Monday, March 31, 2008

Life Before Homeschooling

Dana over at Principled Discovery is hosting "Home Education Week", with a different topic to blog about each day. The first topic is "Looking Back", or Life Before Homeschooling! Since this is our 14th year as a homeschooling family, I have to look WAY back...

My parents were both public school teachers, and I thought I would become a teacher as well. But although I took quite a few education courses along with my Studio Art major at Smith College, I never did the student teaching required to become certified.
The summer following my graduation from college, I married my high school sweetheart and we moved from MA to Atlanta, GA, where Mark earned his masters degree in engineering from Georgia Tech and I worked part-time in the Publicity Office at the High Museum of Art. The following year we moved to Boca Raton, FL, where Mark went to work for IBM. I worked at a day care center and also took a couple more education courses at Florida Atlantic University, but when our first child came along, I knew I wanted to be home full-time.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom, and two more children followed pretty quickly. I became a Tupperware demonstrator and enjoyed the occasional interaction with grown ups and the chance to get out and make a little bit of money. I sang in the church choir and went to aerobic dance classes. During this time, when my kids were babies, I read my first book on homeschooling, which I just happened to come upon while browsing the shelves of a tiny branch of the county public library. The book was called "Better Than School", by Nancy Wallace. This was probably 1987 or 1988, and homeschooling was still pretty unknown back then. I had always been interested in children and education, and was fascinated by what I read, and a seed was planted that would continue to grow and develop over the next several years.

A job transfer took us from FL to MN, and it was time for my oldest to start Kindergarten. The school system in Rochester, MN was well-regarded, and kindergarten was only half-day, so we bought the necessary school supplies and new school clothes and confidently sent Alex off on the big yellow school bus from our little country cul-de-sac to the small elementary school a couple of miles down the road. School went fine - his teachers were very nice, he made friends and liked school... most of the time. I tried to be involved in his school, but I had a preschooler and a toddler at home, and I also took care of a neighbor's baby while she worked. And I occasionally thought about homeschooling. I remember hearing a radio broadcast on Focus on the Family which featured Dr. Raymond Moore, and I found a couple of his books in the library. I also read "Homeschooling for Excellence" by David and Mikki Colfax. These books again grabbed my imagination and altered the way I thought about school and true education. But I didn't know anyone who homeschooled in MN, and my husband thought the idea was "way out there"! So Alex went on to 1st grade and 2nd grade.

I became pregnant with our 4th child and my husband found out his job was being eliminated, so he found a new position with IBM in Raleigh, NC. We moved just in time for Alex to start 3rd grade and Sarah to start Kindergarten. I also had a 4 yr old and a newborn at home, and life was busy. We went to the library for story hours and I joined a women's weekly Bible Study. But I also met a homeschooling family at our new church who had 4 kids close to the ages of my own. We became good friends, and suddenly homeschooling seemed "do-able" for me. There seemed to be many more homeschoolers here than there had been where we lived before. I visited my friend's support group and asked tons of questions, and I convinced my still skeptical husband that we should go to the state homeschool conference and see what it was all about. Around this same time we also had a meeting with the 3rd grade teacher and a couple of other "specialists" from the school who were concerned that our son wasn't learning at the right speed - he was average in some areas, way ahead in others, and a little behind in another. This seemed to be the cause of some major concern. My husband now looked at me and said, "We can try it for a year".

That was 14 years ago; since that time we have added a 5th child to the family; I've read dozens more books about homeschooling and attended numerous conferences; we've tried and enjoyed a number of different curriculums and tried and discontinued using several others, I helped start a local homeschool support group that has grown from 17 familes to over 250 families, helped found a homeschool band, and become very involved in homeschool sports teams; we have graduated 2 from our homeschool and God willing will graduate our 3rd in June. Homeschooling has become a family lifestyle that is constantly evolving, always challenging, and ultimately an enormous blessing.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

James 2:22

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 2:22

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Is It Bad to Shelter My Children?

This week's meme on Heart of the Matter is the following quote:

"Clearly there is an appropriate kind of sheltering. When those who are opposed to homeschooling accuse me of sheltering my children, my reply is always, 'What are you going to accuse me of next, feeding and clothing them?" ~R.C. Sproul Jr

This makes me laugh, I guess because to me it seems so obvious. OF COURSE I shelter my children! What is the definition of shelter? It means to protect, guard, shield, or defend. Every good parent shelters their child from danger and from harmful influences. You shelter your child from being run over by a car by teaching him never to play in the street and to look both ways before crossing and then by supervising your young child when he is in the vicinity of a busy street! You shelter your child from disease by having him immunized or by making him wear warm clothes in the winter and teaching him to wash his hands. You shelter your children from potential abuse by teaching them to be wary of strangers, that parts of their body are private, to scream and run away and tell a parent if someone tries to touch them inappropriately or hurt them. This is all just normal parenting!

So I think everyone agrees that some sheltering is normal and completely appropriate! But what is really being said when homeschool parents are accused of sheltering their children? We are not being accused of being good parents! No, the suggestion is that we OVER-protect our children - that we shelter and defend and guard them TOO much. Obviously, there will be differences in how parents treat various issues in raising their children! I may shelter my children from certain movies, books, and video games that others allow their children access to. But I also know some parents who would consider my standards way too lax! So, who is right? And who gets to make that decision? Should the government tell me what I can shelter my children against and what I can't? Should my neighbor tell me what is good for my family and what is not? My own values drive the parenting decisions I make, and that is the the way I think it should be. I believe that parents have an inalienable right to direct the upbringing - including the education - of their children. I'm not talking about extremes of abuse and wickedness - no, I don't believe that parents have the right to lock their children in closets or chain them to beds and deny them basic elements of nutrition and sanitation. But those types of sad situations are anomalies and extremely rare - to be dealt with as criminal behavior, and not akin to things like disallowing certain types of music in ones' home or favoring curriculum that upholds a particular set of religious beliefs. Yet it seems as if those things are lumped together in the minds of some critics of homeschooling. It astonishes me that there are people who think that everyone should be taught exactly the same thing, at the same time, in the same way! And these are generally the same people who trumpet the value of diversity! HA!

I believe that when people say I am over-protecting my children, they really mean that I am not doing things their way - I am imparting my own values, beliefs, and opinions to my children, and am somehow obstructing the goals of "society" by doing so. Even Christian parents buy into the notion that children must all be "adequately socialized" so that they can live effectively in the "real world". Is the "real world" age-segregated into grade levels, peer-driven with a strict social caste system ruled by popularity, and tasks compartmentalized into 60-minute class periods ? Why do we think that children NEED to be with large groups of other children every day? Why are we as parents dependant on numerical grades and artificial "tests" to tell us how successful and valuable our children are? Why is it okay to treat children as miniature adults, whether by teaching them about adult s*xual behavior or expecting them to be missionaries in a school environment hostile to Christianity, but not okay to want to preserve their innocence throughout their childhood so they can just be kids?

As several other bloggers have noted in response to the above quote, the Bible gives support in this matter of appropriate sheltering. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches us to live holy, or "set apart", lives. ( 1 Pet. 1:15) I shelter my children from certain influences because I want to help them SHINE as a light in a dark world when they get older, not just blend in and look like everyone else! Do we really want our children to conform to the standards of society today?
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
There is an excellent 2-part article by Jonathan Lindvall over at Bold Christian Living. It is titled Sheltering Children - Part 1: God's Mandate for Holiness, and Sheltering Children -Part 2: Parental Responsibility for Influences. While I don't necessarily agree with all of his conclusions, it contains much food for thought.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Improving Health By Baking with Freshly Ground Flours

I have started a new adventure in baking in an effort to improve my and my family's overall health. Yesterday I tried my hand at baking bread from freshly milled whole wheat flour. Now, I have a slight hesitation in posting about this, because I realize it might push me over the edge into "wacko land" for some of you who already are skeptical about the whole stay-at-home mom, homeschooling lifestyle. Oh well. Get over it! I'm excited!

My friend Tammy and I have been talking about this for a while, and she just took the plunge and bought a Nutrimill electric grain mill and a Bosch mixer. Then she drove up to Yoder's Country Market, about 90 minutes from here, and bought several bags of different kinds of whole wheat kernels - Prairie Gold, Bronze Chief, red winter, soft white - to try, as well as a few other good things. Since I was still sick with the flu bug, I gave Tammy a list and she came home with a bag of goodies for me too. Since I don't have a grain mill yet, Tammy will grind grain for me as needed, probably once a week.

So yesterday I used some of my Bronze Chief, which is a hard red spring wheat, and Marilyn's Famous Whole Wheat Bread recipe from the Urban Homemaker site to make two delicious loaves of homemade bread. I have a KitchenAid mixer, so mixing and kneading the dough is a breeze.

Why freshly ground flour? We have always eaten whole wheat bread in this family, so that isn't a change for us. And I use King Arthur whole wheat flour in almost all of my home baked breads, like pizza dough, muffins, pancakes, etc. But as I've been researching, I've learned that freshly ground flour has much more nutritional value than store-bought flours, because a lot of the vitamin content of the whole grain is lost to oxidation in the first 24-48 hours after being ground. Flour that is packaged for the grocery store shelves has to have a long shelf-life, so preservatives are added, and also natural oils have to be removed so they don't spoil and turn the flour rancid. White flour has had the wheat germ and bran removed, and has very little nutrition left in it, except for the few vitamins and minerals that are added for "enrichment". Freshly ground whole grain flour is supposed to be good for digestive ailments as well as controlling weight and blood sugar levels and also cholesterol ( one of my current needs ! ) After I play with these different wheat varieties, I plan to try some different grains, including oats, spelt, rye, corn, ...

Of course, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking more water are part of the plan for improved health as well. Oh, and then exercise....

2nd attempt at this post - the first didn't "work" and disappeared into cyberspace, never to be seen again...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hit By The Flu Bug

Well, this week certainly didn't go as I had planned. On Monday I woke up with a cough, which I attributed to allergies, and set out to get the family ready to leave early Tuesday for the big basketball tournament at Liberty Univ. I started the kids doing laundry and made my shopping list and hit WalMart for 4 days worth of snacks, drinks, and lunch stuffs, to try to save on the expense of eating out all week. I made 2 pizzas and wrapped them up, made a big bowl of tuna-pasta salad, bought kaiser rolls and sandwich fixins, chips, apples, crackers, trail mix, gatorade. We started packing... and I started to feel achy and feverish. By dinner time I was on the couch, and by bedtime I was throwing up.

In the morning, I was in no condition to drive 3 hours in the car and then sit in a gym all day, so I decided to stay home and hopefully get a ride up to Lynchburg with one of the other families who were driving up on Wednesday. The kids were disappointed - especially the younger two, who still like having Mom around - because this was supposed to be "Family Time", which is much revered in this household. But things were what they were - I was SICK. Well, the throwing up didn't last long, thankfully, but the fever, lightheadedness, and cough continued and I wasn't any better on Wednesday, or on Thursday. So while my family has been in Lynchburg at the HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Championships, I have been home all by myself, sleeping mostly, or lying on the couch watching the Food Channel or Discovery Health ( mostly watching babies being born ). This bug really wiped me out. I found standing up in the shower or walking to the end of the driveway to get the mail to be extremely exhausting. Today I am better. I have gotten through the day without any doses of Nyquil. I'm still coughing but I don't think I'm running a temp any more. According to sources familiar with this bug, it runs a 7-10 day course!!

Sarah just got home for Easter Weekend, and she is running out to do the Easter shopping for her poor sick mother who isn't strong enough to tackle any kind of store yet.

The basketball troops should be home late tonight. They have done okay in the tournament, according to the phone calls I've received... won 2 and lost 1 in the first round of pool play, and then got matched against the Greensboro Panthers in the Bracket play. Greensboro just happens to be the NC state championship varsity team - we lost to them last night by 18 but Mark was actually very happy with the way the boys played... in the 2nd half, anyway.
So this evening they had one more game to determine 3rd/4th place in their bracket. I'm hoping Amanda comes home with some pictures I can post.

So, the bright side - HOPEFULLY, the rest of the family won't get this mess since they have been out of the house all week. I'm going around with a can of Lysol disinfectant spray right now, trying to sanitize the house of all germs before they come home. There have been times I have wanted to have a few days at home all by myself so I could get some major projects done - this was NOT that opportunity, since I couldn't even get off the couch. It was very lonely. I didn't even have the dog for company, since we had put him in the kennel for the week, assuming we would all be gone. But I really couldn't have handled him anyway, so it was just as well. I'll be glad to have my family back home tonight.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Week Flies By

Wow, I didn't realize it has been a whole week since I posted. So, to recap what this week looked like...

Sarah was home on Spring Break this week. She spent a couple days with friends down in Wilmington, and then hung out here for the remainder of the week, writing a paper, working on a scrapbook, and catching up on earlier seasons of LOST on the internet. :-)

Monday afternoon Jason went to science class at his friend, Nathan's, house. He loves this time every week. Tammy teaches science for about an hour to Nathan, Jason, and one other boy, using Apologia's elementary science book on Botany. Then they get some play time for wrestling, racing, climbing, jumping, chasing, and all those things important to 9-yr-old boys.

Monday night I hosted a Tapestry Tea here at my house, with 12 ladies in attendance to hear more about Tapestry of Grace, the curriculum I use and love! Actually, TOG encourages this kind of get-together to introduce and explain the curriculum to new users, since it is quite different from most other curriculums out there and can be overwhelming because of its many components. Just seeing the big 3" binder and hearing that it is the material for only 9 weeks is enough to send the faint-hearted scurrying. Explaining the components - the reading assignment list for history, literature, government, history of fine arts, worldview, bible / church history, and philosophy; the additional suggestions for geography, time lines, hands-on activities ; the reproducible student activity pages for 4 different age groups; the discussion outlines; the many pages of teacher notes - helps to make sense of what they are looking at. We ( my friend Sabrina and I) showed the DVD that TOG provided, but honestly, I think that in the future our time would be better spent just going walking through the materials and explaining how our families use the curriculum, and then answering questions.

Tuesday morning Eric had Pre-Calc. at a local community college and Amanda had biology class, which is taught by a homeschool dad who also happens to be a college botany professor. This class meets once a week for 2 hours in a classroom at a local church. After Eric got home, he had an hour or so and then headed off to an American Literature class, another 1 hour per week class for homeschoolers taught by a former homeschool mom/former high school English teacher.
Tuesday night I took Jason to soccer practice and then ran out to a planning meeting for our homeschool graduation ceremony. There are about 20 families participating in graduation this year, and the parents arrange for all the details of graduation - reserving a church, ordering caps & gowns, taking group photos of the seniors, planning a reception following the ceremony, creating a power point slide show, etc. etc. After the meeting, my friend Eileen and I went out to Chick-Fil-A for some girl time - we talked until the place closed and the employees were leaving, and then stood in the parking lot and talked for 2 hours more!

Wednesday afternoon Amanda had choir and I taught art classes in my dining room - first for Jason and a couple of friends, and then for Amanda and a couple of friends. The kids seem to really be enjoying this! I am using the Artistic Pursuits art curriculum, but I also pull some ideas off the internet as well, from sites like Incredible Art Department , Dick Blick , and KinderArt.

Thursday morning Eric had PreCalc again. That afternoon I swung by the trophy & awards shop to pick up awards for that evenings basketball awards ceremony, and also stopped and bought a gift for our incredibly hard working AD, who schedules all the 150 or so games for all 6 homeschool teams! In the evening Jason's town league basketball team played in the semi-finals of their end-of-season tournament, and lost by just 2 points. Afterwards we zipped on over to the Awards Night for Lighthouse Basketball, for which Mark was emcee.

Friday morning was TOG Co-op. We just started Unit 4, "In the Fullness of Time", which is the study of the rise and fall of the Roman Civilization. That night Jason went to Owen's birthday party/backyard camp-out, and Eric and Sarah went to a friend's birthday party/dinner at Chili's!

Saturday morning I picked up Jason from the sleepover, then ran home for him to change into his soccer uniform and headed over to the soccer field for his game.
Can't imagine why he looked like he was sleepwalking out on the field... not much energy in the game this week. Afterwards he went to ANOTHER birthday party. ( are you seeing how unsocialized my poor homeschooled kids are?)
That night Mark and I put dibs on a car (!!) and went out to dinner at Carrabba's with our good friends Jim and Karen.

And today, Sunday, we went to church as a family, and then all took naps this afternoon!!! Mark drove Sarah down to Raleigh to meet her ride back to Boone.
I made homemade tortillas and served soft tacos for dinner.

And we are ready for the start of another week.....

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Busy Week - TOG Unit Celebration & Basketball

Sorry for the lapse in posts. Things have been very busy around here.

Tuesday night was our monthly homeschool support group meeting. Mari Fitz-Wynn, a Raleigh homeschool mom who hosts a short weekly homeschool radio program and is also the legislative liason for our state homeschool association, was our guest speaker. She talked about our children as works of art, sometimes messy, but uniquely created by God to be special and to delight HIM!

Thursday night was our TOG Unit 3 Celebration. The 13 families in our TOG Co-op all met at the church to share what the kids had learned over the last 9 weeks, as we studied King Solomon and the Divided Kingdom, the Assyrians, the New Babylonians, the Medes & Persians, and finally the Ancient Greeks up to the time of Alexander the Great. Each family brought a dessert or finger food, mostly of the Greek variety - grapes, olives, cheese, spanakopita, baklava, hummus & pita bread, and a few other delectables. The younger children displayed the many craft projects they had made, and got up to talk about something they had learned. The parents got to test their knowledge of ancient history by playing Jeopardy, which the Upper Grammar and Dialectic 2 classes play every week to review what they've learned from their reading.

Then the Dialectic 2 class ( 8th & 9th graders ), which I co-lead, performed a telling of the Odyssey, the tale of the Greek hero, Odysseus, and his adventure-filled journey home to Ithaka after the Trojan War. We performed it with scripts, since our rehearsal time had been pretty limited, but the kids had a blast preparing costumes and props and performing for their families, and it was a great experience for them.

Friday morning that same co-op class met to give their assigned presentations on Ancient Greece, and then we went out to a local Greek restaurant for lunch. These brave young people looked over the menu, which included such Greek specialties as Tabouli, Hummus, Felafel, and Hebe, and proceeded to order cheeseburgers and chicken gyros ( well, at least that was somewhat ethnic ). Tracy, my co-teacher, and I ordered sampler platters, and at least coaxed a few of the kids to taste baba ghanouj, hummus, tabouli, and baklava. It was pretty amusing. ;-)

Friday night was our annual Lighthouse Basketball Parent / Player Games. All six teams come out with their parents, siblings, relatives, and some alumni, and the kids play against the adults. For each team, there is a 10 minute running clock, subs run on and off the floor freely ( more frequently for the adults, usually!), one of the dads is the ref, and everyone always has a great time. After 10 minutes, the next team takes the floor, and things just keep going until we kick everyone out of the gym after 2 1/2 hours! A number of families met up at Cici's Pizza afterwards, to continue the fellowship!

I didn't play basketball ( I leave that to the younger, more nimble moms!) but cheered from the stands, and left early to go pick up Sarah, who got a ride back to Raleigh from a college friend, and is home this week for Spring Break! Well, she was home for the night anyway, but left yesterday ( with one of our cars!) to go visit friends at UNC-Wilmington for 2 days. I do believe she'll be hanging out here the rest of the week! :-)

Yesterday, Jason had a soccer game in the morning and a basketball game in the afternoon. In the morning, I co-moderated a Transcript Workshop for homeschool moms, where we watched Part III & IV of Inge Cannon's "Transcript Boot Camp" DVD seminar. We had done Part I & II back in December. My friend Tammy and I brought samples of high school transcripts and answered questions, but the DVD does a really thorough job of explaining what to include on a transcript and how to best present our students to college admissions officers. It is available from

Today we went to church and then came home and CLEANED the house!! It really needed a whole-family attack, and things look much better now. I am hosting 15 ladies here tomorrow night for a Tapestry Tea, which is an introduction to the Tapestry of Grace curriculum.

Lastly, we got some MUCH needed rain this week. Two good storm systems came through, Tuesday and Friday, and dropped about 3-4 inches of rain here in the Triangle. There are still severe water restrictions in place in most municipalities in this area, but hopefully the rain will continue to fall and refill those streams and reservoirs.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How Does a Mama Deal With Campus Violence?

I lot of different emotions have welled up in me these past 30 hours or so, since my husband called from work to let me know that the news was reporting a gunman at my daughter's university, and that they were on lockdown. I am not one to panic, and I generally remain calm in emergencies. So I continued my grocery shopping, cool and collected in all outward appearance, even as my stomach was doing flip-flops and my hand was gripping that cell phone for dear life. Mark had not been able to reach Sarah's cell phone, but as soon as I hung up with him my phone rang, and it was her, letting me know that she was in class, and would be there until the all-clear was given. There wasn't much information, except that someone "had seen a man wearing a ski mask and holding a handgun" walking near campus. I reminded myself that no violence had occurred and that all safety precautions were being taken to keep the students safe. Lockdown was lifted after an hour and a half, but since a suspect had not been found, students were told to be cautious, and the dining halls were all closed. So she had to go walk to a pizza place with her friends to get dinner.... okay, a little more worrying , thinking about my little girl out walking around with a possible gunman on the loose!

Boy, is it hard when your babies are far away! I couldn't do anything but pray, which is no small thing - but I WANTED to jump in the car and start driving to go get her!

Then this morning, the news broke that the whole thing was a hoax, a story about an armed robber made up by a student, trying to keep from getting in trouble about a damaged apartment door! First came relief - NOBODY walking around ready to shoot! Then anger - what kind of knucklehead would make up that kind of story, especially with what has happened on college campuses this past year!!?

So now I can reflect a bit. No, there wasn't a masked gunman intent on death and destruction present on my daughter's college campus. But there is an enemy who "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". (1 Peter 5:8) As anxious as I felt about the perceived danger yesterday, am I as conscious of the daily dangers of temptation and compromise that my children encounter out in the world, and am I standing in the gap, praying for their strength and safety? I realize that I cannot protect my children from every danger or harm or catastrophe, but I have done my best to give them the tools and armor they need to go through whatever challenges life has to offer. I do pray for them each and every day - not always with the same urgency - but from my heart. So for my daughter living on a college campus, and my son training at an Army base with live ammo, and my other son behind the wheel of our car, and my younger children here in the house while severe weather bears down on us this evening - I'll keep loving them and praying for them and trusting God. And that's the best I can do.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

Well, our basketball season is coming to a close. Jason's town league team had its last regular season game on Friday night, and will have a tournament next week.

Last weekend our Lighthouse teams competed in the NCHE Eastern Regional homeschool basketball tournament, and our Lighthouse Varsity girls and Varsity Boys both advanced to the state tournament this weekend. There are only 2 JV girls teams in the state this year ( lots of programs only have middle school and Varsity ), so Amanda's team also went to the state tournament, along with the middle school girls' team which Mark coaches. Amanda's team won their game on Saturday and took home the trophy! Eric's varsity team lost their first game on Friday to a very strong team from Greensboro, and then played in the consolation game on Saturday against the Raleigh Hawks, playing hard but losing by 6 points. This was our third time playing against the Hawks in two weeks, and the closest game. It helped that they were missing a couple of players. :-)
The middle school girls team lost their first game on Friday, but won their consolation game by 1 point, and were elated!

This week will be the annual Parent-Player games, which is always a lot of fun, and then the Awards Night a week later.

The Varsity Boys will play in one more tournament - the HSPN East Coast Homeschool Championships, held at Liberty University in March.
Then Eric will truly be done with his high school basketball career. :-(
Time marches on.