Sunday, August 30, 2009

Productive weekend

I ended up having an unexpected day at home on Saturday. It is amazing how much can be accomplished when I can just work on my house and yard all day. The kids and I cleaned inside and did some end of summer garden clean up. The yard is so much better. Lots of weeds and overgrown branches found their way to the curb. We also cleaned up the blighted tomato plants.

I still have lots of projects to get done, but it feels good to have accomplished this much.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My nerdy daughter

I love it when she unearths something she wrote a while back. This time it's a series of obituaries. Enjoy.

Evil and dangerous words

This piece highlights what I think is one of the most maddening and potentially dangerous things that the Obama administration and left-wing media are doing.

Much of what goes on in Washington right now stuns and saddens me, but I think that the attempt to paint anyone who disagrees with Obama--or who is against this particular plan for health care reform--as a racist is the worst. This suggestion that ideas differing from Obama's necessarily spring from the most odious of sources has the potential to create new wounds and create new divisions where none previously existed.

Jonah Goldberg writes about this playing of the race card:

Sure, racists don’t like Obama. (In less shocking news, bears continue to use our national forests as toilets.) But that doesn’t mean everyone who dislikes Obama is therefore a racist.
This would seem so obvious as to not require stating. Unfortunately, it seems that it does.

In my title I used the word evil. I do believe that this is evil. Those who wish to marginalize conservatives and who have shown a willingness to shut down expression that does not match their agenda are using one of the most heinous accusations--requiring no proof on their part, because we long ago learned that the accusation of racism is tantamount to conviction in the media--to accomplish their goals. Racism is a tremendous evil and ought not be tolerated, but I fear that injudicious playing of the race card with ever-increasing frequency may only empower it and add racists--on both sides--to the fold.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's just hard

I've been wanting to blog, but I've had a couple of problems. The first is that I'll think of good topics, but then by the time I get a chance to post, the thought has fled. The second is just busy-ness. The third, and probably most powerful problem is that I have been nearly obsessed with what's going on politically, but just don't feel like talking about it. I even hate thinking about it.

If I were to post about what has been occupying my mind lately it would be almost all politics, with a few posts about feeling broke thrown in. (Nothing like having kids in college to make money disappear! That wouldn't be much fun to read.

I've been doing some reading in economics, which has just added to my near-despair about the direction in which our country is headed. I have to break up my reading with escapist fiction like a Georgette Heyer, some sort of chick lit, or a good mystery.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The good old days

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic right now. As the new school year starts all around us, and I prepare to send a second child to college, I'm missing the days when I had four kids at home. There's nothing much more fun than being the unschooling mom of a bunch of curious kids.

I miss the "field trips" to the state park or forest preserve. (I put field trips in quotation marks because it wasn't anything organized. In the fall, especially, our life was one big field trip.) Taking two teens to walk at the park isn't nearly as entertaining as taking a crew of 4, 6, 9, & 13.

Don't get me wrong. There are wonderful things about this stage, too. I love to spend time with my grown and nearly-grown children. I'm sure that the excitement when Andrew has his braces removed next week will be something to remember. We have much deeper discussions than we could before, and each of them can cook dinner in a pinch.

But with the approach of fall, I hear echoes of those little voices, and would love--just for a moment--to go back and do it again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Belated birthday wishes

I realized this morning that I missed making my usual birthday post for one of my children. I can only say--by way of excuse--that I was kind of immersed in preparations for Wisdom and Eloquence.


It's hard to believe that he is 19. Sometimes it feels like he's been an adult forever, other times it seems like just last week that he was standing in the middle of the soccer field, flapping his arms in excitement over the combine in the adjacent corn field.

Week after next a new adventure starts as he begins his classes at IPFW. Wow.

Back to school

This is always the time of year that I feel the most out of step with the world around me. Back to school sale fliers fill the newspaper and mailbox. I hear my neighbors talking and read the celebratory Facebook statuses. Parents express relief and joy that their offspring are once again back in school.

For 13 years, back to school has been largely meaningless at our house. We'd watch the back-to-school season, hear the neighbor kids mourning the return to school, and then enjoy sleeping in on the first day of school. Because our lives are pretty much the same year-round, there is no new school year at our house.

It has changed things a bit to have college students. When someone starts college we lose part of our pack. It takes a while to get the dynamics worked out. For four years it was Bethany going off to classes and now it will be Patrick. In two years Jonathan will leave me here alone with Andrew, and then two or three years after that it'll be his turn to go. But that isn't the same as sending your kids off to school for the day.

I have to say, I share the joy and relief of the parents of school children at the return of their kids to school. I can once again enjoy a relatively peaceful trip to Target without hearing their kids whining and begging. We'll take a trip to the zoo next week and it will be relatively empty. I can go to the mall without being run over by kids wearing those ridiculous shoes with skate wheels in the bottom. All of my errands will get easier.

But my kids will be enjoying it with me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kenyan hymnal project

My friend Sandy is a deaconess intern working on a project developing a Lutheran hymnal for Kenya. She has a new blog devoted to the project.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We need some manly aprons

My sons are great about helping me in the kitchen. Patrick and Jonathan are great prep cooks and they are all three fabulous dishwashers. The problem is the aprons. They have learned from me that it makes a lot of sense to put on an apron to protect their clothes while they work in the kitchen. But with one exception--my indestructible denim apron--all of our aprons are pretty. Really, really pretty.

Ruffles on teen-aged guys just aren't a good look. And although I like the pretty aprons in theory, I'm not giving up my sturdy denim apron to anybody.
Looks like it's time for the cleanup crew!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"I know that book is in the basement somewhere"

My kids have heard me say it more than a few times. I said it about Candide. I said it about Native Son. I said it about Death be Not Proud. I said it about a few books that I've purchased in the last couple of years, even though I was sure they were in the basement somewhere.

Today I found them. In a large, tall Rubbermaid container. Under Bethany's drawings, costume jewelry, Valentine napkins, and packing paper. On top of miscellaneous legos, pieces of toys, and plastic Easter eggs. This bin had been packed by our movers on April 27, 2002 in our basement in Spring Grove. It had been in storage in a warehouse for several weeks. Then it arrived at our house in late May. It was opened, judged--based on the contents on top--to be something I could look through later and put aside. Somehow it got shoved behind the even larger box of dress-up clothes and the box of castle and pirate toys and under the desk that was left in the basement by the previous owners. Earlier basement cleanings assumed that since it was a Rubbermaid bin, the contents were supposed to be there.

Until today. Patrick and I are leaving no box unexamined in the quest for things we can sell, throw away, or otherwise dispose of. He opened the box and the first thing I saw was a drawing of Bethany's, followed by a Xerox of three-year-old Andrew's hand. We pulled the box out, swept off some webbies, and began the excavation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What kind of education is that?

I've been having all kinds of thoughts about education bounce around in my head after our Wisdom and Eloquence Retreat last week. The main speaker is a professor of Rhetoric, and a big proponent of Classical Education as the best way to educate children.

I have never aspired to be a classical educator. I own a copy of The Well-Trained Mind, but it sits, unmolested, on a shelf in my family room, from whence it shall--someday--join the ranks of those books destined for the used book store. I may read it first, but I'm waiting until the kids are all finished homeschooling.

I have, however, been privy to enough conversations about classical ed and read enough blog posts and articles to be familiar with the concepts. I have learned that classical educators--like radical unschoolers--jealously guard their turf. (We are and you're not, so don't even pretend you may overlap.)

All that said, as one of my more unschooly friends and I listened to Dr. Classical Ed last week, we were both struck by how much the process, the tools, the very structure of classical education mirrors the de facto way our unschooled children have learned. You would think that classical educators would like this affirmation that, yes, this is naturally the way children's minds work at these stages. But they don't. Not from us.

Like classical ed, we reject the boxing into subjects that progressive education insists upon. We agree that knowledge is interconnected. As is suggested in TWTM, we have always used history as a framework for "hanging" our knowledge. We have not taken the organized, cranked down approach suggested by classical ed, but we've gotten to the same desired place, with our children ready to join in the Great Conversation.

Am I saying we are classical educators? Certainly not! I gladly wear my badge of mostly unschooly-ish-ness. It keeps me sane and my children happy. And I'm also not arguing for the superiority of any one way of doing things. My philosophy is that each family needs to determine what works for them.

But if your end desire is kids who know things, can think critically, and can speak and write clearly about what they know, from a basis of the great tradition of the western world, well, there's more than one way to get there.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Go read this

Some thoughts on Classical Education and Lutheranism from my good friend Elephant's Child.
I have lots of thoughts percolating on all kinds of education-related topics. I'll see if any of them make it to the surface.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Unexpected things heard at the square dance

Last night we had a square dance and line dancing at our Wisdom & Eloquence Retreat. When it became obvious that the really little kids weren't getting it, someone offered to take them to go do crafts. So the first unexpected thing heard at the square dance?

"Little kids can join Pastor Petersen in the Youth Room for crafts."

Yep. It's true.

Second unexpected thing? The square dance caller calling him Pastor Dave.

You certainly don't hear that every day.