27 September 2008

I'm sick

I have started a half dozen deep and meaningful posts over the last three weeks, but they all lie unfinished in my drafts files.
The major reason is that our new lifestyle promotes a LOT of family time. Which of necessity means relatively less blogging time.

The other reason is that last week, Jack was sick. This week, I have what he had last week. The major symptoms are exhaustion, sore throat and runny nose, the combination of which makes me feel thick and wordless.

It's embarrassing to admit, by my five year old is a lot better about illness than I am. He fell asleep any time we lefty him alone for a few minutes but I whine. Poor Rod.

On the bright side, Rod and I watched "Escape from Affluenza" last night. I had been wanting to see that for some time and then I discovered that my local library has it on DVD. I checked it out on Sunday and Rod was sweet enough to let me use his computer last night, since my speakers gave up the ghost a few weeks ago.

Jack didn't enjoy it so much -- it was far too long and earnest for him. It was kind of cute, though, trying to reassure me that the land fill is a *good* think because it makes out house cleaner! (I could hardly argue that point, and I wasn't feeling sharp enough to make a sensible argument anyway but I can see that there are subtleties we need to work on.)

On another bright side, I have hit a "sweet spot" in card making and the last two birthday cards I have made have each struck me as my "best yet".

Now, into the shower with me. I have to be at work very early this week because I'm in training to try to wrap my mind around ITIL. It's very interesting stuff, but at 7:30 in the morning I am supposed to be sipping coffee and contemplating life, not sitting in a classroom!

18 September 2008


Another moderately disjointed "update" post, I'm afraid.

Just after we decided that we were going to work on simplicity, the Universe decided to give us a hand.

We decided to get rid of the bigger car to save on gas and insurance -- and then we discovered that simplicity would be the least of it. The car started making some amazing bad smells as soon as it left the garage, though it could run in the garage indefinitely. Next we discovered that the clutch is slipping on the smaller car. Between them, the cars will require somewhere around $1400 in repairs. Good thing we like beans, eh? *heh*

Then the stove decided to die almost entirely. For some months it has been quirky with one of two of the burners deciding mid-task to stop working. Now it's all of them from time to time and some of them most of the time. This is on top of the fact that the oven won't stay closes and has a leak in the door, oven when it did stay reasonably tightly closed.

So now it looks like we'll be selling the car to pay for the repairs to both of the cars, and maybe buying a new stove.

I'm not actually worried -- we've done it a lot harder than this -- and we started doing one car last week to save on gas and I fnd that it seems to be bringing the family closer together (though it does wreck havoc with my blogging schedule.)

In brighter and happier news, we got together last Friday for a curriculum discussion meeting and I had a blast! We plan to get together again since not everyone could make it - and I, at least, learned vast amounts and am looking forward to learning more.

Jack and Rod have been "doing school" for a while now. They both seem to be enjoying it and Jack has learned enough Spanish to start cracking jokes. That's fun. I think it may be time to start seeing that he gets a chance to go to bilingual story hours so he gets a chance to practice his accent. Otherwise he may pick up mine, which I have been told is almost incomprehensible at this point.

I have been getitng quite a bit o scrapbooking done. jack has reached the oint where we can work side by side with me offering only a little assistance, instead of Jack supervising while I mostly have to show him every step of the way. That's been very nie. I love having the chance to chat and work side by side!

But now, it is well past bedtime.

13 September 2008

Jack’s Life By Jack and Mamma

When I was a baby, I kept still for a long time and we didn’t have enough money to go to Australia right away, so there wasn’t much to it.

Here’s the Story
The first time we went to Australia, Trinity was four years old. Then we came back to America. The first time we did our best to collect money in the middle of the collection to move to Australia forever somebody stole our money from the bank and he wanted to give us T-shirts instead of money. But we got back our money and he didn’t get his t-shirts.

Then the next day we went to a Heritage Festival to see how real owls fly and real falcons and hawks fly and to see the way swords and shields and spears are used. But spears and shield weren’t there that day.

That’s the story.

The end.

Working Mama in a homeschooling world

I know I am not the only working mother in a homeschool family.

I see the occasional reference by another mother on one list or another about working while Dad does the at-home duty.

In our own homes chool circles, though, I am the only one. The rest of the families have the more traditional roles, or a situation where both parents are able to be home most of the time through work from home arrangements.

In any case, I am the mother who isn't available to get together for a play date or a group class on Tuesday at 10am.

Rod is usually, but not always, the only Dad on hand, too.

We are unusual not only in the sense of the gender difference, which would be reasonably easy to overcome, I think. There is also the fact that Rod and I have split the tasks pretty evenly. In most of the families we know, it seems as though the Mom does the researching, planning, and teaching. In our family, I do the research and then plan with Rod's input and he does the lion's share of the teaching. That means that we both want to be at the curriculum discussion, which the other moms see as a "Mom's night out".

As people get more used to us, it's working out OK. There are some Moms who have just stopped inviting Jack and I anywhere, and others have started issuing the invitations to Rod and Jack. A few have started suggesting get-togethers at times that I can play too. Since I'm not terrible social anyway, I am fine with mostly not being involved in the socializing aspect of homeschooling.

I have to say, though, that I was thrilled when the most recent curriculum discussion was scheduled on a Friday evening specifically so I could play to. I had a blast! I have been researching and planning for a long time, but it is so seldom that I get to share ideas with other people who are passionate as I am -- what a rush! I learned a LOT and it was fun to share with other people as crazy as I am.

What was especially fun is that we all seemed to have such different priorities and srtyles, and yet so many of the basics were similar!

12 September 2008

Whatever your beliefs, it's time to get serious

with thanks to Sunny Simmons Steincamp at Sprial Ground.

11 September 2008

Free Homeschooling Resources for a Charlotte Mason style education

Free Homeschooling Resources

For a Charlotte Mason style education


These are the resources we are using for the lesson plans I posted yesterday.  It's far from an exhaustive list of what's out there -- it's just amazing!

Project Gutenberg



The Burgess Bird Book for Children


Fifty Famous People


Home Geography for Primary Grades

Ambleside Online

Olaf; or, The Fairy Gifts


The Habits of Insects


The Purple Jar

Legacy Preservation Society


The Baldwin Project

Fifty Famous Stories Retold


Aesop for Children


The Blue Fairy Book


Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare

Edward Bonver's Poetry Lover's Page

A Child's Garden of Verses


Just So Stories 

Kid Zone

Handwriting practice



10 September 2008

And finally...

We have finally posted the lesson plans I had promised.

PS: I just realized that the PDF effectively hides the links to the free materials. So, I have posted them here.

08 September 2008

Unit 1

I haven't forgotten -- I really have been working on the curriculum and planning to post it here. It's just that as soon as I realized I'd been bitten by the "curriculum bug", I also started to have an urge to slow things way down. I have been busy deleting sections and moving others to later in the year so that the boys can build up a head of steam slowly.

I asked Rod to post unit 1 so I could post a link to it, which he very sweetly did today -- and of course when I opened it to copy the link, the first thing I saw an error! I'll ask him to teach me to do that and I will post the link later this evening.

Unit 2 will be up soon after. (It's just about done, too.)

Jack has had quite a week. Such a big week, as a matter of fact, that he just woke up for a 16 hour snooze,which follows a couple of days of being wound very tight and jittery.
It all started with reading Dar and the Spear Thrower by Marjorie Cowley. This was a fascinating coming of age story about, Dar, a young Cro Magnon on the verge of his manhood ceremony. (Age 13 or so). It was on our book stack because it takes place in the paleolithic and is of a good reading level for Jack, but it addresses a lot of questions a young boy might have about what it means to be a man. Jack loves the book, and it left us both sad as we closed the book on the last chapter -- that feeling you have at the end of a really good book that a dear friend has moved away. Jack is sure there have to be more Dar books or a movie--though I haven't been abel to find them, if they exist. But the book also brought some growing up issues to Jack's attention and he has wrestled with some of those. (We agree that we're both really glad that in our culture, men don't need "man-marks".)
I had planned on something significantly lighter after the challenges -- pleasant as they were -- that Dar posed, but the next night Jack absolutely insisted on pulling a biography of Helen Keller out from far down the stack and reading that for our bedtime story. Now, this biography was intended for very young children so it wasn't too overly emotionally demanding, focussing mainly on Helen's bravery and accomplishments, and her work on behalf of the similarly handicapped, but Jack seems to be at a sensitive moment when the challenge of growing up unable to see or hear really struck him much more deeply than I expected it to at five. He verified that he had had the measles vaccine (the actual diagnosis of the disease that caused the high fever that robbed Keller of her sight and hearing as an infacnt has never been established as far as I know, but measles was what I was told as a child and what I shared with Jack) and then he became very quiet and contemplative.
Then, yesterday, we went with Grandpa John to the Detroit Institute of Art, where we wandered through the medieval section on our way to the ancient Greek and Rome exhibit, and where Jack noticed for the first time the statues of Jesus on the cross. He had a lot of questions about who that was, who killed him in such a gruesome way, and why, which Rod and I did our best to answer. Then we went back to John's house for a light picnic of dried fruit, nuts, and chips, where jack's jitters reached fever pitch.
(By jitters, I mean a constant chant of"Look at me! See what I can do?" as he raced around and tumbled and chattered at a non-stop fever pitched pace. Normal for some of our childre, but very unusual for Jack.)
We hadn't reached the expressway yet when Jack was asleep in his boster seat at around 5:45 or 6pm. I put him on the rug in the parlour to wake up slowly, I thought, but he slept through dinner and cleanup and then I carried him upstairs and put him to bed. He asked me to take off his shoes, and then slept through my preparations for bed. He woke up when I got up for a moment in the middle of the night -- but only long enough to ask me how much longer it would be night. I told him that I would be happy if he could rest another hour or two -- but when I got up three hours later, he was still sound asleep. Rod says he finally woke up at about 9:15.
I think a pretty carefree week would be best, if we can arrnage it for him. He has quite a few "grownup concerns" to chew threw and make sense of and I don't want to overwhelm him, if we can help him. Between Mr. Mark being in the hospital and so many of our friends and relatives being sick, this wouldn't have been the time I would have chosen for him to notice all of this. Then again, he has a very solid foundation from which to handle it, and I believe that if he wasn't in some sense "ready" he would have continued to be oblivious to the challenging these experiences offered.
Probably not a bad idea to keep an eye on his health, too. He might be coming down with something. Jack usually does herald new developmental levels with a cold or a flu.

06 September 2008

One year later

If you've been visitng Chez Smiffy for a while, you may remember my trauma at having my hair cut last year at about this time.

My hair had grown quite long and I loved it -- but between health issues and chlorinated water, it had grown very thin and crunchy.
So, I asked Rod to cut it back to where the hair looked reasonably even and not too badly damaged. Still long by most standards, I guess -- but it broke my heart.
And now a year later, it isn't quite back to where it was, but it looks a lot more even than it did and I am gaining ground.

The Voice of the Gods

Jack and I were preserving peaches this morning.

He was contemplatively dropping ice cubes into the cooling bath for the blanched peaches, and we were listening to a Beethoven choral piece.
Jack looked up at me with a dreamy look on his face and said
"That's the voices of the Gods and Goddesses singing, you know."
No, I hadn't known. But I do now.

Thank you, my son.

03 September 2008

My poor, poor VitaMix!

It's been 'that kind' of a day.

My vitamix pitcher lept off the counter this afternoon in an evident fit of despair and overwork!

The spigot broke off the pitcher, making it useless for the time being. The VitaMix, however, is a simplicity devotee's dream. All of the parts are easy to replace and available at minimal cost. Sadly, while it is only $8 for a new part, our credit information was stolen over the weekend, so we don't have a card with which to order it, and so the poor thing may be out of service through much of canning season. I am *so* grateful that we already have a bushel of romas put by as sauce. I was hoping to make at least one more bushel, but we can do stewed tomatoes and chunky applesauce and count ourselves lucky. It also means no more baking for a while, but we're going to be pretty bust for the next few weeks anyway. (Ironically, the co-op just called to say that our latest shipment of wheat is in.)

I was looking over the company web site and realized that my poor old beast was discontinued in the mid 1980s. I wonder how much longer the parts will be available. It has crossed my mind from time to time that I would like to get another pitcher and a selection of spare parts so I will have them if I need them. They still supply some parts to models even from the 1950s, but they did eventually discontinue parts for the machines from the 1930 and 1940s.

This comes on top of our somewhat dramatic decision late last night to take one more step back toward the 19th century. We will be selling the spare car, and turning off the Internet and telephone. (We will be taking advantage of the very 21st century idea of going completely to cell-phones, but in this case only Rod will have a phone with a plan. My phone will remain on the pay-as-you go plan and be for emergencies only.)

We've decided that time has come to make more of a commitment to a simple lifestyle, and these are the steps we can see living with right now. It won' be easy, but I think it will be worth while.

02 September 2008

A bit of this and a bit of that

The days are growing shorter and the light is thinning and fading, even as the heat of late summer remains. Somehow I seem to have missed summer.

I didn't get out much to enjoy the outdoors this year. There always seemed to be something more pressing to do -- and even the times I did get out there weren't very soothing this year for some reason.

Maybe it was stress. The trends continue. (Rod's older brother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer late this spring and we just heard that the friend who has been facing leukemia with her 'just turned 3' son is also facing cancer with her mother. These are diagnoses, and there is still plenty of hope, but it adds worry to the already mounting loss. Mark is doing much better this time than he did last autumn, but we can't help worry about him. John is doing lots better, but we can't help but worry about him.) Stress can certainly distract us from being in the moment and enjoying nature.

Maybe it was the drought that we're having this year. We have had some rain this summer, though none lately, but it wasn't as much as we're used to. The grass is brown and crunchy under our feet and not nearly as much fun as it usually is. The smaller plants are hanging on tenuously if at all, and even the deep rooted trees are looking very, very distressed. We are watering the fruit trees, but everything else is just having to hang on the best it can. On the bright side, that has also meant that the garden plot, which never did get any plants, took Jack and I about 6 minutes to weed yesterday -- and that was the first time this year that we've done that.

We postponed painting the bedroom this weekend (again) in favour of canning a bushel of local Romas as sauce and freezing two lugs of local blueberries. I may have missed summer, but I'll be darned if I am also going to miss autumn - - especially this year, when the price of food this winter is predicted to rise to outrageous level, what with the cost of corn (not a big part of our diet, but it means that the cost of everything else will rise to take up the slack for unaffordable corn reliant products), the cost of fuel (again, we try to eat mostly local but the competition for local products will be stronger this year), and the very, very bad growing season. (It was too wet to plant until very late in the spring, and it has been too dry since then.) We can paint when there is no more produce to preserve. ;) Besides, canning is one of the things we can do that adds a sense of normalcy to our unsettled mood.

Jack was a big part of the canning project this year, and I couldn't help comparing this year to the first year we did any canning. Jack was a newborn that first year, and Rod and I had to take turns working because Jack wanted to be held (and, mostly, nursed) constantly. This year from the washing of the produce, to the chopping, to the pureeing of the sauce to filling of the vat of sauce and the stirring, Jack was an extra sets of hands a and a real help. Jack's cooking is no longer just about his experience -- it has become easier to do it with him than without him. Wow. I can't believe that went so fast!

We discovered this weekend that our credit information has been stolen. We found out within a couple of hours, so the damage was minimal and we haven't actually lost anything -- but it does mean that we're doing commerce on a cash basis, with one ATM card between us. That certainly cramps our style. ;) Cancelling the card meant that part of the order for the last of the school books that had gone in, but had not yet been billed, has been cancelled. We'll have to wait a while, see what comes, and then reorder the ones we still need. (I don't know what I was thinking, but I deleted the messages from the online booksellers notifying me of which orders had been cancelled.) Fortunately, the library has the most critical one and the parts I need are few enough that I can copy those pages and print them out to add to our reader.
I have compiled and printed the readers for both units 1 and 2, and I am just about done with the checklists, so then Rod will have what he needs when he's ready. (And I will publish them for anyone who is interested to have a look at.) It's interesting that, even knowing about the danger of "resource creep" (where the planning never ends because just as you think you're done, you hear about yet another amazing resource you want to add) I fell afoul of it. I have drawn a line in the sand and said "Unit 1 is complete as soon as I add the things I have already gotten". Anything else will have to be added to a later unit or not at all because there really are some cool resources out there.

Have you ever noticed that very few books for kids make school sound like any fun at all? From Pinnocio to Tom Sawyer, to the Bobbsey Twins, to Beezus and Romona and Laura and Mary of the Prairie, it's as though the world is in on a secret campaign to promote homeschooling! Unfortunately, that has tainted the word "school" for Jack and he has declared that "school is boring, stupid, and junk!" and he is resisting starting on his formal lessons this fall. Since he has eagerly gobbled up what I have introduced so far, I think he really is going to enjoy it -- but perhaps we'd best come up with a new name for what we're doing.

Jack talked me into going to play miniature golf this weekend. I have never enjoyed it before, but for one reason or another, it was actually quite pleasant...in spite of my starting to play on the last hole and losing my ball immediately. Jack and I shared his ball for several more holes, and then I decided to focus on just taking pictures. Jack was a lot better at it than I expected him to be, though his style could use some work. We had fun, and we've decided that next time. we're going to get three balls because one went too fast. Then we went out for ice cream, and came home and drew pictures together until bedtime. Lucky for us, Dad came home bearing fast food for all, because we completely forgot to have dinner!

I mentioned a while back that Rod has gone off his blood pressure medication completely and (we think for the moment) permanently. I have to say that having him fully functional has been wonderful! And he's working with a naturopath to try and get at the underlying cause of the high blood pressure and resolve that. It's been several weeks, and we are beginning to see a real improvement. Not in his blood pressure -- if he's checking that, I have no idea what he's seen -- but in his overall health. Rod's feet have been swollen and a worrying shade of blue as long as I have known him. I noticed yesterday that the swelling is down (though not gone) and his feet were PINK -- really, really pink and healthy looking! I am so excited! Even more exciting is that I noticed because he commented that his legs and feet felt so light and energetic -- more than they had in years! He has a new spring in his step that tells the tale and hasn't needed to sit down and rest nearly as often as he was having to just a few weeks ago. I can't help but think that this obvious sign of improved circulation has to be good for his circulatory system as well as his feet and I am giddy with delight!

I have gotten about two thirds of the way through the astrology primer I am writing for Jack. As far as I have been able to determine, there are *no* books for the very young about astrology, which strikes me as peculiar. Well, soon, there will be!

I would still like to write the Australian history books for children -- but it has since dawned on me that I know next to nothing, and it will take a serious amount of commitment and research...I'm willing and even eager, but I'm not sure when I will find the time. I'm keeping my eyes open -- maybe someone somewhere, maybe even someone with actual talent, will have the same thought I have and will beat me to it. I hope so.