Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Days are Long

Although, I have recently been trying to remind myself that the years are short, too often I find myself stuck instead in the long days.

Last night my husband and I found ourselves awake at midnight putting our bedroom back together after a hard struggle with an awesome and gigantic wool rug, I'd snagged before it headed to the dumpster, because it was too big for the spaces in which people needed a rug. So I didn't start off the day with a full complement of sleep.

Naturally, the baby has a fever and doesn't want to be put down. The oldest is mad at me for not buying him the math program he really wanted to use, and the kids in between are all really loud.

I long for peace and quiet. I hear that some day the kids grow up, move out and you long for a little noise. Right now I could just do with a nap.

Instead I'll just keep repeating,"Bedtime isn't so far away."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

That's Not Quite It

Moments after the five year old pounded the three year old for trying to erase his drawing and she pounded him back in retaliation, I overheard the following from the five year old, "You should remember the Golden Rule. It says, 'Do unto to others what they do to you.' So if you hit me, I can hit you back."

Back to the religious and general kindness education drawing board.

Beautiful Butterflies

Our caterpillars are slowly emerging from their chrysalises as big, beautiful butterflies*.

*Spot the allusion.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quick Takes -- Meet the Bloggers Version

One of the best things about blogging, in my opinion, is the chance to meet really nifty people, whose paths might never have crossed mine otherwise. There are a whole lot of people I'd love to meet that I haven't yet gotten to, but I have had the pleasure of meeting many awesome ones too. Yesterday, I got to hang out with the Darwins and Betty Duffy on their way to New Orleans and in honor of their visit, I present seven cool bloggers (or former bloggers) I've been lucky enough to meet and hang out with.


Meredith. Not currently blogging, as far as I know, but even her archives are wonderful. When we first realized we lived in the same city, we met up at the library and then she, always the lovely hostess, invited me over. Since then we've done many things together, even going to the same parish church. Happiest for me, my husband and I were honored to become Godparents to her youngest.


Robbo. Living all the way over in Virginia, I didn't figure I'd get to met him, but my family spent a day in Virginia on the way to England a few years ago and got to hang out with one of the original Llamabutchers. My children still call him Mr. Llama, I think.


BusyMom. I first met her back in 2004 or so, when blogging was newish and all. We don't hang out often, although we also live in the same city, but she's such an interesting blogger and she's been at it a long time.

Angie. The force behind Catholic Mothers Online and other projects, I got to meet her and chat and pray the rosary at Blissdom a few years ago. She's a lot of fun in person and has many great online ventures.

Terry Oglesby. His blog may be mostly dead or pining for the fjords, but in its day it was my favorite stop on the internet. He's got a way with words and a perfect sense of the ridiculous and his commentors were their own little special group. We got to stop and have lunch with Terry, bring him a stuffed toy possum and meet his Volvo project car one time on the way through Alabama. It was awesome.


Betty Duffy. I just got to meet her this week. Yay. Made me happy!


Mr. and Mrs. Darwin. Instrumental in a weird, blogging way for our conversion to the Catholic Church, they've dropped by on their way through town twice now. Once with many little Darwins and once this week. Nashville was a good stopping place to have a flat tire fixed and fortunately, we have a tire place down the street. They were nice enough to give me time to hide the dirty laundry and clean the bathroom, which is always good.


There are many other bloggers I've gotten to meet,  particularly at Blissdom, and then there are the people I have known before I knew them online in blogging -- Jo-Lynne, Tertium Quid, and Nadja.

Then there's the time my daughter tripped over Glenn Reynold's laptop bag at a Panera in Knoxville, but I don't think that counts as a blogger meet-up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Honeymoon in Chattanooga

When my husband and I got married, I was in the middle of grad school and he was a senior in college. Needless to say, we didn't have a lot of money to spend on a honeymoon. We also had no intention to go into debt for a fantastic destination honeymoon either, because let's face it -- our honeymoon priorities didn't involve a whole lot of site seeing.

We married in December near our college campus of Sewanee and had our reception in the student union building. For our honeymoon, we stayed close by and drove down the mountain to Chattanooga.

Our hotel reservations were for a modest room in the a fancy bed and breakfast, now known as The Mayor's Mansion, though at the time it bore the name Adams-Hillborne.  When we walked in, still in our wedding finery, the owner of the hotel was at the desk. She took one look at us, and upgraded our reservations to the honeymoon suite, which was full of lovely antiques and a giant soaking tub.

We spent the next day walking around the art district, drinking coffee, and visiting the local Indian restaurant. The following day it snowed and made the whole place a bit slippery, but beautiful. On the third day, it was time to pack up and drive to my tiny grad student apartment in Tuscaloosa and begin the real work of married life.

I think our brief honeymoon was a preview of how things would continue on. We still rarely travel far from home. We still like antiques, Indian food, and just hanging out together. And my husband and I have frequently recommended to friends getting married, when they've asked for our opinion, that they take into consideration what they really want out of a honeymoon, because often it isn't really about the amazing destination, but the start of a life together.

Linked up with Betty Beguiles' honeymoon discussion.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The State of the Garden

The state of the garden is pathetic.  Actually, my garden is supposed to be like a reverse mullet -- party in the front (flowers) and business in the back (veggies). The veggie part is mostly pathetic, but the tomatoes and some of the herbs carry on. But the front yard? I've given up -- at least for this year.

No doubt to my neighbor's dismay, the milkweed, hackberries and crepe myrtles are trying to take over and doing a pretty good job too.  However, even in the chaos, there is beauty -- not in the plants, of course. They just look terrible.

But butterflies have been hiding in the weeds (and in my dill) and now their eggs have become caterpillars. We've collected a whole host of black swallowtail caterpillars munching on my dill.

I found a monarch caterpillar in amongst all the milkweed yesterday and most beautiful and special of all, I actually found a monarch chrysalis hanging out in the weeds too.

Much more exciting than an overpriced butterfly kit and a lovely gift from my neglected garden.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Homeschooling Meme

If you get tagged on the internet and it takes you almost a month to catch on, does that make you a doofus?  As the lovely and talented Kimberlee of Pondered in My Heart notes, there's nothing like a meme to help pull one out of the not-blogging slump, though it does take noticing the tag to make that happen.

A brief background to our homeschool -- this is the sixth year I've been homeschooling. My oldest went to preschool and Kindergarten at a hippie, German (ie Waldorf) school. None of the others have ever been to school outside of our house. I'm fully schooling three of my sixth children this year and slowly adding in my almost 5 year old with reading and math lessons.

One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:
Limiting myself to one book is always terribly difficult, but although there are several books, I love and find influential, the book I turn to first, last and most often is The Well-Trained Mind. Honorable mention probably goes to Elizabeth Foss's Real Learning.

One resource you wouldn't be without:
The internet. I use it for research both of new curricula and things we want to learn more about. Youtube videos on history, architecture and science help us round out studies and there are wonderful science resources out there to add to the kids' understanding of all sorts of topics, making them clearer than just our simple experiments or my explanations.

I also find the friendships I've developed to be instrumental in keeping me going, when the companionship of 6 short people begins to wear me out at times.

One resource you wish you never bought:

There are various products that haven't worked out all that well for us. One science curriculum that I thought sounded lovely with lots of books to build and hands-on crafty projects, that I tried twice and both times my kids begged me to stop and never do again. My one venture into Catholic spelling and grammar books was kind of a wasted year in those subjects and everyone was grumpy. But most things I've used have worked out pretty well at least for someone. Sometimes the perfect program for my oldest has been a dud with my next child, but I don't think there has been too much I regret greatly.

One resource you enjoyed last year:
Last year, we had a lot of great hits. My oldest daughter went from hating math to loving it with Teaching Textbooks. We loved studying language, poetry and writing with Michael Clay Thompson's books. My daughter's got a fun introduction to Latin with Song School Latin. And I loved, loved, loved the simplicity of teaching writing to my girls with Writing with Ease.

One resource you will be using next year:

I'm not really ready to consider next year yet. This year everyone seems pretty happy with just about everything, at least most days.  Those things which will be appropriate for use again next year, I'll definitely reuse and now that I've tried my hand at putting together my own history plans, I may do that again (although I've had to revise these several times as we've gone along, already).

One resource you would like to buy:

More bookcases? I have a very hard time resisting the purchase of good and/or beautiful books when I find them calling to me from thrift store bookshelves. Our house may some day collapse from the weight of our library and even my homeschooling friends, who have a lot of books themselves, are impressed by the number of books we have lying around.

One resource you wish existed:

Hmmm...children-safe bottom and lip glue? My days would go so much more smoothly if they stayed in their seats when they needed to do things and didn't chat all day long when they need to concentrate. On the other hand, our days would be a lot less interesting and far too quiet. 

I suppose I would settle for an automatic assignment grader. Or a 28 hour day.

One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading:

It's funny, but some of my favorite catalogs to flip through are ones I order nothing from.  I love the Timberdoodle catalog and the Catholic Heritage Curricula catalog is so lovely and makes it all sound so nicely planned, I want to love their materials, but much of what we've tried hasn't been a big hit.

Tag six other homeschool bloggers!

I can't think of 6 others who haven't already been tagged, but here are the ones I'll add (and anyone else who feels inspired that I've forgotten):

Marcia from Mother Wonders Why
Angie from Many Little Blessings 
Mrs. Darwin from Darwin Catholic

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Funnix Math for the Short Set

Back in the summer, I downloaded Funnix Math to use with my almost 5 year old. They offered it for free for a month as an introduction to their new program and that's my favorite price, so how could I resist?

My pre-schooler has been slowly working through the lessons and there are many things I like about the program. I like that it is slow and incremental. It doesn't assume any prior knowledge and starts with number recognition, counting and other basics, but builds nicely up to addition and subtraction.  I also really like that since it is on the computer, my role is to cuddle the little one, move the mouse and click a button now and then. What's even better is that when I'm cuddling someone else or teaching someone else something, one of my older kids can do math with my son, which the big kids love and so does their little brother.

I hate to complain about a free product, but I do have one big one; a complaint that almost makes me want to ditch the whole thing. It's the language. No, there isn't any &@^*@^#!! There are several instances where I hear the teacher make subject-verb agreement errors (usually when a prepositional phrase falls between the subject and verb). They use the term box instead of square, which drives even my other children crazy, and seems like an odd way to teach shape names. But the thing that really, really, really makes me psychotic is the constant less/fewer confusion. How is a child going to master this basic English when the program always asks things like, "Does the top group have more lines or less lines?"

Just in case any of you out there are confused and don't know that the above should say "fewer" and not "less," I found The Grammar Girl, who has already explained it all.

So, while I recommend the math part of the program, I have serious reservations about recommending any program with such egregious English. Just in case you were wondering. As to our own continued use, so far, we carry on and correct the man in the computer every time I hear him.
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