Friday, August 28

Fall Reading

It seems as if I have more time to read in the summer than in any other season, but I'm going to try to challenge that and see if it's true. Here's my plan: get off Facebook.
That should do it.

This is what my docket is like for the fall. I'm giving myself until Christmas to finish them. That way, if I run across something else that I want to add, then I can do it all.

Because, you know, doing it all is what I'm all about. *

*(note sarcasm)

Thursday, August 27

First Day Cool / Not Cool

Cool: The Backpack fairy struck again last night and even though everyone knows it's me they like to play along.
Not Cool: S woke up with a pretty painful stiff neck. So, I had to make a decision to school or not to school today. Nothing like a potential health crisis on the first day.

Cool: S is tickled with his little drawer of activities-that-distract-the-toddler.
Not Cool: He did everything in the drawer so I hope it doesn't get real old real quick.

Cool: Mom says, "Let's get started." Kids simply say, "OK."
Not Cool: Kids were probably so amicable because one of them was not feeling 100% healthy.

Cool: We went to the park with a dozen other families to make Solar Ovens out of pizza boxes.
Not Cool: We had to leave before the sun baked our cookies because J is feeling bad again.

Cool: Everyone is content, school is done, the house is quiet and I'm rocking my to-do list.
Not Cool: There's nothin' not cool about that.

Wednesday, August 26

The Night Before 6th + 2nd Grade

  • Set up the station box with the assignments for the unit.
  • Forgo the incentive program this year. We ditched it early on last year.
  • Stuff backpacks with some new clothes, books and colored pencils (the backpack fairy comes to our house tonight).
  • Hang the bulletin board up.
  • Fill a drawer with "school" things for our little guy to do.
  • Make a to-do list and plan meals for next week.
  • Figure out where to go for dinner for our "first day of school celebration outing."
  • Register the younger boys for a swim class.
  • Fold the laundry.
  • Read the end of a book I was supposed to have finished a week ago.
  • Cover today's birthday cake and clean up the wrapping paper (S is 3 today!)
  • Pray. Again, on my knees.
God, I am thankful for this gift of teaching and the freedom to exercise it for the best interest of my sons. Where there is confusion, clarify. Where there is emptiness, fill. Where there is knowledge, humble. Where there is openness, teach. This year is yours. Keep reminding me of that. Amen

Tuesday, August 25

The Last Day of Two

When B was turning 3 I began mourn the end of 2. He was so fun and I hoped that I would still like him even when he was 3. Of course I ended up loving 3 too, but at the time I didn't know it would be so cool.

The same is true for S. Two is my favorite age (it ties with 6 months). He's just bursting with new vocabulary ("Holy Moley" is pretty recent). He can tell us what hurts. He can give his brothers a real workout. He can get a popsicle out of the freezer by himself... o.k. that's one that we're not super fond of. But still. He's learning at light speed. I love it.

So today is his last day of two. I took photos of things that we did today. I hugged him a little more and listened a little more closely. I wiped his nose -- because he's a little sick -- and asked him questions just to see what he'd say. I love two. I will miss two. This is my last two.

Happy Birthday, little man. You have rounded out our family well.

Tuesday, August 18

Summer Reading Check-up

My kids did two library summer reading programs this summer. They completed them and ended up with more coupons than we can use for area restaurants and attractions. It's a good incentive to keep them reading during the summer. However, this was J's first year in the "teen" club and it turned out to be a great deal LESS exciting than the children's club. Sometimes his prize was just to put his name in a drawing. He's my avid reader so it didn't deter him a great deal, but I was a little disappointed for him.

I did considerably better this summer than I did last year. My list was, indeed, ambitious (considering everything else we had going on) and I made it through 6 of the 8 books I listed. Here are my thoughts:

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. I haven't gotten to this one yet. But it's first on my list for my fall reading (stay tuned for that list soon).

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. This is a very easy, fast read. But it's kind of like trying to mix cornstarch and water in your hands: it just runs through your fingers until you grab hold of it and then you have something solid and worth chewing on. I actually want to read it again to catch some of the runoff that I missed.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton. We are just about finished with our park group for the summer using this book. I think it was a good experience for everyone who stuck with it. The book demystifies these spiritual disciplines and it has short, approachable chapters. A good pick for busy moms.

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I took John to Great Britain with me to read on the plane/train. I'm sad to say that I'm disappointed that I'm disappointed with Steinbeck, because I LOVE him. But this one didn't have nearly the number of Americana vignettes I was hoping for. Steinbeck is so good at capturing people where they are, but this one was really more like reading a disjointed blog than seeing America through his (or Charley's) eyes.

The Religious Potential of the Child ages 6-12 by Sofia Cavaletti. Didn't get to it. Tried. Got distracted.

Faith Matters: Faith Mentoring in the Faith Community by Sondra Higgins Matthaei. Got some good reminders of what mentoring is all about and the different role mentors (or I) play in the lives of others. I don't think I'll need to read it for a third time though. As far as reading dissertations go, this one repeats a bit too much in what feels like an attempt to make a minimum page requirement.

Right Brained Children in a Left Brained World by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons. I practically carry this around with me. I keep flipping through it again and again, reading snippets here and there. Not only is it informative but it's encouraging, empowering and freeing. If you have an ADHD child (or a child labeled in some other learning disabled way) you need to read it. I'm not joking.

Eat, Pray, Love: one woman's search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. Forgive me for calling this memoir a biography. It's funny that my aunt and I had the same response to it: We loved the Eat, pushed through the Pray and were disappointed in the Love. So, I read it. Moving on.

How'd you do this summer with your reading?

Monday, August 17

Highlights from Last Week

I loved this little outing with my kids to the Littleton Historical Museum while dh was catching up on work from our trip. The blacksmith spent some time showing the boys his forming tools (we call them hammers), S learned not to put his fingers in the chicken coop fence, and we walked through an 1860's farm and an 1890's farmhouse.

The boys have LOVED S's new sandbox. His grandpa built it while dh and I were in Great Britain. It's given everyone lots of hours of peace and creativity.

Our garage was built from start to finish. Dug it out on Monday... built on Friday. We're just awaiting final inspection and then I can write the big fat check for it. The boys have already adopted it as good scooter-ing territory.

My Aunt Cyn came for a quick visit. S helped her make coffee just like he did when my dad was here. We went to the Tattered Cover, the playground, and Mr. Biggs. It was a good time.

My neighbor, who is a bit of a recluse, showed up at my front door and said he had an abundance in his garden and he wanted to share it. And share he did! We have carrots, green onions, basil, thyme, sage and flat leaf parsley. I am just as jazzed about the home grown food and spices as I am about the relationship contact we finally made with him.

Coming up:
  • This is our last full week of summer.
  • I have some a LOT of school planning to do.
  • J wants to try out a teen writing group at the library (I can't believe I said "teen" either).
  • You should see my post at Heart of the Matter on Wednesday.
  • We are going on a three day retreat with the other families on staff at TNL.
  • and Donald Miller tickets go on sale for Englewood, CO on Friday.

Friday, August 14

The Newest Homeschool Study.

The summary is worth looking at whether you homeschool or not. You can read the whole article here.

Here are some highlights:

Household income had little impact on the results of homeschooled students.
  • $34,999 or less—85th percentile
  • $35,000–$49,999—86th percentile
  • $50,000–$69,999—86th percentile
  • $70,000 or more—89th percentile

The education level of the parents makes a bit of difference but those with no degree still have children who test well above the national average.
  • Neither parent has a college degree—83rd percentile
  • One parent has a college degree—86th percentile
  • Both parents have a college degree—90th percentile

Whether either parent was a certified teacher did not matter.
  • Certified (i.e., either parent ever certified)—87th percentile
  • Not certified (i.e., neither parent ever certified)—88th percentile

Parental spending on home education made little difference.
  • Spent $600 or more on the student—89th percentile
  • Spent under $600 on the student—86th percentile

The extent of government regulation on homeschoolers did not affect the results.
  • Low state regulation—87th percentile
  • Medium state regulation—88th percentile
  • High state regulation—87th percentile

HSLDA commissioned Dr. Brian Ray, an internationally recognized scholar and president of the non-profit National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), to collect data for the 2007–08 academic year for a new study which would build upon 25 years of homeschool academic scholarship conducted by Ray himself, Rudner, and many others.

Drawing from 15 independent testing services, the Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics included 11,739 homeschooled students from all 50 states who took three well-known tests—California Achievement Test, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and Stanford Achievement Test for the 2007–08 academic year. The Progress Report is the most comprehensive homeschool academic study ever completed.

Wednesday, August 12


This time last week I was enjoying the British Museum in London... or maybe we had moved on to the Tate Modern by now. I had no thoughts of what I would be doing in a week. I didn't daydream about curriculum. I didn't have to think about how to incorporate nap time into the structure of the day. I ate when I was hungry. I didn't pick up toys off the floor. I appreciated things that were interesting to me and not just entertaining to my kids.


By the end of our 8 days in Great Britain I was ready to see my kids again. But I knew that because I'd had a completely separate, relaxing, cultural experience that I might feel uneasy in my mom shoes again. Uneasy isn't quite the word.

Once arriving home I was amazed at how many times a day they say my name. Amazed at how they choose to live at odds with one another. Amazed at how they ignore the beauty of life with a huff because some detail doesn't seem fair to them. The daily squawks and words of displeasure and crying fits were a bit of a shock to my system.

It took me a couple days to get back into the swing of this: Every beck and call for something to drink, jumping up to find out what the big thump was, bringing the ketchup and the syrup and the spoon and the napkin to the table in four separate trips, answering, "What?" to the 122nd call of "Mom!"

It's no wonder to me (now) that London, in fact, seemed so silent. I think this is because none of its sound was pointed at me. No one was wanting or needing my attention. In fact the only two sounds I really remember were the sound of bagpipes playing as we walked out of the train station in Edinburgh, and the incessant "mind the gap" in the Tube stations (picking up on repetition is natural for a mom's ears). Funny that I don't specifically remember hearing anything else. It was a feast for my eyes, my skin, my mouth. But my ears found the inner solitude they are always seeking.

I'm not sure what that says about me. Maybe it's just my introverted, melancholy essence coming out. But what I think I need to learn from it is to listen well to my children when they are happy and satisfied and playing well and asking good questions -- because they do all these things too. I just let the unlovely sounds drown them out in my heart. And therein I, too, miss the beauty of life.