First Week of Summer

If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken last week off completely from school and then begin on tomorrow after the holiday.    I can always tell when my mind is spinning, and the product of that level of angst and confusion usually isn’t good.    Yet, I was so determined to not waste our summer by sleeping late and staying plugged in all day until I had the kids in books the next day after our official school year “ended.”    The result was that neither the kids nor I felt as if we’d truly ended anything, and the youngest, with all the boldness of a child’s unbridled tongue, let me know it.   “When do we get a break??!!”   

This is sooooo not the way that I want to school during our summer downtime.     So I began explaining that school wouldn’t look exactly as it did during the year, but the true proof in the proverbial pudding was when I began to relax and not pressure them with getting up at a certain time, getting this and that done, and taking away from the fun of life (like time with Dad) in order to complete said page.    Lesson learned.    Moreover, once I did relax, I was able to think through what I wanted the kids to accomplish during the summer–more on that later.

When we weren’t around the table, we were unusually busy for almost the whole week.   It went by in such a blur until I almost can’t remember it.    I spent 2-3 days washing and pressing hair in preparation for team pictures on this past Friday.   I’m hoping against all hope to make the flat-ironing last until time for the dance recital on next weekend.    That process of straightening the girls’ hair is so labor-intensive for me until I almost dread doing it.    I think the ill feelings were compounded once I began to embrace our natural hair; I now fully realize what I’m doing to their tresses by applying that much heat.

I found out Thursday that a dear friend went home to be with the Lord after an extended battle with breast cancer that eventually spread throughout her body.   She was a mentor to our oldest daughter and to me, truth be told; we “adopted” the grandsons she parented as the brothers our son never had.    I know she’s in a better place, and cancer-free with the Lord, but I sure do miss her. 

Saturday we spent at a wedding during the day.   A dear friend married a 2nd time after a long and prayerful season of waiting on a Godly man.    The season was more stressful due to a teenage daughter that, at least from the natural eye, seemed to turn away from everything she was destined by God to be.   It’d been a tough road for this woman of God, and my heart rejoiced to see her happy and radiantly in love.

Saturday evening we were blessed with a rich Word from Bishop T.D. Jakes while he was in town.     Luke 15: 1-8 leaped off the page for me as the Bishop delivered a life-changing message about recession, resurgence, and remaining.   Wow.

My husband loved me enough to give me a much-needed break on Sunday morning, and he taught our Sunday School class by himself, bless his heart.   I felt bad about leaving him with a class that is still establishing its personality with us (ha ha), partly because I wanted to see the lesson!     He performed a couple of magic tricks as a lead-in to the story of Simon the magician, and how we, like Simon, can crave the power of the Holy Spirit (or just church presence) for all the wrong reasons.   The class was small, but well engaged in the lesson, from what I’m told.     This group of kids is markedly different from previous classes we’ve had because of their candor.   There’s one thing I can say about them: right or wrong, you never have to guess what they’re thinking. 

Somewhat well rested, I hussled to get everyone ready for an evening event put on by the local chapter of the NAACP.    During April, the oldest competed in their academic olympic event (ACT-SO) in Earth Science, and Sunday evening was the presentation of awards.     She had returned from April’s competition with a message of doom and gloom about how she fared with the judges, so I had no reason to believe that she would place.     That said, man!    Was I overjoyed when she was announced as the silver (2nd place) award winner!     We couldn’t have been more proud.

Incidentally, it’s odd to see myself with my “poofy” braid-out–a combination of hair that needed washing and the Texas humidity.   Who is that woman with my daughter?!   (But, let’s not make this about me–smile).    Here she is with Dad, and then with friends who also participated in this year’s competition. 

Today, Memorial Day, was a day of semi-rest once again after having a well-traveled, eventful weekend.   Whew!    My in-laws joined us for Cajun fare–crawfish boudin and blackened tilapia.    Good times with family and great food.

Believe it or not, I actually did, somewhere in the midst of all this activity, get to settle my mind and think about what I want to do with the kids this summer.   In short:

  • We will work on 3 days/ week.
  • The youngest: read together and work  on math and handwriting all 3 days, with grammar added on one day and science on another.
  • Our son: read together, make sure he continues with “free” reading times, and complete math on all 3 days.
  • The oldest: help her adjust to college English, read together, and complete math on 3 days.

I will not get in the way of informal studies masterly inactivity, as Miss Mason would say, with my own agenda.

I will not plan the fun out of summer for the sake of completing academic work.

I will get some things done (like scrapbooking and sewing) that I’ve wanted to complete for forever.   That means I will relax.

Pray for me, saints.   God bless.

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Repost: The Bullard Family Constitution

I originally published this post two years ago when our kids were completing American History.  In the midst of a chaotic 2-3 weeks, I happened to glance upon the refrigerator and see a hard copy of the document they produced below.   So I thought to repost this entry, if only to remind myself of the potential of our home, maybe…perhaps…one day…

It’s all too rare, but precious, that we get to see how our homes would function if our children ruled it.   But I had this experience a few days back.   We’ve been discussing over the last week or more the writing of the Constitution–the debate and dissension, the decisions not to sign it, and the reality of what it took for these men to endure a grueling Philadelphia summer to pen our foundation as a country.   On one day, our son said, “History inspires me to do so many things.”   (the necessary lead-in to get Mom curious and excited about the upcoming idea).   He then began to talk about how he got involved in the stock market after our discussion on the Great Depression.   (True, true.   So what’s up?)   “I think I’m going to write a constitution for our family, because I don’t like some things that are happening around here.”    My first inclination was to stop this effort before it got started, thinking that these new family “rules” would be beyond silly.   For sure the kids would list that they could stay up as late as they wanted, allowances would be doubled, etc.   However, I went along out of curiosity, and admittedly, the ‘history being inspiring’ comment worked; I fell for it hook, line, and sinker, and only needed to be reeled in.   He got started and the oldest one jumped in, perhaps to be sure that no rules got past her.   At any rate, I was floored and thrilled at the same time.     Mom and Dad ratified their draft over the weekend (comments in italicized teal).   I tried to write it just as they penned it.

Bullard Family Constitution

 

Room Rules

  1. Everyone must knock on each other’s doors, especially bathroom doors.
  2. With parent permission you may move furniture.
  3. Ask before you take TV remote.
  4. Cut off lights when you leave.
  5. Leave room like you found it.
  6. Respect private time.

 

School Rules:

  1. Do not be annoying.
  2. If you finish early comment but don’t brag.
  3. Come ready to learn.
    1. Head is up and eyes are open
    2. Narrations occur accurately after 1 reading
    3. Questions are based on not understanding rather than not listening
    4. Work is completed in a timely fashion
    5. Bring a good attitude
  4. Respect other’s area.
  5. Ask for pencils.
  6. If 1 person is annoyed they may move.  If more, the annoyer may move.

 

Friends/Family Rules:

  1. Be nice to guests.
  2. Do what guests want as long as you are allowed to.
  3. Make sure their needs are met.
  4. Make sure restricted areas aren’t seen by guest unless permitted.
  5. Work out debates without parent help.
  6. Everyone takes part in cleaning.
  7. Love each other according to 1 Corinthians 13.
  8. Show each other much grace and mercy.

 

Car Rules:

  1. Take turns in front and 3rd rows.
  2. 2nd row may control air.
  3. Empty trash as you get out.

 

Kitchen Rules:

  1. If you make a mess, CLEAN IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Feet stay on the floor.

 

Amendments (added by Dad):

  1. Wear your shoes when the car is outside (the garage, that is).

Using Social Media

My husband made an observation some months back while trying to send me an online article for later reading: it is hard to just send someone an article anymore.    The assumption is that everyone has a Twitter and/or Facebook account.    So, very recently, he bit the proverbial bullet and became a Twitter enrollee.    After a few weeks of orientation/ experimentation, he and I recently had a conversation that went something like this:

Hubby: “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.   I can’t get anyone to respond to me!”

Me: “Well, who are you following?”

Hubby lists the few people/ organizations that he follows.

Me: “It looks like you’re following people who don’t tweet that much, or people who only tweet as PR for their jobs.   You might have to back up and just find people who share your same interests, and people who actually tweet.    You might search according to your hobbies or…”

I felt funny advising him as to how to find people and make friends (?) via social networking.    I’m very much a novice, and there’s much that I need to learn.    Initially hesitant, if not outright suspicious, of social media, it took me a while to embrace these tools—and I do mean tools—as being potentially effective.    I never had a MySpace account.    I’ve made conscious decisions not to join Linked In; I don’t “Digg” anything, nor do I “Stumble Upon” anything.    At this point, I am strictly a blog/Facebook/ Twitter person.    

I’ll confess that, when first introduced to Twitter, I didn’t contemplate getting involved that much.    I signed up for it somewhat by accident, but was hooked after seeing how I could quickly keep up with a friend and/or family member or two.   It took me a while to pick up the art of stating something about myself in 140 characters, and then making it entertaining enough for people to actually appreciate it and respond.     It took a bit more time for me to extend myself past people that I knew and learn how to seek out people that had my same interests.

Facebook I gave a lot more thought to before signing up.     I’d heard so much about the privacy issues, and there are some concerns.   I grow concerned each time I sign onto CNN.com and see the articles that my friends recommended: how does CNN know who my Facebook friends are?     I grow concerned when students say to me, “I looked you up on Facebook…”    It’s an invasion of my privacy, as far as I’m concerned, and it makes me wary about employers and others who look and make judgments.

Another point of confusion for me was that no one could tell me how their Facebook account differed that much from their blog.   By that time, I’d put so much energy into developing my blog, and I thought that one more social network would take me totally away from those items that I consider to be more about purpose.   I decided, slowly but surely, to give Facebook a try after several friends in small business endeavors convinced me that I was missing out from a business standpoint by not getting on board.

I probably put more way more thought into all of this than was necessary.   Everything doesn’t have to be a heady exercise in reflection, or is it a life-and-death decision regarding typing a few lines about what’s going in your life.   “Tweeting” and mini-blogging (which I consider Facebook to be) can be fun, efficient, and in its own way relaxing.   I get that.    In fact, I played around in the early stages of watching the Superbowl, tweeting about all my observations.    One of my followers later pointed out that Christina Aguilera’s botching of the lyrics to the National Anthem got more press than the latest news from Cairo (‘good to know we have our priorities straight,’ she posts).    She’s right, but hey, it was funny for the time that I stayed online, and I needed the respite as I watched my Steelers go down for the count.    But in order to be a good steward of the time God gives me, I debated internally, and rather seriously, how I might use all of this to my advantage without becoming a slave to any of it.    I know people who spend a significant portion of their day on Facebook, or blogging, or on some other point of connectivity via the web.   I know some who pay outrageous phone bills just to stay in touch with it all.   I know the amount of time that it takes me to craft a blog entry, which is the reason that I only post, at most, twice weekly.    I just choose to do something different with the time I have.

So, at the end of the day, how do I use social media networks?

Blogging—still my favorite of all the ways to connect over the Internet, I pen my heart and mind in the hopes of ministering to others like me, making real connections, and allowing my customers to meet the person behind the products.

Facebook—FB is great for linking with friends and family and sharing photos and quick pics of life as it exists here.  Its major function for me, however, is to share short stories and links that interest me, to find out more about my FB friends, and to jot down thoughts and happenings that don’t necessarily warrant an extensive blog entry.

Twitter—Twitter is what it is—140 characters to very quickly say what you are doing right now.   For one who talks to herself quite a bit, this is a neat way to get some of those random thoughts down in one spot, and where else can you meet amazing business connections by telling someone how absolutely uneventful your life really is :-)?

Recently in her 31 Days of Blog Ministry, Amy Bayliss posted about blog purpose and niche, and suggested reading Hebrews 13 as a place of prayer and seeking God about your blog’s purpose.    This was a blog-changing, if not a life-changing, exercise for me.    For some strange reason, I didn’t like my blog being labeled as a “marriage and family” blog, as one reader referred to it; I wanted to be something more.    But as I read through Hebrews 13, it began to resonate with me that marriage and family are high callings, and viewing the writing of them as boring was a rejection of the gifts and blessings I’ve been given.    If I can eloquently depict a house where God is first and foremost, where peace exists and health and wholeness reign in spite of all that isn’t here, I am indeed blessed and highly favored.    Many cannot.   Comments and “likes” should never be the concern when we are aligned with God’s assignment for us.   He role models the nature of truly effective ministry, reaching one here, changing the life of ten there, and teaching twelve at a most intimate level.    So, having said that, here are the guidelines I use for how I interact on any social medium:

  1. Make straight paths for your feet…   Romans 12:13 (Bullard living translation: Be clear in your communication)
  2. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without no moan shall see the Lord…Hebrews 13:?
  3. Let brotherly love continue…Hebrews 13:1
  4. The Lord is my helper, and I will fear not what man shall do unto me…Hebrews 13:6
  5. …the fruit of our lips give thanks to His name…Hebrews 13:15
  6. Making you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight…Hebrews 13:21

 

As I stated before, by no stretch of the imagination would anyone call me an expert; I’m still learning so much about how to navigate these networks and how to put them to best use for my wants and needs.    These are simply my ramblings musings, and my own follow-up thoughts from my husband’s tweeting dilemma.   I am curious, though:  how do you use social media?

What I Learned During the Holidays

Fresh off a vacation in which computer time was extremely limited (how ’bout non-existent?), we find ourselves back at home where both laptops are awaiting repair.    Translation?  There are five people vying for the one computer that has access to the Internet.   To put it mildly, I’m learning just how plugged in my family is.   Of course, work takes precedence over all the other fun items, but even that becomes difficult when you have at least one child standing over you saying, “Are you almost finished?”   (Heavy sigh).

In case you’ve not had enough of goal writing, declarations, and reflections (LOL), please be sure to head over to Amy Bayliss and A Woman Inspired for their 31 Days of Online Ministry Event.    There are some great ladies committed to helping us all in the areas of blogging, praise, encouragement, prayer and parenting.    Some of my faves include intentional parenting with Karin at Mommy Matters, Lisa Boyd’s WordPress help (boy, do I need that one!), and 867-5309 Jenny’s (any 80’s fan will immediately appreciate the reference) tips on the use of social media.  

I have asked a question of several business women, especially other working/ home-educating moms, regarding the use of social media, and the implications to being a good steward of time: how are you using these tools to develop your business?   I got very few, if any, responses—hmmm.    One angel was kind enough to introduce me to Hootsuite, a tremendous help in being technologically savvy and present via these tools without becoming a slave to them. Jenny’s first post regarding the use of social media was with respect to Philippians 4:8.   I love this perspective as a starting point.

Karin’s thoughts on intentional parenting have been enlightening as well.  I loved her post on the daily blessing of the children.    What intrigued me most in visiting her blog this time around, however, was the post regarding what she learned in 2010.   I concur with her that 2010 was a year that I’d just as soon not have had, although I know that it was necessary for our growth.   It seemed at times that we were being torn apart at the very seams, and I had to often remind myself of a statement a pastor once made: the Lord will increase your faith by almost destroying it.   

With limited time, I won’t be able to pen all that I learned in 2010.    I thought instead to focus on what I learned in the last month/ during the holidays.    I learned that…

1) Knowing what you believe, and acting consistently upon what you believe, can cure a lot of frustration and angst.

2) I’m nowhere near as technologically savvy as I think I am.

3) The heart of a child, expressed in even the simplest form, can absolutely melt yours.

4) The secret to breakthrough is to worship the Father, especially when you don’t feel like it.

 5) I need to invest in a new camera.

 6) Dogs LOVE “old school” Christmas specials.

7) Having stated #5, the love of family radiates past how it is captured.



Appreciating the Season, Loving the Reason

 I love this season.   I love the music of the season, whether it’s a majestic “Hark, How the Bells,” a tranquil “Silent Night,” or the fun of trying to remember what my true love gave to me on each of the “12 Days of Christmas.”   It’s always hilarious how no one forgets the partridge in the pear tree, or the five golden rings?    I love spending time with family, and I love the extra affection put onto each plate on Christmas Day.

Having said that, I wish I felt more “Christmas-y” this year.   Jamie spoke of the trend of dwindling Christmas cards, and I concur.   Of course, I’ve yet to send out my own holiday cards.

This year, we’re traveling out of town immediately after Christmas, so we chose not to decorate since we won’t be here to enjoy it.   Besides, the money we normally spend on a Christmas tree is the money that we could spend on a tank of gas.

The lack of Christmas ritual might not be helping me, but that’s really not it.    Every year, I fight the tendency to overload myself with activity such that I have time to just rest and reflect.     This year, I’ve lost the fight.     Just this weekend, I turned down 2 parties so that we could relax at home; then the kids informed me that they have a party at church on Sunday afternoon.    Oh, well, so much for that relaxation strategy, huh?

And our poor kids.   It’s been a busy time for them, too.   In fact, today is our last day at school, and the kids just simply dragged.   They’ve had good reason.     In one weekend alone, they performed in two parades.     I posted on last year some thoughts about the parades, the true meaning of Christmas, and how good it felt to walk through our little country town saying, “Merry Christmas” during this politically correct age in which we now live.    My opinions haven’t changed, but I did update the pictures as all three of our treasures marched this year rather than only the oldest.

    This year’s team features six tinier tikes, including our youngest.   They range in age from 5-7 years of age.   The parade walking took more out of them, but they made it.

The older kids were regular veterans at the venues this year.

There was also the Christmas play, in which the older two were choreographers, and our son danced–a tap number to Mary Mary’s big-band sounding rendition of “He’s the Greatest.”

Personally, I’m determined to quiet my spirit and just spend some time loving on the Lord.   So, with school over today and dance over as of last week, I consider this my time for me and the Lord.    Every time I think about it, I just stop and say, “thank you.”   Because of our trip out of town, my normal fasting into the new year will not happen, but I’m still believing Him to speak to me regarding direction for 2011.     I’m told it will be a good season, though I’m not sure of what the details of that word mean.   While that prophecy unfolds, I’m excited about next week–about loving on the Father, operating in faith by executing some plans that have collected dust, and basking in the Word.     May God bless your plans as well.

1st Semester Progress Report (pt. 1)

I am not sure that I could capture well all that has happened in the last two weeks, friends, but I do hope to document the highlights over the last 1-2 weeks. After all, this blog is the chronicles of our family.

The older two were drafted volunteered to help our church children’s ministry with the annual Christmas play, and the associated practices taken up every weekend we have right up until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Parade season is also fast approaching, as is the beginning of the competition season, so dance has consumed the time that isn’t spent on school and church. I am quickly finding myself in the very position that I don’t like to be in at this time of year—too busy with the season to reflect on the Reason. I refuse, however, to give up that reflective time, and will be saying “no, thanks” to some opportunities that sound, at least on the outside, like great opportunities.

This week finds us unexpectedly on the road. My dear husband was asked to take a trip for week—on the same week as Thanksgiving, no less—and we chose to tag along. Writing while riding takes me back several years to when we traveled like this regularly, before job transfers and job changes. In fact, I’ve seen all but one region of Texas in my 20+ years of living here, thanks to the hubby’s jobs. Some prefer a plane ride (though nowadays that means you enjoy being felt up by strangers), but I love the freedom of the car—plenty of time to kick my shoes off, read, blog 🙂 , or just to sight-see when it’s my turn to drive. We were laughing on yesterday about our earliest work/ family trips when we began homeschooling. The children were small then, and I had to be very creative with meal times as the reality of quitting my full-time job began to settle on us both. I can remember going to vegsource.com and finding recipes like potatoes with chic peas and green onions. It wasn’t fancy, but it was filling, tasty, and most of all, inexpensive. I also recall being stunned at the difference in our lifestyle, and a bit apprehensive about whether the changes were really worth it, but we held hands with all the excitement of fear of brand new homeschoolers. Looking back now, it seems silly to fret so, but I’m so glad that we never gave in to all the uncertainties.

The kids are excited about this week as well, and the fact that I relaxed the schedule a bit, given the trip. They are only responsible for math and reading this week, with a reading day planned for the trip home. Speaking of school, we only have three weeks left in the semester after this one. With the end of the semester approaching, it is always appropriate to assess where we are and whether we are moving in the right path.

The youngest is performing well enough in reading that I’m trying to make a decision as to whether or not to spend money on more formal curriculum to build her reading skills. When I read Bob Jones’ scope and sequence for the 3rd grade reading workbook, there are some areas that she’s not learned—formally. Is it worth it? I think not, but I’m also having to evaluate, for myself, what’s really bothering me about the hole that a lack of formal studies in this area creates. I’m convinced that .what really bugs me—and it’s the same feeling I get watching my son—is that the kids have more free time than I’m comfortable with. That wouldn’t be so bad if they both used the time in productive ways. I’ll sort that out at another time.

The other quandary is what to do with her science studies. She asked to learn about the human body, and I thought it was so convenient that Apologia published a brand new anatomy and physiology text. As my dear friend Kysha says, this was not a good fit for our family. The text is way over the little one’s head, and she now says, “I didn’t know it’d be so gross!” So in trying to get direction from a child, I now realize that I should have followed my first mind, saved my money, and begun with either Zoology or Botany. So, as if I didn’t get enough the first time, I explained to her what I thought about our predicament. She says, “Well, Mom, can we just do two sciences?” Oh, boy.

I pray the Lord is blessing your week(s) as well. More to say, but I’ll stop for now. All the way here, we felt this shake that gradually grew worse. We found out 30 miles outside of town that our mud flap had cut into a tire, causing a slow leak. BUT, we made it, Praise God. He is sooooooo good.

Great Reading, Good Times

Several years ago, I read a post from one of the most inspirational bloggers I know, Linda Fay, who writes so practically about how to “do” a homeschool with a Charlotte Mason approach.    In this particular pearl of wisdom, she used a food metaphor to illustrate the difference between a Charlotte Mason homeschool full of living books versus an environment with workbooks aplenty.    The living books approach, in her analogy, was like serving a bowl of rich stew with fresh baked bread; the workbooks, then, were the equivalent of starvation-like rations and water.     I remember confessing that, at the time, I was somewhere in the middle—fish and a salad was my position on this culinary continuum.       

I’m curious: how much time do you spend reading to your children?   I’ve seen so many guidelines as to how much time is ideal, but I also know that many homeschooling parents have to operate within what is practical.    Earlier in our homeschooling years, I can remember hearing an “expert” state, with a confidence that was intimidating for us mere mortals, what she felt was appropriate in terms of reading to children.   “I want you reading to your children for at least one hour,” she says.    I thought this was totally unrealistic for a mom with my responsibilities.    In fact, as an aside, I’ll confess that when our oldest was entering school (pre-homeschooling), I was so fascinated by her mastery of the computer until I all but forgot the value of a good book!      Fast-forwarding a few years, this same question surfaced in a homeschool group to which I belong that focuses in on high school-aged children who are college-bound.    The responses were similarly intimidating.    One mom stated that she gives her child a list of 100 books going into freshman year with the expectation that they will be finished by the time of graduation.  

Experience has taught me that there are sometimes very valid reasons for workbooks, so I certainly don’t knock anyone’s choice to use them.   In truth, the oldest would probably love the opportunity to fill in blanks and insert whatever is appropriate to create a page that is flawless in appearance; she’s my “perfect Paula,” in Cathy Duffy terms.    And yes, I’m still in fish and salad position, or maybe a fish (soup) stew, but largely by choice, not by ignorance.     I’ve found that, as the years go on, there is no better opportunity to learn than with the seeds planted by rich, living books.   So each day, I make a point to sit down with each of the kids one-on-one and read a few pages together.   TwaddleMeNot, with her beautiful little girls (and brand-new son) speaks of having snuggle time with her preschoolers.    I’ve found that bigger ones need time, too, even if it looks a bit different.    (It’s hard to snuggle with people that are even bigger than you).   We also have one or two books that we read as a group; this becomes the fodder for narration Over the last couple of months, in the midst of all the peaks and valleys that make homeschool what it is, we’ve had some experiences worth capturing, and I thought I’d post them here.

I talked a while ago about my perspective on The Wheel on the School, a book that the youngest and I shared.     Without totally spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that it took approximately 250 pages of a slightly-over-300-page book to actually get the wheel on the school.    I won’t even talk about the task of getting the storks on the wheel.    BUT, in the end, it truly was a delightful tale of the power of a community coming together to reach a common goal.   The moral?   Everyone adds value, and a body of wisdom—even the smallest children—and the task cannot be completed without each person’s willingness to connect or to hold back, and to be sensitive as to when to do either.

Now we’re on to The Secret Garden, a classic that moves quite a bit faster.    I couldn’t get my oldest to get interested in this one, although she and her brother enjoyed the movie.    The youngest, however, wants to punch the main character for her impertinence, and almost waits to see how contrary Mary will be on a given day.    I, on the other hand, recognize as a parent that noooooobody took the time to raise Mary, much less love and nurture her ; she is the product of what those around her have failed to do.   I have to wonder, though, are mistreatment and neglect of children the theme of every English classic deemed worthy of a place on a child’s reading list?   Classic or not, I would no more expose my child to a wealth of these books than I would expose them to a wealth of what’s currently considered appropriate children’s television—broken homes, immature dads, exhausted moms, obnoxious kids.    And that’s only the sitcoms that promote “traditional family values.”      From The Water Babies, to The Secret Garden, The Tale of Despereaux, Oliver TwistUnderstood Betsy—geesh!

Speaking of movies, I was thrilled that the older two watched LOTR: The Fellowship of the Rings for the first time, and actually confessed that they liked the book much better.   They refuse to watch The Two Towers (and won’t let me watch it, either!) until we finish the book we’re reading now.   We’re getting there, but I’m in no hurry; I suspect the movie might be a little bit scary for me with the increased presence of Gollum.    My own “Gollum voice” is creepy enough—I cannot imagine staring at that face for more than two hours.   Of course, just when I was so pleased and proud of my ability to make my voice slither like a creature sliding down the wall, Gollum becomes Smeagol, more mousy and high-pitched.     With my deeper tones (I’ve been told often that I sound like a female DJ), I’m struggling with making my voice squeaky.

Our son is loving Treasure Island, and my treasure is that I get to watch him enjoy a true “boy’s book,” (at least in my mind).    At the Heart of the Matter Online’s recent conference, Susan Wise Bauer suggested to never give a child an assignment based upon a book that the child truly enjoyed, and her thoughts are making more sense to me as I listen to him; a project at this point would squelch his enthusiasm.     Incidentally, she also spoke of book reports having little value for a child’s long-term educational process.   So, was my whole elementary school experience a wash?   I’m just saying.

My oldest is quirky.   As much as she gets on my nerves, I’m sure I’ll miss her terribly when she moves on.   Today she was away from us taking the PSAT—for practice this time.  She spent the morning at a public school for the first time ever.    I prayed much of the morning in order to combat my anxiety; what will I do when she leaves?   The time with her grows more precious to me as the days go by.     Just tonight—at 9 p.m., mind you, while we’re finishing the day’s reading, she was telling me what books her other high school/ homeschool friends are reading.     We talked about different classics, or the lack thereof, after we finished the Aeneid.    Thank God that Virgil writes in a much more straightforward manner than Homer, with far fewer extended metaphors that detract from the main story.   What I’m most pleased about, however, after a dubious beginning of the higher grade studies, is that she is finally buying into her education, and getting excited about what she is learning.   You know something else?   She might not read 100 books in four years, but when I actually backed up like David and took a census, her four-year count will be between 70-80.    Quality counts for so much more than quality, but you could do a lot worse on a high school reading list than 80 classics.

Is every day a walk through literature heaven?   Certainly not.   In fact, this post is a composite of the year this far—it’s been too long since I’ve participated in the weekly homeschool meme.   We may not have rich stew and warm, fresh-baked bread, but there’s thick fish soup here.     Great things are happening over good books, and I’m so thankful.  May God continue to bless you with good times, too.