Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Booyah Badlands!

Before heading home we spent the day at the Badlands... Spatial perspective is lost amongst the enormity of the cliffs.

95 degrees and dry.
Breathtaking.The week was that much better because beautiful Miss. R flew in from KY. We dropped her back at the airport today (sniffle).

After a whole day of hiking, they've still got the beat....

Viking Man and the 3 youngest hiked to the very highest peak in the background. It was only a 1/4 mile walk to the trail head of the longer hikes, but it was very steep. Miss. R and I stayed below and watched carload after car-load of folks drive off without hiking once they considered the grade.

Hiking, exploring and adventuring made for happy people.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Coming Down Off the Mountain

We left vacationland, the lovely condo and a blissful alternate reality early Saturday morning, spent the day at Badlands National Park and headed home later than intended. This due to our own personalities and those we've fostered. Our unstated motto is: squeeze every.single.last.minutes.worth.out of whatever we are doing. A: Because we are curious about the world and B: We want to be involved in it-touching, doing, living out loud. So, we are at a National Park. With the fam. And hiking trails, Ranger Stations and scenic views. Of course, we had to hike and view and read marquees and walk trails and take a million pictures and see if the Prairie Dogs would do back flips and watch the Turkeys roost and go to the top of the spiky trail and go on the fossil path and climb around the boulders at the last viewing turn-off. It's what we do. It was a fabulous day at the end of a relaxing, fun and refreshing week.
We left the Park at dusk, beautiful pastel tinted evening sky, stopped at Chef's Diner to drink pitcherful after pitcherful of refreshing, thirst quenching water, ate hot fragrant food and then reluctantly turned our 2 cars towards home. Within minutes of crossing the Missouri River we lost the transmission in dh's commuter car. Our late night just got later, cause besides great places and faces in our fair state we also have a whole lot of great big, wide open nothing out here. We transferred the luggage and people from the downed car to the working car,called road-side assist and decided they could fetch the car in the morning without us rather than wait the estimated 2 hours it would take for them to reach us and re-started our trek, making our late night a bleary eyed welcome to the dusk of dawn arrival home.

Once home we discovered our Momma cat and kittens gone. Sigh.

Cub and Flower came in from their desperate search for furry felines to tell us that "pictures are flying all over the barn." Oddly, out of the dozens of water-proof, sealed Rubbermaid tubs in the barn only 3 were found with lids off, despite the fact that KB had checked them all before they left on Tuesday; and, of course, they were the picture tubs with the remainder of our dozens of scrapbooks, now full of bird droppings, rain and mold. They were all in different parts of the barn and nothing else was displaced. More memories to sort through and throw away. Argh. Cub threw himself in my arms and cried. Through sniffles and tears he looked up at me and asked intently, "Why is God so hard on us?" And so we talked about Job and how God allows trials and tribulations to come our way. He was better after his cry but still very sad about the kittens gone missing and the pictures that are no more.

It's always something. And, truth be told, we're not even surprised by the somethings anymore. We look at each other, sigh and go, "Yea, par for the course."

We left the kids at home and ran to do some necessary work-related errands yesterday evening and my husband says something to the effect of, " You know, when you don't get a break, and it's relentless, you just kind of keep grinding. You don't expect it to be different or to let up. You just keep plowing through. And then you get a break like we've just had and when the next attack comes, it's a shock."

And I look at him and wonder what is it that we are doing, or not, that creates these incessant, relentless, on-going issues. We just wake up in the morning, cook breakfast and live our quiet lives. We're not breaking new ground, our circle is not that big, we have no grandiose plans for fame or fortune. Just average people here.

KB and I were discussing how the next thing doesn't often present itself until we faithfully complete the task at hand and that this season is preparation for the next. She looks at me in mock horror and exclaims, "Oh, great! A potentially deadly car accident, house burning, young family members dying, failed contracts across venues! This is preparation? For what?!"

I come back to the only thing that continues to make sense; we are in Fight to the Finish. Ephesians 10-12 in The Message states, "And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels."

It was a well-needed rest, for almost a week. Our heart's are full of gratitude for the fun, relaxation, rest and beauty we filled our bodies and minds with. But, today, for whatever reason, we are back in the fray, battling against the Enemy who would seek to discourage us mightily. My constant prayer is this: Lord, we need you now. Show up, provide direction, answers, a well-marked path. We will follow. We are weak, You are strong. We need you now.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shalom in the Home

Shalom in the Home: Smart Advice for a Peaceful Life is written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a solution focused systems trained therapist. I love case studies and that's what this book is: case studies from the TLC show Boteach hosts where his solutions hearken to the early days of the profession-radical, edgy and risky. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Boteach weaves his Rabbinical training throughout as he addresses the importance of masculinity, womanhood, fatherhood, parenting, childhood, divorce, infidelity, grief, family dinners and materialism. Each case study focuses on a particular topic, with many references to Boteach's Orthodox Judaism as well as the Old Testament and God's relationship to His people.

A brief sampling of the wisdom Boteach shares;

"Material goods will not bring your children happiness. Rather, the more purposeful we make our children feel and the more we can liberate them from the incarcerating cell of their own selfishness, the happier and more stable they will be."

Easier said than done. I know I want my kids to have the best of whatever we can afford. And it's so much easier to buy things for our kids than to truly spend the time and energy required to get to know them, love them selflessly, ignite their passions, set them free on the path God calls. One of the biggest challenges I've had as a parent is to really take time to listen to my kids, putting my own agenda aside, praying and supporting their gifts, passions and purpose.

"There is no such thing as a bad kid. Children are utterly innocent. They are tabua rasa- a blank slate. We as parents determine children's actions by the way we ourselves act; it is our characters that determine how their characters will develop."

In the past week we've had 2 couples say how respectful and thoughtful our children are. Both comments were said about all of the kids but then the commenter's focused in on Feche-boy. One lady said, "He told me he hoped I had a great day and to enjoy my stay!" This was said in total disbelief as she went on, "You never hear a teen-age boy talk that way to an adult. Most of them never make eye contact with you at all!"
The other commenter said that she was, "Very impressed with that young man. You can tell he is respectful and kind."
One of my pet peeves is parents who don't train their kids to interact with adults. They think it's cute somehow when the kids mumble a greeting, roll their eyes, or whatever other discounting behavior they do when being introduced or interacting with someone older than them. Just for the record. It's NOT cute. It's a reflection of your poor parenting.
And I'm not saying my kids are perfect, far from it. But they are consistently respectful. We have taught them the important concept of Imago Dei. They are created in the image of God. As is every one else. And we show them respect. We are not perfect and have our own idiosyncrasies and stuff to get over, but we foster respect in our home. No name calling, no secrets,no pigeon-holing a person, basic stuff like that, along with helping each other out, serving each other, doing nice things for each other just because we love and respect one another. We teach servant hood in our home. #1 way to foster respect in a child. And for kids we go with the "fake it till you make it" belief. They don't have to believe that serving their sibling is important. They just have to do it. There will come a day when the value is internalized and you'll stand in amazement when your kids buy the perfect birthday present for each other, or take one another out for coffee "Just because." Don't let your kids childish attitudes get in the way of training their behavior in the right things.

And finally,
"I don't want children who are circus monkeys, trained to perform for their teachers and parents by bringing home A's. Rather I want kids who can overcome boredom- life's biggest disease- by always finding life, people, and facts fascinating."

Yes and yes. Fascination is easier to foster when electronics, T.V. and entertainment are controlled and kept to a minimum, along with a healthy dose of self discipline. Feed your kids a steady diet of the big outdoors, books and stimulating conversation and their imaginations will grow and develop rather than atrophy and wither. Train your kids to internalize self discipline and they will have what it takes to do anything God puts in front of them.

This was a fun and easy read but challenging nevertheless. It's easy to get complacent enough as spouses and parents, and Boteach admonishes to seek and find, no matter how difficult, the very best for those we love. Oftentimes that means getting over our selves, relinquishing our innate selfishness, in order to minister to our families and disciple our children well. Preach it Brother Boteach.

Find out more about Rabbit Shmuley, hailed as one of the most fertile minds of the Jewish community here: http://www.shmuley.com/

WR: Week-long FiELd tRip

Vacation is in session! We've had a fun and action packed week. It all started with a trip to De Smet, which you can read about here:
http://goldengrasses.blogspot.com/2010/08/little-house-on-prarie.htmlThen on to a time share on the western front. A trip by car took us to Mt. Rushmore! A tribute to men of vision, leadership and intellect and the country of Freedom they founded and protected.

Great faces, N style. I know this is a Momma brag, but aren't these people gorgeous?! They are all kind, respectful, intelligent and nice, too.

Flower was advocating for swimming at this point and kept saying, "quite asking me to smile! My lips hurt!" (chapped from the pool and climate, no doubt)

Another man of vision, intellect and leadership!

Borglum, the man behind the mountain, a man of passion and vision.

Also went on a tour of a mine. Loved this sign...

Ready to go in to the heart of a mine. O.k. Flower was already advocating for swimming (and this was in the morning!)

Standing in awe of the enormity of just part of the Homestake mine, now closed as a gold mining operation.

Panning for gold.

Miners we are not. After hearing about the life of the average miner, we all declared ourselves to be very thankful for our surface dwelling lives!

Miss. R teaching Flower camp songs, "Duh, I ate a CAT!" (it's a funny song, made funnier by the theatrics of the
Lunch in Deadwood, great food, teeny-tiny portions, way over priced, and an atmosphere that made our "G" rated family stick out like the puritanical Jesus Freaks we are.
Other activities of the week included lots of phys ed: Hiking up Terry Peak and along the Mickelson Trail, swimming, swimming, swimming & hot tubing outside at 6500 feet at night with the moon shining bright and the pine trees swaying-oh yea, Birthday partying -Feche Boy turned 16 last week, KB turns 20 on Sunday, hearing of Miss. R's college exploits,reading, of course, talking, oftentimes over each other, much to the consternation of my husband, eating, and enjoying the company of Family. Happy, happy sigh.
We'll be on our way home tomorrow, after a cook-out at the Scenic Look-out, a Star Party hosted by an area astronomy club, more swimming and a detour through the Badlands.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mary's Eyes

The docent has three little girls line up and introduces them as Mary, Laura and Carrie. She explains that Mary contracted Strep Throat, which turned in to Scarlett Fever, which turned in to Encephalitis, or perhaps Spinal Meningitis. The end result is that Mary is now blind. Pa turns to Laura and declares to her, "Now you must paint pictures with words and let Mary see through them."
And as I watch these beautiful girls standing in for Mary, Laura and Carrie I am overwhelmed with the tragedy that this family experienced and the gift that the world has received because of it. I wonder about Mary. Perhaps one day she felt God's presence strongly and prayed, "God, whatever you need from me, take. Whatever I have, use. Have your way in my life." Perhaps Mary's prayers are as much a part of the legacy of the "Little House" books as Laura's gift for writing. Perhaps the stories are so meaningful to us because they show us strength and resolution, courage and tenacity, a vision for something beyond our selves. Pa was a humble man, and Ma a humble woman, and yet they helped settle a country, start a church and a school and a community and a state. They were leaders in the truest sense of the word. And we get to know about it, perhaps because Mary prayed a humble prayer and God used Mary's willingness to sacrifice all that she had as training ground for her sister who become one of the most beloved authors of her time.

Perhaps the Rabbi of Bethlehem 2 centuries ago prayed a similar prayer, "Master of the Universe, use our humble town, use what little we have for your Kingdom. Use us in some small way to fight back against the oppressive brutality of the Romans. Use us to bring peace on earth." Praying in faith little knowing that their innocent children would be slaughtered, giving a cover of anonymity for 30 years to Jesus, who was whisked away from the scene of brutality by his earthly father and mother, who is the Prince of Peace. The slaughter of innocents could be a story of a community committed to bringing about God's Kingdom on earth.

Perhaps that is how it is with our prayers of true humility. We pray for the Lord to use us, and He does, but it is often as the anonymous donor in a much greater drama than we can even imagine. I just wonder.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Little House on the Prarie

Feche-boy, Cub, Flower and I planned to leave on vacation a few days before Viking Man and KB who stayed home to work a couple of extra days and to pick up Miss. R from the airport. As we were passing the exit to DeSmet, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and launching place of the memories that were the basis for "On the Shores of Silver Lake," " The Long Winter" and "The First Four Years." Feche-boy and I looked at each other. "Wanna Go?" I queried. "Yup!" Big smile and off we went. It was soo worth the money and time. We had a BLAST. See the little house? That's the claim shanty Pa built. Very tiny inside, even with the couple of additions. These people were pioneers, I tell you. In my mind that translates into a small bit of lunacy and a very large vision.

School is in session. Our docent was a gentle, elderly lady, a masterful story teller who delighted us all.

Reading a riddle.

My little Prairie Flower.

All of the kids had a chance to drive the team-beautiful Percheron's! And twist a rope, spin wool, churn butter, ride a pony, pet a new foal, make a button toy, catch barn cats and read lots of colorful and enriching information about the Prairie, homesteading and the Ingalls/Wilder families.

In a shanty. Stifling hot!
The entrance to the dug-out. It was much cooler than the shanty, but very dark.

Shanty cookery.

Prairie Schooners were tiny!
It was a wonderful day. We ran into another homeschooling family that was on vacation and Flower and their little girl had so much fun going through the exhibits together. The weather was perfect, the museum was enriching and educational and we all left the museum thoughtful and challenged by the tenacity and courage of the pioneers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peace, Beaver

I have been tossing and turning for nights. If there were an olympic event for turning 360's under cover I'd win. Cause while we are home, we are far from settled. The house remains un-done and critically demanding from both a time and money stand-point. I feel pulled in a 100-directions at once for a myriad of reasons. Like Mrs. Beaver on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, flurrying around, scurrying in all directions, wondering if she should pack the kitchen sink for their flight from immanent danger, flustered because she's worried she won't make a good impression, concerned that Mr. Beaver will fall into the path of danger. Geez, mahn, she's a worry wart. And when she finally meets Aslan, his comment to her, which sets all things right in her life is, "Peace, Beaver."

Oh, how I relate. Cause I'm faithful and true and a diligent and hard worker and busy and industrious and mindful of things, and thinking of what's next and on and on. But I'm concerned. Concerned about all that's not being done and what's up ahead and how I look and what's next. And with 2 little words the High King sets it all straight for Mrs. Beaver. He recognizes who she is, calls her by name, actually dignifies her presence and then, speaks words of power and might, straightens the crooked places by His ruasch, alive and manifesting His strength and vision for her. It's set right in that moment. The fussing and stressing and striving cease and she can relaxe in His presence knowing he's got her back.

I've had a hard time getting there the past many months. I've been grief-stricken and weary and flustered. And it's not that things aren't better than before, it's the process of how they've gotten that way. Inventorying time and materials, thoughts and actions, sorting through possessions that were meaningful because of memories or people, profoundly feeling the loss of family, moving yet again in a matter of months.

I look around at all of the projects and consider how we'll make due this fall and feel, oh so rocked by the waves of the circumstances. The work is something we enjoy, but the amount of it seems ominous, and while dh is confident we'll get it done, it's all in the context of a day job and homeschooling and the living that will take place around it. And I see how we get tired and sore in a way we haven't before. Age, stress, the demands of the year, manifesting themselves in practical ways.

This year, in the midst of the chaos and flurry of once in a lifetime circumstances I've longed for ritual. For benchmarks that say it's this season or that. This is what you do when, the words you say now, the posture you take in response. I've needed guides, markers, mindless actions to go through that indicate time and life go on in a sensible and pleasing pattern despite disruption and chaos and hurt and fear and unrest and inconclusiveness. This is what I was hungry for while reading "Living Kaddish"- the ritual and meaning and confirmation of faith and death and loss and living.

Flower came up to me where I was sitting a few days after we moved back home and said, very quietly, "Momma, the fire scared me." Just so plain and simple and straight forward, but sad and apologetic, like her little 7 year old self should be braver. The very fact of being home again, I think, finally allowed her to say these simple words . I said, "I know, Baby, of course it did." And she crawled into my lap and snuggled against me, curled up like when she was 2 and stayed there for awhile. Later she looked up at me and smiled and gave me a big hug and hopped up and went to find kittens to play with. I'm grateful she could be as little as she needed to be and snuggle up with someone older and bigger and stronger and sit and soak in their strength and comfort until she'd absorbed as much as she needed. And I think, on many levels, I've felt like my little girl and I've wanted to say the same thing; "The fire scared me, Sue's death rocked me, I feel the loss and lost." And I want to feel and hear and know Abba is saying, "I know, Baby, of course. Rest in My peace. I've got you. Despite the worry and chaos and confusion and disorder and house un-done and work ahead, I've got your back."

And He does. I know He does. But the discipline of getting my mind to agree with my faith has been a taxing discipline of late, especially in the wee dark hours of night.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Birthday Bouquet

Today is my birthday and I don't mind. My friend Marilyn says that folks that say they are 29 and holding, or 39 and holding, bug her. She is 49 (almost) and holding her grandbaby and proud of it. I love that.
So, I'm 48 and holding...but not in the traditional sense.

I'm still holding my own kids every now and then, even though I have a ton of friends my age holding grandbabies.

And I can usually be found holding garden produce or flowers or a shovel or a rake or a dishtowel or a mudding trowel or a child's hand or a book, or a spatula or a pen and paper in my hand.

And I'm holding my husband, who is strong and wise and funny and hard headed and doesn't know the meaning of a partee, and 5 beautiful people called children and extended family that we see, not nearly enough, and friends from all over the place in my thoughts and memories and heart.

And I'm holding what's to come: visions and dreams and hopes, in my thoughts and my soul.
So, yea, 48 and holding. A bouquet of life. Fragrant and colorful and vibrant and alive.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Global Achievemet Gap

The complete title of this book is: The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need- and What We Can do About It by Tony Wagner. Wagner, like many others, if very concerned about the ever widening gap that is occuring between the up and coming youth of our country and those of others. The job market is no longer local, but regional, and becoming global, a a concern voiced by many others (read What's Your City, check out the 2 Million Minutes Web-site).

Wagner begins the book with a brief overview of the new work environment and proposes "7 Survival Skills" our kids will "need" in order to "survive this new environment. They are: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence; Agility and Adaptability; Initiative & Entrepreneurialism; Effective Oral and Written Communication; Accessing and Analyzing Information; Curiosity and Imagination. It's not a bad list. In fact, I would tend to agree with it.

Wagner goes on to talk about the ineffectiveness of "No Child Left Behind" and how it has increased the amount of time and effort being given to "teach the test." Not only does this take valuable class time away from worthy lessons, but it has also created an environment where the tests and expectations are dumbed down in order for everyone to meet the standard. In other words, the NCLB legislation has created an environment where the standards are lowered to allow every child to appear to be keeping up (when in fact that may not be) as well as an environment that penelizes those not left behind in the first place.

Wagner talks about the new world of NetGen, how they interact with technology, people and their environment, including the academic. Multi-tasking, using technology as a way to socialize, gaming and its influences, etc are covered. Very interesting and thought provoking for those of us not of that generation.

Lastly, there is a look at 3 innovative "Schools That Work" (based upon Wagner's Survival Sills). And for cool schools they are.

I found this book difficult to read. While I initially agreed with Wagner's premise that we need to prepare our the upcoming generations to compete globally, and while I agree that true education is not about teaching to the test, I found the chapter on GenNet confusing, because it's tangential to the premise of the book. I also found several of his definitons and assumptions invalid.

First of all, Wagner asserts that schools are not doing what they are supposed to do. I, as do manyothers, disagree. Social reformers Mann, Dewey and others, modeling after the Prussian school systems of the late 19th century, created schools as a means to get kids off the streets, give them a common language and prepare them for a life of unquestioning servitude to jobs that would support the aristocracy of the time. I believe that the government school systems are doing pretty much what they were designed to do- and it has little to do with true academics.

Secondly, Wagner talks much about how kids are merely taught to "memorize" facts in school and little "true" learning takes place. "Memorizing facts" for a test 3 days a way and then forgetting everything one "memorized" is not how I, or a whole lot of others, would define "memorization." Short term memory work for performance, vs. long term memory work that is internalized, such as what is done in the Grammar stage of Classical Ed illustrates the shallowness of the current government system of context-less, "teaching to the test."

Thirdly, Wagner spends a whole lot of time explaining why education should change to meet the needs, wants and desires of NetGen. I'm in total agreement with him regarding the need for change, but disagree with him as to the reasons why. He is proposing that the definitions change to meet the needs of media/social addicts rather than the rigor and demands of education be met. My take away, though I believe he meant so much more, is to cater to the needs of a generation that has poor study habits, realationships and interests that are a mile wide and a centimeter deep and catering to self. Um, and this will make us globally competitive how?

I enjoyed reading about the Schools That Work. They are a bright light of hope and change in a system that is in desperate need of overhaul. One of the principals of High Tech High explains, " What we're trying to do is create future leaders-civic, nonprofit,and profit-who have a sense of who they are, have a passion with purpose, and have a set of skills. We want them to be able to think, to work in groups and to work independently. We want them to have a set of intellectual behaviors- Deborah Meier (a nationally prominent educator and winner of a MacArtur "Genius" Fellowship) calls them "habits of the mind": to think about significance-why is it important; perspective- what is the point of view; evidence- how do you know; connection- how does it apply; supposition- what if it were different."

For the most part I love that quote and agree that educational reform would do well to carefully consider those values. It certainly captures what we are trying to do ourselves at our modest Home school on the Prairie. But Wagner goes on to talk extensively about how the important thing is to teach kids to question. Question asking about everything, in every situation. Not because questioning is bad or evil or will cause anyone to lose thier faith (unless theirs was small to begin with) But, having recently read, The Last Christian, I was struck by this. The history prof in the book claims that the whole point of education is to learn to ask questions. Facts are not taught. Times, people and places are not memorized. Questions are de riger. Which is just oh, so post-modern. And secondly, laughable. Because I believe that, while Wagner is clearly a post-modernist, he is also reaching and searching for a tried and true educational method and term. It's called Rhetoric, and is the last stage of Classical Education. It's the culmination of a time-tested pedagogy of education, one that America used to embrace, back when it had a 90% literacy rate; memorizing to internalize, understanding and owning the rules of logic, reasoning and argument, and rigorous study allowing the student to clearly communicate complex thoughts and ideas in an orderly, persuasive and engaging manner. Wagner is advocating for something, though I don't believe that he's aware of it, that his post-modern ideology will not make room for.

Lots of This and Some of Dat


Road trip to Omaha and Baptism/Mikvah with a Messianic congregation. http://goldengrasses.blogspot.com/2010/08/shofar-blew.html. A wonderful experience, meaningful & rich

Visited our cities small zoo, cause we didn't make it to the big cities zoo on Monday. The notsolittles went through in record time and are eagerly anticipating the new rhino exhibit about to open. The other very cool thing about our zoo is a huge display area of stuffed animals (tropheys from a wealthy citizens safaris years ago) in what would have been realistic settings. They are amazing and I've been thinking all week how to incorporate that into school this year. Maybe focusing on a panarama a week and studying that animal group, then a trip to the zoo with art/nature journals to embellish? Any thoughts?

My talented and gorgeous oldest son is now 16. He is thoughtful and kind and Godly and strong (in a whole bunch of ways). Everyone says he's a clone of his Father, but that's until thye meet his Grandpa! He has a terrific and dry sense of humor, loves the deep thing of life as well as good food, good sleep, working out, reading, writing, games, hanging with friends, and walk-abouts.


Our small town is host to the longest continuing running fair in the Territories. It runs during the week, has no admission fee, is clean, wholesome and what a fair should be. We had a blast on Tuesday with our good friends, Lori and Cyndi and kids. Everybody got a wristband for rides and for $15 and not very long lines they went on ride after ride. I think the average was 14 rides for the afternoon. Lunch break included pork loin dinners with lean sandwhiches, corn on the cob, a bun and slaw for $5, homemade ice-cream, pizza and the requisite corndogs. Once the whistle blew indicating the end of wrist-band carnival-ride heaven they kids shared cotton candy and funnel cakes and spent another hour and a half walking through "Old MacDonalds Farm" and the animal stalls. The weather was a perfect 78 degrees and Lori had the foresight to pack lots of sunscreen and a water tub in the car. It was a blast. Cause good friends make even the best of times that much better.


Read the part in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" last night where Eustace is turned into a dragon. Flower's eyes were as big as saucers. But how did he become a dragon? Are dragons real, etc.and when he is in pain later on with the gold ring around his upper leg and trying to claw it off she said, so compassionately, "Aw, poor him." Cub had lots of good answers, including the correct one; Eustace acted so beastly that Aslan turned him into one."

Yummy side dish of the week: Saute fresh corn in a couple TBS of butter (with a nod to my mil); add finely diced zucchini and cook for just a minute, add simple seasoning: sea salt or Spike or maybe paprika. Healthy, simple and good.

Watched "Finding Jane" this week on our teeny tiny portable DVD player and loved it. Well written and acted. Now I'll have to go searching to see if there is any truth at all to it. Between "Jane" and "Narnia" and the accents one is bound to express as they read dialog, I felt quite British. I think I could be a closet Angliophile.

For more quick takes, please visit the lovely Jennifer at Conversion Diary (shamelessly copied from The Happy Geek: http://nomoredegrees.blogspot.com/2010/08/two-posts-in-week-its-summer-miracle.html) - I just love how she expressed that = )

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Into the Wardrobe and Why

HSV is having a "post your kids fav book" meme today and being a dedicated bibliophile I couldn't pass it up. But where to start? I thought about asking each kid individually but, knowing them (bibliophiles one and all), they wouldn't be able to limit themselves to just 1, and knowing Feche-boy and Miss. R they wouldn't be able to stop at all and I'd be knee deep into lit review and analysis for the rest of the day So, given time restraints and other obligations, I thought I'd toss out our collective favorite book. That too, is a collection of books. No matter. I was going to do a book review of them anyway for my 52 books in a year challenge so might as well do it know.
Certainly you've guessed by now that it is The Chronicles of Narnia. I was first introduced to them by this guy I dated who couldn't believe I'd never read them. I guess reading, and loving them, were part of the rite to marriage because it was on the pre-marital to-do list. I've loved them (and him) ever since. We've read the 7 books out loud as Family Read-Aloud at least 2 other, but maybe 3, times before this reading. Miss R gave Cub the bound collection for his birthday and it's been a healing balm to us to read again this fine tale through a season of rush and stress, worry, moving and unrest. If you limited yourself to the movie or audio version, fine. But do yourself a real favor and read the books. They are full of imagery and poetry and theology and the mysterious. Chock full of love and justice, fairness and revenge, illness and healing, sloth, evil and unfair gain. It's all in these 7 slim volumes, written by a master story-teller and one of the great Christian apologists of our time.

The Magician's Nephew sets the stage for the whole party. Pride, arrogance, selfishness and faithfulness to the good and True are addressed. Character development is rich and engaging. A satisfying and touching ending.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the book most are familiar with. The Pevensie children struggle with issues common to humanity and you'll recognize yourself in each one. Lots of room here for character studies. "Peace Beavers" is one of my favorite lines and one I often think the Lord would say to me. Deep magic is discussed and I think that this gentle introduction to an understanding of a priori is fundamental to all true apologetics or logic.

The Horse & His Boy might be my favorite book. As a person with an abundant gift of judgement (or, jokingly criticism) I love Lewis' treatment of the unfair and how all things are set right at the appointed time. The chapter titled, "The Unwelcome fellow Traveller" is so beautiful. It describes a boy, full of sorrows, searching for hope and truth and finding it unexpectedly in a manner he could not imagine. A beautiful portrait of understanding Christ as the person of Truth, as well as the Trinity and how the Spirit deftly guides and directs us.

Prince Caspian is all about who you are and who you follow, what are you called to be and called to do.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Eustace gets his comeuppance and a delightful one it is. "Dragon, we have a few jobs for you to do," is oft quoted 'round here.

The Silver Chair describes how fragile we are when grieving and the trouble we'll embrace for lost hopes and loves. Again, atonement, faithfulness and Truth are the themes. Puddleglum is a lovable Marshwiggle and his world is one we all embrace and love here.

The Last Battle. There will be one and it will include pain and suffering, heartache, humility and pride, lost souls who see Truth and those committed to blindness. This world, like Narnia will come to an end. Be ready.
Why do we love these books? Because Lewis is a master craftsman and words are his tools of trade. He paints with words that are fluid and and true and speak to our hearts. We've read the words countless times (because besides reading them out loud, we've all ('cept Flower) read them ourselves more than once, watched every movie version, listened to them on CD and quote them extensively. These are books that feed ones literary need for good words and ones soul for Truth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lord, We Need You Now

KB took late shift driving back home on Monday night, as she often does, and while the rest of the car slept, she and I chatted in the front seat about the summer and listened to music. Casting Crown's was playing and the song, "If We've Ever Needed You" resonated with both of us. KB shared how she and Tim (Echols, Founder of TeenPact (http://www.teenpact.com/), now running for Public Service Commissioner in GA (http://www.timechols.com/) were driving one day as they campaigned and this song came on. They looked at each, agreed to rock and cranked it out-loud. This image of the 2 of them, singing with gusto, dancing in tune, agreeing in faith together makes me really, really happy.

For one, Tim is one of those people that I will respect till the day I die. First of all, he is, possibly, the most resourceful person I know. Secondly, he has a clear vision for youth. He understands that leadership is far more than just bossiness or getting others to do what you say, but has a bigger definition of it which includes blessing others beyond what you, or they, think you can. He has created opportunities for scores of young people to grow and do and be and discover all that God has for them. He's done that by surrounded himself with people who are talented and visionary as well, like our good friends, the Stansbury's, who lead "Survival" each year (http://www.teenpact.com/index.php?page=challenge), and are seeing God work in mighty ways through their love for others.

And of course, KB. She is beautiful, and sweet and full of ginger and dramatic and talented and a visionary herself (Vermillion Road) . She is one of those people that I will respect till the day I die. She has big dreams. She has lotsa talent and hopes and resourcefulness and she's going to continue to influence and have a profound effect on the people in her life, as she already does.

The thought of these 2 people, that I appreciate and respect so much, driving along, singing this song at the top of their lungs makes me happy. And gives me chills. And brings tears to my eyes. One almost 50 and the other almost 20- a generation apart but sharing a heart hunger for the Lord to come and make straight the broken places. I feel it's prophetic in a way. A man whose life has been about igniting passion in others, of providing opportunities and disciplining them. And KB, one of those whose life has been profoundly affected by her relationship with the things Tim has done, hungering for the same things- heart connection with others, the deep things of God brought to bear on this earth, in some small way, through their obedience. They are the church, my church, reaching out with all their strength, their hands raised, their lives laid at His feet.
My heart resonates with the picture in my head and I say, in agreement, "Yes, Lord. We need you now."

If We've Ever Needed You (Casting Crowns)
Songwriters: Hall, John Mark; Herms, Bernie;

Hear our cry, Lord, we pray
Our faces down, our hands are raised
You called us out, we turned away
We've turned away

With shipwrecked faith the idols rise
We do what is right in our own eyes
Our children now will pay the price
We need Your light, Lord, shine Your light

If we've ever needed You
Lord, it's now, Lord, it's now
We are desperate for Your hand
We're reaching out, we're reaching out
All our hearts, all our strength
With all our minds, we're at Your feet
May Your kingdom come in our hearts and lives
Let Your church arise, let Your church arise

If we've ever needed You
Lord, it's now, Lord, it's now
We are desperate for Your hand
We're reaching out, we're reaching out
We're reaching out
If we've ever needed You
Lord, it's now, Lord, it's now
We are desperate for Your hand
We're reaching out, we're reaching out
If we've ever needed You
Lord, it's now, Lord, it's now
We are desperate for Your hand
We're reaching out, reaching out
We need You now
Revive us now
We need You now

Amen and Amen

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Shofar Blew

Yesterday did not go as planned.
The plan was to road trip to the closest big city, spend a long afternoon at the zoo, have dinner with friends from Sem and then attend a Baptism/Mikvah with a Messianic congregation.
What happened was that paperwork, bank visits and construction demands consumed a much greater part of the day than planned and road tripping to closest big city didn't get underway until mid-afternoon. The zoo, as well as dinner, were post-poned. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.
But then; picnics for dinner, tablecloths spread, quiet conversation.
Then Rebe went through the protocol for the evening and those getting baptized gave their testimonies; challenges spoken about, the need for renewal and re-commitment and the desire for baptism as believers rather than as expected ritual. Very sweet.
The 10 getting Baptised went into the water, tepid and calm. Rebe gave a blessing and then each person chose to go under 1, 3 or 7 times (7 times for completion, or for some, Naman's healing).
Then the remainder of the assembled came in for a group mikvah. 7 times in honor of the congregations Bar Mitvah.
The Shofar blew. Mazaltov! Exuberant faces.
Women chatting and laughing in the small park bathroom as they changed from wet to dry, from old to new, erupting into song. Community and connection to something deep and rooted, beyond each one. The congregation strengthened by shared refreshment. Joy unspeakable.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Fellowship

Today would have been my sister's 49th Birthday. The last time I saw her was a year ago. Our family was in Ohio and we spent the evening with her and her famiy, her bil Bob and his daughter, celebrating her birthday. Her sons, 6'5" and 6'3", both studying opera, with voices that fill the house and your soul, made dinner and served everyone, along with their short and bubbly sister, Miss Laugh Factory, pictured above with her Momma. Sweet fellowship.
I am not feeling the pain of the loss quite so much. It is more a bittersweet hurt than an open wound. But I am surprised at how often when I'm interacting with people I think, "They are going to die." It's such a pragmatic thought, and one that shocks me each time. I think the suddenness and unexpectedness of Sue's death has caused me, once again, to feel the fragility of life. "The grass withers, the flowers fade.." and in many ways humans are as fragile and fleeting as both.
We've been reading The Narnia series out loud in the evenings and last night we read about the victory of High King Peter and King Caspian. At the end of the battle Aslan hosts a feast. It's around a great fire and includes Talking Animals, DLF's, nyads, dryads, and dwarfs as well as humans.
"The best thing of all about this feast was that there was no breaking up or going away, but as the talk grew quieter and slower, one after another would begin to nod and finally drop off to sleep with feet towards the fire and good friends on either side..."
My notsolittles, who had been interrupting the entire story to act out a scene, or to ask a question,or to embellish in some manner, snuggled down and got quiet at this part of the story, small smiles of contentment on their faces. I think that the longing for feasting and fellowship and being surrounded by both the holy, the familiar and the mysterious, as well as fellowship of the soul is knit into all of us.
My faith, and my hope, is that Sue is feasting and fellowshipping with those she loves that have gone before, that thier joy is unspeakable. No more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain. Healing and mystery, the Holy and sweet fellowship. That this birthday for her is another day of joyous celebration with the Eternal.
And some day I'll be there. No more breaking up or going away, but an eternity of feasting with the High King and with good friends. And with Sisters.

Love you, Suz.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Come to the Table

Thus Aslan feasted the Narnians till long after the sunset had died away, and the stars had come out and the great fire, now hotter but less noisy, shone like a beacon in the dark woods, and the frightened Telmarines saw it from far away and wondered what it might mean. The best thing of all about this feast was that there was no breaking up or going away, but as the talk grew quieter and slower, one after another would begin to nod and finally drop off to sleep with feet towards the fire and good friends on either side, till at last there was silence all round the circle, and the chattering of water over stone at the Ford of Beruna could be heard once more. But all night Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.

Prince Caspian

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Global Achievement Gap

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner addresses a list of skills needed (according to Wagner) by today's teens to survive in the global market. I'm not done enough to give a good review yet but was intrigued by Wagner's list of 7 Survival Skills for Teen Today:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination

Do you agree with this list?
If so, how are you doing and what are you doing to teach your students these skills?
What would you add or subtract from this list?
Based on this list, would there be classesor curriclum that you would add to your program?
What would your own list look like?
Any other thoughts?

Friday, August 13, 2010

7 Quick Takes

1- Reading Global Achievement Gap. Excellent, especially when read in the context of Post American World, The New Global Student and 2 Million Minutes (web-site).

2- Eating yummy summer 3 bean salad (a dish I usually don't like, but this version is good!). Garbanzo beans, black beans, red pintos, corn- can of each, drain and toss together with coarsely chopped red pepper, finely chopped onion and tossed with Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. Serve on bed of lettuce.

3- Fetching KB home again (from the airport). Had a great time at Campaign U and Tim won the run-offs so he'll be on the ticket in November. Echols for Public Service Commissioner, Georgia. It's good to be part of something bigger than yourself.

4- Playing Ma Ingalls still. We're all camped in the living room still waiting for the basement to dry out. Almost there and we'll be able to move the beds down and start working hard again on getting the house ready to live in again.

5- Anticipating the Summer Birthday Season, which has almost officially started. Feche-boy will be 16 in a matter of days, then me, KB & Viking Man (plus both of my sister's birthdays and in-laws Anniversary) all within a 2 week time period. We're kicking it off today with the in-laws who are "stopping" by for a speeding bullet visit. Happy 51rst Anniversary Mom & Dad!! Seems like years since we were at their 50th Wedding Anniversary just last August!

6- Enjoying Miss. R's observations on the start of classes this week. We get the treat of seeing her in a week. Looking forward to all 7 of us being together for 7 days, the Black Hills, hiking, swimming, reading- YES!!

7- Loving that Flower (age 7) went to wake up Feche-boy (almost 16) but instead snuggled up in bed with him. Tooo cute. Sibling love is a beautiful thing!

Quick Takes is normally hosted by Jen at Conversion Diaries.days. This week Betty Beguiles takes over: Takes over at her place.

How 2 Avoid HomeSchool Burn-Out

My keeping it in perspective, on-going joke about homeschooling is that if you've homeschooled for more than 2 weeks you've already experienced frustration, joy, exasperation, elation and burn-out. An ever popular question, continually addressed in homeschooling magazines, at support groups and conferences is "How to Avoid HomeSchool Burn-out." Frequently, the solution seems to be to "quit doing school at home," "delight directed education" and "make it fun." I'm all about having fun, allowing the kids delight directed learning but think it's an oxymoron to think of homeschooling as "school at home. ' Burn-out, however, is a real deal. Here's how I've avoided, for the most part, for 2 decades:

First of all, I take homeschooling seriously. I think of it as my work. Work can be a drag at times. I've done enough work outside the home to realize that each and every place of employment has tasks, seasons and customers that are difficult to deal with and problematic. So when I'm experiencing that as a homeschooler I try to keep it in perspective. It's work. It doesn't have to be fun, or care-free, or downright wonderful all the time.

Secondly, I do continual and deliberate on-the-job training. I am a teacher. I am reading and researching about education all.the.time. At the least weekly, sometimes daily. I do this through the books I read (see my side-bar and 52 books a year reviews), checking out Newspaper and Magazine articles, keeping up to speed on homeschool message boards, and writing about homeschooling on my blog (because I find that writing hones my thoughts more than simply thinking or talking about them). I also, occasionally, go to homeschool conferences, most often to speak or vend at them, but I've got a sharp eye out for new and informative ways of doing things while I'm there.

I have a clear educational pedagogy (pedagogy: teaching method; the principles and methods of instruction) that guides and informs my homeschooling choices and investments. I'm pretty married to it, for a number of very good reasons, one of them being that it keeps me from being overwhelmed by all of the new homeschooling bells and whistles that sing their siren song from magazines, the computer and conventions, beckoning me to change course or curriculum and spend beaucoups bucks on something that I don't have time or money for.

I make very good use of all of my homeschool helpers- the DVD player, the computer, the CD player and the kids. These are utilized daily in our home for educational purposes. Last year, we threw out 80% of our homeschool supplies and curriculum after a house fire that burned us out for 9 months. Homeschooling revolved, for the rest of the year, around our unscathed and large CD collection of memory work and audio books. I often assign the kids to read to each other, check each others work, explain a simple lesson, or go through flash cards together.

I am a FindCoolStuff4MyKids2Do Fool; I'm always looking for activities, experiences and opportunities for my kids, as individuals and collectively to participate in that will grow and challenge them. If I want an opportunity that's not available, I'll probably work hard to create it. I'll ask for scholarships or work study or bartering to get things done when it seems out of our price range. My kids have gone abroad and all over the country, participated in politics, field trips of every sort, yearly drama competitions, TeenPact, Tea Parties (both political and gastronomical), event planning, camps, started blogs (Vermillion Road & servingHimblind) and so much more because I follow up on what's available (thought not always obvious). The cool thing is that there's always more to find out about; just this year I discovered Poetry Outloud and the National History Day (watch out, Feche-boy =)!

We talk about the privilege of being together and having the time and resources to homeschool regularly. Its not unusual for you to hear one of my kids thanking God for allowing us to homeschool during our Family Prayers. We are in a unique time and place in history that allows us to homeschool and my kids are old enough to realize it. They know enough of the educational history of oIur country to understand that we have chosen a different path for their education with a different vision from government school, they relish the hours of free time, the privacy, the lack of unhealthy societal influences in their lives. So, they are, most of the time, grateful for being homeschooled. And that makes my job way easier.

I have a clear vision for homeschooling, a well-defined Mission for homeschooling and Yearly Goals for Homeschooling that incorporate physical, social, spiritual, and mental challenges for each student (and teacher). That's a whole different post (maybe book) and something I've written about frequently already. I know why we started homeschooling, and why we keep homeschooling. Honestly, I think it's integral to successful homeschooling

Burn-out is probably inevitable at some point (see my post just days ago: http://goldengrasses.blogspot.com/2010/08/20-years-no-retirement.html) but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker. In fact, it can be seen as a time to re-evaluate. Perhaps it's time to step back and reassess your curriclum, read a book on teaching, listen to more CD's, look at ones Vision. Realize that homeschooling is work, but it can be work that is rewarding and satisfying on a level that you won't find anywhere else.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Government Schools are in Trouble

(this is shamelessly copied from George Grant's blog: Grantian Florilegium)

Firm Foundations

Yesterday I had time to visit a bunch of homeschool blogs and see what others plans were and hopped over to a site that I am really enjoying; SmallWorld at Home. Sarah has a fun blog- chock full of great stories, funny tales and terrific homeschooling resources. We just happen to be studying American History this year, and she has a whole section on it! She's a devoted user of Sonlight curriculum, which is also one I recommend over and over. It's the curriculum we started with years ago back when it was in its second year of existence. Becky Lewis, co-founder of Sonlight, was in our Sunday School class in California before she and her husband returned to the mission field and while I haven't purchased a core from Sonlight in years, I always get their catalog and (had) built a library around their suggestions.
Some of our foundational homeschooling behaviors can be traced back to Sonlight; things we started doing back in 91', and things we're still doing today:
1- Read Alouds. We've done a daily read-aloud, almost daily, for years and years and years. Often we'll have a book related to history or lit going on during the middle of the day, while just before bed-time for the notsolittles, we'll have a ''fun" read going, or a series, like the WilderKing Series, or Redwall, or Tolkien. Currently, we're reading aloud The Complete Works of Narnia. It's been a point of stability for all of us to gather at night, snuggle down and read aloud together. When the older kids are home, they're usually right there with us, all set for story time. Good memories, not to mention the academic benefits of vocabulary building, developing auditory skills and oral interp.

2- Private Reading. Once our kids are fluent readers they get the privilege of reading on their own for dedicated times each day. In the summer I usually require an hour.

3- Daily Bible Reading. We've spent a lot of time reading the Bible out loud, which has resulted in discussions and questions ranging from Theology to geography to Sex Ed.

4- History as Literature or Literature as History. Either way, our history and literature have been intertwined for years and years. Even our mature readers will take time to read an eled book that might introduce a historical time period. We've found that often eled books have done excellent research, the pictures are beautiful and thought provoking and it's a gentle introduction to what's coming up. We're all about "living books" around here and rarely consider text books for something as important and exciting as history.

5- Global Awareness/Missions Emphasis - Sonlight is all about people groups around the world, with a missions focus. We started homeschooling in Southern California, at a Seminary whose population boasted people from the world over and have friends who have lived and worked in the most far-flung corners of said world. Learning about different cultures, languages and people groups has always been near and dear to our hearts. Increasingly so, as I've read different books this year emphasizing the importance of training our kids to be global learners (The Global Achievement Gap, 2 Million Minutes (web-site), The Post-American World, The New Global Student, etc), as well as the fact that our oldest dd has herself gone to some of those far corners, and plans to continue to do so (you can read about her adventures here: servingHimblind.

6- Understanding Others Perspective - This was brought home again this week as I've been reading The Global Achievement Gap. Because our kids will be competing globally, rather than nationally, for jobs and resources, they need to be prepared to understand where others are coming from, to have the ability to question and think clearly about their own and others perspectives and logically and synergistically make sense of them within a framework of Truth. Because of this, we emphasize understanding our own belief system, teaching formal (lit based) as well as symbolic (math based) logic, thinking skills and problem solving, as well as World Religions and Apologetics.

7- Exploring the Wonder of the World. We've explored Tide Pools at the Pacific Ocean, toured replications of the Mayflower at Plymouth Plantation, explored Indian Mounds in Indiana, hiked lava beds in New Mexico, had photo ops at Mt.Rushmore, crossed the Missouri, watched Haley's Comet from our roof, watched meteor showers and other astronomical shows of cosmic proportion from our trampoline, spent hours and hours outdoors gardening, gone to Science Centers & Aquariums from coast to coast and had a marvelous time doing so. Our kids have gone even farther, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, having frolicked on the Gulf Coast summer after summer, taken field trips with Grandma's and even gone abroad. The World is also close to home and we've reveled in our spring batch of new kittens, had goats and sheep and even a horse, explored the hills and pastures and river around our property and encouraged the kids to be outdoors as much as possible. The love of the natural world is knit in to the fabric of our kids beings.

Of course there's more to Sonlight than what I've mentioned, and for a complete understanding of their methodology, check out their web-site. We've branched out and embraced other educational methodologies, too, but rather than replacing the value of what we gained from using Sonlight, we've incorporated into the fabric of our homeschooling. It's been a firm, and satisfying, foundation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

20 Years & No Retirement

In a few short weeks my little tribe (which has shrunk from 5 to 3) & I will begin our 20th year of Educational Anarchy. It's not really anarchy anymore, but back when we started it sure was. The leader of our local park day (long before co-ops became the norm) had even gone to jail over her choice to home school. And we lived in California at the time and were proudly involved in the phone tree that shut down offices over HR6, written by Rep Miller, who was at it again just a short time ago.
We've home schooled through earthquakes, moves, illness, Dad working (& living) out of town, pregnancies (mine), puberty (theirs), travel (ours and theirs), times of lean and times of plenty, times of loss and gain, in the Southwest, Midwest, Pacific coast, High Desert and High Plains.
And, True Confessions, it hasn't been all fun and games. Some weeks, months, years, it's been downright hard and difficult work. Some kids,subjects and seasons have been more difficult than others. This spring was one of the most difficult. The process of sorting what was left of our worldly possessions after the fire that burned us out of our house and inventorying it all for loss and value was difficult at best. The death of my 48 yo sister 4 days later put the fragility of life in perspective even more. I spent lots of time really questioning how we've invested our time in the past 2 decades, and why. I asked my husband over and over and over again if the loss of whatever income I could have garnered and the investment of time and effort, money and supplies into this endeavor had been worth it. Again and again he said, "Yes." I truly for the first time lost my "Why" for homeschooling.
But he remembered and he kept reminding me of our "Why" and it is this: To give our children a firm foundation- academically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, so that they can be carefree during childhood, pointed True North all of their earthly days and in the presence of the One True Living God for all eternity.
Homeschooling's not gonna save anybody, that much is certain. There's no magic bullet as far as curriculum, or pedagogy or schedule or school room, (though I think some are more valid than others - ask me which = ), but it is a valuable and worthwhile tool in the hands of those who seek something more than average; those who desire a vastly different relationships with their kids than "normal;" those who hope to participate in a family that shares the deep things rather than run after the fleeting. Homeschooling isn't the only way to go after those ideals, but in many ways, its one of the easiest (but that's probably an all together different post).

As I've said already, we are in no way ready for fall. Our house is still a mess, the majority of our possessions are still in a trailer, we haven't ordered curriculum. Heck, my ds 15 isn't even done with 3 of last year's academic subjects yet. But, as my husband has stated to both of us over and over again this summer, "He'll make it up. We homeschool!"
It's been a hard year, that is for sure and for certain. But it would have been far more difficult if we hadn't been homeschoolers. And homeschooling allowed us to be together to grieve, cry, talk, share, work, laugh and pray during a season that has tested, and hopefully strengthened, every single one of us.
So, ready or not, here's to fall and the start of another year of learning and growing together. Of field trips and co-op and park days and books and and the joy of educational pursuit- at home, together. 20 years, and thankfully, more to go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Planning Despite Disorder

It's School Room Week over at Heart of the Matter's Not Back to School Blog Hop. It's usually fun to see how others manage their homes, supplies and curriculum while they school but I have to admit that I have had pangs of jealousy looking at some of the other blogs. For one, most of our school supplies were in the dining room, which was in bad shape after the fire (translation: most everything was thrown out). We still don't have items such as a 3-hole punch or a printer, and we are camping at the house, rather than moving in. So, while the school year looms, we continue to be in finish house mode rather than get ready for school mode.

But, I decided that I'd plan anyway, even if everything is in disarray and 1/2 done. I also can't upload updated pics because my camera battery charger is nowhere to be found since we moved back home. Waiting on KB to get back to borrow hers. Regardless, here goes.....

The kitchen peninsula, where 2 bar stools currently sit. This has been a fav gathering space already, with the laptop in the corner, facing the kitchen, but visually accessible to both the dining room and living room. There is can lighting overhead and I know that we'll have kids perched here with school work, since we've had kids perched eating, reading, 'puting and writing since we got the counter tops installed .

This is similar to the desk amoir some friends gifted us with. It is a perfect homeschool mom desk because it is cavernous, with built-in cubbies and desk organizers, holding a ton of stuff while at the same time having doors to close to hide-it-all-away. I plan to put it on the wall perpendicular to the stairs (which still need finished. Imagine the dark wood floors much, much lighter because they've been sanded already) here:
Across from the wall that the desk will sit on there is a window and the front door, both leading out to the enclosed front porch. It's an awkward space because it's not really big enough for seating, the window breaks up the wall, and it all faces the stairs. But my evil plan is to build this work station and put it there:
It's Pottery Barn inspired but Ana at Knock-Off wood has plans for it, which you can see here: http://www.knock-offwood.com/2010/02/plans-bedford-project-table-top-with.html. Ana added drawers to both sides and I love the 9 cubbies on each side! Enough space for every one's current books/notebooks, etc all in one place! And it's under "Easy Plans." Love that. My thinking is this; if I can cut and hang drywall, I can build a desk, dontcha' think?

This I love - got it from http://outintheschoolhouse.blogspot.com/2010/08/where-magic-happens.html
It's from the IKEA kitchen dept. This would fit well by the window. And, of course, I'll be hanging a large white-board up with our memory work as well as posters, maps and charts with Command Hooks on either side of the window:
(sorry pic is so blurry- Memory Work includes Bible verse and Bible fact, Math, Latin & English grammar, science, geography). I rely heavily on Living Memory as well as the current curriculum we are using for Memory Work. We use a lot of Memoria Press and they have weekly lessons plans with Memory work clearly delineated).
We are just so not ready for fall. That's the bottom line. I'm most concerned about Feche-boy because imho he's been doing a man's work this summer (he corrected me the other day when I said that, "I've seen the man (Dad) work, and I'm not doing all that! So, let me stand corrected, he has been doing far more than a middle-aged mom's work, and that's good enough for me. I don't know what I would have done without his young knees and work ethic this summer, especially with KB having been gone so much-and btw, she sure does more than her fair share when she's home, too!). I'm hoping that our week in the Hills together will refresh all of us and we'll be ready to face the challenges to come!
Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments and links to blogs = )