Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from our family to yours!

Yes, we celebrate Halloween. We celebrate this with our children much the same way that my husband and I celebrated growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. To us the holiday is about dressing up, having fun, seeing friends and neighbors, and decorating just a little with pumpkins and home-carved jack o' lanterns.

Regarding costumes, we have not focused on horror or gore or creepy things. We don't focus on witchcraft or anything to do with the occult.

We get our pumpkins on Halloween day, at the $20 per wagonful day.

We trick or treat as a group with our neighbor friends, with the adults talking and having fun as we accompany our children through our dark neighborhood. The kids love to be out walking by moonlight (and with the aid of some flashlights.) It is usually crisp and chilly with the crunch of fallen leaves under our feet. Lucky for us it has not rained one single Halloween since my oldest was born. We say hello to neighbors we don't see the rest of the year. We teach our children not to be greedy regarding getting candy.

Then we eat take-out pizza and pot luck salad and desserts at our neighbor's house. We adults have fun talking with each other in the dining room while the kids have fun in the playroom playing with toys, sometimes watching a movie or television and sometimes playing a little video games.

We come home late, tired and very happy to have spent a fun evening with our neighbors, our friends.

I see nothing evil or bad about celebrating the holiday in this manner.

Halloween 2004, kids aged 4 and 7, at our front door. Younger son is a knight and older son is the engineer from Star Trek (sorry I forgot his name)!

Me and my younger son, then aged 5, carving jack o'lanterns on Halloween Day, 2005.

Me and my boys, 2005, kids aged 4 and 7, in the costumes which I sewed which caused me much angst (at a friend's house). Older son is Young Obi Wan Kenobi and younger son is Anakin Skywalker (from Star Wars).

Halloween Night 2005, at our neighbors house, my boys at the bottom, aged 4 and 7.

Younger Son (age 6) picks a pumpkin, 2006

Hauling pumpkins, 2006, kids aged 6 and 9.

Halloween 2006, Kids aged 6 and 9. Older son is Anakin Skywalker and youner son is Spiderman.

Me at Halloween dinner at a neighbor's house, 2006

So Happy Halloween to you!!

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 8

Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 8: October 21-Octobery 27, 2007

Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 7 and in 2nd grade.

I have tried writing this report on three different days and it is quite hard to do. I decided in the end, I wanted to share the personal struggles stuff but that I’d just list it and not get into detail about it. I choose to share this with you as I feel it is the honest thing to do. I want readers to know that homeschooling families have busy lives, complicated lives sometimes, and that homeschooling can and does go on even in times of crisis.

This was an odd week. Let’s just say that.

The week was emotional due to different things going on with failing health of elderly loved ones. Just to get a glimpse here is some of what went on.

1. My paternal grandmother had to make arrangements for urgent surgery of a newly discovered life-threatening condition. She is in poor health and was told she may die during surgery.

2. The first consult with Hospice staff took place regarding my father-in-law.

3. My husband has been working even harder to help his parents with their health and basic daily living. Phone calls to relatives discussing the status take up even more time and energy.

4. My husband has required more emotional support from me to get through this.

5. Discussions about how and where my disabled mother-in-law would live after my father-in-law passes away were discussed. The goal is to avoid the use of a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

6. I was told my maternal grandmother may die “at any minute” and that she is incoherent most of the time, and in bed nearly all day. This is not what she’s been telling me when I have her on the phone, so I was shocked and dismayed.

7. Said maternal grandmother wants us to come up for a visit (to Maine) as soon as possible. This is not feasible for my husband at all. The only way the children and I can do this is if we skip some of our commitments.

8. My great aunt passed away. We were not close (her choice to live independent of the family for the most part). However I was going to attend the funeral mass and burial, but the people who arranged it didn’t communicate any of the details (time, date, location) with any of the family until it was too late. That was an odd thing, and sad actually.

9. A relative of my husbands’ died and he attended the wake which he said was very sad.

10. A person from Human Resources department of a firm called my husband to hint he’d be getting a call from the hiring person soon. We take that as probably being good news.

Basic living is hard with various pressures like these going on, let alone homeschooling.

Homeschooling Nitty-Gritty
Regarding the homeschooling lessons, we did our lessons four days last week and during that time it was a ‘crunch time’. I was trying to make up for being what I consider ‘behind in our schedule’. Basically the kids did double work. The other day of the week they were in their all-day homeschool science class. So we did do our homeschooling lessons every day as we are ‘supposed to’ per my plans. I was also strict with the television viewing being limited and a couple of times each child lost TV privileges as a punishment for bad behavior.

I relaxed back on my assignments with my younger son. Now that he is at this point in his math curriculum (Math-U-See Gamma) the one page lesson is taking more time than previously, when he used to do two or three pages in about 20 minutes. The recommendation by the publisher to do one page per day is now what I am having him to (rather than two pages a day which he used to blow through with ease).

Also I adjusted my younger son’s assignment for penmanship. Now that he also moved on to the next Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting workbook, there is more work on each page and I am having him do just one page per day (takes 10-15 minutes to complete).

I also cut my younger son slack on his reading practice and brought it back to 30 minutes of solid reading time per day on his reading assignments down from 45 (he does additional self-initiated reading in other times of the day). He finished his phonics program at age 4 so he’s been reading a while and that is why I have him reading so much, but a few times he has complained of his eyes having trouble focusing when reading too long.

I decided my older son needs to take a math curriculum break from Math-U-See Delta to solidify the weak areas in his multiplication math fact memorization. The fact that he doesn’t have all of them memorized is slowing down his ability to work the larger multiplication operations on paper and it is making him ‘lose his place’ in the problem solving process so he does things like forgets to add on the number which he carried over (regrouped), resulting in the wrong answer being arrived at.

I decided that I will have him work on the free verson of the multiplication practice computer game “Timez Attack” for 30 minute increments which will count as a ‘math lesson’ for one day.

My older son is actively rebelling against the “Vocabulary From Classical Roots” program which he says is dumb and boring. I am not impressed with the program and hate that it is designed for use by school teachers with a classroom of students (whch is something I blogged about previously) I am resigned though to just blow through this easy work and be done with it. In the meantime I plan to get out “Rummy Roots” and figure out how to play it.

I had some thoughts about how we add up how our kids spend their learning time, thoughts about record-keeping for proof for the government that our homeschooled kids are actually being taught (they care more about that than if the kids are ‘actually learning’, I think). Maybe I will have the time and energy to write my thoughts up for a separate blog post soon as I have so much to say it will be a full essay.

I also was thinking often of teaching spelling this week and comparing it to the ‘school way’ versus how our family is doing it and also the use of the curriculum “Spelling Power”. Again maybe I’ll do a separate blog post on that.

Fall really hit our area this week We had alternating rain, sun, and wind, all of which affected the fall foliage. While the cool weather helped the green leaves turn colors the strong winds and the heavy rains knocked a bunch of the beautiful leaves down.

We had two fun playdates with other families this week on two different days. One was during wet weather which was unsuitable for outdoor or playground play for the homeschool park day. We had a Cub Scout meeting and a child’s birthday party to attend.

I also attended an evening lecture and on a different day, an all day conference about children’s literature. That whole day out was a welcome relief from the rest of my ‘real life’.

The week went by like a blur. The emotions went from worried, to scared, to sad. I tried having fun and being optimistic and enjoying simple pleasures, and those did happen in between the negative emotions. Then I was trying to keep up with laundry and keeping the house clean also.

Oh and we had the second call to 911, story is here.

My Children's Self-Initiated Stuff

As I mentioned on my blog the other day I will now begin listing out some things my children do in their spare time regarding play and reading which is self-initiated.

My older son continued work on a project he and a homeschooling friend cooked up. They are writing their own manga (comic). They have been working on the story concept, writing it, illustrating it, and coloring the illustrations. The two boys take turns doing different parts of the project. A third boy is giving ideas for the storyline. They talk about this while at a homeschooling class together (the class has nothing to do with writing or language arts or art by the way). My son carries a lined notebook and pen around to note ideas and work on it with.

Older Son, alone:

Re-reading Dragonology (a birthday present)
Read multiple Garfield books (found at a thrift shop)
Re-reading latest Shonen Jump magazine (manga) (he subscribes to it)
Reading Dr. Slump (manga) (multiple volumes) (from
Reading an old Archie comic digest (found at a thrift shop)
Read “Secrets of the Alchemist Dar”, the companion puzzle book, the solutions book to “A Treasure Trove” and was working through some “Dar” ciphers
Read new LEGO catalog that came in the mail

Younger Son, alone:

Reading Garfield comic books
Reading an old Dennis the Menace comic digest
Playing with Transformers
Playing with Hot Wheels cars
Played with Playmobile toys
Dressing up in costumes for imaginative play, alone and with friends

Both children alone or together:

Played the Generals board game (from my husband’s childhood)
Played Attacktix game, Star Wars version
Played Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game with each other or with friends
Fooz ball (tabletop soccer game), with each other, with friends or with my husband
Playing with LEGOs (making spaceships, working on the command center, a project that is taking over a year)
Playing with Magnetix toys daily (interesting as until last week, they hadn’t touched them in months)
Playing with Rokenbok toy

Until next week....

General Information:
Homeschool Open House’s Weekly Reporter blog post project is a concept devised by Jessica of Trivium Academy. For more information, see the Trivium Academy blog entry dated 9/04/07.

Graphics which I am using in my Homeschool Open House and Weekly Reporter were designed by Jessica and are available on her blog, again in the same blog post dated 9/04/07.

For information about how you can become a Weekly Reporter or to view a list of other Weekly Reporters, read the information at Trivium Academy in the 9/04/07 blog post or see the information in her right sidebar.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 96 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 96 was published today at Sprittibee and is titled “Yearbook Edition”.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 50 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Survey for Parents of Boys

In case you have a son and want to take ten minutes to do a survey, here you go. I received this email and I was asked to forward the below information.

On 10/29/07, Rebecca Rodrigues < > wrote:
Hello Parents!
I am in a graduate school program and am conducting research on the extracurricular activities that your sons participate in during the
school year, specifically Scouting. The research will be used to improve activities offered to school-aged boys, to get them to participate in wholesome activities that will benefit them for life.
The survey should take no more than 10 minutes. Please know that the information collected will be used ONLY for the purpose of this study.
I appreciate your time. Feel free to send this survey to your friends, family members and anyone who can help as well.


My Impressions of Blue Rectangle Video Book Reviews for Online Viewing

A blog reader left a comment on my blog promoting this site called Blue Rectangle which are video book reviews online for free viewing.

I checked it out and thought I’d mention it and a few thoughts of mine.

These are real people doing book reviews by video. The site also offers a written transcript of each review.

There is a link there with each review for viewers to click if they want to buy the book right now from Alibis.

My thoughts
Since these are ‘real people’ they are not always beautiful to look at. This is both good and bad at the same time. While I am one to prefer a real thinker giving me television news rather than a good looking talking head there is something to be said for not being distracted by people when they need a haircut, are in need of better dental care of wear ill-fitting clothing. I’m a bit surprised at my reaction with regard to this but I am being honest. I find the negative visual stimulus distracting.

However after watching a bunch of reviews I now think that it is good to see all these ‘real people’ reading. I especially am starting to like the reviews by people who I’d assume by their looks that they were not readers. Some of the men in particular I’d never peg as readers of memoirs.

Second the reviews vary greatly. It seems some people think a book review is just a book summary. Some give away too much content of the book which to me is nothing but a spoiler. I don’t like that.

I don’t know these people and where they are coming from so I don’t know whether I am of the same mind as they are. I don’t know whether I’d relate to the book the same. At least when reading book reviews on blogs or even on Amazon I get more of a sense of the perspective of the reviewer and if I should trust or care about their opinion.

Lastly, only one review I watched/listened to was composed well (written well). They jumped around, some stopped mid-sentence to change the subject, some just did not flow. I think some people think that because they are being videotaped they don’t have to write well. In reality you have to have good writing and good flow before you read that as a script. Talking off the top of ones’ head does not always work well, only some people can pull this off. Unfortunately I think more people think they are good at improvising and talking off the top of their heads, when they are not.

Would I Ever Do This?
I don’t think I’d ever offer myself up to do video reader reviews of books or anything. To be honest I don’t like seeing myself on camera, I’m not that flattered with my own appearance. I don’t like my voice, as you all would hear it, either. I think I do much better with writing book reviews.

Comments on a couple of specific reviews

1. Incredibly this book reviewer does not know that James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” is not a true story. How a reviewer of the book could not know the HUGE controversy surrounding this book is just crazy to me, or should I say ignorant and uninformed? (Ouch, it hurts to say that but it is true.) The reviewer clearly states this is a true story and he, in the end, says it is a great story and says it is ‘one man’s battle against himself and his biggest problem’.

I’m seeing a trend that these reviews are quite short. A bit more length would be better, I think. This is one that is a decent review but I wish it was longer.

This is perhaps the best Blue Rectangle book review that I’ve seen so far!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Bluebirds Still Here (Photo of the Day)

I saw two Eastern Bluebirds two days ago, in my yard. I was really surprised as I thought they'd migrated south already. In the 2007 season, we had two pair of Eastern Bluebirds living in a dead tree near the border where the woods meets our lawn, on our property. I was surprised all summer to see the four together. I don't know why I assumed they would just hang out in pairs. They loved to perch on the swing set and hunt from there, flying down to catch a worm, then flying back up to a higher perch to eat it. We would often watch them while we were eating a meal at the kitchen table, which gives us a great view of the swingset.

The above photo was taken at the very beginning of the season, on the first day that I spotted a bluebird in our yard. When trying to photograph birds I have often wished for a long telephoto lens.

It is hard to photograph them as at the slightest noise or movement, such as the opening of a door, they fly to higher ground. Smart birds, but not so easy to photograph!

I consider casual birdwatching a part of 'learning science' and 'nature study' as we go about our 'regular lives'.

I’m Reading a Lot In This Last Week

Here is a list of what I’ve been reading in the last week. There are not full book reviews.

I have been reading more than usual and watching less television. Less television watching has made room for more reading, that's how I'm fitting this in.

Finished non-fiction parenting book: What’s Love Go To Do With It? Talking with Your Kids about Sex by John Chirban, PhD
Full book review coming soon.

Started and finished: Confessions of the the Guerilla Girls by the Guerrilla Girls

Re-read (for the third time) in the last two or three years: Clean, Naturally by Sandy Maine

Got from library and skimming four different books for beginners on printmaking techniques. I am dying to do some printmaking and am close to starting my first lino cutting project (I’m a bit scared to try it). I hope these books inform me and build my confidence level.

Started and finished: The City of Ember by Jeanne du Prau (juvenile literature). I met the author and her her speak at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature and was inspired to start reading the book Right Now. I am trying to decide if I’ll do this as a read-aloud or if I’ll have my older son read it to himself, perhaps soon.

Started Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changing Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus. I heard Marcus speak last week at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature and was inspired to buy and read the book. I am always interested in the history of children’s books and of the history of the book publisihing industry. This book was published just a few days ago, by the way.

Started: The Charlotte Mason Study Guide, 10th Anniversary 2nd edition, secular edition, by Penny Gardner, e-book sent to me by the author. Book is available only in digital e-book format through the author’s website.

The Mythic Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd edition, by Michael Vogel, Advanced Reading Copy obtained through Amazon Vine. This is long and has small font and will take me a while to read, I think. (The below link is to the 2nd edition.)

Read aloud, world history homeschooling: Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Parin D'Aulaire. A great book and great artwork. I plan to review through on online tutorial how stone litography is done and I am going to see if the Wilton Public Library (Connecticut) still is showing the original stone lithographs.

Family Read-Aloud, juvenile fiction, fantasy genre: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. The book is great, unfortunately I'm not reading it aloud daily so we're not blowing through the book.

Home Education Magazine, an issue that just came in the mail this week, November-December 2007. I am nearly finished with it. This magazine leaves me the most inspired and uplifted of all the homeschooling magazines and their coverage of important topics, especially the articles by the Kaseman’s are the best.

The Wall Street Journal, reading a bit here and there rather than automatically throwing it on the ‘to be read’ stack (and ignoring it). If you are a homeschooling family see if you can get the $99 per year student rate. We got our discount through a back door way, through participation in a competitive team designed for schools but that homeschoolers could do, then WSJ offered us a ‘student subscription’ designed for students in a classroom to use. However some homeschoolers I know found a way to subscribe online for $99 per year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunlight in Grass at Beach (Photo of the Day)

The setting sun's rays going through this grass was unbelievable. This grass is exposed at low tide. This is the beach which I've blogged before, in the town where I grew up.

Photo taken by ChristineMM on a beach on Long Island Sound, in a shoreline Connecticut town, New Haven County, September 2007.

Another Call to 911

My younger son had a fall injury which resulted in 911 being called the other day. That makes two 911 visits in ten days.

The day was going smoothly and as planned. We did our homeschooling in the morning. We ate lunch and cleaned it up. Another homeschooling family was on their way over for a playdate. We decided to make cookies to serve warm during the playdate. My older son asked to make them by himself (with me overseeing him). We were all within five feet of each other in the kitchen

The phone rang. It was another homeschooling mother talking with me to make plans for next week for something for our boys and us to do together.

Suddenly I heard a blood-curdling scream from my younger son. You know that cry that kids do that you know means “something is very wrong”, well, this was actually worse than that kind of cry. I turned to see that he was lying on the tile floor. I hung up the phone quickly and asked what happened.

My older son said his brother had boosted himself up on the kitchen counter and island, one hand on each side and was swinging his legs forward and backward, and then he slipped and fell. (This is not something that I ‘let’ my kids do, by the way, it is not a normal thing they do all the time.)

My younger son popped up and then said he couldn’t walk and grabbed at his back and kind of collapsed into my arms (I was now sitting on the floor to be down on his level). He was still screaming then the screaming stopped. Then he was gasping for air and croaking out, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” which sounded odd as his full voice was not there.

This all happened very quickly, believe me.

I asked where it hurt and he pointed to his spine and ribcage on his back. I looked and it looked normal, no blood, no bones popping out of the skin or anything odd looking.

(I thought at first he slipped and banged his ribs on the edge of the granite counter. I later clarified he fell directly to the floor and hit his ribs and spine on the floor itself.)

I tried to comfort him but he was gasping and still not breathing in and he had a panicked expression on his face.

I barked to my older son to call 911 now. My thought was maybe a rib was fractured and punctured a lung or something. I didn’t know what could be wrong but I didn’t want to fool around with not breathing or spinal injuries.

My older son put down the measuring spoon and went to the phone. He was fumbling with the phone. Calling out was not going well.

Then my younger son could breathe and talk and he said he was fine. He pushed up and jumped up and said, ‘Look I am fine’.

I told my older son to hang up the phone, as he was not yet speaking to 911, and I figured there was no need to ask their help.

As I assessed my younger son he seemed alright. Then Police called and inquired why we called 911. I was explaining it and saying he seemed alright now and we didn’t need them. I was told, “We are coming anyway, now.” And then the call was ended by them.

I set my younger son up with an ice pack on his back and had him lay down.

Then a Police Officer arrived and began questioning me and my younger son.

Then the doorbell rang and it was my friend and her kids, for the playdate. I let them in. An ambulance siren was heard in the distance.

Then the doorbell rang again and I went and got it. A paramedic or someone with the ambulance came in and began questioning all over again.

Then the doorbell rang again and it was an EMT or the ambulance driver or a volunteer EMT, I’m not sure.

Questions and more questions went on about how this happened.

Then my neighbor was in my kitchen, panting. She said she saw the police and ambulance and didn’t know what happened. She thought maybe I was having another allergic reaction to a bee sting or something else bad was going on. I calmed her down, said what happened and then she left, on her way to an appointment.

The Police Officer then questioned why my kids were not in school. I said we homeschooled and he got a weird look on his face, shot a look to one of the medical guys and just said, “Oh.”. I then added that this other family was over for a playdate, that they homeschool their two kids also. I thought maybe that would explain that all four kids were not mine and also that I’m not the only one around here who homeschools.

There was also a discussion of how we had called 911 last week for my bee sting allergy incident. These medical guys said they had just gotten off their 3pm shift and had just missed the call to my house for my bee sting.

My son was feeling fine and the ambulance guy said he thought my son ‘had the wind knocked out of him’ by the fall. I said I’d follow up with our Pediatrician if necessary and that I didn’t see a need to go to the ER by ambulance. They left.

My son said he felt fine and immediately wanted to get up and go play. I made him lay there with the ice pack for about ten more minutes then I let him play. He resumed total normal activity and was fine. There is no bruise and so far (48 hours later) there are no other symptoms.

I am happy and relieved that my son was not seriously injured.

However after they left I felt uneasy about the fact that I felt I was being overly-questioned to screen to see if they felt my son was the victim of child abuse. Also I felt weird about how we were questioned about the kids not being in public school. I have never, ever, in this state felt so paranoid or fearful about homeschooling as I do this year. There is just too much false alleging of educational neglect or truancy from public school going on in this state. I don’t appreciate being screened by people untrained in Connecticut homeschool law about why my kids are not in public school on school days.

That night when speaking to my husband about this, he asked if I’d ever had “the wind knocked out of me” and I said no. He said he had, when he was younger, and said it is a horrible feeling that you can’t breathe and you want to breathe but you just can’t. Then the breath comes back suddenly, and you are alright. He said it happened to him after he fell on his back.

I just looked this up on the Internet and found a Wikipedia article that explains that when a person is struck with sudden force on the abdomen or back the ‘wind gets knocked out of them’ which is actually a temporary paralysis of the diaphragm which prevents normal breathing. Here is that article. (I never knew this!)

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fall Foliage (Photo of the Day)

This is a "drive by photograph", taken while I was driving the car. Loved the coloration of this tree. The meteorologist classified this morning as 'dense fog'.

Photo taken in Newtown, Connecticut in mid-October 2007 by ChristineMM.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Missing Teenage Girl From Connecticut

I created this blog post as maybe some Connecticut parents who read my blog will see this for the first time and be made aware of this and then you can spread the word. Also maybe my blog post will turn up on Internet search engines and drive traffic to the official website regarding this situation.

For the most up to date information please view the official website's guestbook section. Go to the main page from this link then click on the guestbook.

Yesterday, a mother who knows this teen handed me a flyer stating that Megan Roberts is being reported missing, by her mother and father. She is said to have been last seen the night of Friday October 12, 2007.

A website has been set up which has lots of information including a detailed physical desription and lots of color photographs as well as some medical information.

The information I see on the site and on the flyer states she was last with a young man said to be “a drifter” named Kenton Dow aka Kenny Dow aka “Turtle” who is from the New Haven Connecticut area, formerly from San Diego, California.

Here is a qutoe from the 10/26/07 story in the Torrington Register about Dow:

"Jayson said he thinks a new friend in his daughter's life may have played a role in her disappearance. Kenton "Kenny" Dow, 19, and Megan reportedly hit it off a week before she went missing. Dow has been on his own living away from home for two years, Jayson said. His mother lives in California and he reportedly has friends in New Haven.

Dow is described as 5-foot-8, 160-170 pounds with short brown hair (crew-cut style). He sometimes wears a skull cap on the side that has a short brim, and a sweatshirt with the band Suicidal Tendencies on the front and a pentagram shape on the back."

Above photo is said to be of Kenton Dow from the "Help Find Megan Roberts" site.

Here is more about Kenton Dow and Megan Roberts as reported in the County Courier:

"Another reason Richardson suspects Megan is heading in this direction is because she is likely with Kenton Dow, a young man Richardson described as “a drifter.”
“There were reports of him in New Haven (Conn.), saying he was planning on walking to Vermont,” she said.

Megan suffers from mental illness, her mother said, and she had stopped taking her medication at the time of her disappearance. The teen has also run away from home before, striking out for New York City with a friend one time before “they got scared and came back home,” Richardson added."

The site says the couple may be in the New Haven, New Milford, Morris, Litchfield, Danbury, Connecticut areas or heading to Enosburgh Falls, Vermont. We are asked to look on back roads and trails as well as on routes from Connecticut to Vermont.

For more details read the website, using the links on the left side. Note the guestbook has some more details in it as well.

If anyone has information please follow the instructions on the site to notify the Connecticut State Police.

A YouTube video featuring some information and color still photographs can be viewed here:

Media Stories About Missing Teen Megan Roberts

Torrington Register Citizen dated 10/26/07

News Times dated 10/23/07

Franklin County Courier (Vermont) dated 10/25/07

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Swan on Lake (Photo of the Day)

At this resevoir lake there are sometimes swans. On a Sunday morning in October I told my kids if the swans were there I am stopping to take a quick picture.

Sure enough, as I drove by I saw a swan on the edge of the lake. I pulled over. While walking to the vantage point to take the photo, I glanced up and caught my breath. A different swan was flying straight toward me. I think the wing span was at least six feet, I am not kidding.

I didn't have the camera turned on yet so I couldn't get a photo of the swan in flight. It landed and swam. And so I do have this photo of the one swan that was flying right toward me.

It was such a lovely sight, there is no other way to describe it. I am glad I got to see it even if I didn't capture it in a photo.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in Connecticut, October 7, 2007.

Homeschooling is a Lifestyle Not a Lesson Plan

I have been participating in the Homeschool Open House Homeschool Weekly Reporters. I realized I am writing in those summaries, not just about curriculum and learning done as intentional lessons but other life stuff. Why?

The reason is because homeschooling is a lifestyle. It is not just a ‘lesson plan’. Many things affect homeschooling and to not tell of those things would make it unclear to my blog readers why we are doing what we are doing. For example to explain why we didn’t do lessons five days a week or to explain why we are doing ‘catch up’ work the next week, I am being honest in saying we did less than expected, and I want to include the reasons to explain why. For example, we did less two weeks ago as some of my time was spent at a wake and a funeral. We didn’t do less as we’re lazy or undisciplined or because I’m following some certain homeschool methodology that tells me to do less.

My children’s education does not just take place between 8am and 4pm or some other daytime hour span from Monday through Friday. Also some things that educate my children and affect their intelligence, academic achievement and developmental stages have to do with how they spend time in their life that is not just the ‘formal lessons’ of homeschooling. My children are affected negatively and positively by what they see in movies, on television, whether they play video games or not, what games they play, and what they read. Whether or not children play is of vital importance to their development. Whether or not children get physical exercise is vital not just to their weight or physical fitness or their appearance but it affects their gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.

Last night I was thinking that those weekly summaries are going to be good to look back on, for me. I have never done anything like that before.

My Children and Their Play

In August friend was asking me how my ten year old plays, what he does with his free time, what kinds of games he plays with, or toys. In the last few weeks, I have been noticing that my boys are lately playing certain things by themselves then other things when together. This is a change from what has happened for years which is that they are always playing everything together. Seeing my children change, especially my older son who is acting more grown-up lately, is interesting. So lately, for example, when my older son chooses to read and study Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and to think about strategy, I’m noticing my younger son is alone and he starts playing with ‘younger kid toys’ which are age-appropriate, but ones that he’d abandoned in order to just play what his older brother wanted to play, for quite some time.

My boys had always played well together. Of the two my older son is the leader and my younger son is a follower. In a discussion last spring, it came out that my younger son wants to play with my older son and he chose to defer to my older son’s wishes of what to do. He was not upset about it, and there was not ever conflict, but he just did what his older brother wanted to do and was happy playing at whatever it was. This discussion came up when I said to my kids that my younger son never seemed as interested in the wooden train set (Thomas the Tank Engine) as his older brother was. My younger son said he still loves to play with it but just that my older son won’t play it with him so he has not taken the time to play with the set. Interesting.

So to answer that question about how my sons spend their free time, and for my own record keeping, as of next week’s report I am going to add a new short list for each of my children and a short list of both of them together, to tell what their favorite games and toys were of that week, the things that they chose to spend their time playing with that week. I’ll include toys, board games, card games and anything else they are doing with their spare time. I also am going to jot down some of what they choose to read in their spare time, the reading they do of their own free will.

I have no clue if any of my blog readers cares about that information but I know I will.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Older Son's Robot (Photo of the Day)

Here is the original creation robot made by my older son (age 10) with his LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit. After he made it he taught himself to use the software and began programming it.

Note the other stuff seen in the photo. A twisting toy that you find words by moving the letters. The portable CD player currently playing a Harry Potter CD (on track 13), the case holding the audio book (which is getting cut off by Blogger for some reason), and his binder holding his Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. What an insight into my older son's life this photo is!

Photo taken by ChristineMM's older son in October 2007.

Will Wooden Toys Not Made In China Be Desired By Parents?

I have always been drawn to quality items and handmade items over cheap, mass-produced items. When my oldest was a baby I realized that there were some companies who specialized in selling wooden toys and other high-quality toys, some of which are handmade.

I learned of these from ads mostly in the back of Mothering magazine. Once the Internet became more frequently used, I could find vendors online. I got on the mailing list for some of these catalogs and over the years invested in some of these toys for my children. I also frequented local craft shows which often had at least one local woodworker selling quality handmade toys for young children.

This “Made in China” plastic toy with lead paint thing has me wondering if this will drive customers away from buying mass produced plastic toys? What do you think?

I am sad to say I doubt that the fear and reality of the danger of lead in paint on plastic toys which are manufactured in China will drive all parents away from plastic and to wood and other natural materials. I bet not only will dollar store and ‘no name’ brand very cheap toys continue to sell but so will those big name brands.

We have read in the media how the big name brands (Mattel etc.) are trying to ensure that their products are safe in the future. I also read in The Wall Street Journal that product safety testing is dicey and is compromised by things such as tip-off’s to the factories.

The Joy of Toys Made With Natural Materials
One easy way to not expose your children to a possible risk is to start using more wooden toys. Most of these toys are not Made in China.

I have a feeling that American parents are too hooked on the ‘pay less and own more’ rather than what many Waldorf-inspired parents do which is ‘pay more for high quality and own less and make do with what they have’.

But in case you are one of the parents who is at least curious about what toys are available that are made of wood and lack paints of any kind and are not Made In China, here are some resources for you.

My favorite wooden toy company is Rosie Hippos.

Another great catalog, is a bit more Waldorf-education centered are Nova Natural Toy and Crafts. I also used to visit the Nova Natural store in New York on their sale days to buy items directly from their store.

I purchased direct from the manufacturer, wooden toy kitchen appliances, from Elves and Angels of Maine. These are handmade in Maine by Americans. Note that Rosie Hippo sells their products.

Those are the stores that I have purchased wooden toys from in the past. I am sure there are other, different companies but I can’t speak to their inventory or their customer service.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Three Wild Turkeys (Photo of the Day)

This was a chance siting of three wild turkeys in my neighborhood. I stopped the car, whipped the camera out and snapped these photos. Right after I took the photo of the single turkey (below), a car whizzed from behind me, to pass me, completely oblivious to the turkey, or not caring at all about pausing to look at the turkey.

Last year my husband was driving the car and I was a passenger (as were our children). We were driving past a field of wildflowers. My eye is used to seeing only green tall grass there or wildflowers. I spotted a dark brown patch, but we were whizzing by. I asked my husband to turn around for a minute as something odd was there. We had the time so we did it. It was a Tom Turkey with his feathers all out. He was huge! I had never seen that 'in real life' (such as at a turkey farm or a petting zoo) let alone in the wild. We sat for about three minutes pulled off to the side of the road with our blinker on to watch it. We were not blocking the road in any way. A car flew past us (speeding over the 25 mph speed limit) blasting the horn in a long note of anger. I was glad my husband noted that by his speeding and annoyance of us (being off the road even) he missed out on seeing the Tom Turkey strutting his stuff. It was a cool sight and I'm glad we took a few minutes of our lives to see it.

Regarding nature study, I feel we need to have our eyes peeled while doing our regular routines in life and we will then see all kinds of great things happening around us. Nature study and learning 'science topics' are not always intentional lessons planned ahead of time and manufactured by the 'homeschool teacher'. Having our eyes open and observant while going about our daily lives is important.

Some say that an artist has the power to see things in a different way, or to be aware of things or beauty when others seem to not notice. Those who see in this way will often say that 'art is everywhere'. I agree with that. There is beauty in a tree, the design or the action movement of a creature is often amazing and interesting. We just need to take the time to notice these things.

Anyway, about the three wild turkeys I saw last week, me stopping the car to take these photos took less than one minute yet it was fun to watch them and to snap the photos as well. It was a minute well spent. And by the way the car that then was in front of me got nowhere faster as we were both stuck at that stop sign for a bit then we were on the road together for a number of miles. I lost no time or efficiency in my life from stopping to watch the wild turkeys.

Photos taken by ChristineMM on October 7, 2007 in my neighborhood in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

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Website Recommendation: The School Wars

Ned Vare and Luz Shoshie are a married couple who live in Connecticut. They unschooled their only child until he was admitted to college.

They have a website “The School Wars” which has a lot of articles written by Ned, which have been published in their local newspaper. The articles are about the problems with public schools and schooling in general and some have pro-homeschooling components. Additionally they produce cable access television shows about problems with schooling.

The School Wars site

Here is Ned’s biography as published on his site if you want to know more about him:

Ned Vare is a Yale graduate, an architectural designer, artist and author, a former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official. He appears on Guilford cable access programs.

Here are three articles I read today and liked.

The Hidden Dangers of TV and School

The Socialization Myth

What Children Learn in School

So if you’re in the mood for strong opinions with a feisty attitude, take some time to peruse the writings of Ned Vare.

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Another Hanna Levin Piece in the Media

I wrote the other day about Hanna Levin on BookTV on CSPAN. I see that NPR interviewed her and there is an article, a long excerpt from her book as well as a recording of an interview with her on the NPR site.

Hanna Rosin Goes Inside “God’s Harvard” on BookTour by Jerome Weeks

Hanna Levin wrote the recently published book “God’s Harvard” about Patrick Henry College, a Christian college which was created for homeschoolers “to is to prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding.” You can read more about their mission and purpose on this page here.

What Levin started as a magazine article turned into a book, “God’s Harvard”.

I read the long excerpt from the book and it is very read-able and captured my interest. I probably liked it as I enjoyed her description of how there were families there and how the siblings were so nice to each other. She wrote also of the clothing of some and the very large families (8+ children). Although I only have two chilren and we don't dress like "Little House on the Prairie" I have seen this at a large Christian homeschool conference that I have attended.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Father's 4th Birthday (Photo of the Day)

Here is my father in 1948 on his 4th birthday with my grandfather.

My paternal grandmother has turned over all her photographs to me. They are not organized. Not a single one is in a photo album or labeled. Almost all are in the original film developing envelopes with the negatives (paper with acid I am sure). Others are loose. None have notes on them. The film developing places also didn't date the photos themselves on the back nor did anyone note it on the envelopes.

As you can see this photo is off-color. My grandmother thinks this is due to waiting too long before she got it developed. There is a yellow cast to some of these.

Others have a purple cast, those as well were not developed 'on time'.

Additionally I have exposed film going back to the 1950s which was never developed.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed here. I wish I could have all the photos developed and viewable in good, normal color condition.

I don't know whether I should try to scan all of these and try to digitally alter them to the right color. I could also use the negatives to create new images.

I have no clue what to do about exposed old film, who would even develop these now antiquated types of film and the odd sizes?

Then there is the idea of storing them in some type of album that is acid-free. Then there is how to label and store the negatives.

I'm feeling very overwhelmed.

Packratting and Disorganization
I'd also like to take this opportunity to share that being a packrat and disorganized does no one any good. I am seeing these photos for the first time in my life as is my father. Yes, my father is in his 60s and has NEVER seen childhood or baby photos of himself. I find that sad.

Under the Gun
I feel pressure to get at this project while my paternal grandmother is still alive. I have already spent a number of hours with her having her describe what the photo is of. She is blind in one eye now and has a bad cataract in the other (surgery to be done in the spring of 2008). So she can barely see now. Plus the other day she was told she has a life threatening condition that needs urgent surgery, the surgeon consult is tomorrow. She was told in the past she could die 'while under the knife' due to her heart condition and being 89 and not a great candidate for elective surgery on this condition which has now morphed into being urgent and life-threatening. Of course I feel worried about her condition but I'd also like to preserve some more family history before she passes away.

Blogging Hindering Friendships?: When Friends Read Your Blog

Since starting my blog over two years ago I have had certain policies for my blog., for what I will blog and what I will not, what type of links I put up and which I do not, how much personal information I reveal and what I do not and so on.

One is that I don’t share all the stories which I have something to say about. I don’t blog those which I think my readers would enjoy for entertainment or that they’d learn something from. I keep some stories private as I don’t feel comfortable sharing so much about my family members, friends or children that I know (such as my friend’s friends, or the Scouts in my Cub Scout Den). I also feel that to blog about children I come in contact with through my volunteer work is an invasion of privacy.

Believe me I have some things I’d like to say but I bite my tongue. Sometimes a ‘real life example’ of something would really make my readers understand why I am so passionate about an issue or why I am so angered by something. But I try instead to make my points and hope you can appreciate what I have to say even though real-life examples are not always provided.

I think I am very careful about this, about not telling too much about specific people that I know. I have an image in my mind of a friend reading something on my blog about her kid and becoming irate with me. I don’t want this to happen.

Months ago, I was with a friend one day and she asked me what is new. When I started to tell a story she said, “Oh I read that on your blog.” Conversation shut down. Over. Change of topic. Could she not have just listened and let me talk to her as a friend rather than hearing the version of it which was cleaned up for public viewing? Could we not have had a two way discussion about that thing that happened? I guess not. She didn’t want to discuss it as she felt she had heard the news already. What was missing was my experience of me communicating directly to HER. Do you know what I mean by that?

Then that friend stopped calling me, nearly entirely. And we saw less of each other. We did an occasional email. It was at a point where I was leaving her phone messages which were not being returned. And then I began emailing her asking, “Did I do something wrong because if I did I have no clue of it and I’d like to talk about it and apologize in advance for whatever it was!” (You should know that is very much not like something I’d usually do, apologize for something I may not even have done!) There was no reply. This I took for a bad sign. However, she fessed up a couple of weeks later that she felt no need to talk to me or to email me as she feels all informed and close to me as she reads my blog regularly.

Could blogging in general actually be bad for my friendships even if the actual content of my blog was not the source of the problem?

Then it happened with yet another friend just a few days ago! She called me in the evening and said she realized we’d not spoken for a while as she felt so up to date with me due to my blogging. That was a shocker. I was leaving her alone because she is recovering from surgery and I assumed she was resting or unwell feeling or something.

(Both of these friends are very likely reading this right now. Hello!)

I don’t know what to make of this whole thing. The type of blogging I do is not intended for communication between family and friends or else it would be more of a very personal diary of sorts and then I would be define the blog as a private blog with a password for my friends and family to use to access the private information. My blogging is intended more for strangers or for those seeing the type of information or encouragement or seeking to hear my opinions regarding parenting and homeschooling (my main topics). If my friends do read my blog what I’d really love is if something here was interesting or moved them that they’d email me or call me to discuss THEIR opinions. Now that would be great.

In no way did I ever intend for my blog to be a substitute for real live communication between friends.

I never intended for my blog to isolate me or disconnect me from my friends.

(These friends don’t blog, by the way, so I feel like the communication is a one-way street.)

Are any other bloggers dealing with this?

I also don't know how applicable this is to children versus teens versus adults, if this affects all generations or not.

This could be a good discussion in a college class on communications, or about how technology and the Internet are affecting our culture and sociology.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 95 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 95 was published today at Tami’s Blog and is titled “The ABC Edition”.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 45 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Provincetown Skyline (Photo of the Day)

A blend of old and new...

While walking down Commercial Street in Provincetown I looked up and was struck by the view of several rooftops lined up. It is a mix of old and new. While many buildings in P-town are old you cannot pretend that modernization is not present, so the town is really a blend of yesterday and today.

Not the oldest structure, but the reference to the oldest thing is the Pilgrim Monument built in 1892 (the stone structure). I love the details in the wooden buildings, and wanted to capture those. I also thought immediately that this view is good mix of building types, the monument, a former private residence (now a store with maybe an apartment upstairs, I'm not sure), and a church (Center Methodist Church built in 1860 which is actually now being used as the Provincetown Public Library).

The way the buildings lined up caught my eye, but also the other line of the banner of flags was an important visual element. The rainbow flag banners which were all over the place when I was there made a strong statement. Taking a photo of a street scene without at least one flag visible was impossible which to me made a clear statement of the strong community proclamation of gay pride. (Actually while reading the Wikipedia entry I realized my definition of this as a gay pride flag is already outdated, now it is referred to as a LBTG flag = lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride flag.) We tourist visitors saw the flags with our eyes and those of us taking photos most likely captured at least one if not many with our lenses, preserving forever the symbolic imagery if only in our photo albums or in Cyberspace. (I do not know if these flags were there for the whole summer season or if they were temporary for a special community event.)

Photo taken by ChristineMM, on Commercial Street, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts in August 2007.

Other Links

History of the Center Methodist Church

Provincetown Public Library

Commercial Street live webcam

Static webcam images of Commercial Street

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Just What I Wanted!

I am open minded to what in America “the experts” call “alternative medicine”. I do take issue though with the phrase, ‘alternative medicine’ because often what it is, is the old traditional medicine and the new Western medicine is the experiment in reality.

We own some homeopathic medicines, the white pellets that come in the blue tubes. I have used them with my children for minor ailments and the children say they work. I figure, what can it hurt? For example the one for bone pain due to growth of adolescents has helped both of my sons. The arnica for minor bumps and scrapes which are painful has helped. Even the remedies for bedwetting have helped one son. I also have used them for head colds for myself as well as ones for restless sleep and tension headaches, with success.

My older son was ‘fighting something’ the other day, feeling tired, run down, and fluctuating between having no fever, a low fever, and a 101.8 fever (that high fever was right before bed on a Friday night). He had no other symptoms, no running nose, no cough, nothing like that.

A friend asked if we used elderberry extract syrup, specifically, a product called Sambucol. I had never heard of it. They make a formula for adults and a formula for children. She said that some mothers she knows rave about its ability to ward off or stop common illnesses like head colds and such. She said she used it the previous night for the first time as she felt so tired and like she was ‘fighting something’ and she woke up feeling totally healthy and energetic.

I figured we’d give it a try. What could it hurt? My son had one dose (children’s formula) in the evening. I also took a dose (adult formula) as I felt run down and like I was also ‘fighting something’.

We both woke up feeling fantastic and not sick at all!

So I thought that day, “I wish I had a book about homeopathic medicine, and one about children would be great, I wonder if there is a good book on that topic”. A couple of hours later I walked into a thrift shop to check for children’s books. Other than “South Beach Diet” and such that shop rarely has ‘health books’. Usually the adult books are romance novels or fiction of the type I don’t read, or Reader’s Digest condensed books, or casserole cookbooks and such.

However in the middle of the children’s picture books and chapter books was “Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants” by Dana Ullman, M.P.H. and it was an affordable 25 cents. Note in all of my book hunting at library sales and in used book shops I have never, ever come across a book on homeopathic medicine for children (or adults for that matter) or else I would have bought them in the past.

I take this as yet another sign that God’s hand is at work. These little ‘coincidences’ are so frequent and come at times when I really want or need something that I cannot deny God’s involvement in this. I reject what I used to believe which is “it is just a coincidence”.

Sambucol Adult Formula

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Buoys on the Wall (Photo of the Day)

I loved this wall of buoys on the outside of a fish market right on a pier in Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Photos taken by ChristineMM, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, August 2007.

BookTV Show Related to Homeschooling and Christian Homeschoolers

On right now (9:00am EST) and it will repeat Monday 10/22/07 at 3:00am (set your recorders if you’re interested!)

Hanna Rosin (author) is on CSPAN’s Book TV right now talking about her book “God’s Harvard” which is about Patrick Henry College, a Christian liberal arts college which was founded just for homeschoolers at attend (in the beginning I don’t know what they are doing now for admissions) The college was accredited recently. The discussion on the interview of course then includes homeschooling and they are also mentioning Michael Farris. The interview is dated 10/11/07.

One thing I just heard that was interesting was Rosin said she discusses that the new outlook of Christians is to raise them up to not live in an isolated subculture but to raise them up Christian with an intent to interact and live in and among mainstream society and to influence the world by living the life of a Christian amongst the masses. Now Lindsay is speaking of what he calls “Cosmopolitan Evangelical Christians” which is his label for this ‘new style’ Christian who live among everyone else and influence individuals who see the Christian living and who are inspired by what they see.

They are also speaking about the ‘old guard’ Christians versus the ‘new guard’ such as Rick Warren pastor and author of the bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life”. They are also talking about Presidential candidates and religion and the candidates.

Something interesting that Rosin just said is that the new young Christians who are growing up in this technological age are 'not having it' about the idea of living in a bubble of isolation, trying to interact only with other Evangelical Christians.

Now they are talking about family structure, Christian SuperMom's, the role of a woman as mother of the children and the dynamic between husband and wife and Christian family structure.

This is all very interesting to me. I plan to TiVo the repeat of this show so I can watch it from the beginning as my phone rang right in the middle of the show!

Information about the show is on the CSPAN site here:

D. Michael Lindsay's "Faith in the halls of Power" and Hanna Rosin's "God's Harvard"

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Noticing Beauty in Our Typical Lives

How many of us take lots of photos when we are on vacation?

Most 'regular people' will take photos of major holidays, very special events and while on vacations. Some of those people rarely take photos of their normal days at home or right around the area they live in.

I don't recall when it was that I first realized that people actually take trips to visit this place I live in. I always thought that the people here were trying to leave here to go on a vacation and I never thought that anyone would come HERE. I think it was about the beauty of fall foliage, something I took for granted and used to only associate with the hassle of hand-raking dead leaves off the lawn (as demanded by my father) which made me realize that indeed tourists do come here for vacations.

Yes, people come to my area on vacations for which they pay money to just come and drive around, to view this foliage, here in New England.

Then I began noticing some changes in development of some towns and with my hometown. I don't always like the changes and wax nostalgic for 'the way it used to be'. I then realize, I have no photo of that former building or old business that I used to frequent. When I was a teen I spent a lot of time and money at an arcade. I have no photo of that place. When it turned into a Saturn car dealership, well, there was no point in taking the photo to document that!

I have been taking more and more photos of things all around me in this area and in my hometown, when I go there to visit my relatives. I am starting to see all kinds of things that are photo-worthy.

Additionally I felt a bit sad and angry at a change on Cape Cod when we took our first visit there this last summer. The first thing we used to see after we crossed the bridge over the Cape Cod Canal was a business which was a family owned restaurant and pie shop. In the parking lot right next to the road that we all had to drive by was a tugboat, which loomed large over us (who knew they were that big?). The tugboat had lots of buoys on it and I believe it said something like "Welcome to Cape Cod" on it, but I can't be sure. I took that for granted, that sight. It was something that was always there.

Yet this year when we rounded the corner there was a


brand new, just like all the others, CVS drugstore with a newly paved parking lot and it was lit up with brand new orange lights from the tall parking lot lights.


My in-laws told me that Grandma's Pies sold the land to CVS and they moved somewhere else in town.

Well I'm sorry but it is just not the same.

Franchises and national chains are creeping in all over the Cape. Small family-owned businesses are disappearing while the franchises take over. Some towns fight chains such as trying to prevent a Dunkin' Donuts from coming in to one town who had two yummy family owned doughnut shops already. There are numerous individual businesses who sell homemade ice cream yet one town now has a Ben and Jerry's. I'm sorry but it is not the same.

So when I'm at the Cape I have been trying to document the little businesses with their imperfect, fading signs and while at home I'm photographing the little things that I see which catch my eye. For I never know when the things which I appreciate but usually take for granted will disappear.

I do take more photos here at home, but it is true I take a lot while away. Why? The reason is that when I am away I have extra time on my hands and it is very easy to just take the time to go out and take photographs. I also have a bit of pressure, thinking, "I'll only get to this beach once this year, so I'd better go take some photos today". When I'm at home and busy with 'real life' I don't always take the time to go out and take photos. And then sometimes it is too late.

For example it rained for over 24 hours here yesterday. We awoke to sunny skies. As I drove down the road in the early morning, I noticed the fall foliage looked different, better somehow. I realized that all the bark on the trees was very dark brown, almost black, as it was so soaked with rain. The hard frost we had killed off a lot of the lush green plants on the forest floor. So what I saw was bright leaves covering a forest floor with black tree trunks with bright leaves on the trees with sunlight filtering through. It was breathtaking actually. But I was driving to meet my brother and I was under a deadline so I kept driving and didn't snap a photo. On the way home the sun had already dried the bark and the sun was high in the sky and the light was just different. It was not the same thing anymore, it was different. I now wish I'd taken 30 seconds to stop the car and snap a few quick photos. Sigh.

Although I am only 40 years old I am already feeling like an 'old geezer' in some respects as I've started to say, "I remember when that place was a..." and "Things are changing around here and it is just getting so overcrowded" and other stuff like that.

I should mention and make clear though that although negative feelings was the impetus to help me open my eyes, what is happening now is I am seeing more and more beauty in everyday things all around me. Noticing things and finding joy in just seeing something lovely actually lifts my spirits throughout the day. And that is 'a good thing' as Martha Stewart says.

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 7

Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 7: October 14-Octobery 20, 2007

Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 7 and in 2nd grade.

This was a week of extremes. We were out of state or out of town or didn’t spend a lot of time at home on the other days. We had times of extreme togetherness and times where we were all apart. It was a strange flux of going away from each other, being preoccupied with tending to other things, and sometimes feeling disconnected, then coming back together physically and emotionally and feeling immediately connected again.

The first two days of the week we were in Cape Cod and coming home. One day this week my sons were in their all-day class so I had some alone time. Instead of going to Homeschool Park Day we went to a birthday party for a schooled child (the public school was closed for some teacher meeting type thing). This was Youth Group week for my older son so one evening was taken up with that. We saw less of my husband due to him spending more time helping his parents with their daily living and medical care needs due to their ailing health, and my kids missed him. We had two homeschooled boys over for a playdate one afternoon, so I felt like I didn’t see my kids as they were so busy playing with the other boys. The week ended with my older son and my husband going on a Webelos-only Cub Scout campout. My younger son wanted to do something special so he spent the day and slept over at my brother and sister-in-law’s. This left me to have a full 24 hours alone!

This week for the first time this school year I felt the outside activities and classes were too much and were dominating our lives. The feeling was there that the outside appointments were top priority and that all other things revolved around those things. I hate that feeling.

Also various ‘one time’ things are starting to fill up the schedule. I declined a last minute invitation to my niece’s birthday party as it directly conflicted with FIRST LEGO League class. We have already declined a wedding invitation due to LEGO and now this. It is not just that my son would miss the class, but since my husband is a co-coach he has responsibilities to tend to. And they made a policy of two absences and you’re out. We missed one for the closing-of-the-house in the Cape trip so we are on the edge here. And guess what, now my niece’s party was then rescheduled to another date when we’ll have to do the ‘divide and conquer’ thing. I’ll be finishing attendance at a conference and then will be with my younger son at his friend’s birthday party which I committed to about six weeks ago and my husband and older son will be free at that exact time so they’ll go to the niece’s birthday party (but they will have been out all day long on a Cub Scout field trip to tour the state capitol building) so you see how the pace is around here?

As for homeschooling lessons, due to all the things going on and being out of town we are off track of the planned schedule. Having a schedule and lessons all laid out this year, I now feel perpetually behind because we ARE behind on my schedule. I also have been telling my boys that no, they can’t watch a bunch of TV and when they ask why, I say when they are so behind in their homeschooling work they can’t add on extra time watching TV period! However I don’t like this feeling of being always behind and I don’t think it is healthy for them to always feel like they are failing at keeping up with their lessons. I worry that they feel like failures for always being behind. Compare that to public schooled children who in reality are often behind in the teacher’s original plans but who instead get boosted up with lots of positive self-esteem for what they do accomplish. I feel a bit bad that my homeschooled kids feel badly about being behind when their schooled peers are doing less academic work and yet think they’re doing so much and that they are “so wonderful”. Yet if my children are to be more self-directed as they are asking to be, how can I hide the fact from them that they are behind schedule?

I have two routes to take here. One would be to lighten the load and to declare success at doing all the work. The other route is to buckle down and jam with homeschooling.

I know some people are thinking “Relax!”. They would have me lighten the load. And my unschooling friends would say, “Just live life that is all you need to do.”

I enjoy Melissa Wiley’s blogs but I don’t read them daily as I just don't have time. I tend to visit her blogs and then read a whole lot of her blog posts at one time. I was reading about her “Tidal Homeschooling” theory. I feel like that is what we’re doing here but not on a pre-planned basis, it is just what is happening as real life plays out for us.

Two days ago, a well-meaning friend told me that with all the health crisis stuff with relatives going on I should relax and just not do any homeschooling for a while. The problem with that though is that there have been various health issues with the same relatives in the full last 24 months. One being my mother with her Breast Cancer in fall 2005 (which so far is ‘cured’ thank goodness). Plus with the two cases of Lyme Disease that my older son had in the last 15 months and with younger son’s Lyme and Ehrlichiosis and with my own Lyme last year that things have already been relaxed and so that contributed to the overall feeling of being behind. I feel like I can’t keep cutting slack due to these problems as it seems the problems are being more of a normal thing in our lives not just a little short hump that we have to get over. I feel like I need to forge ahead and ‘Just Do It’.

As to the schedule, I seriously don’t think I’ve planned too much. For some reason I still don’t feel like we have time for history lessons though! I’ve slacked on the reading aloud of literature and I’m too upset about that actually but it is a fact. And I have so many great science books I’d like to read with them or have them read to themselves. I have science kits and experiments and unit studies I’d like to do with them but where is the time? Also I ask myself is not six hours of direct instruction at a science and nature class enough science for these kids already?

I continue to see that my sons do not like short lessons times doing lessons each day which did work for so long and is one component of a Charlotte Mason education. My sons now like to spend a longer time on things like doing 90-120 minutes of history or doing the all day science class or blowing through three grammar lessons in one sitting. I am going with the flow here even if it means leaving behind one part of an educational theory that I like.

Another important component to the week is I’m still grieving for my recently deceased mother friend. I feel so vulnerable like I don’t know how long I’ll be on this Earth and I want to really appreciate the little things in life each day.

Worse though, is that the health of the four elderly, sick, frail or dying relatives of ours have all gotten worse this week. One grandmother whom I was told was improving at the beginning of the week, I was told last night was not doing well and is unable to live alone. That is my grandmother in Maine, aged 97, and she is asking me to go up and visit. The schedule is tight not just with the kids activities but with my Cub Scout Leadership and Youth Group Leadership so I have commitments here as well.

The Cancer of my father-in-law is worsening and Hospice may begin this upcoming week. It has been an emotional week. I think some that were in denial are out of it now. This saps a lot of energy.

The most pressing news is that it seems one grandmother will need urgent surgery and right now before surgery she is facing a possible life-threatening emergency situation if this is not surgically corrected ASAP. In the past we were told her heart is not well enough to take a surgery and she may die on the table. I think tomorrow the consult with the general surgeon will be scheduled and then she’ll be on the path to surgery in the next week or ten days.

Concluding Thoughts
I think the week was such a feeling of being out and away and not doing very routine things at home that in the upcoming week it will feel good to buckle down and get a good amount of homeschooling done.

I have some blog posts prepared ahead of time which I will be publishing this week. I am going to try to stay off the computer as much as possible so that I can force myself to focus on doing homeschooling lessons with my children. I have a feeling I’ll get behind on reading emails and email discussion groups too!

General Information:
Homeschool Open House’s Weekly Reporter blog post project is a concept devised by Jessica of Trivium Academy. For more information, see the Trivium Academy blog entry dated 9/04/07.

Graphics which I am using in my Homeschool Open House and Weekly Reporter were designed by Jessica and are available on her blog, again in the same blog post dated 9/04/07.

For information about how you can become a Weekly Reporter or to view a list of other Weekly Reporters, read the information at Trivium Academy in the 9/04/07 blog post or see the information in her right sidebar.

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