A good school day?

What makes a good school day? Is a good school day the same as just a good day? Or how about a good family day or spiritual day? Does everyday have to be all those things? Can some days be all those things or most of them, and others only one?

For us some days we are studiously attending to our lesson plans and sticking to the chore chart in the kitchen like it's carved in stone, and other days we don't even bother opening the lesson plan and it's supper before I say, "Did somebody feed these dogs, whose day was it?"

Today we did not open a book. Well Corey did Biology, but when I don't know. I wasn't paying very close attention, because I was getting ready for our volleyball games with our homeschool league (I coach, ref and run it) while tending to my hubby who's still home sick and who was, as a side note, bringing himself to terms with the fact that he was home and I was leaving the house to carry on with my intended schedule for the day .

Today the beds did not get made, and the floor did not get it's much needed sweeping and mopping, but the dogs got fed! I fed them and it was NOT my day. As far as home management goes I must be holding my own because the rest of the house was alright and the laundry was caught up.

So was this a "good school day"? The kids played volleyball, worked on the farm, and essentially hung out with their dear friends from 10:30 am to 9 pm. I can't even, with a straight face on this one, go all unschooly and say they learned about some life skill, or nature, or they watched an educational program.

What they did learn was that there was a loophole in the McDonald's Playplace Policy. It said kids 3-12 and parents too! Well they reasoned if weight or size is an issue then parents couldn't go in, so the management couldn't argue that perspective. If they are in with younger siblings in the stead of a parent they should be permitted, and if all else fails they could plead discrimination against teenagers. 2 of them were still 12 if only for a few more weeks, so only the other two were wiggling the rules a bit. They were very careful of the 2-3 younger kidlets and they virtually had the digs to themselves anyway. They would have never raised an eyebrow except that they fell into the emergency bar on the outer door and sent an alarm screaming. But even after the manager reset it they went on playing without being questioned. Is looking for a loophole a life skill? How about if you're a CPA? I won't even touch that tonight. LOL

All in all I finished up my work, though late this evening. I made homemade vegetable beef soup for my patient, which seemed to smooth over my absence all afternoon and I am making the time to think all this through before heading off to my prayers. I think it was a good day, I enjoyed every moment with my kids today, every moment. They are growing up so quickly and this time is so precious and fleeting. Good school day? I don't really care, it was a good day.

Many blessings to you and yours,

The hardest job

Did I just say in my previous post that my hubby's job is hard? I take it back. Alright, alright, I take it mostly back, he still works hard...but he told me I work harder so I'm going with his vote!

I know plenty of people might get up on their soap box to argue with me but this is my blog and my opinion, and therefore my soap box, so get down!! I have something to say. Being a full time, stay at home, homeschooling mom is the hardest job in the world. Period.

It's the hardest because anyone with any career outside the home has a better chance of holding on to their identity than someone who spends their entire life within the walls of their home, and with their children. When your life is about the care and really the service to your family, there is less and less time for you. Less time to pursue your passions, interests, hobbies, exercise, (shower) and to just continue to be you. There is less of you and more of everyone else. You give everything you have to your kids, your home, your husband, and at the end of the day the tank is truly empty. You must fill it back- never forget that!

Moms don't get to have their feelings hurt, we can't be sick, we can't be irritable or short tempered, we can't lose patience, heart or hope. We have to be a brilliant, creative, loving, kind, all-knowing force all day, everyday... FOREVER oh and do it in lipstick.

No problem.

I don't know about you, but I do everything in my home. I am the CEO, and dh is a lot like the Chairman of the Board, he shows up for votes, and weighs in on major stuff, smokes a cigar once a year. Okay he does a little more than that but that's not very funny. Seriously though this family is a corporation. We have assets, liabilities, we have a product, we have resources for which we are stewards. We have a central operating office, we have board members, employees, and contractors, which all must be managed. I was thinking...I don't know of too many other CEO's who have to clean the toilets in their building and stock the break room with nutritious snacks, with two black labs under their feet.

There is a monotony that can happen when you are in the home raising and schooling your children that doesn't find a counterpart in the workforce and you must be ever mindful of it . Even at an assembly line job you see that you are turning out a widget or something. You may be doing the same monotonous thing each day but the visualization that something is completed because of your efforts is a tiny reward. For moms the reward will not show itself for many, many years.

I wash the same clothes, towels, dishes, and floors every single day. I clear the countertops a dozen times a day. I cook 3 meals a day nearly everyday. I have been on my own since I was 17, and a mom for 17 yrs. That means I have prepared probably 17388 meals since my first child was born. Okay yes we eat out some. If I take off say 10% that is still 15650 meals. Not to mention the lunches I send with hubby that are different than what we are eating. Or the 3 different lunches I make for my kids some days because one only wants to eat from the orange food group (cheetos, cheese, mac and cheese), one has decided she is a vegetarian, and the other bats clean up eating whatever they don't finish and then some.

It's the hardest job but then I have never been known for doing things the easiest way. Somedays I hate the work. Somedays I am lonely. Most days I am tired physically, and emotionally. But somehow every morning I am bathed in grace. His mercies are new everyday. Christ gives me the strength, the heart, the coffee, to truly live out my vocation another day-not just survive it but to live it and love it.

When the days are the hardest I try to smile at my kids more. I try to hug them, kiss their foreheads and tell them I love them more. I listen for their laughter. The times when they play together quietly and nicely. I decide on those hard days that we will have a big lunch and sit at the dining room table with real dishes (instead of paper plates) and we will eat and talk and visit together. Sometimes I'll get out the nice wine glasses down (and liquor them up-just kidding!) and we have apple juice at lunch and say cheers and toast each other. I try to find some way to get back to the whole point, the purpose, the "why" of it all. It's right there in their bright eyes. In their potential for sainthood, love, joy, and life. It's worth the sacrifice and I wouldn't dream of doing any other job.

more perks for me, many thanks for my dh

I know we moms feel we have cornered the market on martyrdom, but I was feeling bad for my dear hubby today. He hauled himself to work this morning though he'd been home sick yesterday and needed to stay home today too.

I must share this! He emailed me that his temperature was 100.3 and he asked, "is that high?" Bless his heart, he is never sick. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that only a few weeks ago when both the boys had the flu, their fevers got as high as 104.5! Now he is back on the couch and calling out tomorrow.

I have all the respect in the world for my hubby. I remember when he was a policeman and he would work 16-18 hour days following the hurricane. He was so exhausted but he kept dragging out there catching the looters and helping old ladies. What a man, really. We are far from that disaster now (thankfully) but off he goes to slay the dragons everyday and I am here teaching the kids (obviously not at this exact moment), keeping the fire going (literally), fixing food (most days), keeping house, doing the laundry that never ends, managing the money, running the house, and doing before and after school care.

Oh and of course there is what I spend most of days doing...
let the dogs out
let the dogs in
let the dogs out
let the dogs in
let the dogs out
let the dogs in
let the dogs out
let the dogs in

We both have our stresses, they are different no doubt. My job may be more so on some days but I know his is worse than mine on others too. I am at least with my family everyday which I know he would give his right arm to be able to say. I am comfortable, warm and safe. I can lay down on the couch when I absolutely need to, I can take a bath if I'm having a "Calgon take me away" day. I can chat on the phone or diddle on the computer without fear of repercussions.

Some other things I have on him because I get to be home-

  • I always know what's for dinner (or what we are getting from take out)
  • I always know what we're doing tonight that I signed us up for without asking him
  • I know what we have and what we are out of so I don't stand with the fridge open for 10 minutes looking for pineapple salsa
  • I don't have to wonder if I'll have clean jeans or underwear the next day
  • I never run too late to make coffee...I would rather be late
  • I am there for all the kids firsts, I have all their stories etched on my heart & mind
  • I know whether or not I am going to have sex that night
Okay enough babbling...I would LOVE a nap but it's not a viable option, the kids might burn down the house and they certainly wouldn't be studying tonight about the American Revolution. More coffee it is!

Peace, Robin

Horton hears... a script for Ritalin and the sound of my hard earned cash going down the drain

Caution: "Horton Hears a Who" review --will contain spoilers about the movie

So we went to see the movie with friends from our homeschool group. I am not impressed and more than disappointed, as Horton is a childhood favorite of mine.

For starters, the villain is a homeschooling Kangaroo mom. She tells the other mothers after watching Horton with their children, as their apparent teacher, that this is precisely why they "pouch school" junior, as she shoves him down in her pouch. More on this later. I didn't enjoy it for many other reasons, the homeschool dig was only one of my issues.

It was entirely too loud, and I don't mean volume. Horton a.k.a Jim Carrey was so hyper so loud, so utterly un-nuanced it was bordering manic. Unlike the performance of Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin, Jim's performance was hyper for the sake of being hyper. There were so few down moments. Horton appeared to me to be virtually schizophrenic.

The mayor wants his son desperately to follow in his footsteps and those of their entire family. Yet he seemingly hates his job, has little power and respect and the imagery of the portraits of the ancestors staring down at them from their hallway was intimidating. Why exactly would a good dad want that for his son? The son doesn't speak, and though they toss in one line about not wanting to let his dad down, there is no further development of this relationship or conflict. The son is secretly building this giant musical in the observatory. Why? He doesn't know they live on a speck. The whole thing was 'deus ex machina' , or God out of machine, a lazy writing technique to wrap up things.

Horton never displayed genuine fear. He was determined but without purpose. He was too hyper and unthoughtful to recognize he was taking on the entire jungle. There can be no courage or bravery without fear. The hero must conquer their fear to truly be a hero.

Piglet, in the Pooh stories, is a hero because he conquers his great fears even though they may be as small as walking under a dark tree. Tigger isn't the hero when he jumps a gorge because he is just doing what he does, being Tigger.

Horton is written in the books more like Eeyore, he isn't Tigger, but in this movie that's not the case and so Horton lost his heart, courage and charm for me.

The homeschool element backfired in my opinion because in the end Horton's students, the public schooled kids, lynched him because they were going along with the crowd. They started and stopped and did whatever the crowd did. The homeschooled child, Junior, had the courage to leave the pouch and do what was right.

Horton as a teacher was an utter failure, though the kids enjoyed him. When the parents explicitly told him not to discuss the speck he did so against their wishes and told them not to tell their parents, and to keep it their secret...um, not a good teacher.

All in all, it's a cute little movie but it falls horribly short of the standard of wonderful family movies like Cars, Over the Hedge, Toy Story (look for Toy Story 3 in 2010) or Finding Nemo. These movies demonstrate how heart, value, love and family can be integrated without losing one ounce of comedy adults can enjoy too. In fact the comedy is enhanced through the character development and the attachment between the characters and the audience. In the end, I didn't really give a "Who" about any of them.

Wish I'd saved my $38.00 for 5 of us and rented it later on a Friday night when I could have turned it down a bit.


Further thoughts on the dragons...

Regarding recent comment regrading dragons: "Fairies aren't bad. Calling evil things "good" is bad. Using traditional symbols for evil for good characters is bad."

My thinking on this is a little different. I would agree to call something good that IS evil is a bad idea and should never be taught but is that what we are talking about? I don't think so at all.

I think stories which contain both good and evil witches or good and evil dragons like Eragon for example, are actually wonderful ways for older children to understand that sin and evil are CHOICES. Choices each of us face whether we are people, fairies, dragons, no matter what
our world looks like. No matter how much evil, sorrow, pain, sadness, or power surrounds us, we must choose God, and His good things. Those who are born into pagan faiths, addiction, same sex attraction, or abusive families, even those who have committed terrible crimes, surely
having a tougher row to hoe, but does that mean they cannot choose God, choose good and be elevated beyond their birth into sin at some point in their life? Of course not.

I find stories about characters that would easily be viewed as evil but who overcome all their tendencies, the peer pressure, their very nature to choose good, to be very inspirational. It shows me that everyone no matter how evil can ultimately opt to live right and follow Christ. Of
course often times in literature their goodness isn't attributed to God, but that also doesn't bother me. This falls easily under Catholic teaching. Those who have not heard the Good News, have a conscience imprinted on their hearts by God to know good and evil and they are
duty bound to follow it.

If you get right down to it, people are evil, all of us. We are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. There is NO good in us that doesn't come from Christ. The Bible tells the story of mankind, and how we can be saved and abandon our sinfulness if we follow Christ. So all stories are about bad creatures (including mankind) choosing good or evil. Whether some wear funny hats, ride on brooms or have wings is beside the point to me.

Understand too that there are in fact many products(too many for my taste) - literary, film, and games that have essentially no redeeming characters. Just because a dragon CAN be portrayed as a hero or a good guys doesn't mean that all things dragon are okay.

Please consider the standard disclaimer attached to this - there must be balance and not immersion in such things (saint studies, scripture, catechesis and the like are essential and should be the focus) these concepts are not for the very young, and must be fully understood by
the adults, and parents have to know their kids, etc.


On fairies & dragons - are they negative influences?

I think what's most important with regards to this topic is to allow the mere possibility that other Catholics might make different choices about fairies, superheroes or Harry Potter and they
aren't bad parents, bad Catholics or even wrong.

Families have to make choices based on their ability to explain, monitor and illuminate (which I define as finding value and making Christian connections) any of these literary elements. I have NO problem with fairies or other fantasy creatures.

We have a house filled with superheroes, and my yahoo ID you will notice has WW. The mythology behind Wonder Woman is that she was an Amazon Princess and her mother Queen Hippolyta formed her from clay at the river and she was brought to life by the gods.
She is immortal in the comic world, the world of Zeus. I think this might be confusing for a very young child but not to later elementary aged. It's a cool story if you ask me.

My explanation about fairies is that they are made up, mythical creatures. I would explain frequently and more in depth as the child grows how common it is that the secular world will in literature mimic truths and realities such as angels. I think parents have to know their
child. If the child is easily lost into a fantasy world I would avoid it altogether.

For parents who aren't going to take the time to read HP for example, research the latin roots, and mythological background and then explain it so their kids don't actually want to go try to become warlocks they should refrain from reading those books. You have to be fully prepared to steer your child's course through anything that has even the slightest potential to mislead them.

When I think fairies I think, Tinkerbell. I cannot fathom how this could be dangerous. If CS Lewis and Tolkein can enjoy woodland fairies etc, I can too.

I am often saddened by my own Protestant days when my faith was so small, and my God so tiny that I was afraid to play cards, dance, drink a glass of wine, watch Disney movies with witches or read books that might challenge my beliefs or which I was sure might corrupt my
children forever.

As a Catholic my God, my faith, can match anything the world has to offer. I don't have to take it all in but I can prayerfully discern and with His help enjoy many of the wonderful works of literature and fantastical creatures and myths the amazing minds He has created can
think up.

I would say that's my two cents on the matter but it's probably more like a dimes
worth :)

A woman was preparing Sunday dinner. She cut off the end of the ham and placed it in the pan. Her husband said, "Why do you cut the end of the ham off?" Puzzled she thought about it and said, "I'm not sure, my mom always did." She decided to call her mom and ask why she cut the end of the ham off. Her mom's response was, "My mom always did." So they called grandma, and asked her. She said her mom had always done so, so she did too. Determined to get to the bottom of this they conference called great-grandma and explained how they each cut off the end of the ham because their mom had always done so. Finally they asked grandma, "Why do we all cut off the end of the ham?"

"Well I don't know why ya'll do it but my pan was too short."

There is great wisdom in this little anecdote. As women, as mothers, we have to be ever vigilant about what we carry and pass on to our children. This is not only appropriate for people who came from abusive homes but for us all. I know my mother is proud and grateful that I have access to more resources and better information than she did as a young mother. I use more than a few of her recipes, but I have made choices that are very different from hers, like homeschooling.

While many things are routine, or traditional for good cause that's not always the case. I think it's good to question, to reassess sometimes the laws we've laid down. Okay, this might seem like a silly one but I had to get over the idea that certain foods had to be eaten at certain times. My daughter wanted cold pasta one morning for breakfast many years ago and I was horrified, my son loves cold pizza. I got over it. Hey they are eating, and possibly more importantly they are clearing out leftovers, and I don't have to cook!

I recently decided it was okay if we didn't attend Mass as a pack. Corey prefers the early Mass, and he takes Taylor with him on Sunday mornings when she sees the this side of 9 am.

I've given up on perfection. I don't clean when I have guests.

science and history in elementary school

Children should know about their world. The birdds that fly in their yard, their weather, their geography, their history.

How does a Charlotte Mason home feel?

For me Charlotte Mason's method is largely about a feeling. It's much more difficult to nail this element down. I can't give you a reading list or a checklist. What does the home feel like? Is it warm and inviting? Are the children learning all the time? Do they have a spirit of interest and are they intrigued by anything they don't know or fully understand? Do they love to read and you find them reading all the time on their own? Do they love music? How do they spend their free time?

Is the home peaceful without feeling like a mausoleum? There's a lot of laughter in my home, but there is a lot of quiet too. When the tv is on, it has to be kept down. Everyone needs to be respectful and refrain from continually taking the volume of the house up by talking over one another or the television.

Free time? I think a CM home finds children working on projects, making art, listening to music, reading, and of course enjoying the outdoors. I think electronics have to be greatly limited. Unless you have a child doing graphic art, video production, music composition or some other study/hobby requiring the computer/electronics, they should be directed to other activities. I have a guideline of about 1 hour of video gaming/computer gaming each day per child.

You have to be well prepared. Have books, games, paints, crafts, clay, models, sewing projects, recipes and lots of ideas. You don't need to Ms. Crafty & Creative but you have to be determined. The internet, books, blogs, and message boards are so filled with ideas you could never do them all. When the kids seem to be bored or wanting to lose themselves into the tv or video game...snap them out of it. Give them the video camera and tell them to make grandma a video or make a movie with their dolls or action figures. Let them loose in the kitchen to bake a cake or make bread. Pull out the paints and see what happens. They start slow but then they take off on their own.

It should feel safe, comfortable, and interesting. It should be a home where ideas, events, beliefs, all things are discussed, dissected and appreciated. It is marked by respect. Respect for the parent, one another, the home, nature, and all their blessings. It finds it's strength in responsibility, each person taking care of their duties, and striving to do them well. It is accented by beauty, good food, music and all the finer things in life.

Yesterday my youngest (7) William spent time watching birds from the front windows in the classroom. He identified the them, and watched them retrieve materials for their nests. With the binoculars he could track them to a great distance and see them return. He spotted sea gulls and we determined that they had likely come down from Lake Michigan, which we located on the large wall map, and chatted about how long it took them to fly here, and what they'd seen.

He and Taylor spent hours working with clay. Corey worked outside, cleaned stalls and split wood. We did lots of reading, computer work, and math.

I made rice krispy treats and we watched Animal Planet in the evening. It was a laid back day and we didn't hit all the academic marks I might have set, but I was not about to stop their clay work to do book work and that is fine by me.

Daily Rhythm

I wish more than anything I could have mastered this elusive element of homeschooling sooner, like 9 yrs ago when I began! I realize I have it mastered now, but have come to understand that "mastery" has built into it a few KEY elements I had to accept 1)Some days go completely sideways and it's okay. 2) There will be gaps in any education and that too is okay. 3)The very best I can really manage is to hit most marks on most days and always try to do better. 4)Anything I try only works for a little while and I have to recognize the changes and adapt.

My motto: Improvise, adapt, overcome.

I love to organize, I love lists. I struggled early on with over planning, then too little, and finally settled into just enough planning. I call it Goldilocks does Home Management - it's clean enough, organized enough, decorated enough, and for our family it's just right.

I plan and post a menu for everyday, one week at a time. It's much easier to make healthy, affordable meals with a menu and for the most part having that menu posted protects me from myself. I don't have to think and agonize over meals, and what I am hungry for, I just pull whatever I need out of the freezer. I shop from those lists so everything is on hand - no brainer. On days when I blow the menu plan, I don't beat myself up about it I could blow it once a week, and still that would mean I planned 313 meals a year!! 86% that's a stat I can live with.

The kids have morning, afternoon and evening chores. There aren't many and they don't take long, but when we all do them regularly everything stay pretty neat. All the chores that need doing are divided among us throughout the week. When I walk by a dusty table on Monday I don't stop what I am doing to dust it. I say, "hey it'll get dusted on Wed." These lists include about everything - cleaning fridge, straightening pantries, vacuuming stairs, straightening drawers in kitchen, you name it. Even with this system, at least one Saturday a month we still have to clean for a couple hours...oh well.

I have checklists for their chores. I made them once and never have to do it again. If your job is the bathroom, there's a checklist. Once they master it, the list is tossed until they start slipping.

We have a loose schedule for subjects and our day. It is fluid, and ever-changing with activities but it's written and posted and we use it most days.

Most days I feel like that old US Army commercial, "I get more done before 9 am, than most people do all day."

I have found there are plenty of hours in the day, I just don't always use them very wisely. I read a lot, have time to exercise though not always the inclination, and generally run a pretty smooth house.

For me the key was managing my time and self discipline and it's STILL a work in progress. Whether I like it or not, and even though it doesn't seem fair, this entire house rests squarely on my shoulders, everyday. When I am down it slides, when I am lazy it collapses, when I fail to call upon Jesus for strength even my best efforts do not meet the needs. I must manage our family finances, and see to the upkeep and repair of everything. I'm responsible for the health and care of all the people and the 3 dogs, the education of my children as well as their social life, and moral and spiritual development. I must nurture a happy family, a strong marriage, make dessert, and about a 200 other things, and do it all in tennis shoes, hair and makeup!! No small task right?!

I live by a few cliches - fail to plan, plan to fail. No pain no gain, coffee and chocolate are "absolute goods", and a happy home is better than a perfect one. I don't beat myself up over failures, I just move on and try harder and when all else fails I take the laundry to the laundro-mat

Blessings for your day,