Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Daughter's Heart for Africa

My 21-year-old daughter, Sarah, is hoping to spend 4 weeks in Ethiopia this summer, volunteering in orphanages in Addis Ababa. Several friends of ours have adopted children from Ethiopia over the past 2 years, and Sarah's heart has been touched by these children and by the orphan crisis in that land.

In Ethiopia, approximately 1 in 10 children die in infancy, and nearly double that number die by their 5th birthday, due to infections, tetanus and diarrhea. Due to high infant, child and maternal mortality, Ethiopia is considered by the Mother and Child Index to be the 3rd most dangerous place in the world to be born, better only than Burkina Faso and Djibouti. Of the children who survive, many will lose their mother in childbirth and many more will lose one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. As more and more parents die, the capacity of extended family members to take care of orphans shrinks. Ethiopia has reached the breaking point where orphaned children are now forced into the streets, into difficult working conditions and/or into heading their households.

Go to Sarah's blog to learn more about her trip.

Crazy Questions About Homeschooling

This week's meme at Heart of the Matter is : "What are some of the craziest questions you have gotten about homeschooling, and the goofiest responses you have given. "

Well, I'm not a goofy response kind of girl. I might think of them later, but never on the spot. I can't even tell a good joke, because I can't remember them. And that isn't just an age thing - it has always been true.

But the craziest question I ever got about homeschooling was 3 years ago, when my family and I were at the first HSPN East Coast Homeschool Basketball Tournament at Liberty University in VA. There were about 40 middle school, JV, and Varsity homeschool teams from all over the East Coast participating that year, and our team had just finished playing a game at the beautiful Vine Center. As we were walking up the steps out of the arena, one of the game officials turned around and queried, "Where do they get all these homeless kids?"
We kindly informed him that these were "homeschool" teams, not "homeless". He still didn't seem to understand the difference.

Now that was a first.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Girls Night and Cream Puffs

I spent a few hours hanging out with two special girlfriends last night, drinking hot tea, eating fresh, homemade cream puffs, and having deep conversation - in between getting up to assist/console/reprimand/check up on a houseful of noisy, boisterous, crazy children. Oh, that was the three 15 year old girls! The 6 little children were also contributing to the bedlam. But it was sweet "girl time". God has done some REALLY big things in the lives of both these ladies in the past 2 years, and they have also been big encouragers to me ... so we talked and talked and talked ... and then prayed for one another.
The cream puffs came about because Amanda was at her friend Ellie's house, and called to say that Ellie's mom, Eileen, wanted me to "whip up" a batch of cream puffs and come on over for a visit with her and our other friend, Carla. Well, I was at SuperWalMart when she called, and I only had about an hour to get dinner for Mark & Jason before going over to their house, so there was no time to "whip up" anything! No problem... I just bought a couple of ingredients and brought them with me! We set the girls to work in the kitchen, and voila! In no time, cream puffs! They really are an easy dessert to make, and oh so yummy!

Cream Puffs
2 sm pkgs instant pudding mix ( I use sugar-free White Chocolate )
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Mix together the instant pudding mix, cream, and milk. ( I beat it in my stand mixer ). Cover and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a 2 qt. saucepan, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in flour and salt; mixture should form a ball. Let cool for a few minutes. Using a wooden spoon, beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Be sure to beat vigorously; you don't want the eggs to "cook" in the warm flour mixture. Mixture should be smooth and shiny. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Centers should be dry.
When shells are cool. split them and fill with the pudding mixture. Sift some powdered sugar over the tops, if desired.

Store in the refrigerator. Also, these are best if eaten right away, as they get soggy when they sit.

Makes about 20.

Amanda burned her finger while removing the hot pan from the oven.

Look closely and you'll see my daughter at the bottom of this pile!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Prayer for My Son

Well, only 2 weeks until my first born gets on a plane headed to the Middle East, to serve his country on the battlefield as a proud soldier of the U.S. Army. I am calm and at peace about the whole thing... most of the time; as long as I don't really think about it. But he'll be gone a long time... at least a year, and he thinks it might end up being longer than that. I know that wherever he is, he is in God's hands. Here is a prayer I found years ago, when Alex was a toddler. I remember thinking back then that this was what I wanted for him - to grow up to be not just "safe", but strong, brave, humble, and wise. How much truer now.

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee -- and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

General Douglas MacArthur

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CPSIA = Big Problems

Have you heard of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act ( CPSIA) ? I hadn't until about a week ago! But if you are a reseller or vendor or homecrafter of items intended for children under 12 years of age, you most likely have heard a lot about this lately! As a matter of fact, Feb. 10, 2009 has been dubbed by many of these folk as National Bankruptcy Day! This law, passed by Congress in August of 2008 in response to a rash of highly publicized recalls of children's toys, sets strict limits for the amount of lead and phthalates allowed in items intended for children under 12, including toys, clothing, books, educational materials, baby items, etc.

Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040, a retroactive rule mandating that all items sold for use by children under 12 must be tested by an independent party for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable.

All untested items, regardless of lead content, are to be declared "banned hazardous products.'' The CPSC has already determined the law applies to every children's item on shelves, not just to items made beginning Feb. 10.

The regulations could force thousands of businesses – especially smaller ones that cannot afford the cost of lead testing – to throw away truckloads of children's clothing, books, toys, furniture and other children's items and even force them to close their doors.

World Net Daily, Jan. 17. 2009

Now, I am a mother and of course I don't want children to be exposed to harmful substances. But this law was passed much too hastily.

The following was written by Kate Estes of Hands and Hearts, a small homeschool-family business that produces hands-on history kits.

The CPSIA (Consumer Produce Safety Improvement Act) was passed in August 2008 and goes into effect on February 10, 2009. It was passed in response to recent lead paint scares involving imported toys. While all good parents wants safe toys and other products for their children, the unfortunate truth is that this law was written FAR too broadly.

Because this over-reaching law mandates expensive ($400 - $4,000 per test) testing on every part of every batch of everything made for children 12 and under, the ramifications are terrible. Mid-size and small companies of all sorts will go out of business as they cannot afford the testing. If a company makes clothing, for example, they would have to test every batch of every color and style of fabric, every batch of buttons, snaps, zippers, thread, elastic, etc. Even if they used the same bolt of fabric to make several different products, simply testing that one bolt would not appease the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Instead, every size of every style of finished product would have to have every component tested individually! This scenario applies to every product made for use by children - clothing, books, DVD's, craft products, toys, sporting goods, furniture, bedding, educational products, and so forth - even if the items are made from completely natural components.

Here are just a few results of this law:

1. The children's resale market will be seriously impacted. While new updates to the CPSIA state that resale shops can continue to sell used children's items without testing them, the updates also state that no one can sell used children's items that violate the new testing standard. Selling these "banned hazardous materials" is a felony offense with a $100,000 fine and jail time - and without performing the testing, resale shops and other resellers have no way of knowing if their items are in compliance. Many used children's items venues just aren't willing to take that kind of risk and are closing their doors in spite of the updates to the CPSIA.

2. The used children's book market will cease to exist.

3. All small and cottage industries related to children's products will have to close their doors. This includes natural, organic, and/or handmade products.

4. Many mid-size companies are closing because of the enormous financial burden of the testing and the paperwork nightmare created by the necessary labeling, tracking, and certification of their products.

5. Many homeschool authors and publishers will be going out of business.

6. The economy will be impacted on several levels: economically challenged families who rely on the children's resale market will suffer, families who lose their businesses will suffer, and families with members who lose their jobs due to businesses closing will suffer. Many related industries (those who produce support products like packaging, equipment, etc.) will suffer from the loss of companies who once bought their products. The companies who can afford the testing will surely pass their costs to all of us.

7. The environmental impact will be staggering as resale shops and other business are forced to dispose of their inventory, and as families who would have donated or sold their children's used items will be forced to discard them.

8. Our freedom to choose the products that we feel are best for our children will be severely hampered. We, for example, place a high value on children's toys made from natural materials like wood or wool, or items that are handmade. We will no longer be able to purchase these items for our children.

9. At this point, libraries will have to ban children 12 and under OR remove all children's books. I have no idea what the impact will be on schools!

Go read some of these links as well.... and for heavens sake, write a letter to your Congressman today!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Edible Color Wheel

We had an art class today - just with Jason and his friend, Nathan, to start out. Jason has been so insistent - he really enjoyed the classes we did last year. But I just haven't been able to get my act together enough to plan anything. I finally decided to just START. I'll figure out if it really works into our schedule later. haha

Anyway, today we made edible color wheels! The supplies were a box of vanilla wafer cookies, a can of vanilla frosting, and some food coloring! Nathan dubbed this "the best art class ever".

First mix up the 3 primary colors : red, blue, and yellow.
Next come the secondary colors: red + yellow = orange; yellow + blue = green; blue + red = violet
Finally, mix a primary color with its neighboring secondary color to make an intermediate color: red + orange= red orange; orange + yellow = yellow orange; yellow+ green = yellow green; green + blue = blue green; blue + violet =blue violet; violet + red = red violet

Voila! A color wheel!

We learned that complementary colors are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. One way to make a shadow is to mix a color with its complementary color.

Top two rows are tints of red and blue - start with the color and gradually add more and more white
Bottom two rows are shades of red and blue - start with the color and gradually add more and more black

After we were done, they got to eat the lesson.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Back to School , or Not

We started back to Co-op today for the 2nd semester. We were supposed to cover TOG Y2 Wks 18 & 19. Well, not too much school work got done over the Christmas holidays, what with traveling to Massachusetts, then coming home and cleaning and visiting with the college kids and enjoying some r & r.

So, okay... we were going to buckle down and really work hard this week, doing a lot of reading about the Reformation in northern Europe, the Counter Reformation, and the reign of Elizabeth I; filling in maps of the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the British Isles; learning about the beliefs of John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. That in addition to math and grammar and music and literature and art... with science and Latin kicking in next week. We were ready.

Ah, what do they say about the best laid plans?

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry
( FYI: The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” - you get that one for free - can't help it, I'm a homeschool mom! )

We're not very good at getting up early, but Monday morning we did pretty well, and got started on our Bible study, math, and reading... but then I needed to run errands for the college kids, who although having been home for at least 3 weeks, remembered that they needed stuff before heading back to campus this week. And then there was basketball practice. And we were still having car issues. And I was waiting for the new clothes dryer to be delivered. And everyone had headaches. And I can't even remember what all else was going on at the beginning of the week... but I was thinking," Tomorrow we'll catch up."


Tuesday night, my dear friend Eileen called to tell me that her father, who lived with them and had been failing for quite a while, had taken a definite turn for the worse and was in his last hours. Family members were on their way from Florida and other far-flung places. You know what? There are more important things than doing schoolwork. Eileen has 3 older children, ages 24 (married w/ a baby), 18, and 15, and 5 adopted littles, ages 5,5,4,2 and 2. So Wednesday morning I drove my 15-y-o daughter, Amanda, and her friend, Emily, over to help with the little kids and then got on the phone and email to help other friends arrange meals for the family for the next few days. By mid-afternoon, Eileen's dad had left this life to walk through the gates of heaven, and shortly thereafter my 10-yr-old and I were on our way over there with 2 trays of chicken divan and a big bowl of salad, as well as homemade bread baked by my friend, Tammy. Other friends were heading over there as well, laden with hugs and sandwiches, Chick-Fil-A nuggets, and cake. We are Christians. We are moms. We live in the South. This is what we do.
Eileen's 3 little boys love my J, and so he played with them while I visited with Eileen and her mom and helped feed the toddlers. We left around 7:30, but at that point, I was tired, so... forget about reading or trying to squeeze in anything "academic" in the evening hours. Nope, not happening.
Thursday we worked for a few hours, but had to leave at 3:30 for basketball games in Oxford, and didn't return home until after 9:00 PM.

So here it is Friday. My Co-op Rhetoric class (9th & 10th gr) was going to spend this morning in dress rehearsal for a play we were to perform tonight at our Unit 2 Celebration. But Eileen's family is part of our Co-op, and Ellie has a main part in the play. It was easily decided mid-week to postpone the Unit Celebration until mid-February. So I pulled together a quick lesson on writing Bibliographies ( a great weakness I discovered in the research papers turned in before Christmas!) and my co-teacher, Tracy, gave a brief overview of John Calvin, and then we held an abbreviated play rehearsal. You know what? It is REALLY good that we have a few more weeks to rehearse this play. :-)

We are homeschoolers - we are FLEXIBLE!!!!!

I have always maintained that education is not just about academics - it is about LIFE. This was one of those weeks when we concentrated on LIFE. In the grand scheme of things, it is our relationship with the Lord and with the people in our lives that matter the most. If we don't cover everything in the lesson book this week, or this month, or even this year.... so what? We are serious about learning and about setting high standards and preparing our children well for the future.... but not at the expense of relationships and service and showing love and compassion to those in need.

Next week looks like a good week to hit the books.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homeschool Humor #1

I found this video posted on another blog, and thought it was hilarious! It pokes fun at the idea that homeschoolers are unsocialized. My kids and I were falling over, we were laughing so hard.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resolutions for the New Year

I avoid making New Year Resolutions... generally because I know myself pretty well and tend to get distracted from even the most well-laid plans! But there are a number of things that I'm hoping for or planning to do in the coming months... and it might not be a bad idea to record them here... then maybe I'll look at them from time to time and be reminded of my good intentions.

1. Go back to making a weekly menu ( I actually just wrote out a 4-week menu! ) I have gotten away from that lately, resulting in way too many late afternoon dashes to the grocery to pick up "something to make for dinner!"

2. Start to exercise again. I'm not exactly sure what... but I'll probably start wearing the pedometer and trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, for starters. Also, if I can get the kids to get the Dance Praise game set up, I think that would be a fun way to get movin'!

3. Add art to our weekly school schedule again. Jason has been very insistent... actually very, very ,very insistent that I teach art class again every week. I love doing art with the kids... it is just so hard to find a consistent spot for it in our weekly schedule!

4. Declutter the bedrooms. We have all been working on the bedroom clutter this week, and have collectively sent about 8 large trash bags of clothes, shoes, and stuffed animals to Goodwill, as well as taken out several bags of trash - ripped clothing, old papers & notebooks, useless knicknacks, candy wrappers, broken pencils, etc. I wish I could say that the rooms look so much better....

5. Scan old photos into the computer and create scrapbooks ( digital ) for each of the kids. I have started scanning in photos, but this could take a really LONG time...

6. Get more sleep - i.e. stop staying up until 2AM doing stuff on the computer!

There are many more things I could add, but I'll stop here for now. Too much at once, and I'll get overwhelmed and just freeze up and do nothing. Let's see if I can start with this list, and just add on the rest gradually. I'll let you know how it goes.