April 2007

Lots of field trips these days.  Last weekend, big kids hiked up Pinnacle Mountain.  Yesterday we wandered around Riverbanks Zoo.  Word is that big kids are headed over to Table Rock (SC) for another big hike tomorrow. 

(Note that neither of those two upstate hikes are short or easy.  Figure a few miles each way and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.   Both kids are pretty experienced hikers, and a bit ahead of their age, especially LP.  But there are plenty of shorter and flatter hikes all around South Carolina, for those who want something more approachable to start with.)

Will try to come back with links sometime next week, for those who want to do some trip planning.   It’s a great field-trip state.  Lady at the zoo yesterday asked why the kids weren’t in school.  Followed up by asking if I, then Mr. Boy, liked homeschooling.  Of course we do.  We get to go to the zoo.  Who wouldn’t like that??


Father Dwight blogs on it here.  Joy is one of those things we are often urged to have, but rarely told how to go about having it.    I’d describe myself as partly-joyful.  Because part of the time, this happens to me:

"Joy springs up from the depths of a heart that has been truly converted by the power of the resurrection.  That is the best way to describe joy: it is a heart raised up and being raised up and forever being raised up."

As mine was in response to that prayer request I mentioned the other day.  "Ask and you shall receive." The trick for me is remembering to ask, and then, after, not tossing out that which I just received.

An internet friend shared recently how, when she was coming into the church, she heard a lot of talk about humility, but no one explained what it actually was.  Finally she asked her priest, and he told her, "Humility is simply telling the truth.  About yourself, about others, and about God."

Joy would be, then, the natural response to that truth.   We are dead in our sins, but God saves us.  For me it is the sins against humility — not just pride, but despair, doubt, anger — well, just about most of the sins — that are the kill-joys.   The sacraments of reconciliation and holy  communion, on the other hand, are the build-joys. 

Catholics are privileged in that way, because we have not just a promise to cling to, but a promise that is delivered upon, week after week after long, difficult, desperate week.  When we come across a joyful protestant (and there are many), we are coming across a good shoulder-shaking.  To hear the Lord say "Your sins are forgiven", to attend to Him and receive Him in his real, physical presence — the mere hope of one day experiencing these things, animates the most fervent, genuine, hand-raising, eyes-weeping protestant praise and worship services.  Rightly so.  And for catholics, they are ours to have, now. 

Sorry for the empty post earlier. Strange things are happening to me when I get on the computer.  Discovered just now that my profile has been emptied out (did they know I was way late with getting the kids’ ages fixed??), except my interests, which have once again been converted into numbers.  If only I knew whether these were the same numbers I was interested in last time this happened.

Will put in an update tomorrow, when I am feeling more chatty and less silly.  Meanwhile, know that the garden is in, sort of.  Still need to figure out where to put some corn.

Amy Wellborn’s Open Book is the blog to look to, see this post here, for example. 

It’s like January again, only leafier, and with more birds singing.  Grandma took the kids this morning, and after a leisurely breakfast at one of those restaurants where adults sit quietly for a long, long time, I got inspired to go for a run in the neighborhood. 

This was my first time running (unless you count laps around the yard or down the hallway) in much too long, but it went better than expected.  By "run", of course, I mean "jogging and walking, but with the firm intention that one day I will, in fact, run the whole route, without stopping, maybe even sort of quickly". Very peaceful.  Running with kids is fun (especially if you love, love, love that interval training), but this was something else, very pleasurable in such a calm kind of way.  Even prayerful, at times.


Realized the other day that we completely forgot to prune the blackberries this winter.  It’s normal for us to forget the roses, which we did, too, but the blackberries we usually remember.  I’m hoping they will be forgiving and generous. 

There is a viney place in our neighborhood, a neglected spot between two large lots, where a variety of invasive climbers compete with one another.  When we first moved here, honeysuckle was king, but lately wild grapes have moved in, and I noticed this morning that a mass of some kind of bramble-fruit was in bloom.  So perhaps that can be our back-up plan for berries.

 The wild grapes do not actually taste very good, but they are so much fun to pick, and the kids like them.  One of these years we might make the wine we love to talk about attempting.  (The SuperHusband has a history as a SuperHomebrewer, but never did graduate from beer to wine.  The beer was very good, though.)  We have had several excellent muscadine or scuppernong wines made by friends with more follow-through in this department.


One of the things I’m praying for with respect to homeschooling — and parenting in general — is to get back to enjoying the kids more.  I can think of a thousand reasons I choose to homeschool, but  mostly I just love to teach, and love to be around my kids.  Lately though, I’ve not been quite there.  Thought I’d mention it because I know other homeschoolers (and school-schooling parents, too) go through these phases.   It’s easy to get the idea that everyone else is always totally motivated and pulled-together, so I like to dispel that myth whenever I get the opportunity. 

When I put together a curriculum at the beginning of the school year, I prefer to list objectives rather than activities.  So instead of say, listing the math book we plan to use, I list the topics we’re going to cover (single digit addition, skip counting, etc.).  I like to do this for several reasons.  One is that I don’t want to feel stuck with a particular approach — if a given book isn’t working out, I can change books without getting disoriented.   Another reason is that it keeps me focused on our real goals.  In math, for example, the goal is not for Mr. Boy to complete 36 weeks worth of first-grade worksheets.  It is for him to become competent using arithmetic.  The worksheets might in fact be the best means for him to reach that goal, but they aren’t the goal itself.

Science is a subject where I don’t really have a textbook at all, though there are a handful of textbooks sitting on our bookshelves, and sometimes we read from them, or consult them to get the answer to a question, or an idea for an experiment.   In first grade, a lot of science happens in everyday life, like that garden that still isn’t planted.  (But will be!  It will be!)

Lately though, I’ve been mining our public library for science videos.  Our local branch has a massive collection, and Mr. Boy learns very well from videos.  (Not everybody does.)  Two series we’ve gotten multiple titles from are the DK Eyewitness DVD series (www.dk.com), and the Science Library collection put out by Schlessinger Media (www.libraryvideo.com).

The DK videos are a lot like the DK books.  The photography is vivid an informative — in the Butterfly & Moth DVD  you can see up-close shots of caterpillars eating and moving, magnified to a detail you would have difficulty witnessing in person.  The films explore a series of topics, and within each topic there are a variety of loosely tied-together facts.  Very similar to the way the pages of an Eyewitness book are put together.  

The facts are mostly science, but include bits of folklore and religion.   The worldview is generic scientist: evolution* is taken for granted, and religions are just what people happen to believe.  In the butterfly movie we get both reincarnation and resurrection mentioned in passing, in two separate places, just kind of tossed out as butterfly-themed curiosities.  (Butterflies have been used as symbols of both, it appears.)  I would think most Christian parents could use those moments as fodder for comparitive -religion discussions, though some might not be comfortable with the series as a result.  Running time for Butterflies is 62 minutes.

The Schlessinger videos are designed to introduce science topics in the classroom.  Running time for both the grades K-4 Physical Science for Children: All About Simple Machines, and the grades 5-8 Physical Science in Action: Simple Machines videos, are only 23 minutes each.  The tempo is upbeat, with lots of images from real life serving as a backdrop.  The narrator for the simple machines videos, by the way, is a hip, energetic twenty-something female, which may be helpful if you are trying to win over a girl who swears she hates science.  (It happens.)

I found the explanations in the two simple machines videos to be both interesting and very helpful, and my almost-seven-year-old liked them too.   (Some of the material in the upper-grade video was too hard for him, but he doesn’t mind that.  He likes videos.  A lot.).  Enough different examples are given to really help explain a concept.  In addition to being accessible to students in the target grade levels, these would be a handy supplement for a parent who needs to brush up on fundamentals, or a high-school student who is having a hard time with a more abstract presentation of physical science.  

If your library doesn’t have these titles, the DK series is along the lines of what you find on educational television — I wouldn’t go out and buy them unless it’s the kind of DVD you normally like to collect.  In contrast, the Schlessinger videos are helpful enough in explaining science topics that they would be worth investigating for purchase, if you have a video-learner on your hands.  Maybe try one on a topic that is particularly challenging, and if you find them helpful, see about persuading your friends to go in on a video co-op, or stick them on the Christmas wish list for eager grandparents,  or something like that.

*For the record, there is no particular catholic belief on evolution, other than if it did happen, it was a means employed by God, not a God-substitute. Also, that all humans are descended from a single male an female (Adam and Eve).  At this time, both literal and poetic understandings of Genesis are both valid theological opinions.  And the Catechism is loaded with great stuff on these topics.  You know, life, the universe, and everything.  No sense me trying to write down section numbers, just go thumb through your copy.  Or read it online here:  http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

The rumored camping trip did take place , in our front yard.  Weather wasn’t looking hopeful for a family vacation, so we pulled out the home-and-garden-store metal fire-containing-device and had a campfire, then the SuperHusband displayed yet more of his SuperQualities by spending the night, in our driveway, "camping" in the camper with three kids.  Two very cold girls rang the doorbell at 6:20 am (not my usual waking-up time) and came in for hot chocolate in front of the pretend fireplace in the living room.  In all, an excellent event.

Crepe myrtles didn’t fare well in the Easter freeze; very sad, as they had just filled  out so beautifully with thick springy-green foliage.  Apple tree was leafed out and had been blossoming for about a week or so; it *looks* unaffected by the freeze, but come August we’ll see how many apples we get.  Kids got seed packets from the Easter Bunny (Easter Bunny has been digging in the dark recesses of the refrigerator); I am secretly relieved that I was running way way way behind schedule in getting a garden going, and didn’t end up losing my work.

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