Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tricks, no treats

Picture: Halloween, 2008

This is our first year with no Halloween costumes. I suppose with a house full of teens and adults that isn't so unusual, but our kids always dress up and we usually have friends over. This year we had the usual plans, and the pirates were set to reappear, but Andrew is sick. Having the youngest down kind of took the wind out of the crew's sails.

I think next year we'll need to plan a costume party. I haven't dressed up for a long time. For this year I'll have to content myself with giving candy to the neighbor kids.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

To-do update

I had a comment on my to-do list asking for an update.

It's been a year and four months since I posted this list. A few are done. A couple have a bit of progress. The red are done. An update:

1. Learn to make a souffle.
2. Visit England.
3. Swim a mile.
4. Make a dress that looks good enough to wear.
5. Learn Spanish.
6. Go to a Broadway show.
7. Sell another article.
8. Make my own tortillas.
9. Make noodles as good as Grandma's.
10. Get my scrapping stuff organized and out of my dining room. Almost done. Soon.
11. Find out who Sarah Serring was. Much progress. Her name was probably Zehrung.
12. Move. Waaaaahhhhhhh.
13. Paint my grandma's kitchen table and chairs.
14. Wash the windows.
15. Have six month emergency fund.
16. Ten pounds. Just ten pounds. Halfway there.
17. Clean the master bedroom.
18. And paint it.
19. And paint the furniture.
20. And the master bath, while I'm at it.
21. And the kitchen cupboards. Started. A year ago.
22. And then the dining room.
23. Reupholster the dining room chairs.
24. Make a perfect risotto.
25. Make money doing what I love.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Unexpected thing I learned from a book

Last week I read The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky. I love reading about food and Americana, so this book--a compilation of Depression-era writings about food from an abandoned WPA project--enticed me as soon as I saw it. The division by regions gave structure to the book, and made it even more informative.

However, my favorite bit of knowledge gleaned from this book was personal. I have always felt a bit of an inferiority complex about my clam chowder. You see, it has bacon. We like it that way. I grew up with it that way. My mom made it that way, and she learned from my dad's mom. But what restaurant clam chowder has bacon? I always figured this was some Hoosierizing of the dish.

But, as I learned, I was mistaken.

One of the oft-debated, but very authentic ingredients in real New England Clam Chowder, is salt pork or bacon. Which is then removed and the onions sauteed in the grease. That's what I do. Some add it back in; some don't. I do. My grandma was a Ruhl. Her mother was a Harrod. Her grandmother was a Pipes. HER grandmother was a Harriman from New Jersey and HER mother was a Hathaway from Massachusetts.

That's in New England. That's about the only part of my family tree that has roots in New England. But I like to think that that is where the clam chowder came from.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time for a political post

I haven't posted much about politics for a while. This is partly because I haven't been in the mood, partly because it makes me cranky, and partly because I just tweet it, instead.

But Victor David Hanson has such an excellent piece at NRO that I had to post it. He examines the five trends that converged to elect Obama, thhe assumptions that seem to underly the Obama administration's actions, and the truths that they need to understand. Go check it out.

Update: Here's another from RCP. Obama vs. the President He Said He'd Be

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thinking more about homeschooling & family

I've mentioned before that I don't spend all that much time thinking about homeschooling. For us it is a fact of life--14 years of life--and after that long we just do. Not a lot of thinking required.

But my friend Susan posted something that got me thinking. Re-entry.

Our homeschooling has always been a fairly solitary endeavor. We haven't been big joiners. The kids haven't taken a bunch of classes or been invovled in many activities. At first this was because there were no other homeschoolers nearby. Later, it was due to the fact that nearby homeschoolers were fundamentalists who tended to find us questionable. Over time we came to enjoy the freedom of our lifestyle so much that a group, co-op, or other organized activity would have just been an unwelcome interruption.

The kids were each others' best friends. Most of our friends were remote. Life was pretty smooth.

That has all changed over the past few years. The introduction of outside classes, the subtraction of siblings off to college and work, and many more social opportunities for all of us have changed the pattern of our days. This year is the worst. Most late afternoons/early evenings we are all making re-entry. And we are all cranky. My kids fight more now than they ever did when they were younger. They aren't as patient with each other. It doesn't help that we're all coming home tired and hungry to a house that is messier than it has ever been. Ever.

What is hard is to know what the answer is. The classes the boys are taking are beneficial. They enjoy the abundant opportunities to see their friends. I am definitely NOT getting too much friend time. I hardly see mine since our schedule is so packed and my kids are older than most of theirs. I need to work. And until Patrick can afford car insurance I need to drive him to class. I know I can't have those lovely bygone days back when all I had to do was cook, clean, and hang out with my kids, but I wish I could figure out how to make the way things are now more pleasant.

It almost feels like we have lost most of what we have always loved about homeschooling. The HOME part. I need to think about that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The college experience

More encouragement for you homeschool moms of younger kids. Especially those of you who have challenges. Here is my late reader, writing on his blog, about having to dumb down his writing for his freshman comp class.

I love it. So much.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Head, meet post

It really was a resounding thump.

As I tried to evade some heavy smoke rolling off of our campfire, I turned and ran. Straight into a 6X6 cross beam at the shelter house.

I'm not sure exactly how I got onto the ground, although I know I didn't fall hard because the rest of me didn't hurt. My kids said I kind of staggered and half fell, half sat. I just remember being on the ground with my little brother holding onto my shoulders and cradling me from behind.

Yeah, it hurt. And I was dizzy and nauseous. So I let them take me to the emergency room. And the people at the ER were very nice and put me in a wheelchair, then a bed, then a CT scan.

After a couple of hours they sent me home with a diagnosis of mild concussion and some instructions that--thankfully--included rest. I'm glad they included rest because that's really all I've felt up to so far this week.

I think that the next thing on my list is getting reacquainted with my chiropractor. The ER doctor said that the effect on my neck would be similar to a whiplash injury and I'm feeling it today.

The morale of the story: Don't run with your eyes shut, even if they're full of smoke.

Monday, October 12, 2009

By popular request

I have received several requests over the years for a list of must-read books on homeschooling. Last week a friend suggested that this would make a great blog post. So here it is. There may be some newer books that are missing. Since we've been at this for fourteen years, some of these may not be the most current books. I'm sure there are other worthwhile books that I haven't seen, but each of these is a gem.

You'll notice that many of these books tend toward learning theory and the unschooly. Well, that's me. I would argue that it would be good for anyone, homeschooler or not, to read the Gatto books. And any parent would be well-served by reading the Moores, John Holt, and Cindy Tobias.

Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
This is a book that I wish every parent and teacher of young children would read. I read this as the stressed out mother of a non-reading seven year old and it probably saved my sons academic life and my sanity.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn
This book isn't perfect, but as a homeschooling mom it really helped me to free myself from some of the school baggage I was carrying, and to free my children in turn.

Dumbing Us Down
by John Taylor Gatto
Weapon's of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
I consider these the "why to" books of homeschooling. Dumbing Us Down helped to bolster my flagging courage early on by reminding me that what my kids were missing wasn't all that great. These books are especially helpful when you are having to deal with critical and skeptical family members or if you--like me--spend lots of time asking yourself if you are ruining your kids' lives.

How Children Learn
How Children Fail
Learning All the Time all by Jon Holt (You can find all three on the same Amazon page.)
I didn't always agree with Holt, but overall found his writing about learning to make a lot of sense.

The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
The closest thing to a how-to book on this list. So many people want to know HOW to unschool. Mary Griffith gives lots of ideas and helps to paint some pictures of what unschooling looks like.

The Way They Learn
Every Child Can Succeed by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Both of these books are easy, quick, straight forward looks at learning styles and how to work with your child's strengths.

Homeschooling: A Family's Journey by Martine & Gregory Millman
This is the story of one family's homeschooling journey. Here is the review I wrote when I read it.

This is not an exhaustive list. I have enjoyed other homeschooling books over the years, but these are those that I believe are the most important and have contributed the most to our success and enjoyment of this journey. What are some of your favorites?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Apple season

A week ago today I got the bug. I had to go to the orchard--right then--and get apples. So all week the house has smelled like apple something-or-other. Tonight it's apple butter cooking in the Crock Pot. I've made a couple of small batches of applesauce, but today I cleaned a bunch of canning jars, so tomorrow will be the major applesauce operation.

For me, apples mean it's really fall. Of course, the frost yesterday morning was another clue.