Domestic Bliss Report

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Does this count as a "book club?"

I've long been a bit intimidated by Kolbe's book list and curriculum. I sold my husband on it because it was the education I wish I'd had, but each year we get closer to high school increased my anxiety just a smidge. No, I wasn't losing sleep about it... yet. Madeleine's only in third grade, after all.
To reduce my worries, I have picked up some of the books the kids will be reading. I could read them and understand what was going on, but I felt like I was missing something. I tried joining an online classics reading club, but that... didn't work out. To be perfectly frank, think of the level of comments on newspaper articles. Yup. Only this time on works of literature.
Being the book fiend that I am, and raising more, we hit a bookstore this weekend. The education and workbook section was right next to the children's section so I didn't even need much of my designated "browse alone" time. I found "The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had," by Susan Wise Bauer. I read the back cover and knew it was coming home.
In the first chapter, Bauer points out the study of literature has existed outside of universities for quite a long time. Women's groups would gather in someone's parlor and they'd talk about books; handwritten journals were written about them; no professors were involved (except maybe as guests like anyone else). [As I write that, I remember the salons that Richelieu tried to control back in his time. Yeah, living room lit studies have been around a while.]
She posits that all one needs is the books, an appropriate reading level, the time for the reading, a journal to record one's thoughts about the book, and someone to discuss them with. Five things, some harder than others depending on the day.
Books--library or Amazon. Easy.
Appropriate reading level--I wasn't worried, especially after the simple "paragraph test" she had on pages 25-26.
Journal--does a blog count?
Time--I've kept a list of books finished each year since Christmas arrived once and I felt downtrodden. It's been 18-24 a year.
Now, for someone to discuss them with.... [Facebook friends who already know the answer--sh!]

There's various moms' groups I belong to. Our homeschooling group is wonderful but our interests are so varied, along with our time to give to such a project. We're talking about over 200 families, folks; while there would probably be some interest, setting a time that would be good for enough of us would be trickier than I feel like dealing with. Besides, one of the wonderful aspects is we don't have required or obligatory meetings; to have a book club would kind of throw a monkey wrench into things.
The Catholic homeschooling moms' group already has a book on apologetics. The dozen or so of us has felt a need for that background, so we've already got a book.
The parish moms' group is wonderful for support for motherhood, but homeschooling... not as much. We have a wide variety of reading tastes.

Okay, Gentle Reader. Where could I go for an intelligent person, likes to read, not intimidated by big books, that I could see on a regular basis without twisting anyone's schedules out of whack? I'll keep you in suspense; put your guesses in the combox.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Thoughts on socialization and homeschooling

Recently I've had a couple conversations with non-homeschoolers, two of which touched on that tired old bugaboo of "socialization." In three years and change, I've used up my patience with that topic and I let the Sarcasmotron come on. If I think too much about it, I'll fear what I'll be like in a few more years. Maybe I'll just breathe fire. Or laugh uproariously; fewer lawsuits that way.

To the first, I managed to be somewhat polite. "How many times did you hear at school that you're there to learn, not socialize?" As we were chatting online, I couldn't actually hear him chuckle but he admitted I has a point.

The second time was a touch different, though still chatting online. After asking about the possibility of scholarships--a reasonable and valid concern, after all--I was asked, "How do they learn social skills?"
I was more tired. I started a politely worded reply, but scratched it. Out came, "I'm not sure. I'm so busy running them to two different soccer teams, dance class (well, two are in Musical Theater this year), art class, American Heritage Girls, Vacation Bible School, flag football, park days and play dates that I really don't have time to worry about it."
That dropped the topic but I believe he got my point.

Most recently of all, I was talking with another soccer mom about homeschooling. While her kids attend public school, she's very understanding of the idea of homeschooling. I showed her some of the catalogs of materials available and she was very impressed.
"Most parents don't realize that they need to supplement their kids' education. They aren't getting everything they need at school; you HAVE to supplement," she said.
I'm going to ask her how much she's supplementing and doing homework with her kids. If she's already feeling like she needs to do that, why is she sending her kids to school? At least she's not paying twice for their education by sending them to private school, but still. That's one of the reasons I started down this road--I knew there would be things I wanted my kids to know and they wouldn't learn them at school (religion mostly, but there was more).

I'll let you know how this turns out.

UPDATE 8/25/09: A sincere thank you, Amy, for another response. "So appropriate socialization is spending 8 hours or more a day with children within the same year of age doing exactly the same thing, according to the instructions of a lone adult in the room? Sounds... odd."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Math games/toys bleg

Dale is good at math. He started the kindergarten book when he was around 3, I think, because it was yellow. Scoop was his favorite character in his favorite show so it made sense to me.

Now he's 6 and has started the second grade book. He gets the concepts with ease--time, money, fractions, even multiplication from his sister--not a problem. I think he gets bored before he gets stumped. Therein lay the problem.

So I'm looking for puzzles, games, toys, etc. that will capitalize on this. We already have Cuisenaire rods and I have plans to get those out more often. I remember these puzzles from when I was younger. They were about the size of a Rubik's Cube and involved putting three-dimensional pieces back into the clear box. Different colors were different degrees of difficulty--yellow was the easiest; white and blue were harder. I think there were red and green, too.
I can't Google or eBay them because I don't remember what they were called. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?

I don't want to just add busywork; as a former school teacher, homeschooler, and parent I know "more work" doesn't mean much if it's "more of the same." That's punishment, not enrichment.

And let me add this caveat--I know there have to be tons of computer games, software, and websites for this, but I'm reluctant to start those. He has a hard enough time tearing himself away from the computer for things like meals and chores; I don't want to add to the list.


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rachel has watched almost no Sesame Street.

And she'll be five next month. When we watched The Muppet Movie, she called Big Bird "Big Fluffy." I laughed.

Why not? Well, part of it is just I leave the TV off for great periods of time. I don't have it on as background noise at all; I'd rather have the radio or CD's. Katrina Kenison has a chapter in her marvelous Mitten Strings for God about not needing the TV or background noise, how you hear much more and listen better to our children and ourselves. I realize as well that I get easily sucked in and the kids are even more easily. So most of the time, it's off.

Another reason is that it seemed whenever I'd turn it on, they were soliciting donations. That didn't hold my interest, let alone a toddler's. Fifteen minutes of "For a donation of X amount, we'll send you this prize!" made the Elvis remote so very understandable. What they don't say is that once they have your name, address, and phone number they'll hound you into the grave for another donation. No, thanks; I don't even give my real name to magazines I want.

"But it's educational!" Sure it is, at least it used to be. Have you watched it in recent years? I remember playing with my sister, making various letters on the floor. "Look, Mom! We're an H!" We had the LP, too. It had Rubber Duckie, I Love Trash, C is for Cookie... Good times, good times.

But now? Not so much. The Number of the Day is mentioned twice, once by the Count and then in the short immediately following. Cookie Monster is on a diet of fruits and vegetables and Oscar the Grouch shows his soft side with his pet Slimy the worm. I miss those aliens, the pink and blue, that were afraid of the telephone ringing. Those two were hilarious.
And because I can:

Then comes the most compelling personage of all: Elmo. Master of merchandising, king of treacly drivel, with a voice more irritating than Fran Drescher's or Rosie's (Perez or O'Donnell--take your pick). The subject of Sesame Street came up at dinner this evening.

"Why don't you like Elmo?" Madeleine asked.
"Because he's irritating. And he's only around for merchandising. For selling things."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, when I was growing up, you could get stuffed toys of most or all of the characters. There were ones about as big as your Webkinz, and others maybe as big as Kit."
"That was okay."
"Right. There was a limit. Now, there's regular Elmo, Tickle Me Elmo, Chicken Dance Elmo, Rock and Roll Elmo... All he is is for selling more stuff."

Daddy and I continued the train after the kids had left the table. I felt a moment of inspiration; we've recently caught several episodes of "Lock N Load" with R. Lee Ermey. "You know who I want to see? Gunnery Sergeant Elmo. Wouldn't that be great?"
Daddy laughed and said in Elmo's falsetto, "You are all equally worthless to me."

So now, I leave it to you. What kind of Elmo would you love to see?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This sounds like my grandma.

I mean that.

Remember this?

I know EXACTLY what that daughter is going through.


What price education? How's $500 per student sound?

Seriously. And that sounds about right, including enrollment fees.

I worked in a parochial high school where tuition was under $5,ooo/year. Yes, we had a football team but not swimming; indoor pools are expensive and must be maintained year-round.
I worked in public schools where each student brought in roughly $6,600/year. We had all the bells and whistles, and still had book fairs, magazine sales, other fundraisers. And kids still had to provide their own paper, pencils, folders, etc.

This state expenditure and private school tuition has been discussed among us homeschooling moms. "What if *I* got that much money for school? Holy cow, new textbooks every year! We'd have cutting edge everything--software, videos, memberships to all of the nearby attractions..."

And we still do better. Hm. Strange, that.

Tip, La Shaidle.

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At the DIA with a four-year-old

We wandered down to the DIA this weekend. We have a membership, it's air-conditioned, and they were having a free presentation titled "Dragon Dreams and Daring Deeds"--yes, geared to kids.
We got there in time to wander over to the temporary Egyptian setup--the usual one was being remodeled or some such, so we went through the Asian/Indian exhibit to our goal. There was a statue, about three feet tall, in the Indian section that caught the girls' notice:

Rachel almost shouted. "Wow, Mom! Look at the size of her--"
Madeleine shushed her, a touch embarrassed.
My curiosity was piqued. Would she use the correct anatomical term? Exactly what had she noticed?
"Rachel," I whispered, taking a knee, "what were you going to say?"
She started to turn pink and flustered, afraid of getting in trouble. Big sister had shushed her, after all. "Honey, it's okay. I'm asking you, so you won't get in trouble. What did you notice that were big? Her what?"
My precious sparkly girl screwed up her courage and looked me in the eye.
"Her earrings."

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Spring is bustin' out all over.

There is growth all over this little house in Motownville. The most obvious and important is my increasingly-"voluptuous" (read:awkward and waddly) form. I've got probably eight weeks and change to go so yay. This is where the fun starts. Right? RIGHT?!

Another is Gladys the Christmas Kitten. She managed to escape the house while we were on vacation for nine days in June/July and came back knocked up. We weren't certain at first but she's getting pretty rounded around the middle. Anyone want a kitten? Right about on time to start protecting your hard work from the summer, your harvest? Drop a line in the comments box. Son Dale in his blessed naiveté thought we could sell them; I'm thinking I'm grateful for Freecycle.

The other area of outward growth is our garden. We had lots of seeds but we've discovered that some things work better as seedlings. Next year, the eggplant and green peppers will be purchased as seedlings; the beans will be potted indoors around the first of May. But when all has been said and done, three bean plants made it, for a while at least. I think they're pretty much done and produced enough for random snacks for whichever child noticed. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen; our third and fourth are on the kitchen counter as I type. That fourth one is bigger than the palm of my hand! And, if the weather heats up this weekend like I'm hearing, that could mean the couple out there starting to turn orange could be ready sooner rather than later. And then some more.
One of the many good things about this garden thing is Madeleine has overcome her dislike of tomatoes. The fact that they grew in her own back yard could be it; maybe it was just she didn't like that I served them with a sprinkle of black pepper. I don't care. Plain is okay too.

The sunflowers that I planted didn't make it. Somehow, though, the birds or something got hold of some of the seeds and we have half a dozen in the flower boxes on the south side of the house. I guess that's where we should put them next year without the avian assistance.

Of course, then there are the pumpkins. I've never grown those before, and only visited a pumpkin patch once in my life (it was during college). Our neighbor-turned-landlord advised that they would take over the yard and he wasn't kidding. It's like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. I'm afraid sometimes that I won't be able to find Louie out there among them.
To date, we only have four actual pumpkins, but the number of blooms on the vine and the simple length of the vines are... intimidating. Dale is thrilled that "his" pumpkins are doing so well. Next year, fewer pumpkin seeds. I saw some to grow white pumpkins; that sure would be different, wouldn't it?

Dolls that walk, talk, cry, and run a temperature. Now this?

Oh no! They've invented a baby doll that encourages breastfeeding! What's next, one that poops?

I find the furor over this doll ridiculous, myself. Madeleine and Rachel both pretended to nurse various dolls; Maddie more so, but still. Both of 'em.
They didn't need a doll to encourage them, Maddie did it with her teddy bear or her stuffed giraffe as well as baby dolls. They learned it from their mother's example. They saw me feeding their younger sibling(s) and were simply imitating. They didn't need any special clothes for it, either; both girls would just hike up their shirt and settle the doll in the appropriate place.
Now, they didn't do it while out and about, at church or somewhere like that. It was pretty much at home. And no, even at home I'm not naked neck to navel to nurse, either.

Dumbest section of the whole article: "Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of, said although he supports the idea of breast-feeding, he sees how his own daughter plays with dolls and wonders if Bebe Gloton might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it."
Exactly how would the doll do that any more than any other baby doll? Would it help if if it then wets or poops to give that less-pleasant aspect of motherhood too? Are they listening to themselves?

I could see getting upset over the concept of merchandising, but over the breastfeeding aspect? That I find risible.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Just varia

More to remind myself than anyone else.

I don't know if I posted it here, but it's been elsewhere (Husband's blog, Facebook, the old-fashioned telephone, announcements by my mother) that we're expecting a girl come October, no later than the 19. Elizabeth Christina is, according to ultrasound, a little on the small side but not so much so as to engender worry. Otherwise everything is textbook and problem-free. Aside from having twenty extra pounds strapped to my abdomen, that is. Roughly ten more weeks to go.

I've read two books in the past month. The first was Robert Spencer's Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't. It's a delightfully un-PC romp through the history and current status of two of the world's biggest and most influential religions. He doesn't ignore the wrongdoings of Christians, but points out that if you have to go back to the Crusades (which, if I may point out, were a defensive move to begin with--and not a pre-emptive one either) or Galileo to cite them, perhaps a more modern examination is in order. Followers of a certain other monotheistic faith are daily making the papers, and not for their missionary work. I got this book of his because I have the feeling his other stuff would keep me up at night.

The other was for my birthday last Wednesday, and I finished it over the weekend. Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry is a breath of fresh air. Her writing style reminds me a lot of Vicki Iovine's (another one of my favorite reality-check writing moms). She takes a common-sense approach to motherhood and protecting our children. She's pro-car-seat, -bike-helmet, and -sunscreen but thinks playgrounds where tag is outlawed are ridiculous. So she ridicules them.
I remember during my first pregnancy I picked up What to Eat When You're Expecting. I figured I had a pretty healthy diet; this would just be refining and a few tips. Whoa, was I wrong. Two chapters in or something and the discussion on the evils of white flour had me feeling like I was abusing our child and she hadn't even been born. I wept; the book went.
Here's a sample:
This is a mat you put on the bottom of the tub. Turn the water on, and if the words TOO HOT! magically appear in a bubble near the duckie's head, you know that the water is, indeed, too hot! Because who can trust her own wrists anymore?
Oh wat a sec. We all can. Dip a wrist in the water, and you yourself can tell if that water is warm, cold, or boiling hot. (Key word: YEOW!) So why on earth is there not only this heat sensitive bath mat for sale but also a competing turthle you can put in your tub that will indicate TOO HOT! too? (Not a real turtle, who would indicate that by turning into soup.)
She cites statistics, anecdotes, and real-world experiences. I laughed my way through this one and intend to lend it out to friends.
Dear husband, though, did have a quibble with her point. Where yes, stranger kidnapping is exceedingly rare (noncustodial parent being far more common), our society now has sexualized children more than in the past. The steady pornification (I think I made that word up) of the general population has made it more possible, or even acceptable, for the perverts.
He may be right, but that doesn't change the fact that a child is 40 times more likely to die in a car accident, ten times more likely to die in a fire at home, twenty times more likely to drown in a pool, and eighty or ninety times more likely to be molested by someone they know than kidnapped and murdered by a stranger. (Those are her stats, not mine; I'm cribbing from page 184.)

So now you know what else I've been up to. Gestating, reading, keeping the other kids alive. Now your turn--go. Read.

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