Conversational Circle of Death

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While riding in my parents' minivan, King and Curtis were having an all too familiar circular conversation.

Pointing at the video screen on the ceiling, King said, "I could play Xbox on that."

Curtis responded, "No, you couldn't."

"Yes. I could."

"No. You couldn't."

King finally realized that he was caught in his dad's conversational circle of death.

He tried to break free, "If I was the only one in the minivan, I could. I mean it would be possible."

But Curtis delivered what would normally be the conversation-killing death-blow, "And if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle."

Then Michael jumped in and turned the conversation on its head, "Well… not necessarily."

The Namer

 
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Michael and his dad were sitting on the bed, taking turns playing the drum machine when I walked into the room.

"Mom, do you want to hear my drum session? It's called Dark and Light.

Curtis said, "He is..."

Before Curtis could finish his sentence Michael interrupted. He was confident he knew what his dad was going to say: he was going to tell me about his son's greatness.

"I'm a namer. I'm good at naming things."

Obviously, this was not what Curtis was going to say. "What? You're good at naming things? Everyone can name things."

"Yeah, but I can name things more well."

What would you save?

A few weeks ago we had some major storms roll through our area. When a tornado touched down and tore through a town about thirty miles away, it was time to think about taking shelter. Unfortunately, we don't have a basement, or an interior bathroom, so the best we could come up with was to haul one of the boys' mattresses into our central hallway to provide us with some protection. Thankfully, our hallway is very wide and we were able to prop the full-size mattress up on some chairs to give us a little more hunkering room.

As you can probably guess, we were not hit by any tornadoes. The worst of the weather for us was an enormous amount of rainfall, which created rushing rivers all over our property and left behind many gullies as proof.

  Rivers Run Through It

Rivers Run Through It

What was really interesting about the experience was how each of the boys reacted to the possibility of a tornado hitting our house. There never was a point at which I felt doom was impending. I brought the mattress out purely as a precaution and because it seemed better to have it already in place than to try to wrestle it into position at the last minute. I never even told the boys to get under the mattress, however its presence in the hallway was enough to put the boys into survival mode. They each gathered what was important to them and headed for cover.

Michael's reaction was by far the most immediate and visceral. He quickly grabbed his most precious possessions: his stuffed elephant named, "elephant"; Curtis' Tim Raines signed baseball ("Dad would want me to save this"); our dog, Jethro, and my in-laws dog, Shelby, who we were dog-sitting; and his iPod. He also had his headlamp and his book, but that was purely to pass the time. He took all his treasures under the mattress with him as soon as it was put in place and refused to come out until the "all clear" was sounded.

  WTSHTF Michael is seriously ready.

WTSHTF Michael is seriously ready.

King, on the other hand. methodically gathered his things and put them in a backpack. He was so calm and quiet about it that I didn't even realize what he was doing until he pushed his bulky load into the center of our mattress fort. I was not yet under the mattress, as there was no immediate danger, but I could see that with the two boys, the two dogs, and one huge backback there was no room left for me. From the size of King's pack, I assumed that he anticipated being under the mattress for a significant period of time and had packed a sufficient amount of supplies with which to occupy himself. I got a clue as to my error by the look on his face when I asked him to move his backpack out from under the mattress, but still within his reach, so that more living things could fit, if needed. It turned out that his backpack had his one precious item in it: his laptop computer. The bulk came from the fact that he had encased his computer in a backpack within a backpack. Additionally, like Mike, King had thought of what others might want to be saved and he had put my laptop under the cushion of the recliner in the family room. He also had his ipod in his pocket.

  Precious .

Precious.

I thank the Lord for keeping us safe on that day and that none of us nor our possessions were ever in danger. I am also thankful for having the opportunity to notice and appreciate the things that make my boys the unique individuals that they are.


What would your children bring with them "under the mattress"? How do they react during crises situations like this? What would you save?

Carolina Chickadee Sketches

We've been watching our bird feeder. Our AV Club president and resident tech-expert, King, even set up a video camera to record who comes to feed. I hope to eventually graduate to real, live bird watching and observing, but we are starting with the videotaping method.

 Rainy day bird videotaping set-up by King.

Rainy day bird videotaping set-up by King.

The boys will then choose a bird, identify it, research it and present their findings in our nature study class.

King was first up and chose the Carolina chickadee.

We made sketches from photos found on the internet.

 King's sketch of the Carolina chickadee.

King's sketch of the Carolina chickadee.

 Mike's sketch of the Carolina chickadee.

Mike's sketch of the Carolina chickadee.

To prevent this exercise from being too sweet and perfect, the boys each defaced their original chickadee photograph.
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Book Lover Baby Steps

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I wish my boys were avid readers. I make sure they always have a variety of quality books from which to choose. Since we started homeschooling using the Ambleside Charlotte Mason method, they are exposed to many classic living books in all their classes. They particularly love our read aloud selections (where I read and they listen), but when it comes to reading on their own, in their own free time, there are a million other things they would rather be doing than reading. [Sigh]

The only time they do read on their own is when we let them stay up a half an hour past bedtime to read. To them reading is at least better than going to sleep at bedtime, but that is not saying much. Despite all the excellent literature I have available to them, the only books I've ever seen them get really excited about are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney (Is it a coincidence that my children's favorite author is also a video game designer?), The Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Recently, however, there have been signs of hope:

King started reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a true classic! (Shout outs go to King's grandparents, Joan-Joan and Bob-Bob, for giving him a boxed set of Tolkien books; and to New Line Cinema for making the books into movies.)

After a long whiny debate with Mike over whether we had any good books to read, he reluctantly agreed to give the book Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata a try. (Shout outs go to Mike's grandma, Mimi, for giving us this book; to Grandpa Mike for bravely serving in the Vietnam War; and to Mike himself for being an animal lover.)

They are still only reading these books at (instead of) bedtime, but I am encouraged that they are truly enjoying books that don't have pictures! King says he intends to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy next. Michael was so excited about his book that one morning he was eager to share a passage that he had read the night before. My heart swelled.

He opened his book and read a few choice lines from a scene where Cracker is being bribed with hotdogs:

He reached into his pocket and took out his secret weapon: a wiener.
"Wiener?" he said in a low voice.
"Wiener for Cracker?"
Everybody in the world seemed to know her name, even this man with a wiener.

My heart shrank a bit. Mike thought it was hilarious. At least he was excited about reading, right? Baby steps.


What books did you love as a child? What books do your children love? Please share!


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The Winter of Poison Ivy

 
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King has a poison ivy rash (again) ... on his face (again).

This is the third or fourth rash he's had since we moved to the farm and the second he's gotten this winter. I thought we were supposed to get a break from this stuff in the winter. Believe it or not, we think he might have been exposed at his dad's house in the city this time. I guess there is no safe place, or season, for the highly reactive.

So far, he's only got four small patches of it: one on his face; one on each side of one arm; and one in the elbow pit of the other arm. Because of our last bout with the rash, I come to this battle fully armed with an arsenal of washes, soaps, creams, ointments, sprays and herbs. Hopefully, we can keep this case contained and short-lived, so that we won't have to resort to using the Prednisone again.

Stay tuned for updates on King's latest dermatological drama. Ugh.

Dinosaur Presentations: A Self-Education

We are studying Dinosaurs in homeschool this year. I told the boys I wanted each of them to choose a dinosaur, research it and give a presentation telling what they learned. I gave them very little direction, other than they must include a drawing of their dinosaur which they created themselves.

I was not concerned so much with the presentation itself. What I wanted was to give them an opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. I wanted them to be motivated by their own natural curiousity in choosing for themselves which dinosaur they wanted to know more about. I wanted them to experience what it felt like to be excited about learning, to have a desire to know and have an enthusiasm to share that knowledge with others.

They both dove into their projects with an enthusiasm that was inspiring! They were begging me for time to work on them! They even worked on them "outside" of school, during their own personal free-time. And when they were finished with their projects, they couldn't wait to show us what they had accomplished. I have never before seen such excitement in them having anything to do with "school".

They both decided to make powerpoint slideshows to go along with their presentations.  They did all their own research and prepared their presentations with no help or input from me, although King did help Mike put together his Powerpoint presentation.

King's presentation on the carnotaurus.  [click picture to play]

Mike's presentation on the eoraptor.

These may not have been the greatest presentations ever given, but I know that each of the boys has a relationship with "their" dinosaur that didn't exist before and that they will remember more about it than if I had just told them about it in class.

What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

School Education by Charlotte Mason