WFMW – Homeschooling Tip

It’s been so long since I’ve posted a Works for Me Wednesday tip, I hardly know where to begin.

I’ve started this post at least three times. My creative juices stopped flowing several hours ago, I’m afraid. This morning I had an idea of compiling two or three tips in one blog. At this point in the evening I have absolutely no memory of what those brilliant ideas were.

let's go to Texas

Instead of school, let’s go to Texas!!

It’s sad. Still it could be perceived as a good sign. If I was fresh and full of energy and wit, wouldn’t you be a little suspicious about the quality of my homeschooling? I’m tired and mentally exhausted because I’ve poured my wisdom and knowledge out into the outstretched minds of my beloved children.

Whether they wanted it or not.

brothers and friends

David and Daniel were swimming buddies during our time in Texas.

There is one thing I’ve added to our homeschooling routine that I simply must share. It was Tim’s idea, I won’t take the credit, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

Sibling Correction Hour

Okay, it’s really only a half an hour and it’s math correction, not life/character/personality correction. I can just see the glee in the kids’ eyes if I opened that one up.

Attention kids, today we have on the schedule a full hour of Brother/Sister Critique. You get to correct their clothing choices, poor manners, and obnoxious personality quirks.


apple pies for the crowd

Apple pies get you a free pass to Alamo Village on Labor Day. How about some apples for the teacher!

No, this is Math Correction time. Daniel and Rachel are in the 6th and 7th grades, respectively. At 2 in the afternoon they exchange teacher’s guides and correct each other’s math lesson for the day. This has a number of advantages:

1) The math lesson actually gets corrected on a daily basis – what a novel idea!

2) I don’t have to do the work – this frees me up to continue my teaching hour with David and Sarah.

3) The kids are highly motivated to do well in their lessons – nothing like some friendly sibling rivalry to keep the kids on their toes

Stop by Rocks in My Dryer for more WFMW tips.


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My kitchen is clean. Bless the beautiful child who worked so hard to wash, scrub, and tidy the kitchen before bedtime. When I left for Bible study, things were in a state of, um, not so pristine.

The house is quiet. Everyone is asleep and the only sound I hear is the gentle humming of the computer and a clock ticking in the hallway. I tracked down the buzzing, squeaking and moaning sound that was disturbing my tranquility. It appears the old kitchen computer may be ready for a little hospice care.

School is so much work! I’m just not a focused, discipline person. I don’t do well with schedules and deadlines and limited computer time. I definitely don’t appreciate the hours of the day having the temerity to arrive before 8 am.

Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to complete all of our work unless we begin at an early hour. Even with that jump start, it is difficult to get everything done. Today we had piano lessons and some character “training sessions” which ate a good 30 to 45 minutes of our time. All it takes is a little bit and the whole family is de-railed and off the schedule.

Even the infamous school bell can’t get us back on track.

Needless to say, I need to get to bed. I can’t stay up late, blogging happily (and reading all my favorite blogs) until the wee hours of the night anymore. The alarm rings bright and early no matter what time I’ve fallen asleep. This whole homeschooling thing can put a real damper in the lazy lifestyle if you’re not careful.

But then just having kids seems to do that. It’s so hard to be truly selfish and lazy when you have a family to raise. I have certainly put in the time, trying.


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Are There Animals at the Fair?

On Wednesday the sun was shining and the day was warm. With tickets in our hands and lunches packed, we set off for the fair.

Two days of school was enough for us.

red shirts for everyone!

Rachel, Daniel, Sarah, Emma, Eli, and David, our wild and crazy crew.

Homeschooling in Washington is pretty straightforward. Each year, you have to register a ‘Declaration of Intent’ with the school district wherever you live, and you have to test your children with one of the national standardized tests, like the Iowa or the CAT-5 once they turn eight. Since some people (we won’t mention names) forget to register, our district gives free passes to the Puyallup Fair for each child, and one ‘educator’ pass, when you file your ‘Declaration of Intent’. No doubt, they figure, homeschoolers will benefit from the many and varied educational exhibits, showcasing the area’s finest animal and horticultural offerings.

The truth is, homeschooling is very demanding. There’s only so much you can accomplish in one week. With testing on Thursday, the fair on Wednesday, and co-op on Friday, we had a somewhat abbreviated first week of school.

It’s been raining since Wednesday, so I can’t be too sorry that we spent the afternoon outside, enjoying the day. Fall in Washington features many clear and crisp days, but the weather can also be cool and rainy. When we first moved to the beautiful northwest, my parents came for a visit.

In November.

It rained the entire time they were here. Literally. It never let up. They didn’t believe we had one mountain much less a whole range of them.

But I digress. It’s obviously been a while since I blogged; I’ve forgotten how to compose my thoughts into a cohesive paragraph. Perhaps I should spend a little more time homeschooling and a little less time at the fair.

Being the evil budget-minded parent that I am, I ruthlessly charged the children for their ride passes. For $25 they could purchase a “Dizzy Pass” that allowed free reign of the fair (except for one of two of the pricier activities) and $3 of game tokens to squander. We arrived at the fair around 11:45 am and visited as many rides as we could before rushing home at 5:30 pm for church.

sarah rides her bike

Sarah had an absolute blast in Sillyville.

Joshua had plans to go to the fair the following day, so he did not grace us with his company.

“Josh,” I wheedled, “you could come to the fair with us and still go on Thursday.”

“Why?” he asked suspiciously.

“Um, to help me watch the little kids.”

At the fair last year we discovered that Joshua doesn’t really have a taste for any ride involving actual motion, especially the Ferris Wheel. He spent most of the day exploring and waving from the ground while the rest of us rode roller coasters and horrible spinning attractions.

“So basically you want me to come and be a Fair Baby Sitter?”

“Is that a trick question?” I couldn’t believe the prospect of standing in lines (for attractions he wouldn’t ride) with his brothers and sisters didn’t appeal.

norway punk

These teenagers are so cynical.

“Joshua,” Rachel jumped on the idea, “you definitely need to come with us. That way Mom can hang out with the little kids and you can go with me to all the exciting rides.”

“So, let me get this straight. I won’t go on any of the rides, I’ll just be there to watch you?”

Rachel was undaunted by his logic and acerbic tone. “You can go on the rides if you want to.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Then you could just come and be with me.”

“But I don’t want to.” Joshua’s waves of resistance crashed uselessly on the Gibraltar-like rock of Rachel’s hopeful self-interest.

“But you could.”

This conversation went on for some time until Joshua finally wandered off to do some school. He’s the only one of the bunch who’s actually concerned about this whole homeschooling thing, possibly because he’s the only one who has actually read the schedule for the year. Rachel and I admitted defeat and started packing lunches.

When we came home late that night, David rushed to tell Joshua all about his time at the fair.

born to ride

This was one of the gentler rides of the day.

“And I rode the Wild Cat and the Big Slide and the Swings of Death and I wasn’t scared at all!”

“Cool,” Joshua remarked admiringly, “did you see any animals?”

“There are animals at the fair?” David looked puzzled.

Joshua pushed his brother down on the couch in disgust (an appropriate response in such a situation I guess) and looked at me sadly.

“Mom, you didn’t go and visit any animals the entire day?”

“Animals? There were some spinning bears in the kiddie section.”

“No, I mean the live animals. The rodeo, draft horses, stuff like that.”

At my blank look, he continued. “Weren’t they featuring Animals of the World and a Piglet Palace this year? I bet the little kids would have loved to have seen the Wild Monkey Show.”

“Joshua,” I mumbled, “let’s keep this whole ‘fair animal thing’ to ourselves. Okay? We don’t want to spoil things for David and Sarah.”

I just hope the school district doesn’t call and demand we refund the price of the ‘educator’ ticket.


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No Fat Doctors

While we were in Texas with Kathy’s relatives, we were careful to observe all the Traditions. We spent time each day at the pool, and covered dozens of miles in golf cart rides. We ate large quantities of Mexican food, or at least American food made up to look Mexican. We played games and read books and even made a pilgrimage to Alamo Village.

Uncle Dan and kids
Kathy’s brother and his children were often to be found behind the wheel of a golf cart.

And then there was Pico’s. An otherwise unremarkable gas station chain, Pico’s has the rare distinction to offer the world’s largest (at least in my experience) ‘Single Scoop Ice Cream’ for $1.19.

Our favorite gas station chain
Pico’s. Now the secret is out.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so I’ll have to provide a picture; each ‘Single Scoop’ is really a compacted mass of ice cream requiring more than a dozen individual scoops on the part of the server.

Mint Chocolate Chip
Sarah already ate quite a bit off the top.

Kathy’s Dad and I are not very alike (he’s well-educated, urbane and handy, while I am, er, not) but we share at least one passion: neither of us can pass up a bargain. For this reason, as the last dishes were washed after dinner each evening, a quiet refrain would begin to buzz on the lips of the children:

“Pico’s. Pico’s. Pico’s.”

the menfolk
Clearly, I was standing in a low spot in the parking lot, which allowed Kathy’s brother, her Dad, and my own son to tower over me.

Grand-Dad would look up from his book with a twinkle in his eye. “Did someone say ‘Pico’s’?”

I would wander in from the porch, licking my lips. “Did someone say, ‘Pico’s’?”

And so we would drive the mile or so into ‘town’ and pile out of our minivans to stand in front of the ice cream case.

“What are your flavors today,” we’d ask. “We’ll need eleven, no, twelve ‘Single Scoops’,” we would confide to the server.

“Rosalita,” the girl at the cash register would yell, “you come serve these customers while I check the stock-room.” Rosalita had a strong arm from all that scooping.

Mint Chocolate Chip and Banana Split were two of the favorites, although Butter Pecan and Rocky Road were well-favored as well. One night (gasp!) they had nothing but Vanilla, and we all suffered with home-made brownies.

More Mint Chocolate Chip
Everybody got Mint Chocolate Chip that day … everyone, except me, that is.

We had a great time with Kathy’s brother, his children, and Kathy’s parents; but when the stories are told about this vacation, I’ll bet Pico’s will have a prominent place.

the ladies
These girls were later arrested for loitering, which really livened up the worship service.

Yesterday I attended a follow-up visit with my physician, to discuss the results of my recent physical and lab testing. Now that I’m firmly in my 40’s, I have begun to hesitantly grapple with the idea that I might not be immortal and invulnerable, no matter how many times I watched Stallone or Schwarzenegger movies as a young man.

I told my doctor about Pico’s, my eyes sparkling as a reminiscent smile wreathed my face. “I figure I gained a few pounds,” I chortled unrepentantly. (People with a double chin have an advantage when it comes to chortling, and I made the best of that competitive edge.)

“Yep. Looks like you’re up six pounds since I saw you last, less than two months ago.” My doctor didn’t seem to think it was quite so funny.

I mentally reviewed my options:

  1. Find a fat doctor
  2. Never get another physical for the rest of my (probably short) life
  3. Break into my doctor’s office (each time I have an appointment) and inflate the previous visit’s weight, so it always looks like I’m losing.
  4. Investigate my doctor for some vice and ruthlessly blackmail him into silence
  5. Attempt to intimidate my physician so that he’s afraid to bring up the subject of weight
  6. Change my lifestyle and lose some weight

Doctor’s don’t tend to be fat. Oh, you’ll find a plump one from time to time, but I’ve been cursed with skinny ones the last 10 years or so. They have to learn to live without food or sleep during their time as an intern and resident, and the habits tend to stick, from what I can tell.

Not my actual doctor
Not my actual doctor.

My doctor doesn’t seem to be the kind I could easily intimidate, and I’m not sure he has any easily exploitable vices. Kathy won’t let me avoid annual physicals, and I think it is too late to build my marriage on a pattern of lies, having been pretty forthright up to this point.

The possibilities having narrowed, my course is clear: I must find a way to falsify my weight records each time I visit. On the way out, I carefully cased the office for windows wide enough to allow ingress. It would be poetically embarrassing if I became wedged in a window while engaged in this enterprise.

In the unlikely event that this crafty scheme fails me, and just to give our readers something on which to comment, I’ll throw out this question:

What is the single best lifestyle change you have made to lose weight?

Maybe I’ll do some sit-ups while I wait for your answers.


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First Day of School

Well, we started school today! Our homeschooling co-op began last week, but today was the first official day of our family school.

Look at the kind of students I’m getting.

1st grader
Princess Sarah
6th grader
Valiant Dan

2nd grader

Cheerful David

I’m exhausted already. Is it Friday yet?

We’ve got charts and schedules, new instructor’s guides, fresh books, old textbooks we’re trying to finish up, and much more.

We started the day out with a big breakfast – hot cocoa, chocolate chip pancakes, and Aggkaka. We’re back on track with our Life Skills so I’ve decided to expand the responsibilities to include meal prep. Daniel is my breakfast worker this week so he helped select our menu and prepare things.

breakfast's ready

If I look a little blurry it’s just because it was early and there was a serious lack of coffee.

The breakfast was a big hit. In fact, at least two children asked me, in dreamy voices, if we were going to have good breakfasts like that every day from now on.

Right. That’s NOT going to happen.

“I liked it when we were in Texas and Mamie made us breakfast every morning,” one of the spoiled children said when we returned home from our trip south last week.

“Oh, oh,” Joshua chimed in, “what about the way she planned and started dinner in the morning. Wasn’t that wonderful.” I swear the child was nearly drooling at the memory.

high schooler!!

My 9th grader!! Gasp!

Since we don’t have a live-in maid, cook, or grandmother, we have to do the work ourselves. Daniel was an excellent assistant this morning and Rachel stepped up to make tuna sandwiches for the family at lunch time. She even convinced me using paper plates would be a good idea. “It would get us right back on track with school, Mom, we won’t have to lose any time washing dishes.”

These kids are smooth, I tell you, very smooth.

middle schooler

How did I end up with a junior high aged daughter?

We worked very hard today to stay on track with our new schedule. Tim’s great contribution to our new school year: A school bell.

Yes, we now have a bell that rings (from the pink laptop) every half an hour. This is an attempt to keep us (and primarily ME) on task and help with the multiple subjects (and students) I’m trying to teach.

Annoying or brilliant?

School Bell

Too soon to determine.


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