November 3, 2014

Everett's "I am From"

Once Elijah started writing, Everett couldn't help himself.  This is what he concocted.  If you haven't written one for yourself, let this be the challenge!  If a teenage boy decides to write a poem without prompting from a teacher or parent, then it must be worthwhile.

I am From

I am from messy rooms, from original Xbox, and cucumbers.

I am from the previously peach colored haunted house.  I am from the side yard rose garden and mulch laying in the summer.

I am from one present on Christmas Eve, early runs, from 'Rara' and 'Poppop', from 'Lida' and 'Da', and from Apryl and Seth.

I am from the chaotic compassion that welcomes all free animals and staycations on a whim.

From "Be flexible" and "Your skills plus my skills, in the ring, tag team!"

I am from saved by grace and "Hold the Fort".

I'm from Dayton, Alabama, Toledo, from generations of adoption.  From Da Cakes and Grandma Juice.

I am from the bread truck, the runaway nose during the West Fork High School football game, and the runaway mom.

I am from the wall of pictures next to the lost sousaphone, old scrapbooks of 11 year old trips, and priceless home videos.

September 24, 2014

Sally's 'I Am From'

Over eight years ago, I stumbled upon a poem at Owlhaven's blog.  I *loved* it.  I barely contained my excitement as I meticulously crafted my own version.  The original poem was written by George Ella Lyon.  She is a teacher and writer.  She began making where-I'm-from lists in a composition book, then edited the lists into a poem.  She enjoyed it so much that she decided to use the poem form with other writers.  The reception was spectacular.  Today, her poem is used as a writing prompt all over the world.  I used it as a Mother's Day gift, along with the poems my three sisters wrote.  It was so fabulous to share our poems and laugh over the similarities and differences.

Last week, Sally created her own poem.  She wanted to present a piece of poetry to her Classical Conversations group.  I remembered our poems and thought she might enjoy writing her own.  I found this template to use. Initially, it was a task, but she finally caught on and we had fun.

Here is Sally's poem:

I Am From
by Salomae
inspired by "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon

I am from the long dining room table, hair goo, and Windex.

I am from the gray house with black shutters with window boxes full of flowers.

I am from the sunflowers and watermelon plants in the garden.

I'm from adoption and church, from Apryl and Seth.  I'm from reading before bed and meals at the table and Tuesdays.

I'm from "no singing at the table" and "put your fingers up" and "Holy, Holy, Holy."  I'm from Friday night pizza and movies.

I'm from Addis Ababa and Ethiopia, Africa.  Healthy pancakes and baked oatmeal.

I'm am from cats, dogs, and birds causing chaos.  From one sister and three brothers.

I'm from pictures on the walls and home videos in the cabinet.

July 29, 2014

Intended Curriculum Outline

My blogging has completely stopped.  I'm writing in my head more these days.  It's easier than trying to sit at the laptop and type.  Unfortunately, the stuff in my head immediately disappears.  Gone and lost forever...kind of like the 6000 pictures Everett deleted from my camera's memory card last week.  He will never live that down.

I'm not posting about that though.  It's something much more mundane that has forced me to log back onto my forgotten blog.  Homeschool notifications.  If you don't homeschool, or don't live in Ohio, then you may just want to tune out.  I suppose someone might be interested in seeing what my children are attempting to learn this year.  My purpose tonight is to share what I've done.  Over the past month I've had about five moms come to me for help with the superintendent notifications.  In Ohio, we are required to notify our school district of our intent to homeschool.  In doing so, we must submit a *brief* outline of the subjects they have listed as required.

I use the template that I found eight years ago.  I plug in the appropriate information and change names and years, then I'm done with all five children in a matter of minutes.  This summer my laptop bit the dust.  All is lost, including the template I used for our outlines.  I've put it off for a few weeks, and finally sat down tonight.  As I completed my outline, I thought I might share what I've done with any moms who need a view of what this 'outline' looks like.

I use this site for the forms I need--the notification form, and the assessment form.  I usually mail everything mid-summer in one big fat, envelope.  I send my assessments from last year along with forms for next year.

Here's my rather simple, yet effective, outline for Everett.  You will notice "Health" isn't filled out.  How to do health class with my ninth grader, we've already done The Talk.  That was interesting.  Seems like after that, being healthy is a daily lesson...please shower...brush your teeth...don't eat a bag of sour patch kids for lunch...

I followed with Josiah's intended plan.  Those two are my bookends, everyone else falls somewhere in between!

2014-2015 Intended Curriculum
I.                   Language
Latin B-Henle Grammar and First Year Latin
Writing-Persuasive Writing/Short Stories
      The Lost Tools of Writing, Andrew Kern
II.                 Literature
Recommended reading from Lost Tools of Writing
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde 5000 words writing class
III.              Geography, History, and Government
Current Events program through Classical Conversations
Mock Trial
Model United Nations with Archers
IV.              Mathematics
Saxon Algebra I
V.                Science
Biology I, Apologia Biology and Lab
Discovering Atomos, Jen Greenholt
Defeating Darwinism, Phillip Johnson
The Soul of Science, Nancy Pearcey
VI.              Health

VII.           Physical Education
HS Boys Cross Country Team
HS Swim Team
VIII.         Fine Arts/Music
Private guitar lessons
IX.              First Aid, Safety, Fire Prevention
Civil Air Patrol monthly safety courses
LifeCare First Aid and CPR training

2014-2015 Intended Curriculum
I.                   Language
Latin rules and vocabulary
Song School Latin
Memory Work for Grammar from Cycle 3 Classical Conversations
All About Spelling Level 2
Explode the Code
II.                 Literature
Institute for Excellence in Writing-Geography Based writing lessons
Beautiful Feet Books
All About Reading Level 3
Various appropriate books related to subject matter
III.              Geography, History, and Government
Geography of the United States-120 locations and features
American History and the New World
Memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution and Bill of Rights
IV.              Mathematics
Saxon Math Grade 3
V.                Science
Anatomy, Chemistry, and Origins Memory Work
201 Awesome Experiments, Janice VanCleave
VI.              Health
My Body, Patty Caratello
VII.           Physical Education
Recreational Baseball, Fall Soccer
Presidential Fitness Challenge
VIII.         Fine Arts/Music
Drawing with Children, Mona Brookes
Discovering Great Artists, MaryAnn Kohl
Classical Music for Dummies, David Pogue
IX.              First Aid, Safety, Fire Prevention
Research enabling a 4 minute presentation on each subject

May 2, 2014

Raising Children

Raising children is hard.  I am not close to done.  Do you ever reach a place that is done?  I had a thought that reaching 18 means we've raised our child.  In my life, getting through high school as a homeschooler would feel like a huge accomplishment.  But do you ever reach a benchmark that means you are done rearing your child?  I still call my mom for advice or a shoulder on which to cry.  Which is not a literal shoulder since she's several hundred miles away.  My phone gets the tears and she just has to listen and feel rather helpless.  Nevertheless, I'm in my thirties and my Mom still has to be, Mom.

I have a vivid image of sitting in my sixth grade class.  The room buzzed with excitement because today was a field trip.  The actual trip is of no importance in this memory.  My Mom was on her way.  I can still picture her now, nearly thirty years later.  A thin sweater and slacks, probably tired because she rode her bike to work that day.  Lovely, and younger than I am now, she breezed into my class.  I was so thrilled, proud even, to see my Mom at school that I breathed, "Mommy!"

Many things are off limits in a busy sixth grade classroom.  Calling out "Mommy" causes the awkward silence that every kid dreads.  Just a few seconds, but it was there.  Pungent and embarrassing.

My stomach still aches with the memory, the comfort of seeing my mother that day.  Sometimes now I yearn for that familiar, warm feeling.

I tell Seth that I feel like we are playing house.  It doesn't feel like we are mature enough to have our own family.  During college, I kept thinking once married, we would have arrived in adulthood.  Then it seemed that the birth of our first child would deliver us into the secret world.  Five children and fifteen years of marriage later, I still feel like that sixth grader.

I have wondered if our children have the same feelings about us.  Then, I recognize it when something sad happens.  At three in the morning, when Josiah crawls into bed with us, he curls his big boy body up like he's still a toddler and shares my pillow.  I know he feels that familiar comfort.  It scares me a little, because, aren't I still just a kid myself?

April 28, 2014

End of the Year Blahs

The end of the year burnout.  Familiar across the board to any and all in the world of schooling.  The weather begins to warm up (we still aren't quite there).  Singing birds and flowers blooming, who feels like doing math? 

It's not only the kids who are ready to be outside.  My toes get itching for some dirt.  I find myself staring outside at my bare garden as one of my children recites their lessons to me.  Half paying attention, both of us yearn to be somewhere else.

No matter the call of the yard, a good mom presses on.  Or she feels a need to press on so as to avoid the neighbors calling the authorities and turning her in for calling it quits in April.  She has to get creative.  It's the end of the year.  My bargaining power has decreased to nothing.  Enticements like, "You can do spelling on the computer!" are met with eye rolling.   

Enter The Mathmallow. 

This would be a huge marshmallow.  It's about the size of a 6 year old's fist.  You probably have some in an opened bag in the far reaches of your cabinet.  That's where I discovered ours.  Remnants from our last fall night of s'mores, long forgotten and getting hard.  These marshmallows have a hard outer shell, and a pretty firm inside too.  In a house where sugar has become forbidden, this rock solid block of sugar is sheer temptation.  Dangling it in front of any child will encourage them to complete their math in record breaking time.  Thus, these sugar boulders are named, "The Mathmallow."  They will make your days much easier.

Also, introduce your youngest students to the rolls of art paper that we never have time to use.  Math drills aren't fun (which is why we need Mathmallows).  If the aforementioned Mathmallow has already been consumed, then doing a math drill on super huge paper with crayons might work.  It does for us.

We have also created an "End of the Year" paper chain.  Instead of the green and reds that accompany such a chain during the Christmas season, this one is made with any old paper that you have around the house.  The kids don't care what it looks like, they just want to rip it apart, piece by piece.  You don't need to care what it looks like, because you want it to be ripped to shreds too.  The daily delight of tearing one chain off is enough to get some of the kids to finish their schoolwork.  Watching the chain shrink each day will help you make it through the rest of the year.  

We press on toward our summer vacation which starts in 27 days. 

But, who's counting?

April 21, 2014

Why isn't Jesus enough?

My sister posed this question over the phone last week.  Our conversation had been punctuated with to-do lists and Easter plans.  In an effort to make an incredible holiday memorable for our children, we were putting unneeded pressure on ourselves.  We finally agreed that our plans and purchases were attempts to battle what has become a worldly holiday.  As a parent, I often feel like I am in competition with an attractive, fun opponent--The World. 

During schooling, holidays, even a mundane Sunday, I feel as if I must make our decisions equally attractive.  Santa doesn't visit our house, but we give you amazing gifts.  No Easter Bunny?  That means more pressure on us parents to create incredible replacement Christian based traditions.  Every fall, I must make our lives seem so amazing, as to avoid the jealous tendencies that might pop up when the yellow bus makes it first trip down our road in August.  The constant competition with an undefeated rival taunts me.

This is when Danica asked, "Why isn't Jesus enough?"  Oh yes.  Why not? 

Must I add an Easter bonnet to the girls' wardrobe?  And a $25 ham followed by a chaotic hunt for colorful plastic eggs?  How does a candy filled egg compare to the Resurrection of Christ?  His sacrifice and triumphant resurrection are enough.  This Holy Day should be about Jesus Christ.  No bunnies nor plastic eggs needed.  Christ's love is enough for us...and our children.

But, how do we show them?  How do I make it okay that in our house it isn't about a basket of junk or a hunt for eggs.  It's a special time of celebration because we know our Savior lives.  Even when our neighbors and friends are cheering about the size of their chocolate bunny and the extra gifts they received this morning, will our children be confident in the choice we have made? 

I'm not sure they will, so I overspend at the Christian book store.  Seth and I chose something special for each of the children, something that won't disappear in an hour long sugar gorge.  Sadly, I'm angst filled as I throw a bag of pastel Hershey bars into my cart later that day.  Just in case.

Maybe next year I will let Jesus be enough.

March 10, 2014

40 bags in 40 days

Ever eager to rid my house of complications, I jumped on the 40 bags in 40 days bandwagon.  The simple idea is to rid your life of one bag of 'junk' a day for the 40 days before Easter.  This seems like a tough challenge, yet in a house like mine there is always junk needing to be removed.  Join me if you are feeling courageous--it's never too late to start de-junkifying.

So far, I've donated several bags, trashed a shredded wicker hamper and a broken kid chair.  Today was the toughest.  The day was gorgeous.  Superb.  Perfect.  It is mid-March in Cleveland, so anything above 40 would make my heart sing.  Today, I pranced into the sunshine with a temperature of 59!  Amazing.

This is the first day I've seen my grass in months.  That means my first glimpse of the business that happens in my backyard all winter.  That doggie business, covered with snow for's been revealed.  I may not be the most responsible pet owner.  We feed, vaccinate, and love our dog.  We do not scoop poop during the winter months.  It's covered by a beautiful, cleansing blanket of white snow, so why bother?  Today, however, was the unveiling.  It was ugly, soggy, and smelly.

As the kids pulled their bikes from the garage, I found the scooping shovel and started.  My right arm began cramping somewhere around the swing set.  By the time I made it to the garden I decided that the fifth bag was enough, I didn't care if there was still more lurking around the kid's fort.  It can stay until the next spring-like day.  Plus, it doesn't mar the view from the house.

Forty bags in 40 days for the past few days has meant culling my magazines and going through toys. meant ridding the environment of pounds and pounds of Golden Retriever feces.  I did learn several things during my hour long foray into the backyard wilderness.  Although I thought our kids were just careless with nerf bullets, they do indeed appear to be a tasty snack for the dog.  Second, our dog does enjoy entire meals comprised of paper products.  I think I found an entire roll of paper towels by the sandbox.  No kidding.  I don't know how or where he finds used napkins, but he's managing to scarf them down secretly.  I'm just thankful we are past the 'searching through the puppy's poo for the missing Lego mini-figure' stage.  That was nasty.

So, join me (and many others) for the 40 bags in 40 days, you never know of what you may rid yourself!

January 25, 2014

Reining in the Video Game Monster

The exchange took place in a Barnes and Noble six years ago.  Seth passed a high school boy an envelope filled with $40 and jogged back to the child-filled van in the cold parking lot.  He was giddy as he opened the black bag.  One of our first Craigslist purchases brought the video game world into our humble home.  He just bought Everett a used x-box for his seventh birthday.

I look back on that day with anguish.  I was tormented with guilt, but relented as long as the kids stayed withing the agreed upon parameters.  Two hours on Saturday morning fully supervised by Daddy.  They were pretty cute in their three little wooden chairs as Seth guided them through an elaborate, timed game controller version of musical chairs.  Something about each kid (plus dad) gets a half an hour to choose the game played while everyone else rotates the second controller every ten minutes.  I was not usually involved, seeing as I was busy with laundry and trying to pretend that we had not invited this evil into our house.  Nevertheless, we did, invite it in.  It took a while for the kids to graduate from their sports based games and legos to what they play now.  We are adamant in our stand on what rating is allowed, but that doesn't mean that the big electronic monster isn't growing bigger and bigger everyday.  Our kids collect used video gaming consoles like their dad collects shoes. 

It goes without saying that as the time has passed, the restrictions on video gaming have changed.  We still have the standing two hours on Saturdays.  No longer a staunch 'musical chairs' of gaming, the kids have enough controllers, systems, and tvs to play at the same time.  Daddy doesn't monitor the game playing, that two hours is usually a good time for the two of us to run errands. Usually, if I have a doctor's appointment, or errand to run during the week, if school is done, the kids will play video games.  Once everyone bought their own iPod, we had to set up some rules for those.  Reading equals time on the iPod.  Nothing over an hour.  Somehow, though, the kids felt that if I was out and Seth was still working, video games were a good way to keep everyone busy. 

And that is how we got ourselves into a mess of too much gaming.  That would make a great Berenstain Bears book.  We have Berenstain Bears and Too Much T.V., but I'd love to see an updated one, in which Brother and Sister Bear argue over controllers, games, and consoles.  Their desires, dreams, and chatter are non-stop gaming.  Brother and Sister have forgotten how to be Bears, because their lives are spent defeating aliens with their wireless controller or using the Wii to defend a land from Chaos.  "I can't hear you!" Brother and Sister yell to Mother Bear as she calls them for dinner.  But that's not the truth, they just stopped caring.

This week, our gaming problem reached epic proportions.  Ella needs a new leg and we made three trips to the prosthetic office.  Added to a few trips to the grocery store, these long appointments meant a LOT of opportunity for video gaming.  Granted, it meant that everyone worked diligently on school to be done by the time I left with Ella.  This morning, everyone woke up excited about playing video games for two hours after breakfast.

I erupted.  Seth agreed.

After a lengthy conversation about expectations, Seth and I invited the kids to a family meeting.  We reminded them of our agreed upon parameters, and then as a family counted up the hours that video games were played this week.  A whopping ten and a half.  Even the kids were surprised.  Then we collectively made a list of amazing things we can do while 1-trapped in the house because it's -16 outside and 2-Mom is at the Doctor's, Costco, Piano Lesson, Prosthetic Office...  We filled three pages with some great ideas and a few not so good ideas (Ella suggested a pear eating contest, but I vetoed that on the grounds of it being a choking hazard).

We had an amazing non-electronic afternoon.  Everyone chipped in for a big brunch.  Everett helped direct a 'movie' complete with costumes and heroes.  Certain to be a huge youtube hit.  The kids braved the snowstorm and trudged around in the knee deep snow exploring the sewer behind our house.  And I'm okay with that.  Then they built a fort village in the basement, which remains up as long as I choose not to walk down there to do laundry.  I have gladly avoided the basement thus far.  Right now, a feisty game of Uno is taking place while everyone sips hot tea.  Every few minutes the chatter is punctuated with "UNO!" but I'll take that over the arguments over who gets the Wii and 'Why didn't you charge your own iPod, because I'm not letting you use mine!". 

The kids haven't forgotten how to play after all and though the monster still lives in the basement, he isn't running our lives.  Today.