Tuesday, May 31, 2005


After many years of private schooling followed by four years of college and a few graduate classes after that, I found my self contemplating how I used this education. This weekend, I laughed, wondering what classmates would think about how I spent some of my time: dismantling a rabbit hutch, cleaning house, and a good deal of time cleaning horses' sheaths.

Okay, if you are not a horse person you may not want to know anymore, but it is a nasty job that someone has to do. In my family, I am that lucky person. It's not a talent you talk about in polite company, something that you brag about at a party lest someone thing that you have a psychological abnormality. Dh laughed at me when I crowed because I had found a "bean". He said I acted as if I'd found a pearl. In essence, I had, because this dirt, which forms a kidney bean sized stone on the inside of a horse's penis can cause him a great deal of discomfort, as you can imagine. Enough said.

I would say that today, I was thinking about one thing my education did give me - the sense that I could figure about anything out. That's good and bad. Good in that I can often repair appliances myself. This past year, I took apart the dryer and fixed a broken fan. (Okay, so it was broken because I left nails in my jeans pocket from working on another project.) This morning, I had to take the washer arm apart and super glue it together after an unnamed party jammed the rack into the dishwasher despite objects impeding it from closing. (Hint: if the rack won't shut, there often is a problem that isn't solved by shoving harder.) Now, on to the oven/range. Bad in that I often think I CAN repair it myself, when really I should call a repairman on my oven. It's still F2-ing me, and I know that means that I have a bad sensor or maybe welded contacts, but I'm of such small stature, I can't get the blamed thing pulled out to look at it.

My engineering education empowered me to know I can try to do just about anything. I used to think that being in engineering failed me, because I, like many, many other engineers never became an "engineer". In continuing to read Ready or Not, Here Comes Life, I ran across this passage:

p. 237
"I was once given a tour of a superb vocational high school in Lexington, Massachusetts. I asked the principal, "What percentage of your auto body students go on and do auto body work for their careers, and what proportion of your electrical students actually become electricians?" I was somewhat surprised by his answer; "Very few of our students have ended up doing what they specialized in while they were here, but in the process of focusing at this school, they picked up skills like decision making, brainstorming, collaboration, and time management. Then they were able to apply these in whatever trade offered them the best opportunities at the time." His was indeed a growth process school. Early specialty education should never close out any options for a student...."

While homeschooling, I hope to give this sense of empowerment to my kids. Instead of spending hours learning useless facts, I hope to teach them to learn, to have the spirit to figure things out, and the strength to keep going when the going gets tough. Now, back to figuring out how to pull out the oven.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Finish Line of the RACE

It is sometimes difficult as a parent to know what to do sometimes. Thursday evening, Lauren was ready to throw in the towel. She was very sure that she could not take the RACE piano exam the next day, and hoping that we would agree to let her out of doing it. I am all for following your child's dreams, instincts and respecting them as people. There comes a time, however, when a little push is required when the confidence lags, but it is difficult to say to a child that they have to do something anyway, even though they fear the outcome.

Her teacher felt she was as ready as any of her other students. I passed on to her that he had said that she takes for granted the things she does do well, in particular the way she plays some of the pieces. Because of this, she doesn't realize her ability compared to other students. We all knew that she could have been more prepared by the teacher, have started sooner, have worked harder. BUT, we all knew that given that we were all new at this, we wanted her to have the guts to try. And...so she did.

She walked into the exam with great poise. In less than 40 minutes, she was finished and saying that she did pretty well on her pieces, and not as well on technique, though that is what we knew was to be expected. She was glad to have done it, and surprisingly, said she might do it again. I breathed a sigh of relief for having made the right call to insist that she take the exam after all her hard work. Exam results won't be in for weeks, and honestly, it doesn't matter. The learning here had little to do with the exam itself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Lauren is still working toward the piano exam on Friday. I am so proud of her that I could bust. Not because she's taking the exam, but that she has handled the IDEA of taking the exam. It has opened up to us both that we are both first-born perfectionists and what that means. As I've discussed before, she has had to examine why the exam stressed her so. It was not only the lack of time to prepare, but that she prefers to have pieces perfected before performing them. It has been difficult for her to relax and let go of that.

For me, I've examined my own perfectionism. I was raised to strive always for the best grade in the class, to do everything the best I could. In parenting, it is difficult sometimes for me to let go, to not push the perfectionism on to them. In this exam, before we started this journey, I would have said that Lauren is exceptional in her ability to play the piano and I would expect that she would pass the test if not have high scores. Given the circumstances, I would say that Lauren has already passed the test by putting in a tremendous effort to get the work done, to learn to speak up when she didn't understand, to examine her own emotions about it all, and sticking with it without freaking out. I know she reads my blog, so I say "Congratulations, Lauren. Only two more days to go. I'm proud of you!"
Love Mom

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More on Ready or Not, Here Life Comes

I was able to renew the book, which is only a 14 day - yippee.

I am reading now about Enhancing Working Capacity at Home. He has a list that are interesting. Here are a few:

Establish consistent times for mind work whether or not your child has homework (call it "mental workout time").
Assist with time allocation, prioritization, and scheduling.
Teach your child how to break big tasks into stages, manageable chunks of work.Try not to let your child quit a job when the going gets rough or dull.
Be a role model; do mind work yourself while the child is engaged in mind work.

There are some other guidelines, but the above I found most intriguing. As a homeschooler, I was particularly interested in the breaking of big projects into manageable chunks, as my daughters have never had any big projects with a deadline.

Recently, Lauren has been preparing for a piano exam. A week ago, with two weeks before the exam, she began to panic. There are many reasons why she was behind in her preparation, and the panic was well founded. Some of the materials arrived late, and the teacher hadn't yet covered some of the subject matter. All of us are new to this exam, and didn't realize the amount of work involved, so she didn't work hard enough earlier. She took a week off to go to Germany.

We didn't let her just throw in the towel though, having committed herself to trying, though she very much wanted to quit. We learned important lessons doing this, such as how to lay out what needs to be done, and how to accomplish it in small chunks. We learned about "perfectionism". She's always learned piano Suzuki style, perfecting one or two pieces from a perfectionist teacher before moving to another song. This exam requires competency, not perfectionism, in seven songs, plus reading and technique (scales). We have had the chance to examine the cause of the stress: not so much the exam, but the difficulty in not being able to play each song perfectly.

We have asked her to work hard to prepare for the exam, which is Friday. Whether she takes the exam will ultimately be up to Lauren and her teacher. As parent, my goal was to see that she learned a little about life from the experience, which was much more valuable than the exam itself.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Learning Tractors

Yesterday, I learned to drive our big tractor, helping to mow our neighbor's pasture in return for board there for our three horses. K did most of it, but it takes four hours every four weeks, so I figured the time had come to learn. I have resisted learning in the past because my son loves tractors and riding on tractors more than anything. I didn't want him to know that I can operate the tractor, or otherwise, he'd be after me for a ride everyday. But, the time has come.

Tractors are built for men, not small framed women. My feet dangled from the seat, not reaching the platform. I sat forward so that I could reach the pedals. Growing up on a farm, K said he first drove a tractor standing up, so that he could reach the pedals. I nearly need to do that. I went very slowly, trying to remember where all the levers were and what they did.

As I settled down, I found time to think. I watched the birds landing and hoped they were looking for food and weren't one of the types of birds that nest in tall grass. Do men worry about such things as they mow? I didn't see any nests, and hoped that since the grass was not that tall, I hadn't run over any. I think the girls could learn to run the tractor soon. They're as big as I am.

Learning Plants

Wm. is a little older this year, so I am hoping to spend a little more time gardening. At 3 years, he enjoys the watering job. He also enjoys putting in the little metal staples that hold down the black cloth/plastic that I use to keep down weeds. We finished one side of the garden yesterday.

My dear husband asked why I had left that one particular big weed at the corner of the garden. When I told him that it wasn't a weed, it was rhubarb that I'd planted last year, he laughed. He's been weed-whacking it and trying to kill it, as rhubarb resembles a week we have that grows here in Kentucky.

Just a few weeks ago, my MIL and I stood shaking our heads at that plant, wondering why it wasn't bigger since, at her house, the rhubarb is enormous. Maybe, we discussed, it just doesn't grow well here. Yeah, I guess not. Hard to grow when you get weed whacked. :-)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Confusius say....

Tonight, we went to the new Asian Buffet restaurant. That reminded me of my favorite fortune cookie saying:
"A good statue never comes from a bad mold."

Red Tailed Hawks

The nest was about 30 feet in the oak tree at the V-shaped junction of four branches. When we first arrived, there was no movement or sign of birds. I thought they had either succumbed to the hail storm from the night before, or maybe the babies were grown and out of the nest. But, William and I had to wait for Lauren's one hour piano lesson, so we settled down in the truck to watch with our binoculars and lunch.

Finally, I saw the flash of a wing and wondered how the mother bird had gotten in there without me seeing her arrive. The answer came shortly after with the sound of the mom approaching. The wing I saw was one of the two immature hawks, almost full size now but still sporting a fuzzy hairdo. A shadow circled overhead as she continued to call. Was she looking for danger or simply calling "hello, I'm back?" I whispered to Will that the mommy was coming.

She landed, but then turned that unblinking eye directly toward me. Though I was in the truck with binoculars, I could swear she knew I was there and was looking at me. She immediately took off, landing again only one more time in the next few minutes. The two young birds ran back and forth a bit in their nest. I wondered if they get in trouble for running around too much. Did they ever get in arguments and try to push each other out? Occasionally, the mom would fly into the area, calling. Was she saying, "I see you are okay, I'll be back soon with food" or was she saying "I can see you from up here, so you better behave?" I would imagine the former, her reassurance that all was well.

One youngster leaned over the edge of the nest to uh, not mess the nest, and nearly fell out. He flapped his now three foot or so wingspan and I heard him "eek". I am sure he thought he was going to fall.

I look forward to seeing if they are out of the nest next week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Last night, I watched Hotel Rwanda (PG-13). It saddens me what humans do to other humans, to children. I am thinking of letting my 13 year old see it. I want my kids to be sensitive to the troubles of the world, without tramatizing them. This film is well done, in that it imparts the terror without the gore. It is a "must see" for adults.

Note: it contains several swear words

More on Mel Levine

I am still reading Ready or Not, Here Life Comes by Mel Levine. Now, what action to take??


"These kids have no idea how to assess their strengths and weaknesses, how to follow their passion and how to communicate and work with others and how to survive on the bottom rung," he writes.

And he blames parents and teachers, who are so busy with college prep that they ignore life prep.

It isn't just that our children leave the nest without learning how to balance a checkbook, make a decent meal or do their own laundry, although there is certainly plenty of that.
"They have never worked on finding a good fit between their minds and their jobs," Levine writes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Race for the Finish

Back in the fall, Lauren's piano teacher started a class to study for the Royal American Conservatory Exam, a demonstration of proficiency at a certain level of playing if you pass. Lauren was skeptical about joining because of the amount of work involved, yet agreed to do it. She enjoyed the weekly classes and a goal was set for the exam in the Spring, which seemed ages away. Well, the exam is in one and one half weeks, and the pressure is on.

"Cramming" is a word that my dh and I learned well though our schooling years. Lauren is learning the meaning of it now. She'd like to be released of this monumental task, but we've persisted in asking her to work hard toward her goal. Some of the lessons we've learned are about not waiting until the last few weeks, how to break down a seemingly impossible task into small chunks, and how to focus and prioritize under pressure. Very valuable lessons for a young girl.

Lauren talked about not enjoying piano anymore, since she began this study for RACE. Several good lessons came from this. One is that we discussed her feelings that she disliked the stress of preparing for the exam, and that she still enjoyed piano, just not how she is playing. Her teacher discussed that now commited to doing the exam, she might in the future decide to not do it again.

The exam brought up an interesting point about Perfectionism. Suzuki Piano epitomizes perfectionism. You play one or two songs at a time, and work to perfect the way you play the song. Yet, this RACE expects the pianist to play seven songs, plus technique and reading for proficiency, not perfection. This is a big difference for both Lauren and her teacher, both perfectionists. The hardest thing for Lauren to prepare for the exam is to let go of not playing each piece perfectly, but just getting to a place where she can play each piece. She can even use the music, if necessary. She grumbled that that would be points off her score. Like the first born that she is, and I know because I am one, too, it is hard for her to imagine just trying to take the test without getting a grand score. It has been a great learning experience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Forensic Science

A tragedy befell us this past Saturday. The girls found all but one of our half grown chicks dead in the barn isle. Five little bodies had been mauled, but left largely intact. Those of us used to the occasional chicken thief know that varmits (raccoons, opposums, weasels and even foxes) will generally only come in the mask of dusk, dawn, or into the night. Varmits also generally will eat the chicken, leaving little behind. This was murder in broad daylight.

The chicks were in a homemade chicken tractor on legs. The rabbit wire was curled back from where it was nailed on the inside, pushed up from the bottom by an obviously large animal. Varmits won't go to such effort, pulling the wire back only enough to squeeze in, and they can squeeze into holes you might not believe until you've seen it. This could only have been accomplished by a large dog, and our neighbor's unruly border collie/black lab mix was seen in our yard that morning. She has before been observed harrassing our chickens in our other chicken tractor. Yet, we did not witness the event. I am debating on whether to notify the neighbor that his dog is a suspect in this crime, yet I wonder what it would accomplish. Perhaps he will understand why I call him to come get his dog every time I see it from now onward.

As I said, all but one was dead, my girls distraught. One chick was missing. Frankly, I had hoped that the bird was dead and in the jaws of the perpetrator, so there was no mistake how this happened. Daisy, our beagle/lab mix, however, was following a scent. Picking up on this, we gave her the "find it" signal and off she went. For awhile, we looked around in the brush for the chick, an Aracuana hen, the chick I would have chosen to live if I had only one choice. Out of the corner my eye, I saw the chick running with Daisy in fast pursuit. We called her off, but not before the chick escaped in the underbrush and according to Daisy, through the fence into the neighbor's yard.

Daisy was put on a leash, and I gingerly climbed the fence which is topped with barbed wire, had Lauren hand 40 lbs. of dog over the fence, and said "find it" without giving my command much thought. Now, 40 lbs. may not seem like much, but 40 lbs. on a scent is determination. She pulled me so that my arm shot out and I leaned backwards to try to stop her. Just as I came to a more upright position and rounded the neighbor's greenhouse, we hit a mud slick. I went down like a stone. My entire backside was oozing, stinking mud. My girls cackled at me through the fence. Very funny.

Daisy kept coming back to the same bush, on the OTHER side of the fence, our side. Sure enough, the hen was there. Heaps of praise were given to Daisy. In case you may wonder if she were the murderer, think again. She is afraid of chickens for the most part, except when tracking which has less to do with the chicken than the game of finding, and she wouldn't even look at the chicken once she found it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

High Schools Fail

From today's Courier-Journal:
Education Chief: High Schools Fail (click for link to full article)

Many American high schools are failing to prepare students for work and college and must make changes, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in Louisville yesterday. ......

.....graduation rates and academic expectations are too low.

...Nationally, just 36 percent of seniors are proficient in reading and only 17 percent in math, according to a recent national exam.

...About 68 percent of ninth graders eventually graduate, while the rest drop out or earn a General Educational Development certificate. Many who go on to college need remedial courses."

My commentary:
Spellings (grand name for someone in education, isn't it?) is in town to promote Bush's high school reform agenda. From my reading of this article, it appears that the plan involves raising standards, expecting more from the students and more testing. Schools not meeting their goals will be punished!

Spellings, Bush and others pushing this movement might do well to read the book I am reading by Dr. Levine. My reading so far says that it isn't a matter of teaching harder, working harder but a need to work smarter with students. In this book, he discusses how even with successful students in successful schools, we often don't produce successful "starter adults", those entering a career for the first time. It often takes years to figure out the right path to take, and tragically, some people never find the right career to follow.

I am interested in his concept that we ask kids to excel at all subject, despite the fact that they might have an extrordinary ability in one area and little potential in another. Yet, when we enter the work force, we specialize most of the time. Perhaps the Bush administration would do well to throw away the old school paradigm and look at how we can raise successful people (adults) rather than feed more money into a system that obviously isn't working to produce "students".

As for me, both my kids can read well beyond their years, and they are on level for math. Therefore, I must be doing okay with homeschooling.


A new word we learned yesterday, among several others. The biopsy came in on Jorgen (pony), and thankfully, it wasn't cancer. I will give you the executive summary. It was basically found that he had a bacterial infection embedded within a dense bed of granulation tissue. No foreign bodies were found, nor infestation of any kind. The vet had not seen this before and has no idea as to the cause. The fact that it was bacterial in nature explains why the swelling was reduced when we used Neosporin, but the cream wasn't enough to completely cure the infection. I am hoping that this takes care of it, and that by disturbing the infection, it doesn't spread.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

What We're Learning Today - Vet Science

Jorgen, as I have written, has a large swelling on his buttocks, between the cheeks. Today, we are going to try to treat it. The test results show an infection that is granulated. The vet said it is a new one on him, never seen anything like it. The good news is that it isn't cancer. We don't know what caused the infection. There doesn't seem to be a foreign body, as it lacks an entrance point. Such a wound usually presents a hole that stays open and some pus. This is a completely closed sweling. What we are going to do today or possibly tomorrow, is sedate him, clean out the swollen area of infection and give him antibiotics.

Dad, Age 5

My Dad

One of my first blogs was about my Grandpa, about how little information there is about him. His personality, his words were lost when he died early in his 40's. So few memories are ever written down, and they are so rich.

I encouraged my dad to write some of his memories, which is a monumental task, overwhelming, when put that way. He had written some, but then stalled for a little while. So, I asked him just to write about the cars he's owned. Here is the result: www.mylife.homestead.com At the bottom, you'll see the story about the cars. Though I didn't know it, he is a talented writer with imagery. He's afraid it's turning into a book. So what's wrong with that? What a gift he's given me with his words.


The girls were complaining of their cold symptoms yesterday, so having heard enough, I took them to the doctor. To my surprise, Lauren has strep. Well, sort of surprise, as the rest of us that have had colds have not taken to bed, and she has slept off and on for the last day or two.

Interestingly, she felt that now that the problem was diagnosed and medicine dispensed, she was ready for her pony games practice today. Not so fast, I told her, as IF you are up to pony game practice you will also go to your three hour work commitment at the stable and your piano class. I am not sure that she should go to any of it and need to research strep contagion.


My new goal of late is to try to do the one assignment Flylady sends me each day. One day this week, it was to clean the kitchen counters, and yesterday, to clean out the refrigerator. My greatest challenge at the present is keeping up with bills and books. We have so many books, for which I am grateful, but they are everywhere. I have been weeding them out, taking out books that I no longer want, so that there is shelf space for the truly worthy books. It will take a longggggggg time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What I'm Reading

Ready or Not, Here Life Comes by Mel Levine, M.D. America's top learning expert shows how today's society makes it hard for kids to grow into productive adults and what we can do about it.

My favorite part so far, page 10:
"Rearing and educating children involves establishing some long-range priorities. I believe there is a present a vas gulf between what is taught in school and what is essential to learn for a gratifying adult work life. We overemphasize a host of facts and skills that will be of little or no use in the workplace. Often such educational practice has been ingrained in schools for generations without being sufficiently reexamined for its present-day relevance. Multiple-choice tests do not prepare a child for anything important in the adult sphere. Making a child feel terrible because his scrawl is barely decipherable is callous and needless; many adequately successful adults (the author included) are hardly paragons of legibility. How accurately a child can spell, how thoroughly he conquers trigononmetry, how precise he is at the game of memorizing and regurgitating historical facts, and how athletic he may be are irrelevant to almost any career you can name. On the other hand, the ability to think critically, to brainstorm, to monitor and refine your own performance, to communicate convincingly, and to plan and preview work are among the important skills that could make or break startup adults across countless occupations."

I am still reading the book, so I can't tell you what the solution is according to this author, but it is a very interesting look at what we are not doing today to prepare our young people to become successful adults.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


It started innocently enough. As a newly married couple with no children, we filled some of our leisure time by enrolling in a class for beginning golf at a local university. It was interesting and fun to do together. For a beginner, I had some success and enjoyed being outside learning something new. I'd played golf only once before, and this class, I thought, would keep me from looking the fool when we went to play once or twice a year. Little did I know that the "fool" part would come from another direction.

We played casually, sometimes with another couple. I enjoyed being outside and golf courses are generally well-maintained beautiful land. I found, however, that if I tried to show my budding ability at hitting a small ball to a hole in the ground, that my playing deteriorated rapidly. In other words, if I tried to care about beating my female partner or show off, I'd start playing very badly. Putting was never once of my strong points, and I'd storm off in frustration after 20 little putts trying to get the dang ball to roll just right. "Stupid game," I'd mutter and walk off.

Dh's game, on the other hand, improved exponentially. Tall, well-balanced and graceful in movement, his ball sailed into the clouds with a satisfying whack. He began playing more often and reading about golf. Did you know that there are whole magazines and books devoted to nothing more than hitting a small white ball around with sticks until it drops in a hole?? That grown men can devote hours to TV watching of other people hit a little ball into a hole?

My frustration grew, as I wasn't willing to study golf for my MBG (Masters of Business and Golf). Finally, and I remember it was near my birthday, I was driving home when I reached a decision. I was going to tell dh that though I was going to support his game, I was disgusted enough with the game myself that I was never going to play again as long as I live, so help me God. I walked in the door and before I could speak, I saw it laying there. For my birthday, dh had given me a custom-made (read - can't return it to the store) set of women's golf clubs, cut down for my short stature. So much for quitting.

So how does it end years later? Dh's game continues to improve, and my clubs gather dust in the garage. Children filled my leisure time, and as they grew, their interest in horses took up some of that time. I still don't mind going for a day out in the sun, though I can't help the thought that golf courses are a good waste of a cross country (horse) course and trails.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Who is Junosmom?

For those of you that don't know me well, you may well wonder why I call myself "Junosmom". Juno was my Great Dane fawn female dog that I had for 8.5 years, and lost last April to bone cancer. She was the light of our lives, one of those dogs that only come once in awhile, both protector and friend. I named myself Junosmom early in my emailing career, and because there are people that know me by this nom de plume, I cannot change, though Juno has gone to the great pasture in the sky.

The other day, however, I "Googled" myself with a search for "junosmom". Weird, but many hits came up that someone was using this handle for themselves. Now, really, what is the chance that someone else would consider themselves the mom of something/someone named Juno??? Who is this person, I wondered and were they masquerading as me? Mostly, the second Junosmom was on bulletin boards that I've never visited. I'd love to email this person and find out why they are Junosmom, too. Just when you think you're unique, you find out that you aren't. mmmmm.............

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ad Content

I love watching the ads to the right and how the content links to what I write. I wrote some days ago about sarcoids and that it might be our pony, Jorgen has one. I laughed today to see that my ads are all about ringworm and excema. It takes several days for the content to change, so sometimes they don't match up with what I wrote.

I hope to send a check to the relief services someday soon, but won't get a check until the amount reaches $100.


For those of you that know me, you know that I am a fan of the Flylady, who has a method of keeping the house and life in order (though you'd not know it from looking at the state of my own house). I have determined, however, that Flylady must not have a three year old. Yesterday, we had a horse that needed to be observed, so I decided that I would paint our "chicken tractor" which was near the paddock where he was confined. AND, I would let the three year old help. He always wants to paint, and the chicken tractor needed not so much to be painted to improve it's looks but to have a protective coating. What a great opportunity for him to paint, right? Wrong. In one second of inattention, he dumped out one-half of the paint onto the grass.

Flylady must also not homeschool. Her refrain is to shine your sink. My two daughters eat all day long. All day, there is activity in our kitchen like a beehive. Many a day you will hear me saying such profound things as "who left their plate on the table?" and "who dumped this oatmeal in the sink?" I do keep after them, but I've determined that there is something in the brain of a developing teen that can't understand picking up after oneself. It takes a constant nudge from a cattle prod to keep them from turning the house upside down. THIS is why people send their kids to school.

Enough complaining for today. William is using a glue stick on the windows of the office so I have to go.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts