Monday, October 31, 2005


I won't go into detail and bore you, but I went to a costume party Saturday night at dh's co-worker's house. While there, I got into a discussion with a couple, the woman born in France, who were very opposed to homeschooling or at the very least, it's lack of regulation. I told dh later that I rarely feel verbally attacked for our choices, but sure did that night. He was off talking to someone else, or he, dh that is, usually helps me in such discussions. Generally, though, they more take the head shaking, "I don't know how you do it, I could NEVER do that", route. That night, the woman could not believe that the government (I note that she comes from France because she says homeschooling is virtually unheard of there) would not oversee us.

You know, such discussions can be draining because they can play on insecurities most of us already have anyway - Are we doing the right thing? So this morning, I was reassured by reading the posts on, in some online classes my kids take. The teacher of Anna's Passion for Fiction writing class wrote that he teaches at a good University. Each new class, he asks the students, mostly freshmen, what they read in high school and most can't remember anything they read. He writes "how sad". Ask my kids what are their favorite books, authors, and well, you might as well get a cup of tea and pull up a comfortable chair, because you'll be there awhile. So, we're doing something right.


Last week, I was in one of our local craft stores to buy art supplies for Anna. These type of stores stir up latent needs to make cute decorations for the appropriate seasons. I don't know the source of these urges, since generally I don't like clutter or cutsie things that I have to move to dust. Someday, they'll find a crafts gene. Most likely I'm missing that gene since my projects either lay unfinished or look like they'll get third prize at the kindergarten fall arts fair.

So I paused, unwisely, on my way to the serious art supplies department. Foam pumpkins, cute canvas bags decorated and painted with a glittering "BOO", and other fall crafts were hung in front of me. I noticed, however, that the supplies for these crafts were largely depleted. I was too late.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a great deal of activity in a nearby section. Christmas! Women crawled like worker ants over Christmas ornaments to make, fake pine boughs and ribbons. "STOP!" I shouted inside my head. Didn't these women know what they were doing to women-kind? We hadn't passed Halloween, not to mention Thanksgiving, and they'd already moved on to Christmas!

Production lines came to mind, where a new fast worker is reprimanded by long-term employees who have developed a comfortable pace over the years and see it jeopardized by someone working faster. I had a momentary daydream of running through the aisles with my arms outstreched, clearing the shelves onto the floor. How to stop the madness?

With my art supplies and a pumpkin candle holder in my cart, I stood in line behind a woman that had purchased enough garland to fill the largest size trash bag. "I'm just getting started. I'll be back," she said cheerily. Perhaps I will, too. After all, Easter is just around the corner.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Costume Parties

Two days ago - two days mind you - dh emailed to me an invitation to a costume party thrown by a co-worker this evening. Not just any co-worker, but a blonde that I saw at the last work party wearing black leather pants. Okay, so my insecurities are showing but what's a blog for if it isn't to write about one's darkest thoughts?

Only another woman maybe can understand the delicate balance between choosing a costume that neither makes one appear too sexy (it IS a work party) nor is too ugly/demeaning/stupid/silly.

Remembering that we had some Mexican ponchos, dh has suggested that we go as Clint Eastwood and his side-kick, a Mexican. Discussing this with a female friend, she got the problem immediately. "Oh," she said. "Like in the movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and you get to be Ugly?"

So - what to do? I may wear Anna's soccer uniform, assuming that it isn't too smelly after this afternoon's game.

Chinese Torture

Even the Chinese are losing jobs to technology. How do I know? Anyone who's purchased a vehicle toy for a young boy lately can attest to this. You know the scene - you are dragging your little boy around to all the events of his older siblings and you think, "I know, I'll buy him a cheap toy to keep him busy and happy". (You know that you are wishful thinking, but hope springs eternal, yes?) So, you run into Walmart, and quickly select some plastic toy that will be broken and forgotten tomorrow. Still, for the moment, Johnny is happy.

The toy in question is secure in a cardboard box that is designed to withstand hurricane forces or possibly a nuclear blast. Using your key (what else?), you rip off tape that should be used to secure the foam to the space shuttle. Now in the good old days, you would have found underneath that the toy was secured from falling or being stolen from it's protective cardboard cage by silver, plastic-coated wires twisted in a myriad of configurations that take forever to unwind. I haven't decided why these toys are tied so tightly to the box. If only our national security was as good. Anyway, after much twisting, and removal of several plastic clips, the toy is freed!

Yet, that required some poor Chinese worker hours of twisting wires. No doubt, carpal tunnel became rife among the workers and the corporations despaired of paying them $2 a month. So in a move towards modernization, some bright businessman installed machines that screw the toy into it's box.

Nothing comes close to the rage I feel when I open the cardboard to find that removal of the toy requires a Phillips head screw driver. (BTW, who is "Phillips" and why does he have a screw driver named after him?) So, like a fool, I try my nail clippers, my credit card, my keys. Nothing fits the tiny screw. I contemplate breaking off the plastic holders, but they are made of finer grade plastic than the toy and will not yield. Passing strangers give me weird looks as I shout, "Anyone have a screw driver?" In the end, my poor child sits in the car, cradling the toy still encased in the box. We finally find someone with a screw driver, release the toy, and momentarily, the crisis passes.

I never thought I would miss those silver colored wires......

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mid-Life Crisis?

Anticipating a year-end bonus, dh bought a hot tub before the females in his house could plot to use it on the purchase of more horses. It came complete with a bucket full of chemicals, 15 different bottles in all, which require a degree in Chemistry to understand.

"The blonde doesn't come with it, ya know," I informed dh. He was watching the DVD presentation on how to take care of the hot tub, as if he were going to be the one to take care of it.

Interestingly, it showed a rather flat-chested brunette administering one of the chemicals that come with this community bath tub. Once the tub was up and running, the brunette was joined in the tub by her skinny husband and this young buxom blonde and her gray-haired boyfriend. Wanna guess who the target market is?

One bottle, marked "Enzymes" is rather interesting. It takes care of "other organic matter" that the filter and other chemicals don't attack. Rather a disgusting thing to contemplate, isn't it? I must admit that even though I have to shut off the part of my brain that knows I'm sitting in a chemical stew, I've enjoyed boiling myself once a day and watching the leaves turn beautiful colors in our backyard.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I haven't the bravery or the organizational skills to unschool. I wonder - how will I prove what we've done, what we've learned? How will they get into college. So each summer, I plan, I buy books, I lay out schedules and by, oh right about now, it all falls apart. Why?

Well, both girls love to read. They read, and read, until I am forced to confiscate books so that I can even get them to do a few chores, much less "schoolwork". Anna loves to write, and will disappear for hours, typing away. I've yet to read any of it, unless I find a stray poem here or there, for she doesn't like anyone reading it yet. Guess I can understand that.

Lauren plays the piano for hours until my ears ring. (I've taken to wearing my ear protectors that I bought for using while mowing grass. It dampens the sound, but it is still loud.) When she's not on the piano or reading, she's consumed by anything to do with a horse.

I guess that through entropy, my plans fall apart - and we begin to unschool. I will admit to keeping them on track for math, they are dragging a bit on Foreign Language, but the others, well, history is changing all the time anyway, and so is science. Maybe we'll wait until they quit changing the answers!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Theory of Relativity

"We have two houses", my three year old told me yesterday. We were riding our horses our usual two mile loop. We do? He sat in front of me on the saddle of my old Tennesse Walking horse, talking non-stop. "Yes," he said, "the one we left and the one we're going to." Interesting way of thinking, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Boy Who Would Be King

Burger King, that is. Yesterday, I took 3 yr old William to Burger King. There's a play place there, and kids with which to play. He asked if the workers lived there. He had a hard time grasping that the restaurant was closed at night and the workers went home. "Well, I wish that I lived here," he said. "Then we'd have a play place, all this food, and kids to play with."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bird Smarts.....

We've noticed something quite interesting about our chickens and about our finches. When we returned from our vacation in August, we found that the finches had added many eggs to their nest and were actively sitting on them. We'd been gone about ten days, and in the quiet house, they'd been busy. When we returned, however, our active and noisy house seemed to disturb them, though they are off in a separate room. They quit sitting, and after some time, began rebuilding the nest on top of the old eggs, a sure sign that they'd given up on the eggs.

Meanwhile, in our chicken coop, we'd not had many eggs for ages. We had not let our chickens free-range for some time because between the foxes, raccoons and the neighbor's dog, they were in mortal danger. So we kept them "cooped-up". Lately, though, we've seen no varmits and the neighbor's dog has been kept home, so we've let them out. The interesting thing is that now happy with being outside, egg production has increased and you would not believe the improvement in the feathers of two of our chickens. One was nearly bald, and the other's feathers were actually curled up, though they aren't supposed to be. Now, both are sleek looking chickens, nicely feathered.

My observation is that in our birds, if they are stressed or in less than ideal environments, they don't lay eggs or at least don't sit on them to hatch them. If only humans were so smart.....

Mounted Games

We spent the weekend in Edinburgh, Indiana for the Corn Husk Pairs Mounted Games competition. Both girls did beautifully, taking second place out of six pairs. I got to see a little of the area, driving around, and there are some neat old towns there, just south of Indiannapolis.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Feingold Diet

Though I've always known that a more natural diet is better, it is difficult to not lapse into using the dreaded middle aisles of the grocery store. You know what I mean, the meals in a box, the food with a list of ingredients that are more numerous than the stars and with unpronouncable chemical-sounding names. We've become a nation that eats chemicals, yet we don't admit it.

In my elementary years, there was always one or two kids, usually boys, that were always in trouble with the teacher. I remember Marc (but not his last name) who the teacher would make stand in the garbage can (yes, literally) in the corner because not only did he not behave, but he kept his desk like a garbage heap (hence his punishment). Today, a good proportion of youngsters seem to have trouble of one kind or another and ADD is a household word.

Is it not a wonder that the increase in the number of children with ADD skyrocketed right around the same time we began eating industrialized foods? For our own reasons, we found the Feingold Diet. Through them, I've learned some things. For example, dye is in many, if not most processed foods. Even the farm-raised salmon we bought one day said "food coloring added", presumably to make it more red (wild) looking. Dye is a product of petroleum. How about vanillin? It is a byproduct of the paper industry, and happens to taste a lot like vanilla, but not at all natural. Many artificial flavors are also from petroleum. So while you feed your family, consider, would you put crude oil in their food? The food industry does.

Learning to eat more naturally is about planning. I intend to make a website that will give weekly dinner menus complete with grocery shopping lists. It will take me a week or two to build up the first page. I will post the link when I am finished. In the meantime, stick to the outside edges of the grocery!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Times Have Definitely Changed

Raising children in today's world of fast-paced, information loaded, media-filled world is a challenge. Times have changed, not only for the raising of children, but also for the adults who raise them.

Case in point. We went to Anna's soccer game on Saturday and sat down in our folding chairs, got out our picnic lunch and settled in for a wholesome, family outing. Or so you'd think. No sooner had we made our spot than directly in front of us we were "treated" to the eye-popping sight of a blonde, pony-tailed woman's pink thong and most of her "bottom".

My non-soccer daughter suppressed a giggle, as dh and I raised eyebrows at each other. Teen, you might think? Noooo, it was the mom of one of the team members. Luckily, she adjusted this wardrobe malfunction (and repeated as needed throughout the game).

Goodness, just gives you a warm feeling deep down inside to think of your mom flashing her thong to the world, doesn't it?

Are We Opt-outs?

In browsing through some blogs, I found one about school attendance. In it, the author writes:

Attendance: School Dropouts, Pushouts, and Optouts
A school dropout is defined as an individual who quits school prior to graduation. A school pushout is defined as a student that has been counseled or in some way forced out of school prior to graduation. I would like to suggest that we also consider the idea of the school optout, or an individual who quits school because it serves no meaningful or relevant purpose in their life...

Interesting terminology. Yet, none of the above fits me and mine. I could suppose that we are "opt-outs", yet that doesn't quite fit, because we didn't quit - we never started. I am thinking about what terminology I'd like for lifetime homeschoolers. Send me your words!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Weekend News

Friday night, we went to eat at the local Asian buffet - all you can eat. I am not crazy about the atmosphere there - tables all squished in together - eating next to someone who's habits are questionable and who you don't know. The food is good though.

This time, though, we were seated next to a man that was grotesquely obese, at least 400 pounds, and his wife, fat but slim by comparison to her husband. We watched, as we could not help doing since he was practically seated at our table, while he ate plate after plate after plate of crab legs. I had to hold myself back from telling him about Wm's godfather, who died recently when his heart just couldn't pump anymore blood around his enormous body. He literally ate himself to death. Did this man not know what he was doing to himself? Anna overheard the man telling the waiter that he'd eaten 18 plates of legs!

I said nothing but wondered that we can legislate smoking because of health issues, prevent people from taking certain drugs because they might harm you, yet it is okay to feed people until they literally burst. Perhaps it is unethical to take children to such a buffet and say "have at it - eat all you want", aside from the fact that the food there is rarely healthy and mostly fried. Perhaps it is better to take them to the buffet, and teach them to choose wisely. The world is a buffet in America.

As we left, two old ladies and their granddaughter were stranded in the parking lot. We could not get their car battery jumped, and called a tow truck for them. I mentioned to the girls that in the pioneer days, we'd have to take them home with us, as there were no hotels or places to go.

Yesterday, we went to Anna's soccer game, then Lauren had a piano class. Today, we are off to Lexington for Mounted Games practice. I feel like a hamster on a treadmill.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Breaking the Rules by Helen Hegener

I loved this article which I found at NHEN's website. Perhaps, it is because I, too, have always felt the need to push the rules, ask the questions unasked. Perhaps it is because we also love horses and yet, a mother cannot help feeling a mixture of fear and pride when seeing their child ride.

Breaking the Rules
by Helen Hegener
There's a framed picture on my desk of my daughter Jody and her brother Christopher at the Ferry County Fair last fall, riding into first place in the Sweetheart Race on Jody's horse Claire. Reins flying free, Jody has both hands thrown high in an exuberant victory salute, and Chris has that big old grin that he gets when he's just flat out having a good time. It's become one of my favorite photos of the two of them, and it underscores something I've been thinking about for some time now.

It has to be some breach of safety rules to be riding fast without your hands on the reins. Jody knows it better than we do, having spent several summers as a youth camp counselor and wrangler for friends who run a large horse summer camp for kids. She realizes the dangers, and yet she constantly tests them in her own ways, flirting with what might happen if...

We chide her for it from time to time. She'll ride through the yard with only a halter on her horse, knowing full well that we disapprove, and knowing just as well that our disapproval stems from a concern for her safety, not some arbitrary need to have rules obeyed. We'll mention it, she'll acknowledge our disapproval, and that will be the end of it for a while. She'll bridle her horse for some time to come. But then one day she'll be back with only an Indian-style cotton rope through Claire's mouth. Testing, always testing.

I cherish this quality in her. She knows the rules, such as they are, and she constantly pushes against them, seeking to find some different, somehow better way. I've done that all my life, and, in one way or another, I suspect most homeschoolers have.

I consider it a hopeful sign for our times that so many parents are choosing to homeschool their children. It tells me that the spark of personal decision has not been entirely trampled by government schooling, that we as a people still have the wherewithal to make societally unpopular decisions for ourselves. Whether teaching our own, birthing our own, growing gardens to feed our own, building homes to shelter our own, or working at businesses to support our own, there's still a healthy and growing movement toward self-reliance in this country, and it feels like a very good thing.

It also feels like letting go of the reins and pushing against the rules. One could write an entire book about why this is so (many people already have), but as a society we've been led to believe that our place in the competitive global economy requires a process of education and a dedication to the workforce that homeschooling successfully circumvents. We've effectively said "No thanks, we'll teach our kids to grow their own food and build their own homes so they won't have to spend their lives at some thankless job just to survive." One of the recurring concerns we hear from new homeschoolers is "How can I be sure my child will grow up able to make a good living?" It's a tough question, because there are so many variables from family to family.

This is one of those areas where courage in letting go of the reins is really evident -- it's all so well arranged in school, with aptitude testing, guidance counseling, vocational training classes and so much more. But it's arranged to produce the kind of results President Clinton alluded to in his 1994 State of the Union message when he said that schools should be measured by one high standard, namely: "Are our children learning what they need to know to compete and win in the global economy?"

Is this really what we want for our children? Can it be what they want for themselves? I'll venture to say that most parents probably have more mundane goals for their children. A loving family, a nice home, a comfortable income doing work they enjoy. Is it somehow less than enough to be content with these?

In Ron Miller's book Educational Freedom for a Democratic Society (1995, Resource Center for Redesigning Education), Seth Rockmuller and Katharine Houk write of the government's Goals 2000 educational reform package, "It does not appear to be an option for parents or a community as a whole to choose not to have their children strive to be 'first in the world in mathematics and science' or 'prepared ...for productive employment in our nation's modern economy.' The issue is not whether these are admirable goals or loathsome ones; rather the issue is who chooses for a particular family what the goals for its children should be."

The issue is who chooses. In light of this it's even more hopeful that so many parents are deciding to push the rules and assume the responsibility for their children's education. We need to be vigilant in maintaining our freedom to do so, and we need to be willing, like Jody, to let go of the reins every once in a while and test our own limits.

Several weeks ago my sister Sue rode one of our horses up the creek, just puttering around, enjoying the beautiful autumn day. Jody and I walked out to the pasture, stopped to pet the horses, and Jody, seeing her Aunt Sue off in the distance, suddenly decided to join her. Before I could protest she'd swung onto Claire and was off at a gallop, no bridle, no halter, nothing but trust in her horse and her own riding abilities. I was annoyed and awestruck and proud all at the same time at my wildly capable girl and the horse she'd raised and trained herself. I've never had the nerve to ride without a bridle. Secretly, I'm delighted that Jody does.

Shared freely from the NHEN Article Clearinghouse -

Bare Minimum

I have decided to rename our homeschool. It will now be called "The Bare Minimum". I wonder how this will strike relatives, friends and the school board! I did not arrive at this name lightly.
Yesterday, I was reading an article about Christopher Paolini, one of my 12 year old's favorite authors. Homeschooled himself, Paolini began writing the book Eragon at age 15, and at 21, has just published the sequel, Eldest. The article states: "Now, Paolini doubts he'll ever attend college. "To be honest about it, I make my living right now writing down my daydreams, which is a wonderful job. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best job in the world," he said."

As I discussed with my dh my frustrations with getting the "bare minimum" of schooling done, because my daughters' passions for piano playing, horses, reading and writing were taking up so much of the day's time. Then, I thought of Paolini. At 21, he has a job he loves, income, fame, and a future. I wondered if he is good at Algebra? Does he know the difference betweeen eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells? Maybe, but no one really cares. They care only that he writes another book.

I remember discussing high school curricula with a mom who had two homeschooled college age girls, one of which now attends college. I asked her advice, seeing that she'd used both correspondence schools, text curricula, and junior college. She told me that were she to do over again, she'd give her daughters just the bare minimum of what was required for high school. Thus, our school name.

Many days, I reflect on what we are not accomplishing. These feelings I know stem from what other people expect of us. Worrying about the standards, I generate negative feelings of being "behind". Yet, I have a daughter that can play piano at a high school, maybe college level and is self-motivated to practice for hours. I have a daughter that writes for fun for hours and is really gifted. Both love to read enough that I have to confiscate and hide their books in order to get them to do their chores. Both ride horses very well. Both know their way around a computer. I want them to be grounded in the basics, but maybe the bare minimum is enough. Perhaps life should have more time in it for our passions.

Still thinking.


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