Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Friday, March 30, 2007

These are the people in your neighborhood...

A few weeks back Dale mentioned having a drunk land on our doorstep. Here's what happened.

I was putting the kids' socks away in their room, calling to them that when Max & Ruby was over we would go for a walk before lunch. I heard some thumping against the back door. Who's that? It can't be Shelly with her leg; maybe Kazz or Brisan for something?
I came around the corner and saw long hair blowing. Is that Leanna [another neighbor]? Why did she dye her hair black?
I went to the door and realized this was a complete stranger in my back yard, sitting on one of the Rubbermaid tubs on our deck, petting my dog. I joined her to investigate.
"He killed my cat."
"Who?" Lucy?
"He killed my cat, the son of a..."
"Um... You realize you're in my back yard, right?"
[Belligerent] "Yeah, I know that!"
It occurred to me that this woman wasn't right. Whether she's nuts, stoned, or drunk I couldn't be sure; this conversation could take a while. I retrieved my pullover from the house. When I returned, she was lying down on the deck.
"I want to go home," she said when I got her sitting back up. "Will you call me a cab?"
"Where's home, honey?" I was on one knee looking her in the eyes. She was plastered and utterly lost. She managed to mumble an address one street over and a half mile north. I didn't know about this calling a cab business; how long would it take? Where would she wait in the meantime? Who would pay for it? If she couldn't, would they come to me?
"Okay, sweetie. We'll get you home."
I went back in and called Shelly. I would really rather not be tooling about with this drunk and my kids, but God didn't give me that option. I got Shelly's machine.
"Kids, get your coats and shoes on. We're going for a ride." They'd already noticed the strange lady in the back yard. Everyone got shod, the dog got boxed, the kids got buckled in. I put her bag in between the front seats then went back for her.
She could barely walk. How she'd gotten in our yard and not let the dog out remains a mystery.
While we were in the minivan, she asked, "Why are you doing this?"
"Jesus would want me to."
I couldn't find the address she told me. It dawned on me to check her bag; turns out the address on her driver's license doesn't exist, either. Third time being the charm, I found something else with an actual address. I pulled into the driveway as her neighbor was coming out of her own house.
"Do you know these people?" I called over, pointing to the house. "I think I have one of your neighbors in my car."
The woman came over. "Oh, my goodness. We can't just leave her like this. She needs to go to the hospital."
My frustration started to spill out. "Ma'am, I can't do that. I've got my three little kids here with me and I don't know anything about this lady. She just showed up in my back yard and I'm just trying to get her home."
Turned out she did live there. Eleanor (that's the neighbor) opened the door; it had been unlocked. I got Heidi the Drunk into the house while Eleanor watched my minivan and her own front door. Heidi flopped onto the love seat, then said she needed to go to the bathroom. I got her in there and closed the door.
On the porch, Eleanor and I agreed to leave the door locked. I introduced her to the kids and she cooed in the appropriate grandmotherly fashion.
We came home and went for our walk.

I've wondered what I was supposed to take from this situation; what lesson God was trying to teach me. I've realized it wasn't about me. If Heidi had wandered into anyone else's back yard, she would have been chased off as far as she could stagger. Shelly can't drive with her leg; Joe wouldn't have had the patience for her; Linda doesn't drive; Marie would probably have called the cops. I drove her home.
We were caught up on school and were going out anyway. Any ideas for which corporal work of mercy it might fall under?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Should we wait...

until we have the actual FOR SALE sign in front of our house, or start the novena now? Here's the inspiration for my question.

Jen talks about babies with loaves of bread; my theory is a little different: Whenever God serves humble pie, He always remembers to add the sugar.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

His fine motor skills are JUST FINE.

Or, What's New with the Kids.

Madeleine is fully in first grade. In math, reading, and spelling she'll be in the second quarter the week after Easter because so much of the latter two are a review of kindergarten. She's getting sick of math, though, so maybe after the quarterly test we'll take a week off. I don't see the need to take the whole summer off; maybe a month. Since we plan be up north for a week or so in July, that would be the perfect time to do the frog-eggs-to-frogs experiment (how long does that take?) or the caterpillars-to-butterflies. Or both.

Dale is unofficially in preschool. Just this morning he announced, "I'm a grown-up. I cut up my strawberries myself." He had gotten one of our Ginsu knives from the knife block on the counter and done it on his own. Without injury.
After the palpitations stopped, we had a little talk about telling us before getting out knives.
I asked his speech teacher about what kinds of things from here she recommended for use at home. I'd already looked at the catalog and had about a dozen things marked; her list included four of my ideas. Like this, or this, or this... I've told you I like her.

Rachel we gave up a few weeks ago with the potty training--she was still fighting the idea. Monday she was in diapers. Tuesday, yesterday, I asked if she wanted to use the potty and she said, "Yes!" So we put on cloth training pants.
And they stayed dry all day. Lots of false alarms but the only place she made peepee was in the little potty. We're still working on #2, but that's how it's been for all of them. She does tell us when she needs a change, very politely besides.
I should have known this would be the week; we just bought the box of diapers from Costco on Friday.

This little house, by the grace of God, will go on the market before the end of April.

That's the news. You stay classy, San Diego!


Friday, March 23, 2007

I'm not superstitious...

I'm Catholic. I don't go for burying statues of St. Joseph upside-down in the back yard to help sell your house. A novena for his intercession, sure; burying statues, not so much. Dale's perspective is here.

We need a bigger house. The kids aren't getting smaller; their accumulated accoutrements are becoming more numerous. We ran out of room one child ago. At least.

My husband has wisely said he wants to sell this one before we buy another. We considered the theory of bridge loans briefly, getting information on how they're paid back and for how much we'd have to sell. We took it under advisement. We have even looked at one house that would give us enough space--and we could probably afford it!

Last night our friend the realtor visited to crunch numbers and reality hit. If we sell our house for what we paid, it could realistically take 20 months to sell and we'd walk out of closing with less than the cost of two movie tickets. At least that spares us the decision about bridge loans...

Which brings us to the next nightmare issue--living in a house while trying to sell it. With three small kids, a dog, and a cat. Realtor-friend offers a free service of "staging," which is basically making your house a blank canvas so potential buyers can see their own stuff in place of yours. Now, I am nothing short of enthusiastic about decluttering this place, regardless of whether or not we're planning to sell. If our house flushed, I'd be thrilled. I looked at one of the stager's write-ups.
As well as the obvious decluttering and furniture adjustment stuff, it involves directions like, "Remove all personal items from the bath and shower. Remove all religious items. Remove family pictures."

Wait a minute. I have to live here for the duration. And I take a shower daily. Where exactly am I supposed to keep my shampoo? Remove religious items? If we had a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, or a Santeria altar, I might concede the put-off factor, but if someone turns down our house because of our crucifix in our bedroom they need... help.
The taking down the kids' pictures really seems to dehumanize instead of just depersonalize. I grew up in a house without any pictures of anyone and it's cold. I'm not talking "easy on the furnace" cold, either.
I've been told we'll need to find "vacation homes" for the animals, too, and again that's beyond my limit. Maybe a year in when we've had no offers I'll change my mind, but...

I think I'd sooner bury a statue.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Just some questions.

1. What makes milk white? I know the reflecting light stuff; what is it in milk that is reflecting the light?

2. How many pairs of socks do kids need? The Boy has 19, Rachel 38, and Madeleine a whopping 40. They each wear the same 5-6 pairs, generally. And I launder their stuff twice or thrice a week so it's not like they're ever low on socks.

3. How many crib size sheets do I need now that only one is using that size? We're down from three. Mind you, we're not saying we're done, but storage space is becoming premium.

And I'm adjusting to the lack of toddler beds. We've had one (or more) in that room for four years. I remember taking pictures of both Madeleine and Dale in the crib when it still dwarfed them; I don't know that I did it for Rachel. But now twin size beds do it again. For a little while.

That's all for now. It's been that idea, "If you don't have anything to say, don't say it." But any helpful answers to the above questions would be just great.


Sunday, March 18, 2007


In December 2000, Dale and I had been married fourteen months and were living in a third-floor, two-bedroom apartment. I was in my second year teaching in the public school, outearning Dale in his fourth year of law practice. We were on my insurance because the bar plan at his tiny firm (3.5 lawyers) was both expensive and meager. We were living paycheck to paycheck; I think we were still paying on my student loans, even.
So what did we do? Decided to try for a baby.

Did we have space in our apartment for a baby? Of course not; the second bedroom was taken up with bookshelves, stored knickknacks, and the computer.
Did we have any money for a downpayment on a house that would have room for a child? Of course not; between student loans and credit cards, "savings" were a myth.
Did we have sick days set aside for maternity leave? Of course not; I was only in my second year and we got ten days per.
Since I had to work for the insurance, did we have any idea about daycare for the baby? Of course not; whenever I thought about it, I got nauseous.
Did we have any idea how the pregnancy would treat me medically? Of course not; but we had horror stories of mothers needing to be admitted for IV-hydration because of crippling morning sickness.

We did it anyway. We stepped off the precipice, put it in God's hands, and tried. And conceived the first month.

Then what happened? These are out of chronological order, but...
Three of Dale's cases settled favorably, giving him enough of a bonus that we had a downpayment for a house.
Pregnancy treated me very well with only a little queasiness in the mornings and girls' sensitivity.
Dale found a new job working for a much bigger company with commensurate pay. The benefits are better, it has regular hours and a healthy respect for holidays.
We found a house we could afford in a not-terrible neighborhood that gave us more storage room than the apartment.
My brother's wife decided to open a licensed, in-home daycare roughly two miles from the house we decided to buy. She and my brother were the ones we asked to be godparents, coincidentally.

So we didn't have all of the answers the first time around; honestly, we didn't have any. We put it in His hands and went with it.
All of this just occurred to me this morning during the opening hymn at Mass. I think I have my answer.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kolbe review, addendum

This could really be an update to the first post, but I don't want to risk it being missed. I didn't have the course plans when I wrote my first review so I couldn't include this information.

Long story short: Some of the lesson plans and material for kindergarten into first grade is redundant. I don't mean the math, really; it's the same series and is as redundant as you expect math to be.

The science, though, involves some of the same experiments or investigations in both. Examples are growing caterpillars to butterflies and sprouting lima beans. Interesting, really, no matter how many times you do it, but if you don't get around to it the first time it's coming right back at you!

The reading and spelling, though, really hit it. The first quarter of reading in first grade is spent with the Catholic National Primer and the quarterly test is from McGuffey's Primer--a bad idea if the student has already read it. But the kindergarten lesson plans are based on the McGuffey's, so what do you do? The first grade spelling, too, is from the CNR and starts with words like in, is, and the for first grade. Kindergarten ended with them reading words like lighthouse.
We'll be starting with the second quarter plans, where you start the actual First Reader and are done with the Primer.

I think it's because 2006-07 was the first year for Kolbe's kindergarten course plans and thus they haven't aligned the first grade curriculum yet; in my book, that's a forgiveable offense. I'm sure someone has already brought it to their attention, so when The Boy comes around to it things will be different--I hope. It's also one of the downsides of changing textbook series from one year to the next--something that never happens in public school (ha!).

There. Now I've reviewed.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 15, 2007

On inoculations

When pregnant with Madeleine, I was a habitual Babycenter visitor. One day the survey question was, "Will you have your baby immunized?" I was dumbfounded at first, under the impression that the question was ridiculous. They may as well have asked "Are you going to feed your baby?"
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw the results, though. Something like 40% of respondents said "No." I was aghast, then worried. What was I missing? I followed some of the linked sites to fears of autism, epilepsy, learning disabilities, even death.
I took my concerns to my husband first. He pointed out statistics, weighting them, Internet surveys tend to be skewed. I was somewhat reassured but looked further.
I asked my mother. "What do you think about childhood inoculations, Mom? There are those who are skipping them for fear of side effects."
My mother is smarter than she gives herself credit for, and her mind is untainted by overeducation. She looked me square in the eye and said simply, "My sister died of diptheria, Heather."
Oh. Yeah. See, my mother hails from the Silent Generation. She had classmates in school in the fall, gone for some months over the winter, and return in the spring in a wheelchair due to polio. She had classmates feverish on Tuesday, absent on Wednesday, and dead by Saturday because of measles. She lost her sister. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, we don't have those memories. We remember shots at the doctor but not deaths of classmates. That puts a little perspective on it.
Long story short, we got the shots.
In talking with other moms later, one said, "There are so many things out there you can't protect your child from. Why not protect them from what you can?" That makes sense, too.
These folks opting out of all immunizations for ideological reasons are the same ones who don't do antibiotics or tell me we did wrong in getting tubes for Madeleine. I agree that overuse of antibiotics--any medicine, really--is bad. But untreated otitis media can lead to hearing loss, people. And antibiotics save lives.
Which brings me to the new shot--Gárd*ásil (accents for googlers). It's the best thing for our girls, we're told. Some states are making it mandatory! If it were that great, parents would be storming their doctors' offices and you'd have to take a number. Like flu shots.
But some have qualms about it. How is this different from the rest of the shots?
For one, it protects against a disease not caught by casual contact, the way so many others are. Certain, ahem, behavior is required, not usually occurring in schools. It protects against some forms of the disease which cause most cases of cervical cancer. Great. Translated: even nonsmokers can get lung cancer; even men can get breast cancer; even virgins can get cervical cancer. So the shot doesn't prevent anything, it just reduces the risk.
Okay. If you buy into that mentality, why not put all girls on the Pill at age 9? It reduces the risk of pregnancy, right? Far more effectively than Gárd*ásil protects against HPV. The same action is necessary, right? "If they're going to do it anyway..."
"What if your daughter was raped?" See previous paragraphs. If we're going to think that way, when can we expect the shot for boys who would be perpetrating said rape?
"What if she marries a man with it?" Hey, she's only five. They've got probably 20 years. Maybe they'll have a test by then. Maybe they'll have a shot for men by then. Maybe I'll raise her to have higher standards than that. Maybe all of the above.

I have some other questions about this one, this presumption that "they're going to do it anyway." Where is the shot to protect their souls? How do I inoculate against the harm to their psyche by engaging in adult behavior while still a child?


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is this phonics?

I'm looking for advice on teaching phonics--I think.

Here's the situation. Dale's in speech, as you know. His therapist/teacher is wonderful. We had his IEP meeting this week and we came to some conclusions.
1. His language acquisition is above average, which means he's hearing everything (trust me on that) and can put it to use when speaking. Adding "ings" to verbs, vocabulary, pluralization--no problem. It's the clarity with which it comes out that's the problem.
2. Given his language acquisition skills and current age, it's time to start putting some of the responsibility on him in the form of auditory discrimination. We're working on getting him to listen to himself and hear the difference between what comes out of others and what comes out of him.
So I asked last week if starting letters and the sounds they make (is that phonics?) would help, and that got a definite YES from his therapist. We'd already started and I had plans to go in alphabetical order, but changed to work more with his target sounds first.

So today, after teatime but before supper, he comes to me and out of the blue tells me, "Nana tarts wiss B, Mama." Did he say what I think he just said?
"Son, if it starts with that letter, you have to say that sound, you know? It's banana."
"Yep, buh-nana."

So where do we go from here? I could start here, or Little Angel Readers, or just with one letter a day or a couple a week like we've been doing...
I just feel like we're on the edge of a breakthrough with him. He's been a mystery to me long enough. Any advice?


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Now for some introspection.

Lately I've felt like my kidneys are close to my eyes, as my mother would say. I've gotten teary listening to Toby Keith, for Heaven's sake. And that's with Beer For My Horses. Can you imagine what I'm like to She Only Gets That Way With Me?
So I wonder why. Not for long, given the past few months. I don't feel like I've had too much time for introspection yet this year. There was the death of Christina, one of my best friends, someone I've known for 25 years. I kept it together because of the baby I was carrying which I later miscarried. Then, like clutter expands to fill the space available and money the expenses, so it goes with worry and time--we had The Boy's surgery. Routine, sure--for the doctor, not for me. After that was planning Madeleine's schooling for first grade, ordering the books, finishing kindergarten (still in the process, but by the end of March). Somewhere in there, I had a brief, amicable correspondence with an ex.
Now these events have me wondering. Chris died at 34 with uncountable dreams unrealized. One of them was a child, another to revisit England. There were books she wanted to read (and write). She never had the chance.
Come to find out the ex-boyfriend is married and has a son. I recall his fondness for spicy food (which is, honestly, one of the reasons I posted the tandoori chicken recipe) and he told me his wife doesn't care for Indian food. My first thought was, "Wow, he must really love her."

I'm mulling my own unrealized dreams and sacrifices I've made for another's--or my own--happiness. Does that make sense, making sacrifices for one's own happiness? In the sense of the greater good, I think. I wanted to spend a semester in Paris--check. I wanted to be a French teacher--check. I wanted to be a wife and mother--check. I want to be the best wife and mother I can--still in progress. But sacrifices? For my husband? Hm. [Lip bite.] Er... [Brow wrinkle.] Um... [Tap finger.] It's a stretch, but perhaps I make more Mexican meals than I would if left to my own devices. Does that count?
The kids, on the other hand... But that is the nature of the beast. All babies in utero play soccer with their mother's bladder; it's part of biology. All babies sleep for brief periods of time and demand attention when awake; feeding, diapering, cuddling. To expect otherwise is nuts. I gave up my smooth belly for a stretch-marked one. Even now, the time where I could be reading, sleeping, cross-stitching, going to movies or plays, traveling...
Somehow, knowing sacrifice is part and parcel of the job makes it more bearable. Thinking long-term helps, too--what will I have to show for my life when I meet my Maker? "I co-created, then helped to raise, these human beings You sent. I tried to do a good job, to introduce them to You and bring them close to You. That was what was important."

Enough navel-gazing. Time for a glass of Lambrusco.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

On "kiddie lit"

I've been mulling children's books for some time now. We get and give them as gifts, we go to book stores, when Madeleine was in preschool we got bookorders. Now that she's reading on her own, I'm getting an even more critical eye. I've come to some conclusions about what passes for children's "literature" today.
The vast majority of it is mediocre at best. The storyline, illustrations, and writing are the mental equivalent of a McDonald's Happy Meal--not bad once in a while but a steady diet is toxic. The TV-show and movie tie-in books are in this genre; if you squint you can see a moral or "teachable moment" in Dora, Bob the Builder, and others, but come on.

Don't use the excuse "But Dora teaches Spanish!" Thwack. [That's the sound of me smacking you on the back of the head.] She teaches the same dozen words every season. Same goes for media-tie in books that teach numbers, colors, or shapes. If your kid doesn't know those by the time they're five, Dora isn't going to help.

I think the overall deplorable quality is why pop culture folks think they can write it. I'm thinking of Madonna, but I admit I haven't had the stomach to actually pick up one of her works. Maybe her previous attempts at authorship are putting me off...

At least one exception: John Lithgow's Micawber. C. F. Payne's art is gorgeous, the rhyme is interesting not singsongy like Seuss can be, and the vocabulary will knock your socks off. "So if some July you should chance to pass by a viridian Central Park dale..." Viridian?! When was the last time you saw THAT word in the newspaper? He rhymes "park sanitation" with "peregrination." Who knew you needed a dictionary for bedtime stories?

My husband thinks that there was garbage passing for kids' books when we were young; I don't really disagree. I just think the good stuff is much more diluted than it was then.

Another more disturbing (because it's more insidious) aspect of kids' books I'm going to call "the troubled kids" genre. It's the ones where the protagonist is going through some or all of the same problems the reader is--divorce, stepfamily, drug use, menarche, et cetera. Judy Blume made a career writing this stuff.

While it's nice not to feel alone and to get coping tips from others, a little bit of this goes a long way. These poor kids never really came up with any answers to their questions. If the world and everyone in it is screwed up, why bother reaching for an ideal? Our children need to be shown that value exists not in just being one of a crowd but in leading "the crowd" to a better place.

[I tend to think "the troubled kid" type has outlived its useful life, like talk shows. Once upon a time, perhaps, it was useful to have a panel discussion of women whose husbands left them for other men. That was before the Internet where you can find a discussion group for anything. Now, do we really need Maury doing multiple paternity tests for various women? Or a forum for adult children embarrassed by their stripper stepmothers?]

Anyway. Those are my thoughts, but here's a link to Melanie's, who has a less-abrasive post that inspired this one.

The picture is the cover of the book I asked about a few months back, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. My husband the hunter...


Thursday, March 08, 2007

"But I sent two boats and a helicopter!"

This is going to be a meandering post because I've got a lot on my mind.
We're trying to discern if it's time for another child. I'll say it now--we weren't actively trying for Edmund, but we did knowingly "jump the gun." I've been ready to try since August and deliberately made myself difficult to resist--ladies, you know what I mean. Not impossible, as I didn't want to seduce myself into another child exactly, but I certainly made it difficult for him.
His reasons for putting the next one off were (and are?) worthwhile. He starts with "Where will the child sleep?" and goes from there.
Then we found out we'd conceived. My joy was tempered only by anticipated regret on his part; when that didn't happen, I went into full-glow mode. For about five days. Until...
Anyway, the theory is a new baby will help in the healing process. Our son really wants a brother--to see him playing with a 14-month-old little boy at the pool on Wednesday made me tear up. But my husband's reasons still apply. We needed a bigger house at least one child ago, arguably two. If we have another, will we ever be able to move? If so, how soon?
I'm 35--that magical age of More Prenatal Screenings. Add to that Melanie's news, hardly encouragement to wait (she could use prayers, those who don't regularly read her blog).
There's a little bit of me convinced to wait just a few more months so as to avoid a Christmas birth (everyone knows someone "cheated" by being born close to Christmas), then I think of Lily--due in February and born in November. Just a few months will give us time to get our house on the market, though.
And frankly, selfishly, part of me just wants to know something good is going on in my world and a new baby would sure do that.
There is that still little voice that only comes when it's quiet: "But where is your faith, that I can provide you with what you need?"
I know people around the world do a lot more with a lot less. One woman in Meijer told me of her family of 11 kids in a two-room house somewhere in Eastern Europe, for one example. An example of one of my sister's rare words of wisdom comes to mind as well: "You don't get to choose what your kids need therapy for." Will they be miserable from being crowded together, or from being lonely? I don't expect you, Readers, to come up with any answers. Just prayers.
I realize a burning bush is a bit much to ask, but it would be really nice if He spelled things out a touch more clearly once in a while.


My Huckleberry

It started with an escape from radio commercials in the minivan, when the country music station Dale had programmed in was the only one playing a song. There's a long post that will sound suspiciously like a love letter to Toby Keith, but it will wait for another day. Surmise it to the point of Santa brought me the singer's Unleashed, which has a beautiful song on there titled "Huckleberry." It sounds a lot like his "Heart to Heart," one about the love he sees between his son and his wife.

Anyway, being I'm sentimental (emphasis on the mental) at times, I've danced with my own son during both of those songs. He recognizes them and has asked me to dance to them as well. I'm allowed to call him "my huckleberry."

On another note, I'm reading Twain's Huckleberry Finn (for the first time). He's noticed the coincidence. So last night, he wanted me to read him some of it. I told him that I'm reading the grown-up version that has no pictures, but in his bedroom we have a kids' version that does. "Should I get that one?"
Vigorous nodding.

We read four chapters last night and he brought it to me again this morning. We're up to Chapter 6.


Bust out the carpet and upholstery cleaner.

Rachel decided this morning she wanted to make peepee in the potty. Like her big brother.

She does get that she ought not to stand up, which is good.

I promise no pictures.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I had a moment today.

It wasn't a good moment. I feel compelled to share so that those reading have a realistic picture, instead of dewy images of impeccably dressed children sitting in modestly skirted laps eagerly absorbing illustrated classics or calmly playing with Cuisenaire rods while Mozart plays softly in the background. Those happen too, they just last about as long as the camera flash.
Madeleine and I were sitting at the table doing math. I was starting to feel a bit frustrated that she can make sense of 3+4=7, and 4+3=7, but not 7-3. Regardless of manipulatives or fingers. I did keep my patience with only a sigh betraying me.
As I sighed, though, the Moment hit.
"Are you NUTS? You're shouldering the burden of your children's entire academic career. On top of everything else! You have dishes to wash, a floor to sweep, supper to make, housework to do so you can start to try to sell your house... and here you are, doing first grade math. You barely keep your head above water as it is, and you're taking on more voluntarily. You could just send her off to school so you'll have time to do the rest of it. Nobody will think any less of you for trying! Instead, you're planning to read most of the great works of modern civilization (since you've had so little previous experience with them) so you'll be prepared for teaching high school. You glutton for punishment!"

Then the other little voice came in, quietly explaining drop-offs and pick-ups, preparing lunches, hats and gloves and coats in winter, homework reviews, playground bullying, academic loopholes, early morning rushes, low academic standards, ecumenical indifference, peer pressure to compete socially...

The first little voice said, "Oh." And was quiet.


Kolbe review

While I'm talking about opinions...
I was asked by a friend to post a review of Kolbe's kindergarten materials. Take these with the appropriate lick of salt.

1. Language arts.
A. Phonics. I like the MCP Phonics, though we used the 2003 edition instead of the 1995--which is more likely to go out of print sooner? I like the pictures and the simplicity of one letter per lesson. The teacher's manual is chock full of extra activities, but we didn't need to look to those much.
Kolbe's lesson plans have you skip ahead at some point to the vowels, which frankly I think is a great idea. The fact that the book has them all together makes it easier to do and easier for the parent to decide when to do it.
B. Reading. I like the McGuffey's, the reviews every fifth lesson, the progression, and the illustrations. I have no problem with the McGuffey's in and of itself. My question comes with the first grade stuff. Why not use the Catholic National Reader's Primer for kindergarten, since the Primer is in the same book as the first grade book? McGuffey's has the Primer and Book One separate.

2. Mathematics.
Math is math to me; I think Seton's uses Catholic imagery where pictures are useful, but MCP's is fine. Again I didn't need the teacher's manual much but it's kindergarten math, for Heaven's sake. If I couldn't wing it through that, I have problems all my own.

3. Science.
Not to knock Our Lady of the Rosary, but it's a coloring book. $10 for a coloring book seems a bit steep. Not to mention some of the experiments take more patience than a kindergartener usually has. Science, with its hands-on and gee-whiz factors, could easily be a little one's favorite subject and once weekly lessons don't cut it. Usborne's and a simple experiment book would be better, not to mention better illustrated and more current. We'll be doing that with Dale when the time comes.

4. Religion.
Since Daddy does religion, this is a secondhand summary. The kindergarten materials are age-appropriate and worthwhile. The activities are good reinforcement of each lesson and hold the student's attention well without needing lots of preparation.

5. Kolbe's course plans in general.
They're detailed and easy to follow without being overwhelming. Something to keep in mind is they presume no prior knowledge on the part of the student whatsoever. Example--the language arts start with introducing the letters themselves, both capital and small. If your child already knows his letters, you'll find yourself skipping ahead. I think though it's better to presume less than more and let each parent decide what to skip, so I didn't mind.

We didn't do much with the supplementals or penmanship, so I can't comment on those. Does that help?

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Scheduling question

This is an opinion question for all of you homeschoolers out there. If we finish a particular subject or subjects, should we wait until we've finished all of them before moving to the next grade or just move right on?

The circumstances are this: We started first grade math a few months ago--December, I think. We're three weeks away from being done with her primer in reading, but we're only one week away from being done with science (less if she wants to do more over the weekend, which is more likely than you'd think). If we wait on everything, it puts us starting our new books the week before Holy Week--not a good time to adjust to new academics.
If we start science by itself, we'll be two or three weeks into it before Holy Week and primer completion, so we'll only be adjusting to one new subject. Or we could take some time away from all of our standard texts, enjoy a kind of Spring Break, and start all afresh after Easter.

I do realize there's nothing that says we can't take an Easter Break regardless of where we are academically. I doubt that would be a time I'd want to focus on a completely new curriculum.

The question is phasing in first grade as we finish the kindergarten material, or go into a holding pattern with the completed subjects until all are finished, then launching first grade all at once. I'm wondering how big a deal it is to get all of your new books on the same day. I'm leaning toward phasing in, but I'd like some opinions.

Least of all these considerations is we scheduled our school year start in May with our umbrella school. Then again, it's their job to flex to meet us rather than the other way around.