Thursday, April 24, 2008


While my daughter was at gymnastics, I read the book Tornado, by Betsy Byars. It's the next book for her literature group.

This is a short book. I read it before her class even started---maybe 20 minutes? It starts out with a tornado coming and the family going into the storm shelter. The husband/father is not there; he's working in the fields, and Pete tells stories (to take their minds off their worry about the father) about a tornado from his childhood that brought him a doghouse with a dog inside.

Great kid-friendly book! I'm going to have the kids read it themselves, including my daughter. It is not too difficult. They have until Tuesday. I think we'll do a science recap about tornadoes (making one with a pop bottle) and learn some magic card tricks. (You'll have to read the book to find out what that has to do with the book.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Security issues and happy news

Mama mia! Is there no end to the nationwide press of articles about violence in schools? If I hear one more person say, "Not in this's really good," I might scream. Actually, it would be more likely to say that I might start laughing hysterically. Tonight while waiting for my sons in Scouts, I woman was telling me that the local high school (just a very few years ago) had to require every student to totally register anew every year because the Crips and Bloods were sending 21-year-olds down to register so they could get "in" with the "rich" kids. Yup, this is the second wealthiest high school in the area, or so I'm told. I had to be told. (Just in case you're wondering, we live in a much older area of that particular high school---read "Not wealthiest or even close." Good, safe area but so far from exclusive it's laughable. I'll just say that if we ever have to send our kids to public school, I'll get a job if need be to pay the private school tuition!

My husband has been itching to get a handgun for security (this is the longest he has ever gone without weapons---our entire married life), and I have decided that I would far rather buy a living shotgun instead of a real handgun (that I'd probably shoot my foot off with by accident). You may wonder what a living shotgun is. That is, a dog. Living shotgun is my term. I sincerely doubt I could ever shoot someone no matter how much adrenalin is running, but it would take nothing for me to turn it over to man's best friend! The $800-$1000 price tag for a German Shephard puppy seems daunting, but then again, so do the prices of handguns (at least the ones my non-violent husband prefers.) For now, I need to work on our already-owned overgrown pup. The size is definitely on his side. Lately, we've let him have the run of the house while we are gone (and he only got into the garbage once (when I didn't take it out first.)

In case any of you are wondering, we really do live in a good neighborhood. We have been known to go on a mini-trip for a couple of days to return to an open garage door, unlocked door leading from the house to the garage, no dog on premises guarding it (that would have been animal cruelty since we were gone), and no mishaps. It actually happened. Once. Never, ever again. Wealthy, this area is not. Safe, it is. Unsafe, and we would move. Immediately. No matter what the market was like.

On the non-violent side, which is where we conduct our lives, my boys completed their First Class Board of Review in Boy Scouts. Hooray! This is one we all worked for. Their troop severely limits the number of overnight campouts 11-year-old Scouts can go on so them missing one for illness was really bad news. They had to have 3 to attain First Class rank. Jim worked the lines and got an emergency campout approved so they could get it. Since they were the only ones that showed up---amazing how that works when you schedule it for a school night---they got a real workout. They chose their tent site, set up their tent, selected and cooked their dinner, and then slept outside through a rainstorm. They got a ton more experience on this one than on both the others they attended put together.

The other "hard" requirement they had to complete was to invite another "eligible" boy, meaning between 11 and 18 who was not already involved with BSA or at least inactive in a troop, to attend with them and/or join up. I truly did not expect this to be hard. True, they don't go to school with 500 others, but I figured that they could invite someone they knew. I was wrong. This was very hard for them. They were scared to death of getting a no. Never mind that we kept assuring them that it really didn't matter what the boy said, just so long as they got a chance to say it. This afternoon at 4:30, they still had not done it, so we packed everyone up to go to yet another taekwondo class in hopes there would be an "eligible" young man there.

Wonderful things happened. Knowing my sons' innate shyness, I chatted with a few moms for their okay and help. I got a bonus. One of the moms has formed a co-op with a friend of hers that is everything I have dreamed of. Okay, I'm sure it isn't heaven, but it's as close to it as I ever hope to find here on Planet Earth. And without me angling for it (in fact, I had no idea about it), she suggested that maybe I might be interested in joining them next year. It was all I could do from falling down on my knees right then and there. I am not only thrilled with the possibility, but very grateful because I have been looking so hard at all the co-ops in the area and not really liking what I found. This is exactly what I have been praying and searching for my boys.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Next year's plans

Next year, we will be studying American history as our core subject. It has been 3 years since we have really studied it. The boys will also study the Constitution. My daughter will be included in that insofar as she wishes, but that will be up to her.

I will be using the summer to get ready for it. I have a unit study my sister sent me that I love, called A Noble Birthright: Defenders of the Title of Liberty, but it is more of a guideline with ideas of how to structure the study. It includes teaching strategies, organizers like mind maps and notebooks, costumes, field trips, book resources, and key point presentations in each subject area like language, social studies, science, math, dance & drama, and literature. Did I mention book resources? There are pages and pages of lists of books just so you can be sure to find at least some of them at the local public library.

Reading and writing will be a main thrust for us! Of course, I will make one exception: Math. We'll stay with Singapore Math.

Now I'm heading out on a tangent. I mentioned the local public library. I love public libraries! Wherever we have gone, minus one, we have had them and we have used them! The one exception was Puerto Rico. They do not have public libraries. In fact, they don't know what they are. "Biblioteca", contrary to what my 7th grade Spanish teacher told me, means bookstore not library. Apparently public libraries are an American invention.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Looking to save some $$$ on books?

I'm going to pass off a tip I've learned through the years of buying homeschool supplies. It's pretty simple. Decide what you want around March or April, check prices at various suppliers (plus shipping), and then go to eBay for those items. If you do that, you can walk away with some really good deals! (Figure in shipping when you bid though, because getting "really good deals" can be quickly offset if you are paying higher shipping than you would if you buy brand new from one supplier. Many times, they offer free shipping on large enough orders.)

It has always amazed me to see people bidding for used materials on eBay and paying more than they would from the regular supplier for brand-new stuff. It seems like the time period is getting earlier and earlier though. Last year, April was plenty early---now more seem to be aware but it's still better than buying in August!

Of course, if you're just buying blindly, stop! Unless you want to rival the county library of course! ;-)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Powerful water!

I know I said I would write about next year's plans, but instead I'm posting some photos my husband took of our field trip to Table Rock Lake Dam in Branson, Missouri today.

The dam has 10 gates to allow water through. My husband told me that when the Army Corps of Engineers built it, they said they could not imagine that all 10 would ever be needed. Here they are:

Count 'em. They're all open!

This one gives you a good case of vertigo, doesn't it? It's taken from the bridge above.

Here's m'boys! Good lookin', aren't they?

Here's my daughter, seated on rocks just above the river. My husband tried to take a picture right on the edge of the land, while he was braced against a tree. The water was much higher than usual and had undercut the ground under the tree. The piece he stepped on broke through under one foot. He dropped a few inches, but thankfully no further.

I just had to throw in one of our whole family at an overlook.

Here's some pictures from downstream a ways.

This dock (framed by the bridge) broke away. At the moment, its anchors are holding it firmly midstream. Should it hit the bridge (with lots of traffic crossing very slowly) . . . .

This "camping area" was evacuated at 3:00 Thursday morning right before the waters came thundering through. Do you see that curb in the bottom right corner? That's the edge of the Bass Pro parking lot. Believe it or not, there's a road under the water at the top left edge.

The ducks are enjoying it though!

So are the trees!

Um, that's Rockaway Beach. Picnic anyone? That's a picnic area with the roof. The tables seem to be anchored down, but they're floating as much as their chains allow.

Here's a close-up of that sign! I'd say that river is flowing w-a-a-a-y too fast to go swimming!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Am I frugal?

Mrs. Darling at Dishpan Dribble has raised the question of “What does frugal look like to you?” This is a topic I have pondered about a lot. I honestly don't know if we are frugal. I do a lot of things that might be considered "frugal" and blow it elsewhere. (Overall, we don't "blow" it much.) I shop carefully and rarely. It's easier for me not to buy if I don't see what’s available! :-) My husband is often required to go to business lunches, but we are lucky if we eat out once a month. The last movie my husband and I saw was Phantom of the Opera when it first opened. My children have been inside a movie theater maybe twice. We check out videos and DVDs from the library frequently but don’t rent or buy movies. We try very hard to avoid using credit cards. Unfortunately we learned firsthand how difficult it can be to pay those off. We use tax refunds for the extras that we aren’t prepared to handle and to pay off old debts. We used some this year for storing more wheat and other food in our year’s supply. Because we are careful (and because we have been tremendously blessed), we are able to enroll our children in “extras” like gymnastics, swimming, and taekwondo.

Several years ago, I felt particularly guilty for not working to help pay off our debts when I ran across an article that showed how much money a second income earner has to make in order to bring home $200 a month. At the time, it was about $50,000. They figured in wardrobe, gas, day care, more frequent restaurant expenses, etc. as part of the cost of working. I quickly figured up some of the costs that I saved us by not working (including one vehicle at the time and baking my own bread), and I tallied up well over $200 in savings. Actually I totaled $200 just by baking my own bread---it’s the quality and varieties of bread from a top-notch bakery! I have compared!

I remember someone (quite wealthy) teaching at a financial seminar that we are where we choose to be. He explained that he and his wife had been broke, and they had become wealthy. Both were due to their decisions. (He was presenting this quite humbly as he credited the Lord for the opportunities they had, but he pointed out that he had some of the same opportunities earlier and had not chosen to take them.) As my husband and I mulled over that, we realized he was absolutely right. At the time, we were struggling and my husband was not making very much money at all. That may have been the year we qualified for a tax refund even though we paid no taxes. (I hated receiving that check!!! In my opinion, the government had no right to demoralize us in that way! We were surviving and taking care of our family with no governmental aid.) We chose to listen. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are in no danger of receiving another undeserved tax refund.

I look at people that I am acquainted with through church and feel so badly for them. I see the person begging at the local drugstore and help. We do what we can. We contribute financially to trusted organizations and donate clothing and goods to Goodwill. I always remember how grateful I was for the person that donated Buzz Lightyear and Woody so I could buy them for a couple of dollars. There was no way I could have bought them new at the time! Yet I know that the bit of help I can provide for another is nothing next to what they can do for themselves if they change their decisions. Some of them do things with money that I wouldn't because I don't think I can afford it---but maybe it's more correct to say I won't afford it. But we aren’t in the position to feel self-righteous because we have not attained our goals either. (I don't think we'll have that right even when we do.) So maybe it is just a process of learning. Or maybe it’s a process of being grateful for all the blessings we have been given and the help that has been ours. That’s something I’m trying to be better at too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Today and what we do every day

I just learned that the girls that have Shaundra's gymnastics class are quitting at the end of this month. They will just be coming to the open time on Fridays. Dang! I value the lessons, and there are no instructors for the free play time. However, I think I might sign my boys up for the swimming portion. They need to earn their swimming merit badges for Boy Scouts, and must know their different strokes to do it.

Right now, Language Arts and Math are our areas of major emphasis. Each of my children is working out of at least 2 math books and 2 language arts books. I use Singapore Math and the Abeka Language as the backbone of those subjects.

All three have an American Education Publishing Maps and Geography (grades 3-6) book too. Right now, they are working with map symbols and room layouts as it pertains to a north/south/east/west orientation. (A side benefit is learning to pay attention to the directions!)

History studies happen naturally in our home so I haven't particularly stressed it in the last few months. The kids naturally study various historical subjects, possibly because our home library includes so many books pertaining to the subject. I'm always picking up books pertaining to the subject too! We often have discussions (and arguments) about the various topics. They are constantly quizzing each other about world and U.S. geography and U.S. presidents. Some of my "what the heck" purchases have been amazingly good at creating interest, including U.S. and world, sign language, and presidential place mats along with several decks of Brain Quest cards.

Today, I showed the kids what they needed to complete before we would be done for the year. I think that was a huge motivator! (My one exception will be math. I am not going to take a 3-month break in a subject that has been a struggle for 2 of the 3 children!) Tomorrow, I'll share what I'm planning for next year.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting back on track

Hello! I have been struggling with the computer screen lately. I don't know if it's too bright, or if I'm too tired, or if my prescription is too weak, but lately my eyes have not wanted to look at the screen. It has seriously limited my screen time. (Too tired is a serious possibility. My bedtimes have gotten later and later, and the nights that I get to bed at a more reasonable hour, I wake up early thinking I need to be industriously employed with grading papers, working on lesson plans, reading books, cleaning house, putting away clutter, etc.

We struggled for about a week (the same week so many were posting so many wonderful things about homeschooling) with getting everything done, but I think we are back on track now.

J-Dawg was not feeling well today---it's not a good sign when he misses taekwondo and Scouts. His piano lesson was today too so I chose to take his little sister instead of writing off this week's lesson. I think she really enjoyed it. His teacher wraps it up at the end of April and takes the summer off so there isn't really that much time left. It seems very strange to take the summer off from piano. I never did growing up. His recital happens in 1 1/2 weeks so the stimulus to practice will be gone after that. Right now he is committed to finishing out April, but he's making no promises to continue next year. This is one thing I'll not push overly hard on. Piano is supposed to be a privilege, and that stops when I "make" him do it.

We just printed off some flyers advertising the boys' services to mow lawns. I think we have priced it very reasonably, especially since some people paid them more for half their yard last year. Now we need to distribute the flyers. We were going to do it today, but I postponed it since James was out of it. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy I think so maybe we'll hit it on Friday. We think it is important that they pay for their taekwondo tests (and especially extra tournaments) and Scout camps themselves---to say nothing of learning to save for future endeavors.

My husband just told me he needs to reset the wireless router, so I'm off for the night. (I'm taking it as a good excuse to go to bed. It doesn't take that long to reset the router---I think a quick off and on.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New books, belt tests, more

Today I caved in to marketing pressure. I was shopping at Sam's Club when I took a gander at their book tables (which I always do) and saw those big books of math, presidents, maps, etc. from Scholastic. You know, the ones they mass market to everyone? They looked fun, and the boys even thought they looked fun so I bought them. They aren't replacing anything, but . . . fun is good! I totally love it when they enjoy doing their schoolwork. It makes it so much easier when the materials do it and I don't have to find a way to make it enjoyable. We'll be starting zoology pretty soon too. I think they will enjoy that and I will too. I love it when we find things none of us are experts at and start digging together. Then the kids can truly become the "experts"!

My sons took their taekwondo test for orange belt today. We'll find out how they did Saturday. Hopefully they passed. At one point, the grand master told them to start with their right foot, and J-Dawg started with his left. Oops. He realized his mistake but stayed cool about it. A few minutes later, he was able to transition to the correct foot without being obvious about it. Other than that, his routines looked good to me! S-man didn't seem to make any mistakes, but then, what do I know?

Tomorrow my daughter begins swimming lessons to go along with gymnastics. She is very excited to begin swimming. My husband just finished taking pictures of a gymnastics meet last weekend, taking over 8,000 shots. He has shutter finger, and my daughter is totally amazed by the pictures. Now she sees what is possible, and how much work she has to do to be that good. We're starting 4 years late! Good motivation though!

We had our culminating field trip for The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler yesterday, and all the moms agreed that it would be fairly difficult to hide out in our local art gallery. For one thing, cameras make it hard to hide. For another, there is nowhere near enough traffic to get lost in the crowd. The Cincinnati art gallery would have been slightly easier, although I suspect they have cameras too. (I never noticed.)

We started reading View From Saturday today. It's the next book the literature circle is reading, and it coincides with the library's chosen book of the month. That translates to having lots of activities none of us have to plan. Woot! We'll also be reading a book on Rachel Carson, Friend of the Earth for Earth Day. It's a shorter read. I'll be reading the Five Ancestors' series to my daughter in anticipation of the next book coming out later this month. The boys have absolutely devoured this series (many times) so she and I started reading it while waiting for the boys at taekwondo.

For me, I've finished View From Saturday (ahead of time so I have time to plan accompanying activities) and have begun An American Prophecy: The Fourth Turning. I am already hooked and am only a few pages into it. I read a review of it on a TJEd list I joined. I suspect this might become a "must buy" book because I think it will take me several reads to even attempt a review of it.