Thursday, December 30, 2010


Want to start a war on any given homeschool board?  Casually mention that you are going to put high school credits earned in middle school on your kid's transcript.  To say home educators have strong feelings in this regard makes the world's zealots appear to be a bunch of wan and tepid mushmouths.

I find the transcript imbroglio entertaining for a lot of reasons.  When folks feel strongly about something that ultimately matters not a whit, they tend to couch their arguments in terms of highest moral imperative.  Accordingly, those including the credits become cheaters blithely trying to game the system rather than a parent trying to accurately reflect a kid's learning.  The opinions offered in strongest terms often come from those with the most glancing experience--how their one kid got into his/her one college, for example.

Most lists I participate in have the transcript topic come up at least annually.  It allows each of us to don our college admissions staff hats and pontificate in ways that parallel primitive folks in the prescientific past explaining the ways of a volcano.  I suspect the same amount of fear and superstition may hold sway as we collectively try to bribe the gods who control so much of our child's future.

Home educators tend to forget a few things as the acorns bounce off our noggins.  Convinced the sky is falling, we fail to remember:

1. Public schools across the nation have differing standards for reflecting high school credit earned in middle school on transcripts.  Don't believe me?  Engage in your own quick google search and see.

2.  We, as the administrators of our own school, can set our own policies in this regard.

3.  We don't even have to have a Board of Ed meeting about it, though if it results in a date night with my husband to call one, I am in favor.

I like Inge Cannon's staunch support of including high school credits on a transcript, regardless of when they were earned.  However, her transcript formatted by subject rather than by year to accommodate these credits seems just plain odd to me.  The last thing we homeschoolers need is more oddity, agreed?  Lee Binz, on her blog, assumes a reasonable middle of the road approach for deciding what gets high school credit.  Additionally, her transcript incorporating early high school credit strikes me as an elegantly forthright approach in presenting our credentials to the college admissions officer.

My oldest is a freshman/sophomore (we can't decide), so the issue of transcripts is becoming to me more than just an easy way to start a board war.  Throw in the fact that he's wildly asynchronous--easily earning an A in college Calc this fall but still loving playing with Legos--and I am wildly odd--I will take three years to teach American History if I please, thank you very much--and you have the makings of one gnarly looking transcript.

What are your thoughts on the matter?


Sunday, December 26, 2010

No Mo' Money

The husband formerly known as Mr. Wonderful pointed to a rather large math error I made in figuring our net worth.  While we're still average accumulators (see post below), we are not nearly as average as I would like.  My deflated feeling tells me that perhaps I am not doing so well in the making money neither more nor less important than it should be department either.

Phooey and rats.


Show Me the Money

Simple is not always simplistic.

I ran across a simple and elegant benchmark at Get Rich Slowly.  The author attributed the idea to the book The Millionaire Next Door :

  1. Calculate your annual pre-tax household income.
  2. Divide your age by ten.
  3. Multiply these two numbers together.
Ignoring inheritance, your expected household net worth is the product of this calculation.
Being both simple and simplistic, I wondered how to calculate net worth.
Here's an easy way to figure that.
I found out we're not doing too poorly.  We're a bit above average accumulators of wealth as described in the Get Rich Slowly blog piece.  While I was thankful not to be an under accumulator (those whose net worth is less than half what the calculation suggests it should be), I wish we were prodigious accumulators (those whose net worth is double or more what the calculation suggests).
Or maybe I don't.  Thinking about what we would have had to do differently to be prodigious wealth accumulators, there are only a couple large, stunningly foolish actions I wish we could have a do-over for.  I suspect we could easily tighten up a few dripping faucets in the budget that might produce a large effect over time.
But to truly be a prodigious accumulator, I'd have to give finances a larger portion of my thought life than I want to.  I like our financial life to be based on good habits and automated so that it doesn't have to dominate my thinking.  I don't want money to be more important or less important than it should be.
To achieve prodigious status, I'd have to give up some things I don't want to.  Well, I take that back.  I'd give up most things to have more wealth, but I am unwilling to give up most people and experiences.  To be a prodigious accumulator, I'd almost certainly have to give up at least a kid or two.  And even though they are smelly, high maintenance and occasionally ungrateful, I remain ridiculously attached to them.  Furthermore, to be a prodigious accumulator, I'd almost certainly need to give back some of our experiences.  Flying a family of 7 to Arizona for a niece's wedding was foolish--I could have gone alone.  We didn't need to take the side trip to the Grand Canyon.  DisneyWorld is expensive.
Not that every experience must cost a lot of money, but travel with my family is a category I value despite its expense.
What do you think of the formula?  Would you trade anything to be further along in your financial journey?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Came and Went

The Facebook pleadings for a few more hours in the day, a clone, another week, have slowed now.  Rather than busy and important sounding, status updates such as these might now read as merely disorganized and inept.  Or perhaps there is resignation amongst my friends and acquaintances, a sense that if it isn't done by now, it probably won't get done.  Alternatively, it's possible that these folks have simply become such a critical mass of frenzied activity that they can no longer spare the few minutes a day to update us.  Whatever the cause,  I sense the Christmas quiet beginning to descend.

We normally have a quiet Christmas season.  I've spent no small amount of self-deceiving energy constructing righteous rationalizations as to why this is so.  We intentionally live with margin.  We choose our activities judiciously.  We center on deep spiritual meaning rather than commercial frenzy.  Truth is, we probably just have fewer friends than a lot of people.  Five sick kids, four inches of snow and a good book from the library doesn't hurt the motivation to curl up and stay home.

My Christmas came and went last week.  It arrived in a difficult and necessary conversation with a friend.  It moved through painful honesty and concluded with reconciliation as the desired and that much closer, possible end.

Christmas doesn't come every year, at least not to me.  Some years it is the Santas, the elves on shelves, the white elephants.  Fun but ultimately meaningless.  Every so often, though, the reconciliation that God intended by sending his Son to redeem humanity blazes through the trappings and pierces hearts.

Peace on Earth.  Goodwill toward men.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Easy Adjustable Cookie Recipe

One of my favorite people on the planet, Dana, knows a thing or two about being efficient.  She's a single parent.  Who home educates her three children.  To top academic scores and honors.  And runs her own business.  Which has grown from nothing to a client base of hundreds in under four years.  Almost entirely by satisfied word of mouth.  Featured not only in her local paper but also on The Old Schoolhouse magazine's Speaker Bureau.

So when she mentioned that she made 24 dozen cookies for the freezer in under an hour, I paid attention.

Dana's secret lies in knowing the appropriate use of "semi-homemade."

The basic recipe:  One box cake mix, 1 egg, 1 stick melted butter, add-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles etc) to taste.  Mix and divide into two rolled logs to freeze.  Slice cookies off log as needed and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

The variations are endless depending on what flavor cake mix one selects and which add-ins.  Dana warns if you select chocolate cake mix, add a tablespoon or two of water.  Other varieties of mix don't seem to require this.

Delicious simplicity with endless variety.  Perfect!

For other holiday cookie recipes, check out the links at Raising Olives.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Adjusting for our seasonal ADHD

In a normal year, June is the only month we take off from "school."  I use quotes because most everyone knows that education need not be confined to school time.  In fact, the two often exist as mutually exclusive subsets.  I merely become more stealthy than usual in June and lighten up some of the daily skills practice.  July and August build a reserve that allows me to adjust our schooling in December without guilt.  

'Cuz let's face it--the clan, they do get squirrely in December.  Frankly, so do I.

The only December task for which the kids can muster single minded focus is hunting down every present hiding spot.  This they accomplish with ruthless efficiency.  Holiday toy catalogs become their singular choice of reading material.

I begin dreaming of Tuba Christmas and other holiday activities.  Our "school" looks increasingly pale and anemic in comparison to Gladiator Challenge and Family Christmas Fest.  Closing the gaps pointed out by the kids' academic evaluations seems best saved for the doldrums of February, not the crisp excitement of the Christmas season.

"Fun it up" becomes my December schooling mantra.  My definition of fun rarely matches the kids', but I don't let that deter me.  We have a beautiful new Mac which we underutilize, so this month, I am determined to learn how to use the darn thing.  Being far too lazy to do this myself, I will assign each application to a kid to master and teach to me.  They need the practice and will like that they get to be on the computer without it counting toward their allotted hour of media time.

They also need to learn how to cook better.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, thoughts of my Dishwasher Salmon--which I did try despite Mr. Wonderful's protests--are returning to haunt you.  Fear not, this time, I have a book!  My children may never know how to bake chicken, broil meat or mash a potato, but who could resist learning to cook Hotch-Potch, Hopping John and Marched Pane? I will oversee while nursing some Whipped Syllabub.  Doesn't it sound like fun?  The cookbook fits our colonial America study theme and theme is so much more important than silly little things like food being edible, doncha think?

How does your family adjust for December's fantastic frenzy?


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Get your Kids Free Money by this Sunday!

A truly great deal out there this weekend.  ING Direct (FDIC insured) is offering $25 bonus into each kid savings account opened by Sunday.  You can do this online here.

If the link is not working, just google ING Direct.

The minimum amount to open the account is $.51 cents.  The savings account pays just over 1% interest currently, up to six free transactions per month.  Easy online registration form.

The only slight snag is that you will only be able to set up for one child immediately.  When you try to open an account for the second kid, a box pops up that says there is a slight issue with your account and it gives you a number to call.

I waited on hold for about three minutes. 

In short, you can't set up a second account until ING confirms your primary bank account.  This is easy to do, but takes a couple business days.  The phone rep will give you a reference code, good until mid-December, that you can use to open the add'l kid accounts and still receive the $25 bonus.

Well worth the very slight hassle for $125 (in our family's case).  The adult does not need to be an ING customer (we aren't) to take advantage of this offer.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Rain on the Just and the Unjust Alike.

If yesterday's post was earnestness and honesty and just reward, today's is sloth, procrastination, serendipity and unjust reward.

We spent a nauseating amount of money last night at Home Depot to get rid of our nauseating, stained, sun faded, builder original, decade plus old carpeting.

I always wanted to plant bulbs, but am fundamentally too lazy to do so.  So many holes, so much dirt, varying depths and for what?  to be food for all the darn bunnies around here?

Hope springs eternal, even for the lazy and inept.

Leaving Home Depot last night, I saw these All-in-One garden pots, a biodegradable planting pot with all the bulbs contained at the appropriate depth.  Better yet, the pots were marked down from $10 to $3.  Best of all, Chicagoland will be experiencing our last 60 degree day here with a drizzly rain.  By tomorrow, we're headed for a 40 degree temperature plunge.  God, in his infinite mercy and common grace, sent me one last planting day.  This morning, in all of 5 minutes, I got 80 bulbs in the ground.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:45


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Makes This Former Waitress Proud

Many will be surprised to learn that our oldest son is a talker.  Not those who knew him back when he was two; they can never forget his constant narration of his existence. "I'm walking; I'm walking; I'm running in a semi-flattened oval; I'm running in a semi-flattened oval."  The rest of you may be surprised to learn it because these days, much like his father, mini-Mr. Wonderful must know you well and like you to want to talk around you.

My husband honestly is quiet.  Mini-Mr. Wonderful, not really.  In fact, for a lot of his life, I've worked on convincing him that not every observation of his needs to be expressed.  His narration tends toward the TMI category.  Perhaps he is not emotionally self-disclosing, but I know more about the status of every pore on his face than any mother needs or wants to know.  That's just the tip of the TMI iceberg.

Mini-Mr. Wonderful is without guile and will honestly answer any question posed to him.  While I don't want him to lie, I worry that this trait coupled his gentle soul will lead him to a world of hurt.  I wonder if he will be taken advantage of.  I wonder if his peers will laugh at him.  You don't hear much these days about folks being earnest, but that is the adjective that best describes this son.

A friend took the older boys out to CiCi's pizza this weekend.  The cashier pressed the boys on their decision to have just water.  I guess this is not usual in the teen boy crowd.  "Are you sure you don't want soda?"

She asked the wrong boy.  If this kid had adopted any of his mother's training, he would have said simply "No, thank you."

Instead, what he said was, "We want to make sure we have enough money for a tip, so no thank you.  We'll just have water."

I will pause here while you say, "Awww..."  Showing that I too possess the TMI trait, I will admit my first thought upon hearing this was, "Crap.  Why didn't I send him with more money?"

A few minutes later, the cashier brought the boys over soda cups and told them they were very polite kids and to go ahead and get sodas.  My son told me this with a somewhat guilty look--I am sure his rule oriented being was uncomfortable with indulging in unpaid for soda--and he assured me that he and his brother thanked the cashier then and again when they left.

Sometimes, mothers see the downside of traits when they should be celebrating their positive implications.

Nice guys don't always finish last.  Sometimes, they get free sodas.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let the HateFest Begin!

No one is ever going to hate me for being too rich or too thin, so I must find some other way to stoke my ego beast.

This should do it.

Let it be said, that on this day, November 18, 2010, with the exception of two presents (one on rain check, one we are still mulling), and a couple o' stocking stuffers and gift cards, I am done with Christmas shopping. 

Not only that, but my holiday cards are ordered.

My presents are wrapped, labelled and hidden away.  Stocking stuffers are in bags labelled by child and stored in one yet larger bag.

Did I mention that I chose a different wrapping paper for each child, and wrapped every present of theirs in that paper?  On Christmas morning, we will be able to tell at a glance to whom each present belongs and be able to dole them out in a balanced rotation.

I thought you all would want to know.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Speaking of Successful Blogs

I must admit I am recently and completely obsessed with The Pioneer Woman's blog.  I heard she offered wonderful give-aways on her site and noticed a gorgeous lidded pot available for enthused readers who left a comment on Friday and Friday only.  Ree mentioned three would be given away and I thought my chances might be pretty good.  That is, until I scrolled down to comments and saw 33,000 other folks had beaten me to the punch.  In one day.

Whereas I hesitate to remove my own page views from my Blogger stats lest I am left with no stats at all.  I've always maintained I'm my own best audience and Blogger stats shows I'm no liar.

You can imagine my surprise and joy when someone I don't know in real life and am not related to by blood or marriage mentioned my blog the other day on a homeschool mom chat board.

In my euphoria, I did not notice she began her post title with a "Hmmm..."  Rookie mistake.  "Hmmm...." and "Just curious" always mean the poster is about to eviscerate you.  Don't be fooled if you are on a Christian mama board or even talking to a real life Christian mama.  They can be the most practiced at this skill.  Beware in the South that this type usually precedes the comment with a "bless your heart" or "bless her heart" before moving in for the kill.

I skipped the hmm until I read the comment, which sweetly wondered if I hadn't blogged just the opposite perspective of the one I voiced on the chat board.

I don't know, did I?  Very possibly.  I deliberately ignored the obvious "you hypocrite" undertone and decided to center on the positive.  This lady remembered my blog?  And a post I didn't even remember?  That's amazing to me.  I can't remember what I said yesterday and my writing lodged that firmly in her brain?

Naturally, I thanked her for being a reader and asked her to become a "follower" of the blog so I would know she's reading.  Plus, 11 followers seems so much less loser-ish than 10, don'tcha think?

To which she replied she was NOT (ok, I capped.  She didn't, but it felt like she did.) a reader.  She had read it one time, "Sorry to pop my bubble."

But ya know what?  I'm still kindof elated.  I never did find whatever post she recalled, but I obviously provoked an intense reaction in her.  Strongly negative, but surely that's better than lukewarm, right?  I'm gonna go out on limb here and state categorically that Jesus thought so.  And you know Jesus is the trump card that ends all arguments, so I win.

I don't want you all--all 10 of you--to think poorly of this woman because she seems quite friendly and wonderful to everyone else on the board.  I can only surmise the issue is me.  Probably, I brought this one on myself by a true but unnecessary comment a year or so ago in response to a post of hers.  There's another lesson in that for me, I am sure.  If I were going to write myself a note about it, I'd probably begin it with a "Hmmm..."

(If you are reading my blog, whether by FB or another means, if you'd take a moment to become a "follower" on the blog's homepage, I'd appreciate it!)

Blessings, Holly

I am clueless, but that is beside the point.

Take a look at my cell phone--a Nokia 1100 which the Chicago Tribune termed "sexy as a trip to the dentist"--and you get the idea that I'm not a leading indicator of all things new and hip.

So you will forgive me for just this past week discovering  Not that I don't hold each and every one of you partially responsible.  You'd think you might mention a blog written by a homeschooler that gets 10 million hits per month (yes, you read that right) and generates a million dollars a year in ad revenue for its author.  You might have shot me an email that it would be wise for me to buy P-Dub's cookbook.  Or that I might want to line up to see the story of how she met her husband as portrayed on the big screen by Reese Witherspoon.

But you didn't and so I had to go find her on my own.  Which only took me five years more than the rest of America.  Thanks.  Now I am kicking myself that I have to volunteer at AWANA this coming Wednesday rather than be watching the Food Network when The Pioneer Woman engages in a Throwdown with Bobby Flay.  TiVo it? DVR?  Please refer to paragraph one.  I'd dig out an old VHS tape to record it, but I never figured out how to do that either.

I thought this entry in her homeschooling section captured a lot of how many of us--well, those of us with a sense of humor anyway--think of the endeavor.

One paragraph of Ree's in particular that I love:

Lots of people support our decision to homeschool. Some are quietly guarded. Others think we’re mentally ill. I vacillate between all three myself. Believe me, if you’re shaking your head reading this, I understand. If you think I’m a nutjob, I totally get it. If you think my kids will grow up to be weird, you’re probably right. And if you think I’m a freak? You’re right on the money.
But you know what? It works for us.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Most mornings, I read my neighbor's blog.  She usually has something interesting to say and I'm always interested in what those around me think.  I'm still mulling her "Who's the Boss" column.

Last night, after my second suggestion for his upcoming workday in which he will be meeting the new boss of his boss, my husband told me to stop 'helping' him.

These are not unrelated.

I had been thinking pious thoughts for a couple of weeks after reading Pam's blog.  What woman can't relate to her list of the endless details that women attend to and keep stored in their internal rolodex?  But God's the boss of our marriage, I thought.  (Trust me, it sounded even more smug in my head than it does in print). Then Mr. Wonderful, then me.  When I have time, I thought, I will write a wonderful blog post explaining the God given hierarchy in marriage.  I will even pull out the verses we picked for our marriage ceremony:

Two are better than one, 
   because they have a good return for their labor: 
10 If either of them falls down, 
   one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls 
   and has no one to help them up. 
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
   But how can one keep warm alone? 
12 Though one may be overpowered, 
   two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Eccl. 4:9-12

I will wrap that up with an elegant explanation of Who the third strand is and send my blog out into the cyberworld desperately in need of my wisdom and pontification.

Every so often--though not nearly as frequently as I would like--God stays my hand and prevents me from presenting myself as not only trite but also the pompous Hundred Acre Woods Owl that I am.

Because really, a lot of our marriage has been a struggle for me to get my rightly ordered head knowledge to be reflected in my actual actions.

Last night was but a small example.  When I am nervous, I often feel like I need to 'help.'  The more I don't have control over a situation, the more I need to help it.

Surprisingly(?), Mr. Wonderful isn't a fan of those times.  And I imagine God probably isn't either.   And you know what, I'm really not either.  I remind myself of Peter being an idiot in Matthew 17--uh, Pete?  They're transfigured--they don't a shelter built.  Every time I read that passage I think Peter is talking just to talk.

I understand.

So, the question remains Who's the Boss?  Wouldn't it be wonderful if my actions so reflected that answer as to make my blog post about it unnecessary?


Monday, October 18, 2010


It is a testament to the magic of Disney that even in a week when 5 of 7 family members come down with a stomach bug too gross to describe, when the worst undescribed bodily functions associated with such illness take place between midnight and 3am every night, when one gets stung by a jelly fish, when another cuts 4 teeth and sleeps very little, when 12 loads of laundry are done while on vacation--it is a testament that everyone is still glad we got to go.

A decade ago, I probably would have counted this vacation a disaster.  Lots of kids have a way of beating expectations out of you.  Now I know that with the exception of the jelly fish sting--uncommon in IL--all those same things would have added up to just another fairly typical week here.  Sitting in Animal Kingdom Lodge, watching giraffes and zebras and watusi cattle and ostrich, provides a much more pleasant back drop for the unpleasantries of life.

If one can't be prepared oneself, best to send kids to the beach with someone who is.  My sister, obsessed with every disaster which can befall common mortals, would never consider going to the beach without meat tenderizer.  Our stung son was only in pain for moments before the tenderizer worked its magic.  I'm sure he was far less traumatized than had he gone with his own family as we would not have had such foresight and would all have had to pee on him to remove the stinging pain (wasn't there a Friends episode about that?).

I don't know if my sister noticed the faraway look in my eyes as she waxed eloquent about her extensive jellyfish sting research, the need for updated tetanus, the possibility of infection, the antibiotics needed if instead of a common jelly the bite was from a Man O' War.  It's not that such knowledge isn't useful, it's more that I just don't have time or patience for it.  Each day brings enough actual disaster, however minor, of its own without me having to conjure even worse ones.  Let's hope for the best and move on.  Not a bad life motto.

Some family memories are etched in the best of happy times and some in shared mishaps that grow funny as time passes.  This week provided both for our family.  We returned home to learn that a well-liked pastor from our old church, out on a bike ride, had been killed by a hit and run driver.  There is nothing like the sudden, too soon, earthly finality of death to order one's world anew.  Every moment is precious--even those filled with puke, crying and stings.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Bulk Eating

We eat in bulk here.  If you have a teenager, particularly if you have a teenage boy, you know what I mean.

I have two teenage boys.

This inexpensive lentils and rice recipe gives nutritious bulk to our meals.  We even had just a smidgen left over when I served it as a side dish at lunch.  I like that the recipe is easy and simple and if you want to give it some pizazz, you could serve it with salsa.  If you double it, you could throw the leftovers into your next pot of chicken soup or use the extra in tortillas with cheese on top.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Duh Moment

Every so often I read something that is so obvious, I wonder why I didn't think
of it before.

Yesterday, I read that as kids move into high school, they should make their own
appointments--drs, dentists, etc. Give them the family calendar, remind them
that they can't be in two places at one time and let them have at it.


I have such a tendency to infantilize my kids, often doing for them what
they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. I fight this tendency all
the time.

So, I flipped the 15 year old the phone with some possible dates and an overview of what to
say and set him loose on the admissions tour lady of the college he's taking
Calc at this fall. And he politely and competently set up a campus tour for
himself (and us).

He was so pleased with himself when he got off the phone! For parents of
extroverts, this little vignette is completely unremarkable, but it's another
step toward competence and independence that can be intimidating for introverted
kids. The beloved firstborn himself commented that making the call "made him feel powerful."


Guess who I intend to have greet the receptionist and state our purpose tomorrow
when we arrive for our tour?


Blessings, Holly

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Busy, Busy, Dreadfully Busy...

I try mightily to strike the word "busy" from my vocabulary.  It irks me to hear how busy folks are, though I could never fully articulate why.   This lady does a great job of capturing my feelings in a cogent way. 

One point from her blog that especially resonates is busy=important and therefore is a virtue.  That has always struck me as patently false.  I view self-reported busyness as a symptom of either insecurity or as the author points out, disorganization.

I've noticed, though, that the busiest amongst us rarely have time to tell us how busy they are.  They are just out there doing.  Those lamenting their busy-ness are often those loaded up with strictly voluntary commitments.  They usually are good things, but how often do we lose out on God's best for us, for our family because we settle for busy goodness?  Maybe it's not an either/or and I'm willing to concede that God's best for us at times can be that busy goodness, but I have a hunch that it's not nearly as often as we conflate the two.

Busyness also seems to be more a complaint of women.  Perhaps because we do not compartmentalize as well as men and tend to think of all our categories and commitments concomitantly whereas men can lock away their "work" and their "home" and the like into non-overlapping areas?  Women tend to operate smack in the center of the Venn diagram whereas men seem to move between the three circles without being sucked into the center.

I'd like to think on this more and expound further, but I'm, well, you know...


Friday, June 18, 2010

Ridiculous Recumbent

Back when I was about 12, Dad got that stupid bike.  My father is very Italian. Read that as as wide as he is tall. Rotund would be the kind description. Imagine him with big tall flag on his bike--to be seen, lest the rest of what I am about to describe go unnoticed--portable rear view mirror attached to his glasses' temple bar, dressed in black and yellow horizontal striped biking shirt, black shorts and weird little pointy shoes clipped into his pedals. Think John Belushi dressed up as a bumblebee, riding that bike.

Now imagine you're the 12 year old, self conscious daughter of that man. The horror, the horror. And he rode it ALL OVER our small little town.

Flash forward 30 years. 12 year old is now self conscious home educating mom, already aware that she and her children are charting a course bound to set them just a bit apart in the court of public opinion. I bring my 12 year old with me on the annual pilgrimage to my folks' place in upstate NY (why o why o why won't they retire to Florida like normal people???).

My dad asks said son if he wants to ride his bike, which Dad can no longer ride. Next thing I know, Dad has promised to ship my kid the bike. Dad and Nathan are both beside themselves with glee and Nathan makes me promise not to tell Mr. Wonderful until the bike arrives. He wants it to be a surprise.

Now, Mr. Wonderful has seen this bike before and is also acutely aware of the freak potential others may see in our children even before one throws a recumbent into the mix.

I keep quiet.

The bike arrives in two cartons. O, Frabjous day! Calloo callay! Mr. Wonderful dutifully puts the bike together for Nathan, who eagerly takes it out around the neighborhood. Later that night, when we were going to bed, Mr. Wonderful says to me, "I want you to know, I did not say anything negative to Nathan about that bike. But I hope the neighborhood kids don't pelt him with rocks."

So, there you have it.  I've come full circle with that blasted bike, right back around to the starting point.  Me, mortified. This time with a healthy sense of humor about it all.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bumper Stickers

I like bumper stickers.  Several years ago, I pumped gas behind a fellow with the best bumper stickers ever.    I told him I was certain we wouldn't agree on politics, but he had awesome bumper stickers.  He seemed surprised that a conservative could have a sense of humor and compliment someone with whom they disagreed.  I don't remember what all his stickers said, but I got the biggest kick out of this one.

Yesterday, my son completed his volunteer hours at the Museum of Science and Industry.  That marks the 11th time since January that I've hauled five kids into and out of Chicago on a weekday.  That's even less fun than it sounds like.

When we left, we discovered a handwritten note under our windshield.  It read "From one homeschool mom to another, you have great bumper stickers!"

Are you into bumper stickers?  I shouldn't be.  I hate visual clutter.  But I have just enough kitsch in me to really love these.  So amuse me.  What do your bumper stickers say?  I used to have one promoting my cousin's kid that read "Life is Song.  Sing It!" I was sad when it disintegrated.

My current bumper crop:

Training Hearts and Minds: Christian Home Education

Break the Conventions, Keep the Commandments (GK Chesterton)

and my personal favorite, the ubiquitous yellow caution diamond which reads:

Caution:  Unsocialized Homeschoolers on Board


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What to Learn?

In the past two days, I've read posts from an 80 year old grandpa and a 40 year old mom, each lamenting that their skills and knowledge have become obsolete.

Being a housewife in the 21st century, I've been obsolete for a long time.  You kinda get used to it.  Being also a home educating mama, the posts make me wonder again what is the purpose of education?  What am I to be hungering for in our home school journey?  What is essential?

I have no way of knowing the specific skill set needed for the future for my kids.  But there are a few things I do know.

Respect of authority is foundational.  I'm at that time of life--solidly middle aged--where I see a lot of folks dear to me missing the mark.  Without exception, those veering off course are doing so because they are substituting their desire to be their own god for a submission to the authority of the one true God.

That tells me, and our pastor recently reminded us all (May 9), that respect for parents is essential in kids.  I need to teach my children to respect our authority or they never stand a chance of respecting God's authority in their lives.  Moreover, I need to link their respect for our authority to God's word--"because I said so" doesn't cut it most of the time (darn).

I have a whole 'nother set of folks dear to us who are being buffeted by life's storms through no fault of their own.  Cancer comes.  Spouses stray.  Children die before their time.  That tells me that faith is essential for my own children.  Only by knowing and trusting that God is good, all the time and with us even in the darkest and most hopeless moments can one endure.

While we live in a district with wonderful schools, I know the schools can't be about teaching this to my kids.  Only my husband and I can.  And we can't cram it into the 15 minutes a day left over after school and activities.  It's a Deuteronomy about it when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

I need to remember this because, have I mentioned we live in a district with wonderful schools?  The lure and pull of their wonderfulness becomes powerfully strong at times and usually in direct proportion to the hold I give the doubt monster.  Any parent knows the doubt monster and those of us charting an unconventional path know him even better.

My children need to learn that they are of infinite worth to God.  Everything else in life, all our skills and knowledge, our job, our looks, our health, even those around us, will fade and pass away.  Only God's love endures.  I don't want my children to be lonely, so I need to encourage their relationship with the One who assures us NEVER will I leave you, NEVER will I forsake you.

If I did nothing else for my children but help them succeed in these three areas of respect, reliance and relationship, their homeschooling would be a rousing success.  (And to all my friends who have been given other paths, please don't read this to say that homeschooling is the only path to success in these three areas.  God uses many means to the same end.  I am only certain that this is the means he intends right now for our family.  You may be equally convicted on different means for your own.  God may change the means for us in the future.  He's God after all; He can do what he likes.)

My children need good habits.  Even if I fail in the academic department, a good portion of life is showing up on time, being organized and being able to break down a task into sensible parts.  Chores form habits.  We do a lot of chores.

Yet I obsess over their academics.  Not that academics are unimportant, but the very nature of a one on one (or even a five on one) educational environment covers most deficiencies in that regard.  I could obsess a lot less.  The aforementioned laments over obsolete skills comfort me and reaffirms my basic philosophy of education.  My kids need to know how to recognize what they don't know and how to go about teaching themselves.  They need to think, write, compute and create clearly, elegantly and artfully.

This post is nothing more than a reminder to myself.  How often I put the academics above the others and if we're being completely honest, how often I do so to reassure myself of my own worth.  I guess even us obsolete housewives feel a bit better about ourselves when we can brag but my eight year old knows X and my 14 year old is doing Y.

I'm wrapping up our 10th year of formal home education. 15th if you count it from when a kid is born.  God willing, I have 18 more years in front of me.  It's a marathon and a sprint...a lot of years and not nearly enough time, both together.  But what a privilege and Galatians 6:9 tells me that my work in this regard will never grow obsolete.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tidbits About Those Between Diapers and Driver's Ed

I am embarking on round four of teaching a kid to read.  Hello, Bob books, my old friends, how are you?

Each and every time I am struck anew at how blending sounds appears an intuitive step to adults.

And how completely not so to kids.

If you approach it with fresh ears, Muh.....Aah.....Tuh truly sounds nothing like Mat.  Even if you encourage the holding out of one sound til the next begins, MuhhhhhAahhhhTuh, it still doesn't sound like Mat.  And even if you do it quickly, at some point you will make an unfounded leap from MuhAhTuh to Mat.

Try it yourself.


"Driver's Ed"

Hi, my name is Holly and I don't use a textbook to teach high school science.

If you want to make yourself a pariah, particularly after the recent hit piece on Good Morning America about radical unschoolers, go about saying that sentence in public.

Rest easy, though, the radical unschoolers would never have me.  The tough part is, many traditional home educators won't either.  Neither group voices it much, but it hangs in the air in the polite silence that is then followed by a rush to change the subject.  To the rad undies, I am way too Type A and structured.  To my traditional Christian homeschool pals, I am slightly weird and definitely suspect.

Both groups are correct but all I can say is, it works for us.  Stealth schooling, serendipitous schooling, call it what you will.

This year, here's what science looked like for our 14 year old.  Those who like a scope and sequence, prepare to go bananas:

Science Olympiad weekly class and competition including designing and building a load-carrying bridge to precise specifications and academic quizzing on "disease detectives" as well as potpourri of other topics.

9 weeks of a four hour Electronics class taught at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry followed by 12 volunteer hours demonstrating what he learned to museum visitors.

Saturday Morning Physics at Fermilab.  Nine two hour lectures and tours by a different physicist each week covering different topics in particle physics.

Fermilab Open House with demonstrations and lectures.

Subscription to Acts and Facts, National Geographic, Muse, Odyssey.  NOVA, Nature, MythBusters TV shows.

Free experiment kit all about lasers from PhysicsQuest.

Research paper discussing how human anatomy and physiology reflects the biblical account of creation.

Interestingly, in addition to scouring many articles on human anatomy, my kid picked up a textbook to help him in that last endeavor.

Who woulda thunk it?



I am a bit ashamed to admit this as, well, I have done this four other times.  Presumably, I am an experienced mom.

Somehow, with miracle #5, I allowed the beguiling toothless one to seduce me into thinking he was different and that he really required either being nursed to sleep or being held and rocked until solidly out and then gingerly placed into the crib.  Transfer a moment too soon and you had to go back to Go without collecting your $200 and begin again.  8-10:30 each night was spent in some variation of this loop until we all collapsed in exhaustion.  He also trained me well into getting up a couple of times a night to feed him and soothe him back to sleep.  Naps?  Fuhgeddaboutit.

At our six month well check, the pediatrician confirmed what I knew in my gut but hadn't wanted to face:  the kid was playing me.  It's interesting, isn't it, how we often do know what we don't want to know?

Furthermore, the prescription for remedy--put him down awake and don't pick him up again--proved no surprise.  The fact that my beloved chubster really hated for me to put him down awake and really cried earnest tears lulled me into doing what was easy, natural and seemed compassionate.  In the long run, though, I was doing him no favors.  Learning to self-soothe to sleep is important for babies and they sleep longer and better once they master this.

Day 1 was a solid hour of crying, but still down for the night an hour earlier than by the old method.  Day 2 20 minutes of crying.  Tonight, barely a peep.  He woke not once on night one and only once last night.  I did give him his paccy then, but he got himself back to sleep.

So, yes, he's different.  Fearfully and wonderfully made.  But, as the wisecracking email tag line puts it, "Of course you're unique.  Just like everyone else."

Seems we creatures, whether baby or grown form, get into the most trouble when we think we are the exception to the rule, don't we?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You CAN go home again

Getting back out may be an issue.

My folks live in Podunk, NY.  That's a functional description, not a proper name.

Last visit, our flight home got cancelled.  I flew out of Marginally Larger but Still Dying City two hours away in order to ensure a direct flight.  The flight cancelled late and then pregnant me had to schlep all our bags and the three year old up way past her bedtime through various lines, shuttle rides and other tortures before arriving exhausted in our hotel room.  Not once did any business man--aka miscreants raised by wolves--traveling alone, offer me assistance or allow me ahead of them in line.  Several were distracted by their cyber worlds and probably never noticed me.  The rest, including the one who taught my princess some interesting new vocabulary, were too engaged in their own misery to appreciate that they were NOT pregnant, NOT weighted down with bags, NOT caring for a child up way past their bedtime.

This trip, we flew out of Podunk.  Not expecting the six gate local airport to be thronged, we arrived just one hour prior to flight.  Nonetheless, we still had to wait around for 15 minutes for someone to open the screening line--"Back by 5" promised the sign.  Not something we've ever encountered at O'Hare, our local airport.  At O'Hare, the screening agents don't kindly take my stroller off the screening line and reopen it for me either.

Nothing goes direct to Podunk and our connection was in Philly.  For those who don't fly a whole lot, connection in fly-speak means three hour delay.

When we finally got to board sometime around 10pm, the gate agent called first class, priority so and sos, zippity do dahs and various other special groups, but not families with children.  I hovered at the edge of the crowd, beginning to wonder how the 12 year old and I were going to get a car seat, a stroller, a carry on bag and two backpacks onto the plane all the while holding a just-fallen asleep baby in my arms.

A man whose mother raised him right noticed me.  "Oh, please.  Go ahead of me."

"Thanks, but I don't think they've called families."

"You have a baby!  They'll let you on.  Go ahead."

I edged forward a bit and the gate agent noticed me.  Fixing me with a stare, he got on his horn and announced that they were boarding ONLY first class, priority so and sos and zippity do dah customers.  They rest of us would board by zone.

I slinked to the side when I heard my hero whose mother raised him right yell out, "Come on!  She has a baby!"

The gate agent, looking like he wanted to kill me, made a marginal motion that could possibly indicate I might be allowed to approach the promised land of the jetway.  I started toward the gate with my baby in arms, purse over my shoulder, pushing my car seat in the stroller, my other kid following with the rolling carry-on and our other earthly goods.  The gate agent, in a fit of I-am-still-in-control-even-though-your-hero-has-embarrassed-me-into-allowing-you-to-board, suddenly tells me he wants me in the *other* lane leading to the gate.  Mind you, these two lanes lead to the same door to the jetway, are about 20 feet long and I am the only one in either one of them.  They are separated by a black, waist high band.

I hesitate, wondering if I am limber enough to get everything UNDER the band or whether it might be easier to back up my limousine length stroller and begin again.

My knight in shining denim pipes up again.  "She's already in the lane.  Just let her on.  C'mon!"  At this point, he is shaking his head in disgust.

Gate guy now looks like he may eat my baby while killing me, but allows me forward.  Of course, in trying to hand him my tickets, I bump him with my stroller.  He is not amused.

We finally, with some further assistance by a lady who takes pity on children trying to hoist heavy carry on bags into compartments, get onto the plane.

I see the angel on earth whose mother raised him right stowing his items on board.  "Thank you.  You must have children."

"Well, they're older now, but I mean, I get it, you know?"

Yeah, I do.  And don't think my 12 year old didn't hear a soliloquy during our 40 minute tarmac wait about the type of man I expect him to grow up into.  THAT man.  Advocate for women and children.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Thanks for stopping by my new bloggy home.  All the cool kids seem to be hanging out on blogspot, so I thought I'd migrate here as well.

You may recognize me as the blogger formerly known as Blessings, Holly.  To better capture my current stage(s) of life, I've renamed my blog From Diapers to Driver's Ed.  Feel free to follow along as this completely imperfect yet totally redeemed follower of Jesus chronicles the marvelous mess that is life in a seven person, home educating family.

I'd love to stay and chat, but there's a ballistic baby refusing to nap.  There's a preschooler intent on using the computer for a Disney Winnie-the-Pooh game.  There's an eight year old chattering away as he starts  his writing assignment.  The twelve year old needs some encouragement that he can conquer school yet again today.  The fourteen year old needs pick up soon from his math club.

It won't calm down, but I promise to give you some peeks and insights into the insanity that is our family.  And I look forward to hearing about your own!

Blessings, Holly