Monday, January 24, 2011

I don't spend a lot of time here on my little cyber-home talking about our lives as a home schooling family. I suppose part of that is that it's just so much a part of our day each day that it doesn't occur to me as something to write about.

A friend of mine on a social networking site made a comment about the school of one of her children just not working out well for their family, and I mentioned that this was one of the big reasons we made the decision to begin home schooling our children four years ago.

Someone known or related to her made this comment in response to mine:

"As flawed as our education system is, it builds social skills that can not be built at home...I have seen this many times over...home schooled kids are less likely to be socially adjusted

"also I feel leaving the education system is not really... solving the issue, become involved, get other parents involved and you will be surprised of the changes that can happen.

"And i sure the comeback will be that "MY Kids" are very social and are doing great..Unfortunately you will not see the damage until they are older....which I have seen too many times....They can not make it because they have been sheltered.

"I personnally am glad my kids are in public school...and yes we are involved in the changes that need to be voice of change a be active in your schools....I see too many times, people who complain, but do not get involved in their schools and still expect change to happen...

"get involved and see what happens...

"As E. knows, I am very passionate about my beliefs. And if you truely want change and/or advice, feel free to contact my wife or myself and hopefully we can get you some good info to get you started in your schools.

"My wife is the PTO President at our school and I volunteer my time at our school also...and we have spearheaded many changes at our own school..."

Now, without being nit-picky and taking this comment apart bit-by-bit, I responded in kind:


"Tell that to my kids, who have been home schooled for four years now and have markedly better "social skills" than their public school educated peers. If you think my kids or any home schooled kids for that matter) aren't socialized..., you don't understand modern homeschooling. It tells me that if you do personally know any families who home school, you likely either do not see most of what goes on, don't know them very well, or know a very small sampling of homeschooling families.

"Please don't assume that I was not involved with my children's education while they were in a building school. Our eldest was in the fifth grade when we made the decision to begin homeschooling, and it most certainly was not for lack of effort on my part, the parts of other parents, or our kids to make the most of the classroom model of education. Very simply put, it does not work for many students, and the ones for whom it does not work are marked as failures, as learning-disabled, as disruptive--when that's not usually the case at all.

"I spent many long days volunteering in their three different classrooms--three days each week, assisting teachers, and helping in ways that most parents would never take the time to do.

"Colleges and universities LOOK for home schooled students because they know that these kids know how to apply themselves academically, generally have good independent work ethics, and are not afraid to set a good example for their peers. I know dozens of home schooled college students and college graduates who have been very successful and are incredible testaments to the dedication that their parents had to their education.

"My children are not "sheltered" from much of anything. They are very involved in many aspects of their community, active in ways that they would not be able to be if they were tied down to the current model of education.

"Please don't assume that homeschooling families are hick know-nothings who could care less about education or are interested only in "sheltering" their kids from "real life." The fact is, very many of us are college-educated, and see the downfalls of the public education system, who work in effort to change it, but who realize that changes happen very slowly, and that had we not made the decision to home school our children, they would have fallen victim to a system which frequently fails kids. Had I *not* been actively involved in my children's' classrooms, I likely would not have seen this in action"

.......and just because I can't keep my big mouth shut (or in this instance, can't keep my busy-bodied fingers from typing), I continued:

" I really want to elaborate on something very specific--the social aspect of schooling. Kids who begin in pre-school and continue toward graduating high school in a classroom setting are not being educated in a way that shapes them to interact well with anyone outside of their specific age group--yet once they reach college (if that is their goal) or the work environment, they are at once thrown into a place where not only are they expected to be responsible for completing tasks under their own motivation, but they are also expected to deal immediately with people of different ages, educational backgrounds and work experiences. These are the types of situations my home schooled children encounter on a very regular basis, through volunteering, participating in activities during the day or evening which encourage them to interact with others who are not necessarily within their peer-group, and which would not be available to them if they were in a classroom from 8 to 3 every day.

"My kids are able to participate in activities structured toward learning actively about government, learning about their faith, learning the history of their community, caring for the poor and needy, tending to the aged and infirm, observing many different professional and vocational callings, and in general, helping them understand that life is not entirely about them and their friends.

"My kids do not have to worry about competing with kids their age over ownership of *stuff*, over "who's dating whom?" (and the accompanying societal peer pressures to get into things they have no desire to make priorities in their lives), over who is involved in more after school activities. They know how to sit down and talk with just about any person of any age, and it's conversation with substance. They can talk with their grandparents and great-grandmothers about family history and learn their stories. They can talk with me and their dad--and do, frequently--about their thoughts and dreams and fears and hopes. They can even talk with the parents of their friends about what's going on with them, what's happening in their lives, their schooling, and their families. They can talk with kids younger than they are and even *play* with them appropriately, without the fear of being laughed at by their friends. They are capable of performing just about any household task that is asked of them. They are able to go to work with their dad and see first-hand what makes the family business run. They are learning to be responsible for more than just getting their Math and English work done!

"All of these things have helped to enrich our children in ways that could never be accomplished in a classroom setting, and each element of their day-to-day living and learning here at home is helping to build great character in each of them.

"I don't mean to imply, so please don't infer, that children who attend building school don't have character or are not capable of building character...but there are many dozens of lost opportunities for learning when you put a child into a classroom for seven hours each day and expect them to fit into that district's idea of the mold of a model student.

"E. is right--there are some children who just do not fit into that mold. Public--even private-- classroom education is not for everyone, just as homeschooling is not for everyone...but for some families, homeschooling can make the difference between a very bright, successful adult and one who has been marginalized by teachers and peers alike throughout their schooling experience."

Now, I didn't get into all of the reasons that went into our decision to home school. There are, for starters, simply too many. But what I've found is that it really doesn't matter, fundamentally, to anyone but us--and the fact of the matter is that the biggest reason we made the lap from building to home education is that it is, plainly, what God was calling us to do. Most people don't understand this, and it would be frustrating and fruitless to try to explain it.

Because we are strongly anchored in our Catholic faith, and because we knew that God was calling us to more fully live that faith, we knew that allowing our children to daily remain in the hands of people who are disinterested in instilling the truths of our faith in every aspect of their education was not only not in the best interest of our children, but for all intents and purposes, quite frankly, to their detriment. Why would we daily immerse our children into a system which undermines the moral values which we have instilled in their hearts and souls since their births? Why would we choose to put them into situations which would make the question the decisions and foundations of their parents? Why is it seen as "healthy" or "good" or "normal" to put children into situations which cause them to have to question the authority in their lives which ought to matter most?

Well, we decided, along with many other parents, along with Holy Mother Church, that it is not healthy, good, or right at all. Parents have the right to educate their children, and the moral responsibility to do so to the best of their ability, and so we took that right and responsibility seriously and began on our home schooling journey.

What do we have to show for it?

I'll let my comments above speak for themselves on that, and perhaps I'll ask the kids to start writing the occasional entry for my little cyber home here at God Will Provide.

I would encourage those of you who have chosen to educate your children at home to chime in with your thoughts--why did you begin home schooling? What have you found to be the positive aspects--and what have you found to be the greatest challenges? Do you have the support of your family? Of your friends? Of your church? Of a home schooling support or cooperative group?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Patience? A virtue, you say?

Patience has just not been one of those beautiful gifts with which I have been blessed. I have had to work for every little bit of patience I have ever possessed (thanks be to God, perseverance is one of the gifts I've been blessed with!), and the results are not always what I would call virtuous. Perhaps I judge myself a bit harshly, but then...don't we all?


The snow is blowing and coming down at a pace. A blanket three to five inches deep is what is expected by nightfall, and I'm convinced that I'm the only one perfectly fine with it. I don't mind a bit being snowed in, especially this winter, while I wait for the small Applelumpkin to make a decision about a birthday.

The weekend wasn't super-snowy, but it was cold and bright, and afforded wonderful light by which to work on the quilt! AND--I FINISHED IT!!!! I am so thrilled to have this part done, and now I truly feel that I can just..........wait.

You know, patiently.

Pictures? You want pictures?? Well, I HAVE pictures!!

First, the co-sleeper. I was very fortunate to spot a listing for a co-sleeper on the infamous craigslist, for a fantastic price. We happened to have some Christmas money just waiting for some special use, and between the two of us, My Darling and I decided that this co-sleeper would be a wonderful gift for our little Applelumpkin.

Now, usually, we would side-car the crib--that is, remove the front side of the crib (which is very sturdy, heavy, OAK even, and can withstand having only the three sides by merit of the fact that it is a convertible crib and meant to be used as a toddler bed down the line), raise the mattress height by adding a second crib mattress, butting it up to my side of the bed, and taking certain precautions to ensure that there is absolutely no gap between the two. It's a lovely arrangement, really, because it gives the baby plenty of room, and means that our queen-size bed does not begin to feel like a camp cot, for Pete's sake.

The downside of this arrangement is that, well, the crib is gigantic. Once it's in place, we don't move it until we're ready to transition whoever is sleeping in it to a room with a sibling, which means it's in our room for about a year. Because I like to have my bedside table handy--for my reading lamp, my glass of water, a place to put my book--you know, the whole reason one would have a bedside table...anyway, the crib is generally centered alongside my side of the bed. This means that my access point at the foot of the bed is only about 18 inches. It's doable, for certain, but it's not in the least bit ideal. Plus, with the size of our room being what it is, and walls not being movable, there are about FOUR inches left between the back side of the crib and the wall. Noooooooooot a whole lot of wiggle room there.

Enter the co-sleeper. It's the length of a bassinet, plus about 6 or so inches. It's the width of a bassinet, plus about 6 or so inches. It is a lovely proportion, and will allow Applelumpkin to be directly beside me, just as though the crib were there, though perhaps not for quite as long. But the good news is, hopefully (she said to herself, secretly praying in earnest that it was a legitimate hope...) the new master bedroom will be finished not too long after this little Applelumpkin makes an appearance--and then the room will be so gigantic--cavernous, even--that having the crib side-car arrangement will not be an inconvenience!

So, in the meantime, I give you...............the CO-SLEEPER!

See the lovely plaid fabric on the back there? It's just for decoration at this point, but I need to find a way to incorporate it. I'm not sure how I'll do that just yet. It's actually a small tablecloth which was found in My Darling's grandmother's cedar's ridiculously soft, both in texture an the beautiful muted colors. I have a *thing* for antique fabrics and linens, so this fits my bill quite nicely. And as you'll see, the colors are perfect for our needs as well.

When we bought the co-sleeper, I had looked at many reviews of it, and noticed (too late) that several owners reported that the "sheet" which came with it was scratchy, thick, and if laundered in washer and dryer ( else would I launder it??) would shrink in such a way that it would no longer fit the mattress. If I had gotten the full-size co-sleeper, a sheet made for a Pack & Play would fit. But the mini? Well, no standard sheet of any kind will fit.

BUT--a standard pillow case does the trick! I used a flannel case, and secured the open end with three diaper pins. Problem solved!

This is where the co-sleeper will eventually be placed. In the very, very beginning days (and nights), Applelumpkin will probably just sleep on My Darling's chest, for that is how all of our babies have begun. And with the number of feedings and diaper changes which happen throughout the night, it's really most convenient. But the day (or night) will come when Applelumpkin will begin to put on the pudge and become squirmy...and need a place to sleep...and that is when the co-sleeper will be employed.

This is my side of the bed. The little plaques with lambs on them hung on the wall at Grandma's house, in what was Aunt M's bedroom. I remember the wallpaper in there was a similar color to my bedroom walls here, and covered in beautiful birds. I'm almost certain, though, that the lambs got their start over my mother's crib back in 1942.

Grandpa made the little wall chest. He loved to craft things out of wood--all of them have this same finish and color. There are bookshelves, sewing organizers, and tables which he made. Grams gave me this little chest and one of her sewing organizers when she moved from her little house. I am honored to have this on the wall in our home.

My bedside table is my holds my glass of water through the night, and I always have some worth-while reading there. The book on top at the moment is Jan Karon's In This Mountain, and just underneath that is Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth. Both are wonderful, and I pick up the one most suited to my mindset. The little shelf next to the table holds more books--the Mitford books are on top, and there is another shelf packed with all different books, from the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers to books by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

I've frequently talked about The Basket. This basket is where my mother, her sisters, my sister and brothers and I, our four maternal cousins, and each of my children have slept in infancy. When I was a baby, Pop rigged hooks on the ceiling and a way for Mom to hang the basket to keep my brother's sticky hands off of my face. I like that I can put it on the kitchen table, or on the gigantic ottoman, or wherever I need to. I can pop it in the back of the van and take it with us to family gatherings if necessary. And for the moment, I like that it so neatly holds all of the things Applelumpkin will need, from tiny t-shirts to receiving blankets to sweet little gowns.

The Towels are there, too. There, on the left, is the towel which will be warmed up in the dryer while I'm busy holding our little Applelumpkin, so that when the time is right, My Darling can hold his youngest child for the first time. That towel, I promise you, is impossibly soft and will be delicious when it's warmed so nicely.

By comparison, here is the Squash as a baby, lying in the basket and playing with his little elephant rattle:

And the Cuppie, barely awake, snuggled into the basket:
The Bug in the Basket

So snuggly and cozy that I almost want one for myself.

Well then--a glimpse of the quilt.

I made six nine-patch flannel blocks, ran strips of creamy colored chenille between the blocks, and backed the quilt with the chenille. To finish the edges, I had pondered using a satin binding, but opted to just turn the chenille and tack it around the edges with a decorative zig-zag stitch. I love the way the chocolate brown and the aqua blue work together.

I also found the adorable polka dots in the same aqua and chocolate, and pieced them with the aqua pea pods....I love the print!

The finished product is pretty big--I have it spread across our bed, and it nearly covers the surface of the queen-size mattress. Definitely big enough to snuggle beneath! Oh--and check out the blanket underneath the mother-in-law must have had some divine inspiration while she was Christmas shopping. She gave me this king-size plush blanket as a gift for me and Applelumpkin. I could not believe it when I saw the color!! This plush blanket will go in the dryer after The Towel comes out, to be warmed up and then wrapped around me and the little Applelumpkin as we're tucked into bed together. I cannot wait!!

I am definitely not a professional quilter, but my babies don't seem to mind. I am very pleased with the way this quilt turned out, and am very eager to snuggle my newest little one in it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wishin' and prayin' and hopin'....

Really, I would love to be asleep, but that's just not been the way of it lately. I catch bits and snatches of sleep here and there as I can, but mostly I'm resigned to the pattern of being tired, dozing here and there, and knowing that in just a few short weeks I'll be tiredly awake and staring at a beautiful, pudgy, sweet little face. That'll do, for now.

Since the Squash loved hearing, many months ago, that the baby was about the size of an apple, he started calling it Little Apple. Several months later, we told him the baby was the size of a pumpkin, but he said that name was already taken (because that's what we called Cuppie for so long!). Now, he's settled on a mishmash of the two words: Applelumpkin! I *lurve* it.

I sent out a notice yesterday to our home school group that I am looking for a Mother's Helper to hire, just a few days each week, for about the first 3 or so weeks after the little Applelumpkin is born. I did this because with the Frog away at school all day and My Darling not being able to take days off from work, I know that I will need some extra hands, feet and eyes to help out with the Squash and the Cuppie. Reepicheep and Pickle do a great job, but for Pete's sake, they are kiddos themselves. They do so much by way of helping to keep the house running (because in a big family, everyone pitches in...), and to expect them to help me do what needs to be done for Squash and Cuppie while I snooze with the Applelumpkin...well...that's just too high an expectation by my estimation.

I've gotten a couple of very encouraging responses: one from a Mama whose daughter would probably be able to lend a hand here and there, and another from a Mama who has many contacts through the friends of her older kiddos who are in college rather locally, and who would likely be able to come up with something! I am greatly encouraged by this, because this issue in particular has been the source of a great deal of anxiety. My Darling reminds me: GOD WILL PROVIDE (seen that anywhere recently?!), and that things will fall into place. My intense need, my instinct to have everything in place before the baby is actually born is just part of the nature of Mamahood, I think. It's part of nesting. It's part of protecting my territory and being sure that the perimeter is sound and secure before I bring my sweet baby forth, and not waiting until I am needing to rest, recover, snuggle, nurse, and get to know every beautiful square millimeter of my newest baby.

I have everything else in place--almost. The list of supplies that has served me for the past two births has been stocked and restocked, save for only two remaining items. They are on My Darling's "to pick up" list. The baby clothes have been washed and folded and tucked into the traditional wooden basket in which three generations have slept. The only thing that remains is that quilt..........which I have still not even begun, save for in my head. I have come very close to making peace with the possibility that I may not get it finished--but that's not really satisfactory, now is it? Perhaps even writing about it will give me the giddyup to move on it.

After I sleep.

Which I dearly hope happens tonight.

Did you know that on the Hallmark channel, beginning at 1:00 AM, "I Love Lucy" runs for three hours?

Found that out the other night.

Did you further know that if a pudgy little foot encased in a sleeper kicks your eyeball smack on the lens and you are wearing a contact lens because you were too stinking tired to remove the contact lens before you finally fell asleep, you will be jolted most rudely awake, but your eye will survive?

Found that out last night.

I'm hoping for exactly ZERO odd revelations tonight.


Monday, January 3, 2011

......aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand the New Year starts with a bang!

Well, ok...that might be an attempt to make things sound more exciting than they truly are.

The New Year started with the January Thaw coming a little early...meaning temps in the mid 40's, lots of the beautiful snow melting, the grey, slushy stuff increasing, lots of puddles forming, mud seeping, and then.......a freeze. You know, ice is really nifty, when you're opting for the crushed variety from the door of the refrigerator. It's not so nifty when it's stretched across the driveway, the streets, into intersections, and no help for it--because the salt has all been washed away by the rain. In December. In Wisconsin. Um..........ick. A lovely summer rain? Why yes, thanks. A December rain? I'd rather not. So really, the New Year started with more of a "drip" than a *BANG*!

On New Year's Day, it was supposed to snow. But it didn't. The good part of this is that fresh snow on top of fresh ice is bbbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad....very, very bad. The sad part of it is that it's still kind of ugly out there, visually speaking. And now it's cold again. So, it feels like January, but it looks like November. Ew. As I tend to say in November, "If it's going to be cold, at least let it be pretty!"

There was one pretty part of it--with the warmer temperatures for a few days, there was a tremendous amount of fog. When there is fog in the winter, and the temperatures plumet overnight, in the morning comes the hoar frost...and that is beautiful stuff. Would that I had the camera on those mornings and could have gotten a couple of really was beautiful, thanks be to God.


The other *BANG* (or nearly that) is that once again, I find myself hovering between low levels of activity and nothingness, because if I get up and do too much, my belly misbehaves. Boo! Or as The Crescat would say, "Hiss!Spit!Growl!"

The trouble with this is that I never really know ahead of the need--sometimes things kind of sneak up on me. The contractions--well, those I'm used to. Even the ones that are productive, even this early. It's happened in all of my pregnancies, so why not this one?

The part that takes me by surprise is when my blood pressure and my blood sugar bottom out at the same time. The result is that I end up drenched in a cold sweat, shaking, and nearly passing out. When it passes, I am completely exhausted and end up needing a nap--like, a two hour nap. It happened yesterday, even after having been up and moving, even after having eaten breakfast, causing me to stay home from Mass. I hate missing Mass. I know that it's permissible when a person's sick, but I still hate missing Mass. The family left at around 10, as usual, leaving Reepicheep behind to make sure I had anything that I needed, and came home at around 2. I slept almost the entire time they were gone, waking only to eat a bit more and keep well-hydrated.

It happened again this afternoon, too. The good thing about the timing today was that I was already taking it easy, had nothing planned, and it was nearly nap time for Squash and Cuppie, so I just snuggled with the two of them. I'm not keen for it to happen again tomorrow--consistency is not always a good thing.

I know that this, too, shall pass. Sometimes it feels like it'll be forever until that day comes, even though my brain knows that it's only a matter of a few more weeks. I've never claimed to have been blessed with patience as my reigning virtue (if I have any virtues at all, for Pete's sake!), and the end of pregnancy is always a test of what patience I do have!! I guess that even if consistency is not always a good thing, in some ways, it's...well, constant. Ha! And double ha! HA!!

It's good to be tested this way, I think. The patience that I will learn from this, as with all of the others, will benefit both me and the sweet little baby I await.


All of the things for the baby are washed and ready to go. The towels, always chosen so carefully for their velvety softness are ready to greet a brand new velvety baby, fresh from birth. Sweet little diapers are ready to cover a soft little bum. Receiving blankets are ready to receive. Tiny hats are prepared to sit atop a sweet little head. Adorable t-shirts are ready to envelop a pudgy little body. And my arms are more ready than ever to hold all of it. But--it's a bit early, my little love. Do not be so impatient, my temperamental belly.

So......I will fill the remaining days by scheming up a sweet blanket. I make one for each of my babies, and I have the fabric ready to go for this one--this, and this, and this (but in a coordinating aqua blue), and this (in a lovely cream). Once I figure out how I want to block it, it will only take a couple of days at most to get it made so that I can snuggle with it.

Then, I'm going to make one of these. Is it not absolutely delightful?? And simple?? I am going to make it a little differently--I'll use fusible interfacing rather than adhesive, since I think the adhesive part is a tad bit overkill...but it will be incredibly adorable!! I will use scraps from the quilt, along with various scraps of coordinating materials that I have from other projects. I think it's a simple enough project that the kiddos will be able to help with it, too, which will be fun.

And I really need to get some pictures updated--here, through e-mail, and just in general. We kind of usurp the Frog's camera, since the only other cameras around here either take film (*gasp*!!!) or are phone cameras with not-so-spectacular quality. I've yet to have any belly photos taken with this wee one, and here we are, almost done! And I need to get fresh photos for the kids' frames on the living room wall. The one of the Squash, for instance, dates back to when he was eight months old. Yeah, an update on that is overdue.

I'd like to get some pics of the Christmas Tree while it is still decorated and lit, and of each of the Nativity scenes which grace the living room and sun room. Come to think of it, I should post pics of the sun room!

At least I have things to keep me busy--in addition to keeping the kids involved with their lessons (not a seriously difficult chore, but they do definitely require direction, for Pete's sake!).