Friday, November 30, 2012


I read a few things this week about stories and if I were a person with extra time or a really good blogger I'd find them and link to them, but I'm not so I won't. One of them was about how most schools in the country are working toward a common core curriculum. Apparently finding out that things like the FCAT and Sunshine State Standards and other state's versions aren't having the desired results, the push is toward everyone not just being taught to the test but being taught to the same test. Anyway this is not a criticism on schools, my young son is very likely going to public school next year {how do you like how I just slipped that in there?}. The gist of this particular article was that in these so called common core standards, fiction will play a very small role. This is truly sad, I love stories, and think that you can learn a lot from them. Ironically the other thing that I read this week was a quote from a pro-homeschooling guy Andrew P-something who sells a well known homeschool writing curriculum. In essence it said the opposite about fiction, specifically 'listened to fiction' (as in read aloud or audiobook) is one of the best things you can do for your kids (or yourself)... actually I'm copying and pasting because these people said it better than I can...It's especially critical, Pudewa says, to read aloud after children are reading fluently to themselves. He differentiates between what happens when a child is reading to himself, and what happens when an adult reads aloud to him. They are both important, but too often we value independent reading over listening to oral reading, and that, he says, is a huge mistake. Kids who read copiously do not just evolve naturally into good writers. Good writers have a storehouse of sophisticated language patterns, and those have to come through the ear. We've got to read aloud to our children in massive, massive quantity. This is music to my ears and I know it to be true. We are huge story people around here, and let me tell you there are lessons to be learned from even the most mundane of stories. We have homeschooled exclusively with the exception of Jake going to preschool, Madi currently taking one high school class, and Jake's plans for next year {there it is again!}, and prior to 'high school' my kids did not do a Language Arts curriculum. Not only that, because of his eye issues, Jonathan really avoids what I call reading with his own eyes (or I guess I should say eye, since he only uses one at a time), but we read aloud and listen to audiobooks ALL THE TIME!!! My first point is, in her public school English honors class, Madi is getting a 99% and in his virtual school English class for the third year in a row Jonathan is also getting an extrememly high A. This is because we listen to and talk about stories ALL. THE! TIME!! Madi just finished Romeo and Juliet and Jonathan is in the middle of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I'm not only talking about classics here. I'm even talking about TV show "stories" like The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory. We talk frequently in our family about themes in TV shows and books. We just finished listening to the third Richard Paul Evans book in The Walk series. This is a book written for adults, but Jake enjoyed it as much as the rest of us (I had already read them with my own eyes, so it was my second time through the story). The other day I was asking Jake some questions about Star Wars because all of my life I've managed to get by not watching or understanding much of it. He was watching one ot the newer ones where Annikan is the cute little boy and I was asking Jake to explain to me how he turned into meanie Darth Vader (Vadar?). He said to me, "You know how in the Walk books Alan is walking because his wife died, well that's sort of how Annikan ended up as Darth Vadar (er?)". Themes like picking on somebody to avoid being the one picked on come up all the time, I specifically bring up The 100 Dresses and Blubber and sometimes even Pontius Pilate when these themes show up. Today we saw a great play in Orlando about Christmas spirit and how you have to believe, that is certainly a popular theme. A point that I'm trying to make here in my jumbled roundabout way is that my 17 year old can appreciate the merrits of a play written for 4th graders (especially if they have good lighting) and my 4th grader can understand some really deep themes in literature as well. The best part is we can and do enjoy these things together and discussing them afterwards contributes immensely to understanding. This understanding leads to greater empathy for others. Whether my kids schooling is happening online, on the couch, or in a brick and mortar building, much of their education will continue to take place in the car, in a theatre or even in front of the TV immersing themselves in a good story and then discussing it with people they love.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just trying to catch up

Here's the thing about life, it keeps happening everyday. There's no time to catch up on it because it just keeps coming. There are tons of things that I'd like to blog about, but in the meantime, here are a few pics about what we are doing instead of blogging.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


There's a very different title huh? Sunday morning getting ready for Mass, Jake called me into his room and I noticed he was wearing black jeans and a green golf shirt. Not the best church clothes, but ok. Jake was going to be altar serving so he'd have a robe on anyway, and he was wearing his black dress shoes. The next kid I saw dressed was Jonathan, in the kitchen, a blue golf shirt and nice jeans. Ok too I guess. Jonathan runs the power point screen for 9:30 Mass, and since he was needing to go right from church to the theatre it made more sense than dirtying more laundry. Now it was almost time to leave and there comes the girl down the stairs...more jeans! Now I was getting a little annoyed. Is this the best thing our kids can find to wear to God's house?! Madi had to be there early to sing with the choir, so there was no time for anyone to change, but we had some words about it on the way to church. Or I had some words anyway. "Seriously, none of you could find something nicer to wear to church?" "Blah blah blah blah!" And then I had even more words inside my head, "Where did I go wrong?" "Shouldn't I have taught them better?" And sadly, "What will people think?" Fast forward 45 minutes, Mike and I are sitting alone as is typical because Jonathan is at the power point, Madi is in the choir, and Jake is on the altar. Father Robert is giving the homily and he's talking about the widow who gave her last few cents and how that meant so much more than the people who gave from their surplus, he's talking about not doing things to be show-y, he's talking about how he doesn't really like to wear the fancy vestments, but how their purpose is so during the consecration we are not looking at him as Fr Robert but as a representative of Christ, he's talking about how when he was growing up jeans were not necessarily everyday wear, but dungarees (as they were called then) were work pants used to do service. He's saying maybe dungarees or something less show-y are more appropriate for doing God's service. There are my three kids clad in their dungarees (can't you see I'm liking using that word), doing God's service. There is God in the person of Fr Robert telling me to chill out about what people will think and to stop sweating the small stuff. There is God smacking me upside the head on a Sunday morning. I'm sure there will be many more instances where I will stress over minor details. It's good to know God cares enough about my minor details to answer my prayers about them sometimes audibly and sometimes even before I ask.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


My titles are getting far less creative that's for sure. Jake is going to be done with his "break" in a few minutes and will be ready to do his math on my computer so I'm not sure how much time I have. I found myself wondering this morning, is the country divided more than ever or is it just that in this day and age we get to see and hear what everyone is thinking all the time? I'm choosing to believe it's the latter. Jake is now standing in front of me, so I'm going to let him strike while the iron is hot. I guess I had even less time than I thought. Now I'm going to eat some applie pie (I made it last night) it is a symbol that we still live in the greatest country in the world. Ok, I'm back. I've had my pie and done some history with Jonathan. Jake is done with math (and all his schoolwork) and is outside with the airsoft gun he got for his birthday. I am really not comfortable with guns, even toy ones. Jake got this almost 2 weeks ago and today is the first time I am letting him use it. As he was opening it and loading it I was freaking out, "AHHH be careful where you point that," the kids were laughing at me. Now he's back in reloading and I'm freaking out all over again. We do so much talking around here, I know a lot of education takes place, but the jabbering does little to get the curriculm accomplished. I am double spacing these paragraphs, but I'm pretty sure they will be all jumbled when I hit publish. I started out thinking I was going to get a little bit political (very little bit), but that mood is gone. It's chilly out today. It feels really good. I've been meaning to take pictures of fall colors in Florida, they are far more subtle that northern colors, but the benefit is we have color all year and a lot of people with vibrant colors right now (or a month ago) will have to suffer with grey for the next 6 months. We are possibly going to host a Chinese exchange student (a boy) for 5 months in the Spring. It is not through the same program we've done the summer hosting, and he will go to a local Christian High School. I'm thinking that means I will be driving him and to and from school everyday. We are probably about 75% interested in this right now, but we need to come to a firm decision soon because the lady in charge needs to know asap. Madi is doing Wii fit right now. (read: she is watching Friends and doing the wii fit stair step) Jonathan and Madi are both taking PE 'virtually'. The class is actually called Health Opportunities in Physical Education and it involves projects and research etc, but they are supposed to have documented physical activity with each module. Madi does a ton of dancing at theatre and assists at homeschool PE, but she's hot and cold on the documented physcial activity. Now she's found a away to waste time and make it count for something.

Friday, November 2, 2012


In the five years that I've been blogging, I think I've written about this particular theme numerous times. I often bring up the story of when I was chatting with my classmates in 4th grade and the topic was how fat or thin our mothers were. My mother had always told me she was fat, she was very often on a diet. I didn't want to have to actually say those words aloud, and thankfully I didn't have to. As the conversation got around to my side of the table two different classmates chimed in "Julie's mother is thin!" I remember thinking "she is?" she always said she was fat. This is my perspective story. It turns out everyone is either fat or thin depending on who you are comparing them to! This is the homeschooling conundrum. When your kids aren't being compared to their peers in a standardized test fashion, you often wonder how they stack up. There are so many sidebars here, not the least of which is that standardized tests don't really do a great job of measuring these things anyway, but assuming they did... how do we know our kid is "getting it"? Just today I talked to a freshman in highschool whose course-load sounds much more like Jonathan's than Madi's. I think Madi and I both bristled a little at this. On the other hand in her Freshman English Honors class at the local public high school, Madi is kicking butt! I think she has about a 98 average. She comes home daily with stories of how these honors students don't know who Helen Keller is or don't know that Italy is in Europe. Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up. Everyone is advanced or behind depending on who you are comparing them to. Someone will always be a little taller and run a little faster and someone else will always be a little shorter and run a little slower. This reminds me of another elementary school story where in 8th grade I made the cheerleading squad as a second alternate, "second alternate" meant you really stink but your aunt is the assistant coach and you're a nice girl. I knew this was pretty low, and was fairly down on myself until someone who hadn't made it at all congratulated me. That girl would've probably given anything to be second alternate (or to have her aunt be the assistant coach). Life is hard when you're trying to be the best, there's always going to be someone better. It's even harder when this applies to your kids and you're the teacher. This is not to say that I'm pushing my kids to be the best, I'm really just encouraging them to do their best. It's just complicated when you are their teacher and life gets in the way. Of course we put the schoolwork aside when friends from out of state come for a visit, and we put it away last week for the Florida Theatre Convention, and we put the actual curriculum away so much of the time to discuss actual life... elections, faith, poor weather conditions and damage where a lot of friends and relatives live. When it this the right decision? When is this the wrong decision? Will we ever know? Jonathan had a "tech audition" at the Florida Theatre Conference this weekend. This meant he stood at a table with his lighting design portfolio and representatives from colleges came around and talked to him about it. He specifically hit it off well with two of the representatives that really liked him. One of these schools is in Philadelphia (YIKES!!). Today Jonathan had to drop everything and go program lights for a nearby highschool that doesn't have anyone there who can do it. One day last week he had to drop everything to help two adults at our theatre figure something out. Needless to say, we are starting to get a tiny bit behind on the virtual school pace charts. This is stressful. I guess if all my kids did was school it wouldn't be that hard to keep up, they are just very full in the life department. Most of the time I know this is ok, sometimes not. It's all about perspective. By the same token, if all my kids did was school and it was happening somewhere other than our home with someone other than me as the teacher, my house would look considerably different (read: cleaner) than it does. A few weeks ago in his homily Fr Robert talked about how sometimes things aren't what they seem. He mentioned how brilliant people tend to score poorly and true/false or multiple choice tests because they read more into it. Along with perspective this is a theme that is frequently in the forefront of my mind. When Jonathan was about 5, he did a worksheet where he had to pick which thing didn't belong, the items were the sun, moon, star, and a book. He said the sun didn't belong because the book was a bedtime story and the stars and moon are out at night when you read a bedtime story. I knew then he was homeschooling material. A few weeks ago Jake had a similar example where he had to find a synonym for the word "hit" the choices were like, hand, strike, and paint. He knew they were looking for "strike", but he just couldn't bring himself to circle it because in baseball a strike is actually the opposite of a hit! I am so blessed to be able to spend so much time with my kids and can give them time to explain their thoughts on questions like these. On a standardized test they would just be marked wrong.