7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I went out with a bunch of ladies last night to The Cheesecake Factory. I knew a handful of them, didn’t know another handful of them, had a great time with all of them. I’m telling you I was a joking extrovert last night. For almost three whole hours. It was a lot of fun.

2. I will pay for my attempted extroversion today. But I’m okay with that.

3. In college I made myself score high on the outgoing scale for two years. I *thought* I was an extrovert. I acted like an extrovert. I didn’t own my true personality until my junior year. What a relief. For the next 15 years I’ve scored as an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale. Three days ago, Craig and I were flipping through a book on the Myers-Briggs temperaments. As I read over the ISTJ again I had an epiphany: the description didn’t totally fit me. We read over the profile of the ISFJ and guess what? My personality has changed again. Or maybe that’s the way it’s always been but I’ve been in denial. Folks, I’m an ISFJ. Wow.

4. Craig’s still an INTJ. Always has been, always will be. You can find out what you are by clicking here. What are you? Do tell.

5. In other news, I have a pet peeve of the blogosphere: I can’t stand being referred to as “internets” on anyone’s blog. I’m not an internet; I’m a person. A person’s a person no matter how small. Incidentally, I’m not thinking of anyone in particular as I write this, but I feel the need to come clean. If someone I regularly read and know in real life does this, I forgive, but if I’m checking out a blog for the first time and come across this misuse of the English language, I’m so out of there. There. It’s out. What are your blogging pet peeves? Please don’t say, “Misuse of the comma.” We’ve established already that I have issues in that department. That’s why I have an editor.

6. Just found this Trader Joe’s song from Corrin’s twitter feed. Hilarious.

7. I brought home one-sixth of a butchered cow today. This is our second time to participate in a group cow purchase. The poor guy sure is tasty; he’s one of those all grass-fed, hormone-free varieties. Last time we had one, someone accidentally left the freezer door ajar and we lost a fair amount of the meat. I think I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. The loss of all that meat made me cry. I now check the freezer door seal every time I walk down to the basement.

7b. I had to google “door seal” because the spelling didn’t look right when I typed it there. Apparently it is, though.

7c. When I have to google simple words like “seal” for spelling it means I’m tired. Gotta go now.


Community Vs. Socialization

New post up at WORLD: The “S” Word.

Socialization is a much-discussed topic among the educationally minded, but honestly, it’s a tired debate. Those who argue against homeschooling claim that homeschooled children don’t have enough opportunities to be involved with other kids so that they know how to behave properly. On the other hand, those who argue for homeschooling say their kids are so involved in outside activities with peers that they have trouble getting their homework done. Granted, I’ve overstated both sides, but you get the idea.

Like any good parent, I think there is definite value in my children knowing how to relate to others. I want them to be able to carry on conversations comfortably with people in their 50s (which they can), or to enjoy the presence of high school kids when my husband’s students join us for dinner (which they do). I want my girls to do a great job serving a mom with young children by playing well with her kids while she and I chat (which they have).

But none of this is going to happen magically because my kids are at home . . . or in school . . . or because I’ve enrolled them in children’s choir . . . or because they’re taking swimming lessons. Socialization (a more biblical idea goes by the name of “community”) takes intentionality, the kind I myself struggle to initiate and experience in my own socialized experience.

How do I model to my children a life of true community with faithful friends who will serve as anchors in life? Do my kids have friends who love at all times and stick closer than a brother? I’m suspect as to whether they do yet, but I pray one day they will.

Though the buzzword is “socialization,” living life in community is the real need. This is true regardless of educational bent, and something we as parents need to think more about for our kids . . . and perhaps for ourselves as well.


A Time to Talk

A Time to Talk
by Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
and shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

The church we’ve been attending is going through a series on community building. It’s been good, and, in light of some significant changes we’re in the process of making as a family, very timely.

It is easy for me to hide in my house behind my responsibilities and behind my personality. However, I’m finding that not only do I do myself a disservice with this behavior, but I’m less inclined to allow my children the freedom to build community with their friends as well. It isn’t exactly that we don’t have time; I just don’t choose to make the time we do have work to that advantage.

Tonight I’m joining the ladies from the small group for coffee. Tomorrow night I’m going out with a group of like-minded homeschooling mamas I know.

It’s time – time I normally reserve for jammies and reading and computer and sewing and…me. I’ve missed out in real life by not pursuing these opportunities. Tonight I will attempt to begin to change.

I will take a time to talk. I will slow my horse to a meaning walk. I’m thrusting my hoe in the (frozen) ground and going up to the stone wall.

I hope for a friendly visit. And also for community to begin in my heart and in my life.

The Sneaky Birthday

You’d think that with this being the 7th time I’m experiencing this I would have it down by now. You’d also think that with her reminding me of the count down every day for the past two weeks that I’d have it down by now.┬áNeither would be true. Katie will be turning into 7 next week. Every year it sneaks up on me.

She’s the child who shares her birthday with Craig, who couldn’t care less about his birthday except for the fact that he shares it with Katie, which redeems it for him. In terms of a January-December calendar year, they go first in our family. In terms of the order of birthday season, though, they go last. Birthday season kicks off in August each year. From there we have a birthday (in our immediate family) in August, October, November, December, and finally February. When you consider that the three major holiday players are also thrown into that batch, it’s easier to see how after the first week of January we sigh deeply and think we’re done.

Not so much.

I never know what to get this one. She’s number three so we’ve pretty much got it already. We’re only about five weeks out from Christmas by the time her birthday gets here so there’s nothing much she needs. And yet here we are. Birthday looming, mother unprepared.

I have no idea why I let this happen every single year but I do. I may have to quickly start back up a sewing stretch for this. She could use some new clothes and I’ve been meaning to make her a personalized pillow case.

Regardless of what we come up with, it’s fun to see “Sassy” girl become more of a little girl and less of a baby girl. She’s silly and sensitive and sweet. And in just ten days she will be seven.

Time to start thinking about it now, don’t you think?


Remember when I was thinking about enrolling my oldest in a Kumon program? I took her to an assessment and learned about the program. I’m telling you, I was tempted. I was tempted because I thought it would take all the pressure off of me to get her up to speed on her math.

Then reason kicked in. Reason in the form of $100/month tuition. I gathered from the assessment that the goal is mastery plus speed. They figure out where the kids have mastered concepts quickly and start them there to build confidence. They then work them up little by little. They do homework every single day. They don’t do any direct teaching. And the $100/month is for what again? Paper I guess.

Anyway, being the loyal Math-U-See users that we are, I went to the MUS website and played around with the worksheet generator. I made my own “Kumon” like packets for Maddie. The file on my computer is called “Memon.” Get it? Because it’s me making the worksheets instead of Kumon? *groan*

Anyway, I made several worksheets with 125 problems on them each. She was blazing through them in about 4 minutes each and getting 100% right. Success. And confidence. We’ve had no math struggles this week, even in her normal MUS lessons. She just needs it proved to herself that she can do this.

Today we moved up to concepts one step harder. Again, 100% correct and fast.

The goober has been yanking my chain all this time. She can do this. SHE CAN DO THIS!

I think she has surprised herself. She likes that I’m making the sheets for her. She sort of even likes the timing aspect of it. We’ll eventually move up to the hard-for-her stuff that she so easily gets stuck on, but I think by the time we get there she just might have forgotten that she’s “supposed” to hate math.

And we’re accomplishing this for the price of some printer paper and ink. No tuition, no drive across town.

That’s my kind of math program.


7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Katie (aside from making a plethora of silly videos of herself) has been busy learning to read this year. She will complete lesson 100 of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
this morning. I told her in November that if she made it all the way through I’d take them all out to see a movie. Problem: there aren’t a lot of great choices in kid movies available in the theater right now. I’m rather picky about movie selections when paying to take four kids to the theater. She wants to see Hotel for Dogs. I’m kind of leaning toward Inkheart. We’ll see later on this morning I guess.

2. I’ve purchased the 100 Easy Lessons book twice now. When I was teaching Maddie to read (many moons ago), this was THE book. When it was Chloe’s turn, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading became THE book. In truth, I like Ordinary Parent’s Guide much better and it did a great job with Chloe at that time. As such, I gave away my copy of 100 Easy Lessons because I figured I didn’t need it anymore. Wrong. Katie really needed that method with the arrows and such. She needs the constant reminder to go from left to right. The OPG wasn’t doing it for her, so I had to repurchase 100 Easy Lessons.

Moral of the story? Don’t get rid of anything until all of your kids are past the age of needing it. You never know – what didn’t work for one very well might be just the ticket for another. I learned that in 1 Easy Lesson. One easy, expensive lesson.

3. A lot more of my high school class has joined Facebook recently. They are now posting pictures. Pictures like this one:

Miss Ballinger's Class 1986

I’m the jailbird in the front row. 6th grade, 1986. It has been officially confirmed that yes, I was indeed the dork I remember myself to be.

By the way, the teacher in this photo is one of my favorite teachers of all time. She taught Social Studies and really made us feel like we’d been to the countries we were studying. She went to many of the countries herself and had all kinds of things to show us and food to share. It was a great class. Good job, Miss Ballinger!

4. I’m not sure I like remembering what a dork I was in school.

5. I had a raging headache from 11:45pm Wednesday through 5:00pm Thursday. I had no hope it would go away at 3:00 Thursday and canceled everything I had scheduled for the rest of the day. It finally went away. So thankful.

6. We’ve been back in the full swing of school for a good three weeks now. I need another extended break so I can get my planning act together again. I discovered this free web-based lesson planner and hour tracker last week. It could very well be the solution I’ve been looking for. Now I need the time to figure it out and input everything.

7. The girls and I took a picnic lunch to the seminary today and enjoyed it with one Andi Ashworth. The weather was cool, but not cold. The company was delightful. I only see her once every 18-24 months. It is worth the wait every time.

Idiosyncrasies of Homeschooling

You never know when one of your students is going to show up in a mask:


Or when one of your kids thinks she needs a little extra safety protection when doing her writing research assignment:

Safety Writing

Or when a cat might sneak into the reading routine for the day:

Cat Nap

All in a day’s work around here.

7 Quick Takes Friday

Here we go again. I don’t usually stick with weekly blog “get-togethers” very well, so we’ll see how far I go with this one. Sometimes it’s nice to have an assignment. Sometimes. (For other Quick Takes visit the Conversion Diary.)

1. I’m seriously waffling about what to do regarding Maddie’s ear piercing predicament. She DOES. NOT. WANT. TO. GO. to the piercing place for it. I’m sort of wondering (gasp) what if we go back to the mall and make a better selection in earrings this time (bigger ball in front)? Would that do the trick? I couldn’t sleep last night and spent too much time googling information about piercing. I know the arguments. Guns are bad. Guess what? Life-long trauma to a 10-year-old is also bad. Sigh. And for the record, don’t google “body piercing pictures” – just trust me on this.

2. The school planner* I tried to use this year just won’t load on my Mac. Now, I knew it was a PC-based program, but I had been convinced by the seller that I could make it work if I installed something on the Mac first. Problems: my laptop was too old for the install; my new desktop CRASHED when we tried to install it (that crash made me lose every file I had saved including my entire iTunes library). Not happy, I emailed to see if I could just resell the disk since I can’t use it. They said no. Boo! I don’t understand how that violates copyright law since I can’t use it anyway.

*link removed to “protect” the guilty

That said, I’m looking for lesson-planning software for the Mac that will also track hours for homeschool needs. I’ve looked at Planbook for Mac. It doesn’t track hours, though. I may have to go back to doing it by hand. Bummer! Any recommendations out there for me?

3. Do you know how, if you repeat any random word over and over and over, it starts to sound like a nonsense word? I’m taking Maddie through First Language Lessons Level 4 right now. The book wasn’t released until last month, so we’re doing two lessons/day to sort of catch up. The word in question today is “hamburger.” We were doing a review of adjectives in which we were modifying the word “hamburger” in a bunch of different ways. The end result was that by the end of the lesson we were both giggling out of control and hungry.

4. I just read on a couple of blogs that Krispy Kreme is giving away donuts on inauguration day. Now I’m really hungry.

5. Craig surprised me this week by telling me he registered me for the February L’abri Conference in Rochester. Sadly, he can’t come, so I’ll be spending three nights in a hotel. By myself. I may not come out.

6. After a couple of weeks off for various (good) reasons (Christmas, Chicago, Craig’s grandpa), the girls’ piano lessons started back up today. The craziest thing happened: our cats have never met the piano teacher before, but they were instantly drawn to her. Two of them would not leave her alone – playing with her scarf, climbing up in her chair, etc. I had to banish them to the basement just because they were being distracting. Hilarious.

7. My children’s literature class begins in 11 days. I had many of the books already, and picked up another small handful from paperbackswap. The rest I’m buying from the bookstore. Can I just tell you how satisfying it was to have to purchase children’s books yesterday? No qualifying, no excusing – I had to do it. I need more classes (and days) like that.

Okay, back to our day. Hope you all have a great Friday!

School Choice

My next piece is up at World, President for (educational) choice.


I can’t be the only one scratching her head about President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to send his daughters to Sidwell Friends School. It isn’t that I don’t want his kids to have a first-rate education; it’s more that I want every kid to have a first-rate education.

I’ve wondered before about the politicians who vehemently rally for the public school system, yet pay upward of $30K for their own kids to get a really good education. Public schools are the way to go, so the campaign slogans claim . . . for everyone else’s kids but theirs, that is.

Here in the Midwest, we live half a house from St. Louis proper, with the dividing line between city and county running through our neighbor’s home. Public schools in the city are not even accredited, but the county has some decent schools. Still, for a variety of reasons, we’ve chosen to educate our girls ourselves.

I’m not na├»ve. I’m sure the public options in Washington are atrocious. I trust the Obamas want to do the best they can for their girls. I wish them Godspeed as they figure out what that means for their family while their girls are so young and thrust so firmly into the public eye.

I just wish the Obamas would understand we all want what’s best for our children, but not all of us can afford $30K per child per year. While public schooling is no more an option for us than it apparently is for them, I don’t hear the NEA going after them like they do homeschoolers. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems an awful double standard.

Mr. Obama, educate your children the way you see fit. But please allow us the freedom to do the same.