we really enjoyed Susan Wise Bauer's storytelling style to give us an overview of history. The globe sure got a workout as I pulled it out every time to help him understand the context and geography. I have to decide soon if we are going to begin Vol 3 now or wait until the fall, but I have a feeling that Will is going to ask me to start reading the next one pretty soon, "Please can we read more Mommy?"
I have noticed that when I start a new project like this one, learning Latin, or the piano I just tell Will to, "suck it up and learn it," while with Mary I tend to back off if she is not interested. They have different learning styles and different interests and Mary's might already be pushed to her limit being a year ahead in school. Perhaps I have been too soft, not forcing her to listen to extra history or learn Latin vocabulary. However, it is not like she is spending all her free time goofing off, but but hiding in corners of the house to read her "horsey" books.

conservative, not republican

This story out of the LA Times struck me, but did not give explain well why so many people are no longer defining themselves as members of the GOP. My take is that the party now has shifted so far to the left that they no longer represent conservative views. They are certainly not pro-life and are increasingly liberal in terms of border security and spending our tax money on socialist programs and pork-barrel political garbage. Unless someone like Fred Thompson becomes the Republican's nominee for President in '08, I will end up voting for the Constitutional Party's candidate.
"Public allegiance to the Republican Party has plunged since the second year of George W. Bush's presidency, as attitudes have edged away from some of the conservative values that fueled GOP political dominance for more than a decade, a major new survey has found.
...other Republicans believe such poll results signal a clear end to the era of GOP domination that began with President Reagan's election, continued when the party took control of Capitol Hill in 1994, and helped elect Bush twice to the White House."There are cycles in history where one party or one movement ascends for a while and then it sews the seeds of its own self-destruction," said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative analyst and author of a 2006 book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted American and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.""It's clear we have come to an end of a Republican conservative era," he said.
Republicans seem to be paying a price for a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the state of the country during the Bush years. Three out of 10 people said they were satisfied with the way things are going in the country--a 25-point drop in the last seven years."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

room to read

I just finished reading a exhilarating book by John Wood, called Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children. On a backpacking trip to Nepal John was asked to bring back some books for the local school, since they only had 5 books (and these were locked up). Over the next 10 years he founded an non-profit organization, Room to Read, to build and fill libraries and schools in Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Laos, and Cambodia. Over 2600 libraries have been built and filled with over 1.2 million books.
The book tells the inspiring story of how Mr. Wood created a low-overhead, tangible result model that all charities should emulate.
I love to read and spent many hours in my childhood in the basement of the local library. My first real job was as a page: re-shelving, checking out books for patrons, and helping people find specific titles or subjects. I have often bought children's stories to leave at the pediatric clinic at our hospital for parents to read to their bored kids (especially being military-socialized medicine routinely means very long waits). Books have meant such a lot to me, I can't imagine what it would be like to not have access to a library. While reading this book, I imagined the thrill of watching pack animals laboring up the mountain pass carrying hundreds of books. While I can't fly to Nepal to stock the local school library, I can pass on a love of reading to my 5 little chickadees. In fact, perhaps I'll start today with an afternoon trip to the library.

pray with me

We have found out that Mother's cancer has spread up to around her lungs and therefore, is stage 4. On the plus side, she is out of the ICU and could be sent home soon. She does needs to eat and regain some strength so she can start chemotherapy. She and I calmly talked the other evening about end of life issues and I told her that it would make me very happy if she would talk with our priest. He is a very kind and gentle man and will help immensely put her soul at ease. He met with her the next day and made her laugh. He had good things to say about her too, so I am encouraged and grateful. I am making a Novena to St. Joseph that she be healed and convert to the Catholic Faith.
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

female drivers

I overheard Maggie trying to explain stop lights to her little brother Charlie, "red means stop, green means go, yellow means go really fast!"

64th homeschool carnival

Spring has sprung

The past two days I have gone running in a t-shirt and shorts. The forsythia, quince, tulip and star magnolias, and daffodils are all beginning to bloom. Warmth has filled the air. I love this time of year when the plants outside are calling me to come walk among them admiring their fuzzy buds getting ready to unfurl. I even mowed the grass for the first time this year yesterday.
The children are also eager about playing outside as well. They pulled out soccer balls and wagons and even the umbrella to play our Winnie the Pooh "tut-tut, it looks like rain" game. I quickly had to go through the kid's clothing bins and pull out short sleeve shirts and shorts. Last week we had to bundle the children up in blankets and gloves, hats and coats, now they can play outside without me having to say, "Put on your socks and shoes, it's cold outside!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the daily battle

This article in Brain, Child magazine has provoked a few homeschooling mothers to write posts about the author's use of the term "excessive mothering." I wanted to write more about the very real daily battles that occur over schooling.

No, I don't have to wake my children up at the crack of dawn to get dressed, eat, gather their backpacks, and be standing at the curb at 7:30am for the bus. No, I don't have to spend all evening cramming in hours of homework while simultaneously cleaning the supper dishes and giving baths to babies. I don't have to argue, "I'm not buying you the latest IPod or sneakers, or whatever, so you can 'fit in'."

But I do have to cajole them endlessly to perform the same 5 tasks every morning before we even begin our work: eat, get dressed, brush hair and teeth, and make the bed. School seems to drag on forever and it always seems to be a different subject that needs extra encouragement and more motivation. Today it was Mary's handwriting- she recently started cursive and can't seem to find the beauty in the curves and swoops that Will loves. Often I have to stand over Will listening to him practice his piano pieces, "Play it again, and again, and again until it is perfect." There is also the daily grind of how to keep three little ones quiet long enough to get some education accomplished. And with 5 little ones in the house who can't help but whine, fuss, bicker,and fight I often feel like needing a time-out, perhaps on a deserted island.
All homeschooling moms have their strengths and weaknesses. I really admire moms who organize unit studies and actually pull it off. I ask prayers from those moms who can manage to get all 8 of their kids praying the rosary every night after dinner. I laugh aloud everytime I hear some mother say, "I could never homeschool, I don't have the patience." Neither do I. My only strengths are organization and pure perseverance, I won't let us fall behind or give up. I will fight the battle to give my children the best education I can give them because their souls and minds are worth it.
"Most homeschooling books never speak of these tensions--the power struggles and resentments and irrational moments of fury that emerge in any family, however loving. ...Reading them, one would think that homeschooling is an endlessly rosy enterprise, filled with brilliant, cooperative children well on their way to the Ivy League. In all my reading I never found a book that addressed what I feared most--the battles. ...whether the subject was dragons or fractions, the result was always the same. If I was not nearby to push and prod and cheer, Julia would muddle through her tasks at the pace of an aging sloth.

One afternoon at our public library I described my concerns to a seasoned homeschooler, a teacher-certified mother with an advanced degree in early education. I expected her to tell me what I was doing wrong. Instead, she sadly shook her head: "That's the story of my life."
The more mothers I queried, the more confessions I heard. Many moms had similar trouble keeping their young learners on track, and the relentless foot-dragging sometimes drove the parents crazy...
In my darkest moments I was glad that my homeschooling was limited to one year. That light at the end of the tunnel served as my guiding star. But when the light expanded into the sunshine of mid-June, I felt surprisingly sad.
Julia and I had grown closer through our moments of triumph and anger. She had read and written and calculated more than ever before in the public schools. And now that she has entered a conventional middle school, and is once again oppressed by the combination of piles of homework, little fresh air (no recess in middle school) and endless multiple choice tests (multiple choice is the greatest sign of the failure of American education), she often grows nostalgic."

Monday, March 19, 2007

finances and homeschooling

Kiplinger Magazine recently published an article about the expense of homeschooling and gave some suggestions as to how parents can save money.
"Whatever the advantages of home-schooling, saving money isn't necessarily one of them. Add up what you spend on books, curricula, tutors, field trips -- not to mention the loss of a second income if one parent becomes the full-time teacher -- and the cost of home-schooling can easily rival paying private-school tuition."
Perhaps they didn't talk to enough parents or research private school tuition costs, but when I, in a weak moment looked up tuition in some local Catholic schools I was shocked. It would cost over $9000 to send my two oldest children to elementary school! Compare that to the $900 I spend on enrollment in an accredited program and another $400 in classes, lessons, and supplies. Of course I shouldn't count sports and music since they would be the same no matter where they attended school. As for lumping in the "cost" of a stay-at-home parent's lost salary-with three more chickadees under school age I would be home anyway, so why not teach the older ones too?
"Some decisions may be dictated by your state's requirements. In Virginia, for example, most home schoolers must get state approval of curricula for core subjects, such as math. Buying a program can run $200 per child per year. And signing up with a school district may mean you're subject to more oversight, in addition to the testing and annual reviews that some states require."
Virginia has complicated homeschool laws and it was erroneous of Kiplinger to state that most homeschoolers in VA have to get approval of some sort. The article also states 3 different costs for homeschool programs, seemingly to scare parents off, instead of stating a range, from free (using internet and library resources) to over $10,000 per child for private tutoring. Public school is not exactly free these days, with large sums of money required for supplies, fashionable clothes, and in some cases, fines for missing school for a vacation.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

children: our future social security

My grandmother was the youngest of 5 children all of them were very close friends and remarkably lived their entire lives in the same neighborhood. Every Christmas for over 30 years the extended family has hosted a party and recorded the event with a group photo. It is amusing to look at how babies have grown and the changing of fashion trends. However, I noticed looking at the more recent photos that it mimics the social security crisis-there are lots of baby boomers and elderly folks, but few of my generation and even fewer of my children's. Over half of my parent's peers did not produce any offspring. I grew up with 1 brother and no cousins, and my children only have 1 cousin themselves. Part of my desire to have a large family is for my grandchildren to have what my grandmother experienced.
During this medical crisis with my mother how I wish there were more siblings and cousins to share the emotional burden and to hold her hand and give her our secret "I love you" squeezes. My stepfather and aunt have been magnificent taking turns being with her. I am only able to visit for short snatches of time, last night my visit was cut short because Timmy pulled a projectile vomit nightmare in the waiting room with Tim- it was all over both their clothes, the floor, and the furniture.
No goverment agency can substitute for a child holding their parent's hand at the end of their life. No check in the mail can take the place of a phone call that ends, "I love you soooo much." Children are a blessing, even when they throw up sweet potatoes all over your pants and you can't share an elevator with strangers because of the smell. I pray when I am feeble and need someone to keep me company I will have many hands to share the burden of my care and that these thousands of hours of reading aloud to my children will be reciprocated.
This mercator article prompted these thoughts and here are some snippets:
"There's a simple reason for plummeting fertility rates in the West: pension systems have replaced traditional families and penalised couples with kids.
According to recent research in economics, the most important reason is surprising yet mundane: fertility decline is the result of misguided pension policies. Public pay-as-you-go pension systems have discouraged fertility by replacing the traditional family system and penalising those who raise more children.

There are at least two reasons why public pension systems should affect fertility rates. The first reason is that they replace the traditional family as a source of old-age security. This is the "substitution effect" of compulsory pensions. When there is no compulsory PAYGO pension system, people have children not just for the fun of it, but also because children provide security in old age.
The traditional family is actually a kind of private PAYGO scheme. Parents procreate, nurture and educate their children, and in return children look after their elderly parents once they can no longer provide for themselves.
The family arrangement has its limits, of course. For one thing, it is prone to localised shocks such as illness, disability or unemployment. This is why in traditional societies, the norm is the extended family, not the nuclear family. The extended family is a risk-pooling mechanism.
The effect of pensions is not limited to the substitution effect. There is a more damaging aspect, which is that public PAYGO schemes make children an economic burden instead of a blessing. This is the "free-riding effect" of public pensions. From the point of view of fertility, a compulsory pension scheme externalises the value of children. Children can no longer support their parents in old age, because a chunk of their salary is forcefully taken away from them and distributed to the entire population of retirees. Individual parents no longer retain the economic benefit of having children, but they must still bear the bulk of the costs in terms of time and money spent. Everyone receives the same pension rights regardless of how many children they had, if any. Many are tempted to take a free-ride on the children of others.
In other words, the welfare state becomes a "forced family" that replaces the traditional family as a provider of social insurance. It is not only an alternative to the traditional family, but an option one is not allowed to refuse. Undoubtedly it provides some benefits, but it lacks the sense of common goals and reciprocity which is essential to real families. Because the participants in the welfare state system do not know each other and have no regular dealings with each other, there is a strong temptation to seek to maximise private benefits.

Friday, March 16, 2007

prayer request

My mother, Julia, who was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer 2 weeks ago has had a turn for the worse and is currently in ICU on a ventilator. I am just in shock and very, very scared. Please pray for her and our whole family.

scavenger hunts

Kim, over at Life in a Shoe gave me an idea for a game that gives the kids some mental challenges as well as a bit of exercise. I made up 16 clues based on places in our house and sent the kids to find all of them. After a few glitches, Will and Mary raced around the house at top speed, up and down the stairs. (I did try to alternate floors)
I tried to make the clues cryptic, but not too challenging, such as: "Mary Poppins told Jane and Michael to feed the ____." Other were "Blue and white checks are seen in the mirror," and "A colorless Nativity."
It was interesting to see that Mary, 18 months younger was deciphering the riddles first, but Will was beating her to the next due to speed. So, I re-hid them all and let them do the game individually. It was a great way to shake some dust from their minds and feet!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'll miss the old gray mare

Our 1961 Mercedes Benz Ponton that is.
I remember the evening Tim and I met. He walked me out to my truck and drove off in this round top antique car, the diesel motor chugging along. The next Sunday I said to our priest, "Tell me more about this sweet guy with the cool car."
Our wedding photos show us sitting in the front seat as we were waved off, the tulle from my dress almost spilling out the window. I later took one driving lesson and realized that the combination of figuring out how to shift on the column and worrying I would wreck Tim's precious car kept me from ever trying to take it out of the garage.
I recall the day we were painting Will's pinewood derby car last year and as he was carrying the can of paint down the steps tripped, splashing bright red enamel all over the car. We both screamed and I went into complete panic mode, thinking I had ruined the finish. Luckily Tim drove up right then and pushed the car out and washed it off, with not a speck to remind us of the incident.
Soon our car will become someone else's and I have to remind myself that it is just a thing, not a talisman for our relationship. It will be easier to move without having to figure out the logisitics of transporting a car that can carry no children.
But I might still cry when it goes put-put-putting away down our street for the last time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I would stop homeschooling...

if the kids had the option of attending a school like Lumen Christi. A good friend of mine in Maine started a similar school, but after 2 years of very hard work she found that what she envisioned and the parents wanted were not the same, so she is homeschooling. The temptation to give in and send them to a diocesan school in NC next year is strong, especially for Will since he is such a social butterfly and doesn't have many friends. However, doing so would disrupt our entire lifestyle and I think I can make it a priority this year to give him more social outlets rather than just additional activities.
Edie Fitzgerald was a home-schooling mother of four when she heard a call from God. That calling was answered in 2002, she said, when she founded an independent Catholic school in Downtown Indianapolis. Students attend daily Mass -- primarily celebrated in Latin -- and learn what Fitzgerald describes as a Catholic core curriculum taught by a faithful Catholic faculty.

Q: Why did you start this school?
We were home-schooling our children and had sent two of our sons to high school and still had one at home. And he was lonely. We had been thinking that God was calling us to start an independent school, so I attended a conference, and realized that such a school could start very small.
Q: What do you feel is the mission of Lumen Christi?
A: Our mission is that we teach faith with reason, so that our students will know the truth and be able to act in virtue. We attend daily Mass. . . . The faculty is required to understand what concepts of faith they are communicating to students in lessons.
Q: What is the main difference between your school and a diocesan school?
A: We have the freedom to choose our own textbooks, books that best support our mission. We drew a lot from our home-schooling experience. We look for more traditional textbooks; for example, science books by Christian authors.
Q: What subjects do they learn?
A: Typical classes like music, art, math, but we also teach Latin. We take a number of field trips as well.
Q: How much does it cost to attend Lumen Christi?
A: Next year, tuition will be $2,200 (per student), but that is discounted for families with more than one child in school.
Q: How do you think your students respond to Lumen Christi?
A: I think children hunger for truth and that the heart of the child is really prepared to live the Beatitudes. The kids are a model to me of the child-like faith we are called to. When I am giving them a lesson, any subject, they are so excited to understand the concepts. They are just hungering for this truth. To watch that excitement confirmed to me that I am called to have the same level of enthusiasm.
Q: So your daily Mass is in Latin? How is that going?
A: The children stay very quiet, and if they can still their hearts and know that God is present in the Mass, their response is beautiful. We had some people who thought it was a bad idea. But I tell them to come and see the kids and how they respond. . . . In the Latin Mass, there is a presence of peace and grace they respond to, and it is beautiful to see.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

63rd Homeschool Carnival

is up at Why Homeschool.

I'm not artsy enough I guess

Sunday afternoon two of the children and I attended the last of the Symphony's peanut butter and jam series for children.
Thank goodness.
While I enjoyed tremendously the Christmas concert and the review of John Williams pieces such as Star Wars, this combo choral, orchestral, and interpretive dance piece was just plain wierd. The kids wiggled in their seats, but luckily I had just bought a book, Hallelujah Handel in the lobby so Mary settled down to read in the dim light while Will and I suffered through an hour of boredom. When the main lights went up we sprinted for the door, passing dozens of sleeping children.
I did notice that much of the cost of production was from the National Endowment for the Arts. Are they just a milk cow for bad art or do they do anything that promotes beauty? (If this and the Elephant Dung Madonna picture are representative of what our tax dollars support than we should de-fund it immediately.)
We just finished reading the Handel book and I will admit that I cried at the ending of the Author's Note, "And so every time we hear that wonderful 'Hallelujah Chorus,' especially at Christmas, we are reminded that the spirit of love and humanity will always conquer fear and poverty." I am grateful for the silver lining, that I found this beautiful book that tells the story of the most recognized piece of classical music in history.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A good Mass

This morning was my first Mass in two weeks due to having to stay home with sick preschoolers and if you took a look in our pew after Communion it might have made you ill. Not anything viral, mind you, but a sickingly sweet scene. Mary, Maggie, and Charlie were all hugging onto me like they were drowning men and I was the life raft. I guess they all needed a hug and our secret handsqueeze-3 squeezes means "I love you" and 4 squeezes back means "I love you too" or "I love you more". Sometimes Will and I turn it into a silent contest of 20-30 squeezes in a row to show how much we love each other. However, Will was serving today so I had to be content with giving him a sly wink when he looked my way.
Charlie is still recovering from a week-long bug so he sat on my lap for most of Mass. His favorite activity is to slowly turn the pages of the Ecclesia Dei Latin-English Missal and point to the pictures, whispering "Father Willis, Will" when he sees a line drawing of a priest and altar server in the margin. It always cracks me up to watch him point to a picture of a trim young priest sporting a 1950's haircut and hear him say the name of our portly, balding, middle-age resident priest. (God bless you Father, if you are reading this!) After all the pictures in the Missel are described we switch over to my favorite Mass "toy," a stack of laminated holy cards that I punched a hole in and put on a metal ring. "That is St. Peter, see the keys," "Here is the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph, can you see the statue of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus up front?" as we flip through the stack.
I am so grateful to God that we have this passel of children in our pew on Sunday morning, that we have a local Latin Mass with wonderful CCD teachers and a truly terrific priest, and lots of other homeschooling moms to chat with and lean on during the tough times. I will miss our little chapel so much when we move and I pray every night that God will grant us a Latin Mass parish in Maine. The beauty and mystery of the Tridentine Rite connects me in a way to the Saints of the past and the Church of all time. If you have never attended and have the opportunity to participate, do so. It takes a bit of work to follow along, but well worth the effort.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

childhood obesity

I just finished reading Generation Extra Large, Rescuing Our Children from the Epidemic of Obesity. The authors wanted to show how children are powerless against the onslaught of advertising, poor food choices, and lack of organized exercise. They blame Big Food and Big Soda for slick advertising, school cafeterias for only offering fast-food meals, and schools for taking away recess and PE classes for more drill to improve test scores.

I have had many successes in my life as a Mommy. My kids reliably sleep through the night, they follow instructions much of the time, they display good manners, and are generally kind to one another. However, we have developed the world's pickiest eaters. 3 are complete vegetarians, no one eats veggies other than corn, potatoes and tomato sauce, and mainly they live on fruit, pb&j, mac and cheese, and cereal. I can't take them out to real restaurants, though diners are okay because they serve grilled cheese. I have participated in the food wars so often that I have shell shock. The old suggestion is that if you keep re-serving a child his dinner, eventually he will eat it doesn't work here- Will went 3 days without eating anything until he started throwing up before Mass and Maggie once went 6 days without anything but milk, all in an effort to get both (then 3 years old) to eat eggs, veggies, or meat. I am a tough mama, but I just can't force that spoon between pursed lips. While I admire moms who feed their kids nothing but organic, whole grain foods, and secretly admonish those who buy Little Debbie cakes and Wonder bread, I am smack in the middle of the spectrum. My children are plump breast-fed babies, toddlers with a bubba gut from eating Gerber strained squash and peas, and rail-thin by age 6 from refusing everything that is offered.
I have not had to personally deal with overweight children and know that part of the reason is that we homeschool and don't have TV. They are not exposed to any advertising, they don't know who Sponge Bob even is so I don't have to dodge questions about why we can't buy cookies with his image on the box. The kids they hang around come from homes similar to ours so they are not offered soda or cookies everywhere they go and meals are served at home, not in the drive-through line. While I get frustrated on a regular basis about the kid's refusal to try anything new, I am hopeful that one day they will eat my super veggie beef soup for supper without a fuss.

Friday, March 09, 2007

zoo day

Today was the kid's last day of vacation with their auntie visiting so we hit the dentist (wiping out his prize drawer) and then went to the local zoo. We watched as the lion roared from the top of her rock perch, the meerkats dug and chatted, the elephants grazed, the giraffes licked hay with their lengthy tongues, and the ostriches copulated. I dragged the little ones off before they could hear rude comments from the teens who subsequently noticed the commotion in the ostrich yard.
It was a bright sunny day and we stuffed all the coats in the car and wandered around in just sweaters. Timmy has outgrown the infant car seat stroller just in time-the thing is literally falling apart after 3 children's use, a screw came out yesterday and the wheel fell off today. He wanted to squirm right out of it and had to be carried all around the zoo.
This week was a good field trip week and now we have the energy and motivation to start back with the books on Monday. After all our adventures, it will be calming to just stay home and do schoolwork for a good, long while.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg

If I had been a more organized, prepared homeschooling mother I would have checked out books from the library about colonial America and read them to the children last week. I would have researched the history of Williamsburg and astounded the children with my knowledge of crafts, games, architecture, and trades. However, with all that is on my plate I didn't do any of those things- we simply packed a picnic lunch, got everyone a coat, hat, and gloves, tidied the house for the realtor, and drove up in the spitting rain and cold to the Visitor Center for Williamsburg Homeschoolers Week.
The weather quickly improved with the rain stopping and the sun coming out so we spent the day traipsing from the weaver to the bakery, the cabinetmaker to the blacksmith shop. The Powell house was set up with hands-on activities for homeschoolers so Will and Mary made scent bags, played colonial games, played the harpsichord, set the breakfast table, and helped a lot in the kitchen. Even Maggie and Charlie enthusiastically scrubbed carrots and fetched water. Overall, it was hard with the little ones in tow, Charlie was only content with an enormous cookie in hand, but he couldn't enter any of the buildings with it. Luckily, my gracious sister-in-law stayed outside with the babies while I showed the older children the inside of the gunsmith's shop as well as the shoemaker's store.
The animals were a huge hit. Charlie ran up to stroke woolly sheep and patted horse's heads with no fear. They also saw cows, oxen, chickens and avoided horse droppings down the middle of Duke of Gloucester Street.
The other excitement was riding the bus because it was the first time any of the kids had been on one. When we got off the bus for our afternoon stroll poor Charlie had the doors shut him inside the bus with all of us on the sidewalk. I turned around after setting up the stroller, finding him missing and quickly banged on the door. The driver was oblivious and I ran to the front to yell, "Open the back door! There is a a 2 year old still on the bus!" Charlie was tearful and frightened and wasn't quite so enamoured of that mode of transportation for the rest of the day.
Visiting Williamsburg with lots of little ones in tow is certainly a challenge, even with no crowds. However, since we only paid $20 for 7 of us to visit (under 6 were free) we didn't feel any pressure to see every single exhibit. I am glad we went for the day and would recommend a winter trip to the colonial capitol, especially during homeschoolers week.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

62nd Homeschool Carnival

is up at Tami's Blog.

Reading is so important

Even the average newspaper reporter seems concerned about the current trends in education. And, while I don't generally agree with anything a newspaper prints on their opinion page, we actually do what he suggests. Right now, at 6:30am, Mary is reading aloud to Charlie on the sofa and doing a very fine job with different voices for the various characters, just like I have done for the past 8 years. Practice makes perfect!
"I was dismayed but not overly surprised to learn that the National Assessment of Educational Progress recently found that the reading skills of high school seniors tested in 2005 were significantly worse than those who were tested in 1992.
This comes on the heels of a study conducted over a year earlier by the National Center for Educational Statistics, which discovered that proficiency in reading among college graduates had declined in the past decade. How does one explain these things, considering that our nation spends billions of dollars on public education?
It is not too difficult to discern possible reasons for this state of affairs. There is the dumbing-down of far too much of public schooling itself...
Beyond that, over the past half-century or more we have evolved from a society rooted in the written word to a society which is image-based — and those images are constantly changing and shifting, almost never permanent.
The printed page has given way to MTV, "Mortal Kombat," and MySpace. And though words are to be found on computer screens, their existence is somewhat precarious, floating through cyberspace rather than firmly contained in bound volumes. Of course there is also text messaging, in which misspellings are the norm and the literacy deficit is abundantly demonstrated.
So what is to be done? It would certainly help if parents would take time to read to their young children, and do all they can to encourage a love for reading quality books as they grow older. For those who are up to the challenge, home-schooling should be considered an option for offsetting the negative trends in the larger society. ...I would suggest that parents seriously work to limit the role the television and computer play in their lives and their kids' lives. There should really be only one television set per household, and the computer should be confined to a special place where parents can easily supervise their young charges.
...The paramount concern here is not only that the young person knows how to read competently, but is also able to reflect upon what he reads, and apply his skills to addressing basic problems of life."

Monday, March 05, 2007

pest house

In the past 36 hours I have given 12 baths, mopped 3 floors, steam cleaned 2 rooms, and washed 8 loads of laundry.

Hopefully, whatever nasty bug the 3 youngest were brought down by is gone and we can resume our normal scheldule.
On the plus side, I have had some time to reread some of my favorite mysteries, the Grace and Favor series by Jill Churchill. Set in the early years of the Depression in rural New York, two ex-socialites must live in an old mansion for 10 years before they can inherit. While they have to solve murders, it is the descriptive background of what life was like at that time that is so interesting.
I interviewed my grandmother and her brothers and sisters a few years ago about when she was a girl during the 1930's. Luckily her father had a steady job with the railroad, but there were no extras for dolls and such. She recalls being instructed by her grandmother that if someone knocked on the back door looking for a handout or work to always scrounge something up to give them to eat. My grandfather grew up in a poor family in New York and got a job every summer to earn enough money to buy himself a bicycle, but his mother always needed the money for his school clothes. I don't think he ever got that bike, but he worked hard in school and eventually went to college.
I pray that if I was ever in such a situation, I would rise to the occasion with hidden talents and virtues emerging victorious over despair and misery.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

spelling bee

While I'm not the kind of parent that envisions my children in the Olympics, I do daydream that they will compete in the Scripps national spelling bee. The newspaper, at the request of a homeschooling parent, has reinstituted the local and regional competitions to help make that dream a reality for one local scholar. Of course, I don't hold out much hope for future accolades, spelling being one of our most difficult subject these days. Will left me a note last night:
Dear Mommy,
You MUST see chrlie.
He is sleeping funny.
(turn pg. over)
and breathing FAST!
and LOUDer then ushwol.
(Charlie and Maggie are now in the middle of a throw-up fest so no Mass for us this morning)
"...students compete to appear at the first regional spelling bee in decades. It is scheduled for March 14 at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, sponsored by The Virginian-Pilot.
The renewed bee comes as interest in spelling bees is rising. In recent years, two movies, several books and a Broadway play have helped re popularize the childhood ritual.
The winner of the regional bee will go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington on May 30 and 31.
Kim Willett, a home-schooling parent in Virginia Beach, began asking The Virginian-Pilot to hold a local bee after learning that a student could be disqualified from the national bee for living outside the sponsoring newspaper's circulation area.
So far, 19 public schools, six private schools and a home-schoolers group have said they will send competitors from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Suffolk to the regional bee.
Kim Willett's daughter Rebecca, 12, won the Tidewater Homeschoolers bee after about 100 rounds.
Rebecca, a seventh-grader who likes to read and play piano and violin, has participated in eight bees since the third grade. She already won one this season at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News.
She sold the prize from that win, an Xbox 360, to buy dictionaries and online spelling programs. "I didn't really have as much use for the Xbox as the spelling materials," she said."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

To entertain or not, that is the question

Over on the Ora Et Labora board (see sidebar for link), a new homeschooling mom asked:

"Here is my problem, I feel that I can do the homeschooling part. I actually look forward to it and enjoy learning with my dd. My problem is she is almost 5, so we do about 45 minutes of lessons per day, but I have trouble filling it the rest of the time. We do some coloring, playdoh, playing, but it seems like a lot of work to keep my 2 kids (almost 5 and 3) entertained for the whole day. Besides the fact that I have other work to do around the house. The days seem so long sometimes especially recently, everyone is sick and we have barely left the house. All this time, I was so worried about the homeschooling aspect, but I am finding that it is filling in the rest of the time that is the difficulty.Any advice?"
Aha-ha! I knew there was one aspect of parenting that I am an authority on- the ability to keep kids from saying, "I'm bored!"
Occasionally I will play tea party or train with my kids, but not often. My title is "Mommy", not "Playmate". I tickle them, read to them, indulge in practical jokes, provide schooling, and create a learning-rich enviroment filled with art supplies, puzzles, games, and interesting books. They get to learn, play, create, and help out when I ask. It seems like an even trade, though I would like a bit more help with the laundry.
My children are not allowed to be bored- I provide 4 playmates for them all day and they must keep each other occupied and entertained.
Obviously there is a balance between being at the mercy of preschoolers and being a totally hands-off parent who doesn't want to play at all with her children. But I have managed to be a fun mommy who will play airplane (lie on my back and let a child fly on my feet), and one who can bring a 7 year old to a hospital room for 2 hours and not have her say, "This is boring!" a single time. (she sat and started re-reading BFG)
The single piece of advice I can give is to teach, and sometimes demand, that your children learn to entertain themselves. It will help them and you many times over in the next 20 years.

Friday, March 02, 2007

school break

My sister-in-law arrives tomorrow for a week long visit. She hasn't seen baby Timmy yet and will take at least 8 rolls of pictures during her stay. The children will get a break from schooling, but since we are finishing up week 24 today, we deserve the time off.

Monday is the first day of Williamsburg Home Educators Week, only $5 admission to all of the historic area with special hands-on activities to get a feel of colonial life. You can still get the special admission price at the visitor center, so if you have the opportunity- go visit for about 70% off regular price.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pediatricians and homeschoolers

Recently Contemporary Pediatrics magazine published an article about homeschooling patients. While, most of the information was factual and positive, a few statements caught my eye that I wanted to discuss.

"Homeschooled children do not have the benefit of the secondary screening that most public school districts provide. Because teachers spend so much time with students, they can often recognize health and educational problems before parents and physicians notice them."

My immediate thought was that if a parent is spending 12 hours a day with their own child then they are much more likely to notice a problem than some overworked teacher. I have often heard of real learning difficulties and physical problems found by a parent long before teachers noticed. No, parents that homeschool do not have kids line up in for eye tests or scoliosis screenings, but they listen to them read aloud, watch them bend and twist, and point out objects in the car.

"Public schools across the country have taken the responsibility for:
assessing vision and hearing, providing sex education, teaching healthy eating habits and the importance of regular physical activity, recognizing learning disabilities, behavioral problems or possible abuse, and ensuring that immunizations are complete."

Because public schools have usurped the role of parents in many areas of health care does not mean that that those of us outside the public school system need to be viewed suspiciously by our physicians. Subsidiary is the Catholic concept that a decision should be handled by the smallest unit possible. Members of a family should teach healthy eating habits, the importance of exercise, sexuality, correct the behavior of children, and keep up to date heath records, not a government entity.

"No short-or long-term controlled scientific studies have evaluated the performance outcomes of children who are homeschooled compared to those who attend public or private schools. Consequently, little is known about homeschooled students' comparative educational achievement, emotional well-being, and quality of life. What comparisons have been published of homeschoolers and their public school peers are mostly cross-sectional and descriptive.
They report that homeschoolers: perform better academically score higher in all standardized grade level tests attend college at the same rate as their public school peers. A 1997 survey by Dr. Ray of 16,000 homeschooled children in grades K-12, found that the students' scores on nationally-normed standardized achievement exams were above the national average, and 54.7% had individual scores in the top 25% of the population."
So, homeschooled children score above average, attend college at the same rate, and are more socially involved as adults than their public school peers. Why then do we need to read a 6 page article saying how physicians need to "be vigilant in monitoring their socialization"?