Sunday, January 31, 2010

I need a driver's ed review

Being from Southern Virginia, I have rarely driven in snow. Yes, there was plenty of snow in Blacksburg, but in college I never drove in it, I walked or took the bus everywhere. I could just refuse to drive, like some of the American ladies did in Italy, but that would get old really fast in Maine! Yesterday it started snowing and for some reason I got a bee in my bonnet about getting some pink fabric to back a t-shirt quilt I am working on. The little boys helped me sweep off the van windows and shovel off the driveway before I left.
My big van doesn't have four wheel drive or anything so I was plodding along at 30 miles an hour to the fabric shop and back, only to get stuck on our own road. I had slowed down going up the hill to make way for a car and some children coming down and then couldn't go forward. Luckily I had charged my phone and Tim came to my rescue. I felt foolish having to call, but am so grateful I wasn't saying, "Dear... I ran off the road and am stuck 10 miles away."

Friday, January 29, 2010

climbing out of the hole

About the middle of December I was in bad shape, constantly overwhelmed, frustrated, and just completely burnt out. But thanks to friends and my wonderful husband, I found the St. Philomena co-op. The trip two mornings a week allows us to socialize with other homeschoolers and be in the presence of Our Lord many times a day.

Just getting to sit and chat with the other moms at lunch gives me a social outlet that was completely lacking beforehand. All of us have different situations, but we are all trying to give our children a quality Catholic education and know we can't do it on our own. The little ones are getting one-on-one attention and the big kids are getting to do art projects, play together, and be exposed to other families who take their religion seriously. It is beautiful to see what happens when the preschoolers and I go through the church sanctuary to go down to the nursery or next door for lunch. As we pass in front of the tabernacle I instruct the children, "Say I love you to Jesus." Even the two year olds genuflect instinctively because they see their parents and older siblings giving Our Lord the honor that is due Him.

These two gifts, one social and one spiritual, have lifted my spirits and given me strength to continue to homeschool my children well. I know that in two years we will be in Maine with no co-op option, but I'm sure we will be given other means at that time to assist us in our homeschooling journey.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

finished my first quilt on the frame

Last year (about this time) I was enormously pregnant with a little time on my hands (not really, just massively impatient for Julia Ellen to arrive). Off I skipped to G Street Fabrics and bought myself a new sewing machine and quilting frame. Then I discovered that I couldn't bend over or stand up long enough to use it due to my condition. Then the baby arrived and then I really had not a minute to spare.

But now I have a few hours here and there to quilt and so I pulled out a patriotic top I made a few years back. The table is set up like a long-arm machine, but using a regular machine on a rolling platform. It has proven to be more complicated than I anticipated, the motions are totally different than regular machine quilting. I'm quilting with my hands rather than my fingers so I have to retrain my brain. But now I finished and can finally send a measure of my gratitude to a wounded soldier at Walter Reed. I've already started a new red, white, and blue quilt, maybe I can finish this one before we move to Maine.

carnival of homeschooling

Susan at Corn and Oil is hosting this week's carnival with a "For Those Considering Homeschooling" theme.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

a 3 year old's musings

"I love cookies."
"I love you Mommy."
"I love my Geraldine." (his stuffed giraffe)
"I love pooping in the potty."

I sure am grateful that I'm not changing Timmy's pants several times a day anymore. Only one more child to potty train, yeah!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

children's librarian

Our local library is small, has a limited selection, but it has one fabulous resource; the children's librarian. Miss Carolyn knows her books and I sometimes test her in ways that she enjoys. Earlier this week Will and I escaped the bathtime ritual to peruse the stacks in peace. We filled up two tote bags with mysteries and science fiction before I remembered a book I had read several years ago that he might like. "Okay, I know the general plot and I think it has the word 'hidden' somewhere in the title. Sometime in the future the government only allows 2 children." Within 5 minutes Miss Carolyn walked us over to the shelf and said, "There is a whole series now, do you want all of them?"

I started Among The Hidden again this afternoon and am looking forward to reading them all. This is a pretty low-key way to introduce the idea of the impact of a totalitarian state to a young reader. Luckily the Population Police haven't knocked on our door as it is pretty evident from our dining room that we recently outfitted into a playroom that lots of children live here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

take some initiative!

Last Friday night I took Maggie to ballet class and afterwards went to La Madeline's for "girl's night out." While we were sitting in the studio lobby I got to chatting with a couple of fellow ballet moms. It was a pretty ho-hum discussion until one lady started in about the upcoming cuts in the county's education budget. Apparently her gifted 4th grader has to be bussed 45 minutes and she is already started worrying about what to do when he "runs out of math classes in 10th grade." Come on! I thought this woman was joking, but apparently she is convinced that her kid will have exhausted all of the county's resources in the year 2015. I did mention aloud the possibility of dual enrollment option at community college.

Then the other lady started in about her 2nd child who is in once a week speech therapy and was recently informed that her child doesn't have enough disability to qualify for more services. "She can't talk! I pay taxes, I can't believe they won't do more for her!" I brought up the idea of asking for suggestions of exercises, reading some books to get other ideas, and working with her daughter at home, but this was rebuffed.

Then I shut my mouth, for I understood that complaining about the system while doing nothing to change one's own situation is a form of recreation for these women as well as millions of their ilk. Those of us who homeschool might have complained or been frustrated in the past, but we didn't just gripe. We took some initiative and did something about our children's education. We have researched methods and materials, outlined a scope and sequence, organized our materials and our lives, and actually teach our kids. Having children means having responsibilities: helping them reach their educational goals, feeding them spiritually, taking care of their physical needs, and showing them how much they are loved and valued. If we pawn off all these responsibilities onto some government institution we have no right to complain about how poor a job they are doing. I just hope that sooner rather than later these moms will decide that the public school system is not designed for children who are not perfectly average and break free from just complaining and do something about it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

thank you!

A shout-out to all the Bay State voters who helped preserve the Constitution against the Obama administration, at least for a spell. I'm sure that Howie Carr, the Boston talk radio host helped the Republican candidate more than anyone, though his show is very odd. I doubt anyone else out there could pull off the combo of bad Teddy Kennedy jokes and a celebrity death pool .

Yeah, Scott Brown!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Homeschool Dad is hosting this week's carnival with a library week theme. He took his kids to 5 different libraries in one week to explore, compare, and check out books. What a great idea! Speaking of, today is our library day since I have 2 tote bags of books to take back and nothing to read.

Monday, January 18, 2010 is my new friend

Now that Julia Ellen has passed the 10 month mark, I've started ovulating again. Unfortunately my trusty Becton Dickinson thermometer has gone missing, it is likely sitting in the bathroom drawer up in Maine. I went to Target and found no BD brand ones, so I guessed that a Target brand thermometer was just as good. However, my temps for the past few weeks are so low that they are off the bottom of the chart.

After consulting some NFP-knowledgeable ladies and my Natural Family Planning book, I found that I might have 2 problems. I could have a cruddy thermometer or I could have a thyroid issue. Tim said that it was extremely doubtful that my thyroid is the issue, since I am not more tired than any other mom of 6 kids and I'm not overweight (even the thrift store considers size 8 small). So, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I went online and bought a new BD basal temp thermometer for $12. Why then am I now going to enter $92.32 in the checkbook?

Well.... I figured that Tim also needed fancy toothbrush refills and then to qualify for free shipping I decided to get an adult snow shovel (since the poor man has cleared our driveway twice with a kid's one I found at the thrift store). then I discovered if I sign up to have diapers delivered for free I can get a discount (and I don't have to make an emergency run to the grocery for nappies). I think Tim is now regretting saying, "Just get it on-line and pay a couple of bucks for shipping. It is much less stressful than dragging all the kids to the closest Walmart."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

National Archives

This morning with many errands begging to be completed, I packed up Julia Ellen and bribed the big kids into journeying downtown for our first field trip in over a month. While the little boys cajoled and whined, "I wanna go too! I'll be good," I resolutely shut the door behind us and drove away. They aren't old enough to remember seeing these famous documents and certainly not old enough to wait quietly without needing to use the facilities every 15 minutes.

First we stood in line for an hour outside and in amongst a huge crowd of unruly teenagers who had to be shushed several times by the burly guard. Finally it was our turn to look at pale sheets of paper under glass that men have fought and died for: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of the United States.
We pointed out the pale signatures of John Hancock and John Adams, and then looked closely for the name of the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Unfortunately his signature has faded from sight on the original document, as have many others. While this wasn't the most thrilling of field trips for the children, I felt it was important for them to get a sense of the importance of these documents, especially at a time when some politicians feel that they should be discarded and ignored.

I love the title!

Here is a rebuttal to Robin L. West of Georgetown University Law Center who "has produced what is undoubtedly the silliest, most offensive caricature of homeschooling to ever be published in a scholarly journal." in First Things, "How Fundamentalist, Patriarchal, Uneducated Homeschoolers Who Live on Tarps in Parking Lots with Their Eight Kids are Harming America."

Friday, January 15, 2010

March for Life

FRONT ROYAL, VA, January 14, 2010 ( – Christendom College, a private Catholic college located in Virginia, says that it will close its doors on Friday, January 22 and its Student Activities Council will charter buses enabling the entire student body to attend the 2010 March for Life in Washington D.C.

Founded over 30 years ago Christendom College has attended the March for Life as a community every year. Its students are active in pro-life work year round, leading prayerful protests at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington once a week, as well as taking part in sidewalk counseling and other pro-life activities.

What a refreshing news story, especially after reading The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College , which described the cut throat process of getting into a "top tier" university and the immoral activities the students participate in, all on their parent's $$. I did learn some tips and hints for assisting the children many years in the future when they sit down to fill out college applications and prepare for the SATs. The main point I came away with with was that character counts, even at the most liberal, hippy-dippy school. High school kids who act like they are entitled to a sheet of vellum with Harvard in bold script across the top are less likely to be selected than someone with genuine enthusiasm for learning (and can prove it by their grades). I was not convinced of the value of a $120,000 diploma from a fancy Northeast school, but we have at least 4 years before we need to delve into that fray. Right now we are focusing on the work set before us and trying to be kind to one another.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

you know...

you are a homeschooling mom when you notice that a Latin flashcard is marking your place in a book you are reading about how an admissions department of a premiere college selects its incoming freshman class and your oldest child is only in 6th grade.

carnival of homeschooling

Alasandra's Homeschool Blog is hosting this week's carnival with a cat and dog theme.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Julia Ellen is 10 months old!

Due to the winter weather and a 1/4" of growth, our little "Spike" is no longer worthy of her name since her hair is lying flat on her head. On Saturday I made green bean and sausage soup and despite not having any teeth yet, she gobbled up beans, potato cubes, and kielbasa chunks. She loves to play peekaboo and horsie and is pulling up on everything, ready to cruise. No words yet, but she can understand a lot and is getting a tiny bit better at being held by other people. Yes, she still stuffs everything in her mouth that isn't nailed down such as paper, fabric, and plastic so the floors have to be clean, clean, clean (she thinks that the dirt pile from sweeping is a buffet, so I have to be fast!). I think her new nickname will be "Hoover"!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

abortion is about $$, not reproductive health

Daily News: Federal Study Confirms Contraception-Breast Cancer Link: NCRegister

Ten years ago, Dr. Chris Kahlenborn, authored the book Breast Cancer: Its Link to Abortion and the Birth Control Pill, which established the connection between the birth control pill and breast cancer.

Now, a federal study confirms that data.

The study shows a strong connection between the use of oral contraceptives and a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer with a high mortality rate, known as “triple-negative” breast cancer (TNBC). The study also found that the connection was highest among women who began using oral contraceptives while they were teenagers.

So, maybe we shouldn't be so eager to see our teenage daughters popping "the pill"? Also, this explains the incredible rise in breast cancer in the past 40 years: Roe vs Wade.

Friday, January 08, 2010

school tour

This afternoon Tim came home early so I could go senza bambino (without babies) and visit the local Catholic elementary school. I chatted with teachers, librarians, and moms about books, Mass, the daily routine, and resource classes such as art. I peeked in classrooms, flipped through many textbooks, and asked questions about homework. In all, I felt that while the school was doing a better job than any public school, it wasn't half as academically challenging as what we have been doing at home. All the textbooks were secular, including the religion books, and contained a lot of fluff.

I know that the kids would do well academically and socially there, but I just kept thinking, "I would spend all day missing them and the opportunity to use Catholic books, an academically rigorous course of study, and all those extras that make homeschooling unique." I could imagine my daily life becoming a mad rush of getting ready, driving to school, wrestling with the little boys and the baby all day, rushing to pick up and get to lessons on time, fighting about homework, getting everyone in the bed, and doing it day, after day, after day. Since I haven't set foot in a school in over 10 years it was eye-opening, in comparison, how good Seton's program really is. We are not "falling behind" public or private school students, but rather giving them a high quality fully integrated Catholic education at a very reasonable price (certainly reasonable compared to $17,000 a year for 3 kids).

My job in the next week is to compose a very polite letter to the assistant principal, thanking him for his time and the tour, but stating that we will continue to homeschool this semester. The other thing I need to do is reflect on what I learned today and use it to become more calm and steady in teaching the children. We are learning, we are living, and we are doing a pretty darn good job with a lot of help from above.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

decisions, decisions

I'm supposed to meet with someone from the Catholic school tomorrow afternoon, but the closer I get to this meeting the more I cringe about sending the children out to school. Our little Christmas break let us have some fun and laughs before getting back to the books and the past few days have been our best in months (though I did get very upset with Will last night for only getting half his work completed at co-op). This arrangement with the babysitter coming 2 mornings a week, the co-op another 2 days seems to be the best option to get the work done and keep my sanity. I have talked extensively with some other moms of many and one thing we all agree on is that homeschooling 6th grade is just the worst in terms of workload and attitude for the child and stress on the mother. The best advice was summed up by Carol, "Go to Adoration and give it to Jesus. Tell him you can't do this job without sufficient grace. He will give it to you." Meghan said, "You have 365 days a year for 12 years to get this done. Stop staring at the trees and focus on the forest. Your children are so innocent and not tainted by the world. If they go to school that will be lost in one week."

I can see some progress we have made this year so far. Charlie knows about 3/4 of his letters despite not doing anything academic last year. He can count, add money, and tell what hour it is on a clock. He is doing very well at learning his catechism and tries to be so helpful around the house. Maggie's handwriting is lovely, she can borrow in subtraction, she can read beautifully, and is very cheerful and thoughtful when she focuses. (I'm trying to forgive her for thoughtlessly breaking one of my Italian lamps last week) Mary is doing much better academically, especially in math and spelling and beats her brother's socks off when it comes to those Latin flashcards. She is much less shy these days and is just the sweetest thing when she chooses to be. Will is becoming a whiz at math and astounds me with his catechism memory work, I can't recall the answers half the time and I'm holding the book! It is so evident that he loves his younger siblings and can be trusted with Julia Ellen completely.

I'm going to go into this meeting tomorrow with my page long list of questions including, "Are the textbooks Catholic? Historically/scientifically accurate? Are the teachers Catholic? Are they loyal to the Magisterium? How much homework are the children given? At weekly Mass do the children receive from the priest? How many days are not spent on academic instruction?" Part of me is hoping that the answers allow me to put them in the school with a tiny sigh of relief, while the other part hopes that I can say to myself, "Private school is not the answer for our family and we will continue to homeschool."

It might not even get that far, they want me to come on Friday morning, meaning Tim couldn't watch the little ones and I would have to take all of them. The impression I'm getting is that they think this is a done deal and I need to start signing checks.
Ummm, I don't think so.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

The Cates at Why Homeschool are hosting this week's carnival, the 4th anniversary edition. The links sound like the perfect combination of inspiration, news, and fun activities I'm sure to spend several hours reading all the posts.

Monday, January 04, 2010

now I can't get him to be quiet

This article from the UK Times implies that the blame for children who aren't talking by the age of 3 should be laid right at Mommy's door. I'm sure I have written before about my dragging Will into the speech therapist because he had only said 10 words by the age of 3 and only used them in the confines of our house. He went to Italian daycare one morning a week so I could volunteer on base and they said he didn't say anything the entire 2 years he went there.

Way back then I was the super-educational mama, reading to him at least a dozen storybooks a day, pushing his stroller around the baby loving Italian countryside ("Bello, bello bambino!!"), playing with him on the floor, taking him to playgroup, having a TV-free home. For some reason he was more interested in playing with the hinges on the cabinets than learning to talk. If he wanted something I could figure it out for the most part. Finally his brain and mouth clicked and he was speaking in full sentences by the age of 4. Now in 6th grade his verbal skills are just as well developed as any former smooth 2 year old chatterbox. The comments box after the article is filled with successful people who started talking late, evidence of the nonsense of these so-called experts.

Toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3 should be able to use up to 300 words, including adjectives, and be able to link words together, according to I CAN, the children’s communication charity. Late speech development can lead to problems, such as low achievement at school or mental health problems.

The survey of more than 1,000 parents found that a child’s background was not a factor in how quickly they learnt to talk. Working parents who put their babies in day care are just as likely to have a child whose speech develops late as those who leave their baby in front of the television.
(Are these the only reasons why children talk late? But saying otherwise wouldn't induce guilt, I'm sure.)

Almost one in six parents reported that their child had problems learning to talk. Among parents of boys the figure rose to one in four.
(Could it be that boys and girls are different? Could it be that development varies more than the "experts" suggest?)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

vacation days

The children didn't quite know what to do with themselves over the past few days, but finally they settled into a no-school mode with playing outside in the remains of the snow, watching movies, and playing games like Apples to Apples, Totemland, and Totally Gross. After a few rounds of the first one I pulled out the celebrity cards, which makes play much more pleasant. After all, what homeschooled 9 year old even knows who Michael Jackson and Cher are? The more people sitting around the table the funnier Apples to Apples is, so we have recruited game-phobic Tim to play with us. Today's pic? Our old favorite Mad Dash, a US geography game.