Saturday, October 30, 2010

1st place!

Okay, okay, 1st place in my age bracket (though I beat all the women in the ages above and below me as well). The time? Not so great. 24:03, but I did have to swerve, shimmy, and wiggle around a whole lot of folks who shouldn't have started anywhere near the front. Mary came in 4th among 10-14 year olds (which seemed to be a very competitive age) with 29:00.

Our next race will be in 2 weeks, the girls will be running a 3K, while I'm in the 8K. Good thing it has finally gotten cooler here in Virginia, earlier this week I was walking and wheezing due to 80+ degree temps plus 99% humidity. This morning we were hopping around before the start and definitely ran faster just to make own own heat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

a spelling tip

While prepping your reluctant children for the upcoming spelling bee (yes, we found a local bee for homeschoolers), don't simultaneously read American Bee, The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds. After reading about 9 year olds who can spell regicide, caldera, and anemology without a hitch, it makes a parent unnecessarily agitated when the 12 year old misses such softballs as tomb, gene, and volley.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

how did I get here?

We haven't been in our new home very long, but somehow we have acquired another charge. The next door neighbor who seems like a typical helicopter parent has taken to letting her 5 year old only child hang out at our house every afternoon after preschool. While I think it is good that Maggie has another little girl to play with, I feel like I'm being taken advantage of, especially since her mom has insinuated that I'm not being responsible by allowing my older children to stay home alone, but she hasn't offered to have the girls play in her house. Seven children is a lot to manage, and I am feeling resentful knowing that the neighbor has her house to herself for most of the day.

Am I wrong for not wanting to play hostess every day? Any tactful suggestions?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Susan at Corn and Oil is hosting this week's carnival with a Clark Kent theme.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

pluck, pluck, pluck

No, we haven't gotten chickens on our little 1/2 acre suburban plot, but Mary has begun violin lessons. The child has been begging me for almost a year to let her take lessons, though I think her idea was to switch from piano to violin, where my compromise was for her to try out violin for 3 months in addition to piano. As I was telling the ladies at Bunko about it, the hostess pulled a case out of the closet and handed it to me. I don't know what Mary's musical future is, but I do know what her writing assignment on Monday morning will be: a lovely thank you note for a beautiful violin she can grow into.   

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the terrible twos already?

Julia Ellen has always been her older sibling's sweet cuddly baby, that is until this past week. She has transformed herself into a toddling monster who screams at the drop of a hat, refuses to nap, breaks tea cups with abandon, flings herself out of the crib with a trapeze artist's flair, and wakes at the slightest noise when the girls creep in to go to bed. The big kids have gone from doting on their baby sister to running away and keeping their doors shut. Will has gone so far as to turn the boy's bedroom door into this:

I think we need to work on a little cooperation as well as spelling.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Since returning to Virginia I have wasted no time in finding activities and lessons for the children and last evening finally resumed my own social life. Our time in DC was not very fun for me, despite the fact that there were almost 100 Catholic homeschooling moms in our county. Everyone lived so far away and were so busy that almost every attempt at an outing were perpetually put off. I was even rebuffed by the officer's spouse club and just waited out our tour to return to the more hospitable South.

Thursday night was such a pleasant evening with old friends, a little adult beverage, yummy snacks, and a big $$ win (3 bunkos and 7 baby bunkos assured my success). I might not be able to attend lunch bunch with 6 noisy children in tow (not to mention the cost), but scintillating conversation with people over the age of 12 is certainly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

where do vitamins come from?

I have been reading a very interesting book entitled Twinkie, Deconstructed, My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.

What amazed me was the complexity of processing in every box, bag, and jar of ready to eat food on the grocer's shelf. For every ingredient there is a long chain from farmers/miners to factories to make those substances into something edible. Many of the vitamins and minerals that make their way into pills and enriched flour are made in China, which does not bode well for our future security and health. This danger was emphasized today at this news:

China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted some shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said this week.

Our trade imbalance with China is so severe that any attempt to put tariffs on imported goods could result in a scarcity of One-A-Day bottles on the grocery store shelves or a return of such vitamin deficiency diseases such as beriberi (caused by an absence of thiamine, B1). What a mess we have found ourselves in today because of a 30 year transfer of manufacturing from the US to overseas. There are few items we really need to import from hostile countries, but vitamins are vitally important ones we don't think about.   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Homeschool Buzz is hosting this week's carnival with a celebrity birthday theme.

Monday, October 18, 2010

another state, another round of deciphering homeschool law...

I might have done something really dumb or perhaps not last week when I attempted to track down an opportunity for Will to participate in a local spelling bee. He does have a knack for learning difficult words (photogenic, enthusiasm), though he can also spell rifle incorrectly (rifel) two minutes later. I figured it would be a learning experience and, knowing that the local public school allows homeschoolers to participate in some activities and classes, called up the middle school and was directed to the "homeschool liaison." Well, when the woman called me back she was direct in saying that he would not be allowed to be in the school's spelling bee and that I was required to fill out a notice of intent to homeschool to be legally homeschooling in the state.

Now, we started our homeschooling adventure in Virginia 8 years ago and I was informed way back then (same laws were in effect) that because we were fully enrolled with Seton Home Study School that we did not have to interact with the state in any way because the curriculum was on an approved list in Richmond. The impression I was given by the Chesapeake superintendent's office was that using Seton was the same as sending them to Portsmouth Catholic, it was a private school and neither set of parents have to notify/get permission from the state.

However, now I am concerned that this is not the case, so with a phone message waiting at HSLDA, I am attempting to understand the law so I comply, but do not give more information or power to a school district that should spend its resources teaching the children under its care, rather than harassing families who are educating their own offspring. 

edited to add: after talking with a HVEA representative, I was all ready to submit my paperwork, but then the HSLDA attorney called me back and informed me that legally the children are NOT homeschooled, but are private school students. I promptly called the homeschool liaison (public school bureaucrat) and informed her of the same. We are not obligated to submit intent forms, standardized testing results or have any interaction with the city or state. 

But since the past 7 years have looked, sounded like, and felt like homeschooling, I will in non-legal conversations consider myself just as much of a homeschooler as ever before!    

Saturday, October 16, 2010

a homeschooling family

Since Will shows some aptitude in the areas of science and math we are encouraging him to contemplate engineering as a career goal. Even though he is now only in 7th grade we found that we must adjust his courses so he can take Calculus and Physics while still in high school. Right now he is working through Saxon 7/6 at double speed to be able to finish it in one semester and then move on to Algebra 1/2 next semester so he can be taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade. 

With this goal in mind, Tim has taken over Will's math instruction, leaving me to concentrate on teaching his other subjects as well as the other 4 children's schoolwork. After a few weeks I have been pleased to note that this change has worked out well for all involved. Will is getting better grades since his father is more skilled in explaining numerical concepts, Tim is spending time with his son in a constructive way, and I am relieved of the entire burden of educating 5 children and keeping a toddler out of mischief.

Even though Tim works incredibly long hours, it speaks volumes about what a great dad he is to sacrifice his little free time to sit every evening with a sometimes surly boy to go over his errors, teach him the new material, and grade his lessons. I'm very blessed to have, not only a husband supportive of homeschooling but one who is willing to pitch in when the going gets a little rough.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

that Boy Scout training paid off

While Will doesn't qualify to receive a Medal of Heroism, he does get kudos for responding to my shrieks and his excellent first aid skills. I wasn't being the smartest mother on the planet when I pressed on the foot pedal while threading the needle of my sewing machine and the needle went right through my index finger nail. He raced upstairs and saw me sitting on the floor looking very pale and yelling for him to get the pliers. After he yanked the needle out, he patched me up with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid.

I did sit back down at the machine later in the afternoon and finish making his St. Benedict costume for the All Saint's Day party as well as sheepskin looking vests for two future shepherds in the Christmas pageant. I'm not so sure I need a tetanus shot since it wasn't rusty, but I'll go get one anyway because Will is so insistent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Small World at Home is hosting this week's carnival with an Autumn theme. I always get so many great ideas and laughs from reading each week, I hope you become an addict as well.

Monday, October 11, 2010

a useful tip

If, by chance, your 19 month old manages to lock herself in the bathroom, don't panic. Don't call your husband on his cell phone and hysterically ask, "What should I do?" Don't take the doorknob apart. Don't call the fire department.

What you should do is calmly look above the door sill for the tool to unlock the door. Or you could go in the garage and get a big screwdriver and mallet and take off the hinges, which is what the firemen eventually did. 

The little boys really got a kick out of seeing the big red fire engine stop in front of our house. I'm grateful they didn't get to hear the siren as it came down our block. What the neighbors must think, "Those people with ALL those kids have only been here a week, I wonder what they are going to do next?"

Saturday, October 09, 2010

10 little, 9 little, 8 little pumpkins

We harvested 20 some pumpkins out of our garden this summer and I wheedled enough to get Tim to put every last one among the bikes and suitcases in the back of the truck to bring back to Virginia. I spent a lot of time and effort growing those babies and I didn't want to just toss them in the compost pile like the tomato plants (though we did have a fun, but messy afternoon playing tomato baseball).

The children have  decorated the front yard and claimed several of the large squash with taped-on signs, but I have snagged 2 pumpkins since we have been back to make pie. After reading advice from several of you, I roasted chunks of fruit in the oven for an hour, let it cool, and cut off the rind and pureed it in the blender. So far the pies taste a little less robust than tinned pumpkin pie and much lighter in color, but since there haven't been any leftovers, no one seems to be complaining. At this rate we might not have any pumpkins left in the yard by Halloween.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

the library card blues

Despite owning enough children's books to open our own lending library (this isn't even all of them), the kids and I went down to the local library on Monday to get some fresh things to read, complete with our two items showing proof of residency. The city where we moved requires a hefty deposit paid in person just to turn on the water, so if my stepfather hadn't gone downtown for us, we would have shown up at the new house at 1am with no water. Apparently all the city services are so used to being abused and taken advantage of that they don't know how to react to decent folks who don't skip town owing hundreds of dollars.

In the past 3 years we have lived in 4 states: North Carolina, Maryland, Maine, and back to Virginia and have encountered the library policies in several towns in those localities. The Montgomery County, Maryland library system gave me grief for wanting to know the titles my children had out so we could scour the house and return them, because I was violating Will and Mary's "privacy rights". We resolved the situation by getting a household card with a 100 book limit, which is about how many books a family of 8 can carry out the door. The three libraries we frequent in Maine are very generous with their checkouts, I don't think any had a limit as long as you didn't owe any fines. But the library here has a 30 book limit per card, which is not very many when you are counting up picture books or short chapter paperback series, such as The Boxcar Children. So, after only 4 days we were back at the branch library to renew our stash only to find half way through checking out out that we hit the limit. I said, "Well, we will just get Charlie a card," but found out that we need to show all the proof of residency yet again (sorry, I don't store the power and gas bills in my purse). I'm of a mind to get every child their own card the next time we go in so our household limit will be 240 books just to irritate the powers that be at the library.

Homeschoolers as a general rule are more responsible with materials than the average Joe, check out more books, and return them more promptly. I will also write a letter to the library board asking for a large family/homeschool option to check out more than a skimpy 30 book stack limit currently in place.   

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

combatting shyness

Mary is my shy child, unable to even speak to others when she is in a new situation and it takes all my patience to not get frustrated with her. Yesterday she started piano lessons with a new teacher (her 4th teacher due to our constant moving) and ballet class. Perhaps I shouldn't have scheduled both on the same day, she was so nervous by the time we got to the ballet studio that she felt nauseous. The staff was very kind and she sat and watched the other girls for 20 minutes before joining in. Tap class starts this evening and we will see how she handles yet another new experience. I'm sure she will eventually grow out of this fear, but for now the first day of class is hard on all of us.  

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Is November 2nd here already?

'Cause I already voted. My absentee ballot arrived in the mail while we were still up in Maine and with listening to the radio, I was very familiar with all the candidates and issues on the ballot. I was even polled 3 times during the summer, a new experience for me. I'm not going to say who I voted for, but I would be quite pleased if the new governor was the one in hot water recently for stating, "If you elect me, I'll often be on the front page of the paper telling Obama to go to Hell," meaning that he will fight against encroaching socialism.   

Sunday, October 03, 2010

safe at last

There have been a few memorable trips up and down the East Coast highways, an all day rainstorm, a couple of accidents that halted our progress for hours, but this trip combined all of these, making for a very long 2 day expedition. We attempted to leave the farm at 4:30am on Friday only to be forced to turn around when some engine and electrical issues in the van gave us concern. They seemed to resolve themselves and we again started out 2 hours later. The remnants of tropical storm Nicole was our companion through Massachusetts and Connecticut which left my hands sore from the physical exertion in keeping the van on course. We decided to stay the night in New Jersey only to find out after a very long traffic jam that the van's brake lights had been non functional for much of the day (it was only due to the diligence of our guardian angels that we had not been rear-ended).

After a long night with little sleep for me (Julia Ellen didn't care for the sleeping arrangements) we again took to the road and finally arrived back at our Virginia house in time to get some Chinese take-out for supper. I have a lot of organizing and arranging to do in order to be able to do school on Monday, the schoolroom/sewing room is a huge mess and I'm at a loss of how to begin. First though we will go to Mass and receive spiritual nourishment and grace from the Sacraments. I'm sure the task ahead of me, just like the 800 mile trip we just completed, will be accomplished one small task at a time.