Monday, November 21, 2011

Just read already!

This is going to sound like I'm bragging, but you will see in a minute that I am actually not really necessarily bragging. Maybe. Perhaps.

My son is an off-the-charts reader. I always knew he had an aptitude for it. Reading was always very easy for him to pick up. He never had any trouble with it and spelling also comes very naturally to him.

When he was tested for reading ability and comprehension at school, he scored the highest possible score. That didn't surprise me. Like I said he's always had a natural bent towards reading, grammar, etc.

Funny thing is, he doesn't like to read. Seriously.

We have always read books together. I read to him from the beginning, even when I was pregnant with him. I have tons of books that we have read over the years and favorites that we kept coming back to again and again. Goodnight Moon. Guess How Much I Love You. It's Not Easy Being a Bunny. Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Honey Bunny Funnybunny. Many of the Berenstain Bears books. Winnie the Pooh. Tons more, but you get the picture.

As he grew older, I continued to read books with him, but he also read alone. The Henry Huggins books by Beverly Clearly. The Boxcar Children. The Hardy Boys. Junie B. Jones out the wazoo. It was so much fun to introduce him to books I loved as a child such as the Fudge series by Judy Blume. The wonderful Ms. Blume actually just sent me a copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing autographed to me and my son after I wrote her an email telling her how much her books have meant to me over the years. I love her.

Anyway, we've read a lot. I always made him read A LOT. I chose his books to make sure he was getting some quality material, but I also let him choose things that were literature-lite, but enjoyable (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for instance.). His "school" books met certain standards, but for his pleasure reading nothing was off limits.

I thought I was doing everything right to turn him into a lifelong reader, but I have had my doubts.

It's always a chore to get him to read. He rarely just picks up a book without my suggesting he do so. Maybe that's a lot to expect from boys. I don't know. I just remember that I always had a book in my hand or on my bedside table. I was constantly reading and still am an avid reader. Of course, I grew up in a time when there was only one TV in the house and in the evenings it played my father's favorite shows exclusively.

I limit TV time. I limit video game time. I limit computer time. I sometimes make him read when he comes home from school, but, frankly, I don't enjoy doing it. I want reading to be something he wants to do. He knows how to read. That battle is over. He reads quite a bit during his school day, so it's not as if I think he's going to forget how. I just long for the times when some book calls to him and entices him to open its pages for long stretches of time.

Tonight something happened to give me hope. He has read the author Suzanne Collins before. She has this series about Gregor the Overlander that my son likes. She's also the author of the much talked about Hunger Games series. A movie based on the books is coming out in March. I've already told my son he will not see the movie until he reads the books. That's a tactic I successfully used with Harry Potter.

Last week I planned to buy The Hunger Games. Our only bookstore at the mall in Beckley closed, so I was going to order them from Amazon. My son had me check the library. I had checked it the week before and the books were out, but this time the books were available and we went to get them that same night. I have been reading The Hunger Games during the day and my son has been reading in the evening. I'm a little ahead of him in the book, so after he watched a show with his dad tonight he came upstairs and said he was going to read. YES!!!

There are 3 books in the series and I fully expect his enthusiasm for reading to wane a bit once he finishes them. I'll keep on the lookout, though, for the next great series of books for him to read. He has told me he enjoys reading series of books, so that is what I will try to find for him.

It's a worthy battle, I think. Seeing him with his nose in a book does my heart good. I don't think it's doing him any harm either.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Life changes

Circumstances have changed for us since the last time I posted on this blog two years ago. We moved back home to West Virginia, after 16 years of living in Georgia. You can read more about that on my WV Expat blog, if you want.

I've written so much about homeschooling on this blog. It has been a passion of mine for years. I'm a little lost this year, because my son decided to go back to public school. He decided to go back with our blessing, so it's not as if I wasn't on board. Still it has been a change. He is in 8th grade in our local middle school. So far, he really enjoys it. He likes changing classes, hanging out with kids, and the different types of classes he's taking. We moved in the middle of his 6th grade year, and 7th grade was not a lot of fun for him. We never did quite join in with other homeschoolers here in our new state. It seemed like it was so much easier for us to get involved in the homeschool community when we lived in Georgia. It's nice to see him enjoying school -- even if it's public school!

I've noticed quite a few differences with homeschooling in West Virginia. Georgia homeschooling laws were a bit easier. In Georgia, we had to do standardized testing or present a portfolio once every three years. In West Virginia, we have to do that every year. Georgia laws required us to submit an intent to homeschool form, and once a month send in attendance sheets that showed how many days of that month met the criteria for a "school day". We have to file an intent to homeschool form in West Virginia, too, but we also have to outline our plan of study for the year. I did a plan of study for my son's 7th grade year, but changed some curriculum choices after I had already sent the plan in. That made me nervous, wondering if someone was going to check up on me. They didn't, but could have, I suppose.

Something else I've noticed is the different attitudes towards homeschoolers here in WV. Georgia homeschooling was a bit more readily accepted, maybe that was because so many other people homeschooled their children. I know there are homeschoolers in West Virginia, but they are not as vocal. It feels like more of a hidden society. Maybe it's just the area I am living in, but it's disappointing that people don't feel free to discuss it.

I don't think homeschoolers in West Virginia are respected as people who want something different for their children. Comments I have heard about homeschooling include homeschooling just being an easy way out for parents who don't want to deal with the school system or the structure of the system. Anyone who has every homeschooled (and homeschooled successfully) can tell you we have to deal with the school system in a much more intrusive way. And structure? Yeah, there are unschoolers, but even they have a type of structure to their study. I was never an unschooler. I really was more of a "school at home" type, with my child's needs placed in the forefront. We used structured curriculum, but we could do it our own way and focus on my son's interests when it suited us.

We had always kept an open mind about our son returning to public school. From conversations we had over the years, I figured it was something he would end up doing one day. Returning to public school in Georgia was going to be easy from what I was told by county officials. They told me that I would just have to let them know what grade my son was in and they would place him in that grade for a trial period and see if any adjustments needed to be made. I didn't know anything about how the return to public school in West Virginia would go. The unknown made my spring and summer of this year a little stressful.

In April of this year, I called the middle school and asked to speak to the counselor. I told her my son was going to be in 8th grade the following school year and that he wanted to return to public school. She had us come by for a tour of the school. The school is 13 years old, but really I thought it was much newer. She talked about the classes, the schedule, and mentioned that we would have to have a meeting with the principal before we could register our son. We were told to contact them in early August.

That was a long few months, but finally August came. I called the counselor on a Thursday, we set up the meeting for the following Monday, and I asked her what information I needed to bring. She told me to bring whatever portfolios I had of his work. Most homeschoolers will understand that those words sent me into a panic. I have never used a portfolio for my son. He has always done the standardized testing option. I explained that to her and she told me to just bring what I had.

Bring what I had? I have been homeschooling for 5 years! I have boxes and boxes of work that my son has done. I thanked her and hung up the phone, but inside I was screaming. Finally I got my head together a bit and decided to just fill a manila folder for each year I taught him at home with samples of his work in every subject. I knew they would want to see that he could write legibly. I knew they would want to see he could construct a sentence, a paragraph, a paper, etc. I knew they would want to see proof that the child could do some math. Keeping those ideas in mind, I set to work. I, of course, chose the best selections, but also put in some things with red checks on them to show them that I did grade his work. I put together some grades for him that I had kept from grades 5, 6, and 7. I also got all of his standardized test scores in order.

It took me a couple of days, but I got it all together and that Monday we had the meeting. Our meeting included the counselor, the principal, and the athletic director, because my son wanted to play football. We walked into the office, with my husband carrying this big box and I was nervous. High pitched, fast talking nervous. They were very nice.

My husband started pulling everything out of the box and the first thing the principal said was. "This is very organized." I thought that was odd, but was encouraged by it. We sat there while they looked over things and I talked about the work he had done. They saw his test scores and the principal said she thought he would be okay to go in 8th grade. I can't describe the relief I felt. It was my son's work that I was showing, but I felt like I had passed a test. I had, in a way, I guess. We talked about the types of classes he would be taking and they let me choose some of the electives for him. It was such a positive feeling. I was happy with the whole experience.

The principal said I had done a good job (my inner school girl was so thrilled to hear that!) and then she said that most homeschooled students who return to their school are put back a grade. I am so glad I didn't know that before I went into that meeting! She mentioned that parents come in with a couple of pieces of paper and everything is disorganized and they have no way of knowing what type of work they have done at home.

We left the meeting and I was so happy that I had put real effort into getting ready for the meeting. I was happy also that I'd had the foresight years ago to keep on top of my son's school work, keeping up with his papers and all the testing and state requirements. In five years of homeschooling in 2 different states, I have never had any school official ask me to produce any type of paperwork, so I figure it would be easy to fly under the radar and not follow the requirements. That would be to our children's detriment, however. Most homeschoolers I know would never put their homeschooling in jeopardy like that.

I left the meeting feeling good, but I asked my mom (who has worked in the public school system in WV for 30 years) if it was true that most homeschooled students get put back a year when returning to public school. She confirmed that it was. From what the principal said, I assume it's just because the parents weren't able to prove that work was done at home. Maybe that is why people have such a bad opinion about homeschooling here. Doesn't look good for us homeschoolers --- or former homeschoolers.

So, yes. I am a former homeschooler. My son is enjoying public school. He made "A" honor roll his first 6 weeks. He likes all of his teachers and he's making new friends. The details of his education are out of my hands, but I am still here for him when he needs me. I still make him read and do homework! He's happy with it and I'm happy that he is happy. It is his school experience, after all. I've already had mine.

There are issues with public school that do not thrill me, but I think he is in a good school. I'll keep on top of his schooling, just as I did when he was home. I hope he continues to like it.

What he definitely doesn't like are the early mornings. His first class is at 7:22 a.m. YAWN! He is anxiously awaiting his first snow day. And so am I!

He has already told me how he wants to spend it --- playing board games. That's something we did quite a bit during our homeschool days. I'm happy to know he misses it as much as I do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I tried a new recipe!

When it comes to sweets, my husband prefers cake over just about anything. He likes cookies too, but something about a homemade cake makes him very happy.

I've started following this blog that gives tons of fantastic recipes. Last night while dinner (BBQ chicken and baked potatoes) was in the oven, I decided to throw a cake together.

I had printed out the recipe for Maple Fudge Sour Cream Cake a couple of weeks back. The only thing in the recipe that I don't always have in the house is sour cream. I had bought it during the last store trip, though, because I knew I wanted to make the cake at some point.

I love recipes that call for items that normal people who love to cook or bake would already have in their kitchen. That's one of the reasons I love this website so much. There are plenty of recipes I've found that I plan to try out in the next few months.

It took just a few minutes to put the cake together. The recipe states it should be baked in a 9x9 in. pan, but all I had was an 8x8 in. pan and it worked out just fine. The icing gave me a bit of trouble. I had to add a little bit more milk after the butter, milk, and brown sugar was boiled together and had cooled down. Adding that milk right after I put in the icing sugar made the icing just the right consistency, though.

This cake has a great taste. My husband liked that the cake part wasn't incredibly sweet. That's how he prefers his cake. The icing was sweet and had a great flavor. I liked that it made a small cake. Sometimes when I bake a cake in my regular cake pan (9x12) it's too much cake for our small family. This cake was perfect after our dinner with a cold glass of milk.

Check out the website for some great recipes. Those Mennonite girls can cook!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I'm borrowing --- okay, stealing! --- Amy's idea for a post. She wrote about what she's looking forward to this month.

September marks the beginning of my favorite time of year. Fall is my favorite season and there is lots to look forward to!

Here's what I'm looking forward to this September:

1. Gary's day off on Monday (Labor Day).

2. Gary's birthday on the 17th.

3. Our wedding anniversary on the the 25th ( 17 years and still in love :))

4. Trips to the lake during the week when everyone else is at school/work! Evan and I get our lake back to ourselves!

5. A new baseball season. First game a week from today. Love to watch Evan play baseball.

6. Settling in to our school routine, so everything becomes a little less harried.

7. Hoping for a short getaway to Blue Ridge, GA with hubby and son --- even if it's just for a day!

I know most people prefer spring, but I think this time of year is so renewing! It's the beginning of great things to come!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Memories and connections

While I was in West Virginia visiting my family, my dad had me go through books that belonged to my Aunt Fran. She was quite a reader and left hundreds of books behind when she died. She had probably given away even more, supplying friends at work and probably some family members with reading material for countless years.

It was the same when I was growing up. I don't know how it started, but she must have noticed I liked to read. From then on, whenever I was at her house, she would give me dozens of books. Often she would just let me go through them and take what I liked.

It's funny how I had forgotten some of that.

Fran and I hadn't been close for a long time. It makes me sad to admit it. Gary and I moved to Georgia in 1993. I wasn't always around for family get togethers. She was a busy career woman. I was busy being a wife and working and then being a mom. We lost touch.

I heard about her life the same way she heard about mine --- through other family members. My grandma would tell me about her. My parents would let me know what was going on with her. Once in a while she'd answer the phone when I was calling my grandma. We'd catch up for a few minutes. A couple of times I sent her an email. That was really the extent of our adult relationship.

The distance --- both physical and emotional --- over the years made it easy for me to forget how very much alike we were. I usually heard from someone in my family when I went back home that I was "just like Fran." It bugged me. Fran was tough, sarcastic, sometimes hard to get along with. I wanted to be the saintly sort of wife and mother that everyone speaks about in angelic tones.

But Fran had a more complex personality than I gave her credit for. She wasn't just tough. She was also very kind. She wasn't just sarcastic. She was incredibly funny. She wasn't always hard to get along with. In fact, many, many people at her funeral talked about what a great friend she was. Loyal. Trustworthy. Giving.

Just a couple of weeks before she died, I was in her room. She was in a lot of pain, so I would try to distract her by talking. Sometimes I would just sit in the room with her. I said something to her about myself, something I never really talked about with other people and she said she was exactly the same way.

She died on January 3rd of this year and I have thought about that moment for months. It was a quick moment of connection, but it left me with a strong sense of family with regards to my aunt. I recognized something in her that was also a part of me and it made me know that we were, in many ways, cut from the same cloth.

In the past six months, I've often wished I could have known her more. I've wished I could go back in time and fight harder to have a friendship with her. I've wished I would have made more of an effort and I've wished she would have too.

I lost my grandma just a few weeks after my aunt died and I knew losing my grandma would be hard. Walking into my grandmother's house (where Fran also lived and where we went to go through Fran's books) and my grandma not being there just felt completely wrong. Looking at my grandma's things made me sad. I miss my grandma. I miss that relationship that I know will never be replaced or recovered.

Mourning Fran has been a different experience. I have so much regret associated with her passing. It feels like part of me that should have grown didn't grow. I feel like I missed out on knowing someone. Even though she had always been part of my life, I feel like I missed out on getting to truly know her. And I missed out on getting to know someone with whom I had so much in common.

Going through Fran's books was harder than I thought it would be. I kept many more than I intended to. Some, like her recipe books, I just had to take. I may never open them again, but I couldn't leave them behind. She had such a love and passion for cooking. I knew she held them in high regard.

One book I didn't hesitate to take was a copy of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I have always loved the movie, even years before I moved to Georgia. In fact, I wrote a paper in college about Scarlett O'Hara! As soon as I saw the hardbound copy of the book tucked away in some of my aunt's things, I knew I was going to take it home.

I got it out tonight. It is the first time I've opened the huge tote of books in the 2 weeks I've been home from my trip to West Virginia. I turned to the first page and started reading.

I was surprised by the memory that came to me. This book used to be in my aunt's living room when she lived at Maxwell Hill, years before she moved in with my grandma. I had completely forgotten that. I remembered being at her house, sitting in her living room that she had decorated so nicely. She had worked hard for that home of her own and she was so very proud of it.

The book was on the coffee table. I had walked into the living room during a family get together at my aunt's. I was the only person in there. Everyone else was scattered throughout the house --- some in the dining room, some in the kitchen, others in the TV room. I clearly remember picking up the book, opening to the first chapter and starting to read it. I sat there for quite some time before one of my younger cousins distracted me. I remember putting the book down where my aunt kept it and going off to play.

I don't know why I had forgotten that, but it feels so great to remember it! Maybe the reason I love the movie is because of that early experience reading the book. Maybe my aunt loved the movie too. Maybe that's just another way that we are so alike.

It's true that I'll never get to know her the way I should have when she was living, but I'm so thankful for the moments of connection I can still have that make me realize we were family and much more similar than I could have imagined!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to normal

We're done with vacations, back to baseball, and have started school.

Summer may still be around on the calendar, but the summer attitude has left the building.

And that's kind of okay with me.

My sister blessed me with lots of homeschool materials from BJU and so far it's been going pretty well. I miss Abeka, just because I was so used to it, but my son wants to segue into the online classes at BJU in the next year or so. We need to get used to how they do things.

Things on my plate right now:

1) Getting back on my diet/exercise plan, which I have blown off for the past month. I had 3 visits to King Tut's Drive In during my 2 weeks in WV. A personal best (or worst!). And that wasn't the only bad food I ate! And, even though we were busy the whole time I was there, I didn't exercise as much as I had planned to.

2) Making sure we stay on track with school. We are most successful with homeschooling when we have structure and order. I crave chaos, ergo complications arise. I am determined to stay on top of it this year.

3) Husband is head coaching Evan's baseball team. I am the Team Mom. Lots of extras to do that I have never been responsible for before. It's fun. I've always liked being involved with baseball, but it's just a different avenue. I'm liking it so far.

4) Fighting with our water heater. Such is life. We always have some little aggravation to contend with. Dealing with a leak in the water heater right now. Hoping to get it replaced in the next 2 weeks.

5) I'm playing with the idea of going back to school to get my Masters of Arts in Teaching. I am both excited and terrified of the idea. Found a school nearby that offers it. It's 2 evenings a week. It's something I'm thinking about for next fall. There are tons of opportunities to teach in homeschool-y ways around here. Groups (not co-ops) that offer actual credit for homeschoolers in certain subjects. Plus I am surrounded by private Christian schools that need teachers. I love the idea for the future, so am considering it. It would take me 2 years to get the degree. Again, excited and terrified, so I'm not sure where I'll go with this.

That's it for the time being. I hope to be more prolific with this blog this fall!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The best laid plans . . .

Last Friday I had planned to take on the task of organizing our upcoming school year, but that didn't happen.

Instead I ended up going to the World Series in Jefferson, GA with my son and husband. They left Thursday morning, but I went Saturday afternoon. I'm so glad I did!

We all had a great time. The kids played hard. They didn't win, but they won some games and had fun. My son met kids from Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other parts of Georgia who all love playing baseball too. They traded pins, they participated in Opening Day ceremonies, they ate bad-for-you concession stand food, they swam in the hotel pool, and ran around the halls in the hotel more than they should have been allowed to. They asked the lady at the hotel desk to make chocolate chip cookies for them and she obliged every single night!

It must have been as close to paradise as you can get for an 11 year old boy!

It was kind of great for my husband and me too to see our son so happy and having so much fun. I'm glad I got the opportunity to go.

We got home Monday evening and the race is on to get everything in order to be ready for our trip to WV next Thursday.

But first --- I'm going to work on those school plans TODAY!

At least that's the plan for now. . .