Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Money in the bank

I'm learning it's a good idea to note the good moments, positive traits, helpful deeds, kind words, etc, and "store them in the mental bank."

Then, when you're tempted to think that someone is a jerk, or they never do anything nice or helpful, you can make a withdrawal from it and save everybody's sanity.

I've found it helpful to keep a mental bank account for a spouse as well as for children. But hey, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's a good idea to keep one going for everybody you know.


This morning I had a bit of a slow start. By the time I got up, showered, got dressed, and showed up in the kitchen, it was almost 8:45 am.

Rachael was up and dressed, and had already eaten breakfast with her Dad. [This, of course, earns money in the accounts for both of them.]

Her bed was made, she had unloaded the utensils from the dishwasher, and unloaded and stacked the clean dishes and plates.

She had read a book to Rebecca, done two pages in her Explode the Code phonics book, and was doing some copywork. No one asked her specifically to do any of this.

I was very impressed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My debate with someone who "thoroughly opposes homeschooling"

I had just been thinking a couple days ago how homeschooling is pretty much in the mainstream these days, and most everybody either admires it or thinks it's an acceptable option ....

And then yesterday I read this in the AJC Momania blog. And I had to respond. Maybe it was foolish of me, but I love a good challenge, and I was curious how people would respond to the points I was making.

Here's the excerpts of what I had to say.


It started off with MJG, a teacher, saying:

This will not come as a surprise to anyone but I am thoroughly opposed to home schooling with the exception of a few circumstances.

WHY? One reason is because of the enormity of the task and the fact that I have met several folks who have tried it and then decided it was way too hard. Is this why we require formal education to teach? DUH!

This is kind of like: I can cook…I should open a restaurant. I will order a kit to show me how and then VOILA I am on my way! By the time you spend 40 hours per week preparing and teaching, anyone could work a job and pay the tuition of most schools.

Obviously, she is [understandably] seeing homeschooling as the equivalent of running a public school classroom, but inside your own home. But of course it is really nothing like that, which is the point I was trying to make when I said:

You give the analogy that homeschooling is like a good cook deciding to open a restaurant. But this is not an accurate way to describe what homeschooling is or what we are doing.

Homeschooling parents are not trying to open a restaurant (or open a school). It would be a more accurate analogy to say we are like a good cook who decides to cook for their family instead of taking them to a restaurant every day.

You also say, “By the time you spend 40 hours a week preparing and teaching, anyone could work a job to pay for school.”

First of all, it does not take nearly forty hours a week to “prepare and teach” when you homeschool.

But even the time it does take is very different that if I was out working a job.

For example, I have a two year old. If I worked 40 hours a week to pay for my older children to go to private school, I would also have to pay for the two year old to go to day care.

But since we homeschool, instead the two year can sit in my lap, or in the high chair with a snack, or playing at our feet, while I work with the older kids. Not only is he home with me instead of day care, but it’s free!

Another example: this morning my second grader was doing her math. After I got her started, I went in the next room and did laundry.

Often she works in the kitchen while I cook dinner and wash the breakfast dishes. I can easily answer her questions or check something for her when she needs me.

But if I was away at a job, I couldn’t be cooking dinner and doing dishes and laundry during those hours!

Also ... although obviously it takes effort, I would not describe homeschooling as “hard.” If it is “way too hard” for a family, my guess is that they are either taking on way more than necessary, and/or approaching it in a way that does not fit their family.

Her reply (edited to include the parts directed at me) was:

YES, extremely educated and devoted parents ( who are not throwing in a load of laundry or rocking the baby) CAN be affective teachers. Sorry but most of the parents I have known do not fall in this category.

Jenny, I would love to hear it from professional educators that it does not take 40 hours per week ( you have 2 different grades here) to prepare and instruct children. Your ideas seem ridiculous to me. I cannot imagine teaching 2 children and running around the house doing household things at the same time.

So ... I guess you are not allowed to have an infant or toddler if you are homeschooling -- or, if you do, you have to hire a nanny. See how she still thinks I have the 40-hour week job of a classroom teacher job?

So I tried again:

I think this is the core of why you are against homeschooling:

You are picturing a homeschooling parent to be duplicating the job of a full-time classroom teacher.

We are not classroom teachers. We are not professional educators. (Even the ones who have a teaching background.) I am not juggling the job of teaching second grade with the job of teaching kindergarten. I’m not trying to be. I don’t need to be.

You’re right, a classroom teacher would not bring their two-year to class every day. But I am not a classroom teacher.

You brought up the meal/restaurant analogy, so I’ll use one as well:

If someone ran and owned their own restaurant, they would surely need a babysitter for their two year old while they went to work at that restaurant.

But do most women (or men) hire a babysitter so they can cook dinner for their family? Not that I’ve ever heard of.

Here’s another point: You think it is “ridiculous” that I prepare dinner while my daughter does her work two yards away from me. But I am available in two seconds any time she has a question or needs something. When do public schooled kids ever get the teacher to come answer questions for them the instant they have one?

Similarly, how often does a public schooled child get one-on-one (or two-on-one) time with the teacher? I don’t know, but I would be surprised if it was more than 30 minutes daily (if even that).

My kids easily get more than two hours of it every day, and obviously that still leaves a lot of time left over for doing laundry.

Homeschooling and being a classroom teacher are not the same animal.

I actually thought that was a pretty good response. I like my restaurant analogies, which I just came up with on the spot.

And isn't that silly, for her to think my children can't be learning, because I throw in a load of laundry? What does she think, that I should sit and stare at her for hours non-stop while she works?

So I felt like I was really getting on a roll here, and was looking forward to her response (especially about the idea of how much one-on-one time a public schooled child gets), but all I got was this:

Jenny…respectfully, you are one of the reasons I am against home schooling. Some folks cannot see the forest for the trees.
You are not a classroom teacher and so you cannot understand my points. I am not a homeschooler and so I cannot understand your points. Thanks for sharing, you have made it perfectly clear…to me.

and this, unfortunately, is where everything pretty much fizzled out. She threw in a snippy little insult toward me, then said she was done discussing it, because we would obviously never agree.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it actually felt like she couldn't counter-argue my points, so instead she said, "Well, we'll never agree anyway, so forget it" and left with a parting insult.

Well, hopefully someone out there enjoyed reading what I had to say. And like I said, if nothing else, at least it was a fun challenge for me.

Our FIAR study of Ferdinand

As I've mentioned before, we've recently started using a homeschool "curriculum" (not the word I would use to describe it, but okay) called Five in a Row.

The concept behind FIAR is that you read the same book every day for five ... um, days in a row, doing a different activity with it each day.

This week we are "rowing" (to use the lingo) The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, which is our sixth FIAR book.

This is what it has looked like so far:

Monday (Social Studies day) -- After we read the story, we found Spain on our big world map on the playroom wall. I had printouts from HomeSchoolShare.com of a map where they colored in Spain, and a little booklet to color in the flag of Spain.
Several months ago we got a "Learn Spanish" CD with a Chik-Fil-A kids' meal, so I dug that out and we listened to a few of the lessons.

We also watched the cartoon about Bugs Bunny fighting the bull (remember that one? "What a gull-a-bull! What a nin-cow-poop!"), although that was not speficially suggested in the FIAR manual. :)

Tuesday (Language Arts day) -- Read the book again and listening to some of the Spanish lessons on the CD again. Pointed out how and why the author used techniques like repetition and asking the reader questions (ie, "and who do you think that way?")

We discussed interjections, so of course we had to watch the Schoolhouse Rock video. (Hurray, I' for the other team!")

Rachael dictated part of a story to me about a little Spanish girl going to the bullfight that Ferdinand was in. I don't know if she'll finish it. If she doesn't, that's okay. I'll write it up on lined paper and it will be her Copywork for the next couple of days. Here it is:

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Rosita. She was a very nice girl and lived
in Spain. Her mother was a belly-dancer and her father was a famous artist.

Her father was the kind of person that would never miss a day reading the newspaper. One day he was reading the newspaper when he came upon an ad for a bullfight. He looked up. "Does anybody want to go to a bullfight?" he asked.

"What's a bullfight?" asked Rosita.

"It's a place where you go and watch a fight. There's a matador and a bull. They both fight together until the end when the matador sticks a sword in the bull."

Who would want to go to a show like that? thought Rosita. But she didn't want to disappoint her father, so she said, "I'd like to go."

Then she remembered something. Her friend Raquel always wanted to go to a bullfight. "Can my friend go too?" she asked.

"Of course, if her mother says it's okay," said her father.

So mother got on the phone to call Raquel's house.

Her mother answered. "Hello," said Rosita's mother. "We were just asking if Raquel would like to go to the bullfight with Rosita."

"It's fine with me if it's fine with you," said Raquel's mother.


Later this week I plan to watch a "Learn Spanish" video that I have on hold at the library; do an art activity involving size and distance; have the girls briefly act out some of the scenes; and discuss cork oak trees and clover.

I guess if I was really on the ball, we would be cooking some Mexican food, but I think I'll just let that go.

I'm sure there are some women out there that are having the kids build their own pinata and write to a pen-pal in Spain, but I'm not one of them.

So, as you can see, with one simple picture book from the library and a FIAR manual, you can cover a lot of ground, but it's fairly effortless and doesn't even take that much time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A joke for musicians

If you're a non-musician, you may not be able to appreciate this one ...


Q: How do you stop a keyboard player from playing?

A. Take away his chart.

Q: How do you stop a guitar player from playing?

A. Give him a chart.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Housework and homeschooling

Years ago I had a friend who had a teenage son in public school. "He doesn't have any chores," she said quite frankly. "Keeping up with his schoolwork is his chore."

I wonder if that is common? It does seem like it would be hard to find time to do housework when you're in school for eight hours, have two hours of homework, and are in the school musical or on a sports team.

I often hear the global complaint that "kids today have no responsibilities around the house," although I don't know if there's any truth to it.

Here's an interesting quote from this site:

I am seriously concerned about children today, no manners, no chores, no responsibilities ...

My neighbor ( a 5th grade teacher) once told me that at a holiday party her students were sitting on the floor playing games. A drink was knocked over and she watched the boy who it belonged to. He was uninterested. When she finally asked him why he was not cleaning it up…he said, ” at my house my mom does all the cleaning up…” OH RIGHT!

I certainly think that homeschooling makes it easier for kids to learn to do housework. I know one woman who said that Friday is "Life Skills" day, where they do no bookwork or academics, but instead spend their time cleaning the house and cooking together.

Here's what my girls, ages 5 and 7, are doing around the house these days. (My son does nothing at the moment, not because he is a boy, but because he is only two.)


Both girls have their "morning routine," which consists of making their bed, either tucking their pajamas under the pillow or putting them in the laundry basket (depending on what day it is), getting dressed, brushing their teeth and hair, and carrying their breakfast dishes to the sink (although I often do the last part for them.) They also need to do a brief pick-up of their room.

Rachael, age 7, has the "job" of unloading the utensils out of the dishwasher every morning. She says she likes to do that.

At dinnertime (this is a new thing) the girls set the table: Rebecca, age 5, sets out the napkins, and Rachael does the rest.

After lunch and dinner, about 90% of the time they both help clear the table, including scraping their plates and putting them in the dishwasher. (The rest of the time I tell them they can go, and I'll take care of it for them.)

Lately I've started something new that works nicely: while Rachael does her "independent schoolwork" in the morning, Rebecca and I sort and start the laundry. We sort the whites and colors, then put in a load together. She enjoys that, especially pouring in the detergent and fabric softener, and picking the right settings on the machine and turning it on.

One day a week, I haul up all the clean underwear and socks that have accumulated in the laundry basket. I dump it all on the floor and ask one or both girls to come sort out their underwear and socks (and Benjamin's socks), pair the socks up, and put it all away. I put away the rest of the clean laundry while they do this.

When we go grocery shopping, they help me load the conveyor belt. When we get home, I bring the groceries upstairs and set the bags at the top of the stairs. The girls both carry the bags from there to the kitchen, empty them, and put some of it away. This is a huge help, and I am surprised at how good they are at it. Today they were doing this while I changed Benjamin, and when I got to the kitchen the bags were all emptied, there was ice cream and waffles in the freezer, etc.

So, it is not very much. But it is definitely way more than what I was doing at their age.

Is it more than the typical schooled kid? I have no idea.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Disney Photos - Misc

Okay, this is the final set of Disney Photos, which means I have to think
of something New and Insightful to post about tomorrow ...

I realized, while looking through the pictures, that there are almost no shots
of any rides. But here's Rebecca on the Carousel!

The Christmas tree at the entrance of Animal Kingdom was pretty cool.

Can you stand some more character shots?
Here's Minnie Mouse signing Rachael's book. I really do need to learn
how to make hard copies.

Rachael always had plenty to tell the different characters.
Notice how "in awe" Rebecca looks in this picture.

Well, it was a good trip, even though we did feel kind of cheated
due to getting sick. Well, I guess that just means we'll have to go
back again, huh? I'm tentatively thinking maybe Fall of 2010.
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Disney Photos - More characters

We had two character meals: Chef Mickey's, and the Princess Storybook Lunch
that only Rachael and I could go to.

In addition to that, we saw lots of other characters. Here's a few:

I think both girls said that seeing Ariel was their favorite.
This is "Ariel's Grotto" in the Magic Kingdom.

I kept thinking to myself (rather wistfully, I suppose)
how fascinating it would be to be a Professional Princess all day.

We really did not care for Hollywood Studios.
Unfortunately, that was sort of the last real day of our vacation,
because the series of vomiting began the next morning.

However, the Playhouse Disney show was really fun.
Here's, um ... Leo and Annie, from Little Einsteins,
outside the Disney Playhouse theater.
The kids also got their picture taken with the characters from JoJo's Circus.

Rachael with Chip and Dale at Animal Kingdom!

Rachael and Benjamin with Donald Duck at Animal Kingdom!
Rachael told DD that he was her favorite character, so he wrote "#1"
next to his signature in the book. She thought that was pretty neat.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Disney Photos -- The Grand Floridian

What was ironic about this trip was that my parents were originally going to go with us.
My mother spent quite a bit of time of the phone making the arrangements,
and they paid for a good chunk of it as well.

Then my mother got sick, and they weren't even able to come.

Anyway, my mother really wanted to stay at the Grand Floridian Resort,
so that's where we were.

Of course if it had been us planning (and completely
paying for) the trip, we would have stayed at some hotel off Disney property.
Robert even made some sort of joke that we were like the Beverly Hillbillies
staying there.

But it was very nice being able to hop on the monorail to get everywhere.

Watching the monorail go by was the main form of entertainment when we were actually
in the room. Not surprisingly, the monorail was the Big Hit of the trip for Benjamin.

There was a big Christmas tree in the lobby.
I took this picture of Robert and Rachael right before we left to go to the Princess lunch.

There was a also a big gingerbread house/candy store in the lobby.
Yes, it's made of real gingerbread, and the entire lobby smelled of ginger.

I kept telling the kids we would buy some candy there, but come to think of it,
we never did. Oops.

One night Rachael and I walked over to a part of the resort where there was a good view
of the boat light show and fireworks. That was nice, just because it was kind of different.
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Disney Photos -- Animal Kingdom

On Thursday, Rebecca was still sick and Robert was Not Feeling Great
(he got Officially Sick after we got home, just in time for Christmas),
so Rachael, Benjamin, and I headed to Animal Kingdom ourselves.

Benjamin was excited because we got to ride the "cool bus" to get there.

We had lunch at the Tusker House in Africa.
It was very good, probably my favorite restaurant, with Whispering Canyon as a close second.
I loooved the bread pudding.

We had never been to Animal Kingdom before, and I had heard some mixed reviews.
Basically, I liked it. It was pretty and shady and a little different.

In addition to enjoying the Tusker House, we saw a neat bird show and got to see a lot of characters
(which Rachael really liked now that she had the autograph album).

We would have stayed longer, but Benjamin wasn't doing so well. I thought he was just tired.
It never occured to me that he (and I) were the next to be hit with the stomach virus.

These animal photos are all from Kilamanjaro Safari, which we all liked a lot:

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Disney Photos -- Magic Kingdom at night

We didn't go to any of the evening shows at the other parks,
but we did get to see the parade at Magic Kingdom.

I took a lot of pictures of the parade, but the only one that came out
semi-decent is this one of Cinderella. They're all pretty blurry.
The parade was cool, though.

After the parade Rebecca really wanted to ride the Haunted Mansion,
and Rachael really did not want to ride the Haunted Mansion.
So Robert took Rebecca while the rest of us waited and watched the fireworks from
inside a restaurant (due to the noise).

Here's the Cinderella Castle. Beautiful, beautiful.

Me and the girls on Main Street. I took a picture of Robert with the kids,
but unfortunately it came out even more blurry than this one.

I guess these pictures are better than nothing, but they really don't capture
the truly magical feeling at night, especially at Christmas time. It was wonderful.
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Disney Photos -- Minnie's House

The girls wanted me to take a lot of pictures of them inside
Minnie's house in ToonTown.

So I did.

Here they are by the fireplace.

This picture sums up Rachel pretty well.

Oh, but I like this one of her too.

It's always nice, as a parent, to see pictures of your kids looking like
they really love and enjoy each other.

Of course, seeing it in real life is always a good thing, too.
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Disney Photos - Wilderness Lodge

Our first full day at Disney (sorry, I'm not writing these in chronological order),
we went to the Magic Kingdom and had lunch reservations at the Whispering Canyon Cafe
at the Wilderness Lodge.

We took a boat from MK to WL, which was half the fun.

Here's the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge. We liked it a lot.
We said that maybe our next trip we would consider staying there,
but Rachael insisted that the Grand Floridian was much nicer.

Here's Becca and Benjamin in another part of the lobby.

The lunch was really good -- ribs, chicken, that kind of thing.
The kids loved the cornbread, funny as that sounds.

At one point they gave all the kids a stick horse and had them take a ride
around the inside of the restaurant. Rachael liked that a lot.

Here's Robert with the kids, looking at the geysers while we waited
for the boat to come and take us back.
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Disney photos - Princess Lunch at Epcot

Wednesday morning we were all scheduled for a Princess Storybook Lunch in the Norway section of Epcot.

Less than an hour before we were going to leave, Rebecca threw up.

When she was done, she said she was fine and still wanted to go, so we cautiously headed out, thinking that maybe she got it out of her system and would be okay..

This is me and the girls in front of the huge Christmas tree in the Grand Floridian lobby,
about five minutes before Rebecca said she still felt sick and wanted to stay home.
Robert (who wasn't feeling that great either) took her back to the hotel room for the day,
and figured he might as well have two year old Benjamin stay behind too.

So it was just me and Rach at the lunch

Here's Rachael with Cinderella. She was a good Princess.
She asked where Rachael was from, and when Rachael answered, "Georgia,"
Cinderella said, "Oh my, that must have been a long carriage ride!"
She also commented that she and Rachael had matching headbands, which Rachael liked a lot.

It was an interesting contrast to Jasmine, who said to Rachael, "Can I borrow your pen?"
and then left and never came back with it, causing Rachael to burst into tears.
(Fortunately, Ariel got her a new pen.)

After the lunch, Rachael said she was disappointed that Mary Poppins wasn't there ...
well, look, who do we see here, down the street from Norway? Look how happy Rachael is!

Then someone told us that Pooh and his friends were at the toy store around the corner.
There was no line or anything; we just walked right in and saw them!

When we first showed up for the Princess Lunch, the restaurant workers asked if Rachael
had an autograph book. When she said no, they gave her one!
So maybe one of these days I'll actually learn how to make a hard copy of digital pictures
so we can put them in the album with the autographs.
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Disney Trip - Chef Micky's

On the third day before our trip, before people started getting sick, we had breakfast at Chef Micky's.

If you're not familiar, it's a buffet in the Disney Contemporary Resort with Micky and his friends coming to each table. Like Rob said, the atmostphere and food is similar to Shoney's breakfast bar (which is not a bad thing), at about three times the price.

Here's me with Micky and all three kids.

Here's Minnie Mouse (Rebecca's favorite) looking at Benjamin's car.
When we checked into our hotel, one of the workers gave him this car, from the Cars movie, which was pretty neat.

Here's Donald Duck with Rachael and Rebecca.
Rachael said that DD is her favorite.

Here's Rachael with her Daddy!
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Disney Pictures: Part One

Two weeks before Christmas, we went to Disney World.

It was fun to go at Christmas time, but it was also a bit of a whirlwind. I don't think I will plan a vacation in December again for a while. I had a bunch of doctor appointments for me and Rachael to squeeze in before we left, one Christmas concert the week before, and of course had to do all the baking and shopping before we left.

Then, at Disney World, we all got a stomach virus, starting with Rebecca. Actually, Rachael was lucky; she was the only one to get it after we came home.

One or more people in our family stayed sick through Christmas, and until December 30, which happened to be the day that Rachael had to be put fully under for an MRI.

So ...

It might be understandable that I hadn't even looked at any of these pictures til about a week ago, let alone post them.

For some reason, I can never post more than pictures at a time. So here's the first installment: These are pictures of Rachael and Rebecca in a little store in ToonTown, right after the waited in line to see the Princesses:

This is so Rebecca.

Fun with hats!

A car on Rachael's head -- Benjamin would have liked that!
He and his Daddy were riding the race cars in Tomorrowland at the time.

More to come ...
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