Archive - August 2006

Home Where They Belong
First Day of School
Brace Yourself…
Been Busy
Joy In the Morning
Geese in the Backyard
An Interesting Discovery
End of the Year
Something’s Fishy
Some Heroes Have Fur

Home Where They Belong

Before you finish reading this blog entry, please go read this poem: "I Trust You’ll Treat Her Well." For copyright reasons, I’m not going to write it out here.

When my clock radio turned on this morning, the morning show people were talking about this poem.  The woman was saying that when she heard it yesterday, she was in tears.  The other two were talking about how what a wonderful milestone that first day of kindergarten is.  Then they read the poem.  Towards the end of the poem, the baby started waking up so I turned to nurse him and I saw that my husband was awake, too.  I asked him, "Are you listening to this?" His response:  "Thank God we homeschool."  "Exactly," I said.

Is this poem supposed to be inspirational? Is it supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside? To my husband and I, it is a list of all the reasons to keep our children at home.

Gossip, group think, hurt feelings, jealousy, betrayal – uh, no thank you, not for my children.

In our family, observing nature is important and has a place in our school day.  The "important things" certainly do NOT include what to wear and the drama of best friends and second best friends.  My children are each other’s best friends.  Just ask them, they’ll tell you.

And we understand that the magic of dolls and blocks…and legos and toy kitchens is equally as important as the magic of books and learning.  In our home, childhood doesn’t end just because formal education has started.

Don’t even get me started on what "proper young ladies" do and don’t do.  And I know they don’t teach that at school anyway.  And why does the journey to womanhood have to be long and lonely?  Shouldn’t it be filled with love and joy?We should be taking that journey with our daughters, and the journey into manhood with our sons, not watching them navigate it alone.

No, I didn’t find this poem to be inspirational at all.  Instead it reminded me of how I got started  homeschooling in the first place.

When my oldest child turned 3, I heard a lot of "aren’t you going to put him into preschool?"  Being a first time mom, I bowed to the pressure and enrolled him in a twice a week preschool.  It didn’t take long before my sweet little boy started to change.  I had to plead with him every time to go to school.  Once there he cried for me.  About three weeks into it, his teacher informed me that he had grabbed another child by the neck when he didn’t get a turn at the computer.  My son had never before and has never since resorted to violence.  Never.  Then the next week his teacher tells me that Boo was doing better now, "he didn’t cry much after I left. " Didn’t cry much?  It had been 3 weeks, he shouldn’t be crying anymore at all!  That was the last class before Thanksgiving.  I spent the long weekend doing some serious soul searching.  Boo never went back to school.

Of course, still being a first time mom, I felt like I was short changing him somehow.  How was he going to learn his ABCS if he didn’t go to pre-school?  Maybe I could teach him at home!  I searched the internet for pre-school at home.  Of course, I know now that all a preschooler needs is time with mom and lots and lots of good books, but back then I still had a lot to learn.  I finally found a curriculum that had a preschool level – Sonlight.  When I received their catalog, I fell in love.  So many good books, ones I remembered from my childhood, others that I wanted to read myself.  The whole idea of homeschooling beyond preschool intrigued me.  The ability  to adjust the pace for each topic to fit my very active, very bright son was what clinched it.  Nurturing his tender spirit, guiding him carefully, letting my husband and I be his primary influences only sweetened the deal.  I ordered that preschool curriculum, spent 2 years using it with Boo and we’ve never looked back.

Yes, there will be a time when I also send my children out into the world.  But they will be physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared to handle whatever is out there.

As for this litany of things a five year old has to look forward to – no thank you!  My children are home where they belong.

First Day of School

We ended our summer of fun with a homeschooling support group picnic in our backyard. Actually, it was our next door neighbors and our combined, fenceless backyard. We figured it we be the best place, between our two families we have a swing set, climbing-sliding thing, playhouse and our yards open onto a huge field. We really need the combined yards and field because this wasn’t just any homeschooling support group, but the Catholic homeschool group. Between the 8 families in attendance, we have close to 40 children.

Great fun was had by all, even though an unattended 3 year old got into our fountain, threw the porecelain fisherman, thus losing his fishing pole and fish. The little girl was even drinking the water…ew!!!

Today was our first day of Kindergarten for Pumpkin Girl and 2nd grade for Boo. Boo has been so excited about this that he’s been begging me for school since Thursday. “I just can’t help it Mama, I need to do school!” I hope his enthusiasm lasts for a long time. Our first day went well, a few minor hiccups as I got back into the groove again. Boo said his favorite part of the day was getting to use his new binder. It’s one of those updated Trapper Keeper type things with a million little zipped pouches. Pumpkin Girl like learning about the flags of other countries.

However our day was muted at the discovery that Rose the Crab had died. Pumpkin Girl was quite upset, not hysterical, but sad and weepy. She made a little memorial for Rose:

It says “My first pet, I love Rose, Pumpkin” with a very nice picture of Rose taped to it. The back says, “Rose deer(sic) I love you So, I hope you come home to me. Pumpkin.” We debated burying Rose in the backyard or giving her a burial at sea, but the backyard won out. We thanked God for letting us care for one of his creatures and buried her under the garden gnome.

Rose the Crab, kind of crabby, but well loved.

Brace Yourself…

Wow! Have you looked at the calendar lately? It’s the end of August already! The Halloween candy is already for sale in the stores and that means that the K__ Family (that’s us) Holiday Season is well under way. Now that Bip is here, our Holiday Season starts even earlier. From August to December our family will celebrate all 4 of our children’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, our anniversary and Christmas. I have to get an early start, like in July, in order to get everything done. I know, you’re shaking your head, and thinking, “Girl, you are WAY too organized!” and are thinking of just skipping the rest of this entry. Well, let me tell you, there are two things that I really can’t stand, and that’s being disorganized while travelling and during the holidays. I want those occassions to be as stress free and as enjoyable for everyone as possible. My house may be a wreck, but my holidays are peacefully, blissfully under control. The only way for me to do this is to start organizing early.

A couple of years ago, I started a holiday planning binder. Just an extra 3-ring binder I had around and some sheet protectors. Every time I see an idea for birthday/holiday decorations, games or gifts, I put the information into my binder. I have a sheet of paper for each child for specific plans for their birthdays and their gift list. I also have a list for my own plans for the holidays, mostly baking, decorating, wrapping and mailing deadlines.

Looks like I’m not the only one contemplating the upcoming holidays. A couple of the blogs I read have also mentioned their holiday plans. Foreverchanged had a link to the Holiday Grand Plan which looks really helpful. I’ll be checking it out in greater detail. By Sun and Candlelight has a list of all the fun holiday resources she has collected. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my holiday planning passion.

Been Busy

Bad blogger alert! I’ve been busy the last few days. My parents are visiting once again and I’ve been using the time to teach myself HTML and CSS. I’d like to get into freelance web and blog design, but I really have a lot to learn. I got a great book to learn from and I’ve been soaking it all in and testing it out. All the rest of you Alpha Geeks out there wanting to get into web design, run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and pick up Head First HTML with CSS and XHTML. Or just do like I do and just go get it on Let the UPS guy deal with the heat, humidity and traffic..

So while I’ve been otherwise engaged in these pursuits of higher learning, my cousin April reminded me that there are two or three of you out there that actually care what I have to write and get more than a little annoyed if I let too many days go by without a blog entry.

How’s that for a run-on sentence?

Speaking of me going on and on…

I got a job! No, really! I am now a product reviewer for “The Old Schoolhouse” magazine. They send me products, mostly of a homeschooling nature, and I try them out and write up a review. They’ll publish my reviews, at least in part, in the magazine, and in full on their website. How cool is that? It’s really the perfect job for me. I get free stuff in the mail, I can work at the computer, I never have to leave the house, and I get to tell people exactly what I think.

In other news, Philip is now the president of our parish council, Boo caught a catfish in the Potomac and Pumpkin Girl has a nasty looking mosquito bite that required us to take her to the doctor. I’ll share pictures of Boo and the catfish later. They are on my parents’ camera and they didn’t bring their cable with them. Pumpkin Girl’s bite formed a big blister, so I’ll spare you the pictures of that. (yes, I actually took pictures, in case it got better before her doctor appointment.)It’s not infected, so she only got a prescription for Zyrtec to help with the itching and blister.

Hopefully, this quick little entry will help keep my fans happy. You know, sometimes there really isn’t a lot to blog about. Then again, I could always start making stuff up.

Joy In the Morning

Today we celebrate Bip’s First Birthday. Trying to describe just how much he means to our family is impossible. All the pain and grief have not gone, but they have been softened by the arrival of our little boy. He does not replace Rebecca, no one ever could, instead he has created is own unique space in our family. He makes us laugh and brings us all so much happiness. Over the last year we have often said, “It is so nice to have a baby in the house again.” This last year has presented it’s own special challenges, but throughout, one thing remains, and that is our love for him, and his for us.

So here’s to Bip, a very special gift from God, and living proof that while weeping may in fact last through the night, Joy does come in the Morning.

August 2005

August 17, 2006

Geese in the Backyard

As I was getting Bip dressed this morning, I looked out the window and saw geese! Our backyard opens into a small grassy field and a baseball field. The geese were actually in the baseball field, but it was still cool to see. After breakfast I got the camera and took some pictures.

I like this guy standing on the pitcher’s mound.

Knowing absolutely nothing about geese and being the good homeschooling mom that I am, I promptly looked these guys up in my field guide. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds tells me that this geese are Canada Geese, having a brownish body with black head, long black neck and conspicuous white cheek patch. They live near lakes, bays, rivers and marshes. You may remember that we live about 2 blocks away from the Potomac River, so this isn’t actually the first time we’ve seen geese here. We see them on a regular basis, usually around the grassy areas along the river. We have enjoyed watching them fly in the V-shaped formations and hearing them honking. My children have tried to get close to them, walking v-e-r-y slowly towards the flock, which in turn stands very still. The geese regard my children rather suspiciously, then moving as one, side steps away, then stops again. My children move in closer, still going slowly, the geese continue side-stepping away, then – honk, honk , honk! they take refuge in the river. It’s a pretty amusing scene to watch.This is the first time I’ve seen them in the housing area, but according the field guide, it may not be the last. Apparently, Canada geese are “especially noticeable in later summer and early fall, when they form molting flocks on golf courses and large lawns…” Well, that explains the baseball field. But is it late summer already?

After I loaded the geese pictures on to my computer, I thought they would make a good start to my nature journal. I want to get a head start on mine so the children can see one in person before starting their own. As luck would have it the book A Pocketful of Pinecones arrived from today. It is a fictional account of a mother in the 1930s as she goes through the first year of homeschooling her two children. She is following the works of Charlotte Mason, and the book focuses on the children’s nature studies and journal. I’m already several pages into it and enjoying it very much.


An Interesting Discovery

I hesitated to write about this, but you know, it’s my blog and I’ll brag if I want to!

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that my children read above grade level, but I wasn’t sure exactly at what level. Curiosity got the best of me and I found a free online reading assessment. I had Pumpkin Girl go first. Holy Hallowed Halls of Academia, Batman! The girl reads at a 3rd grade level! Remember, she is only 5 1/2. So I wondered about Boo. Same thing, he also reads at a 3rd grade level. Not as shocking, but impressive nontheless (is that one word or three?)

So what’s an overachieving mom to do?

I will continue to keep them at “grade level” for language arts. They may be strong readers, but they need to keep grammar, dictation, and spelling at K and 2. But how do I encourage their reading skills to improve, not stagnate? The problem is that 3rd/4th grade level readers will be way beyond them in terms of content. What to do, what to do? I posed the question over at the Sonlight Forums and I have already received some good advice. I got some good resources, book and author suggestions and this one key piece of advice: stick to children’s books written pre-1960. Anything newer could have subject matter that is too much for my young brood. It also occurred to me to look into the readers sold in my Catholic homeschool catalog. There were some good possibilities there, too. In a day or two, I will gather the resources and suggestions and post them here to my blog.

You know, this really shouldn’t surprise me much, given how much Philip and I both love books. I remember very clearly telling my 2nd grade teacher that I had just finished reading Little House On the Prairie. She said, “You mean your mom read it to you?” and I said, “No, I read it myself.” After that, on library day, I was allowed to go into the “big library” which was for 3rd graders and up. My first time there was amazing. I was bit timid at first, seeing all the stacks, but I got over it and never looked back.

End of the Year

It’s over! School, that is. More specifically, First Grade for Boo and Pre-K/K for Pumpkin Girl. We tied up the loose ends, finished up the subjects we’d fallen behind in and officially ended our school year. We actually school year round, so we will be starting 2nd Grade and Kindergarten on August 28th.

This last school year went quite differently from what I had planned. Last summer we moved twice and added a baby to our family. Our year-round schedule allowed us to work around the interruptions without getting stressed out about falling behind, but things happen and we got further off course than I’d “allowed” for. My plan had been to keep up school throughout the summer, finish in July, take a short break and start up again at the beginning of August. However, some unanticipated summer events got in the way. It wasn’t so much the events themselves as it was when they occured. I attempted to have school around the various activities, taking a week off for VBS, back in school for a week, two weeks off for swimming lessons, back in school for two weeks, off for a week for family visits, back for one last week to finish up. It was too disjointed that way and hard to get back into things for just a few days. This coming year, without any moving or new babies, we should find ourselves in a better position to incorporate our summer activities. I’m not too worried about it, though. We’ll see what happens and roll with the punches. It’ll all work out in the end, just like it did this year.

For those interested, we will be starting our new school year with Sonlight Core 1, which is world history. We’ll spread it out over 2 years, so that when the jump in difficulty occurs in Core 3, Pumpkin Girl won’t be completely overwhelmed. I’ve added in The Mystery of History along with Sonlight materials to help give us a little more “meat” as we take Core 1 slowly. Both children will listen in to the Bible, history and read alouds in Core 1, as well as Science 1.

Boo will continue with Horizons Math. He’s currently doing two lessons a day of level 1 and it suits him perfectly. He’s doing Sonlight Language Arts 2. I’m not sure what grade level he can actually read at, but LA 2 is a good fit for his spelling, grammar and handwriting ability.

Pumpkin Girl will do Horizons Math Level K. She’d gotten all the way to lesson 42 when it became too hard for her. We took a break and she worked on a thinking skills book. She’s been asking to do math “like Boo does”, so we’ll be back to Horizons at the start of our new school year. She’ll do Sonlight Language Arts K. She is my Wonder Reader so is actually doing the readers from LA 1 already. She’ll be done with those soon and move on to the readers from LA2. But again, for grammar, spelling and handwriting, she needs LA K.

The extra fun stuff will include nature notebooks and artist/picture studies a la Charlotte Mason. They will both continue with knitting and weaving potholders (can you say “grandmas’ Christmas presents”?) and their illustrated story notebooks. I found a home ec course for children their age which looks like fun. Art and music appreciation will round things out.

Yes, I know. Looks like a lot of girl stuff. My goal is to teach both children to manage a home, craft a little and appreciate the arts. Knitting is excellent for hand-eye coordination, plus teaches patience. When they are older, they will both learn to care for a home on the outside, like mowing the lawn and tending a garden. Their home ec skills will include car care and woodworking. We have classes for those things on base, they just need to be old enough to take them.

Lastly, it looks like both children will be into scouting this year. Boo will be playing soccer in the fall and Pumpkin Girl is taking ballet.

As for Bip, he’s just along for the ride.

Something’s Fishy

An online friend gave me a call the other day. Her family was vacationing in Ocean City, MD and wanted to meet up with us for the day in Baltimore. I’ve already met her in real life more than once, so I already knew she was not some crazy stalker lady. Philip got the day off and we headed north for a 1 hour car trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. We got lost, of course, but by sheer luck and a good dose of my God-given natural sense of direction, we found the Inner Harbor quickly and without having to tell Boo to be quiet more than once.

We had both purchased tickets online for an entrance time of 11:00. It was a good thing too, because right after we arrived, they started giving out timed entrance tickets for same-day purchasers. The wait was only 15 minutes then, but it can actually be several hours on busy days.

We had a really great day. The kids’ favorite part was the dolphin show.

They also enjoyed the sharks, the big sea turtle and seeing all their friends from “Finding Nemo.” Here’s some of our favorite pictures:

Pumpkin Girl liked this little frog. She said, “It looks like sauce.” It’s actually called a tomato frog. I wish I could have gotten a better picture.



Some Heroes Have Fur

September 11 is coming up again and this year will be the 5th anniversary of those events that should never have happened.  If you would like to mark this painful date with a tribute on your blog to one of the victims, please click the link on my sidebar.  As of today, there are not enough people signed up for every victim to be honored.  You don’t have to be a great writer or to have known the person you are assigned.  A simple Google search will give you enough information to write a short paragraph.  That’s really all that’s needed.  We’re just trying to remember that these were real people, with ordinary lives, just like you and me, who got caught in extra ordinary circumstances.

While there is information readily available about the heroes and victims of that day, not as much is known about the people and animals who worked tirelessly in the search and recovery efforts.  I can’t even imagine such a job!  The mother of one of my lifelong friends is one of those people.  She and Lucy the Wonder Dog worked several recovery missions, including the World Trade Center.  Lucy the Wonder Dog had to be put down recently.  Please go read the great tribute to Lucy and the great work she did over her lifetime.  I’m not so much a dog person, but Lucy is a Hero in my book!  Well done, Lucy.

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