Friday, September 30, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #21

We are free from excessive testing that gives no positive benefit to our children.

You would not believe - or maybe you would - the pressure surrounding state-mandated standardized testing in the schools.  The students are anxious and (some? most?) the teachers hate it too.

Yes, I understand, we need to have some means of evaluating what (and if!) kids are learning.  I get that.  But the testing has gotten all tangled up with AYP (is the school making Adequate Yearly Progress toward federal goals) and therefore funding.  And guess what that means.

Teaching to the test, which is a colossal waste of time and energy, and pressure.  Just this year I've read of scandals in two states where teachers helped the kids cheat on the tests, or went in afterwards and changed their answers so the schools would score better.  Principals were involved, and whole districts were implicated.

It's not pretty.

And how is this helping kids?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #20

Whose kids are they, anyway?
God's first.
Ours second.
Not the state's.

The government thinks it owns our kids, and that it knows better than us what is best for our kids.  I am retaining the authority that God gave me over my children.

Render to Caesar what is Caesar's. 

Not.  My.  Kids.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #19

School is real life.
Or, real life is school.
Same thing.

Shopping on a budget (economics, independent living, math), cooking (nutrition, health, science), managing money (economics, math, business), yard work (occupational ed), car maintenance (independent living, mechanics, shop, science), painting (more occupational ed), doing errands (yet more occupational ed, social studies, socialization), attending friend's Youth Symphony (art, music, history), family vacation to Mt. St. Helens (biology, geology, meteorology, ethics, botany, forestry, occupational ed)...

It's all real life.
It's all educational.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #18

We are free to spend time together as a family.

Strengthening family relationships, building closeness and togetherness takes time, and we have it.  Our kids are not separated from us for the majority of their waking hours.

I know, I know... didn't I just say this yesterday?  But it's not just the school hours, it's all the other activities our kids get pulled into.  Homeschooling families in general tend to have a different pace.  It's like the homeschooling attitude spills over into other areas.  Or maybe it's that there aren't "other areas", because our lives are more unified.  More whole.  Less fragmented.  At least that's my goal.

Certainly I've seen homeschool families that are frantically busy with enrichment activities, music lessons, sports practices and competitions, church events, etc.  Those are all things that we are/have been involved in too :D  And some families can handle more than others.  But I do find most homeschool families being very intentional about the level of activity they allow into their lives.  I also observe homeschoolers doing more things as families than in peer groups - not exclusively, but more.

We are all together in this glorious mess.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #17

Time = Influence, and we have the time.

I mentioned earlier that we were fortunate when our kids were in public school to live close enough to walk.  Except for a few months when we were remodeling and stayed with my parents.  At that time we put Wyatt and Tate on a school bus at about 8:15am and Wyatt wasn't home until 4:15.  That's eight hours away from home.  Now my kids are early risers, up by seven.  And at that time we had an 8pm bed time.  (There's a point to this, I promise.) 

Do the math.  They were spending more waking hours with their peers than with us.  Which is true for the majority of kids in public schools, especially the kids that have before and/or after school care, and there are a lot of them.  When I walked the boys to and from school there were always lots of kids there early for childcare and breakfast, and even more kids there for after-school daycare.  Which is a whole separate issue, I know.

But the point is, the average American child in state schools is spending more waking time with their peers than their parents.  And I think we see the fruit of that.

Not.  My.  Kids.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #16

We are free to be flexible with our curriculum.

If something is not working for us we can change it or chuck it.  Maybe it worked for one child but not another.  No problem.  Sure, we don't want to be capricious.  We still need to work diligently at things that are difficult.  We don't want to give our kids the message that if something doesn't work we can just quit.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

We recognize that our kids have strengths and weaknesses.  They have their own learning styles.  They have unique interests and passions.  We can use that to our and their advantage!

Gunnar is fascinated and tender-hearted toward animals.  Guess what we're doing for Science next year?  Tate loves to read about armies, soldiers, weapons, and military history.  Guess what we'll be reading about in our history/social studies next year?  Would you rather write a research paper about the Boston Tea Party or put yourself in the story with historical fiction?  Would you rather study fossils or caves?  Would you rather paint a picture or make a collage?  Whenever I can give the kids a choice, I will.

With curriculum, what works for one family may not work for another.  I remember interviewing several friends when I was thinking about homeschooling.  One mom showed me a curriculum she loved called "Spell to Write and Read."  It uses that very progression with little kids - learning spelling rules to teach writing which in turn teaches reading.  It was awesome, she was really enthused about it, and it was very successful with her girls.


But it would've been a disaster with my boys.  Not that there was anything feminine about the curriculum, but the whole thing was backwards.  Writing (fine motor skills) has to come before reading?  Not in this house!

But no problem!  I rejoice with her, and I choose something different for us :D

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #15

We have more control over outside influences on our kids - people, situations, information, media, etc.

Once again, I'm not suggesting that we should attempt to totally isolate ourselves from all the Evil Out There.  As if that were even possible.  As our Pastor recently commented, that's been tried a lot of times, never successfully.  Because guess what?  Sin is a genetic condition, and we all have it.  However...

I choose to exercise some control over what my children learn and when.  Over how much exposure my kids get to Big Issues and from what worldview.  (See #10.)  Some would call that sheltering, to which I again reply, "Yep.  That's my job."

My husband and I get to decide when and what our kids are taught about all kinds of things.  Sex.  Weapons.  STDs.  Violence.  Homosexuality.  "Tolerance."  Religion.  Politics.  All kinds of things.

I happen to think that my kids don't need AIDS Awareness beginning in Kindergarten.
I happen to think that they do not need "Lock Down Drills" that instill fear of deranged shooters and bombers coming to attack children.
I happen to think they don't need to be expected to defend themselves from play-ground bullies as little children.
I happen to think there is no benefit to them being bombarded by pop culture all day long.

We're not living in a bubble.  We're also not swimming in the sewer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #14

Our kids get real life socialization.

Guess what?  When I want my ten-year-old to observe and imitate appropriate behavior, I do not confine him for seven hours a day away from his family with 30 other monkeys ten-year-olds.  Sheesh.  That should be a no-brainer.  Kids are immature, by definition.  I don't know if it's just boys or this applies to girls to, but it sure seems like when they get in a group their IQ drops instantly by about 10 points!  They just do not reliably make good decisions together.

Just for fun, I did a little math.  If you've got a class of 30 ten-year-olds and a teacher, and let's say the teacher is my age, 45, guess what the average age of the classroom is?  Eleven.  And the average age in our family?  Twenty-six.  Now I know that's not exactly a pure scientific application that will predict behavior... I'm having a little fun here.  But honestly, where do you think the odds are better that your kids will pick up responsible behavior vs. immature behavior?

Spending time with children and adults of a variety of ages tends to produce much better 'fruit' than being in large-groups of same-age peers.  And my kids need all the help they can get ;D

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #13

We aren't just teaching our kids,
we're discipling them.

The thing is, this takes time.  A lot of time.  When you rise up, and when you sit down, and when you walk, and when you're at home, and when you're going along the road... you know, Deuteronomy 11:28-30.  Which does not, by the way, say Thou shalt not send your kids to public school.  I just don't see how you can have time to do the important things when the kids are gone most of the day.  I don't buy the quality time vs. quantity time thing.  They need both.

Shaping their character, nurturing their faith, teaching them not just what but why you believe all takes time.  Their doubts and questions and struggles don't always come at convenient moments, y'know?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #12

We can avoid educational labels.

One of my children was (ahem) suspended twice.  His first week of Grade 1 in a new school.  Yah.  Let me tell you that was a fun meeting with the principal.  (/sarcasm)  I was told that his behavior problems were obviously a result of my lack of discipline and consistency in parenting.  If that's what he said openly to my face, can you imagine what went in my son's school records?  And how fun it was for his brother, whose every behavior was interpreted in light of this?

I had the school psychologist (a very dangerous woman... ewww) tell me that Tate was disturbed and anti-social because he didn't play with all the (wild, under-supervised, uncontrolled) kids on the playground at recess, but sat by himself on the edge of the field.  My junior entomologist came home excited to tell me about the ant hill he'd discovered, and how the ants had carried the pupae away quickly when he stirred the nest.  Yah.  Seriously disturbed.

She also took his annual testing upon herself one year, when the ToD was on a personal leave of absence, and proceeded to administer tests that were completely inappropriate for a hearing impaired child.  Even when I pointed this out to her, she persisted.  You can imagine how his test results looked.

On the other hand, Tate was a late reader and he still finds writing difficult.  Frankly, his spelling is still, um... not fabulous.  And it may never be great.  I choose to roll with it.  Yes, we work on it, but I don't make a big deal about it because, frankly, he's so smart in other ways!  If I harped on his spelling and spent a ton of time on it, it probably wouldn't help and would likely hinder and discourage him.  He's my hardest working, most resourceful student.  When we study history he finds resources for me that make everything more fun and interesting.  When we study science, he catches whatever I need for our experiments (reptiles, insects, arachnids, etc.)

He is not defined by an educational label.

And it's not just Tate.  Wyatt has some pretty significant problems with his attention span, and staying focused on his work.  Imagine how much harder that would be in a room with 30 other kids!  He prefers to do his work either alone in his room (desk facing a wall), or talking it through with me.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #11

Better results in less time.

This is so well documented that it's hardly necessary to comment on it... but I will :D

Homeschoolers consistently outperform their public and private school peers across the board academically.  In every subject area.  Regardless of their parents' "qualifications".  It's true.
See HERE, and HERE, and especially HERE.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #10

Children tend to adopt the values, beliefs and behaviors of those they spend the most time with.

See #4, #5, #6, #8... you get the idea.  We choose to surround our kids, for the most part, with people who share our values and beliefs.  We don't live in a bubble.  We don't isolate ourselves from everyone who isn't 'like-minded'.  But we choose who will be the primary influencers of our kids.

That's our job.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


My friend Leah left a comment on the post below that deserves a post of its own.  She mentioned that in her area 3rd graders are at school eight hours a day and expected to do two hours of homework a night.  Sure, the eight hour day may include travel time, but two hours of homework a night?  These are eight and nine year old kids! 

My question is,

Why are parents tolerating that?

In the middle of all these posts encouraging homeschoolers, I want to say a word to encourage public and private schoolers:

You are still in charge of your kids.

You get to decide.

I like to use the analogy of building a house.  You, the parent, are the general contractor.  You are in charge of the whole project.  In fact, you're like an owner/builder.  You have a double 'stake' in the project! 

A good contractor often hires sub-contractors (plumbers, electricians, HVAC, etc.) just like you do - teachers, coaches, tutors, and the like.  But you are still in charge of the project, and you hire those subs and expect them to work toward your goals on the project. 

Now, you don't hire subs to argue with them over details that they specialize in and you don't, right?  You hire them for their expertise.  They may have a different way of doing things that you can learn to appreciate.  Or tolerate.  Even so, they may know more about the details, but you know more about the project.  You see the big picture.  And if they don't, you either correct their course, or you fire them and hire a different sub, or you do it yourself.

This is especially pertinent for those of us with HoH kids.  We see a lot of specialists.  Probably most of them are wonderful, compassionate, and helpful.  (Hi Darcy!  Hi Kimberly!)  But I've run into a few with their own agenda.  And I've run into a few who really think that parents are idiots who ought to just shut up and let the specialists run the show.  Thankfully, they seem to be the minority.

Getting back to the hours of homework issue...  when our kids were in public elementary school there were times I felt they were being given too much homework.

So I told their teachers we wouldn't be doing it. 

And we didn't.

Now, had they been goofing around at school and not completing the work they should be doing there, that would be different story, and not what I'm talking about.  The school already had them for the majority of the day, and I was not about to 'give' the school any more of our family time. 

Our life is far more enriching
than a bunch of busy-work.

Homeschool Bennies #9

Learning is fun and exciting, not boring.

Okay, maybe not every single minute, let's be honest.  But we have a lot more opportunity to get out of the classroom box and DO things!  In the last year or so we have:

hatched butterflies
ridden the Amtrak to Seattle and spent the day at the aquarium
built identical bird feeders for the yard to test what kind of birdseed the birds prefer
made our own acid/base indicators to test household substances
opened the crypt of our four-year-old chicken mummy, King Cluck
caught grasshoppers, observed their ability to close their spiracles to survive immersion
separated water into hydrogen and oxygen
attended live concerts (Messiah, Tuba Christmas, and youth symphony)
spent a day at the Science Center
toured the Whidbey Naval Air Station

And that's just off the top of my head.

Learning is real.  Learning is fun.  Learning is really fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #8

Your child will be surrounded by people who love him, encourage him, and want the best for him.

By and large the boys had a pretty good public school experience, as did I, excluding the middle school years (grades 6-8).  I made some good friends and had some delightful, engaging and inspiring teachers.  I also remember some that were harsh, cynical and bitter.  And some of the kids?  Vicious, violent, and toxic.  Amazing how much they affected the 'feel' of the school environment even when they were a small minority.

But my kids?  They spend the vast majority of their time with their parents, brothers, grandparents, as well as folks at the chapel, and friends and neighbors.  The people they spend the most time with love them and are invested in their lives.  We care about them in ways even a great school teacher never would.  Because they're ours

Love it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

Outside my window...  a practically perfect fall day.  Yes, I said fall.  And I'm ready for it, after a hot weekend :D  Leaves are drying out, turning colors, and twirling in the cool breeze.  Ahhhhh :D

I am thinking...  I think of all the 9-11 posts I've seen, this one is the best.  Because she gets it, better than all the talking-head newscasters.  It's not about me.

I am thankful for...  sunshine and a cool breeze, boys diligently getting through their school work, and fun times we're looking forward to.

I am praying for...  my brother and his wife (!), Kerry and work, and my mom's continued healing.

I am wearing...  shorts and a t-shirt.  Amazing, I know.

I am creating...  order from chaos.  I have a separate list for each day of this week, because the Mother Load could not be contained.  (eyes roll)  But the office is looking better, especially since I got all the sewing stuff picked up.  And as soon as I put it all away there's something else I want to work on...

I am going...  to do stuff.  You know,
When you do stuff, stuff gets done.
That's my extra-fancy motto.
In other (better) words,

Be strong and courageous, and do the work.
1 Chronicles 28:20

I am reading...  maps, timelines, history... not so much reading for pleasure just now.

I am hoping...  the work ethic I saw in the boys last week continues.

I am hearing...  heavy equipment spreading gravel in the alley.
You know, we have three seasons around here:
the rainy season, hunting season, and road construction.

I am remembering...  9-11.

From the learning rooms...  oh boy oh boy oh boy!  Dividing numbers with two digits, finding the least common multiple, and graphing linear and inverse equations; grammar, root words, compound subjects and verbs, the semicolon and the colon, and complete sentences vs. fragments; John Wesley Powell, explorer of the Grand Canyon; and how fossils are formed.

From the kitchen...  we bbq'ed hamburgers last night and I think I could do that five nights a week!  But.. maybe some ham tonight?

Around the house...  ACK!  Debris (gear) from the boys' SAREX that needs to be put away; laundry in the basket, in the washer, and on the line; and books, books, and more books.

On my mind...  distributing the work load over the week, somewhat equally.

Noticing that...  motivation and progress (success!) feed each other :D

Pondering these words... 
Adapt and overcome.
And then repeat...

One of my favorite things...  seeing growth, seeing progress, seeing maturity.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  no, can't go there, too much!!!

Here is a picture I am sharing...  

Happy sigh :D

Homeschool Bennies #7

You can avoid the dreaded "group projects" that frequently leave one or two students doing all the work, or spoiling it for everyone else.

Or am I the only one that hated those?  It's not like you could pick who to work with either, because the teacher knew that no one would pick the slackers.  So if you were a particularly good student, the teacher would stick you with a slacker on purpose, hoping that you'd somehow motivate him when she had failed to.  How ridiculous.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The boys are HOME :D

In spite of high heat, humidity, and bugs, they had an absolute blast.  Told us all about it, including much joking around among the cadets and officers.  They both sampled an MRE and thought that was wonderful (should I be worried?) and were told - by someone with personal experience that you'll thank me not to detail -  that you should very carefully inspect anything that looks like chocolate because some MRE's come with laxatives.  *ahem*

Apparently their training weekend had three components.  First, two volunteers simulated lost and separated hikers that had to be found and treated in (imagined!) 36F and rainy weather.  One had a "broken leg" and had to be splinted and carried out on a stretcher.  The other left a trail with slips of paper that said "candy bar wrapper", or "backpack", or "jacket", etc.  They were working against the clock with that one as he was simulating hypothermia (which can lead to irrational behavior, like dropping clothing and other important items), so they had a bit of pressure.

Next they had a night exercise involving working an orienteering course in pairs, with compasses and glow-sticks.  That was definitely more challenging.  It's hard enough to walk a straight line through dense brush/trees in the daylight, and much more difficult at night.

The following day (this morning) they were challenged to find a "black box" from a simulated airplane crash, using some kind of electronic devices - maybe something like avalanche transceivers? - and something they called a "bumblebee" that helped them determine where a radio signal was coming from.  This exercise also involved crossing a fairly substantial river (up near it's headwaters, where it's smaller) and the boys learned a valuable lesson.

They were able to cross the river on a couple of downed logs, using one to walk on and the other for balance.  When they crossed in the morning the river was well below the logs, but when they returned in the afternoon the water had risen to the level of the lower log, making the crossing a lot trickier.

I asked them if they knew why the river had risen, but they hadn't talked about it at the time.  Around here, where rivers are fed by snow-melt in the summer, you can expect the water volume to drop overnight (when it's cooler) and increase through the warmer day.  So if you're hiking in somewhere in the morning and planning to come back out in the afternoon you need to carefully evaluate any creek or river you cross because you can expect it to be significantly higher later in the day.  Meaning, if it's hairy in the morning it may be impossible later.  Just a word to the wise.

At any rate, they learned a ton and had great time.  They are really enjoying getting to know the other kids and adults in the program, and so far we're really impressed with these folks :D

Ironically, as I fired up the computer to write this I was reminded of how important this training can be to them, for their own safety and in service of others.  The local news reported that just in the last couple of days one hiker separated from his group and fell to his death over a 300 foot cliff, and (in a separate incident) another hiker was seriously injured by a log that was dislodged.  The local Mountain Rescue and Fire Department were able to get to her, and got a helicopter from Whidbey NAS (which we toured last spring) and airlifted her out.  The news blurbs read like entries in Accidents in North American Mountaineering.  It's for real.  But how cool that my boys are learning these skills to help others - I'm so proud of them!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Yep, it's Saturday and we made it.  No dropped plates ;D  I'm sitting in my chair, ignoring the chaos in my office, babbling away (incoherently? you be the judge...), and have promised Gunnar - who is not used to being the Only Boy At Home - a DQ blizzard this afternoon, so there will be chocolate.  :D

We all had a lot of nervous energy coming into this wedding, probably compounded by other events - like my mom wrapping up her radiation treatments - feeling GREAT! Thanks for your prayers!  And I have to confess that I am not a big city kind of girl.  Given a choice between formal dress/fancy dinner and a casual BBQ?  Well, pass the Sweet Baby Ray's, sister.  So I felt a bit out of my element, going in.

I know my folks were a bit (nervous? eager? it's all good, but stressed a bit) about the rehearsal dinner going well - that being their responsibility, though the bride chose the venue.  (And just an aside... what is the deal with hip, trendy places being located in totally revolting neighborhoods?  We paid ten bucks to park on a side street, in front of an alcove that was obviously - by the aroma - being lived in.  And the sidewalk was strewn with 'party favors', new and used - ewwwww, and broken car-window glass.)  But the evening went off well.  My dad had prepared a short speech/blessing/prayer that had nearly all of us in tears, and everybody socialized well :D

Then Friday dawned... the boys worked very diligently to finish all their schoolwork.  Wyatt and Tate in particular, so they could go on the SAREX.  I've never seen Wyatt so motivated!  Awesome.  We just had time for schoolwork, gathering and packing all their gear, lunch, showers and jumping in the van to head back, two more hours on the road (the heat! the traffic!) to Seattle.

And it was all gorgeous and - I hope - just exactly what they wanted :D  The groomsman coming from Pentiction made it in time, border crossing and all (whew!), my Japanese sister (former exchange student, totally absorbed into the family) was able to come, and other friends and relatives came from far and wide to celebrate.

I'll tell you a little secret I learned from my former-wedding-coordinator-mom:
When the bride makes her grand entrance

watch the groom.

Watch his face.
Happy, happy, joy.

Yah.  I want to remember that look on my brother's face.  And wow - when have I seen him looking so dapper?!  I know, I know, you're supposed to rave about the ladies and the dresses, and they were lovely, but I think I was more taken with what a handsome, studly bunch of men were at my table :D  I hope to have pictures soon.

And just a word about the boys...  in the "About Me" blurb, in the sidebar, I jokingly refer to myself as Zena, Queen of the Testosterzone, and sometimes it truly feels like that.  There have been moments - heck, there have been years - I never thought we'd get to this point, but what handsome young gentlemen I've got!  In spite of the hours in the van, the arriving hours early to be available for brief moments of photos, the very adult-oriented ambiance of the whole evening, they were excellent.

We did not, however, stay to the very end.  We headed for the barn after most of the formalities were done and the dancing was picking up, and got home and boys rolled into bed just before midnight.

Which was a good thing since Wyatt, Tate and I had a 4:30 AM wake-up time.  (Kerry offered to drive home last night if I'd transport this morning and I think I got the better end of that deal!)  After a moment or two of total (and rather comical) disorientation they were up and raring to go.

So now I'm off on an errand or two with my littlest man.

Chocolate is calling :D

Friday, September 9, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #6

You get the best hours of your kids' day.

Our kids were in public school until Wyatt and Tate completed 4th and 2nd grades, respectively.  School started at 9am and finished at 3:30.  We were "lucky" in that we live near enough to the neighborhood school that we walked, and the boys were spared a 30-45 minute bus-ride, each way.  Even so, school ate up the best part of the day.  

Sure, the boys are early risers and they're up and raring to go by 7, at the latest.  But you can't really do anything before school.  There's no time to go anywhere, and if you start a project, well just when it gets interesting you have to quit to go to school.  Fall and spring they were playing soccer, which meant rushing home from school, shoveling in a quick snack, changing into their soccer gear and dashing off to practice in the afternoon.  By the time they'd get home, hose/shower all the mud off, and have dinner there was barely time to look at any homework before bed.  And in the winter the days are so short it was actually beginning to get dark by the time they got home.

But besides the busy-ness issue, I felt like the school was getting all their best time.  They left the home fresh, rested and cheerful, but they often came home tired and irritable.  They needed time to decompress.

But now they're home.  I get the best part of their day.  Heck, I get their whole day. 

And yes, you can choke on that sometimes, but by and large it's a benefit :D

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Brain Dump

At least I think it's Thursday.  I'm so discombobulated this week I'm not sure.  But since we're going to Seattle for the rehearsal dinner tonight, it must be.  My brain cells are clearly spread far too thin this week.  And why would that be?  I thought you'd never ask...

1.  We started our (almost) full school schedule this week, and that's always smooth sailing.  (See my eyes rolling?)  Except when you take Monday off because...

2.  Hello!  It's a holiday!  And we have a lake that needs swimming and boating in, meat that needs barbecued, and family and friends to lounge on the deck with.  And we have priorities, people.  But the rest of the week should go fine, right?  Except...

3.  In all my meticulous planning I managed to forget that all three boys had dental appointments Tuesday morning.  While Tate and Gunnar got a lot of schoolwork done in the waiting room, Mr. High-Strung-Bundle-of-Stress decided that pacing nervously for 60-90 minutes was a good use of his time.

I may exaggerate a little.  But not much.

Also, he really liked the nitrous oxide.  Should I be worried?

4.  I've concluded that my children photosynthesize.  How else would they grow so much over the summer?  The clothes I had chosen for Gunnar to wear to the wedding?  Well, if the wedding was in a flood-zone we'd be good to go, but since it's not, we had to find something else.  And you know how much I like going to Stuffmart when I could be at the lake.

5.  Oh, and the long-sleeve shirts I thought all the boys would wear to a September wedding?  Yah.  It's supposed to be 85 and humid.  You southerners can quit laughing.  That's hot for us!

6.  Yah, and P.S.  The Mariners have home games both the night of the rehearsal and the night of the wedding, which is in west Seattle (means driving past the stadium).  And bumper-to-bumper traffic makes everything more fun!

7.  Shortly after the wedding we have another big event coming up, which is requiring a great deal of planning and prep work on my part, in all my spare time.  We'll talk about it later.  And, NO, I'm not pregnant.  Although, noting that STRESSED is DESSERTS spelled backwards, I understand how you could make that mistake.  (We call it Therapeutic Chocolate.)

8.  And just in case I don't have enough plates spinning, Wyatt and Tate came home from CAP giddy with excitement.  They've been promoted (well done, guys!) and are invited and "encouraged to attend" a SAREX training.  This weekend.  They're supposed to report for duty on Friday evening for gear check, but - since that will be impossible - they're graciously allowed to join the group the next morning.  At 0545 hours.  No, I am not kidding.  They are absolutely ecstatic about this.

The upside of this is that I've never seen Wyatt so motivated to get his schoolwork done.  Because that is (my) condition of them going.

Saturday may find me sitting in a chair, babbling incoherently.  Or trying to beat back the chaos in my office.  Either way, I'm sure there will be chocolate.

Hallelujah and Amen.

Homeschool Bennies #5

The student-to-teacher ratio can't be beat.

This is a pretty homeschool-friendly area.  There are LOTS of us around the county.  I'd bet that most people who live here are at least acquainted with someone who homeschools, so we don't get a lot of flak, which is nice.  Still, I catch a bit of attitude once in awhile. 

I recently toured a local middle school (grades 6-8) that is reopening after a fire.  Just out of curiosity I started counting how many desks/seats were in each classroom.  Every classroom I looked into had at least 30.  And some had up to 40.  Can you imagine 40 eleven-year-olds in one classroom?

Lately, when people ask where my boys go to school I've been tempted to say,

School?  Oh no, we're having them privately tutored in every subject, primarily one-on-one but in groups of no larger than three.

Can you imagine the reactions you'd get?  I mean, that's what rich nobles do with their little barons and princesses, or whatever.  You'd be the envy of everyone!

But guess what, that's what you are doing.

And even better, nobody knows your students better than you.  You know when they're doing their best, or when they're just sliding by.  You know when they've tried and when they haven't.  You can see the spark of interest in their eyes.

And you care.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #4

We have the freedom to teach our faith, beliefs, values and morals to our children from a Biblical worldview, and to keep them out of the care, custody, and control of those who would undermine or contradict us.

An interesting thing happened recently.  My in-laws discovered (apparently to their shock) that we don't believe in billions-of-years molecules-to-man evolution.  This is not something we've been hiding, by the way.  I think they just couldn't bring themselves to believe that we could be so backward until now.  (Quit laughing.)  As the FIL was unsuccessful in his attempt to set Kerry straight, I expect we've not heard the last of this.

I especially anticipate that this will be a Big Issue for them relative to us homeschooling.  Because, good heavens, we're indoctrinating our kids in our narrow-minded, backward ways! 

To which I say,

Yes, exactly.  That's our job.

Do you think the liberals are doing any different?

To put your minds at ease, we do teach our children about different religions, different theories about the origin of man, different political viewpoints, and different beliefs and opinions about all kinds of things.  But we are free to do it from a Biblical worldview.

And that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #3

But aren't you worried about socialization?

Yes, very, that's why we homeschool!

We are free to dance to the beat of a different drummer,
because our number one goal is not
"to fit in".

I've been reading a wonderfully encouraging book by R. C. Sproul called When You Rise Up.  If I could say it as well as he does, I would.  But let's be honest ;D  In the words of R. C. ...

There are two objections left that I am aware of, one from the left, and one from the right. The one from the left is the granddaddy of them all: What about socialization?” Before we begin to look at that question let’s consider once again what the Bible tells us. It tells us that it equips us for every good work. It tells us that we are to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But it not only doesn’t tell us how to socialize our children, but doesn’t tell us that they should be socialized There is no commandment from God 'Thou Shalt socialize thy children.' In fact I’m sometimes a little unclear as to what it is these objectors are seeking for my children. What does it mean to be socialized?

Sometimes I ask those who raise this objection, “Now when you speak of socialization, you’re talking about my child’s ability to get along with others who are different. Is that it? Usually I get some sort of affirmative response, “I see,” I go on, “and your solution is for my ten-year-old to spend seven hours a day stuck in a room with other ten-year-olds?” My daughter Darby interacts with different kinds of people far more than any child at a state school. She interacts every day with her mommy and daddy. I’m not like a ten-year-old girl at all. She spends hours on end with her eight-year-old brother Campbell. She “socializes” with her sister Delaney (five). She reads to her sister Erin Claire (three), and she often gets her sister Maili (one) out of her crib in the morning. Not only that, but for the past six years Darby has been part of a mainstreaming program during the school year and during her nonschool days. She interacts with her special needs little sister Shannon.

She does have friends from church, not because we schedule “socialization” time for her, but because our family is friends with all the families in the church. She interacts with the therapists who come to help Shannon every week. She interacts with the folks at the grocery store, at the post office, and at the Highlands Study Centre. She visits with and serves visiting missionaries and their families. Next month she will be interacting with Korean Christians as she travels with her dad to Seoul, where he will be teaching.

But this isn’t really what people mean by socialization. What they want for my daughter Darby is for her to be hip to all the things other ten-year-olds are concerned about, like fashion labels, television shows, pop singers, and other essentials to the good life. They are concerned that my daughter is not under the sway of Madison Avenue, that she is free. But I have none of that concern. Their identity is in Christ. Not in pop culture.
 Makes me want to stand up and shout AMEN.  You?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, September 5, 2011

Outside my window...  a beautiful evening.  The air is cooling off and this will be one of those summer nights I love best - where it doesn't just get dark, but the sky goes from pale blue, to a deeper blue, to a dark indigo.

I am thinking...  brain on overload.  The next two weeks are going to be kind of crazy-busy.  I don't like that kind of schedule, but it's all good stuff :D

I am thankful for...  a glorious weekend, good friends, and close family.  We were invited to TWO barbecues this weekend - delicious salmon yesterday and, surprisingly, a ham today.  I'm thankful for a fun time for the boys this morning - Grandpa took them out in the boat, on the lake and I didn't bring my camera.

I am praying for...  calm, collected attitudes in a whirlwind of a week.

I am wearing...  blue shorts, navy tank top, and bare feet.

I am creating...  an eye in the storm!

I am going...  to continue ramping up our homeschool toward a full schedule, while taking all three boys to the dentist tomorrow, and to find something else for Gunnar to wear to the wedding (has grown out of what I thought he'd wear - oops) so consignment store / Value Village / Goodwill, don't forget CAP tomorrow night, and to free up Tate to go shooting (target practice) with Grandpa this week, to Seattle for a rehearsal dinner, and again the next day for my brother's wedding...
this week!!!

I am reading...  had to put reading for pleasure on hold, with all the craziness of this week, but am wanting to get back to The World-Tilting Gospel.

I am hoping...  not to lose my mind?

I am hearing...  blessed silence :D

I am remembering...  all this talk of weddings and I'm remembering ours :D

From the learning rooms...  piles of work for each boy, ready to take to the dentist's office tomorrow morning.  Fun times.

From the kitchen...  no cooking today!

Around the house...  windows wide open to catch the cool evening air, and I think I can hear a flicker.

On my mind...  wonderful, wonderful sermon yesterday.

Noticing that...  did you notice I got a new picture at the top?  The house without the tree.



Pondering these words...  "You're the best mom in the whole world!"
Gunnar really knows how to make my day :D

One of my favorite things...  sitting on my parents' deck, overlooking the lake, the hills, and clear out over the salt water to Vancouver Island.  Wow.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  well, I think I mentioned that.
Pray-for-us-now-and-in-the-hour-of-our-need ;D

Here is a picture I am sharing...

these are the flowers the deer are NOT eating!
Thank you, Liquid Fence :D

Feverfew and montbrecia.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Julie Andrews, Paging Julie Andrews!

The summer is zooming by, school is upon us, and it's time to squeeze every drop of fun and adventure out of the remaining good weather.  Kerry and Grandpa Grasshopper took the boys on a little adventure today.

They start in the forest - the Mt. Baker National Forest - winding through the trees, going up, up and... yep, more up.

North facing slopes don't get a lot of sunlight, hence the 'decor'.

Their hard work is rewarded as they approach timberline.
For those of you not familiar with high altitudes in cold climates, as you get higher the trees begin to be smaller, and to thin out and open up into meadows.
Eventually you get high enough that the growing season (when the ground is snow-free)
is too short and no trees will grow at all.  Just a little science for ya :D

Because we've had such a cool, wet spring (and early summer) everything is delayed in the high country.  Flowers that bloomed in spring 'down below' are just now covering the meadows.

Grandpa gives Gunnar some encouragement.

Look back down, and think how far you've come!
And how much elevation you've gained under your own power.


wait for it....

you break out of the trees.....


Mt. Shuksan looms before you.

Dwarfed, by the nearer and larger Mt. Baker!

Scan the meadows... Julie Andrews must be lurking here somewhere.
Or just drop to the ground for a well-deserved rest :D

But watch out for the horse flies and mosquitoes, and other pests.

Admire the alpine flowers :D

The very hardy alpine flowers.

My favorite?  The purple/blue lupine.  Smells wonderfully sweet.

Hike along the ridgeline to get closer to The Mountain.
And yes, that is snow.  This area has probably only been 'open' (snow free) since mid-August.
Yah.  Let that sink in, my southern friends.

Ask another hiker to take a group shot, and smile :D

Admire my handsome boys...


and Gunnar.

And yes, they were all wearing the same shirt.
I tell them to wear something bright when they go hiking, so they're very visible.
It's a mom thing.

Daddy has obviously been working hard :D

And Grandpa is doing what he loves... taking pictures.
(These were all from Kerry's point-and-shoot.)

Play in a snowbank while Daddy takes a bunch of pictures to make a panorama.
Go on, click on it.  It's worth it.
Can you tell why they call this place Skyline Divide?!

And then, finally, head back down the trail.

Mom left some cookies in the truck for you :D

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #2

We can adapt our academic style and environment to accommodate special learning needs or disabilities.

This has been HUGE for our family, and one of the primary reasons we began homeschooling.  Even though our school district has a great itinerant ToD (Teacher of the Deaf), were providing Tate with an FM system that worked with his HA's, and the teachers were kind and going out of their way to help Tate and include him in everything, still it was a struggle.

Tate would come home exhausted from the work of listening.  HA's amplify all sound, not just the sound you want to hear.  Sure, the FM helped with that, but it was still a lot of work for Tate.  When you have a classroom full of 25 - 30 (or more, with state budgets being cut) squirmy, wiggly, noisy little bodies it's just a lot of noise to filter out all the time.  Then, of course, there were the occasional times the teachers would forget to transfer the FM, or forget to turn it off.  Like the time Tate's teacher dropped him and his class at the library, but the FM went on with her to the bathroom and the teacher's lounge, sending everything directly into his little 6-year-old ears.  Sweet.

But honestly, he was coming home every day absolutely spent.  At that time he was in grade 2.  In our area, the K-2 kids went from 9am to 2:30pm, while the 3-5th graders' day ended at 3:30.  When I thought of him having to stay for another hour I just couldn't bear it.

True, we may not have all the resources at our finger-tips that the taxpayer-funded government schools have, but guess what?  We can access any of that we want.

After beginning homeschooling FT, we had two years of once-a-week time with the ToD, to work with Tate on listening skills and for family ASL classes. (We could have continued, but we chose to stop.) Also, Gunnar received a year of speech therapy, and "graduated".  We pay the same taxes everyone else does, so we are entitled to the same services.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Homeschool Bennies #1

I feel like Santa - making a list and checking it twice, getting ready to dish out what I hope is a daily dose of encouragement and inspiration for my fellow homeschooling moms, who probably need it more than our friends with kids in the public and private schools.

As I started gathering ideas I couldn't just throw them all in a mental pile.  Oh, no.  They had to be organized.  And whaddaya know, they seem to fall pretty naturally into four categories:

1.  The advantage of religion / philosophical convictions.
2.  The advantage of academics.
3.  The advantage of family togetherness.
4.  The advantage of (gasp!) socialization.

Who knows, I may add another category if I feel like it :D

I didn't have to look very far for my first entry.  As I fired up my computer this morning and scanned the local news, guess what was right at the top?

Teacher strike.  Yep.

Homeschool Benefit #1

We are free.

And you can put that in all four categories, if you ask me.

We are unaffected by state and local budgets.  Unrestricted by the whims of politicians and unions.  Unconstrained by calendars and deadlines.  We start our school year when we want, and end when we want.

Hallelujah, and amen.