Friday, October 28, 2011

Funny Things Kids Say


I told the three older kids that they had to wash dishes one night, and I wanted Savi to rinse. A little bit later, Savi was in my bedroom sobbing inconsolably, saying that the dishes were all rinsed, and that the other two hadn't let her do any of her work. About a half hour later - when I had sent them all back to the kitchen because Kyrie reported that she was still doing dishes - Kyrie came in and said, "Elijah was looking out the window and he said "wow", and it's pretty, so I can use the camera to take a picture?" When I replied that she could, Savi came back in whining that there were only two dishes left, one for Kyrie and one for Elijah, and she still hadn't gotten to do any. So I told her to sneak back in while Kyrie was taking a picture and do one of those dishes. She left, quite happy with this idea.

This was the resulting photo.


Julie was in the kitchen annoying Elijah while he was trying to make his nightly chocolate milk. When no one responded to his requests to get Julie out of the kitchen, he finally said, "Fine, I'll save your life", and carried her out.

If I only could just get a little higher, I would need saving for real.


I just thought y'all would like to know that the Piggies don't like the taste of the grass anymore, and that's why they steal the Angry Bird's eggs (to eat). An early fan save on the part of Elijah?

In this house, babies can play Angry Birds while getting their diaper changed.


Savi: Mom, can I eat this carrot?
Me: Oh, it's lunchtime. Let's have lunch.
-after lunch-
Savi: Mom, can I have this carrot now?
Me: ...... Sure.

We prefer cookies and cake, please.


We discovered this playground less than two blocks from our apartment. There were three girls playing there this one day; two of them were sisters. The kids all got into a game that involved covering your eyes and getting people out.

So, Little Sister was the one who was supposed to cover her eyes, and it turned out that Big Sister won. Other Girl piped up with, "You cheated! You just wanted your sister to win!"

I had to laugh when Little Sister's response was, "Well, she's my sister."

I think this sister wants to be put down.


Savi: "This apple tastes like pear".

Why are you looking at me like that? Savi said it, not me.


Mom: "Elijah, when was Jesus born?"
Elijah: "Umm. Maybe.... 1984?"

That was WAY before I was born, Mom, and video games are so much more interesting.


Savi: "I used to be Grandpa's little angel, but I'm not anymore." 1

I'm Daddy's little angel, though.


I was driving home from my friend's house and Savi informed me (almost tearfully) that she had left her jacket behind; she said that she had dropped it somewhere and she didn't have it now. I decided not to go back for it, since I'd be seeing that friend again soon. Then Savi said, "Oh, I didn't realize I hadn't zipped it up." Turns out, she was wearing the jacket. She just hadn't noticed because, as she said, she hadn't zipped it.

Your jacket hides better than you do, sweetie.

1. She was referring to the "Grandpa's Little Angel" sweatshirt that she used to wear when she was little, but now gets worn by Julie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now: Summary

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

Here are links to each part of my "Why Homeschooling is So Exciting For Me Right Now" series:

Part 1: Fiction
Part 2: Nature Journal
Part 3: Spanish
Part 4: Art
Part 5: Living Books

I picked that quote at the top because with each of these things, I'm doing something myself and the kids are following my example. And it turns out to be an awesome way to teach; being creative makes my life that much richer.

For your enjoyment, I present the following story that Kyrie wrote (her original spelling). She recently got as entranced with the Encyclopedia Brown stories as I was when I was a kid. So when she was resisting writing a story, I  suggested she write an Encyclopedia Brown story. And she did. Ken and I were both very impressed.

A girl came into Encyclopedia's garage and put a coin into the coin holder. Encyclopedia looked up from the book he was reading and said "How can I help you today?" The girl said "My name is Katie and I need you to help find a watch." "OK" said Encyclopedia "let's go find your watch" Katie led him to the place where she lost had it. (Witch was a park.) Encyclopedia asked "Was eneybody here when the watch was stolen?" "Yes, but the boy left all ready. Only me and him where in the park" said Katie "Oh, and the watch was mine. I left it on this bench because I wanted to go on the monkey-bars. Mother gave it to me yesterday. So mother was afraid of it coming loos and fall of and get lost, so she made me take it off before I go on the monkey bars Get it?" "Yes" said Encyclopedia "And what was his name?" "He said his name was Charlie. Oh and I know where he lives. Any more qustion?" "Yes, what does the watch look like?" asked Encyclopedia. Katie said "The strapes are purple and the short hand in the clock part is red, long hand is blue, and that third hand is golden. Is that all you want to know?" "Yes." said Katie who was wanting her watch back more than ever. When they arrived, they found Charlie in the garden (his garden, wich was next to the house). He seemed to be digging a hole and now put somthing purple into it and started to cover it up. "What do you want here?" asked Charlie. Encyclopedia said "We are looking for a watch. Do you mind digging it up and reterning it?"

"How did Encyclopedia know Charlie took the watch?"
(turn to the next page
For the answer.)

[And then Kyrie wrote on the next page...]

Encyclopedia had seen Charlie put the watch into the hole he had just finish digging. Charlie dug up the watch he had just buried and reterend it to Katie.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now, Part 5: Living Books

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

When I started homeschooling this year, I felt drawn to the Living Books Curriculum. Each week I get - from the library - one of these books for each of the kids to read.

Savi's book this week.

I got so fascinated by the first set of books that I read them too. They were so awesome that I've kept reading these children's books each week.

Kyrie's book this week1.

I've learned more about the Lewis and Clark expedition than I ever knew. I've discovered that Disney's version of Pinocchio is not too far off from the original in overall moral tone, while Disney's The Jungle Book manages to achieve about as opposite of an approach as possible from Kipling's noble book. I've felt sorry for the wife of Daniel Boone and wondered what happened to Elizabeth Crockett after the Alamo. I've admired Johnny Appleseed and admired Nathaniel Bowditch even more. I've wondered if Henry Longfellow has something against faith, but still had to struggle not to cry in front of Kyrie when discussing The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, it was that good.

Elijah's book this week.

It gives me a real appreciation for the term "living book". These books come alive in your hands, grabbing your heart up and taking it to places new and exciting, places you didn't even know were there to be discovered.

This is a book that God made it clear I should read.

And it gives me a better appreciation for my own adult reading, as well. Good quality books offer a richness and depth to my life that is otherwise lacking.

1. The LBC book on Crockett wasn't available from the library, so I substituted this. Some of the substitutions that I've made did not turn out to be particularly impressive books, but I liked this one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now, Part 4: Art

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

I had art classes in high school that thoroughly engrained in me that pretty much everyone, myself included, can learn to draw decently. Maybe not as exceptionally as those with a gift for it, but still well. Since I have not practiced, however, I have lost all those skills I once had.

Kyrie, who appears to have some talent at drawing, received several art books that I have been using for her art curriculum. One of them comes with a DVD and introduces the kind of serious art techniques that I learned in high school. I decided it would be a good thing for me to re-learn along with her. So I bought myself a sketch book, and started practicing along with the DVD.

Did I mention how much I like journals? That applies to sketch books too.

Then one day as I was doing my regular Scripture reading, I happened to be at the passage where Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. As I read this familiar passage, one verse stuck out that I do not remember noticing before.

Picture the scene for a moment. Jesus has just told two of his disciples to go into the town ahead of them and bring him the donkey colt they would find there. They do, indeed, find a donkey colt. When they start untying it, the owners naturally object. The disciples give the explanation that Jesus instructed them to give - "The Master needs it." - and the owners, for whatever unfathomable reason, accept that.

"Then they led the animal to Jesus, and laying their cloaks on it, helped him mount."[Luke 19:35]

All sorts of things are going through my mind at this point - Why did they lay their cloaks on the donkey? Was it dirty? Do cloaks make it easier to ride without a saddle? Were the owners already fans of Jesus? Did they know who the disciples meant by "Master"? - and so on. But one part in particular arrested me.

The disciples helped him mount.

What does it look like for the disciples to help Jesus mount? Why did they help him? Could he not do it by himself? How do you climb on a donkey when stirrups won't be invented for a few hundred more years, anyhow? Looking at the Greek translations, it sounds even stronger than just helping him mount - the disciples 'put Jesus on the donkey'. It makes Jesus sound almost like a helpless child, being lifted onto the donkey.

The visual on this so captured my mind, that I thought it would make a great painting. It's not a moment that I remember any artist capturing before.

If only some artist would draw it.

If only.

And then, of course, the thought percolated through my head, that perhaps I could draw it. Like, for real, not just as an egoistic fantasizing.

So I got out the sketch book and started blocking out what the figures might look like.

I don't have a good idea of what donkeys look like, so I found a picture online to copy.

I need a lot more practice with figures, clearly. But it was so much fun to do, and I am excited at what I might draw in the future.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now, Part 3: Spanish

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

I'm using this to make word lists, for my own use.

I took a two-month Spanish class at the local community college this past summer. There was lots of repetition of stuff I already knew, and I was tempted at times to feel bored. And then the teacher would ask if anyone remembered the word for carrots, and I would have to admit that no, I didn't, even though she'd told us three times before.

So the biggest thing I learned from the class was the need for endless repetition1.

Since I want the kids to learn Spanish, too, I went over to the local school supply store to see if they had any Spanish workbooks. They had flashcards and one workbook that looked like it had more pages of "teacher's guide" than actual Spanish work for the student. I came home with a simple picture-dictionary, but as cool as it is, it was not having a lot of effect with the kids.

Attractive and well-done, though.

Gosh, I thought, why can't someone make a decent Spanish workbook?,  I mean, even I could make a better workbook than anything I've seen. 

I was just spouting off mentally, of course. I'm always thinking to myself that if I was the one running the country, or driving a bus, or running a scientific study, then I'd be doing it right. But slowly...

the thought percolated ...

through my mind ...

that maybe ...

just maybe ...

I actually could make a Spanish workbook.

And once that thought really registered, I went at it with great gusto. The kids' spelling and vocab workbooks are organized around having a set of words that they work on each week, with a activity page for each day, and that was how I started setting up my Spanish workbook.

 Is it obvious which of Jose's relatives I'm aiming for with this picture?2

Right now I'm working on how to explain conjugation to a seven-year-old kid.

It's incredibly fun. And more than once, it has felt like God was slipping me ideas for activities to include.

I'm torn between making things look better with more color, and saving on my printing costs. Opinions on that?

If I keep this up for the whole year, then by the end, I will have a complete Spanish workbook. Kid-tested on my own kids.

Maybe someone will even find it worthwhile to buy it.

1. That lesson was re-inforced when I looked in one of the Seton math workbooks and saw a whole page of problems that all added up to 13, 14, or 15. The repetition clearly would help engrain those few math facts in. I realized I had been pushing the kids too fast, trying to make them learn more new things, just because they already understood the previous things, instead of waiting until they had memorized them.

2. I had a family tree picture, but I discovered that 16 words was too many for any of the kids except Kyrie. So next week the kids'll re-do the first week with eight family words instead of sixteen. I cut back the following week's Body Parts list from 16 to 8 as well. I'm even wondering if I should do twice as many activities (two weeks' worth) for each word list. But I'm not sure I can come up with that many activities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now, Part 2: Nature Journal

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

Although my kids technically have science workbooks, I got very inspired by yet another fabulous post from LMLD called The Beginning of Science is Observation.

Her advice for getting young children started on science is:

A.  Use nature journals, with a space for drawing and a space for writing; go outside and have your kid record whatever he observes, starting with weather, temperature, etc.

B.   Get a stereomicroscope (instead of a regular one) because you can use it for things that aren't opaque, and it works at a level that is just beyond what you can see with the eye, but still allows you to see the connection with what is visible.

So I made sure we all had nature journals. And I bought the stereomicroscope1.

At some point I just decided that it would be easier to show them what I had in mind than to try to explain it. So we all went outside and sat in the grass and I started making observations, about how much of the grass was brown and how much was green2. I drew pictures of the different kinds of grass, and was surprised to discover grass that was green on the top and dead on the bottom. I tried to capture the green/dead split on the various kinds of trees, drew pictures of Ken's tomatoes, and so on.

It was awesome.

I had no idea that I would find it as exciting as I did to make all these observations. I'm looking forward to having an overall record of when seasonal changes take place, and I hope to be able eventually to identify the trees and grasses in the neighborhood by name. 

1. It was half-off from amazon. I was very happy about that part.

2. The grass isn't dying because it's winter. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the grass dies during the summer, when it's dry, and turns green again in the fall, after the rains start back up.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why Homeschooling Is So Exciting For Me Right Now, Part 1: Fiction

"[C]hildren learn by example. Most importantly home-school teachers must serve, through their own behavior regarding their own work, as good examples for their students."-[Source]

That quote is written in the red "Trigun" notebook; I use it for making homeschooling-related notes.1 

When I was a kid, I made a couple attempts at writing fiction stories. I only remember two of them right now. The first consisted of a rabbit who, over the course of a few pages, solved all the world's problems. The second one was slightly more realistic; it involved time travel, talking trees, mysteriously appearing paint-sets, a gnome, and a mad scientist, but instead of ending with all the world's problems being solved, the characters just lived happily ever after2.

Sometime after that, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't meant to write fiction. I think it was because I had kids, and when I attempted to tell them bedtime stories, my mind drew a complete blank. It was like trying to draw water out of a dry well; no matter how I reached down, nothing was coming up3. I could write non-fiction essays, especially in the form of blog posts, but ask me to make up a story and I'll just stare blankly, racking my brain in vain.

Every now and then, though, I'd have a flash of a thought. A plot twist, or a partial scene, would flash through my mind. An image. A character. Since it was never a whole plot, I figured these flashes didn't do me any real good; I couldn't turn them into stories without being able to think up of a plot.

Then I read The War of Art.

I didn't think of it in terms of fiction-writing at first. It was awesome, and I applied to it my life in various ways, the most immediate one being that I started the No-S diet, which I'm still on. But when it came to fiction, I just figured that was the author's thing, and not mine. Over time, though, I think the idea gradually leaked into my mind that maybe this belief that I wasn't good at fiction wasn't true; maybe it was just that Resistance that Pressfield talks about.

One day, when one of those flashes came to mind, I wrote it up for my blog. It wasn't a whole plot, but I told myself, hey, I wasn't trying to sell it to a publisher. I was just posting a Moment of Fiction. If people didn't like it - well, it would be replaced in a few day's time anyway.

That was the first toe-dip into this pool of fiction-writing.

Then there was that whole thing where I made Kyrie write a fiction story. Kyrie is insanely like me; her every personality quirk is something that I see in myself (especially myself at her age)4. Some part of me was thinking that if I could write fiction, so could Kyrie. If Kyrie could, so could I.

And then, thanks to Like Mother Like Daughter5, I read a fairy tale called The Enchanted Pig. And it occurred to me that some of these older tales, they just don't do plot like I'm used to. When I read Pinocchio - because it was on Elijah's reading list, and I'm having a blast with all the learning I'm doing from reading their books - I had the same impression. These tales lack the sort of focused plot where everything that happens forms a sort of coherent whole. Instead these tales have characters and a lot of apparently random things happen to them, although there is probably a moral involved. If The Enchanted Pig was a modern story, you would expect the older princesses to suffer for their disobedience, instead of having the younger princess - the one who wanted to do the right thing in the first place - be the one who has to go through hardships. If Pinocchio were a modern tale, he would have either gone to school or else worked a job, rather than starting the one only to end up doing the other. Maybe I didn't have to have a full-fledged plot all ready before I wrote the story, after all.

So, finally, one day when I was telling the kids they had to do some creative writing, I opened up a journal and wrote something.

Can you read this? Not that it's that interesting.

The plot was a little random. The ending was preachy6. It was a kids' story at best. But by golly, it was a story, and I had written it. 

So now I'm going to type up for you something that I've written since then - a "flash" that occurred to me during Mass. It ends poorly, because I didn't know where to go with it, but I hope you will find it worth reading.

I was so inspired by writing the boy-rabbit story that I went out and got a proper (lines-only) writing journal for future stories. Even though I already had some. I really like this kind of journal.

Agatha and the young man

   Agatha was an old lady now. For some years, she had found that she lacked the strength to lean over and pull down the kneelers at church. Perhaps if her church had lighter kneelers instead of the heavy, solid wood ones, she might have managed it. But her feet and hands, once quite capable, had grown weaker and frailer, and she could no longer pull it off. She could, however, just manage to get herself onto her knees on the cold, hard, stone floor. She hated kneeling on the floor; it hurt and it distracted her from the Mass and it made her grumpy. But, stubbornly determined to submit to the Lord, she made herself do it. On Sundays she could sit with someone else who would put the kneeler down, but for some months she had been the only one at daily Mass besides the priest. She was grateful that he kept saying Mass for just her.
     This day, though, just before Mass started, a young man came in and sat behind her. He was dark-haired, overweight, and a bit on the tall side. Agatha, not about to let this opportunity pass, scooted as quick as she could back into the pew he had chosen, so that she would share kneelers with him. Old as she was, her scooting was not quick enough, and the priest was already done with his entrance - she hadn't even said the entrance antiphon - by the time she got in position. She felt a twinge of guilt for disrupting the mass this way, but brushed the thought aside as not worth worrying about.
     As Mass got started, it became clear that the young visitor had no idea what he was doing. He held the book in his hands, turning the pages at first and then putting it back as he realized he had no hope of figuring out how to follow it. He mumbled a couple of responses, with a moment's delay that made it clear he was repeating after Agatha. But mostly he was just silent through the spoken parts. He sat or stood a moment after Agatha did, and looked very uncomfortable about the whole thing.
     Agatha's heart went out to him, but she wasn't keen on disrupting the Mass further by whispering instructions to him. As the priest gave his brief homily, though, it dawned on her that the young man probably had no idea what kneelers were for, and would not know to put them down for her unless she said something. She decided that if she was going to be whispering then, she might as well be whispering all along. So she grabbed her book and scooted all the way over next to him. She found the spot in the book that they were on now, held the book where both could see it, and pointed to the spot, following along with her finger until it was clear he had caught up. Whispering additional instructions as necessary, she found each new section of the Mass in the booklet for him.
     When it came time to kneel, the soft padding of the kneeler felt like heaven on her tender knees. Absorbed as she was in helping the young man follow the Mass, she paid a new attention to the words of the Mass and experienced them in a deeper way than usual. At the Eucharist, her heart overflowed with joy at God's goodness.
     After Mass, the young man, looking somewhat lost and troubled, headed for thedoor. Agatha knew he must have come to Mass because he was searching for something. She felt tired again, but she called out to the man and said, "Young man, you really must come back again tomorrow. You have no idea how helpful you were."


1. Other people post pretty pictures of homeschooling things. I use notebooks with guys with guns on them. Because that's just what life is like in our apartment.

2. Calling myself a "kid" may be stretching it a bit; I know I started the first story in third grade - I think it took me some 6 years or so to get around to finishing it - but that second story was probably written in college. I would love to get my hands on a copy of that second story now. I think I have a version saved on one out of a stack of old floppy disks; unfortunately, I no longer have a computer that is capable of reading those old 3x5s. My aunt offered me an old computer for the kids; I jumped at the chance. Sadly, she's in the hospital now and definitely not up to getting me this computer. Prayers for her would be appreciated!

3. This lack on my part was especially vivid for me, because my dad always told us the greatest bedtime stories, and I went through a time of wishing I could do the same with my kids.

4. And Elijah is Ken's little mini-me.

5. That LMLD blog played another role in this, too. I have been getting so much out of it lately. It seems to me that there isn't really anything in there that I haven't heard from someone else, but somehow the way Leila says things is just exactly what I need to hear right now, over and over. It reminds me of a quote where some bishop explained why he was Dominican: it wasn't that he felt the Dominicans were a superior expression of the kingdom of God, but that they were, in fact, living out the kingdom of God right in front of him. In a similar way, it's not so much that the LMLD blog does something that is never done elsewhere, but that the blog is doing its own good right where it's at. This was an important insight for my writing, because I feel as if anything I write has been written better by someone else, and I'm just repeating what I have read. I need to be able to tell myself that it doesn't matter if someone else has done it better; all I have to do is write however well I can, and maybe it will reach people who won't be reached by that other, better writing.

6. I just noticed that, like the first story I wrote in grade school, once again a rabbit saved the day. Huh.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Preparing for Mass

This is a fairly little thing, but it is one among many things that God is doing in my life right now, which is what I'm trying to make this blog about.

I've been wondering lately about ways to engage my kids in the Mass, particularly Elijah1. So much of it goes straight over their heads.

So the Sunday before last, the priest basically said we all ought to prepare for Mass by reading the scripture readings ahead of time; a recommendation that I've heard often enough, and even done before, for some periods in my life. And it suddenly occurred to me that I should read the Scriptures to the kids on Sunday mornings.

So last Sunday, I read the readings to them during breakfast and explained them in ultra-simple terms.

During Mass, when it came time for the first reading, I whispered to Elijah that this was the same reading we had talked about that morning. When the second reading started, he - with a modicum of excitement - said that we had read this one, too! I was pleased. Though I doubt he will show much more reaction in the future, I am hoping that he will absorb something more out of Mass this way2.

1. My parish has been issuing its annual notices that it's time to sign up your kids for First Communion classes. Elijah is old enough to go, but he is so uninterested in the Mass that I decided not to send him this year. Every time I hear about the classes again, I start thinking anew about how to spark some interest in him.

2. If I can keep it up. Which topic probably deserves a post all its own, someday.