Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dream Big

Yesterday Ella told me she wants an internship. Preferably at the National Zoo in Washington DC, but she'll consider anything that involves animals. She was understandably very disappointed when I told her most internships are for people who are a little older. Then she said she'd be willing to sweep out stalls somewhere until she was old enough to be an intern. Because Ella wants to be a veterinarian...and a champion figure skater...and a mommy.

And I love that about her. She doesn't see any limits on her life. It made me remember that there was a time when I was convinced I could be anything and do anything too. At one time I wanted to be a dolphin trainer...and I wanted to be on Broadway...and later I wanted to be in the FBI. But as I got older, I stopped seeing my dreams and started seeing all the obstacles instead. I don't like to swim so the dolphins were forgotten. Broadway seemed to far away and the FBI said I was too short.

I'm not sure when it happened, but my dreams got smaller and smaller. And now that I see my daughter dream so big and believe so wonderfully in the absolute possibility of everything, I see how much I have given up in the name of growing up. Who says we have to stop having big, impossible dreams just because we reached a certain age? It's never too late to dream big. God is a God of miracles so really, there isn't anything too big for us because we have a God who is bigger than every obstacle. But instead of believing, we doubt and then we give up. And that's our own fault. It's time to start dreaming again.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

So, what do you want to be when you grow up now?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Bossy Oven

I almost kicked my oven today. Which is really saying something because I love my oven. But today it's little pre-heat beep was the last straw on my very frayed nerves.

Anywaaaaay, so how was your day? I know I just jumped right in with a "you won't believe the day I had" kind of rant and it's not that I'm not interested in how things are going in your life, it's just that this blog only goes one way and I can't hear your response.

So why did my oven almost get a dent in it's pretty door? Well, today I felt like a worn out Stretch Armstrong doll. Do you remember those? The rubbery muscle man that you could pull and pull and it would oh so easily shrink back to normal? At least until you tied the arms around a door knob and then ran around the corner and down the stairs and then couldn't figure out why the arms refused to shrink anymore. Yep, that was me today.

My mom (also known as the Mom Rescue Squad) was arriving today for a visit and I really wanted to make sure the house didn't look like a rookie homeschooler lived here. I wanted to look all pulled together and calm and collected. So in order to achieve that level of tranquility I had to run around like a mad woman to get the grocery shopping done, vacuum the crushed Goldfish crackers off the floor, corral the run away toys and generally turn into a cleaning tornado.

And the whole time Ella and Jack were asking for one thing after another and by the time I started to pre-heat the oven, I was a ticking time bomb of stretched out mommy-ness. So when the oven innocently beeped to let me know it had reached the desired temperature, I decided it sounded like it was just one more thing wanting my attention and bossing me around. So I seriously considered kicking it. But I refrained. Barely. Does that still get me maturity points?

And now the Mom Rescue Squad has arrived so for the next few days I can have adult conversation with an actual person and not just a Facebook page...and the oven will be safe.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Look

Ok fellow homeschoolers, I'm officially in the club. That's right I have just been formally inducted into the elite group of homeschoolers being judged by complete strangers. And the crowd goes wild!

Today I took Ella up to a new ice rink for her skating lesson. The roof of her old rink collapsed (stupid snow) so until they rebuild we are driving even further north to skate at another rink. And right now I'm pretty sure my parents are laughing hysterically as they remember all the driving they had to do when I was skating...usually before the sun was up. Yep, payback is...well payback.

Anywhooo, this rink is in the middle of a county recreation center so there were a ton of people there doing all sorts of recreational type things. In the course of watching Ella and chasing Jack, I ended up mentioning to someone that we homeschool. It was such a passing conversation that I can't even remember how or why the topic came up. But I do remember...The Look.

Yep, you know the one I'm talking about. The Look that manages to convey in a split second a mad mix of judgment ranging from "wow, I could never do that" through "is she a religious wacko" all the way down to "you're crazy." That's right. The Look.

And you know what? I felt oddly self-satisfied to be on the receiving end of The Look. It was kind of like making a public declaration of our homeschooling decision. Like jumping on the table Norma Rae style with a big sign that says "Yes, I Homeschool." In that brief moment of the raised eyebrows, wrinkled forehead and stunned pause I was labeled, categorized and grouped. I got the homeschool scarlet letter. The Look.

And you know what? I kinda like it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Independence Backfires

I posted a while back about creating a weekly work card for Ella so she could have some control over her schoolwork. We've been using the work card system for about a month now and it has been great for Ella. Until today.

We had a couple of extra curricular activities come up this week and Ella's 7 year old time management skills were not prepared for the change in schedule. First, we put her skating lesson back on the schedule. New rink, same coach. So that knocked out a couple of hours on Thursday. Then we had a belated Valentine's Day party for homeschoolers on Friday. And that knocked out a few more hours. The result...two math lessons and a reading assignment on a sunshine-y Saturday. And one very annoyed 7 year old.

In all fairness I did remind her repeatedly throughout the week about the out of the house fun days. And she kept saying, "I know, Mommy. It's ok." And I did tell her that if she didn't get all of her work done by Friday she would have to do it on Saturday. There's no schoolwork allowed on Sunday. And once again she said, "I know, Mommy. It's ok." But she just kept doing the bare minimum of work each day.

So now it's Saturday, and Ella is sitting at her desk working on her math problems and looking just a little pitiful as she glances longingly out the french doors at the sun shining on the snow in the backyard.

Maybe I should feel bad...let me think about it. Searching my merciless mommy soul...nope, don't feel bad at all. I think she'll be working really hard next week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Unexpected Answers to Prayer

God hears every prayer. And God answers every prayer. But sometimes we miss His answer because when it comes it isn't what we expected, or what we wanted. If we sincerely place our petition before God's throne of grace, then we have to be willing to let God be God. Our prayers are not offered in faith if we're telling God what His answer should be. It doesn't matter how many pretty religious words we use to dress it up, if we're not giving God the right to answer according to His will, then we're not asking for anything...we're trying to tell the God of the universe what to do.

I had to re-learn that lesson this week. And it's amazing that no matter how many times the Lord has to humble me in order to teach me, He always raises me right back up. So here's my lesson: My husband got to come home for two weeks leave over Christmas and then at the beginning of January he had to return to his unit in Afghanistan. It was a very difficult goodbye for Jack who is old enough to know that Daddy is gone, but not old enough to understand why. Ever since my husband left, Jack has been having nightmares and trouble sleeping. And I think I have already admitted that I don't handle sleep deprivation well, so the middle of the night wake-ups were really wearing me down.

But I kept praying in faith that God would help Jack sleep. Then this week Jack decided to stop napping. And this did not make me happy. I like nap time. I need nap time. So I was praying really, really hard for Jack to keep taking naps. And I was really, really annoyed every day he didn't. Then I finally noticed something. When Jack didn't take a nap, he slept soundly through the whole night.

I had been praying for nearly two months for Jack to sleep peacefully at night. Now he does. But he doesn't nap anymore, which is a difficult change for me. But God didn't say that every answer to a prayer would be easy or painless. Sometimes God leads us into a temporary difficulty to bring us to a permanent blessing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Puzzling Personalities

Today I was watching Jack work on a puzzle and I had a sudden flash of insight. Not exactly the apple smacks Newton on the head and we have gravity kind of brilliance, but it was a big deal to me. Anyway, Jack was very happily assembling a puzzle and he wouldn't let me help at all. His exact words, "no, Mommy, shoo!"

And I noticed that he puts the pieces together in sections. Me, I very methodically find the corner pieces, then assemble all the edge pieces then fill in the middle. Not Jack. He worked on sections without putting the border together first. Which was kind of like fingernails on a chalkboard to my brain. I tried to encourage him to put all the border pieces together first, but he wasn't interested in Mommy's Philosophy of Puzzle Assembly. And I couldn't really say much because he was doing a great job. He got the whole puzzle done and did it pretty fast. Then he smiled and said, "look Mommy! All by myself!"

So here's my moment of insight...our kids won't always do things the way we want them to. Or the way we think is best. Or the way we would do it. Just because I put all the edge pieces together first, doesn't mean that Jack is going to do it that way. And even though I'm the mommy and my mommy-ness should make me the expert in everything, his way might just be better. Or at least better for him.

And oh, is that terrifying. Someday it won't be a puzzle, it will be a school choice or a career choice and in spite of all my motherly wisdom and nagging encouragement for him to do what I would do or to choose what I think is best for him, Jack will make his own decision. And I won't get to judge if it's right or wrong based on what I want for him or the hopes I have for his life. It's his life and his puzzle to put together. But I can pray for him and I can love him no matter what.

And yes, that is waaaaaay easier to say now when he's only three and his big decision is what book to read on the potty. I reserve the right to totally change this post in 15 years. Or sooner if Jack ever reads that potty comment and knows enough to be embarrassed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Library Stalker

Overall I've been very happy with the curriculum choices we made for this rookie year of homeschooling. We had a minor bump with our first Language Arts program and had to switch, but other than that Ella and I have both been pretty content. I have just one itty-bitty complaint...someone keeps stealing my library books.

Ok, so the library stalker isn't technically stealing the books since they "allegedly" check them out through proper channels, blah, blah, blah. But for the past three weeks, every book I have needed for Ella's history lessons has been checked out. All of them! Every week! You can tell me it's just a coincidence, but I know's a conspiracy.

Today I got my final proof of this massive, underground operation aimed at de-stabilizing our homeschool tranquility. I looked on the library catalog online and found out that our local library had two copies of the book I need for next week's study of the Ancient Native Americans. One copy was checked out and the other was on the shelf. I repeat "on the shelf." So I tossed the kids in the car and zoom-zoomed over to the library. I dragged them past all the cute displays and raced into the children's section only to find...wait for it...the book is gone!

And just to prove to you that I'm not paranoid, I went to find the alternative book I had selected (because I'm on to you stalker) and that one was...wait for it...also checked out. Come on!

The trip wasn't a total loss because Ella picked out a book to read for fun and Jack...well, Jack didn't destroy anything. Plus, I got irrefutable, undeniable, incontrovertible proof that this library conspiracy exists. I think next week I'll check out Roofing for Dummies, Infectious Skin Diseases and Wild Yaks of Tibet just to mess with the stalker. That's right, I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yo-Yo Mama*

Here's how I spent my morning:

"First you have to add the ones column, Ella." (cross to the other side of the room to check on Jack)

"Jack, see if you can put all the red beads together." (go back to Ella's desk)

"Good job, Ella. Now don't forget to add the ten you carried." (walk back to Jack)

"Good Jack, now put all the yellow beads together." (trip over a block and hop back to Ella's desk)

"Ok, Ella don't forget to label your answer." (race over to the laundry room to put the wet clothes in the dryer)

"Jack, don't throw the beads." (stoop down to collect the beads. Jack takes the opportunity to run over to Ella's desk)

"Ella, sit down and concentrate." (still collecting beads)

"Jack, don't climb in Ella's chair." (get Jack out of the chair and realize he needs a diaper change)

Then Ella says, "Mommy, is it snack time?"

And the whole time I had this mental image of me as a Mommy yo-yo bouncing between the kids. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a bit draining. On the one hand I feel great that I am spending so much time with them and that I can be there to give them so much personal attention. Then on the other hand I feel like I spent the whole morning short changing them because I had to keep saying, "just a minute, let me go help your brother/sister."

How is it that I can be a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooler and still feel at times like there isn't enough of me to go around? And who's this crazy perfectionist living in my head that keeps telling me I'm not doing it right? And how do I kick her out?

*Note: yes, that title is a classical music reference and a desperate attempt to prove to myself that my brain hasn't been completely melted by the musical stylings of The Wiggles and Sesame Street.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's The Little Things

In general, I feel pretty well prepared for the big events that life throws at me. I've seen my husband go to combat 3 times, I've moved 5 times in 10 years and I've been through natural childbirth. Oh, and natural disasters...pshaw! I was in both the San Fransisco and Northridge earthquakes and, more recently, I survived 2 blizzards. Now all that should prove two things. First, I'm pretty good in a crisis. Second, I might be bad luck and you may want to keep your distance.

But here's the glitch in the system, its the little things that wear me down. I can keep my cool and not freak out when the ground starts shaking, but when the kids start whining or the washing machine breaks, my temper starts going Irish quicker than you can say "Faith and Begorrah."

I'm sure it just goes to prove the old adage about the straw that broke the camel's back as it crossed a bridge too far over the dam that, is it still a mixed metaphor if the sentence technically makes sense? Anyway, my point is that its the little things that drain us of energy and threaten our peace of mind. It's the subtlety, and frequency, of these minor annoyances that sneaks up on us and has us over reacting and losing our cool.

Fortunately, I've also found that its the good little things that are the most encouraging. While I wouldn't turn down a Noble Peace Prize and I'm sure I'd be highly encouraged if I ever won a Pulitzer, I'm pretty darn encouraged at the moment by my 3 year old son who told me today, "I love you so much, Mommy!" And if that wasn't enough he added, "You're the best Mommy I've ever seen!"

The good little things in life can be powerful blessings, but they're harder to spot than the little annoyances. So we have to learn to let the rotten little things go, hopefully without causing major property damage, and at the same time watch for the little blessings and hold on to them with all we've got.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Link Love

So I thought I was being all smart and computer savvy when I upgraded my browser all by myself yesterday. And the new version is just awful. It is slow and annoying and just plain terrible. That's why you didn't get a post yesterday. I was fighting a losing battle with my computer. And I'm still losing, but I didn't want to leave my loyal readers hanging. (insert the sound of crickets chirping here).

Today I decided to share some of my favorite blogs with you. That's right, I'm not just a blog writer, I'm a blog reader. So if find yourself sitting at work trying to look busy while not actually being busy, or if you're just looking for something good to read (and you've already read my contribution to the betterment of mankind for the day) might I suggest you visit these blogs.

Cake Wrecks This is my current favorite blog. It is hilarious. And just because I make cakes as hobby doesn't make me biased. I have actually laughed so hard I cried a few times.

David Wilkerson Today David Wilkerson is a spiritual great-grandfather to my family. His ministry reached a young gang member who turned his life around and became a pastor. And that pastor reached another troubled young man who is now my pastor. His devotions are Spirit-filled and truly inspiring.

Ice Mom's Adventures Love this site too. Here I must admit my bias. I am a former figure skater and my little Ella is a current skater. So Ice Mom's commentary on the wacky world of figure skating appeals to me. But it's also plenty of fun to read.

So there it is. I must be a real blogger now because I'm shamelessly plugging other blogs in the faint hope that someday someone might like my blog enough to plug it on their site.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homeschool Legality Reality

Granted I am in no position to start offering advice on homeschooling or to provide much meaningful guidance for anyone out in cyberspace who may be considering homeschooling and has stumbled across this blog. And if that's you...welcome! Bookmark me, follow me, Google all makes me feel loved.

Anyway, inexperience and rookie status aside, I though I'd post some helpful information I have learned about the legalities of homeschooling. See, the government has an interest in making sure we have well educated and intelligent children who will one day grow up and lead our nation in a well educated and intelligent way. (Resisting sarcastic one liners...biting my tongue...ok, all better) So in most states, in order to homeschool your children you have to meet a few legal requirements.

The law varies from state to state. The best resource I found for researching the current state of the law is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. They break down the current laws by state and do a great job of translating legal speak into regular English. You can find their site at

What's interesting is how the laws vary from state to state. Some states don't require anything at all. Not even a "see ya" letter from the parents. Other states are so strict that you have to submit test scores, a portfolio of your student's work and you may have to have your curriculum approved by the school board.

Now being a nomadic military family, the differences in state laws is of keen interest to me. The bottom line is know the law for your state and remember that if you move the law might be different in your new state.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Great Book Debate

I feel the need to write about something other than the endless snow that is threatening to totally bury our house and turn us into mole people who have to tunnel our way back to the surface. Seriously, I'm really thinking that I should have brought the snow shovel into the living room, just in case.

So, in an effort to ignore the fact that I currently reside in an igloo, I decided to involve all of you in an ongoing debate my hubby and I are having. Real books vs. digital books. Granted this isn't quite to the level of a Pepsi vs. Coke or a toilet paper over vs. under debate (and there is only one right answer to both of the above examples) but it's being hotly contested in our home.

Here's how it started, I would like to get a student encyclopedia for the kids. And Britannica recently released their new 2010 edition. I think we should get the old fashioned print edition. But hubby thinks we should get the computer version. His point, and its a valid one, is that this is a computer age and the kids need to learn to be computer literate early on. Plus the cd version is cheaper, takes up less space and won't make the movers sigh and roll their eyes if we ever move again.

My point is that I want the kids to also know how to look things up in actual books. Not just typing in a few letters and having the computer do all the work. I want them to figure out how to spell fungus or emu or Kilimanjaro and how to find it in a reference book. Plus, I confess, I like books. Ok, I love books. I like to be able to hold a book in my hand and mark it all up. I like to see it on my bookshelf and know that it's there.

So the debate rages on. Of course with hubby in a different country at the moment, it's kind of long distance debate...which I'm pretty sure gives me the advantage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fun With Beeswax

Last week we finished up our study of the Exodus and God's covenant with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. We studied the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle and Jewish Holidays. And for our creative hands-on project, Ella and I made hand rolled beeswax Shabbat and Havdallah candles. And it was really fun.

Now before you go thinking that I also made the beeswax in some hyper-handy Martha Stewart moment, let me confess that I bought the beeswax. May I direct you back to my previous declaration that I LOVE I found a kit that came with a variety of colored beeswax sheets and cotton wicks (and free shipping!). Then I found a site that explained in a thorough and easy way...with to roll Havdallah candles. You can check it out at

Now the Shabbat candles are lit at the beginning of the Sabbath and Havadallah candles are lit at the end of the Sabbath. So we made a few of each. We started out very simply rolling one sheet of beeswax into a candle and then we got daring and started cutting the beeswax at an angle to make a different shape candle. Then we started rolling two colors together. I know, living on the beeswax edge. We even wrapped two candles together to make the two wick Havdallah candles.

Ella loved this project. I showed her one time how to roll the candles and she was off and rolling like a pro. And bonus, the candles actually work! We have been eating dinner by candlelight every night.

This is a great, fun craft for the whole family. It would also be perfect for a rainy day activity. The supplies are reasonably priced, especially if you compare prices online. And the process is very simple. You have to keep an eye on the edges of the beeswax to make sure you're rolling evenly and the beeswax will crack if it's too cold or stiff. But it's pretty cool to light a candle that you made yourself.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What If I Don't Have All The Answers?

So far in our homeschooling adventure I'm feeling pretty smart. I've been able to explain addition, subtraction, grammar and phonics without having to resort to Google...yet. I haven't had to stop and look up an answer...yet. I don't need the answer keys in the back of the books...yet. But I know the day is coming, and approaching fast, when Ella is going to ask me a question and my brain is going to go completely blank. I'm pretty sure it will involve the semi-colon, but it may come sooner than that.

I choose to believe that when that moment comes I will have the humility and the good humor to be able to say, "that's a great question. I don't know the answer, let's go look it up."

This weekend in the middle of a blizzard I was confronted by the sudden realization, and accompanying panic, of not knowing the answer. There weren't any complex weather related questions asked, but as I watched the snow fall and fall, I was gripped by massive anxiety. I had no idea what to do in two feet of snow. My husband is a little busy in a war zone at the moment so it was just me and the kids and "Snowmaggedon" as the storm has been named and I was in charge. Me, a Southern California girl who doesn't like to be cold.

I looked at my sweet children, the weight of knowing that I was responsible for their safety settling heavily on my shoulders...and driving me straight to the good chocolate on the top shelf. I knew that I didn't know what to do. But Ella and Jack didn't know it. They were completely unfazed by the storm, totally at peace and anxious to get outside and play. They looked at me and figured that if Mommy wasn't scared then they didn't need to be either.

So here's what I learned...I won't always know the answer. But it's my reaction to not knowing that my kids will remember. Besides, there's always Google.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't Call Me Mommy

So if you've been following the news you may have heard about this small snow storm hitting the East Coast. You know, the one dumping an ice age worth of snow? Yeah, we're right in the middle of that. It's just swell. And the kids and I have been stuck in the house since yesterday morning. So we're going on 36 hours of blizzard enforced quality time. And if I hear "Mommmmmyyyyyyyy" one more time, I may lose my mommy mind.

I know it doesn't make much sense since we're homeschooling now and they're with me all the time anyway. But I think there is some powerful psychological shift that takes place in the tender minds of my munchkins when an outside force, like the blizzard that won't end, makes our together time less of a choice and more of a sentence.

Hopefully the snow will stop tonight and tomorrow I can dig out our front door and toss the cabin fever siblings out into the freshly fallen snow. Then I hope the only "Mommmmmyyyyyyy" I hear will be from one of my children stuck in a snow drift.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Too Much Information

So here we are getting all cozy and snuggled in, preparing to wait out the storm and building up our arm muscles to dig ourselves out in a few days. In preparation for the ridiculous amount of snow we're supposed to get, I have stocked up on food, water, batteries for the flashlights, glow sticks for the kids, and I pulled extra blankets out of the closet and finished the laundry so we can at least freeze in clean clothes.

I also made sure we have plenty of no cooking required meal fixin's. One of the things I made was hard boiled eggs. Ella and I both love eggs. Jack, well, he's still on the fence. But even if he won't eat 'em, he has plenty to say about 'em. Here's Jack's response to hard boiled eggs. "Awwwww, little baby chicks. So cute. Such cute little babies."

Yeah, that kinda makes it difficult for me to enjoy eating eggs. Ella on the other hand replies, "yes, Jack, little baby chicks. Yummy." Then she chomps down right in front of him. Yep, that's my little carnivore. Fortunately Jack doesn't seem terrorized by his big sister's unrepentant egg munching.

But it does make me wonder...have I taken Jack's education a bit too fast? He loves animals. So we read books about animals, we watch the kids animal shows on tv and we play animal games. But when Jack starts calling hard boiled eggs "baby chicks" maybe its time to steer away from animals for a least the animals that we eat.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pre-Snow Snow Day

By now you've all figured out that we don't close our homeschool for snow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow as long as I've got my fuzzy socks and comfy sweater, we're cracking the books. Today however we had a pre-snow snow day. The weather smarties have warned us of a big ol' storm heading this way that may dump close to 30 inches of snow on our humble Southern hamlet. So today, school was closed so we could prepare for the storm.

We had to return books to the library, stop by the grocery store (along with everyone else who lives in this town apparently), get gas and go sledding. Wait, what was that? Did the merciless mommy just say sledding? Yes, in fact I did. Since we will probably be trapped in the house for the next two days, the kids and I bundled up and hit the slopes. Well, we hit the slope on the side of our house. It's actually perfect for sledding. Sometimes it's good to have a house up on a hill. Not when the driveway is iced up and the mini-van can't get traction, but when you've got two kids with sleds...totally worth it.

I did try to squeeze some educational time into the sledding. Ella keep heading to the left and sliding up the embankment before skidding to stop in a small ditch. No matter where she started she always ended in the ditch. So I told her a little bit about gravity and the shape of our yard, but she was usually swooshing down the hill with an "ok Mommy!" before I finished the sentence. And Jack, my fearless 3 year old, was right behind her.

So today our school was a crowded grocery store (emergency preparedness) and a snow covered hill (physical education and the physics of sledding...tell me you wouldn't have signed up for that class in college). Now tomorrow, when the snow is actually falling it's back to books and hand rolling beeswax candles. More on that project later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello, my name is Michelle...

...and I'm an educational toys addict. Well, addict may be too strong of a word. I mean I can stop buying dvd's that feature singing puppets teaching the history of ancient Egypt anytime I want. And those blocks that randomly shout out the names of dead composers while playing their most famous musical works...those aren't educational...I just like the colors. And the hand held game that teaches advanced calculus, well...uh...that one is harder to explain. Ah, is that the sweet sound of denial I hear?

Yes, I have a problem. I bought into the mass marketing hysteria that tells parents that if we don't buy our kids the most advanced, newest technology toys then we are dooming our children to a life of intellectual inferiority and that their inability to read at 18 months or solve for x in kindergarten or recite the great works of Shakespeare while simultaneously analyzing the orbit of Neptune in middle school will be all our fault because we didn't spend $50 on a talking platypus that teaches the Dewey decimal Spanish.

Well, no more. I'm taking a stand here and now. Educational toys are great and I'm not tossing out the ones we have, but I'm not going to feel guilty for not doing flashcards at dinner time or for refusing to pipe Mozart into their bedrooms while they sleep.

Sometimes playtime should just be fun. Toys don't need batteries and graphics and loud buzzers to be educational. Tinker Toys, crayons, dolls, plastic dinosaurs...all fun and both battery and pressure free. And anytime kids use their imaginations should count as educational time. Our world would benefit more from a generation that can imagine new solutions to old problems than from a generation of children who have forgotten how to play.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Children are Spies

Well, maybe not official CIA endorsed spies, but they're definitely on the way. Today they each got binoculars in the mail. As I have mentioned, we're studying birds and flying things for science so to make it really interesting (and because I'm just a super cool mom) I ordered a kids field guide and binoculars for each of them. I love And I didn't even get paid for that plug...that's how much I love Amazon. Where else could you get a duvet cover for a dog bed, marshmallows, a Shamwow and a sump pump all in one place and with free shipping?

*Note...that wasn't the actual contents of my shopping cart. Just so we're clear. Ahem....anyway...

So today the box with the smiley face logo arrived and we were all excited. Jack got a pair of kids binoculars. The ones that the manufacturer swears will survive the catastrophic drops, crashes and bangs that a 3 year old can inflict. Ella got a grown-up pair of "binocs." That's right, I said it...binocs. That's the way we roll out here. She loves them. They make me laugh (not to her face of course) because they are so huge on her little face.

Anyway, as soon as the cool new gadgets were out of their boxes, the kids had them glued to their eyes. So here they are, my adorable children standing in front of our kitchen window, both with binoculars up, staring out at our neighbor's house. Technically I think they were looking at a tree and searching for birds, but to drivers passing by I'm pretty sure it looked like they had our across the street neighbors under heavy surveillance.

So here's hoping that our bird watching doesn't turn into a Homeland Security investigation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Scientific Proof That I'm Right

Once again the schools are closed today due to snow. And once again the merciless mommy is making her kids do schoolwork. And I think I'll be able to get away with it until Ella is old enough to talk on the phone with her friends and figure out that when it snows this much they don't have to do anything school related. Then I might be in trouble. But until then...bwaahahahaha!!

Many thanks to those of you who asked if Ella finished her work card or if she had to pull a math marathon. She did a great job and finished everything by Friday afternoon. And I mean early afternoon, not "4:59 and 59 seconds still counts as afternoon" afternoon.

One of our last adventures of the week was our first science experiment. We're using Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day for her science text so we're learning all about birds and critters with wings which, unfortunately for me, also includes insects and other creepy crawly things that have mastered flight. Ick. Anyway, our first experiment was to make two different gliders out of cardboard and straws and see which wing design was more aerodynamic.

Ella loved this and couldn't wait to test fly her gliders. First she had to fill out an experiment worksheet where she had to write her hypothesis. She guessed that the narrow glider would fly further because most planes have long narrow wings. I peeked ahead in the text so I knew that the long narrow wing is more aerodynamic, but I was more than a little worried about whether our backyard experiment would work out that way. Ella would have to toss both gliders the exact same way to accurately measure which one went further. I'll admit it, I was pondering ways to rig the experiment if necessary. Now I'm not proud of skewing scientific research for the greater good (*cough* United Nations), but I was willing to to toss the gliders myself with a little extra oomph on the narrow one if it came to that.

But dear friends, never fear, my integrity is still intact. It turns out that the laws of science can't be thwarted, not even by an enthusiastic 7 year old. The narrow wing glider won hands down. And when we sat down to complete Ella's worksheet and I asked her what her conclusion was she said, "That I was right!"