Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Years Resolutions: Homeschool Style

I am a list maker.  You should see me prepare to go grocery shopping...I make a list of the menus for the next 2 weeks.  Then I make a list of the items needed for those menus.  Then I make a list of the items I need in addition to those other menu items.  Then I write a Master List of everything in the order in which I find it in the grocery store.

Anal retentive much?

New Years is a great time for list makers.  I get to make a list in hopes that THIS year...*THIS* year I get it right.  Never hurts to remain positive, right?

Hence, my homeschooling New Years resolutions:

1.  Cut down on 'time clutter'.  Time clutter being anything that takes up our time when it is not something we love. 

2.  More field trips.  At least once a month, there will be a field trip somewhere.

3.  Less 'socializing'.  Okay..that sounds bad, I know.  But honestly, the first year or two we homeschooled I was constantly out with the kids somewhere socializing...mainly to prove to everyone (and myself) that homeschoolers ARE socialized!  Look how many opportunities there are to be social!  Now I am like...meh.  Been there, done that.  We need to focus more on school.

4.  More independent learning. 

5.  More hands on activities.  The first part of this year seemed so busy that we never got around to the fun stuff...and that's one of the main reasons I wanted to homeschool in the first place.  I don't want my children's education coming solely from books...I want it to be relative, to have meaning. 

6.  More fine arts.  My kids loved when we learned one composer and one artist a month.  When times get crazy, of course those are the things that are first to go.  But to me they are part of a well rounded education.  So...more of that please!

7.  More handwriting practice.  I kids have lousy handwriting.  This year I want to focus on that.

8.  More educational games. 

9.  Organization.  This is more for me than my kids.  When life gets hectic...I get sloppy.

10.  More handwritten letters...thank you cards, pen pals, letters to grandma and grandpa.  It's becoming a lost art.

What about you?  Are you looking to re-vamp your homeschooling in 2012?

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Dear John Letter to Christmas's over. Between you and me...over.

As much as I love you, by the time it's done on the 25th...I'm done with you too.

Christmas and I, we have a mutual understanding.  When the love is gone,  we feel no need to linger on in a lovers' charade.  Just leave.  

Yes, the cookies were grand.  Ahhhh, those sprinkles.  And the lights...the LIGHTS.  Yes, yes....the packages and bows, lets us not forget those.  And all that mistletoe....

Where was I?  Yes, yes...Christmas.  It's time for you to go. 

So long.  I'll miss you in about 10 more months.  And when I do....I will be all yours again. No questions asked. No strings. I promise I'll still get all tingly when I hear you call me with your jingle bells.

With warmest regards,

The Accidental Homeschooler

P.S. Oh, and one last thing...any rumors you heard about me and Spring?  Not true.  Not at all.  ;P

Friday, December 23, 2011

Powerful Stuff

One of the most powerful things I have read in a long time.

Merry Christmas!

"I’ve always loved the celebration of Christmas, with the decorations, the lights and even buying presents. But that’s not what I need right now. I need a serious infusion of hope and comfort.
After losing both of my beloved parents in a six-month period and experiencing a life-threatening accident sandwiched between those two painful events, I feel beaten up. I don’t mean to whine, but at certain points in our lives, we feel slammed against a concrete wall, screaming for answers to some very serious questions. Like, Why I am alive? or, How in the world can I get through the pain that I feel has swallowed my soul?

Christmas is exactly the answer to the most troubling questions in life. As a matter of fact, it is the only answer. Sure, a lovely, perfect baby was born to a wandering teenager whose husband-to-be wondered if she had cheated on him (with God?), but beyond that conundrum lies a series of the most profound events ever to hit earth. God came and shouted to every one of us that He was here to overcome everything.
Don’t miss that. He was here to overcome everything: confusion, joy, agony, abandonment, loneliness, marriage, death and all that we experience on this earth. If that doesn’t confound you, nothing will.
Right now, as I walk through my days feeling lost and lonely, I need to know that God showed up to not only be with me in all of my temporal troubles, but to get me out of them—one day. That’s not pie-in-the-sky. It is reality. And at the heart of that reality is the love of God. The supernatural spirit who is God bound Himself into the tiny womb of a little girl because He knew that I needed help. And He did it because you need help too.

Christmas is about God leaving heaven and showing up. He had come before, but we didn’t pay much attention, so He came again to make us understand what reality is and what it isn’t. Reality isn’t unending hurt, loneliness, confusion or financial woes. Those are temporary, and we mustn’t forget that. The bigger reality is the overwhelming, awful passion of God. Let that sink in this Christmas. If you and I can, then nothing else will feel important.

That’s what I need this Christmas. What about you?"

Pediatrician, wife, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is one of the country’s leading experts on parenting, teens and children’s health.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If You Have a Son...Please Read This

Last night I dropped my daughter off for a sleep over at a friends house.  I was introduced to the teenaged son of the household.

He stood up and shook my hand.

Myself, my hubby and the other girls mom and dad made our way into the garage while having a nice conversation. It was raining cats and dogs, so we stayed in the garage to talk.

After a few minutes, the teenager came out to the garage with an umbrella.  I thought "Maybe he has somewhere to go and we are in his way."  But  he just hung around.

Fifteen minutes later, as we went to exit the garage and make a dash to the minivan...the teen with the umbrella quickly came to my side and held the umbrella over me and walked me to the car.

I almost felt embarrassed.  I was definately impressed.  I have never had anyone do that for me.  Well, maybe my husband did years ago, but never a teenaged kid.

It had me thinking all the way home.

THAT'S what I want my son to be like.  And who is going to teach him this? Me.

We mothers with sons are raising the next generation of men.  It's up to us to produce men of good character.

Raise them to never NEVER *EVER* hit a female.  (And by the same token, raise our daughters that it is never ever ever okay to BE hit by a male....even her brother.  I know too many moms that let their sons just pummel their little sisters and just sit there and do nothing, I guess thinking that kids will be kids. Absolutely not. Unacceptable.)

Raise them to know that they have to WORK for a living.  Don't expect the world to hand over a house, clothes, sir.  Get out and get a job.  Nothing is worse than grown men who have the attitude of "The world is picking on me!"  Get over yourself and give the world something positive to say about you!

Raise them to respect other people's boundaries.  Emotional boundaries as well as physical boundaries. 

Raise them to defend the defenseless. 

Raise them to be respectful to other adults.  To look them in the eye and speak to them when spoken to.  To extend a hand to shake. 

Raise them to become good conversationalists.  To not interrupt others and not to bring up topics that may hurt the feelings of others or cause hard feelings. 

Raise them to stand their ground and defend what they know to be right and good.

Raise them to have good table manners.  And never wear a hat to the table.  And always wear a shirt when you sit down to the table.

Raise them to try to look clean and neat, not dirty and sloppy.  And call me crazy, but please don't go around in public without your shirt and shoes.  There is no reason for you not to have these things on.
Take pride in your appearance!  The Bible says our body is a temple...treat it like one!

Raise them to do everything they do to the best of their ability. 

And best of all....teaching them these qualities costs nothing.  You don't have to be 'rich' to teach your children the qualities of good character.

But the's priceless.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Need Advice

Hear that noise? Shhhh...listen closely...

It's my hiney puckering because we are discussing selling our house and building another one.

I'm a frugal woman.  The thought of spending money to this magnitude makes me uneasy.  So I bury my head in research and opinions to take my mind off of my feelings.

Basically, I want answers to the following:

1.  Our house we live in now needs new carpet desperately.  Yes, we are selling it, but I am of the opinion the house would sell faster and for slightly more if it were move in ready.  But I don't want to get the very best carpet either....that's a lot of money.  Thoughts?

2.  Is it really more cost effective to do a lot of the building yourself?  Sure, we can hang our own dry wall and paint, hang cabinets, etc.   But it will take longer for us to do it.  Thoughts?

3.  I have watched Holmes on Homes too many times.  I don't trust any contractor as far as I can throw them.  How does one find a great contractor?

4.  Do I really need to finish all of the little things that are not 'perfect' in this house before selling?  Or just clean and paint and make it look shiny?

5.  Am I insane for even worrying about any of this during the holidays? Hmm?

If any of you have ANY experience building your own home, please...share your advice.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Here's Your Sign

Hubby and I have been coveting this one particular piece of land for the last 13 years.  It's beautiful.  It's perfect.  And I will never tell you where it  is because you might love it too and buy it before I have a chance to.

I've wanted to live out in the country since I was little.  Must've been all those Little House books and shows I watched, but I can see myself feeding the chickens, hanging out the laundry and tending the garden.  And I would love to have room for my kids to roam...without fear of them being snatched up or being in someone elses' yard.

Anyway, this land has been for sale for ever, and the hubby and I have been like stalkers...we call the number on the for sale sign every few months and ask if it's still for sale.  And it always is.  And this year it's gotten cheaper. I KNOW.  Nothing ever gets cheaper.

So we called again yesterday and the man agreed to take us around the property...again.  Although he doesn't know it, but in the past 10 years we have taken two other tours on this land with him.  Thankfully he didn't remember us.  Or he might place a restraining order on us.

While walking the land I had a talk with God. "Show me a sign, God, if this is meant to be." 

My senses were on full alert.

Through a conversation, I learned that he and his wife homeschooled all five of their children.  All are grown and successful.   Then I met his daughter in law, who had come to ask him a question.  She was also homeschooled.  She was lovely and social and intelligent and gracious.

Was this my sign?

As we stood there discussing land 'stuff' (I zoned out for a while and enjoyed the horses on the property), I saw a hawk gliding right over our heads, swift and silent.

Was this my sign?

And then, from out of nowhere, our conversation was interuppted by an extremely loud:

"heeeeeeHAAWWW!  heeeeHAAWWW!"

"Oh...that was the donkey up the road.  There's a few up there,"  replied the gentleman selling the land.

Okay...that HAD to be a sign.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Take a Peek

Occasionally I catch myself thinking a thought, and realizing that it is quite possible that thought is...well...not what 'normal' people think.  Here's a peek inside my brain as of late.

Like while crocheting hats for the homeless, I wasn't using a pattern, so every once in a while I would try it on my own head to judge if it was large enough.  Then my brain said "Ahem...excuse me.  Who said you had an average sized head?  What if your head is smaller than average?  All these hats will be too small for everyone else.  Or what if your head is too big?  These hats will be falling off people's heads because you made them to fit your own big head."

So, to my family... that's why I was measuring our heads with a tape measure.  Now you know.

Last night we sat out and watched the meteor shower.  There were some awesome meteors!  But I couldn't stop myself...every time one shot across the sky, I started to make a wish.  Then I realized how stupid this was and had to force myself, in my brain, to stop making a wish every time I saw a meteor.  Sorry.  It's been ingrained in me since childhood, and a hard habit to kick.

Had a conversation about the 'Bodies' exhibit coming up in Atlanta.  You know, where real human bodies are plasticized and posed on display.  I had to explain that we wouldn't go because everytime I think about those bodies...I think how they were once cuddled in their mother's arms, once the joy of their father's life.  I think how they must have been so excited over their first bicycle, their first kiss.  How they probably had a broken heart over their dog dying.  How they probably were someones daddy or momma.  I can play their whole life out in my mind.  So, there is NO way I can go see them gathering dust in a display case.

I wonder what goes on inside my dog's head as she barks at the three bowls of Christmas candy stacked up on the kitchen counter.  Just sits and barks.  I would love to know what she is thinking.

There you have it. A peek into my brain.  Scared yet? :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Missing: One Christmas Spirit

MISSING: One Christmas Spirit

Last seen just after Thanksgiving.

Height: About 5 feet

Weight:....well, none of your business

Distinguishing Features:  Smells like hot cocoa and peppermint candy.  Sounds like jingle bells.   Enjoys quiet evenings watching sappy Christmas movies with family.  Twinkles like Christmas tree lights and brings joy and peace to all who encounter it.  Feasts on peanut butter balls.

If Found: Please return to the Accidental Homeschooler.  She needs it, or there will be peanut butter balls to pay.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I REALLY Want For Christmas

I get so uncomfortable when someone asks me what I want for Christmas.  It makes me all twitchy inside.  I feel greedy and , well, weird. 

My husband realizes this, so he just waits for me to submit a  list and shops from the list. No asking involved.

But if any of you want to know what I REALLY want for Christmas, here goes.

Printer ink cartridges.

Printer paper.

A maid.

A cook.

A chauffeur.

Ballroom dancing lessons.

Art classes.

Free gas for a year.  For my car.

Someone to research my mom's family tree.  It would all be in German.  Add German lessons to that.

Two weeks to drive anywhere we want to. (Road trip!)

Those shelves and drawers that go in the closet to organize all my stuff.

A gift certificate to the dog groomer for a years worth of nail trimming and bathing.  And brushing.  (I have a very fluffy dog who HATES any of these things.)

A personal assistant who will do my grocery shopping and other mundane errands.

Violin lessons.  And a violin.

A horse.  And enough land to ride it on.

How about you?  Do you have any off the wall Christmas wants that would cause someone to look puzzled and ask "No...really...what do you want for Christmas?" if you told them?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Co-Op: A Homeschooling Mom's Little Helper

It's that time of year that warms a homeschool mom's heart.

That's sign up time.

We didn't participate in co-op in the fall because it seems that September through December are busy enough with starting school and all the holidays that are in those months.

However, January through March are pretty darn cold and boring.  So off to co-op we go!

Here are the plans for each kid:

4th grade daughter wants to take drama, sewing and electricity/circuits.  I know.  She's a Renaissance woman.

7th grade son wants to take electricity/circuits, beginning Spanish and P.E.  Yes, P.E.  Where else can one gather together a group of 7th-8th grade kids and play dodgeball these days? 

And all of those classes will cost a mere $33.00.  Oh, and 2 hours of my time helping out in other classes.  You can't beat that with a stick.

I find co-op to be particularly helpful in that it provides a small dose of 'real school'.  They make new friends, do group activities, have someone else teach them a skill.  And usually we only utilize co-op for enrichment-type classes, although there are academic classes offered as well. 

What about you? Do you co-op?  What classes do you teach or participate in? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Case for Santa

Since I covered the REAL meaning of Christmas in my last post, today I get to defend Santa Claus.

YES...Santa comes to our house every Christmas. 

I don't know when folks started getting all bent out of shape about Santa, but I don't get it.  Don't get me wrong, I fully support your right not to do Santa with your kids...but I just don't get it.

"It's lying to your children."  Well...yeah.  It might be.  But so is telling them that their shots won't hurt THAT much.  Or that their crummy little crayon drawings are beautiful.  Face it...there are times when we soften the truth to protect their feelings.  That's lying too.

"It's diminishing the true meaning of Christmas."  Saint Nicholas was a real person.  He gave to the poor.  My personal thoughts are this:  if Santa coming one night out of the year causes a person to question their Christian faith, then you have bigger problems.  If you are raising your children in a Christian home and model your lives as such EVERY day of the year, then there should be no problem.  I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to see if a child has ever grown up to be an atheist because Santa delivered their Christmas presents.  No really....I'd like to know.

"It's putting all the focus on gift giving."  Like you aren't going to give your child any gifts at Christmas?  What's the difference if Santa brings them or you get the credit?  They are still getting gifts.  And there is nothing wrong with enjoying gift getting as well as gift giving.  We do it on their birthdays, don't we? 

Personally, I have never met anyone who resents their parents for allowing them to believe in Santa Claus.  I've also never met anyone who rejects Christ because of Santa.

I do know plenty of people who have amazing moments of joy when they remember how magical it all seemed as a child.  I spoke to a friend last night who told me how her father would wake her up at 5:00 on Christmas morning running into her room yelling "Hurry!  You're going to miss him!  GET UP! QUICK!"  And they would run outside looking....

I thought that was a precious memory. 

And I don't think Jesus holds it against them one bit.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Maybe I Am The Only One Who Needs To Hear This...

Had a conversation with a good friend yesterday and of course, Christmas was brought up.  She mentioned that her priest had stated something along the lines of this:

"Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. PERIOD.  Why do people feel the need to cram all this other stuff into Christmas?"

It was a thought that made me think...and you know how I love those.  I pondered that the rest of the afternoon.

He was right.  Why do we make ourselves crazy during the holiday season? 

The night Jesus was born, he was with his family.  Aside from the angels alerting the shepherds and then, later on, the Three Kings bringing their few precious gifts...that was it.  Low key and yet...the most profound moment in the history of mankind.

And we think we can even come close with our tinsel and gifts and office parties and numerous Breakfasts, Lunches, and Photos with Santa, along with parades, shopping, decorating. 

I don't think Jesus wants His birth to be commemorated in a stressed out, brain frying haze.  I don't think He wants us to be at our wits end, worrying about not having the money to buy a tree or if we have enough gifts for every single person that we cross paths with in our daily lives. 

I think He would be just as pleased if we all slow down a little and just 'be still'.  Savor the time of year with those we hold the dearest.  Behold the magic of that first Christmas, when all was quiet and peaceful and there was nary a garland or lighted tree. 

So, to those of you feeling the stress (this may just be a letter to myself)'s okay to just 'be'.

Even if the rest of the world is driving themselves crazy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Victorian Christmas

We have two unit studies that are our focus for December, "The Gift of the Magi" and "A Christmas Carol".  Both are set in roughly the same time period, so I also found it appropriate to delve into the customs and traditions of that period...the Victorian Era.

One tradition is making all of our Christmas ornaments this year. Yes, I have boxes of store bought ornaments in the attic...but I thought it would be fun to make them all by hand this year.

Aside from popcorn and cranberry garland, we have lots of plans for inexpensive and easy to make ornaments.  Yesterday we made these little gems...

 I know lots of people make these, but this was our first attempt at applesauce-cinnamon ornaments.

Just mix equal parts cinnamon and applesauce (we threw in a little nutmeg too) and make a 'clay'.  Cut out with cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in a 175 degree oven for 2 hours.  When they are completely dried out, remove from pan and decorate.  Obviously we love glitter in this house.

 They look and smell just like gingerbread...

 Aren't they precious?


I thought these would make nice gifts for the grandparents as well.

If you have never tried to make it!  I got bottles of cinnamon for .50 cents each at Wal Mart.  Each child had two bottles of cinnamon and one cup (and maybe an extra tablespoon) of applesauce and it made plenty.

And your house will smell heavenly the rest of the day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"The Gift of the Magi"

One wonderful aspect of homeschooling is the opportunity to share some of my favorite literature with my children and watching them fall in love with it too.

Yesterday we began a unit study on "The Gift of the Magi" by O. of my all time favorite short stories.  I find it to be particularly meaningful in this day and age of high unemployment and just about everyone having 'too much month at the end of the money.'  It's the sweetest, feel-goodest, heart-warmingest story.

If you've never read it, I highly encourage you to read it here.


"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pierglass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Still Laughing Over This One

Last Wednesday evening the family and I went to eat at a local pizza parlor. I didn't realize I was in for some quality entertainment.

In walk three twenty-somethings, trying their best to look like hip upstarts.  You know how amusing it is when they REALLY TRY to look hip.  Makes me giggle in a 'look-how-cute-they-are' kind of way.

So they sit in the booth behind us and one young man orders a bucket of beer, the other, a 'glass of ice' (Which started my muffled laughter...I ice?  What's the point of drinking water with no ice?)   , and the female accompanying them never spoke above a whisper.  Immediately Beer Boy starts these amusing conversations.  I wish I could blame it on the beer...alas, he hadn't even gotten the bucket yet.

"So, who says that you can really OWN LAND? I mean....does that mean that all the ants that live on YOUR LAND belong only to YOU?"  This was followed by "Imagine if you could peel away the dirt in your yard.  It would be like a huge ant city."  (At this point I am trying not to be so obvious that I am actually laughing at them.  I pointed to my husband and laughed to make it seem like I was amused by our own little conversation. )  Then came this nugget....
"It would be terrible if all the ants in the world were destroyed.  They are very beneficial creatures.  They, like, provide tunnels for other creatures."

Really?   Like, what kind of creatures?  Teeny tiny prairie dogs?

It was all I could do not to die laughing.

Then No Ice Guy comes up with...."I don't know if I would ever homeschool my kids."  (Where the heck did THAT come from? )

" I mean...yeah, they learn alot, but what about SOCIALIZATION?"

At this point I literally had to clamp my lips together with my fingers to keep from laughing hysterically.

Beer Boy- "Oh, did you know they are actually organized? They take field trips and EVERYTHING!"

Now it was all I could do not to cry.

At this point, I had to agree with both of them.

 YES...we are organized.  Yes we are socialized and YES...judging from this conversation, I don't think you should homeschool your kids either.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Packin' Heat

    Guess who has a sudden passion for things that go 'Pow!'

And guess who the southpaw of the family is?

 Guess who has been asking ME to shoot this thing with them?

Guess who, upon her very first ever shots fired from a BB Gun, almost hit the bullseye of her pink target?

Look out, varmints.  It's paper plate and soda can season in our neck of the woods.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Fine Art of Saying "No"

Any of you who really know me know I have a hard time saying 'no' to anyone.

I am a people pleaser.  I want so badly to always be there for others and help out any way I can.  This in and of itself is not a problem...but when you push yourself to the limit, or realize you are making yourself crazy, then it becomes a problem.

I promised myself that this year, this holiday season, would be different.  I will not overcommit!  I won't do it! 

Well- at least my intentions were good.

My daughter is in the Nutcracker.  This means lots of practices and one whole week when she will be performing every day, sometimes twice a day.  I will have been chewed up and spit out by the Nutcracker come December 11th.

My son has been part of our homeschool chorus.  Every Monday we have practice.  Sometimes for two hours.

Add in ballet classes and taewkondo classes. 

Then there is piano lessons.  Lessons are one day a week.  Then we have a performance at a local nursing home in mid-December.  Then they have a family Christmas performance.

Busy much?

Yesterday I was sitting in church when they asked for volunteers to help out with a Pack the Pantry event in which we will be collecting food for the needy in our community.  My son immediately poked me in the elbow and said "Sign us up Mom!"  My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was a heavy sigh.  ONE more thing. But if my 12 year old son was excited about giving to needy families, then I should be too...right?

Of course I signed us up.

Then it occured to me, as I pondered myself and my confounded inability to say 'no'.... if I fill up my calendar with selfish things, how will I ever find the time for the important things in life?  Even if it wasn't a food drive for the needy.  Maybe it is to just to be with my kids, with all the time in the world to listen to their thoughts.  Or be there for a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. 

Now, saying 'no' isn't so difficult.   If I have to say no to an opportunity, I'm not letting someone else down or disappointing them.  I am just making sure my time is availiable for anyone who needs me.  And that is time well spent.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Advertising Tactics 101

Ahh, Thanksgiving season.  The time when everyone's thoughts turn to family, friends, feasts...and Black Friday. Oh my stars.  Can I just say that I have never EVER been shopping on Black Friday?  I avoid Wal Mart on afternoons and weekends so I won't have to deal with the crowds....much less crowds fueled up on coffee at 4:00 am with visions of discounts dancing in their heads.

But I digress...

It's also the time of the year when the ads start invading our lives.  They are running out of the mailbox when I get the mail.  They are always on television. 

What better time of year to start a unit on Advertising 101?

I shamelessly stole some ideas from Jimmie at

We have some useful information here:

Recognizing propoganda information here:

This gives the history of advertising and has examples of how ads have changed over the years:

This teaches about the influence of advertising:

My kids already are skeptical of ads they see for toys on television, mostly because when they were little and would excitedly tell me about something they saw I would ask them, "Do you really think that doll can dance that way?" Or something like that , depending on what it was they saw.  It made them second guess the commercials.  It made them realize that not everything is as it appears.

I think this will be an interesting study, especially with the shopping season upon us, and I hope it creates savvy shoppers out of my younguns.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Think I Am Going To Like This!

My son enrolled in tae kwon do lessons last night.  You know- for the socialization. (eyeroll)
Well, for the exercise too.  And to give him an outlet for all that testosterone fueled energy.

He brought home a list of 'tenets' that they have to uphold:

Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

This is their Oath: "I will observe the tenets of tae kwon do.  I will respect the instructor.  I will never misuse tae kwon do.  I will be a champion of freedom and justice.  I will build a more peaceful world."

Nice! I like!

Here are the Home Rules they also have to follow:

Must show respect for parents and family members at all times.
Shall greet their parents when they enter the house and tell them goodbye when they leave.
Will be truthful at all times.
Maintain a good relationship with their brother or sister.
Must help with household chores.
Must keep their room clean and neat.
Must keep their body, hair and teeth clean at all times.
Will not interrupt adult conversations.
Will study their schoolwork.
Will show respect for teachers and peers at all times.

Failure to comply will result in the loss of a rank.

Luckily, my kids do most of these already...but how awesome for the kids who really need this discipline, who don't get it at home.  

When he got home last night he immediately went about cleaning his room. So, already I am thinking this is money well spent here. Even if he never breaks a board in his tae kwon do career.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

School Pictures

Now that I look back on this I can laugh about it.

The first year we homeschooled, one thing I was mildly concerned about was the lack of 'school pictures'.  I already had those little frames where you put in one picture of your child for Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, etc.  I missed having 'picture day'...picking out their outfit, combing down their hair. 

So, off we went to Sears Portrait Studio.

"What are we doing today?  Something cute?  I have some cute backgrounds..." 
(Me) "No...these are school pictures.  They have to have a plain back props.  Just make it look like a school picture."

I wish she would have talked me out of it.

My attitude was evidence of how ingrained we are about how education is 'supposed' to look, how school is 'supposed' to be...right down to those silly school pictures.

I don't know about you, but every one of *my* school pictures was less than flattering.  Maybe because the photographer snapped the shot the second my rear end hit the chair so he could get to the other 200 kids waiting in line.  And really, is there a need for wallet sized photos any more?  Everyone downloads their pictures these days.  And let's talk about the price of those crummy pictures.  Outrageous. And yet, we moms buy them out of guilt. 

This year, I am taking their pictures myself, with my own camera.  I will take my time.  I will try to capture the essence of who they are...they may not be smiling 'just right' in a stiff, contrived way.  Maybe they will be looking at a passing cloud or laughing hysterically at something.  Maybe they will be investigating something that interests them.  Maybe they will be deep in wonder.  That's what I hope to capture.

I'm not in any hurry.  I don't have to be.  I will have all the time I need with my favorite subjects.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What I'm Doing These Days

It's so funny-when anyone asks me "What are you doing these days?"  the best answer I can give is "Oh...same old same old!"  or "Nothing much!" because if I were to list all the stuff I am 'up to', they would get bored listening to my list.

So here's my list of "What I'm doing these days." :

1.  Signing my son up for tae kwon do lessons.  He attended a class for free last week and thought it was awesome.  Of course, being loud, jumping around and hitting stuff is always fun for any boy.  Even better when you get rewarded for it!

2.  Daughter is practicing for her role in the local production of "The Nutcracker".  She is loving it.  I secretly fret about the fact that all of the other little girls performing are thin as rails, and my little girl is...well, not as thin.  More like she's got some junk in her trunk.  Mind you, she's not overweight, but she is definately a recipient of my Eastern European roots, suited for gymnastics and potato farming.   But she hasn't noticed yet and so far I am thankful she hasn't.

3.  Scoping out next years curriculum already because hey!  It's never to early to start!  I've been checking out Ambleside Online, and really love the concept.  And the fact that it's planned out online for me, week by week.  AND that the kids are getting a Kindle for Christmas, so many of the books they will need will be free Kindle downloads.

4.  Getting a new gas tank for the gas log fireplace because HELLO!  It was really cold outside this morning and I miss having our fireplace working.

5.  Beating myself up for not getting on the ball with Christmas shopping earlier.  Now I feel rushed.

6.  Planning Christmas ballet recitals, piano performances, parties, etc.  Tell me again how unsocialized my kids are...I dare you! :)

7.  Went on a field trip to the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta last Thursday.  I couldn't bring in my camera, so no pics...but I got as close to $775,000.00 million dollars as I'll ever get.  I found it all very interesting and the kids learned so much about money and banking.

8.  Trying to get this house clean for Thanksgiving and figuring out what to cook.  My mom always does the turkey, and I do the sides and desserts.  Any suggestions?

How about you all?  What have YOU been up to?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Family Trees...And Forests

I have a lovely friend who has gotten me hooked on geneology research. I'm not kidding, it's like crack for a military brat who is always looking to find her 'roots'.

My kids have been on a kick for months wanting to hear stories about grandpa and grandma when they were little, about when they were little, about when I was little.  (They audibly gasped when I told them we could only watch Charlie Brown Specials ONCE a year...that's what made it so special!)

So far I have found out the following:

My ancestors came to America with William Penn when he founded Pennsylvania, which means they were probably Quakers.  Hm.  No wonder I always liked oatmeal. ;)  Note of irony:  Our history lesson yesterday was guessed it...William Penn!  How cool is that?

Richard Cantrell was a brick layer and mason and is believed to have constructed some of the first brick houses in Philadelphia. 

Funny..I love Philly cheesesteaks too.  AND cream cheese. 

There were two uncles, John Harrell and Berry M. Cantrell, fought in the Battle of Shiloh, and after the defeat of Gen. Beaurigard, they left their rifles in an empty cabin and walked home to Marion County, Alabama, only to have their father persuade them to return back to the fight.  Not me...I would have hid my sons away on my farm, dressed them like girls and told them to keep low.

John M. Cantrell fought in the Revolutionary War from Salisbury Dist., North Carolina.  And when he died all of his property was sold for about $2,000.00...said property included 5 slaves.  Wow.  Such a sobering thought that human lives had such little value.  As uncomfortable as that tid bit of information makes me, all I can tell myself is that, well, it was what it was.  And thank God this country ended it.

It's been fascinating watching my ancestors go from Derbyshire, England to Philadelphia, Delaware, North Carolina, to Alabama.

And the best part is I didn't pay a dime for any of this!  Google is a wonderful thing. Someone else I am apparently related to has done a lot of leg work and published their findings online.

I have begun searching my husbands family's roots.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So What?

The Duggars are expecting baby what?

Yes, they get paid for their what?  Have you watched their show?  If anyone deserves to be paid to be on television, it's the Duggars.  More so than Snookie and the Jersey Shore cast...more than the Real Housewives of _________  (as much as I love to watch that they need to be paid to show how rich they are and what screwed up relationships they have?)  At least they haven't comprimised their principles for the sake of ratings.  If anything, I appreciate that they set a good example of faith, marriage, and family.  They aren't rude and snarky like Kate Gosselin.   

I find it so amusing that so many people want to preach 'tolerance'...yet, those same people have very little tolerance for anyone living out their Christian faith. 

This is the of the free, home of the brave.  We are all free to have as many kids as we choose....if we are brave enough (ha!).  This isn't China, where children are being discarded because the government believes families should only have 1 child.  As long as you support your children with your own income, as the Duggars do, then who has any right to judge them for having 20 kids?

Mama and Daddy Duggar have a wonderful marriage and provide for their family.  They are producing functioning members of society.  The children are all happy.  They are loved.  They are honest, hard working.

Is there something wrong with this?  If this is a bad example of how we should raise our children, well then, there is something screwed up with the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

For The Love Of Learning

At the beginning of this school year I had my Teacher's Planning Book all filled, in order, of what each day of our month would hold as far as lessons.  I simply went through each workbook or textbook in order and divided out the chapters in to  weekly and daily lessons.  This year would be a 'no-brainer'! I told myself.  No guessing what to teach, no last minute scrambling for items for projects or experiments.  It was alllll laid out for us. 

Yesterday I finally had to admit to myself that I just need to throw that thing in the garbage.

Most of the time I feel like I am living out the "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" story.  Only my story should be titled "If You Give A Homeschool Mom Inspiration".

I officially fell off the wagon with our literature units for Halloween. 

A few days ago I glanced through our history book and I noticed we are one chapter away from discussing Isaac Newton. To say bells and whistles went off in my brain is an understatement.

Guess what unit we will be focusing on the next 6 weeks or so?  You guessed it...physics!

First, we are using Janice Van Cleve's book as a 'spine'...

I found (stole) some ideas from a unit published on Squidoo

As well as lapbook ideas from here

Some fun stuff on physics here

We will be building ALL KINDS of stuff, including a waterwheel

Catapults are in our plans as well. 
And a pulley big enough to mount to the swing set and pull each other up with.  :)

We will follow all of this with light, sound and heat studies.  And electricity. Squee!

Can I just tell you how excited I am to be doing all this fun stuff with my kids?  Yeah, I could have just stuck to my preplanned lessons, but where's the fun in that?  I want our lessons to be relevant to something else, in this case, our history lesson with Newton.  I have found when we go 'off the beaten path' and try new and interesting things that we learn so much more and ignite the love of learning.

And the love of learning is what I'm all about.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Field Trip: Fossils And Such

Yesterday we had a field trip to the local museum of arts and sciences to study fossils and such.  There were many fossilized remains on display, as well as replicas.

 This is a replica of a preserved (mummified) baby mammoth...or was it a mastodon?  It looked very much like the "Ice Man" that was found preserved in the Alps several years ago.

 The children could try their hand at using archaeologists tools....

 After a lesson on the differences between mastodons and mammoths, as well as observing fossils of bones, skulls, and tools, we had some fun with making our own 'fossils'.

 One activity included using clay to make an imprint of a seashell, then mixing and pouring plaster of Paris into the mold.

And this has nothing to do with fossils, but this particular museum has a mini-zoo, and to our good luck the zoo keepers had several animals out for the children to observe and touch.  This one was my favorite.  I kept wanting to stuff him into my purse and take him home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Holiday Shopping: Kickin' It Homeschool Style

Is it just me or is it difficult shopping for your kids for Christmas? 

I think it got harder when we started homeschooling.

When my kids were in public school, it was easy because they wanted stuff that all their friends had...
Barbies, Hot Wheels racetracks, etc. starts getting weird.

Architecture sets.  Fossils.  Plasma globes.  Electronic ciruit sets.  Solar powered stuff.   Anything related to historic events.  Geography games.

I love it!  But's not exactly like you can run to Wal Mart or Toys R Us and get these things.  In fact, you start looking at all the junk they sell in stores and see it as...junk.

I love my Rainbow Resource catalogue. It's full of items that will appease my little nerdlings.  That and  You can find *anything* there.

How about you?   Do your kids want random, hard to find items?  What resources do you use to purchase them?

***Forgot to mention Mindware  They have some cool stuff as well!****

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Love Affair With My Slow Cooker

This week's menus are all about my slow cooker. 

Can I get an "Amen"?

We have the following options:

Creamy Broccoli Soup with homemade rolls

Swiss Steak and Egg Noodles with salad

French Dip Sandwiches  with Fresh Fruit on the side

Braised Chicken Breast with Israeli Couscous (Couscous with golden raisins, toasted almonds, and green onions added)

Of course it's just the main course that gets the slow cooker treatment.  But it only takes a few minutes to prep a side dish or salad (barring the rolls of course...but those yeast rolls are so worth the time it takes!  And with my Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough attachment...the actual mixing time is only a few minutes.  The bulk of the time goes into rising, which I consider free time. :)  )

Are you having a fling with your slow cooker right now?  Have you whispered words of love to it lately?  If not, Fall is the perfect time to rekindle the flame. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

How Times Have Changed

I posted several days ago about my early school memories, and had a comment about how funny it was that my first grade teacher was shocked I could read, that nowadays kids are supposed to read in K4 or Kindergarten at the earliest.

What's REALLY funny is when I was a kid...and I am showing my age here, I had half day Kindergarten.  And as far as I know, Kindergarten was OPTIONAL at that time.  *GASP*
The only thing I remember about Kindergarten was coloring, cookies and milk, and maybe counting and adding.

The reading, I learned at home.  My mother was always great about reading bedtime stories.  Every night, until I was about 10 or so, I got a bedtime story. We also had tons of books.  Wow.  No 'reading curriculum', no tests...just 'Look, here's a book!  Let's see what it says!"


Today, moms are pressured to put their babies in preschool when they are two years old.  So they won't get 'behind'. Funny, I didn't spend a full day in school until I was 6 years old and I was advanced. Hmm.

We studied crows for our Poe unit studies.  Crows and ravens are one of the most intelligent creatures in nature, right up there with chimps.  They are amazing problem solvers.  And scientists believe that is partly due to the amount of time the mother crow or raven spends with her offspring.  She spends years with her babies, nurturing them.  The scientists found when the offspring are not having to form neural pathways dedicated solely to survival, it 'frees up' the brain to form pathways for other skills like problem solving, etc.


Of course, I am remembering a time when it was socially acceptable for moms to just stay home with their kids.  Mention that you are a stay at home mom today and you get The Look, the one that says "Hmmm...she must be crazy to not have any ambition to be anything else.  Poor thing."   Schools today, particularly K4 in public schools, are largely used as free babysitting...even when the mom is a stay at home mom. 

There is something just sad to me when I hear moms say things about their children like 'I don't see how you can homeschool-I couldn't stand to be around my kids all day!'  Or, ' I need that 7 hours away from my kids.'  Wow.  I happen to think my kids are some pretty cool little people, and I feel blessed to spend my time with them.  Don't get me afternoon every so often on my own is wonderful.  But I can't imagine feeling actual despair over having my kids home for a week during a school holiday or Heaven forbid...Summer Vacation! 

So, there you have it.  I am decidely old enough to remember the Good Old Days.  Days when kids had the option of Kindergarten and stay at home moms were unapologetic about being such.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Field Trip: County Landfill

Yesterday our homeschool group went on a field trip to the county landfill.  I know!  Who would think of that! But it turned out to be a very educational and interesting field trip, indeed!
First we had a lesson explaining how the landfill was constructed (no, it is not just a huge hole in the ground, but a carefully and scientifically planned construction.  I believe the term reverse osmosis was used at some point.  As well as leachate.)

Then we were allowed to caravan through the landfill.  These pictures were taken by my nine year old.  Forgive her for not holding the camera straight or steadily.

So...where's the trash you ask?  Why, under all those rolling green hills, of course.  I mean, if you didn't know any better that would look like a great place for a picnic.

The actual area where the trash was visible was very small in proportion to the area of land we drove through. 

We then reached the generator where the methane gas is piped in and converted to electricity.

All of the inner workings of the generator were visible behind glass.

Here's the computer monitor showing all the stats on the gas.  

But the hit of the field trip were the boulders that had been excavated to build the landfill.  This part of our state was once under the ocean, 38,000,000 years ago.  The boulders held all sorts of fossils of sea critters and shells.

And they were great fun climbing on.

Even for the moms....who then needed assistance with getting off the boulders from a few gallant homeschooled teenaged boys.

I was so impressed with how clean everything was.  Even the main entrance was lovely with landscaping and a winding drive.

If you can, try planning a field trip to your county's landfill!  I hope it will be as interesting as our trip was!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dressed for Success

I subscribe to Alpha Omega's newsletters via email, and they are always inspirational to me.  The other day I received one about being 'dressed for success', and boy...was I convicted!

The author suggested that homeschooling moms should try to dress nicely everyday.  Not 'dressy', but a nice blouse, slacks or a skirt, etc.  In other words...quit just throwing your hair into a pony tail and slopping around in those baggy sweats!

I'm like you.  Who cares?  Who is going to see me if we stay home all day?  What difference does it make if I look nice or like a slob?

Then I read futher.

She posed the question, what would you do if your child went to school...or for that matter if *you* were in school...and the teacher showed up everyday in baggy sweatpants and a ponytail?  Would you take them seriously?  Would you trust them to teach you the serious subjects?

Ouch.  That stung.  She really had a point...and boy did I feel it!

Just so you know, today I am wearing nice jeans, a 3/4 sleeve top, and I have make up on.  Oh, and my hair is fixed.  So when we go on our field trip to the county landfill this afternoon I can be taken seriously.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brains! More Brains!

 Studying brains for our "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" unit.   Who knew brains could be fun?  We made brain 'hats' from this site

 Check out my daughter's medulla oblongata.  Awesome, no?  (quick-name the movie in which "Medulla Oblongata" was featured in a free form poem by John Goodman.  You will get 1,000,000 cool points!)

And of course, strawberry jello brains, courtesy of a dear friend who had these molds and was kind enough to share them.

We also played brain 'games' from this site

We learned what each lobe of the brain controls, as well as how each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body.

(PS- my daughter declared this her 'Thinking Cap'.  I found that highly amusing.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Memories of School

First Grade-

 I was the 'new kid', having been transplanted by the Air Force from Tyndall AFB in Florida to Midwest City, OK.  Culture shock?  Well...when you are used to being within walking distance of the beach and now you are in Cowboy Country..yeah.  Even more so...going from living in an Air Force community to a big city suburb.

I was really, really shy.  I don't remember any friends that year.  Recess consisted of me going out to the playground and sitting on the edge of the 'blacktop', drawing designs in the dirt until the bell rang.  Until I noticed all the readers lined up in the bookcases against the right wall of the class room.  My teacher started letting me stay in at recess and sit quietly, reading books. 

God bless that woman.

It was wonderful.  I would read book after book in the peaceful, empty classroom.  I remember sitting in a warm ray of sunlight at my desk one day, and for some reason, I chose to read the text out loud to myself.  I think I remember making up conversational tone.

I didn't know the teacher was in the room at the time.

"Bring your book and come with me!" she said. 

Dutifully I brought my reader and held her hand as we walked to the principal's office.  Am I in trouble?  What did I do wrong?

My teacher whispered a few quiet sentences to the principal, and he looked at me, smiled, and told me to come sit on his lap and read that book to him.  I remember climbing up on his lap and being a little terrified..I mean, this was the Big Guy who saw you when you misbehaved...who without a doubt had a paddle somewhere.

He told me he was so proud of me that I could read and patted me on the head and sent me back to class.  Later, my mom told me the school called her at home and excitedly announced that I knew how to READ! My mom was like, "....and?  This is not news to me!"

Second Grade-

Moved again to Middle Georgia.  Still, very shy, very quiet.  My teacher was Mrs. Lanier.  She was no nonsense and had no warm fuzzies about her at all. 

I remember having to read stories and answer comprehension questions afterward.  Then we had a sheet that we had to list words that we did not know.  I remember leaving that little section blank everytime, because there were never any words I didn't know.  I remember thinking how dumb that was when all the words were so obviously easy.

She calls me to her desk, a little irritated. "YOU aren't following directions.  Where are your words?  Go sit down and write down your words."  I was too intimidated to tell her I knew all those words.  But, being the compliant kid, I went back to my desk.  What was I supposed to do?  I was confused.  So I just picked random words from the story and wrote them down, and turned it back in.

She called me back to her desk.

"You don't know THIS word?   And THIS one?  Really?  Where have you been?  This is unacceptable.  Go sit down."

I remember my face burning with shame.  Everyone in the class heard and saw the whole thing.  Did they think I was a dumb kid?

The difference between the two teachers, when I look back, is so obvious. 

But as a kid, I thought I had gone from being a pretty smart, great reading kid to a confused, not-so-smart kid.  I thought it was *me*.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Do Bloggers Blog?

I have had a thought presented to me recently that has really made me think.

 I love thoughts that make me think.  

"Why do bloggers blog?"

Do we think our lives are really all that interesting?  Is it to make us feel more important?  Is it a way to 'scrapbook'  our ideas and projects?  Is it a form of therapy?  Is it a way to keep in touch with family who live far away?

As a homeschool mom, some of my best inspritations have come from other homeschooling blogs.  Ideas for projects, field trips, curriculum, etc.  So I document our experiences with the thought of "Maybe someone will find some inspiration here too!"  Do I think my ideas are awesome?  No.  But I will bet that the other mommy bloggers don't think their ideas are the best out there either. Or maybe they do.  Either way, if *I* found it interesting...who cares about their motivation for posting?

Another reason I like to blog about our little humdrum lives is that one day, these humdrum days will be fondly remembered as the 'good old days' and I will have a laugh reading over our experiences. 

Would I ever post anything that I would be embarrassed for anyone to read?  Absolutely not.  One day my kids will be on the WORLD WIDE WEB and they will see this blog.  I would hate for them to read it and  I wish I didn't know *that* about my mom. :)  Everything I post is intended for anyone to read.  So, this really isn't a 'diary' for me in the sense that my deepest, darkest, most private thoughts are revealed.   I am sure there are people who do that.  And it's their right and perogative to do so.  Just not my 'thang'.

Is it a form of therapy?  Yep. It is.

Do I feel any more important because I have a blog? Nope.  I am actually amazed anyone would read anything I have to say.  If someone does read it...great.  If not....that's okay too.  I love living in a country with freedom of speech.  If I lived in another part of the world, having a blog would be dangerous, illegal.  God bless the USA that I get to post about nonsense! :)

And I have always wanted to be a writer.  I get to 'play' writer on here. It's fun.

There  you go.  That's why I blog.

That is...if anyone actually read this post. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Themed Unit #3- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Really...I could go on and on with all the ideas for spooky literature units!  One month is not long enough to cover them all.  I guess that leaves me fodder for next year.

We have comprehension questions from here: 

We will do an author study on Washington Irving.

We will also have vocabulary words taken from the story, compare and contrast of characters,  and our art will be a chalk sketch on black paper of  the headless horseman or a scene from the story.

For science will talk about the head and neck and the nervous system. I have found some cute crafty ideas here:  and here:   LOVE the brain hats.  And the egg carton spinal column! And we have some fun brain, memory and reflex activites here : and here:

As a finale, Netflix has a version of this story on film that is not to scary.  Popcorn and movies always make a fun day of school. :)

I am glad to report our Tell Tale Heart unit went swimmingly well!  We concluded our study with a videotaped 'interview' of the madman from the story (my son) by a news anchor (my daughter).  We watched it on TV when daddy came home and it was quite entertaining, to say the least!

I hope to continue the literature units after the holidays as well.  This has been so much fun for all of us, and we have learned so much along the way.  Any suggestions of novels that would be a good fit for a unit study?

Next up: ' The Highwayman'  by Alfred Noyes.  I can't wait!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Day Alanis Morrisette Taught My Kids Language Arts

Talked about irony in the "Tell-Tale Heart".  What better explanation of irony than the Alanis Morrisette song, "Ironic"?

We watched the video on YouTube for her video.

I love that song. 

Thanks, Alanis!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake

Over at the blog Simple Homeschool   they have been running a series  in which contributors have been sharing their biggest homeschooling mistake.  It's made me contemplate my own journey, and what I would consider my biggest homeschooling mistake.

This may not be the BIGGEST mistake, but it's the one that rolls around in my head when I ponder this topic...

Trying to make homeschooling just like traditional school.

When I started homeschooling, one of my goals was to always have some sort of hands on activities for all subjects, because when my children were in public school there was such a lack of time for them to have the hands on experiences. 

Then, as always, the doubts start whispering in my ear...

(Is this what they would be doing in public school?  How do they compare?  Shouldn't we be doing more pencil and paper work?  Are they getting behind?  WILL THIS BE ON THE TEST?! )

Sometimes I would listen to those doubts and spend lots of money to frantically change up the curriculum to a more stringent format, where everyone is taking notes and documenting everything and writing reports on everything.  Totally sucked the fun right out of school.  I could tell the kids were just going through the motions...and I wanted better than that!  The whole reason I homeschool is so my children will *love* learning!  I wanted their lives to be richer.  And frankly, all that dry stuff actually impeded the learning process.  When I would notice the symptoms- the begging to have a day off of school, the lack of retention when quizzed on topics, the general bad attitudes about learning and school and such....I would realize it was time to get back to the basics of why I chose to homeschool in the first place.

You would think that after the first few times of listening to those doubts, I would learn to just not listen.  Wrong.  I fall into that trap now and again. 

Lately we have been having a blast with our unit studies on the works of Poe, the field trips, the hands on math activities.  I feel confident and am amazed at the capability of my children to learn from all sorts of experiences-not just from books.

I hope those doubts stay away for a long while.  And I remain thankful that I chose this homeschooling journey because it *is* flexible and we *can* change it around when something doesn't work for us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

THOSE Are Pleasures of the Flesh Too? Dang.

I can't wait to see what crazy Google searches my stats reveal for this post.

Trust me....this will be G-Rated.

When you hear the term 'pleasures of the flesh', the first thought that comes to mind is...yeah.  You know. 

One reason I get up at the hour I do, (6:30 a.m.), is to have some quiet time before I start the day.  I can quietly finish chores, browse the computer, sip coffee in silence.  Lots of times I use that quiet time to contemplate the day.  Quite often I hear little God-whispers along the way.

This morning, if you could have read my thoughts, it would have been something like this:

Ugh, 6:30...I just want to lay here.

(Get up and get a shower.  You will be glad to have your quiet time today)

Laundry needs folding.  Ugh.

(Do it.  Laziness is a 'pleasure of the flesh')

Back up the bus! Laziness is a pleasure of the flesh?  Nah, that phrase means...well, something else.

(Nope.  Any thing that brings pleasure to yourself is a pleasure of the flesh.  Same goes for eating too much and drinking too much.  Feeling sorry for yourself.  And loafing around too.)

*blink* Dang.  I think you're right!

(Of course I am right.  I'm God.)

Wow.  I get it.   If I am too busy doing all these things...I won't have time to do what is required, what I need to do to serve You.  I am wasting what little time I have in life making myself comfortable.  There is too much to be done!

(Glad you 'Got It'.  I'll let you sleep in in Heaven.  Now, get busy.)

After this little convo with God, I had a new reason to get busy, fold that laundry, and bake those muffins.  And blog about it.  Which is probably a waste of time too, but hey...I'm only human.