March 31, 2004

Book Exchange

A coffeshop in our area has a great setup going. They have several bookshelves for a free "book exchange" for their customers. Today I brought in 5 children's books and left with four new children's books and a parenting book. I found some real gems too "My B Book" by Jane Belk Moncure, " "My First Book" by Jane Belk Moncure, "Just Playing" by Mercer Mayer (kind of twaddle but Ciaran really loves these) and a Pony Pals book (I had been wanting to start a horse series with Rhiannon) and then I found "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen (a book I have almost bought 3 times but decided I shouldn't spend the money on it). They also had a copy of "Birthday for Frances" one of my favorite children's books but we already have it.

I love the concept of this and am sure we will regularly bring books and hopefully find some we are interested in reading. The coffeeshop also had a great overall setup - couches, rocking chairs and wireless internet access! I think I see spending more time there in my future.


Expanding on Simple Bedtime Stories

So what's an education minded Dad like me to do when the kids (Ciaran and Rhiannon) ask to read bed time stories that, in my opinion, are "beneath" them? I'll start off by saying that I am not anywhere near consistent in this approach but it worked well last night. Here's the background: Mom had taken Sirah out with her and I had the kiddos. Normal bed time routine includes story reading and the kids usually get to pick the book. I do like to encourage chapter books or at least books with bigger words and vocabulary. But most times I'll ready whatever they ask.

So Ciaran brings me a "Pooh's Senses" book. It's a cardboard book with one or two sentences per page and 4-5 words per sentence. He's been reading this book for about two years and can almost recite it. What to do?

So we read it, but I first had him name the 5 senses and their corresponding body parts. Then as we read the book, we found things in the house (nearby to our seats on the couch) that fit the sense we were talking about. For this purpose, a vanilla scented candle did the most "work". When Pooh smelled "his favorite snack" in the book, we smelled the candle and described it. We talked about other smells we smelled during the day (always a riot with these two and the stinky dog). As Pooh touched the honey tree we felt the smoothness of the candle and the "prickles" on Daddy's chin (by the way, dads, your FACE is a great touch and texture teaching tool - parts are smooth, parts are hairy, parts are rough - and the kids have a blast pawing your mug).

All in all, we continued and made this simple book into an impromptu lesson that worked out well for the kids at bed time.

Mom's Time

Last night I had coffee with a girlfriend and it was wonderful. This woman was able to refresh and encourage me after a long and sometimes challenging day. We were able to talk about different approaches and styles of homeschooling, why we chose to homeschool, and our history. This friend is a member of my homeschool support group and what a great group of women that is for me!

Just this past weekend I was able to meet another mom from this group at the Borders Educator Sale. We chatted for quite awhile about parenting and schooling and just life in general. We were able to help each other think of different strategies and to encourage one another. We browsed the parenting and education sections of the store and looked through the discount books together - making recommendations and sharing what we have learned. It was another great time and so helpful to me.

It is so important to take time for those moments for just ourselves. It is amazing how much they can refresh us! We have so much to offer one another and learn from each other. I also love that we feel comfortable enough with one another to just open up about who we are and what we have been through. It is so nice to find people in your life you can just be real with.


March 30, 2004

Morning Lessons

Today we started with some Phonics work in Phonics Pathways - we did four pages of blends and making words from the blends. We also played a vowel game where I said the sound and she had to point to the letter than she said the sounds and I had to point to the letters - it was fun. I must admit she got me once - she was right and I missed the sound - she couldn't stop laughing. I highly recommend this with young readers - she was doing a great job at all the sounds and thought it was a lot of fun.

Then we did some workbook work (her choice) she did beginning and then ending consonant sounds. Three pages total, two circling the right sound and one completing the word by writing in the missing ending sound. She surprised me by choosing and doing that page completely correctly. Then some nursery rhyme recitation. She choose three and I choose three. Then we read a little about an art piece and I asked her questions about it. Then she described what she would draw herself. We looked at "Snap the Whip" by Winslow Homer.

She then drew in her sketch book a picture of two children playing and called it "Playing Oh Go". She asked me to write the description of the game down as "They need to capture the little boy and get in line. Then someone needs to rescue them." She enjoyed looking at a painting, talking about it and then drawing one herself.

We finished up with a bible verse memorization and story. She also recited her past 7 verses. I amazed at how well she is retaining it. She still gets the chapter verse parts mixed up but has the exact verses memorized and remembers them with a one word clue. I've even seen her apply them on occasion.

Well we are off to get ready for our friends coming today and I have a bunch of LLL work to catch up on.


Community of Friends

As of late we have often found our family in the position of helping out other friends in need. I love the opportunity to do so and to use the circumstances as an opportunity to teach my children about community and support. I am also thankful for the opportunity to return the support that I received during my three weeks of prodromal labor from all my friends and all the support we got during our move. I think it is important for our kids to see that we can and have received support and that we need to give service as well (whether or not we receive it).

Recently several families we know have needed some support for a variety of reasons including a new birth, a miscarriage and marital concerns. We have been able to support them in a variety of ways from bringing meals to cleaning house to watching children to just being there to listen on the phone. The children have been very well behaved through all of this and have enjoyed having their friends around. We have done this despite kids being sick and our son's birthday. While it may not seem convenient it was important and I am glad that we were able to serve in this way. It is important for my family to learn to put others first and to see me doing just that as well.

Thus the decrease in blogging as I often find myself with extra children around here. As example yesterday morning we headed to the doctor as Ciaran has a very rough ear infection. We returned home in time to have lunch and pick up before several friends came over (thankfully one in each of my children's age ranges) the kids played together and the mother and I were able to chat about things she needed to talk about. Then she was able to leave the kids here and head to a doctors appointment. While she was gone the kids and I made cookies and played games.

After they left we talked about helping out people in need and how that is important and fun at the same time. Ciaran actually fell asleep at 4pm and stayed asleep until this morning! I'm glad his body was able to heal some. Serona and I had a good date night here at the house.

I got another call from a friend yesterday who asked if I could watch her boys today while her husband and her take care of some important things. I said yes of course. So again I will find myself with 5 kids under 5 in the house just like yesterday. On days like this I let go of everything else and focus on the kids, meals and general pickup. We fit learning into the teachable moments and usually end up with one day of the week heavier on the studies.

I feel these are very important lessons for my kids to learn and am glad to be able to help. We received such an outpouring of support during Sirah's pregnancy, postpartum period and our move that I have really wanted to be able to give back (to those same families and others). I believe community and being neighborly are such important aspects of life and ones so often done without in our current society. There is this myth that you should be able to do everything yourself - but I always go back to the adage "It takes a village to raise a child" and remember how true that is.

I love that I am a part of many children's lives and that they trust and love me. I love that my kids have many other adults that are a part of theirs. We need to take time to support and love one another. We all go through phases, needy and giving, and we need to come around each other during another's time of need and accept that outpouring of support and love during ours.

I have found the homeschooling world lends itself nicely to that. Our homeschool support group is wonderful, giving, self-sacrificing and fun. The children experience many adults who truly care for them and what is going on in their lives and the adults have others who will help meet (and often discover) their needs. We try to support each other through moves, depression, new births, vacations, and the myriad of everyday stuff that comes up. At times some are on the receiving end for awhile (as we recently were) but in the end everyone gives and takes according to their need and ability and that is the way a good community works.


March 29, 2004

Ciaran's Birthday Take Two

We had a second celebration for Ciaran's third birthday this weekend. He had about 8 friends come over and they played in our school/playroom and then had a chocolate frog cake with green candles as Ciaran described it. They ran outside and played in the yard and on the playset for awhile until it started to rain then they all scrambled inside and headed back downstairs to play.

Serona decided to allow them to expend their energy by climbing and wrestling on top of him, he also organized playing with puppets and in general was a lot of fun for the kids. Ciaran had a good time - though he started to complain that his ear was hurting and then got pretty tired. He went into another room with Serona and took a real short nap while all his friends continued to play and then he came out refreshed. People slowly started to leave and eventually we ended up with one other family staying for dinner and a movie (after we put all the kids to bed in various rooms of the house).

All in all it was a nice day and I am glad we had two seperate parties as I think we would have been overwhelemed had we had everyone here all together. I also really enjoy the fact that we do family parties and always invite all siblings from a family. Some people were surprised at this choice - but we had a 7 year old boy here yesterday who was fabulous with all the kids - he was pushing them on the swings and just in general getting along with everyone. At our homeschool group party we had several older children and I think it really adds to the fun on the party. One of the benefits of homeschooling is your kids get accustomed to playing with and enjoying the company of a wide range of kids in both age and gender. I really like that our homeschool group ranges from 7 months to 11 years old, it only serves to benefit both the children and the parents.


March 26, 2004

Poetry, Art, History and Play

The kids played outside the rest of the morning after we finished schooltime - then lunch and naps for Sirah and Ciaran. Rhiannon and I took advantage of the time and worked together. She read me a chapter from Dick and Jane and then two Bob books. Then she did a file folder game with written numbers on it - she needed to match the written number to the amount of spots on a ladybug - she did fairly well - the teens were hard for her to sound out but with help sounding out a few she was able to do it.

Then she went out on our deck with her nature notebook and colored pencils - she drew a sketch of our backyard - with the blue sky, grass, tree and a flower ( she must be imagining that). Then we read two poems from Robert Frost and discussed what we thought they meant. She closed her eyes to listen to the one and imagined it then described to me what she saw. The poem A Time to Talk by Robert Frost reminded her of her friend Madelyn and then she talked about how it made her feel to talk to her. The other poem we read After Apple Picking was longer and harder for her to digest and understand. She could not grasp why he was so tired and I reminded her of when we went apple picking and how tired she was after two bags - how would she feel after picking thousands? That seemed to help her understand and appreciate it more.

We headed downstairs to our library and read the introduction to Story of the World and discussed what history is. Then we talked about how Rhiannon has a history and I had her pull her journal off the shelf in the library. I keep a journal for each of the children discussing what they are doing and important things in our lives. I do this instead of a baby book. The journals are beautiful and I think the kids will cherish them later in life. They tell the history of our family. To read more about this family practice visit here. I read Rhiannon passages from the day she was born and when she was the same age as each Ciaran and Sirah so she could see that she was doing very similar things at the time. It was a lot of fun and she really enjoyed it. Then we talked about how everyone has a history and different ways we could learn history: journals, letters, books, pictures and so on. It was a special time and a memory in and of itself.

We finished our lesson time with money flash cards, talking about time on the clock and reading Amelia Bedilia. I can not believe how much we got accomplished today between our morning and our afternoon times. And it does not even felt like we spent much time on school because we spent SOOOOO much time outside enjoying the beautiful weather. The kids adore the swingset that we have in our backyard and I can see visions of me standing at the swingset all day.

I have to head off as we have company coming over for some adult time.


Great morning!

We've had a great morning. Rhiannon worked through 4 pages in Phonics Pathways and made very few mistakes on her blends. She was actually excited to be working through them. Then we did a review of the blends we learned by me saying them and her writing them,, she did a great job - only two times did she get sidetracked. The first time she said she could not write an S because it looked like a 5 and would I please help. I asked her to try herself and then she kept asking and I drew it on the easel and she was able to copy it. The other distraction was funny. She said "Mommy I know it is an E sound but I just want to write G can I?" I said no please write the correct sound and she said "but I already made the G next to the S, can I do it again on the next line?" She did so and the rest of the lesson continued.

Then we moved onto math - she wanted to do abacus work but then decided on a few workbook pages instead. She practiced writing 0-10 and ordering the numbers. She did connect the dots from 0-10 and then counted items in a set and circled the correct number.

After math she did some spelling believe it or not! I picked up a copy of Spell Time at a garage sale last year and pulled it out today to see what she would do with it - she loved it and surprised me with what she could do. This is a nice set because it has a picture of the word and then the correct number of spaces next to the word - the tiles are color coded and self correcting (though I'm not sure she even realized this) and it is easy to use. Rhiannon simply sounded out the words phonetically and she only got stuck once (on the a in goat) she did the following words correctly on the first try by herself: cow, sheep, pig, dog, and she needed help on goat. I was so proud of her.

We were going to start our Story of the World lesson but she seemed restless so instead we made a pizza with our wooden pizzamaking kit. Then we strung wooden beads into necklaces as I pretended to be her daughter. Ciaran and Sirah were both content to just play on the floor nearby during this time though Ciaran joined in when we played with the pizza and beads. We did a quick cleanup and then I sat down to nurse Sirah to sleep (and write this) while they are on a ladybug hunt. It is beautiful outside and we will head out there shortly for free playtime and maybe bike riding. Enjoy your day!



Another one in lists of inspiring songs for motherhood. This one I try to listen to each day to remind me what is important in mothering, homeschooling and life. I want to be an example for my kids and I want to leave them a legacy. I have seen firsthand the fruits of giving your children a a good model of Christianity to grow up with and leave to their kids - my in-laws have truly done this and inspire us in this way. Enjoy and think about the kind of legacy you would like to leave your children and then do what is neccessary today and every day to acheive that.

LEGACY by Nicole Nordeman

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
And you can take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all the Who's Who's and So-and-So's
That used to be the best at such and such
It wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an "Atta boy" or "Atta girl"
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon
enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

Not well-traveled, not well-read
Not well-to-do, or well-bred
Just want to hear instead
Well done, good and faithful one

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me

I Hope You Dance

In Keeping with my songs that inspire me as a mother, here is another. I hope You Dance by LeaAnn Womack has always made me think of a song I would sing to my child. I bought a journal based around the song to keep for myself, with the lyrics listed right in the front. This song inspired me to write this post about dancing through life with and for our children. Enjoy and dance!

I HOPE YOU DANCE by Lee Ann Womack

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give fate a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give fate a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone)

(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)


March 25, 2004

Ciaran's Birthday Take One

Today we had the families from our homeschool group over for a playdate - we also celebrated Ciaran's birthday. He was so excited to have everyone over. Last night I made cupcakes and cookies and the kids put together goody bags for their friends (sidewalk chalk, colored pencils, pencil eraser, sticky bugs, little toy animals, sunglasses and stickers). We had 10 kids here ranging in ages from 3-11. Thankfully the rain held off and they spent a good part of the time out in the yard running around and playing on our swingset. The kids really seemed to get along well for the most part. They played down in the play/school room and several of the older ones played board games and then some of them played "school" sitting in our desks and using the easel. We decorated cupcakes and had cookies. Ciaran had opened presents almost immediately as people came in the door - he was so excited. Ciaran and another 3 year old boy ended up in the bath after they had a sand fight. The day closed with everyone singing "Happy Birthday" right before they headed out.

Ciaran had a great time and I don't think he would have enjoyed anything more than just having the freedom to run around the yard with all his friends. It was nice for us moms too as we were able to sit on my couches and then at the table and just chat while we watched the kids play in the yard. A perfect birthday party for a 3 year old boy!


Life Uncommon

We have spent a lot of time in the car recently and yesterday I was using the time to listen to songs that motivate me as a mother. I thought I would share this Jewel song that helps me remember how to allocate my time and helps me say no (a real challenge for me) even when it is something I think I should do. It helps me remember to fight the good fight and to teach my kids to love and be brave.


Don’t worry mother
It’ll be alright
And don’t worry sister
Say your prayers and sleep tight
And it’ll be fine
Lover of mine
It’ll be just fine

And lend your voices only
To sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength
To that which you wish
To be free from
Fill your lives
With love and bravery
And you shall lead
A life uncommon

I’ve heard your anguish
I’ve heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary
But we aren’t worn out
Set down your chains
Until only faith remains
Set down your chains

And lend your voices only
To sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength
To that which you wish
To be free from
Fill your lives
With love and bravery
And we shall lead
A life uncommon

There are plenty of people
Who pray for peace
But if praying were enough
It would’ve come to be
Let your words enslave no one
And the heavens will hush themselves
To hear our voices ring our clear
With sounds of freedom
Sounds of freedom

Come on you unbelievers
Move out of the way
There is a new army coming
And we are armed with faith
To live, we must give
To live

And lend our voices only
To sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength
To that which we wish
To be free from
Fill your lives
With love and bravery
And we shall lead...

And lend our voices only
To sounds of freedom
No longer lend our strength
To that which we wish
To be free from
Fill your lives
With love and bravery
And we shall lead
A life uncommon


March 24, 2004

Acts of Kindness

Today we talked about acts of kindness and how important they are and the various ways that we can be kind and ways we can experience kindness. The day began with a trip to the grocery store (a rare occurence in our household) and it was a stressful trip - Sirah was miserable and had to be carried most of the time, and of course i forgot my sling. The other two were asking every 30 seconds if they could have this or that and I had a long list to get through. We went to the cheap warehouse type store and so by the time I got to the checkout I had to put Sirah down to load the belt with groceries and then to pack - she was MISERABLE and there was nothing I could do. Thankfully a kind woman came over and offered to help - she held Sirah for me while I finished loading the groceries into the cart and talked to the other two. Then we sat on a bench and I nursed Sirah while I talked to the kids about how kind that woman had been to us. As we were driving in the parking lot we saw a woman with two small children dop a case of soda pop cans all over the parking lot. A young man stopped and looked at her, turned around to keep going and then headed back to help her. It made me smile and we used that teachable moment to talk about acts of kindness again.

Later this evening we brought a meal, complete with salad and brownies, over to our friend who just had a baby. We talked about how we were being kind to this family and how that was for us to do. As the kids were sad to see brownies leaving the house (I did let them each have one) we talked about how they thought the boys in that family would feel getting brownies and then they were excited to share. Then we cleaned up around our house to get ready for our homeschool group coming over tommorrow.

I love days like this. When we can take the events of the day and turn them into meaningful lessons. Working with the "teachable moments" is one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling.


March 23, 2004

On Being Neighbors

We had a plan for today and then we flushed it. We flushed it right out with the beautiful weather and replaced it with a much better plan - fun and service with our neighbors.

The day began like any other normal day - free play time, breakfast, dishes, reading, then the kids headed outside while I cleaned up and got Sirah to sleep. Sirah feel asleep and we headed out to the driveway to ride bikes for awhile. Then some of our neighbors came over and we had a nice time. We moved to this neighborhood in December and have only met two families so far. That is moving in the middle of the winter in Minnesota though. Now as the weather warms up we see that we have neighbors and are slowly meeting them.

How perfect it was to meet this family though - they live across the street and have a little boy Ciaran's age and a new baby girl a few months younger than Sirah. The boys hit it off and the mother and I chatted for a nice long time. They are similar in age and in careers (she stays home and her husband is also in the computer field) and in life stage with kids our age. It was nice to meet them and to begin to feel more like a neighborhood. We spent a good part of the morning with them having fun.

I got a call from another friend who just had a baby girl and also has two older kids similar in ages to mine. We offered to come and watch the older boys so she and her husband and new baby could take care of some things they needed to. The kids had lunch (fruit salad and tofu) and then a nap and then we headed to the store to pick up a small gift for each of the new big brothers. We were able to choose a meaningful gift for each of the kids and that was nice.

We arrived at their house and helped the parents and baby get ready to go - I took pictures of the parents with their new baby as well (somehow we always forget to get pictures all together in those early days) and then it was me and 5 children under the age of 6. The kids were all very well behaved and did a great job together. I must admit I was thankful for nice weather as they spent a good amount of time outside playing together. Meanwhile I cooked dinner and did some general pickup of the toys and things that were cluttered. I swept and finished cleaning an already clean kitchen and then the kids had dinner and dessert which we brought.

After dinner they were back outside to play more and I swept the floor again (it is quite muddy), did dishes, and changed the garbage, I hung up some clothes, picked up the kids room and thought about doing laundry but didn't want to chance ruining anything. The kids came in and cleaned up and the oldest got out their PJ's and I helped the younger one his. All the kids sat on the couch each with a book to look at while I put Sirah in the sling and vacuumed their living room and made sure everything was nice and clean and calm for the family to come home to.

I had just sat down and began reading a book to all the kids when the parents arrived home to find the kids all sitting quietly on the couch listening to a story believe it or not (Boy - 6 years, Rhiannon 4 year old girl, Ciaran - almost 3 year old boy, and another 2 year old boy, Sirah 7 month old girl) in their pj's and ready for bed. We gave them their gift - the baby blanket I had recently been crocheting and chatted for a very short time and then I rounded up my kids and headed out the door after asking the father to finish the chapter I had just begun for his sons. Hopefully they are able to relax and enjoy the evening for a little while and relax. My kids were thankfully very good on the half hour drive home and got ready for bed without too much complaint tonight.

Sirah is sitting on the floor playing and crawling next to me as I type and the older two are trying to fall asleep. It has been a great day even though we did not touch a school book we learned and did a lot. Some things we did talk about were how big the earth is, the new discovery on Mars, telling time, giving to and serving our friends, and we read several books as well. I really enjoyed today.


March 22, 2004

Papers on Homeschooling You Should Read

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE) has published two papers that Daily Education News covered today. The first paper released in January of 2004 is written by Clive Belfield and is titled "Homeschooling in the US" . He covers a lot of good issues. The second paper discusses cyber and "homeschool" charters. "Cyber and Home School Charter Schools: How States are Defining New Forms of Public Schooling" is written by Luis Herta and Maria-Fernanda Gonzalez.

Keep yourself informed of things being said and presented about homeschoolers.


March 21, 2004

Homeschooling in the mainstream

The Boston Globe has an excellent article on homeschooling. This piece focuses on teenagers (especially in Massachusets) and college admission of homeschoolers. A generally positvie piece and worth the read. Click here.


Worlds Apart are Close Together

I just got off the phone with a good friend, we were on the phone for nearly 3 hours and we had not spoken in months. This is a friend from college, in college we were roommates and very alike - we had nearly everything in common and many of the same ideals and goals for our lives. Now we are still close yet our lives at times can seem so far apart. Still our ideals and goals are very much the same and we still have a lot of common ground - though we have more differences now. Still the bond we have is strong.

This friend has been at my side within hours of the birth of all three of my children - despite living in a different part of the country (and sometimes a different continent) at the time. She was present at Ciaran's birth and watched Ciaran and Rhiannon for Sirah's birth. She had just returned from Africa before Rhiannon's birth and was leaving for Africa again shortly after Sirah's birth. Still she found time and circumstances to be with our family during these special times.

If you met both of us today and did not know us say 10 years ago you might be shocked we are friends. Tonight she was telling me about her new home and I had to ask the question if she had running water (she often does not) and was not surprised when she said no. She also has solar panels and fuelpowered refrigeration and a wood stove. She is not living iin Africa - currently she lives in the mountains of Colorado. She has an outhouse and a small A frame house and she is very content with her living quarters. As she said she would much rather have a small dwelling space and a large piece of land to roam on.

Then there is me. A big house in the suburbs, a minivan, a wireless network house with 4 computers, a robotic vacuum cleaner and a ton of other modern conveniences. Our lives can seem so far apart.

Yet they are not that far apart - we share a history - but we also share dreams of the future and hopes for our lives. We both want to make the world a better place (though we may disagree about how to get there), we both want to simplify our lives (though we do that in different ways) and we both are so used to being the odd one out.

It is enriching to my life and the life of my family to be a part of her life and have her a part of ours. Despite our differences I am so thankful that we have stayed close. We have had many ups and downs in our relationship and it seems we go through phases - but it truly is special to have someone you can connect that way with - even as you grow up to be different than you thought you would be and different from each other.


March 19, 2004

Rhiannon's Views on Mommy

I found this quiz floating around on several of the blogs I read. Rhiannon and I are having a special night just the two of us. Serona is out at a movie and the younger two are asleep I have let her stay up on the couch with me and talked to her while I worked on the baby blanket I am making. We talked about God and why some people don't believe in God. We discussed homeschooling and why we do it and talked about my job before she was born (teaching and coaching debate) then she laid there on the couch and read books.

I thought this might be a nice time to try this. Of course I have no idea what I am going to get myself into - as she is just four, but I will ask and then simply type what she says - even if it isn't what I want to hear. In Rhiannon's words:

1. Why did God make mothers?
Becuase they can nurse and take care of babies

2. How did God make mothers?
He made everyone out of dust including mothers.

3. What ingredients are mothers made out of?

4. Why did God give you your mother and not some other mother?
Because he loves us and he wants us to have a great mommy.

5. What kind of little girl was your mom?
A very special girl.

6. What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
She needed to learn to love a husband before you marry him.

7. Why did your mom marry your dad?
Because once she met him she decided to marry him because he loved her so much.

8. Who's the boss at your home?
Our parents

9. What is the difference between mommies and daddies?
Daddies have beer and prickles (refering to his beard stubble) and mommies have black hair and nonnies (her word for nursing).

10. What does your mom do in her spare time?

Rest and watch movies

11. What would it take to make your mom perfect?
Just the way you are

12. If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
I don't want to change anything about you I like you just the way you are.

There you have it from her through me typing. I promise I did not encourage her or change her answers.


A Gathering of Planets

For all astronomers out there - March 22nd is a great day! All 5 naked eye planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter) will be visible in the sky together without a telescope. So plan a night of it right after dinner.

Read the full story at NASA.


Fly By Asteroid

"Using the 14-inch SoTIE telescope in Las Campanas, Chile, Gianluca Masi and Franco Mallia captured this video of the asteroid: "

Taken from: Space Weather.


Warming Up in Minnesota

It feels like a heat wave here, we are actually going to reach 50 degree today. Of course you need to add in the 45 mile an hour wind that we have that makes it feel colder than it is. Still it feels so warm we have spent a good amount of the day outside. The kids finally got to ride their bikes today - they have REALLY been missing that. We bought new helmets and realize that Rhiannon might even need the next size bike already! I still can't believe she learned to ride a two wheeler when she just turned 4! I was wondering if she would forget - but as the old saying goes - you always remember. The older kids rode up and down the driveway while Sirah slept inside and I sat on a chair crocheting a baby blanket for a friend - who had a little girl just last night! I am really enjoying crocheting and it allows me to be with the kids and also do something else. After Sirah woke up I headed back inside and the kids played on the wooden playset in the backyard and in the rocks until the wind was too much for them. They came in and we had hot cocoa and lunch.

We actually got some work done today too. Rhiannon started out by practicing writing straight lines (both vertical and horizontal), then she did self checking math cards in addition and subtraction and a subtraction file folder game. Then we did some copywork and finished up with her reading me a chapter from the Dick and Jane primary reader she just got. While we were doing that Ciaran played quietly on the floor with scissors and paper - he is really into cutting and then with some stickers. He took out a felt kit on making a rainbow with fruit and then did some wooden puzzles, he finished up with playing with his train set. Sirah moved around on the floor and mostly ate whatever came near her mouth. The faithful Aussie laid in the room with us very mellow.

We decorated our bathroom today in a fish theme, the kids helped me and they really like it. I think we are finally done - until we get around to painting and hanging artwork. We actually have curtains up so the neighbors no longer know every aspect of our lives! The house is really coming together and for the first time it feels like a place I want to stay instead of a place I am in for a period of time to be determined. Of course this is we are talking about so you never can be sure (we have had six homes (in 3 different states) since Rhiannon was born just over 4 years ago!

The kids are napping and I did some LLL work, and reading the news and cleaning. The afternoon is all about laundry and making dinner - perhaps they will want to be outside again.


Stay-at-home moms get their due

The current Time magazine cover story is on mothers choosing to stay at home to raise their kids. There is a nice review of the piece here.

The piece concludes:
"Stay-at-home moms have been bombarded for years with messages disparaging their choice. Now they should hear something else: that staying at home is a great and admirable act of self-sacrifice; that a career is not the only venue for important and meaningful work; that it is not unambitious to want to give your young children the full measure of your energy and attention."


March 18, 2004

Miss Rumphius Lesson

Today we had our homeschool support group literature based class. The first class was "I'm Gonna Like Me" by Jamie Lee Curtis, find out more here. Today we studied Miss Rumphius by Barabara Cooney. This is one of my favorite children's books of all time. I really enjoyed the group activities we did as well.

We began by sitting in a circle and reading the book to all the kids. Then we talked about how Miss Rumphius traveled to far away places and let the kids each share a place they would like to travel to, several of the older children had drawn a picture to represent where they would travel too and each took a turn explaining why or answering questions that people asked. Some places people wanted to visit included: Mars, Egypt, Hawaii, a cave, and the inside of a spinning potato (complete with a demonstration of how a potato would spin). Ciaran wanted to visit the Star Wars family in space on their spaceship and shared a book with pictures of the Star Wars characters. Rhiannon brought in a book and map of Ireland - her location of choice. She held the book on her lap and showed the pictures. She said she would like to visit because of the castles, pretty gardens, and nice sunsets. She wore her Irish step dance costume including her ghillies and demonstrated an Irish dance. She did not do the complete dance - but it was nice to see her willing to stand up in front of her peers and do what she did.

After that we painted lupines. Two of the older children had prepainted the green stems and a mother brought pretty pastel paints. The kids used their fingers to make lupine flowers. Each child made one - we used this example as a basis. Though each child's flower looked very different. Ciaran made a purple one and Rhiannon made a light blue one. While we were painting the lupines we talked about some ways we could make our world a more beautiful place. Some ideas the kids came up with were: to clean up trash, to plant flowers, to plant trees, doing art, performing dance, and writing poetry. We talked about possibly following this class up with a service project and linking it back to the book - perhaps using some ideas the kids came up with today.

We ended the class with planting lupine seeds in individual flowerpots so each child took a flower home as well as their painting and whatever picture they drew of the place they would like to visit. The kids seemed to enjoy planting the seeds. While some mothers cleaned up the room (we painted and used soil today) another mother led the kids in several games of "Duck Duck Goose", "Red Light, Green Light" and something that appeared to be moving together as butterflies or ballet dancers.

This was definitely a fun lesson and I would encourage you to try it out with a group of kids. It is even a nice lesson to just do at home with one or two children - though I do think having the interaction between the children was valuable and fun! This lesson can be adapted for a variety of ages. Today our range was 2-11 and it worked out nicely. With older children you could enhance the presentation given on location to visit to include maps, artifacts, trip itinerary and travel guides for what they might do there. You could also enhance the "Make the world a more beautiful place" discussion to include citizenship and stewardship, community service and philanthropy. This is a great book to use as a springboard for many lessons. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is wonderful and appropriate for all ages. Truly a children's classic that parents will like as well.


March 17, 2004

St Patrick's Day activities

We have had a good day today. We have listened to Irish music all day - jigs, reels, contemporary and traditional. Rhiannon has performed her Irish dance several times today and enjoyed teaching me how to do it as well. We have talked about Ireland and looked at the map. We frosted shamrock cookies with bright green frosting and little shamrock sprinkles. During snack time we had a lesson about St. Patrick's Day and some of the things associated with this day. We talked about who St. Patrick really was and what he did. We talked about what it means to be a Christian missionary and that the legend about St Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland is not true. We discussed shamrocks and how Patrick used them to explain the meaning of the Holy Trinity. We talked about leprechauns and pots of gold and rainbows.

We looked at harps, shellelighs, and the flag of Ireland. We talked about the symbolism of the Irish flag and what each color means: (old Ireland (green), new Ireland (orange) and the peace that exists between them (white). We read several books about the Irish and Ireland. We looked at our family crest and discussed what it means. We talked about where we are from on the map of Ireland (or where our descendents are from). We looked at a beautiful picture book of Ireland. The kids all wore green and Irish themed clothing. Rhiannon wearing an Irish dancer shirt and Ciaran wearing a shirt with shamrocks, Sirah wearing a beautiful green dress and myself wearing our Family Reunion shirt with our coat of arms. Even Serona wore a shamrock on his lapel to work.

No parades or ceili's this year however, perhaps next year. Some great resources we utilized for out St Patrick's Day lesson Plan this year are Enchanted Learning (I really liked their tabbed book - it had lots of easy to digest facts), National Geographic online, Ed Helper, The History Channel and How Stuff Works. There are also great sites for Irish Proverbs, Quotations and Sayings - one can be found at Irish Quotations.

The kids also spent alot of time outdoors today in our Minnesota heatwave - it was nearly 40 degrees. It is nice to have them outside again.

Hope you and your clan have a great day.


Happy St Patrick's Day

Top of the morning to you all and may you have a great St. Patrick's Day. It is said that everyone has a bit of Irish in them on St. Patrick's Day. Our family is quite Irish and we try to keep that as a part of our culture. Today we will talk about Ireland (we pulled out a map of Ireland to hang on the wall), we will color an Irish flag and talk about our heritage. We will decorate shamrock cookies and eat them. And read some traditional folklore and perform our Irish step dance. I have tried to always celebrate St Patrick's Day - though the celebrations have changed. This year I will not be drinking green beer (which I think is gross by the way) now I might have just one Guinness and enjoy the other aspects. We will not be eating cornbeef and cabbage as vegetarians - but the day is meaningflu all the same.

Here is a blessing for you today.

"The Irish Blessing":


Favorite Poem About the Irish

An Irishman Is A Guy Who...

* May not be sure there is a God, but is damn sure of the infallibility of the Pope;

* Won't eat meat on Friday, but will drink gin for breakfast;

* Believes everything he can't see and nothing he can;

* Is against abortion but in favor of hanging;

* Has such great respect for the truth, he uses it in emergencies;

* Is irrational in important things, and a tower of strength in the trivial;

* Gets married for life, but not necessarily for love;

* Can argue either side of a question, often at the same time;

* Sees things not as they are, but as they never will be;

* Believes in leprechauns and banshees, and considers anyone who doesn't to be a heathen;

* Can lick any man in the house he is the sole occupant of;

* Cries at sad movies but cheers in battle;

* Considers funerals a festivity but weddings sad events- to be put off as long as possible, preferably forever;

* Hates the English but reserves his cruelty for his countrymen;

* Gets more Irish the further he gets from Ireland;

* Is not afraid of dying, in fact may prefer it;

* Believes that God is Irish or, at least. Catholic;

* Is against corruption, unless it's a Democrat;

* Takes the pledge not to drink at the age of twelve, and every four years thereafter;

* Believes that to forgive is divine, therefore doesn't exercise it himself;

* Believes that salvation can be acheived by weekly envelopes;

* Considers anyone who won't come around to his point of view to be hopelessly stuborn;

* Loves religion for its own sake but also because it makes it damnably inconvenient for his neighbors;

* Considers a bore to be someone who constantly keeps interrupting;

* Scorns money but worships those who have it;

* Considers an Irishman who acheives success to be a traitor.

The Irish are a very perverse, complex people. It's what makes them so loveable.
They are banking so heavily that God has the same sense of humor.

Sign on the wall at Caffney's Emerald Isle, Washington, D.C.
(Owned, in order, by an Irishman, a Greek, and an Italian.)

Lessons My Mother Taught Me

My mother recently visited us for 10 days. It was very nice to see her and spend time together. Distance can be so hard, we had not seen one another for over a year and what a year it was! This was actually the first time my mother was able to see and hold Sirah and Ciaran has changed a lot since the last time she saw him. Rhiannon has grown up some too but the changes are more subtle in her these days. It was nice for us all.

I realized during this visit how much my mother has influenced the person I have become. I can only mention a few ways here yet I know there are so many more. My mother showed me that staying home was a worthwhile goal and an important thing to value. She has always stayed home with all my brothers and I and was there for us. She was always the mom who drove us and all our friends everywhere. My mother gave me a passion for knowledge and a love of reading. She is quite a reader herself and she and my father always made sure we had plenty of books available to us. Reading has always been an important part of my life.

My mother gave me a passion for sharing our family history, inspiring me to keep a written journal to each of my children and that eventually spurred my decision to keep this blog. My mother passed on her talent for storytelling as well. She gave me a tremendous ability for compassion and empathy and gave me an example of how to always put people first in life. My mother taught me generosity as well, she is one of the most generous people that I know.

My mom taught me to stand up for what I believe in - even when it is not easy. I have memories of her activism early on in my life. Whether it was standing up for taxpayers rights, protecting her children, or being my brother's advocate to get him the help he needed - she demonstrated a willingness to stand up for what was right. I have many of those same traits now and have throughout my life.

My mother raised us to be independent and self-sufficient. Sometimes I think she has mixed feelings about this aspect of our family's personality. She is glad that we are independent - but it makes it hard on her when we scattered throughout the country and live in California, Minnesota, and one who keeps moving (besides me) while her and my father stay in New York. She jokes and says she should have taught us like the Truman Show that there is no life across the bridge - so we would all stay nearby. But all in all I know she is proud of us and glad we can and do make our own decisions.

There are so many positive ways my mother (and father) have influenced me and helped shape me into the person I am today. So thank you mom and dad - your influence has served me well and will continue to do so.


March 16, 2004

On tolerance

I have removed a recent post due to controversy over it. I think I was having a hard time expressing myself clearly. I am not a hateful or intolerant person. I simply want the right to teach my children that there is such a thing as right and wrong. I do NOT believe all "multicultural" studies are bad - as a matter of fact we try to study and learn about and respect all different kinds of cultures. We read books on all sorts of cultures and try to meet different kinds of people - we have an interracial family and friends. Anyone who knows me knows I am not an intolerant or hateful person. I am sorry if I have offended some people - perhaps I was not expressing my views clearly.

The best I can explain is I teach my children to love ALL people irregardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, matriculation and even level of kindness. I do so because I believe all people are created in God's image and deserve respect and we are called to love everyone. I teach my children that there are differences between people and we need to accept and respect those differences. I try to show them how different people live and discuss the benefits of those choices. We read stories and non-fiction books about a wide variety of people, we treat all people we meet with the same level of respect and honoring. We seek out legends and traditional stories from a wide variety of cultures and I try my best to expose my kids to as much as I can and to be intolerant of intolerance.

However, I believe it is acceptable to teach my children that there is a right and a wrong. I want them to have a solid moral foundation and to be able to make moral judgments for themselves. I think there are things that people do that are wrong and that it is acceptable to say so. I do not however think that an individual choice is a reflection on an entire group of people or culture. I try to teach my children to disagree with the choice or belief but still love the person. Now that is a hard lesson to teach, to learn and to live out - but that is our goal and that is the way we approach education and life. I am a dying minority of people in our postmodern culture who believes there are absolute morals on some issues and I believe there is a way to determine right from wrong.

I believe in tolerance and I believe in love and I am tolerant and I do love people. However, I do not believe in tolerance as outright and unconditional acceptance (which is often how it is taught) and some say that makes me intolerant. I find that ironic as they do not "tolerate" me or my beliefs.

I teach my kids about a variety of cultures, I teach them that we all need to get along, we all need to be respectful and mindful of one another's differences, try to be kind to that person in a way they understand and that NOONE is "better" than anyone else because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, matriculation, culture or other classifying category. And even if they don't like the person they need to love the person Even if they disagree with the action or decision made they still need to love and respect the individual and not pass judgment on them or their culture.
So NO I am not intolerant, racist or hateful. But I don't accept and embrace behavior and choices I believe are wrong as right in order to be tolerant.


Sedna Picture

I thought this was a neat image and the kids favorite from the recent ones we have looked at of Sedna . This is an artist's rendition of the planet-like Sedna found at Spitzer Space Telescope.


March Reading List

The Wide Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner
Blueberry Shoe by Ann Dixon
A Pair of Red Sneakers b y Lisa Lawston
The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban
Rachael: The Story of Rachael Carson by Amy Erlich
Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Braids Girl by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Little House in Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (we started in Feb and just finished)

Marmee's Suprise: A Little Women Story by Monica Kulling
Here is the Coral Reef by Madeline Dunphy
Homes in Colonial America by Mark Thomas
Cheetahs by Stephanie St. Pierre
Mary Cassat: Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists Series by Mike Venezia
Castles, Caves and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman
Carousel by Donald Crews
When I Grow Up by Bruce Lansky (on careers)
My "C" Sound box by Jane Belk Moncure

Hunting The White Cow by Tres Seymour
Crickwing by Janell Cannon
Clara Caterpillar by Pamela Duncan Edwards
Best Dad in the Sea Finding Nemo by Disney/Pixar
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
Have You Seen My Cat by Eric Carle
Learn Your Numbers by Sparkle Book
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
It's My City by April Pulley Sayre
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too by Eric Carle
Car Wash by
Lyle Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Chanticlerr and the Fox by Barbara Cooney (adapted from Canterbury Tales by Chaucer)
Curious George and the Chocolate Factory by HA Rey
God made You Special by Eric Metaxas
My C Sound box by Jane Belk moncure
The Missing beach Ball by Sonali fry
Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

Sailor Moo Cow at Sea by Lisa Wheeler
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Suess
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Vegetable Garden by Douglas Florian
Rabbits Rabbits and More Rabbits by Gail Gibbons
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Gulls Gulls Gulls by Gail Gibbons
Grandpa's Quilt by Betsy Franco
The Cello of Mr O by Jane Cutler (not for younger readers)

I Love Skating by Jane Feldman
Circus by Lois Ehlert
Have you seen my cat by Eric Carle
The Cookie Store Cat by Cynthia Rylant
Can You Count to a Google by Robert E Wells
Bugs are Insects by Anne Rockwell
Be a Good Sport by Jennifer Waters
A Pony's Tale by Jodi Huelin
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
The Skwalker Family Albulm by Random House

Go-Karts b Jeff Savage
The 18 penny goose by Sally Walker
Gemstones by Ann Squire
Growing Pains by Jenny Stow
Gina by Bernard Waber
Sector 7 by David Wiesner
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
When the Root Children Wake Up bu Audrey Wood
What Are Germs by Dr Alvin Silverstein
Kirsten Learns a Lesson by THe American Girl Collection

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Jamie O'Rourke and the big potato by Tomie DePaola
Christopher Columbus by Piero Ventura
Glory by Nancy White Carlstrom
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Daisy's garden by Mordicai Gerstein
Grandfather's journey by Allen Say
Ancient Greece by Peter Chrisp.
Glass by Claire Llewellyn.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin JR

Resources We Are Using

Discovering Castle Days by J. Bradley Cruxton and W Douglas Wilson

Last Updated March 16, 2004

March 15, 2004

Sedna Update

For more information about the planet-like Sedna recently discussed by NASA visit The Spitzer Space Telescop at CalTech, which has many cool images and some information. You can also read NASA'a briefing.


Big Day for Sirah

Well little Sirah is growing up so quickly! She is nearly seven months old now and has had a very big day. Over the weekend she was getting her bearings to crawl and still is. As soon as you sit her down she leans over to crawl. Today she managed to crawl backwards! She can also get herself from sitting to a crawling position and rocks back and forth on her hands and toes. She can even get from that position back into a sitting position. Then today she decided to roll over for the first time, she went from her back to her stomach. I was thinking she would crawl before roll - but I guess it will be a tie!

Well the days of sitting her down and expecting her to stay in one place are over! I guess we will begin the babyproofing process again. I am amazed at the changes in her. She has two teeth and appears to be working on two others. She is babbling and playing with toys very well - she is pretty independent and has a red headed Irish temper combined with her German stubbornness (watch out) and you can tell she really just wants to be moving. I don't think it will be long before she masters crawling. She even began moving her hands and feet together (she fell right on her tummy though).

I'm off to finish my bible study questions and enjoy the afternoon with the kids.


March 14, 2004

New Planet? Nasa briefing

NASA will hold a news briefing on Monday March 15th at 1 pm EST. The discovery of a mysterious object in our solar system is the topic to be covered.
According to the press release:

"Dr. Michael Brown, associate professor of planetary astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. will present his discovery of the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun. He and colleagues made the discovery as part of a NASA-funded research project."
To read the full press release visit NASA.

Some are speculating that this could be a new planet in our system. From The Australian care of Drudge Report:

" NASA is expected to announce today the discovery of the space object, which some experts believe could be a new planet.

It is provisionally known as Sedna, after the Inuit goddess of the sea.

The discovery of Sedna 10 billion kilometres from Earth is a testament to the new generation of high-powered telescopes.

Measurements suggest Sedna's diameter is almost 2000km the biggest find in the solar system since Pluto was discovered 74 years ago. It is believed to be made of ice and rock, and is slightly smaller than Pluto.

The find will reignite the debate over what constitutes a planet. Some scientists claim even Pluto is too small to count as one. "

Be sure to tune tomorrowrow to find out what NASA has to say and learn more about the new discovery.


March 13, 2004


My mother has been teaching me to crochet during her visit and I am really enjoying it. I am almost finished with my first project - a scarf for Ciaran. Then I will make another scarf and move on to baby blankets for some friends.

I really enjoy the feeling of productivity that comes with crocheting. I also enjoy the ease of correcting knitting as I watch myself tear out rows of work to correct a mistake. I like that I can get something accomplished while doing other things and with my busy life that I can pick it up and put it down as needed.

I have never been crafty or good with projects like sewing, knitting or making much of anything. My mother is tremendously talented in these areas and she is thankfully a patient teacher who is willing to still teach me - even as an adult. I am thankful for that.

I also think it is good for my kids to see me learning a new skill. To watch how I learn, persistent and deal with the frustrations that go with learning a new skill. I am trying to be a good example to them even in my learning process now.

It is nice to have found a new hobby that I enjoy and feel productive with at the same time. I have my mother and Rhiannon to thank. My mother for teaching and inspiring me. My daughter for leading me to chose to learn now because she wants me to be able to teach her how to do it. Helps me live out my belief that you are never to old to learn something new.



Jupiter is visible in the sky now. Here are some fun pictures.


March 12, 2004

Recent Activities

It has been a slower week on school here at our home. We have just been trying to take time to enjoy Grandma's visit. Yesterday was a puzzle morning, the kids each did about 6 puzzles. They needed some calming activities as they were sort of bouncing off the walls again. Rhiannon and I read a book about Germs and then talked about them quite a bit, she wants to do an experiment with growing mold today that she learned about there.

Grandma has taken time to read them books as well and Rhiannon has even managed to practice her reading some. We have been talking about different G words and just moving through our week with the letter. Yesterday they took some time to listen to definitions of all the G words listed in their interactive dictionary. Grandma was making Rhiannon curtains and a comforter for her room so the kids got to watch her working on the sewing machine some. This will be Rhia's first "girl" room with purple gingham and a beautiful blanket Grandma made her to go on top of the comforter. Even Ciaran got a new makeover to his room choosing a "Finding Nemo" theme.

Thankfully Sirah was back to herself yesterday, happy and playful. Recently, she has been quite crabby due to her sickness. She really wants to crawl, she keeps rocking back and forth and she moves from a sitting position to a crawling position quite often, but then she falls on her tummy and gets mad. She still shows no interest in rolling over - she just wants to sit up and be in the middle of it all. I am glad that grandma gets to spend atleast some of her visit with a happy girl.

We have been making file folder games again - this time for a friend's birthday party. I made 9 games this week to divide up among 3 of Ciaran's friends with upcoming or recent birthday's. Ciaran was excited to pick out which ones to make and I will put the finishing touches on some for a birthday party we have today.

The snow is melting here again, though it is still cold. Yesterday I awoke to a sunny day and was excited to get the kids outside until I saw the weather and realized it was 14 degrees again and negative with the windchill, even the dog didn't want to stay outside for long. We are supposed to warm up to near 30 this weekend. March is such a confusing month in Minnesota, it seems you never know what you will get next and just when you think the spring is coming, winter roars back in like a bear.


March 11, 2004

Unknown Routines

We have been blessed with a visit from Grandma for the past week and it is a lot of fun. We are all really enjoying our time together. During this time I discovered something I did not know - we have become a family of routines! I guess I did not realize that we have paterns to our days that we follow and the benefits of those patterns until we stopped following them. We are enjoying our visit though and I am glad we let things go for awhile.

The kids and I have a rhythm to our days that I enjoy. We spend a lot of time reading together snuggled up on the couch and time in spontaneous lessons. We sing and dance and just be crazy together. Our whole week has a pattern as well. We tend to do certain things on certain days. I have cleaning and laundry routines and I think the kids even have some routines to their play. I never realized all of that until we stopped doing it. I wonder how many people just settle into the patterns of life without realizing it.

A break from routine can be a nice change of pace as it has been in this case. A return to routine is also nice as you settle back into your days. I have decided to extend our G week into next week as well. This break has been informative to me of both the things I like and do not like about our routines. Hopefully we will be able to continue the things we like and let go of the things we do not. I suppose we all have habits - both good and bad and it is important every once in awhile to realize and evaluate them and continually improve upon them.


March 10, 2004

Staying at Home as a Career

I just finished watching Mona Lisa Smile with Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst and Julie Stiles. I enjoyed the film far more than I suspected I would. Not being one to blog about film reviews - I will make an exception. One particular part of the film really struck a chord with me. One student (played by Stiles) has been accepted to Yale Law school in the 1950's and she decides to get married instead and leave law school behind. Roberts (who plays her professor) is critical of the decision - fearing that Stiles is giving up her future for a man. Stiles does a nice job acting out the response to this with integrity. She stands up for the decision to stay at home and be a wife and mother. She stands up for the decision to want to raise your family and be there for them. She stands up for woman who choose to be housewives and stands against the stereotypes so many others have of them.

It reminded me of the time when I had to make my own tough decision and the criticism I received for it. I chose to stay home with my kids. I have a Masters degree and was the top student in my year. I could have easily found a job and started a promising career. I could have continued in nearly any PhD program I wanted - but I chose to stay at home and raise my family. Serona and I felt committed to having a parent at home to raise our children and so far we have been able to do that. Thankfully it has been me, I have been blessed with the opportunity to raise my children at home.

Some people thought I was wasting my talent and education. Others thought I would regret my decision. Still others thought I was making an unnecessary sacrifice. I was doing none of the above. I made a decision that was the best I could ever have made and my whole family will reap the benefits of it. I love being a stay at home mother, I love being here for each moment of my children's life and I love the life I live.

I use my education and talents nearly every day. I believe I am using it to a far greater end than I ever could working in a career (though I still feel I have a very important and special career). This movie and the passionate response Stiles gives reminds me of my choices and how firmly I believe in them.

I understand that many people make different choices and that is fine - their life their choice. I just want the same respect for my decisions. Over the years many of those same people who were critical have seen that I made a good choice for me and my family and that we are happy this way. Some just dismissed me when I made my choice, their loss. I am doing what I intended to do. I am raising my family, I volunteer and I use my talents and abilities to help my community and those around me. I am learning something new every day and teaching my children new things all the time. I am there for my friends and my new "colleagues". I have learned that you can not make sweeping judgments about people, because they always surprise you. I get very frustrated when assumptions are made about me because I am a stay at home mom, even more when they discover I am homeschooling.

The moment in this movie was a refreshing reminder and a nice change from the way the plot was heading. There is value in some of the things we are constantly challenging and people need to be able to think and chose for themselves and we need to respect that as well. I am for progress but I am also for tradition and we do not need to leave one behind for the sake of the other.


March 9, 2004

How Do bees make honey?

This was the question Rhiannon asked at lunch today. We weren't even having honey but I guess it popped into her mind somehow. So I was about to give an off the cuff answer about bee spit - when I responded with I am unsure I will look it up for you. She said "well you can do it right now" and pointed to the "answer box" (our computer). I finished making lunch, put Sirah up in the backpack and started my search.

The first site I found was How Stuff Works which gave a rather complex explanation for a 4 year old. Though it was interesting and both simple and technical. I paraphrased it and then Rhiannon said "just read it to me mom, I'll understand it" I told her it was complicated but read. Then they had a cupcake each and I found a much more fun site. I highly recommend a visit to the Honeybee Hive on the PBS site. It is definitely worth the click.

This is a fun multimedia account with fun music and animation and simple short explanations of the processes of pollination, storing honey, larvae, and the beehive (and the different types of bees). My kids really enjoyed it as they sat and watched from the table (our computer screen is wallmounted in our kitchen) finishing their lunch. Rhiannon asked to see every section and even wanted to do them again.

We will finish the lesson up with this fact and coloring sheet from Enchanted Learning and by sketching a bee in our nature notebook. We will also spend a little time browsing this site (mostly for the pictures) on Bee Care.


Response to NYT article

Daryl has a nice response letter written by the National Home Education Network to the NYT article on Patrick Henry College. The letter answers the claim that the NYT article seems to imply that most homeschoolers are right wing evangelical Christians.


G week

We began G week yesterday and things will likely be run differently this week as Grandma is visiting. Rhiannon originally wanted to do the letter Z this week but decided that G would be a better option as Grandma was here. We headed to the library last week and filled up with our books for the week. We began yesterday with reading "My G Sound Box" by Jane Belk Moncure. Rhiannon wrote the letter G on the chalkboard and then did a page of practice letter G's in her workbook. She was excited to be able to show Grandma. Ciaran played with green play doh while Rhia and I read about Gulls, googles, gardens, and grandpa's quilt. Rhia then made gulls and the letter G out of playdoh. In the afternoon we put together our G box and filled it with some items like: gorilla, giraffe, goose, grandparents and grandchildren (photo), curious george, green pepper, a few other green items, a gate, grapes, girl, guy, globe, goat, glass, grace and gloria (dolls with G names). Then we made cupcakes with grandma (the hit of the day). I even got to go out sledding with the kids in our yard (which I never get to do) for quite awhile. Rhiannon also read one of her Primary Phonics readers to grandma and I.

One cute moment happened when we were getting ready to make dinner and cupcakes. I asked the kids what they wanted to listen to while we cooked and Ciaran said "classical music" and Rhiannon said "Vivaldi" and I reminded them that they could both be happy because Vivaldi was classical music. They were both content with that. It is so nice to me that the kids enjoy listening to classical music, and are learning to ask for composers by name.

Well off to enjoy this G day and whatever it brings our way.


March 8, 2004

Blog Survey

Michelle over at mikao's world is conducting a survey for her thesis on blogging. You can complete the survey here.


Education Week: Home Schooling article

An education week article offers some interesting information about homeschooling. From the article:

Data from the U.S. Department of Education suggest that although families who home school represent a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, most are white, religious, and conservative. Most are also well educated, middle-class, and have two or more children. According to a survey of parents who home school their children, almost 50 percent say they do so because they believe they can offer them a better education at home. Another 38 percent cite religious reasons. About a quarter say they want to avoid exposing their children to what they consider traditional schools "“poor learning environments"” (Bielick, et. al., 2001)."

I suppose our family fits that demographic as well. Our reasons for homeschooling also cross all the reasons listed. Primarily we believe we can meet our children's individual educational needs better than the public school or even private school system. We also disagree with much of that which is taught and is not taught in the school systems. The fact that our children are not "socialized" in a Lord of the Flies type environment is an added benefit in our minds as well. See my post on socialization here.

To read more check out >Education Week: Home Schooling .


College for the Home-Schooled

The NYT has an article about Patrick Henry College, the first college primarily for evangelical Christian home-schoolers. It is an interesting piece and worth the read. Some of the numbers quoted raise my eyebrows and I wonder where they are coming from. I also thought the link being made between homeschoolers and politics was interesting.

Read the whole article.


March 7, 2004

First Recital

Recently Rhiannon had her first Irish Step Dance recital. It was so wonderful to watch and we were so proud of her. It seemed like the show did not last long enough - her part being just a few minutes long. But after all the hassles and headaches about not wanting to practice - she ended up leading her little group - she remembered her steps and even smiled - which she said she was not going to do. I think she enjoyed herself - she definitely enjoyed being with her friends and being on stage, and she does like dancing.

The morning of the show however she woke up "sick" with a tummy ache and leg aches. Suspecting this was nerves we talked about it - she cuddled some with grandma and then cuddled some with me and finally ate breakfast. She was not excited about going and actually trying (not very hard) to get out of it. We talked about being nervous and how it was normal. Serona told her he still gets nervous when he goes on stage and grandma told her that she always got nervous before she gave a speech on TV. Rhiannon said that "her bones were pounding in her chest" which is usually what she says when she feels guilty about something - but she said "but I know I didn't do anything wrong" then we talked about "butterflies in the stomach" and I held her hand on the way to the show. Serona took her backstage and she perked up when she saw her friends from class. She did very well during the show and we were so proud of her. Grandma from New York came to visit (thus the light blogging) and bought her some special gifts including her first claddaugh ring! It was so exciting to have her at the show as a special guest.

I had those same mixed feelings I had last time she performed (that time was a play) that my "baby" is growing up. I really don't look at her as a baby (perhaps having two younger causes that) mostly because of the way she talks and holds herself. But still there was that sadness that she is growing up already and yet it was mostly excitement and pride at what a great job she did. This was one of her first tests at sticking power - there were a few times she did not want to continue (mostly when it came time to practice) and we almost pulled her from the class in December. Rhia then made the decision to stay with it and the commitment to practice and she did follow through (though I can not say without complaint). It paid off on the day of the dance recital. I'm glad she stuck it out even at a young age - we left the decision up to her in December and she chose to continue.

This is a natural progression and one that I don't feel came to soon. She was ready - more so than we were - but we were too (whether or not I want to admit it). 2004 has already been a big year for her - learning to read, first play, first recital, and mastering several other skills. She is so mature for her age and her vocabulary continually astounds me. We really have excellent conversations and she asks so many questions (both tough and easy ones) of me and everyone who will answer her. I hope her inquisitive nature never dies and that she continues to choose to stick with things even when they are challenging at times.

Irish step dance was good for us for many reasons - she learned more about dance and her culture and how to interact with other kids and a "teacher". But mostly I think she learned about herself. She had to make some choices and then live by them for good or for bad and she did (mostly for good). For once something did not come so easily to her and she actually had to work at it. She had to accept and learn that she wasn't the "best" at something but that she could still give her "best" and she had to learn to stay the course and practice even when she didn't want to. She also had to overcome her fears and insecurities that are a natural part of nerves before a big event. I really am proud of how she handled herself and how well this first performance went.


March 4, 2004

More Lost Rights for Parents

The Fresno Bee has a nice piece discussing Ritalin and school aged children. Sadly California legislators just defeated a bill in committee that would have freed parents of some of the strangeholds the public school system has on them. From the article:

"AB 1424, defeated in committee, would have provided that parents cannot be charged with abuse or neglect of their children if they refuse the administration of psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs, including Ritalin, to their children. While AB 1424 was but a small step, it would have represented a break in the stranglehold that the psychiatric/ pharmaceutical industry has on the treatment of so-called attention-deficit disorders.

The diagnostic process often begins in the schools because teachers, administrators and psychologists have been seduced by the industry's propaganda, legitimized by the media, that ADD/ADHD is a biological disease. Too often the first identification of an ADD/ADHD child comes from a classroom teacher. Finding a doctor who will prescribe Ritalin is easy since most have bought into the neurobiological lie."

..."Parents are not told that the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Ritalin as a Schedule II drug in the same category as cocaine. Nor are parents informed of the side effects of Ritalin, including loss of appetite, sleeplessness, tics, growth inhibition, brain shrinkage and depression."

To think that parents can give up so much control to schools without even knowing it is frightening to me. It is sad that this measure lost. Another reason to be glad we homeschool. To read the whole article visit The Fresno Bee.


Conservatives and Academic Freedom

Mark Bauerlein of Emory University has a nice write-up on the problems many conservatives face in the world of academia. He discusses their fight for freedom to express their ideas and beliefs without censorship. From his piece:

"As conservatives ask for greater intellectual diversity, this is the rejoinder we're going to hear every time. Defenders of current practices will shout about censorship and zealotry even though our proposals merely ask that conservative opinion be granted a modest place in the curriculum and in student life. Moreover, their accusations will be simple, powerful, and soundbite-friendly, aligned (ostensibly) with democratic ideals and fitted to op-ed and talking head formats."

The whole thing is worth a read.


Argument 101: Why Kerry Is Wrong

Listening to the The Hugh Hewitt Showtonight and I came across this gem from John Kerry: "I believe this president has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country. And we need to hold him accountable."

I have heard many complaints against President Bush and the one thing they often have in common is apparent in this claim. They are just that - claims without warrants. As a former debater that is a pet peeve of mine, as a Communications scholar it is an understandable political strategy. Let's go for the soundbyte and make it a good enthymeme and let the audience supply their own evidence (not caring that we do not have any ourselves). As a mother and educator I think it is important for people to recognize and defeat bad argument when they see it. Remember to be an argument there must be a warrant to go with the claim.

So let's take a closer look at Kerry's statement. I would like to examine the words he chooses to use and define them each individually. I choose to use for definitions as I believe the site represents a good common person understanding of terms.

Kerry begins with using the words "the most" which mean "Greatest in amount, extent, or degree" so by choosing this term he is saying that President Bush has done "x" more than any of the other president's before him. Using his modifier of in "modern history of our country" (which he does not define) we can consider John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. As the audience we are to compare President Bush's actions to the actions of these 8 president's that have gone before him with respect to foreign policy, be defined as "a policy governing international relations".

Kerry claims that President Bush has surpassed all 8 of these men in being "arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological". Look at the definition of each word carefully.

1. Arrogant: Having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.

2. Inept: Displaying a lack of judgment, sense, or reason; foolish

3. Reckless: Heedless or careless. Headstrong; rash.

4. Ideological: Of or relating to ideology - defined as " A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system."

You may ask why define all the terms? Well based on the criteria Kerry set up himself all is takes is ONE counter example to any ONE of his issues to disprove his statement. Of course I contend you need not even have a counter example when there is no warrant given in the first place. But for fun, can we come up with some? I encourage all my readers to add some of their own in the comments. But all it takes is one to prove Kerry is wrong.

A few that jump to my mind:

The Cold War: I do believe one would have a hard time defining President Bush as more ideological than any of the president's during the Cold War. It seems to be that ideology defined much of foreign policy during the years of Vietnam, the nuclear arms race with the USSR and the fall of Communist Russia.

Bay of Pigs : The handling of the Bay of Pigs situation emboldened Cuba to increase relations with Russia and may have led to the Cuban Missle Crisis.

Iran Hostage Crisis: The presidential handling of this led to over a year of the hostages being held.

Captain Ed offers up several more counterexamples to this claim by Kerry, such as:

"1979 - 2000 - America either retreats in the face of successive attacks by Islamofascist terrorists or attempts to negotiate with them, instead of attacking them outright. Incidents include the Teheran embassy hostages, the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, a string of hostage-taking in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, simultaneous attacks on two American embassies in Africa, and a suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen."

He also provides a nice defense of Bush. Any one of these points is enough to disprove Kerry's statement. Irregardless of what you may think of President Bush - you need to realize that Kerry's statement is just plain false and hyperbole. It is easy to disprove and impossible to prove. But it will make the news and some Americans will sadly fill in their own rationale and believe it to be true - when it plainly is not. Learn to recognize, question and disprove poor argument and teach your kids to do the same.

Perhaps it is John Kerry who needs to be held accountable for his word choice and his senate record.


March 3, 2004

Why I Love Musicmatch

Well I finally purchased Musicmatch Jukebox MX after much hemming and hawing and I am so glad we did. Our house is wired to work very nicely with this system. We have a Lyra to our surrond sound system and a computer upstairs and another downstairs so nearly every room in the house can listen to the music.

We have had the free service for a long time but recently upgraded and I love the "Artist on Demand" function. It is like having an unlimited CD collection and for homeschooling it is so nice. They have composers on demand - which allows you to select one or multiple artists to listen to - so each day we listen to Vivaldi (semester composer)and then a composer of the week.

They have a lot of variety. Recent listens include: Enya, Chant (monks), Erasure, Indigo Girls, Phish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Caedmon's Call, Rich Mullins, Nicole Nordeman, Sarah McLachlan, Pink Floyd, Lorenna McKennit, Howard Jones, Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, Billy Joel, James, Barenaked Ladies, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Everclear, Dan Fogelberg and Sheryl Crow. But they have much more variety than that. Well worth the money if you have dsl/cable and a nice speaker system.


Water on Mars

Serona has a great post over at C y b e r :: E c o l o g y on the recent discoveries found on Mars. I like the picture as well. We watched the live web broadcast for schooltime yesterday and the kids really were captivated by the live feeds and bored completely by the scientists (cut them some slack as they are 4 and 2) so I let them play nearby while I watched and then called them up on my lap when the photos were on. Serona watched the whole thing.


Great C Book

We recently read a great storybook for the letter C. I want to share all the C words contained in "Clara Caterpillar" by Pamela Duncan Edwards:


Whew, what a list. It was a fun book to read too. And after reading the book we talked about many (though not all of the words) and what they meant. I think it is an excellent springboard to talk about charachter, courage and contentment. Just thought I would share.