Saturday, July 18, 2009

more on our school room

First, thank you everyone for your nice comments, both on the blog and privately. I wanted to answer a couple of questions. The first two were sent privately.

Yes, I do routinely let my children help with such things as painting. :)Part of our homeschooling plan is to actively seek ways to teach our kids practical skills. We bought this house when Maria was 7 years old. She has helped with every project I've done. She loves it. Yes, she makes mistakes here and there. I have a couple of green smudges on my ceiling that I'll have to touch up someday. She did the closet all by herself and it looks a bit rough in there in places. But she does surprisingly well overall. I'm not a professional either, so I also mess up sometimes. I'm not concerned that it look perfect. If I was, I'd hire a painter. The boys helped just on that one wall. They just wanted to try it out, and as I predicted, Kain grew bored with it very quickly and didn't ask to help again.

Another person asked how we keep the school room from getting trashed. Haha! Well, we struggle with this a great deal. It's getting easier. Here's what's helping-

-The toddler isn't ever in the school room without an adult. I have a baby gate up in the doorway, and her toys are on shelves in the living room. I plan to keep it that way until she is old enough to pick up what she takes out.

-The schoolroom is one of our "zones". Maria is in charge of this zone, and so she goes in there at the end of the day to straighten it up. I also check it periodically and will call someone back to clean up a mess I find.

-I only keep a few toys out at a time, especially toys that have lots of pieces. This is critical. I said in the post that cars and trains are in the drawers under the train table. Other than that, I have two very small shelves for holding toys. We have several collections of different types of animals (farm, zoo animals, etc.) and people (Bible figures, astronauts, etc.). Usually I will put out one basket of each. We have several boxes of different building toys (tinker toys, legos, wooden blocks) and I will have one of these out at a time. Or I will put out one box of something else with lots of pieces, like Jack's Little People zoo. I will have another toy or two, like maybe a couple of toy instruments. That's plenty of mess. I will rotate toys once a week or so, but the kids are welcome to pick up one box and swap it for another. They do have to ask first so that I can make sure things are picked up properly. The older two have a couple of boxes that stay in the closet, and they can get them out when they want them. We also have board games and puzzles in the closet, and I'm really anal about how they are put away. A few times of sorting through giant piles of mixed games will do that to a person. :)

One more...

" What do you find are the advantages and disadvantages of the separate schoolroom?"

We've almost always had a separate schoolroom. When we first started homeschooling, we lived in a tiny two-bedroom duplex. Maria was an only child then. I put a tall bookshelf by our dinette table and that's where we did school. It worked well-enough, but I did want a separate room. When we first moved into this house, we had the schoolroom in the bedroom that John and I are now using. This meant that our schoolroom was upstairs, and that didn't work out so well. When we would go up to work, I was cut off from the rest of the house. And when the kids would go up to play, they were largely unsupervised.

The current schoolroom is actually supposed to be the master bedroom, and it is downstairs. We have three other bedrooms. John and I (and for now the baby), have the one upstairs room (actually a finished attic space), Maria (and later, Tess) has a downstairs bedroom, and Kain and Jack share another. Other than that, we have a very small living room and a very small dining room. This house isn't that big. The kids' bedrooms are small, and having the separate schoolroom also gives them more room to play.

I think making a separate schoolroom work is all about location. Our current schoolroom is right off of the dining room. I can easily go hang a load of laundry, watch Jack play outside from the schoolroom window, or throw lunch on the stove. We can move our work to the dining room when we want a bigger table. We don't necessarily contain our schoolwork to the schoolroom. I can put on a dvd for Jack and still be nearby to keep an eye on him. My favorite thing about the schoolroom is that is a place to contain everything...all our books and supplies, maps, files, etc. It all lives in there. And except for Tess's things, all the toys live in there too.

Ok, that was fun! Answering questions makes for an easy post topic. Ask more questions! Why do Catholics do what they do? How do we solve world hunger? How do you stay looking so young and beautiful? Ask away!

on modesty

It's summertime, and time to discuss modesty at mass! This is a funny and on target article on the subject. I have nothing to add.

No, my current issue comes with the struggles to raise a modest daughter outside of mass. It's a battle, isn't it, to raise a modest young lady? Homeschooling makes this much easier, but it continues to amaze me how the culture creeps in.

Not too long ago we were shopping online for bras. Real ones. We have already moved past the training bra stage, heaven help us. Training bras. What a crazy term anyway? What exactly are you training them for? Anyway, I was unprepared, let me tell you, for the difficulties we would encounter. When we go to pick out bathing suits or some such thing I am prepared for intense debate and even gnashing of teeth, but silly me, I thought picking out bras would be fairly simple. I didn't take her to Victoria's Closet of hoochiness after all. No, this was just a standard department store website.

We started at the website that will remain unnamed so as to avoid the search engines, though the brand could give me away anyway. There, on the bra page (it makes me laugh just to type that) I found a link on the side-bar to a "juniors" section. Just what we need, right? Wrong-o!

There they have a brand of bra called "Flirtitude". Cause just the message you want to send to a teenager, right? Use your bra to flirt! And out of the 21 bras pictured, a full ELEVEN of them were push-up bras. Ok, now I realize that not everyone in the world shares our opinions on dress and modesty, but who on earth are all of these people who think that buying a push-up bra for your teenager is a good idea??? I mean, they have an awful lot of them, so they must be selling! They also carry several of what are labeled "plunge push-up bras". I can't really determine what the difference is between the regular push-up bra and the plunge-y one, but I guess I can hunt up some 13 year old to tell me. Here's some more quotes from the website-keep in mind that this is the JUNIORS section, ok? I mean, you can't even buy more than a B cup in most of these.

"Plunge neckline, bust-enhancing push-up. This playful bra begs to be showed off!"

"Heart breaker, rule maker: You call the shots with Flirtitude® curvy fit full-figure bra."

"Sweet and simple plunge bra to wear with your low-cut tops. Molded cups add uplift and beautiful shaping."

Oy. And also, on a completely unrelated tangent, who needs molding and uplifting at 14? Those things are still on automatic suspension at that age? Why is all of this even necessary?

Well, after all of the bra drama, I was begging for a headache and decided to check out the rest of the junior clothing later that night. Without Maria.
And here's what I found. In the JUNIOR section.

--I can buy my 12yo a thong to go with her flirty push up bra! Woohoo!
--Halter and tube tops are back. So who needs a bra anyway?
--A thong is really not a good idea with some of those skirts.
--But a "plunge" bra will be needed with some of the shirts. Unless your bra truly is begging to "be showed off".
--There was not a single, solitary dress or skirt in the entire junior section appropriate to wear to mass. Several could be sold with their own dancing pole, however.

So, a lot of this was not news. We have been searching, largely in vain, for appropriate clothing for a couple of years now. And I don't feel like we have some kind of Victorian standard here either. Here are a few of my clothing rules-

*Skirts should touch the top of the knee. Longer is even better, then you don't have to worry about how you sit.
*If a top is sleeveless, it should not show your bra straps, or the side of your bra under the arm. No bras begging to be shown off here. No sleeveless tops in mass. I honestly avoid sleeveless tops as Maria has small shoulders and it is hard to find any that fit well, but she has received some as gifts or hand me downs over the years.
*You should be able to bend over without the top of the shirt falling open. Amazingly, this is one of the most difficult issues we have in buying tops for Maria. I think its those small shoulders again.
*No short shorts. I don't have an exact measurement, but I would say no more than 3 inches above the knee would be about right. These are so hard to find that we generally buy capri pants far more often than shorts.
*No belly showing. We even have a test in the store. You have to be able to touch the top of your head and still have your belly covered.

Are we too strict? I don't think so at all. We have friends with far more strict standards. It is amazingly hard to find clothing that meets these criteria. I'm not sure why. Our public schools have similar dress codes, don't they? What are all of these kids wearing to school? Also, when I said above that none of the dresses and skirts were appropriate to wear to mass, I didn't just mean by my standards. My own personal "rules" for picking out clothing aren't meant to be read as a requirement for everyone in the world, but as far as the skirts and dresses for mass are concerned, I mean these are not appropriate by what should be *anyone's* standards. As in, I would be personally horrified to see anyone wearing any of the skirts or dresses on this website to mass. A possible exception could be made for the ball gown. Then you would just be weirdly overdressed.

For those in the trenches, I will give some encouragement. Maria loves clothes and has very strong opinions on what she likes and doesn't like. It has been a battle at times over the last few years to find clothing that satisfies both of us. She's too young to fully understand why modesty is so important and what the effect of immodest dress can have on the men around you. She just wants to wear what she likes. However, in the last year or so, things have, erm, *developed* quite a bit around here. As she develops more of a figure, I am seeing a natural modesty of her own develop. It is a lovely thing to see. And it's not born of shame or embarrassment but of an almost unconscious realization that she possesses something very precious and something increasingly rare even in preteen girls- innocence.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

school room pictures

There have been some House Beautiful school room pictures floating around the blogs lately. This is not one of them. :) However, I think we did a great job remodeling our little room if I do say so myself.

The closet "before".

Maria painting the closet. Yeah, she put the paint on her nose on purpose. Ham it up, girl.

Ack! Giant pile of junk!
I got rid of five bags of stuff, and it's all organized and pretty now. I tried to take "after" closet pictures, and my camera battery gave up. I'll take some when we start school in a couple of weeks.

Here's that terrible bit of unfinished floor I was telling you about.

And this coffee table...I've almost thrown this table out so many times. John brought this table to the marriage. It is incredibly sturdy and was probably very expensive new, but the surface was in rough shape and it looked very dated. I held on to it because of the sturdiness factor. Furniture that will withstand the abuse of four kids is hard to come by.

Maria working on the floor...the lighting throws off the pictures certain times of the day. Some of these are pretty blurry.

Here's the after pictures of this area, including the table. I'm glad I saved it now! It will be our "seasons and liturgical year" table. Those shelves under the window will hold Jack's workboxes when school starts.

This came out too dark too. This wall is perpendicular to that refinished floor section. The dresser on the left was Jack and Tess's baby dresser. I thought it would look good in here and give some needed school storage. That messy bookcase to the right holds our school books. This area is still in progress. John is taking the kids out for the day next week so that I can finish organizing our school stuff.

Here's the third wall. You can see those messy school shelves to the left. Jack's train table is here, and I plan to hang the dry erase board on this wall. Trains and tracks live in one of the drawers under the table, and the other drawer holds cars and other vehicles.

Even Jack got to paint!

The same wall, after...that's our new timeline, by the way, that is wrapping around the room. Maria and I will be filling it in over the next couple of years. That's the top of the futon. I love having a futon in this room. Everyone likes to get comfy and read on it, and it makes a good guest bed when we need one. There are a couple of small shelves at the side of the futon there. Those are going to be used to hold a few toys at a time. The rest live in the closet.

If I could make one big change, it would be to have more open floor space in this room. I can't make that happen without getting rid of the futon though. Future plans include losing the plastic preschool table and replacing it with a wooden one, finishing the trim work, and painting the doors.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


While making up signs for playing store...

"Aunt Mel, how do you spell 'only'? As in, 'only $19.95'?"


"This rock is really, really ancient. I think it's from the '70's."


"Aunt Mel, what kinds of foods were available back in the old days when you were a kid?"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

How day 3 went....


I'm so *tired* of painting!

We finished the walls yesterday, and the floor...not until 10:30 last night though. I'm beat. And I'm not done. I have to varnish the floor several times and let it dry for at least 72 hours, then move everything back into place. I don't think I'm doing much today though. I have several errands to run, and I'm not going to kill myself trying to finish the varnishing today.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How day 2 went....

---Yesterday we painted fern green on the top 1/3 of the walls. This involved circling the entire room with a measuring tape, a level, and a pencil. I had some panicky second thoughts about the color. It's pretty bold. But I do like it after all. Green is so relaxing and calming.

---Painting the closet was tricky. It has this wide shelf all around it that makes it impossible to reach parts of the wall. I had Maria climb up on the shelf and get it for me. :)

---These things aren't all they are cracked up to be. I found them difficult to use and the coverage was poor and needed two, even three coats in places. A plain old paintbrush worked better. But that room has vaulted ceilings, and there was no other way to get up that high.

---After the littles were in bed, I primed the floor and also a coffee table I've been wanting to repaint. Primer stinks. My whole house reeks, and I still have it all over my hands.

---The kids have had enough. Jack and Kain are fighting all the time, Jack keeps climbing the baby gate to get into the room which freaks me out because the outlet covers are off of everything, and even Tess is getting irritated about being separated from me for big chunks of time. I'm remembering why I almost never do any big projects like this anymore.

---But we are almost done! Today we will put on the yellow paint. That will be easier because it will all be reachable without ladders and extension poles. Then comes the enormous job of reorganizing everything. Yikes.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How day 1 went...

Phew. Long day yesterday.

I got everything done, except for emptying the closet. I'm doing that first thing this morning.

Unexpected speedbumps---

--it was very tedious to scooch around the perimeter of the room with a ladder to stretch up high with the swiffer and get cobwebs all around the vaulted ceilings. Especially since it hadn't been done in...well, a really long time. Yuck.

--I ran out of spackle. Twice. Here's the issue. This house used to belong to a very creative do-it-yourselfer. He added this big room onto the back of the house. It's supposed to be a master bedroom, but we use it as our school room. Its got two kinds of flooring in there. I'm not sure why. The whole house, even the bathrooms, were carpeted when we bought the house, with great old hardwood floors underneath. So we didn't find this issue until we tore up all the carpet. Two-thirds of the floor is great old hardwood. The remaining third is ugly plywood subflooring. And there's a crack between the two floors, a crack that is half an inch wide in places. I was filling that all in with spackle because I'm going to paint that part of the floor. It's my brilliant solution to disguise the ugly plywood. If that doesn't work, then I guess I'll get a big area rug to throw on there.

--Jack was Not Happy about all the renovating. He very anxiously followed me around all day yesterday asking me tons of questions about what I was doing, where I was putting his stuff, etc. He got upset when I started shoving all the furniture to the center of the room. And he got really upset when I took all his trains off the train table and put them in a box. They GO on the train table!

Unexpected helps-

--Maria. The girl spackled her brains out yesterday. She is my right hand. She loves these kinds of projects, and she's been a great help.

--Tess. She was very cooperative and happily played the day away.

Notice I didn't mention Kain. He's been...neutral. Not a hindrance to progress, but not as helpful with entertaining Jack as I might have hoped.

Ok, onward! To the closet!

Monday, July 06, 2009

The plan for today

This week is.....


...clean/organize/paint the schoolroom week!


So, here's the issue. Our schoolroom/playroom...I never know what to call it. Learning room sounds a bit pretentious. Anyway. It is junkity junk junked out. It is such a mess, especially the big walk-in closet I use for storage. It also has never been painted, not by me anyway, and the dirty white walls have got to go. So, today, I begin work. The big kids are on little kid detail this week. I've promised them rollicking good times for the rest of July if they will help me out this week. I'd like to say I managed to clear my schedule for the week, but that's not entirely true. So I may not be sleeping. Here's the plan though-

Today- Clean up the room and move last year's school books out. Push all the furniture to the middle. Clean up and repair the walls. Repair the part of the floor I am working on. Empty closet and do the same in there. We have a doctor's appointment today, so that will probably be enough, but if Tess cooperates tonight I may do some purging and organizing of the closet contents.

Tuesday- Tarp everything. Sand repaired areas and mark line around walls to separate colors. Paint first color on upper third of the wall, two coats. We may go to the library on this day. This is a lighter day of basically waiting for the paint to dry. I may do some more organizing of the closet junk if I can.

Wednesday- We are meeting friends at a local park early in the day. After lunch, I'll paint the second color on the bottom 2/3rds of the wall. two coats. I'll pull up the carpet in the closet (it's already pulled up in the room itself). Then I'll move stuff off the area of the floor that is being refinished and prime it.

Thursday- We will be gone all day. I have to go to social security for Kain, he has a therapy appointment, we have a lunch date with another family, and then I need to stop by the church for a VBS meeting. This will be'll give the closet a chance to dry out really well before I put stuff in it. I would like to put the first color of paint on the floor though. Two coats.

Friday- Finish organizing the closet stuff and put it all away. Move furniture back into place as best I can considering I need to leave clear the floor in progress. Put timeline and such on the walls. Finish painting said floor, and put first coat of varnish on it before going to bed.

Over the weekend- That's pretty much it, I'll just need to finish varnishing the floor. I want at least three coats of varnish. Then it needs to dry for something like 3 days before we can move furniture back on it. So I won't be *all* done until the middle of next week I guess.

Tess doesn't sleep well without me right now, so I really don't know if I'll be able to stay up late to work on stuff or not. I'm going to try. I really want to get this done this week. I *need* to get this done. Closing the playroom is a big deal. And I'm refinishing part of the floor, and it needs to be done in a certain time frame and have plenty of time to dry before we can move back in. I don't want this project to take over the whole of our summer break. So I am going to suck it up and get it done, and hopefully the kids will do the same.

In the meantime, here's a couple more videos to share. These are beach cuteness. We went to Destin for a week in May to visit my in-laws. Go look and smile!

Oh, and excuse the speedo on Jack. It's actually a swim diaper of Tess's. We had an issue with his bathing suit while we were gone, and so this was my solution. It's very European, yes? Ah well,,,he's only four.

Jack and Tess demolish sand castles

Tess doesn't eat seaweed after all.

Ok, off to work!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

I found my camera cable!!! Huzzah!

And now you will be subjected to a barrage of photographs. Don't worry, I'll do it a little at a time. Posting them all here makes it easier for me,,,I can order copies of all the pics on my blog very easily, one click!

But today,,,just a short film.

Jack plays Ode to Joy.
(click on the title to watch.

I told ya'll the boy was talented.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Teresa sent me this award, thank you Teresa for thinking of me...even though the last meme you sent me remains a half-done draft! It had the unfortunate coincidence of arriving just before my blog hiatus.

I'm supposed to....
1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award. 2) Share "ten honest things" about myself. 3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me. 4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

Ok, let's see, 10 scathingly honest things about me...good thing I'm sober.

1. I absolutely detest getting my hair cut. Hate it. I put it off forever until my ends are splitting and my hair is so long and unmanageable that it lives in a scrunchie on the back of my head every day. I hate being the focus of some random stranger's intense attention. Plus, the last few times I've gone, the stylist has been rather unfriendly and I have found myself cornered on all of those uncomfortable stranger questions like, "You have HOW many kids? You're done now, right?" and "You homeschool? I had a neighbor who homeschooled and her kids were oversheltered freaks."

2. I used to think all homeschoolers were oversheltered freaks. My mom homeschooled my brothers for a brief period of time...I had already left home...and I thought she was nuts. Ironic, yes?

3. And speaking of my hair, I'm going bald. I don't know why. Several years ago I noticed my hair was thinning badly. I went to the doctor and they did some blood work to test my hormone levels and thyroid and that sort of thing and said everything looked normal. I was working my way through nursing school at the time, single mom, I hoped it was just stress related. That, or the fact that I was living on caffeine, and 4 hours of sleep a night. But it never got any better. Too bad. I used to have great hair. And I'm not really going bald. It seems to have stabilized at just too thin.

4. I am a compulsive organizer. I am not a compulsive cleaner. As a result, the house may be a mess but our drawers and closets are perfectly ordered. Weird, huh?

5. I am almost completely illiterate in the arts and music. Thank you, Florida public schools. The last time I had any required art/music was in 6th grade. I remember drawing a shoe. It came out badly, so I decided I was lousy at art. I took lots of extra science and math through the rest of my school years because I was good at that. I did take choir in junior high for a couple of years, which mostly consisted of learning the lyrics to the songs in Footloose. I wasn't required to take any music or art appreciation until college, when I needed a one credit art appreciation class. It consisted mostly of watching films at 8:30 in the morning, and after that four hours of sleep, well...I dozed through it mostly. I never did take any music appreciation classes. Classical music, for me, has always meant breaking out the White Album or my Queen box set. So I find myself learning these things with my kids. Most homeschooling parents break out into a sweat at the thought of teaching Algebra or Chemistry...not me. It's music. But I am learning.

6. I love history. I didn't figure this out until I got to college. I never took much history in school either. I remember I got to skip 8th grade civics because our school had a rule that if you took a music class and a foreign language, you could skip civics. I'm not sure where the logic was there. So, hence my uncanny knowledge of the lyrics from Footloose. I do remember taking history classes in 9th and 10th grade, but they were intensely boring and very disjointed for me, partly because we moved around a lot but mostly because they were taught from textbooks...the worst possible way in the world to teach history. I took an honors US history course in college...small class, lots of writing and discussion involved, and I really, really enjoyed it. History is my favorite course to teach my kids, and one of the reasons we use Mother of Divine Grace is because I love the way it teaches history.

7. When I was a kid, I briefly wanted to be a jockey. I loved horses, and I took English riding lessons for a period of time. Unfortunately, I was taller than every jockey alive by the time I was 12.

8. I don't like to shop. I grocery shop every two weeks just so I can avoid going to the store as much as possible. Oh, there are stores I enjoy. I like the craft store, the hardware store, my favorite thrift store...and of course the book store. But I'm not a window shopper. I honestly can't remember the last time I went to a mall.

9. I am almost the mother of a teenager. Maria will be 13 in September. I went to wake her up this morning and found a woman in her bed. All of a sudden she's just looks so much older. I'm not sad about it, yet, but it's making me realize that I don't have a whole lot of time left with her at home. Ok, now I'm sad about it.

10. The other night I went to a homeschool group planning meeting. We were supposed to bring a snack to share, so I stopped on the way there and bought a bag of chips and a jar of queso. At the meeting, the hostess remarked how cool it was that no one had brought anything homemade, lol. Not too long ago, I would have cringed at the thought of showing up with such offerings. At the very least I would have made some homemade dip, even if it meant adding too much at the end of a very busy day, even if it meant that I would feel stressed and grouchy trying to find the time to make something, because I would have wanted to impress everyone there with my domestic genius. I love that I can bring jarred queso at this stage in my life. If I show up to a meeting with something homemade (and I still often do), it's because I *wanted* to make something and found the time to do so, not because my self-esteem was too wrapped up in a jar of queso. And I love that the other moms there felt the same way.

Ok, Let's see if I can come up seven people to nominate here...

1. Kori at Taught By a Toddler
2. Erin at Growing With My Girls
3. Erin at Light of My Life
4. Entropy, when VBS is done
5. Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos
6. Angela
7. Charlotte...are you out there? :)