We Survived


We did a little of this:


A little of this:


And a whole lot of this:


We think camping might be a good fit for us. Wonder why we never felt that way in Colorado?


Home Education in the City

Home Education

I witnessed my first live drug bust today. I was on the phone with my sister when I looked out the kitchen window to see a man in the process of being handcuffed. My response? “Hey, Maddie, come in here fast!” Yep, training them up in the way they should go (or in this case, the way they shouldn’t go), that’s me!

We saw the cuffs, we saw him being put in the patrol car, we saw the officer pull a stash-in-a-bag out of the man’s car, and then watched as a tow truck arrived to impound the car. A real live COPS right in front of my house.

Sure hope no policemen decide to take a peek in my vehicle. I don’t have drugs in there, but my van could very well be impounded for unidentifiable substances. Might be me getting my photo taken by a neighbor next time…

Birthday List

Snow Cone Heaven

This particular half pint will be turning 5 in less than two weeks. I found some things I think she will enjoy for her birthday and made a list on Amazon for her. Imagine my surprise then when asking her yesterday if she knew what she wanted for her birthday. Her answers were quick and clear:

1. A new jump rope (understandable since the only jump rope we have right now got pitched yesterday because the handles broke off).

2. Some candy bracelets

3. Soap

And that was it. This poor child is one of four children who have been out of their soap for quite a while now. I’ve been having them use “grown-up” shampoo, but you know it just isn’t the same as having your own. Since they haven’t had soap in several weeks she figured she should ask for some for her birthday.

Guess who got an early birthday present today? Sad or funny? You decide.

The One Where I Actually Answer Your Questions

I really do read the comments. I don’t always respond to them and that makes me a bad blogger. Sometimes comments don’t really need response – it can become rather circular, you know with the blogger saying something and someone commenting with, “Great idea! I think I’ll try that!” And the blogger commenting with, “So glad to hear you are going to give it a shot!” And the commenter saying, “Yep – I’m glad too. Thanks again!” And the blogger saying, “Sure thing, thanks thanks thanks!” And the commenter… okay, I’m becoming stupid now.

But anyway, the whole point of this was to say that sometimes I actually do get some comments here. And sometimes those comments are questions. Questions that need answers. Answers I may or may not be able to provide. I’m either going to or not going to provide those answers right now.

The post in question is the very long boring homeschool post I wrote the other day in which a few of you came out and claimed it wasn’t. That was kind of you. After writing that post, Craig said, “That’s the kind you write best.” And I said, “What, long and boring homeschool posts?” I don’t think that’s what he meant, so I’ll take it for the compliment he meant it to be. I’m so good at word twisting, don’t you see?

Anyway, will I get to the point?

The first question came from Catherine in Australia (Hi, Catherine!):

So how DO you get your chores done as well as homeschool? I really want to know that, because I can’t even imagine how that can happen. I can’t get mine done even without homeschooling!
I thought I’d answer this one with pictures to show how far I’ve come in this area. One of my daily chores is to clear off the dining room table AND the adjoining round table next to it twice each day. Here it is now, 10:26pm. Check my progress:


Oh, guess what I’ve been doing for the past 45 minutes? Clipping coupons, making a Walgreens list for tomorrow, paying a bill to our own personal electrician, writing a blog post, all those really important list shattering activities.

Another one of my daily chores is to clear off the kitchen counters (remember, I have trouble with flat surfaces):


And here we see I went to Penzey’s today. And spoon fed Craig some Nyquil yesterday. And never unpacked the remains of a picnic lunch, still in that Whole Foods bag. That’s what that bag means, you know – you keep whole foods in there for days at a time. Plastic plates too.

And the point of all that is to say this – nothing is perfect. The trick for me is to come up with an effective system and keep trying with it. My new system is mostly working, but we have my parents in town this week which has changed the schedule completely. We’re glad they are here. It also just means the routine is off. I’m still convinced the routine I set last week will work for us, though, so next week we will jump back in where we left off. And if all else fails, try the FlyLady. I hear she works for some people. I know she doesn’t work for me. *sheepish grin*
Next, from Jennifer:

We are gone middle of the day on Tuesday and Thursday this year for classes the girls take and so far aren’t getting much other schooling done those days and it’s killing me.

So tell me, in the individual work time, how are you doing the teaching of math, spelling, and English? How do you work those? I am really struggling with the independent school times…

This is actually one of the very reasons we really scaled back what we’re doing outside our home this year. The exceptions to this include our Classical Conversations Foundations class which meets on Monday mornings and the Classical Conversations Essentials class which meets on Wednesday afternoons. My temptation for days like that has always been to let those other events stand alone as school on those days, but I simply can’t do that this year. I mapped out the things I considered to be the daily non-negotiables for those days and make sure we get them done. On Mondays, it is one hour of Sonlight reading and one hour of grammar and writing. On Wednesdays it is pretty much a full school day compacted into the morning before the Essentials class meets. If I let it slide, we get too far behind.

For math we’re using Math-U-See again. I never thought I’d be a mom who let a video teach her kids, but I’m doing that for math. Steve Demme gives the lessons, and I follow up after they’ve started their work to see if they understand it or have any questions. This is working well for us this year.

For spelling we’re using Spelling Workout books. This is partly on their own, partly with me – I give them the pretests and post tests and guide them through the instructions of the daily exercises. But they do the exercises on their own.

English grammar is being handled two ways – for Maddie and Chloe, they are both in the Classical Conversations Essentials class this year. This isn’t something they do on their own, but something I spend a dedicated hour each day with them on. As we’re still at the beginning of the year on that (third class meets tomorrow), and I don’t know that program very well yet, I’m also doing First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease with them. I love, love, love the new First Language Lessons level 3 and am very sad that level 4 has been delayed in the shipping. Writing With Ease is wonderful too, but again, I’m sad that the workbooks for levels 2-4 have not been released yet. It is possible to do these without the student workbooks, but having used the student workbook for level 1, I really want the other workbooks! Now!!

So, in a nutshell, here’s the grammar story for each kid:
Millie, 4- Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington, Get Ready, Get Set, and Go for the Code!

Katie, 6 – Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (review when E4 does her lesson), Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Getty & Dubay Handwriting B, Spelling Workout A, First Language Lessons Level 1, Writing With Ease Level 1

Chloe, 8 – Explode the Code 8, Spelling Workout C, Getty & Dubay Handwriting, First Language Lessons Level 3, Writing With Ease Level 2 (sometimes – really want that workbook!), CC Essentials

Maddie, 9 – Spelling Workout D, Getty & Dubay Handwriting, First Language Lessons Level 4 (using the sample pages right now, really want that workbook to arrive!), Writing With Ease Level 4 (sometimes – still really want that workbook!), CC Essentials

Okay, so that’s really the what. Here’s the how. There are certain things we simply have to do all together. Sonlight reading and CC review, science and art. Everything I’m having them do on an individual level is what I call individual work. They know the things they can do with very minimal instruction from me and they begin doing those things during the times I’ve slated for individual work time, but it doesn’t mean they are entirely on their own for that hour. Individual time also means time for me to work with each girl individually.

I don’t know if that’s helped or just raised more questions. Feel free to ask again. I’ll try to answer before the next school year.

Now then, a post or two before that someone asked for a recipe. I remember seeing that and I will try to remember to post that later this week. It might or might not be buried under that blank map of the United States on my table right now…

The Angry Chicken Lady

I don’t think all of life’s less than pleasant experiences are meant to teach us something. – sometimes stupid things just happen and that’s all there is to it. But sometimes, those incidents really can be teachable moments. I have to be able to look past the offense first to see what kind of good can possibly come out of it, and for someone who tends toward taking things personally, this isn’t easy to do.

On Thursday, after dropping Millie off at preschool, the other girls went with me to two different grocery stores for their $10 off $50 Thursday promotions. I had my list, I had my coupons, and I was in a hurry as we weren’t done with school for the day. The first store we went to we encountered the Angry Chicken Lady. Here’s what happened:

This lady parked her cart right in front of the sale chicken and then walked away. The sale chicken was my destination in this particular section of the store, so I walked over and moved her cart a little bit to gain access. I didn’t realize she came back, though, and in the process of moving her cart, I evidently pushed her cart over her toe. I didn’t even realize it. I picked up some chicken, walked back to my cart, put it in and went back for more. She was blocking the path again, so again, I tried to move around her. When I did this, she blew up at me. In a huff she moved out of the way, raised her voice at me, and said, “If you want the chicken that badly, I’ll just move out of your way. It’s not like you didn’t just run over my toe while trying to get to the chicken!”

I was so surprised to hear this. I said, “Did I do that? I’m really sorry. I didn’t even know. Will you forgive me please? I didn’t mean to do that.” She ignored me and turned around back towards the chicken. In shock, I stepped back away from her and kept my girls away from her too. I explained to them what happened and how that woman was bitterly angry. I told them I did something to her I didn’t realize I’d done, but that once hearing I did it, I apologized to her, but she didn’t forgive me. We were all a bit in shock over what was happening and I almost cried right there in the store. The girls couldn’t believe the lady was so angry over something that was an honest mistake.

My interaction with that woman practically derailed my entire afternoon. She was all I could think about for the rest of the day, and I could only chalk it up to one of those dumb things that happen for no good reason.

The next day something happened in our family where one sister accidentally knocked a glass of water over on another sister’s desk. The offending sister didn’t realize she did it and the spill didn’t get cleaned up right away, so that water seeped onto some papers and magazines that were on the desk. When the owner of the desk saw what happened, she became very angry with the sister who did the spilling. No amount of explaining on my part could convince her that this was anything other than an outright purposeful action against her. The word accident was not even a consideration. The gray cloud parked itself in that upstairs bedroom for more than 30 minutes until I finally realized we were experiencing another round of the Angry Chicken Lady. I brought the girls together again and walked them back through our experience in the store the day before. I asked the angry sister if she remembered what happened there, if I’d realized what I’d done to the lady. She remembered. I asked her if she remembered that I apologized to the lady and what the lady’s response was. She remembered. I asked her if she thought maybe she was acting like the Angry Chicken Lady towards her little sister.

The light bulb came on. It lit slowly, but it did turn on. She wasn’t too keen on being named the Angry Chicken Lady, but once she recognized the parallel, it helped her see things more from her sister’s perspective. I was able to help her understand that if she couldn’t control her anger now while she was still so young, if she couldn’t forgive someone an offense so petty, she could very well grow up to be like the woman in the store who turned foul near the fowl.

For the past few days, Angry Chicken Lady has become a code phrase amongst us when someone is beginning to show their anger a little too easily. When someone says it, it usually does two things: 1) makes the gal who is turning into the Angry Chicken Lady stop to consider her behavior; and 2) makes all of us double over in laughter – a huge difference from my response to the Angry Chicken Lady on Thursday.

I’m still not happy the Angry Chicken Lady introduced herself to us on Thursday. But I’m glad for the opportunity to turn it into something of value in our home. And I’m hopeful that as the five of us continue to walk along this path together, God will continue to redeem the Angry Chicken Lady moments in our lives. And lesson learned: stay out of the way of other women perusing the sale chicken. Got it.

Playing with Fire

Look! Fire!

T-minus five days and counting. We have the tent. We now have a lantern. We also have s’more supplies. That pretty much covers it, don’t you think?

For those of you who wonder why we become pessimistic when it comes to planning family getaways, I present you with the Griswold Family Vacation Disasters (A History).

We haven’t failed until we give up, right? Somebody tell me I’m right. Given our history, you would think we would just let it go and chalk it up to one of those things we’re just not good at, but no, not us – we keep trying.

We’re looking forward to the weekend, as the weather is supposed to be practically perfect. I’ve got a substitute for my Sunday School class. We’re not taking any computers or other work. It’s just going to be the six of us, communing with nature for two-and-a-half days. It’s going to be glorious.

I’m totally setting us up here, you realize this. I’m sure there will be some story to tell next Sunday. I’m hoping it is how we all caught up on three years’ worth of lost sleep and made up for a lifetime of relational struggle by skipping through the woods arm in arm singing “Kum Ba Ya” together. I’m hoping it isn’t how we caught our tent on fire with our propane Coleman lantern.

It Only Took Six Years

Warning: Boring Homeschool Post Ahead!

We’ve been homeschooling for about six years now. Maybe seven, but who’s counting? I’ve jokingly called myself a “Classical Unschooler” for the past couple of years simply because I never can seem to get a scheduling groove down, so our days ended up being a weird hodge-podge of get-something-done-at-some-point-today.

Now that Maddie is a 4th grader and we’re planning to put her in school in three years, I’m feeling this need to tighten up a bit and make sure things get covered and covered consistently.

The girls and I have been working hard every day and still not finishing up until 3 or 3:30. We’re a family who used to finish by 1 at the latest, so it has been both a surprise and defeat this year when, by 3:30, we’re all panting from the day we just put in (this, and the house un-cared for because we’ve been consumed with schooling all day).

Last Thursday, after yet another day like that, I just knew something had to change. Over the weekend I blocked time chunks for everything, only the time chunks aren’t as rigid as they used to be with the MOTH schedules I always tried (and never kept). Instead of saying that one has “Math” from 9-9:30 while another has a reading lesson then and two others play together, I’ve got something like this going on:

8-8:30 Chores – Do what you can off your list for 30 minutes. When 30 minutes are over we’re moving on and we’ll pick up the other chores later.

8:30-9:30 Reading Together – This involves Bible reading, Sonlight history readers, and Classical Conversations review. Once the hour has passed, we move on. This is helpful to me because that reading/review time can sometimes stretch to two hours, no kidding – when we’re reading a book we love, sometimes we don’t stop. This hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, it’s just that then we don’t get to other also important things.

9:30-10:30 Individual Work – During this time, the girls pick off their assignment lists and I help whoever needs it. I usually give one/one tutoring to Katie during this time while also fielding questions from Chloe and Maddie. I’m giving them two periods like this per day and the understanding now is that if they don’t get all their work done in the time allotted, they will have homework later on that night. If they get it done faster, they have a free hour (or however much time there is left).

10:30 -11:00 Science – We’re going through Discovering the Human Body and Senses this year to sort of go along with some things we’re memorizing with Classical Conversations. I promised Chloe she would love science this year since after her time at the two-day school last year she ended the year hating science with a serious passion. To turn a kid like that into one who loves science is no small feat. I can’t say she LOVES it yet, but she definitely enjoys it more than she did last year. Progress, I tell you!

Anyway, with this science, we’re talking about less breadth and more depth (coverage is the enemy of understanding – I remember!). This has been good, too, because in the past when we’ve done science we’ve let it go for more than an hour. As a result we haven’t done it every day because I don’t usually feel like devoting an hour to it. Now we go for 30 minutes and at 11, we’re done.

11:00-11:30 Art – This is another thing that’s been so easy for me to let slide. I’ve either saved it for the end of the day, or the end of the week, and it’s become an easy “oh, that isn’t really that important, it can wait” thing. Now we’re doing it right at 11. And it’s an easy thing for me to introduce to them and let them work on while I begin making lunch. Thirty minutes into it, we put it away. We can always finish it tomorrow.

11:30 Lunch

11:53 Take Millie to Preschool

12:03 – 1:00 The second hour of Individual Work – Katie is usually finished or finishing by now and she plays.

1:00 – 2:00 Essentials of the English Language and Institute for Excellence in Writing for Maddie and Chloe.

2:00 WE ARE DONE!! A whole 60-90 minutes earlier than we’ve been getting done the past four weeks. Not only that, but we’re getting more done. Wow!
I give them an hour to decompress (we all need it) – we go pick up Millie from Preschool, then come back and hit another 30 minute slot of chores.

It’s not totally perfect, but for this week (all three days of it so far), it’s really working for me. I’m totally exhausted by the end of the day, but I’m happy to know we’ve been getting everything done. For once I’m not feeling that nagging sense that I totally missed something in their education this year.

That feels really good.

Oh, and the chore thing? I printed chore lists for the girls from our Edu-Track software and that is working much better than the MOTC system I tried last year. I thought that system would work for me, but two weeks into it “we” managed to lose half their cards and I never followed through with it. I’m facing facts – we’re a family of list checkers. I even printed a chore list for myself off the Edu-Track system and yes, I get a huge kick out of seeing the smiley faces on days I don’t need to do certain chores, and love checking off the empty boxes on days I do. It’s the little things.

So I maybe needed to write up this long, boring post of what we’ve been doing lately because I’ve had nothing much else to write about that’s write-able. I may need to go freecycling again to spice up our lives a bit.

If you made it this far…wow. That’s about all I can say. Wow. Night!

I Know Nothing of Calvary Love

A friend emailed me today and pointed out that my facebook statuses lately have seemed full of angst, yet I’ve written nothing about it on my blog. Perceptive of her, that. There have been a whole series of things in the past couple of weeks, that, taken by themselves, normal people can blow off pretty easily. But I, who majored in taking everything personally, get buried under them when they all get in line during the same month to mock me. I can justify my feelings on every count. I wish it were not so easy. I needed a good dose of rebuke from one Amy Carmichael tonight. This poem reminds me of a closet I had in my dorm room in college where I would go to pray. I probably had every line of it copied out on construction paper and taped somewhere in that closet or elsewhere throughout that room. It’s been a long time, but I needed to read it again tonight. It’s long, but it’s worth it if you have the time. And Becky, thanks for shaking me out of my self-serving status updates tonight. I needed that.

Calvary Love by Amy Carmichael, taken from her book If
If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, “Just what I expected” if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.