schooling


Whew. Okay, no extended apologies for the 2 1/2 month break. Let me tell you what I have been doing…

Just before Hallowe’en, Pip and Squeak (not Bubble and Squeak – I think that is a British term for sausage?!) came into our home and, basically, turned all of our lives inside out.

One-year-old Pip and his three-year-old brother Squeak are two little foster boys that we have been caring for. They are, to put it mildly, very busy children. They come from a home where alcohol abuse and domestic violence have been huge problems and it shows in the behaviours of these two munchkins. So, things have been a little crazy around here. We are in the process of “working the children home” – social worker speak for the transition between my home and their mom’s home – and so I am toddler-free for the next few days. It looks like Mom is doing very well, and the children will likely go home for good soon.

As a result of this fostering experience, my family has made a request. “No more babies, please!” Don’t get me wrong. We have grown to love these little guys but it truly has been hard on our family in terms, mainly, of the amount of my time and attention they have required. It has made home schooling a challenge. Frankly, it has made having a shower or getting the dishes done a challenge!

In other news, we have experienced Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s since I last wrote. Four major holidays that you missed hearing about! I won’t bore you with the details of our turkey dinners. Rest assured, the holidays were all great and we all ate too much.

So, onward and upward. We are now at year 2010. I haven’t decided whether to say twenty-ten or two thousand and ten, but I’m leaning toward twenty-ten. I think. We’ll see.

Lyndon and I non-celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary on January 2nd. A word of advice to anyone thinking of getting married around the holidays. Be prepared to never celebrate your anniversary. There is just way too much going on. Plus, you are broke and sick of eating.

Now, we are struggling to try to get back into our routines. Thumbelina, of course, is back at school. The boys and I are kinda back at “school”. We’re getting there. I am looking forward to the upcoming Saskatchewan Homeschool Convention which is being held this year in Regina at the University. Sadly, I will not be able to attend the Sister Triangle Ladies Retreat, which is being held that same weekend.

There you go. A taste of what has been going on in the Ross home. And hey, thanks for not giving up on me. Happy New Year, everyone!

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We are having a fabulous time. We left home a week ago, and began this Ross Adventure by attending the Walking with Dinosaurs show in Regina. If you remember, we had won tickets to this event back in December. Many thanks to Colton’s giant brain for knowing the answer to the radio contest question which resulted in this opportunity. It really was a lot of fun. The boys loved it. Carter was a little nervous about it all, and it was pretty loud, but it was well done. My favourite dino was, of course, the T Rex, who made her appearance at the very end of the show. We spent that night in a hotel in Moose Jaw, and headed west the next morning.

We have learned over the years of travelling with our family that the trip goes more smoothly if we take the time to stop now and then. So, we stopped in Medicine Hat at the mall for some lunch and a stroll. The kids had been bickering in the truck and the break was welcomed by everyone. The boys bought a couple of books at Coles, and I found a Vinyl Cafe on cd that we had not heard before. I also picked up The Five People You Meet in Heaven on cd. We shared a candy apple, threw some pennies in the fountain, and then we were good to go.

The rest of the trip was much more enjoyable. The boys browsed through their new books, we listened to and laughed with Stuart McLean, we got as far as the meeting with the Blue Man on the Heaven cd, and were at Mom and Dad’s before we knew it. Just in time for supper. A little laundry, a little visiting, a fairly early night, and then up early the next morning to drive to Red Deer for the Homeschool Conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed Friday and Saturday in Red Deer. The conference was bigger than our Saskatchewan conference. I’m not sure how I would compare the two. The venues are very different. Saskatchewan’s conference is always held in a hotel. Cushy chairs, nice atmosphere, catered lunch. The Red Deer conference is held in an arena complex, so I didn’t feel quite as pampered. And you had to buy food from the arena concession. The content, however, is the main thing and I would say that in that respect the conferences are very comparable. The keynote speaker in Red Deer this year was Kevin Swan. He presented, I think, a total of seven times. I sat in on three of his sessions. Very energetic, dramatic, enthusiastic speaker. The main thrust of his lessons was that, basically, character is key. The main reason for homeschooling (according to Swan) is to teach kids character. I didn’t hear anything that was really new, but it was an encouragement to be reminded of some of those foundational ideas. It’s easy to get caught up in curriculum and to forget (or maybe misplace) the basic philosophical reasons why we decided to do this in the first place. Anyway, Kevin Swan has a website where he offers lots of things, including a daily online audio message, if anyone is interested in checking him out.

I did spend a lot of time at the curriculum fair. I was happy to see a Teaching Textbooks booth, as that is the math program I am considering going with for the older boys next year. I didn’t purchase it as there was no financial benefit offered to buy at the conference, and I know they ship for free if you order online. It was good to see it and try it out a bit, though. I did buy The Mystery of History, as well as several literature books, including some G.A. Henty, which we have not read before. I looked at Runkle Geography for a long time, but ended up not getting it. It is so expensive. I need to think about that one a bit, and decide if it is really something we would use. I also found a Larry Burkett Money Matters for Teens Workbook for Tyson. I told him that once he had finished it and we felt confident that he understood some basic money management, we would talk about some Work for Pay projects. And, I bought a “mom” book. I always buy something that is an encouragement for me when I am at a conference.

The best thing about the conference, though, was reconnecting with a friend of mine. Margaret and I lived together years ago in Edmonton when we were both in college. I have seen her the odd time over the years, but have never really visited with her much since our Edmonton days. She is a homeschooling mom of six children. Lyndon and I went to Margaret’s home for supper Friday night and had a wonderful visit with her family, as well as some other old friends that they invited over. So, so, so fun.

Okay, long enough post for now. More adventures to come…

Yeah! The snow is melting. Gophers and robins are making appearances, as are the snowy owls. Joy! Joy! Joy! I hope Spring is here to stay.

Okay. Just to get this out of the way. I haven’t been blogging much lately. March, as I have written about in the past, is a horrible, evil month that, among other things, saps all of my creative energy. So instead of writing I find myself engaged in such worthwhile pursuits as, say, googling child celebrities from the seventies to see what they are up to these days. But, with the flip of the calendar page, all such dilly-dallying is behind me. Productivity, here I come!

Seriously, though. There is something revitalizing about Spring.

I have a lot of things, or thoughts, or whatever, swimming around in my head these days. Where to start? Perhaps with the past weekend. Much too much for one post, though. The keynote speaker at the SERVE 2009 conference at Briercrest College and Seminary was Scot McKnight. Never heard of him before, I’m sorry to say. He has written tons of books, however, including Jesus Creed and Blue Parakeet. This is who he is, straight from the brochure:

Scot McKnight is a widely-recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. He is the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University (Chicago, Illinois). A popular and witty speaker, Dr. McKnight has given radio and television interviews across the nation, and he is regularly asked to speak at local churches and educational events. Dr. McKnight obtained his doctorate at the University of Nottingham (1986).

Some observations. Of mine. He spells his name with only one t. Scot, instead of Scott. It looks a little unfinished, don’t you think? I wonder if the word snot was ever part of a childhood insult? When I see the word Scott (with two t’s) I don’t think anything, but when I see it spelled Scot (with one t) I immediately think Snot. Weird.  But he has a very cool last name. McKnight. It makes me think of a medieval warrior, cross emblazoned on his shield, preparing for battle, … but stopping first at the local tavern for a quick two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun. And an ale. Super-sized. To go.

Anyway. He was an interesting guy. He talked, mainly, about a couple of things. First, he presented an argument about why 20 and 30 somethings are the way the are. Namely, that they don’t go to church as much as this age group did in the past, they are less interested in religion than they are interested in things like Social Justice, and they struggle with the concept of absolute right and wrong for all people. He attributes this, in large part,  to the “self-esteem doctrine” that they have had preached to them their entire lives. Think about it. Big Bird has been telling these kids for years that they are okay, awesome in fact, and that they can do anything they want to do. So, of course, they believe it. And why would someone who is awesome just the way he is need a Saviour, or be interested in a message that tells him he is a sinner.

Interesting. More on this next time.

In other news, we are getting ready for a little family holiday. We have tickets to attend the Walking with Dinosaurs show in Regina on April 15. Following that, we will head for Calgary where we will leave the kids with my parents for the weekend while Lyndon and I attend the Homeschool Conference in Red Deer. I am REALLY looking forward to it. Looks like lots of interesting speakers. I’ve been researching curriculum to see what I will need to purchase for next year. The level of pleasure that I get from this kind of research is, I think, an indication of my intrinsic nerdiness. Yes, I am getting excited about the possibility of teaching my kids Plutarch next year.

Okay. This is why March is my least favourite month of the year. March is a tease. You think Spring is here and then, WHAM! March yanks the rug out from under your feet and you are back to winter again.

We have had a doozy of a week. Started on the weekend. Sunday it started to rain. It, in fact, poured. And then it snowed. Needless to say, the morning brought some interesting challenges for Lyndon. Usually he leaves around 4:30 in order to get to work in Regina by 7:00. Yep, that’s A.M. Last Monday, however, he took one look out the window and came back to bed. He did try to leave around 6:00, but he got to town, which is about 3K, and turned around and came back home. And came back to bed. He did leave later in the day, but he had to take the Dodge. So, the boys and I have been stranded all week. There is no way the Chev will be going anywhere until the weather clears up a little.

Our housebound week has been nice in some ways. The boys have had to miss karate, and I missed Spanish and my Bible study. But it has been nice to hang out at home with no rushing to be anywhere.

I have spent a little time this week looking at online schooling programs. I actually signed Carter up for a 100 lesson reading program. I think the fun and interactive format will be helpful for him. And I am considering an online math program for Colton. He is struggling some with the program we are currently using. We’ll see.

I am also trying out a kid-safe internet site called Kidzui. I would like the kids to be able to spend time on the computer doing research or whatever, but I have not allowed them to do that independently because, well, it’s the INTERNET. So far I have been pleased. It is a free service, although you can pay for additional features. The kids are loving being able to look up gorillas, or guitars, or whatever. And I have peace of mind.

Lest you think we have been spending all our time on the computer, here are some of the other things we have been up to lately. (It’s been awhile, I know, since I posted. I blame that on March, too.)

1. We are reading another “swamp” book. This is the fourth book (I think) that we have read lately that is set in the Okefenoke or the Everglades. This has not been intentional, but rather…serendipitous. I told Lyndon that I think we are being prepared for a trip down there!

2. We are also reading about Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympic runner from the 1920’s who wouldn’t race on Sunday. It has been interesting.

3. We have hit WW11 in our history studies. The boys are so interested in it all, as am I. Pearl Harbour was attacked yesterday.

4. The boys are into movie-making. Tyson has a movie feature on his digital camera and the boys have made dozens of movies. Everything from stop-action animated dinosaur flicks to ninja battles. Yesterday, they got out the face crayons and turned themselves into…something?! And then filmed themselves doing…something?! Carter still has remnants of this artistic adventure on his face. That stuff is not easy to get off.

5. Guitar is BIG around here these days. Lyndon found a used guitar which he brought home on the weekend. He actually bought it from a lady in the parking lot of a music store in Regina. She was about to trade it in on a different guitar. Anyway, both Tyson and Lyndon spent hours on it (the guitar) last weekend. Apparently, it is much easier to play than the cheap guitar we had originally bought. Tyson has been working on a few little ditties to play for his dad when Lyndon gets home this weekend.

6. I am going to a conference at Briercrest (a Bible college near Moose Jaw) this weekend. Really looking forward to it.

So, that is what the Rosses have been up to lately.

I was supposed to be heading to Saskatoon today for the annual Saskatchewan Home Based Educators conference. But, the arrangements I had for childcare and for Tyson’s karate tournament have fallen through. So, unfortunately, I am going to have to miss the conference. As a result, I am expecting some wonderful blessings from this weekend that I would have missed had I been away! Bring it on, God!

Here’s the plan. Today, the boys and I are going to load up and head to Regina. I have booked us into the Days Inn for tonight. Tomorrow, we’ll all go to Balgonie for Tyson’s karate tournament. (He is so pumped about it. It is his first tournament since he started back into karate.) Hopefully, the tournament will not last too late and we’ll be able to get home before dark. I’m hoping to get away by noon today so that we can do a little shopping and enjoy the waterslide at the hotel. Take full advantage, you know. Should be great fun.

The Days Inn is my new favourite place to stay. The rooms are comfortable, there is is a waterslide (at least at the three Inns that I have stayed at), and there is a complimentary breakfast. The free breakfast is a huge savings for us. The last time our family had breakfast at Smitty’s, it cost us fifty dollars.

Funny hotel story. The last time we stayed in a hotel, the admitting clerk mistakenly gave us a key card for an occupied room. We schlepped our luggage up the elevator and down the hall and entered the room to find it in quite a state of disarray. At first I thought housekeeping had just not cleaned the room yet, but we quickly realized that the room belonged to someone else. Luckily, the room occupants were not, ahem, busy when we barged in. So we quickly backed out of the room, dragged everything back down to the lobby, and got a different, empty, room.

Anyway, back to the weekend. I am almost out of water so I really should haul some before we leave. It is freezing outside, though, so that is not an easy or appealing proposition. I think I’ll get everything else ready and then decide. I do want to take the water tank out of the back of the truck before we leave. I feel like enough of a hick when I go to the city without driving around with a big water tank. Plus, it’s hard to park the big Dodge in the city at the best of times, so… the water tank has got to go. But we probably won’t get back till Saturday evening, and we would like to take showers before church on Sunday, so… maybe I should haul water this morning before we leave. (I’m thinking out loud. I think this is called “stream of consciousness” writing. Pretty boring, isn’t it!)

There is one other thing that needs to happen this weekend. Carter has asked for an adventure. In fact, he has not only asked for an adventure, he has prayed for an adventure. So… unexpected blessings for me and an adventure for Carter. That’s what we are after this weekend. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Is there a sociological or psychological reason for this, I wonder? Why are all the conferences scheduled for these first few months of the year? All of Canada is not rural, so the reason can’t be that everyone is trying to fit in their conference before calving and seeding start. Hmmm.

I have spent considerable time these last few days trying to make my conference arrangements. In order of appearance, I’m hoping to attend: the Sister Triangle Ladies Retreat at Kenosee Lake, the Saskatchewan Home Based Educators Conference in Saskatoon, the Serve Conference in Caronport, and the Christian Women’s Trail Ride at Mitchell’s Meadow in the Southern Saskatchewan Grasslands. For various reasons, I am looking forward to all of these events.

The Sister Triangle Ladies Retreat is an annual gathering of Christian women, organized each year by the editors of Sister Triangle Magazine. I haven’t been for several years. In fact, the last time I was there I was pregnant with Carter and he will be eight (gasp) in a few months. The format varies from year to year, but usually includes a speaker, small group times, activities, and lots of visiting. The location is lovely. Walks in the park are a highlight. Although I haven’t registered yet, I am hoping to get there this year.

One of the reasons I haven’t been to the Sister Triangle Retreat for so many years is because it is usually scheduled within a week of the annual Saskatchewan Home Based Educators Conference. I have attended this conference every year since I started homeschooling and I continue to look forward to it each year. I always find or hear something valuable, and I come home encouraged and inspired to continue the homeschooling adventure with my family. I usually buy most of my school supplies there, and I love browsing through the vendor halls. This is also a weekend that Lyndon and I usually take together, staying either with friends or at a hotel. But, this year Lyndon has to work so I am scrambling a bit to work it all out. I hope I can make it happen.

A couple of years ago, I attended the SERVE conference at Briercrest with some other people from my church. It was an interesting conference with many valuable speakers and I am looking forward to going again in March. This is one of the things that my friend, Dawn, and I decided to do together after we got home from Mexico. We are praying that there may be others there with whom we can connect in our goal of finding family ministry opportunities.

And then… the Trail Ride, held each year in the southern hills, among the wolf willow and the sage. No showers, no electricity, no beds. But lots of conversation, sharing, discussing, visiting. I don’t sign up for any activities (although the activities, which range from riding to rock painting, are always great). I just go to listen, learn, visit, and meditate. I like to take a walk (or a nap, depending on how well I slept in my tent that night!), or visit with someone over a cup of camp coffee. It is always a wonderful time.

So… that is what is coming up on my conference schedule. There are many other events I would have liked to attend. I could easily become a conference junkie, I think. I love to listen to wise people. But, life is not LIVED in a classroom. Sometimes it is more fun learning about things than doing them! My approach is to enjoy the blessing of the atmosphere while I am there, and to try to distill the experience down to something succinct that I can bring home with me and apply in my life. It may just be one small thing, but I always find something that I can make relevant and applicable.

Carter has begun a new Christmas tradition. It involves a tiny nativity set that my sister-in-law gave me one year. It is really adorable: itty bitty angels, shepherds, wisemen, etc. And a very teeny baby Jesus in his manger. Anyway, lately I have noticed that whenever I go by the table on which sits this little scene things are… different. The camel might be standing on his head, or the angel might be hanging out next door with the Santa figurine, or the wisemen might be hiding in the pottery dishes. I haven’t said anything. I just reassemble the cast of characters and wait to see what happens next.

It finally snowed. And it turned COLD. Amazingly, even though it is December and long past due, the cold weather is still difficult to get used to. Lyndon smacked the car up a little in Regina this week. Slippery roads. He was able to drive it home today and dropped it off at the shop. We’ll see what the damage is. I am afraid he will have to take the truck to work this week, which means, of course, no water-hauling vehicle for me. Actually, it means no vehicle, period, for me. We haven’t had a chance to figure things out yet. But the thought of being vehicle-less all week is not terribly appealing to me.

We have been reading the My Side of the Mountain trilogy by Jean Craighead George. I remember reading My Side of the Mountain and On the Far Side of the Mountain when I was a kid. I loved them then and have enjoyed reading them to the boys. We are currently on the last book in the trilogy, Frightful’s Mountain, which was published in 1999. Quite a time gap between the books. There is a wonderful foreword in the last book by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. where he talks about reading My Side of the Mountain as a boy, and the impact it had on his friends and him. My own boys, of course, are now talking about taking up falconry.

Tyson is making great progress on his violin. He has learned a handful of songs, and is now working on some Christmas carols. We found an internet site that offers free violin music.

Colton has discovered the wonderful books of Bill Wallace. I bought one of them for him at the Scholastic book sale a few weeks ago. He loved it and was pleased to find another title, Skinny-Dipping at Monster Lake, in our local public library. He finished that one in one night and is anxious to order more of Mr. Wallace’s books.

And Carter, besides playing hide-and-seek with the Baby Jesus, is enjoying all things Christmas. He is anxious to help do some Christmas baking. We picked up some Christmas books at the library, one of which talked about making taffy. He is now convinced that taffy-making is an essential part of Christmas preparation. I told him I would try to find out how to make it, but I didn’t make any promises.

Hope the holiday preparations coming along pleasantly in your homes. If anyone is a taffy-making expert, let me know!

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