Thursday, June 30, 2005


I am working on developing the curricula for Lauren's freshman year in high school. We were given all the high school Saxon books in great condition. I assumed that was a message from God that we should continue with Saxon math, so she'll hopefully be able to do Algebra I in the fall (we're working on Algebra 1/2 this summer.)

I have purchased her Spanish program (Switched on Schoolhouse, secondary) and have a number of other Spanish resources (the Learnables, year one).

Music is set, for she has an outstanding Suzuki piano teacher. He is also supplementing the normal lessons with a class on theory this fall for his R.A.C.E. students (see previous posts on this) and it is high school level.

She'll be doing equine studies and work, and of course, physical education is covered by all her riding and horse competitions. So, that left Biology, Language Arts and History. So much to cover!

Someone suggested to me to purchase a college Biology text for an outline of what should be covered. Have you looked at the cost of Biology texts lately???? The most popular one on Amazon, Biology by Campbell, Reece is $137 new plus S&H. I fortunately found a used one on eBay for $5.99 with S&H. Combined with using Critical Thinking Skills materials, I guess that's decided. Now, on to Language Arts.


Today, the heat index (temperature and dew point calculation) is to reach 105 Farenheit! We had a brief downpour yesterday afternoon, but our children are learning the meaning of the word "drought". We were under a restricted water usage (outside watering) this week. I suppose those flowers I planted are doomed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


We just did one quick experiment from the Book 2 Sciencewise from Critical Thinking Books. My girls loved it. It had a little accompanying story that the king's egg had sunk, and the servant had to bring it to the top of the water, but no one is allowed to touch the king's food.

Here are the basics:
Put an egg in a container (we used a Pyrex 2 cup measuring cup) filled with water. The egg will sink. Without touching the egg directly with their fingers, the experimenters must think of as many ways as they can to bring the egg back up to the surface. Directions say to accept all reasonable solutions. Anna suggested using air bubbled in or a spoon. She tried, unsuccessfully, the addition of pepper, oil, a small amount of salt and dishwashing detergent. She is as I type, trying one last experiment - baking soda and vinegar - knowing from another experiment that the result of mixing the two cause gas to be formed. She's just called from the kitchen - it didn't work.

The "teacher" solution is to add salt slowly while stirring. It will take quite a bit of salt (1/2 a container), but eventually, you'll change the density of the water and the egg will float. Lauren immediately asked was that why it was easier to swim in the ocean than the pool? We discussed natural salt bodies of water (Dead Sea, Salt Lake) and what happens to a cargo ship that goes from salt water to fresh water.

Didn't take much time, but made a lasting impression. I think we'll like this book.

In the back of the book are "projects" that can be done in groups. I am thinking of forming a club of local hs'ers that would come together once in awhile to test their designs. One example is the design of an egg catcher with the egg dropped from a window or ladder.

Monday, June 27, 2005


We went to a park today to play before attempting to shop for shorts with a three year old boy. We ate a picnic lunch and played for awhile, and it helped to some degree. I noticed that the flies are biting now, though.

A member of our local homeschool list sent this link to me for beneficial bugs: There is a type of fly predator that one can order, put in the horse manure, and it eats fly larvae before they become biting flies. Worth a try, eh? I thought the prices looked good for other insects as well and might make a good summer biology project.

Speaking of flies, and time does fly, I was amazed at the changes to this state park we visited. When my girls were young like my boy, there was nice playground equipment, swimming in the lake, and in the winter, there was a ski slope. We notice that much of the playground was gone. There was a sign posted that the beach was closed, no swimming. The ski lodge and operation was obviously defunct. It seemed only yesterday....

A Little Vacation at Home

This past week has been oppressively hot, 95 degrees and very humid. So, we all look for a little shade. We have for the past years, taken our vacation at Holden Beach, North Carolina. There, we enjoy the porches with rocking chairs looking over the ocean. While we don't have an ocean, we have beautiful Kentucky greenery. Here is our back deck, where I sit with a book and some iced tea and watch William in the sand.

What I'm Reading

While I'll admit to devouring a good number of mindless pocket novels while I watch my son in the sandbox, I have also filled my mind with a few good books. I recently read The instinct to heal : curing stress, anxiety, and depression without drugs and without talk therapy by Servan-Schreiber, David. This book is about alternative therapies. I found it very interesting. One therapy mentioned, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy (see, sounded intriguing but I am a skeptic and cannot see how this works, unless it is hypnotism.

For fiction, I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Kidd. I loved this book, and gave it to my 14 yo to read. Taking place during the time of the emergence of the civil rights movement in the 1960's South, a young girl learns to be loved and that she is worth loving. The interview of the author in the back of the book said that she doesn't plan a sequel. I am hoping she changes her mind. In the book, the young (white) girl is growing to love a young black man, who aspires to be a lawyer working in civil rights. They know that a relationship could mean death for him, and trouble for her. Rosaleen, a black woman who starts out as Lily's nanny, is just beginning to blossom in the book as a courageous civil rights advocate. These three people and their experiences in the troubled South during the late 60's would be a natural sequel. In the meantime, I hear Sue Kidd has another book out, The Mermaid Chair.

Now, I am working on Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austin. I am trying to read a non-fiction, good fiction, and some classics in with my reading for fun.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A Rude Awakening

The door bell rang yeasterday at 7:30 a.m., an event unusual enought that I "sprang from my bed to see what was the matter". Before I could get to the steps, I could hear the neighbor telling dh that our three horses were in his yard across the street. It never ceases to amaze me that in the handful of times our horses have escaped their confines, that they don't eat all the plentiful grass that is our yard, but instead cross our dangerous road for that across the road. The grass, indeed, seems greener on the other side of the fence.

I dressed quickly as dh roused the girls from their tent in the backyard where they slept the night before. Stealth, our white pony, was quite worked up, and all three were feeling the freedom and not wanting to return home. Before we could get grain to entice them to come, Stealth took off down the road, the other two following in hot pursuit. I could hear their hoofbeats on the road. They were gone.

I ran to the truck and the girls hopped in. We drove down the road, meeting our neighbor who was checking straight down the road. Following a hunch, I turned instead down a road that we often used for pleasure rides. "Bay" would know this way. Sure enough, we found them 1 mile from our house running along a fence holding in a herd of mini''s (miniature horses). Our grain got their attention this time, and we haltered them and led them home, the girls walking them the mile while I drove behind.

The girls worried over the fact that I hadn't taken time to put on my contacts, and that I was driving, though in truth I can see well enough to drive, just not read signs. Dh laughingly asked if I'd taken time to put on my bra before running after the horses down the road. (I had ;-)

So, all's well that ends well. The horses survived a run through rush hour traffic, and I've inspected the gate. The girls swear that the gate was latched the night before, but the clip that held the chain was un-bent. Therefore, either someone let them out (unlikely) or the gate was shut but not latched. I have today purchased a strong gate latch to install in place of the chain.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Three Year Olds

My greatest challenge these days is keeping my cool when my three year old starts hitting, chasing dogs, yelling and tormenting my 12 year old. She wanted to know why he so enjoyed fighting with her, and not with my (almost) 14 year old. She reacts to his three year old attention-getting schemes, and I told her that it was more fun to light a firecracker than wet tissue. She was a firecracker, and so, to his mind, he got more reaction (albeit negative) from her than the other sister who reacted more calmly.

It is difficult to not react when he hits or yells, yet I've learned to decipher his moods as his frustration for whatever reason. It is a signal to us that he needs something. Yet, it is hard on the patience because he does get so very much attention. It is going to be even more trying when school work gets underway.

Going anywhere is a study in patience, because he cannot understand the many reasons we need to get going, why he needs to be in his car seat, why we can't take home that neat bicycle that he can now peddle.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Finger Painting Anyone?

SOS Language Programs

Not too long ago, we purchased the Switched On Schoolhouse Spanish 2004 Secondary Education program. This program necessitated beefing up our computer's memory, but once done, we were well pleased with the program. The lessons are interesting and move forward in a logical sequence. My daughter, age 13, and I (never having studied Spanish before) are moving forward at a reasonable pace. The format is similar to the use of a high school text with audio added in. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed a certain comfort level with it, as that is how I was taught French many years ago.

My younger daughter, now age 12, has been using Rosetta Stone French, but was seeing our Spanish progress and asked to use the French Secondary SOS program. I have been disappointed with it thus far. Using a more "mother tongue" approach whereby you learn the language by using it, it is disorganized and expects the user to pick up much of the language intuitively. While I understand this approach, I don't think it is well done in this program.

In addition, the program directs the user to a website that isn't working. While I could tolerate this if it was merely supplemental, this website is intended to be part of the lesson. Hopefully, the site is just down, but AOP Technical Support couldn't say. Having studied French for several years, I am able to work the lessons fairly quickly. I'll write more after my daughter has a shot at it.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Little Things

Our farrier came today to trim the three horses. All were in good condition despite the lush grass. Generally, while trimming, there is a good deal of conversation that goes on as well. "P" likes a good story and has many to tell. Lately, though, his family has had some tests of faith and challenges.

His son, "N", served in Iraq. Each time P would trim our horses, he would tell us of his prayers and anxiousness for his son's safe return. And then the day came when he returned to our communities welcome and yellow ribbons tied for him. Not too long after, we were saddened to hear that N had gone four-wheeling with some friends late at night - without his helmet - and had an accident. He had survived the war unscathed, but not the accident. He now is battling brain injury and infection.

You might think that such a tragedy would sour P and his wife. Quite the opposite, he seemed softened. He talked of the people he's met at the hospital, the small miracles they've experienced. He talked of meeting people that showed courage with even greater challenges. More than once, he's had chance encounters of people that somehow were unknown before but connected back to his life. "I don't sweat the little things anymore," said P.

P thought God would give his son back in some fashion some day, for why would they see such promising developments so far? Perhaps this journey has more to do with just N. It seems that N's tragedy has drawn together many people. I hope his recovery does, too.

Please consider a prayer for this fallen soldier and his family. And if you have a loved one, make them wear a helmet.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Anna learning to jump "Stealth"

You couldn't ask for more beautiful weather this week. The girls enjoyed a day of riding in the pasture and practicing vaulting on their ponies. Today promises to be just as beautiful. This photo was taken in the horse pasture.


I wanted to record some of my favorite 3 year old William-isms.

nemowade= lemonade
ariel = oil
"I not need help"
"OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK......."
"I do it myself"
"lello" = yellow
"Lo-when" = Lauren
"Ya-Ya" = pet name for Lauren

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Special Bulletin

William was taking a rare nap and it was laundry day, so I turned on the last few minutes of Oprah while I sorted socks. Ironically (it would turn out later), the show, about a man sexually molested as a boy by a priest, was interrupted by a "special bulletin".

Oh, no, I thought to myself as I saw images of long black, bullet-proof limos driving slowly on my TV screen. I braced myself for the worst. Did a plane crash? The President shot? Some new terrible act of terror? My fears were relieved when finally the talking head came on and announced that the world had come to a standstill because the verdict was in on the Michael Jackson trial.

I watched, half fascinated, half disgusted. Here is one trial of one man that used so much energy of people both on and off the air. If only we could, as humans, devote one third of that energy and concern for all the millions dying in Africa.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Sour Note

After the music ended at Mass this weekend, a man two pews in front of me and my two daughters said, "We need the three of you in the choir!" I smiled and thanked him, reminding myself to sing more quietly next time.

When I got home, I relayed the encounter to dh, who's turn it was to mind the 3 year old heathen. "Was the man old?" he asked.

"Well, about five or ten years older than me. It's not like he was flirting or anything. We were in Church! He was with his wife, and I with the girls..." I began, completely missing where he was going with that comment.

"No," he said. "I thought maybe his hearing was bad."


Sunday, June 12, 2005

A double rainbow we saw from our front porch one day.

Anna on left, Lauren on right.
On Friday, we went shopping. I found a skirt and top I liked. Well, so did my daughters, as you can see. They found that it came in three colors, so we each picked one. Last night, we went out to dinner and enjoyed our swinging skirts. Tell me, how many teens would enjoy dressing like their mom and going with them out to eat? I am so lucky. Aren't they beautiful?

Efforts to Get Home Schoolers Back Into Public Schools

Please click on the link above to watch a clip about Efforts to Get Home Schoolers Back Into Public Schools.

Here are some of my thoughts:
1. They show primarily only one aspect of the reasons for homeschooling. Even so, most homeschoolers I know are more complex than just one reason for homeschooling. You wouldn't be able to just change the curricula to get them back.

2. This is about money, not education. In a capitalistic society, when the consumer doesn't like the product, they go elsewhere. So, should the manufacturers continue to try to convince people the product is good, or try to change the product so that it truly is? I think schools as they exist today are becoming obsolete and too expensive. There will have to be big changes in the future.

3. In one segment, an educator says "this is about education and preparing them for life." I believe that isn't the case. This is purely political and financial for these districts. While I think these men (women) have good intentions, they are deceiving themselves about the bottom line. Also, why would putting my child in a building all day prepare them for life? They are too busy living a life right now to confine themselves to one place.

4. I will admit to wishing there were classes here in my county that were rich with experiences and opportunities - interaction with adults that have expertise, not just textbook based classes. The way to achieve, IMO, this is not through partnership with the public schools (which will exact a price with accountability read: control) but through development of another market. Only through this competition will the schools change and improve to help those students who haven't the option to be homeschooled.

5. I would be extrememly offended to go to my Church and be given a talk that tried to convince me, using my own religion, that my kids should go to school. The roof would be raising on that church from my outrage. Where were all the parents in that discussion that followed the service? I saw only teens and one man. I do go to a Church that has a private school. Once or twice a year, they will speak during announcements and talk about the school, "sing" its praises and mission and how it is a great place to send your kid. BUT, they aren't trying to say that it is what God wants me to do, which is what it seemed this man was doing.

6. I thought it amusing that when he met with one family (why'd they let him in the door???), he told the girl sitting to his left that "based on your past experience as a homeschooler" he was was going to put her in an accelerated class. HUH???? This tells me that she was doing well homeschooling, above her peers, so why, oh why would she want to go to a public hs?

Now, I gotta go get ready for church, where they better not try to convince me to put my kids in their school.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Homeschool Talk Radio

This week I am doing a lot of driving, so I much enjoyed borrowing my daughter's mp3 player and finding stuff on the internet to download and listen to while I drive.
I really liked the talks by Steve Moitozo. He has my 12 yo (but not my 13 yo :-) excited about high school and CLEP tests.

Here is another place to get files to listen to:
You can download the mp3 files and listen on your computer, or if you have an mp3 player (about $50-75 for the cheap ones) you can listen whenever.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Suzuki Institute Week

This week is Suzuki Piano Institute week - a weeklong "camp" for children and their teachers that play the piano using the Suzuki method. Dh would quake with anxiety as the week approached each year, for being out of the house all day, every day and on someone else's schedule was more than this gentle homeschooler could handle. I would literally turn into a raving lunatic. I wonder how I would do as a working mom?

So far, however, this week has been pleasant. Lauren is the only pianist in our family at the moment, and at 13 years, is old enough to conduct herself becomingly from class to class and find a few friends with whom to each lunch. So, I drive her 1/2 hour each day to the University, drop her of and come home. William comes along for the ride, watching the marvelous invention - the personal DVD player. Anna delights in staying home and is now using a bulldozer to clear her room in preparation for an overnight guest.

Last night, Lauren played in the Student Recital. Her song was right after a young pianist who played a Beethovan Sonata. Somewhere in all the repeats, the young girl forgot how to get to the ending and played for over eight minutes. I was sure that her arms would fall off, exhausted. At first, I thought maybe I just didn't know the song length, until I saw two teachers glace at each other and then whispering - which they rarely do in a recital.

I think all this waiting and anticipation threw Lauren off a bit, and she had some bobbles in her playing, which she rarely does. Still, she played beautifully. I told her that I was more impressed that she was able to recover from a mistake and finish the song than I would be if she was a piano genius and never made a mistake. Life is full of mistakes, and it is the ability to finish the song and maintain your composure that carries one through.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Irony of It

I was so excited to learn that Lauren had passed the R.A.C.E. Piano Exam Level 8 that I phoned her at the house where she was spending the night with two of her best friends. I told her that I had very good news for her - she had passed her piano exam! I heard her whisper the reason for my call to her two friends in the background.

"Oh, she said. " I thought you were calling about Nova." (Sounds of parental bubble bursting.)
Nova is a pony for sale that Lauren found on the Internet and dreams about owning. What is it about horses that takes over a young girl's very soul?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Confessions of a Slacker Wife

I am having great fun reading Confessions of a Slacker Wife by Muffy Mead-Ferro. She won me over early in the book with

"..It's easy for all of us modern-day wives to feel like slacker wives. We don't have it in us, or in our schedules, to be Mrs. Ward Cleavers, and in the meantime, she's turned out to be an underperformer anyway."

This humorous look at the role of the wife in marriage and as a mother has given me a few chuckles.

Finished with Ready or Not....

I finished reading Ready or Not, Here Comes Life. I think the book can best be summed up for me by the following passage:

"Becoming acquainted with oneself is often a highly confusing teenage mission. It can be almost impossible for some adolescents to distinguish between who they actually are and who they want others to believe they are."


"Throughout high school and college, students seldom get any respite from performing and being judged - academically, socially, and often in other arenas as well. Their teachers, their parents, and their classmates are constantly checking out how they're doing. The relentless pressure to impress can make it hard for a person to get to know himself. So much energy may be channeled into performing that there's not much left in the way of resources for exploring the caverns of one's true self.


"People have to live a life that's right for them, not an existence that sounds right."

Across the nation and in my own area, there is a push to improve high school performance. From all accounts, the idea seems to be to increase standards and measure performance through testing. I am left wondering why we aren't hearing people like Dr. Levine and Bill Gates (see Gates Foundation) more loudly in the press. They are saying our high schools are obsolete designs, and that we need to redesign them completely, not just test more. I would guess that it boils down to money and politics, like many issues. Perhaps I can effect my own small change as we move into the high school years.


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