Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring Cleaning, Part 2

God has been merciful, to me, a sinner! He could have let me wallow in the mess I've accumulated (in the form of books and papers), but He has shown great compassion and allowed me to progress fairly quickly through my first Spring Cleaning project!

I am half-way through the Playroom. Two cardtables piled with stuff have been cleared off and removed from the room. Seven sets of shelves have been sorted, dusted, rearranged and purged. Two large piles of books sit on the floor waiting to leave my house. Three bags of paper garbage went out on the curb. The ceiling and walls (especially the corners) have been dusted and cobwebs removed. The heat registers and the edges of the room have been vacummed. Mmmmm ... it's feeling good.

However, I have four laundry baskets of misc. paper stuff that needs to be sorted and filed. But first, I have to go through and weed out four drawers of the file cabinet. And I have five desk drawers to be cleaned out.

If you add it all up, it comes out to 27, which is 3 "cubed" which is a mighty fine number. I'm thinking I'll be pretty happy when this room is done.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Cleaning, Part 1

I've titled this blog as "Part 1" in hopes that I do a lot of cleaning this spring and have profound thoughts in the process.

Four out of the past 6 years have found our family getting the house ready for a Graduation Open House. Though the cleaning has been thorough, it's a bit different from what I think of as "spring cleaning." For our Open Houses, we cleaned, sorted and organized. We also hid piles of stuff where guests wouldn't see them. For my spring cleaning, I want to go through closets, drawers, and shelves in order to sort and purge. Of course, I'll clean from floor to ceiling and from corner to corner .... but weeding out the junk is essential.

Like all Americans, we have lots of stuff. I wish we didn't. Years ago, I felt the Lord say to me, "Lighten the load." I know He meant that in many ways: schedules, activities, material possessions, interests, etc. I'm constantly evaluating my life to make sure it isn't over-crowded.

Actually, I like to get rid of things. If the areas of my house are too crowded and I can't keep them tidy with a minimal amount of work, I have too much stuff.

I've decided to start my spring cleaning in the Playroom. Really, it's the Homeschool Room now, but when we moved into the house 15 years ago, it housed all of the Legoes, Playmobil, Fisher Price, games, puzzles and children's books. More children and many more books later, it has become the hub of our homeschool and my ad hoc office. I thought this would be a good place to start. Since we have 6 weeks of school left, it keeps me in the center of things. (If I'd gone to the basement, you wouldn't see me for hours!) It might also re-energize me and get me thinking ahead for next year.

My biggest reason for starting in this room, however, is that the hardest items for me to part with are books. I could get rid of clothes, gadgets, furniture, etc and not blink an eye. But books .... that's hard. I had my youngest child go through the children's books and pull out any that she didn't like and wouldn't read. It was a great start. We just dropped off 3 grocery sacks of books off at the Northfield Great Book Raid. see

These books are still on my shelf:

Now I have four more sets of bookshelves to go through. Pray for me in this, my hour of need.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Elusive Grammar Text

In all my years of homeschooling, I have been searching for the best grammar text. I wanted to be able to teach it once (like you might Algebra or Biology) and not little bits and pieces over the whole career of the student. However, any upper level grammar assumed that the student had been underlining nouns and verbs since 2nd grade. (My apologies to my older children who left my home un-intiated in the intricacies of verbals!) When I went back to the younger versions of a text, the content was juvenile enough to be a roadblock for learning. ("Mom, this is baby stuff!")

I think I've hit on a solution. I purchased 2 books at Barnes and Noble that seem to be working. Both books are by Barron's Publishing and are meant for GRE study and English as a Second Language resources. English: The Easy Way and Grammar: The Easy Way teach everything my children need to know in order to write correctly. They're written for older learners, so the sentences don't offend their burgeoning maturity.

Another solution to the "grammar problem" has been to teach Latin. This has been our foreign language of choice; it must have been a good decision since 2 of my children have majored in Classics in college while another is a Latin tutor at her college and the 4th will be trying to test out of a level or two. I'm teaching it at an entry level to my middle and high school children, and the amount of grammar they are learning (and truly understanding) is marvelous. The resource, English Grammar for Students of Latin (Norma Goldman and Ladislas Szymanski) is a wonderful book for unraveling both English and Latin grammar.

Whew, after all these years, it's great to find something that works well and that satisfies me as a teacher and as a mom.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gadget of the Day

I'm a big fan of modern technology. Today, my favorite gizmo is the Garage Door Opener. When we moved into our house almost 15 years ago, we were the proud owners of an ancient Montgomery Wards Garage door opener with 2 remotes. One remote disappeared when our mini-van and house were broken into. The other one just disappeared. Then the door opener itself broke. For months, we had to get out of the car and lift that door all by ourselves.

But now .... we have a new opener and TWO remotes (one for each car!) Our youngest children were in awe. "Mom, mom! Can I push the button. Please Mom!"

Check out what one website had to say about the Garage Door Opener (and Button):
"The garage door opener button is the unsung workhorse of the button world. Outcast to the garage, it often sits alone without any neighbors. No On or Submit or Popcorn to socialize with. It doesn’t even get enough respect to earn its own icon."


"By the way, the electric garage door opener was invented by C.G. Johnson in 1926 in Hartford City, Indiana. Five years earlier, he invented the overhead lifting garage door. Previously, all garage doors swung out like barn doors or slid to the side. His company Overhead Door is still going strong."

Monday, April 7, 2008

Charlton Heston

A hero and icon has died. No, not Moses, but Charlton Heston. (FYI, Moses died a looong time ago.) I'm curious, what will Charlton and Moses be talking about now?

To quote my daughter:
"Heston was a man of integrity and a gentleman, who had been married to his wife Lydia Clarke since 1944. When he announced in 2002 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he did it with class and dignity, saying in a taped announcement "For an actor, there is no greater loss than the loss of his audience. I can part the Red Sea, but I can't part with you, which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life. .... If you see a little less spring to my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you'll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please laugh anyway."

They don't make people like Charlton Heston anymore, and he will be missed. I've included a couple of my favorite quotes from him.

"Political correctness is tyranny with manners."

"It's hard living up to Moses."

"I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 - long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist. I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite. Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh"

"In the beginning an actor impresses us with his looks, later his voice enchants us. Over the years, his performances enthrall us. But in the end, it is simply what he is."

"Jackson was one of my favorite Presidents. One mean son of a bitch."

"I'm a seeker too. But my dreams aren't like yours. I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be." (Planet of the Apes)

"I leave the 20th century with no regrets. But one more thing - if anybody's listening, that is. Nothing scientific. It's purely personal. But seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man's ego. I feel lonely. That's about it. Tell me, though. Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbor's children starving?" (Planet of the Apes)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Being Thankful and Wealthy

My daughter's class presented a "Colonial Experience" yesterday. The children created a Tavern (The Rusty Anchor), a loyalists tea party, re-inacted the Boston Massacre and had a trial by jury for the offending British soldiers. (along with an explanation of manslaughter vs. murder)

That evening we talked about the difficulties of living in past centuries. My dear 10 year old commented, "It really doesn't make sense to not be thankful does it?" How right she is! I had spent most of the previous day on the couch with a case of the stomach flu .... not too terribly sick, but enough to drain all of my energy. Even though I was sick, I couldn't help but think how fortunate I was to be able to crawl into my bed. I had clean sheets, clean water, plenty of nutritional supplements, a DVD, and my sweet homeschooled children who took care of themselves, their father and me. Between my ocaisional moans, I was grateful to the Lord for the wealth in my life.

We often have conversations at our house on whether or not we're rich. Of course we are! Take a look at the rest of the world! However, our measure of our own wealth is really more an attitude than a bank account. I snuggled with my daughter last night and talked over these things. Whether she got it or not, I tried to impress on her the habit of being thankful. I've found that when you determine to express gratitude to God for the blessings in your life, He opens your eyes to see even more. Your heart expands. Your life is rich.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Currently reading .......

Right now, the books in my Monet book bag are:
Bible (my trusty Thompson Chain-Referenced NIV)
Homemade Money by Barbara Brabec
There's a Business in Every Woman by Ann Holmes
London Mystery Selection
Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters

In my red backpack are:
Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner
Visioneering by Andy Stanley
College Admissions Together by Steven Goodman
The Ultimate College Acceptance System by Danny Ruderman

On my shelf assigned to library books are:
The Unofficial Guide to Opening a Franchise by Jason Rich
The Official eBay Bible by Jim Griffith
L'Chaim by Susan Goldman Rubin

On my nightstand are:
my cd/alarm clock
yesterday's earrings
my mouthguard so I don't clench my teeth in my sleep.

(I don't read in bed very often. We have a loveseat and a recliner in our bedroom and I'll often sit up and read for a while before getting into bed.)

Reading Tastes

What's an "eclectic reader?" I've seen that term around lately and have wondered if it applies to me. Does that mean one has a variety of interests or just can't focus and settle down? Would you pore over anything in print or carefully select where you spend your time? Is eclectic just an excuse for "passive?" Is is possible to be so broad-minded in your interests that direction and vision continually elude you? Or, is the non-eclectic reader really only narrow-minded and stuck in a rut? Does a passion for a topic mask some weird obsession?

OK, maybe I'm thinking a bit too deeply about my reading tastes. Maybe no one even cares. However, I am amused sometimes by the odd collection that comes home with me from the library. Yes, I do get stuck in a rut and want to read every book by certain authors (and no books by others.) In fact, I have a spreadsheet on the computer listing all the books that my favorite authors have written and am systematically requesting them from our greater library system.

But I also buy/ check out/ read books on such varied topics that my husband can only roll his eyes at me. For example, last week's book purchases included an English grammar for the Latin student, a Redwall book, a Narnia trivia book, and a mystery by Elizabeth Peters. My library bag held 2 books on marketing, Homemade Money, EBay the Easy Way, 2 books on college admissions, a Perry Mason mystery, a Ngaio Marsh novel, and a rather tame novel with a steamy cover and title.

What I'd really love is to have the ability to absorb books without having to read them all. At least with non-fiction. Wouldn't it be great if we could go to be with a book under our pillows and in the morning wake up with the contents stored safely in our heads? Hmmm.....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April Fool's Jokes

All children in all places should at all times be advised that playing foolish April Fool's jokes on their loving, nurturing, self-sacrificing mothers is not .... I repeat (more loudly) IS NOT a good idea. Such inconsiderate activities may have dire consequences; at the very least affecting your Christmas gifts ... at the extreme your inheritance is at risk.

Be warned.