Thursday, May 27, 2010

Senior Project??

Their senior project is to graduate!

Who came up with the whole idea of a senior project?  It's absolutely ridiculous.  What's more, I can't tell you the number of public school parents who must assume senior projects are required by the state for graduation.  At least that's what I have to assume based on the number or parents who ask me (knowing we homeschool) what my girls are doing for their senior projects.  They're all astonished when I tell them the girls aren't doing senior projects, and then I always have to reassure them that the girls can indeed graduate without having done one.  The next question is always, "How?"  Welllll, because WE are the school administrators/superintendents/educators/(for that matter, janitor, school nurse, lunch lady, principle, guidence counsellor...) and as such we are the ones who get to decide the requirements for graduation from our school.  And senior projects are not required; why? because they're nonsense.  Let me give you some examples:
1)The senior project has nothing whatsoever to do with the child's education.  It in no way shows whether or not the child has passed his courses.  What's more, at least in our area, it doesn't matter whether or not the child passes every single one of his/her courses, if they don't succesfully complete their senior project, they don't graduate.
2)They only get one shot at the offical presentation (yes, I know there are a number of steps to go through up to that point, but still...), if they fail to present it properly they have to go back to school for at least one more semester...and another attempt at a completely diferent project.
3)The project has nothing whatsoever to do with what the child may be interested in as a career.  Case in point - the son of the man my younger brother works for (who happens to go to the same school as Superman): his first submission was on coaching, which is what he wants to go to college for - this boy REALLY wants to be a coach.  His first submission was rejected.  His second submission was for welding/machining - his father owns a welding/metal fabricating/machine shop, if, for any reason, he can't become a coach, his obvious fallback (and something he already works in part-time) is welding/machining - a very useful skill.  This submission was also rejected.  I can't even remember what his final choice was, but it has nothing to do with whatever he may do later in life.
4)Not all schools, even within the same county, require a senior project.  This is grossly unfair to the kids who do go to a school that requires them.  They have to do the work on a computer - hard for kids who don't have a computer, and no, there are no exceptions.  They have to invest a certain amount of money in it for supplies - hard for kids who have parents that are on a tight budget (IMHO this is why all schools don't require them-not to offend anyone here, but one of the schools in our district that doesn't is in the lowest income area of town).  Some of the schools require a certain number of community service hours that are somehow related to the topic of their project - hard for the kids (and their parents) who don't have their own car.
My cousin's daughter's senior project was on fashion.  Fashion?? Really??  What's more, I havn't the faintest idea what the community service work portion of her project could have been.  And no, she doesn't now work in some fashion related job.

It took Superman several tries (well into his second semester) to gain approval for his senior project.  He's had to arrange for time on a computer at school-mostly after (some before)  school when he could have, and would have preferred to be working.  He's spent many hours at the library working on the computer there (we would have gladly allowed him to work here, but we live almost a half-hour away, spending all that money on gas wasn't an option).  He's not only lost work time, and the resulting paycheck, but he's had to spend money on the project; money that could have definately been better utilized.

So let's see.  Should I require my children to spend copious quanties of time, money, and effort on something that;
A)doesn't really show whether or not they have sucessfully completed their studies,
B)doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with what they want to accomplish in their lives?
Nope.  I think not.
Call me a rebel.  Doubt the sufficiency of my children's education.  That's okay because I question the sanity of anyone who doesn't fight tooth and nail to abolish a graduation requirement that in no way represents the child's education, especially since the establishment that is requiring such an inane activity is continuously cranking out some of the most illiterate, "educated" people on the planet, despite their having completed a senior project.  If they feel they need some sort of bench-mark the kids must pass before completing their education (if passing one's courses isn't enough), then go back to the competency test.  That was one of the requirements for graduation when I was in school, and I remember the controversy around having that as a requirement. Personally I never understood why anyone would suggest that it was unfair to have that as a requirement since questions on the test revolved, for the most part, around such everyday, simple tasks as looking things up in a dictionary or phone book, or balancing a checkbook. At least those really are things people should/need to know how to do.

BTW - In no way do I mean to suggest that homeschoolers should be required to pass such a test.  The parents are the school administrators and as such should have the right to decide what their children must do to graduate their school.  Things such as the senior project just make me that much more happy that we homeschool.  I would have a major problem with my children being required to complete something I felt was such a huge waste of time, and such an immense inconvience. 


Friday, May 21, 2010

Courtship - part 2

Okay, on to practical application.

First I'd like to explain our ground rules.  The ideas we came up with, and that I mentioned in my last post, were what we wanted the courtship process to accomplish.  The next step was in implementing guidelines that would help to accomplish those things.
The very first thing we did was have a nice, long discussion with him to see what his intentions were (explain to him why we wanted to know his intentions, and why we didn't allow dating-but more on this later), find out his postition on a number of topics, and lay down the ground rules.  He talked to my husband briefly, then hubby called me in and the three of us talked for awhile, then we called Ri in and talked some more.  The other girls said we were in there for over 2 hrs. 
We definately wanted all interaction between the couple to be chaperoned, and we felt the best way to do this was in the company of a parent.  I don't really agree with the idea of "anyone else along is enough of a chaperone" for a variety of reasons.  We feel temptations are much easier to check when mom or dad are right there in the room with you. By necessity, most interaction will take place in the context of regular family life.  Between school and work the best time for them to see one another is on the weekend.  All my Saturday's can't be consumed with some kind of structured courting process, so he just comes over and gets involved with whatever is going on here; from visiting other family members, to running errands, to work.  We do have occasional days off where we end up playing board games, the Wii, or the younger girls coax him into a game of hide-and-go-seek, or frisbee.  She also has to be in the room with her dad or me if she's on the phone with him, and we read all their text messages. He is fully aware of these stipulations and is highly respectful of them.
Next we gave them a list of topics we felt they needed to cover.  A lot of these were things we did talk about that day, but that we really felt they needed to study more, pray about, and then discuss, in detail with one another.  These would included topics about faith/doctrine, what they see as their roles in a marriage, what they would expect from, or want in a spouse, issues regarding children, issues that may arise with regard to other family members, etc.  We fully expected these topics to be broached early on in the courtship because many of them can potentially be "deal breakers", or conversly, if the topics aren't discussed before marriage, they can cause untold problems later on.
There were a couple of other things we dicussed and came up with guidelines for, and I'm sure each family would view these things differently:  Holding hands-okay, kissing-chaste, cheek only (one of our daughters pointed out once that Jacob kissed Rachel before they were married :D, I made sure she understood this was a kiss of greeting.), going out-chaperoned of course, but fine with us on occasion. 

You can imagine the sort of comments we get from people who do not practice courting in their family (for the record-yes, we're crazy!), but one of the biggest things we get from people who do is that they all expect a marriage to be performed in the immediate future.  I understand the thought process behind this (no reason to begin a courtship if you aren't ready for marriage), but in this case, no; marriage is not in the immediate plans.  We did make it clear, right from the start that there was no reason to pursue this if they could not see themselves married (Ri already understood this), and they are looking at this time as a preparation for marriage, but for several reasons, marriage is not feasible for at least a couple of years.  Although this may not be how many families practice courtship in this day and age, planning on getting married, but putting it off for quite some time while things like a home are being procured is not really a new concept.  If we had, in any way, felt they weren't emotionally ready/mature enough for marriage, we wouldn't have allowed a courtship.
In all honesty, when we first thought of courtship, we kind of expected that our children would end up with people who had been reared much the same way they had been.  We didn't really spend much time with people who didn't homeschool their kids, and most of them also had very conservative outlooks, so I guess we just kind of assumed any guy that would be interested in one of our girls would already know about courtship, homeschooling, and a host of other things that we hold as important.  We more or less expected the guy to be completely ready for marriage before asking about our daughter, but God has a tremendous way of making us look beyond our expectations.  In this case he brought us a really wonderful young man who had absolutely no idea what courting was.  Who had been reared in what is considered the "normal" way, and who has only attended a traditional, somewhat fundamental Baptist church. He had heard a lot of preaching in his time, but didn't really know what it took to develop a biblical outlook on life.  He pretty much thought living a biblical lifestyle was trying not to sin; to live a "clean" life.  He didn't really know how you took things like Deut.6:5-7 and used that to determine how you would teach your children.  He wasn't resistant to theses things, he had just never been taught to think like that.
In some ways you could say that he wasn't really prepared for marriage, and thus courting, if he didn't know how to form a biblical outlook, and at a different point in my life I would have agreed with you, but there was far more to this.  We (thankfully) have known this young man for over 2 yrs. Because of that, we knew why he didn't know how to form a truly biblical outlook.  We also knew him well enough to know that he will listen to you, regardless of your opinion, and will honestly try to use the bible to guide his final decision on any matter.  He just needed some guidence (something other than - "You need to get serious about God!!, and then no suggestions for practical application).  In the grand scheme of things I would much rather one of my daughters be married to someone willing to listen, evaluate, and use the bible as a final authority on matters, even if he didn't come packaged as we would have thought, than one of them end up with someone who appeared to have all their ducks in a row, but we later found out they just trotted stuff out by rote and wouldn't truly be willing to study and grow spiritually. 

For the record, they've "gone out" twice.  She treated him (with me along) to one of his favorite restaurants for his birthday (our whole family took him out last year), and he recently took Ri (and me) to see "Letters to Juliet".  Other than that he comes here to visit.  He's doing really well with all the criticism he's received - even from the librarian who didn't know how he could manage a relationship where he "only gets to see her 3 or 4 times a month!"....Please!  I thought you didn't see them every day 'til you got married anyway.  Plus, they've already discussed all the topics we asked them too, and they frequently bring up other discussions by posing hypothetical questions to one another.  They also talk to one another about things they read in the bible, and have even brought questions to me when they hit something neither one understands.  All in all I think things are going quiet well, and we've had the added joy of watching a young person (other than our own children) become more mature in the things of the Lord.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Courtship - part 1

Courting - to try to gain the love or affections of, especially to seek to marry; to seek someone's love; to woo.

Dating - an engagement to go out socially with another person, often out of romantic interest.

Wow - we never knew what we were getting into!! 

I don't say this because we regret the decision, but because sometimes, just sometimes, you get really tired of swimming against the current(s) - all of them.  When we first thought about this, years ago, it was more of a nebulous idea.  We knew that we didn't like the "normal" routine of dating.  People tend to get tossed around in a sea of emotional ups and downs, going from first one person and then the next with no real purpose other than some vague thought of eventually getting married someday - maybe.  We didn't want that for our girls.  We didn't feel that was a Godly approach to marriage.  But, too be honest, we didn't think long and hard on it until shortly before Superman asked about Ri.  Some friends of hers had asked her what we thought courting was, so I looked into it with more detail.  In retrospect, I think God was using that to prepare us for what was coming.
This is what we came up with, with regard to courting:
Courting should be a time for the couple to get to know one another, WELL.  Ideally one should be able to see the other person in a variety of different situations to see how well they handle things, people, stresses, etc.
It should be a time for the couple to discuss ideas and situations that will come up in marriage; ie, what are the roles of the husband and wife (Is he the sole breadwinner? Does she stay at home right from the start or only after having children? Who handles the finances?), how many children, how to educate them, what type of church do you want to attend (important if the young man and young woman attend different churches), etc.
They also need a chance to discuss doctrinal issues.  We once knew a couple who got to the wedding planning stage before they realized there was a doctrinal issue that they could not agree on.  Both were devastated at the break-up.
It should be a time of great input by the parents (both sets if possible), in order to keep the couple on track; to hold them accountable for discussing these issues, and to encourage them to guard their hearts until they are more certain of their compatability.
For us, courting encompassed a desire to maintain both physical and emotional purity.

So, here's the "gotcha" -  not only is courting not "normal" (ya'll know I hate that word, right?), so you'll get criticism from every Tom, Dick, and Harry you meet, not to mention all those family members who FINALLY stopped harassing you about homeschooling, BUT you'll also get a lot of questions (BTW-I don't mind genuine questions-just sarcastic ones), criticisms, etc. from other families who do practice courting because there are so many different approaches to it.  There are those who use the term courting, but to look at it you can't tell the difference between what they do and dating; then you have those that do require chaperones for the couple, but the chaperones can be anyone, from a parent, to another couple, or even a younger sibling; and then you have the really strict, they can't even breathe in one another's general direction until the vows have been spoken, it was basically an arranged marriage put together by the parents type of courtship.  I guess we fall somewhere in between the last two.

I have to admit that this courtship hasn't looked exactly like we would have imagined it in those earlier, nebulous days, but I think things are going well, and I'll explain more about how this has ended up working out for us in the next post.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I guess you know the girls have truly mastered strawberry picking when they can walk out of the field with over 25lbs of strawberries in just 12 minutes.

I kid you not; it's a new record for us. The last time I remembered to time it (2, maybe 3 yrs ago?), we clocked in at about 1 pound per minute; it looks like we've cut that in half.  Of course, the girls are older - especially the younger ones, which is where I think we've managed to make the most improvement in time.  Kay, Ri, and I did most of the picking in years past, but everyone was 100% on board this time.   I've always chanted that age-old mantra at the girls, "Many hands make light work.", but even the younger ones can easily see this in action at times like these. We picked these last Wed.  I woke up that morning with my throat a little sore and after picking the berries and doing a couple of other things, I was wiped out by lunch time. I set the berries aside that afternoon (minus one whole box, most of which had already been consumed), in the hopes that I would feel better the next day and be able to deal with them then. Well, that didn't happen because, by the next morning, my sore throat was a full blown cold. I ended up having the girls sort, wash, and freeze them for use later on. I had wanted some of them frozen anyway so that I can take advantage of the upcoming blueberry and blackberry seasons and try a mixed berry jam later on this summer.  I may just wait and do the strawberry jam then too.

There were some gorgeous, picture perfect berries that made the most beautiful, and tasty stuffed strawberries we've ever had - but I probably say that every year :).  Thanks to Bree who has made them for us twice so far.  If you've never had them, you should give them a try.

Mix one 8oz. box softened cream cheese with 1/3c powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla.
Put in an icing bag, fitted with a star tip, or you could just use a ziploc bag with one corner cut out.
Cut the top out of the strawberry and fill it with the cream cheese mixture.  Chill (if you can wait that long to eat them)

I've served these for everything from showers, to birthday parties and even at weddings.  Everyone loves them.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Gardening Pictures

I apologize in advance for picture quality.  I took most of the pictures (when I remembered to take them at all) so...
Superman dug up these bushes, which had been planted in a straight line down this bed, and put them in a half circle between the two windows.  There is a trellis there now and I planted some sweet peas to climb up it. I have other flowers planted all around the bed. Next year I will have to see if my Dad can make me a bigger trellis though, the one I have is a little small for the space. I'm hoping it won't be as apparent once the flowers are there.

There was a lot of old weed mat to pull up. Here Beenie is bagging it up for us. While Bree and T.Lynn weed.

More weed mat, as well as old leaves and pine needles.  You can see my poor, leaning, rose of sharon to the right.  The one behind it leans too, but it's been there longer, so the limbs have started growing upward. I put a smaller trellis between these two windows to tie in with the other side.

Weeding, raking, digging; you name it, we did it.  Here Ri is finishing up around a dwarf hydrangea that is directly in front of her.

Here's T.Lynn cleaning out the "trench" we made to edge around the beds.  Behind her you can see the juniper, nandina, and variegated liriope that Superman dug out of the big bed.

Ri and Bree weeding.

Now, on to the back yard.

Here's the shepherd's crook my younger brother made me several years ago.

This is the hummingbird he made that tops it.  It's made from scrap decorative pieces that are used on iron gates and fences.  Except for the "beak"; that's a masonary nail.  It really needed the TLC that we (mostly he) did for it.  It's looking great again.

Bree and T.Lynn spreading the dirt out around the crook.  It's in a corner of the house where we'll be able to see the flowers (and everything else there for that matter) from both the  master bedroom and the sunroom.

Bree smoothing everything out while I tell Beenie where things will be planted.

Here we go.  I doesn't look like too much now, but there are flower seeds planted in back and herbs in front.  There's yet another trellis here, on the right that I planted painted lady under, and I put twine going up the crook for some climbing black-eyed susans. I do plan on planting cucumber to climb up the sunflowers that are planted on the back, left hand side, but that will have to wait 'til the flowers start coming up good.  I have another variety of cucumber already planted elsewhere.  This bed is a little bigger than it looks here.

Kay tucking in a little weed mat, just under the front edge, overlapping into the trench we dug there.  We hope this will help keep the weeds from growing up into the front of the bed.

T.Lynn planting zucchini.

Ri mulching some of the tomatoes and peppers with straw.

Ri, Bree, and Beenie extending the bed.  I didn't originally expect to make the bed go all the way around the deck (and it doesn't quite make it), but we had so much we wanted to plant;  I We couldn't help myself ourselves.  We finished up with the planting just after dark tonight.  Ri and Kay will finish putting down the straw and edging around the bed while I plant what needs to grow in pots; like mint - apple mint and peppermint.

Next week, more projects!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pictures soon, I promise

One job mostly down, a hundred more to go!
The girls and I finished the big bed in front of the house today. For all the protestations of both my dear hubby, and Superman, we fell short of flower seeds.  Twenty or so packets (actually, I can't remember how many we had, I just knew it probably wasn't enough) do not contain nearly as many seeds as they think.  We'll have to go out tomorrow to get a few more to finish the smaller bed under the garage windows.  I know that to my hubby it seems as though I've spent a small fortune on seeds, but only imagine what it would have cost to buy enough plants to cover the area. No area seems as big as it actually is until you have to start spending money on it! :D   At any rate, the bushes all have mulch around them, the one that was leaning the most has been propped up to the best of my ability, and the dirt and seeds have gone in.  One of the two trellisses has been put up as well.  I have to wait for hubby to get back in town and find his jig saw battery so I can cut the other one in half before I put it up.  I wish I could have gotten more done, but all of this was done today in addition to school, tutoring, Beenie's guitar lessons, and a trip to both the hardware store (for more mulch, among other things), and a mini trip to the grocery store; so I guess I can't complain too much.  I will admit to having to rein in the perfectionist/control freak  part of my nature in order to allow the girls to do some (actually most) of the planting.  I always have to do that. I know they really love it, and it's good for them to have a hand in it all.  I just have to remind myself that if the plants come up in disorderly looking clumps, it's not really all that important in the grand scheme of things.
Tomorrow I'll have to go back out to the hardware store again, to get more seeds, and then we'll start on the veggie, herb, and flower beds that will be in the back.  I should have some more photos by then, but the photos of the front bed will just look like dirt and a few bushes until things start growing, so I may not worry about "after" pictures of that until some of the flowers come up - and hopefully start blooming.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stompin' my feet!

Things never go according to plan.  That's exactly what has happened so far this week.  If you remember, we were going to have the outside of the house and the deck pressure washed on Mon, then we were going to do some planting.  Wellllll, THAT didn't happen.  Oh, we prepared the front beds on Sat.  Superman helped us pull out all the plantings I didn't like and we weeded and raked the beds smooth.  Superman also moved some of the smaller bushes for me.  Everything looked great and ready to go.  And then the inevitable happened.  It rained on Monday.  I know, it was calling for rain, but still!  It only rained in the morning, and stopped way before noon, but the guy who was going to pressure wash called to reschedule anyway.  The problem is, he can't come again until next Monday.  The reason that is a problem is that nothing else can be done until the washing is done.  If we put it off that long, a couple of things will cause a problem.
1)The weeds will start sprouting again in the bed we just cleaned out.  We need to get the newspaper down, the mulch around the shrubs, and the dirt in the open places and get the flowers planted before it all has to be weeded again.
2)If he cleans the deck on Mon, we can't stain/seal it until Wed. (have to wait two days before you apply the stain to allow the deck to dry), and then only if it's not supposed to rain again for a couple of days after the stain is applied. It's supposed to rain on Wed, and the long distance forcast doesn't give me enough info to see if I can do it the following weekend.  Since nothing can be done around the deck until it's cleaned and stained, that will push off the planting.  We're borderline on the planting right now anyway.  I can't wait another two weeks to get plants in the ground, it will be getting too hot on too regular a basis. So, the decision was made to forego the pressure washing until after the growing season this year.  We'll just call him back in to do it sometime around Oct.  I don't really like that. I would have loved to see it all done, but it can't really be helped, not if we want some veggies this year.
After having made that decision earlier today, we began working in the front this afternoon after the house shadowed the beds we were going to be working on (no sense working in sunlight that'll just fry my pale skin to a crisp if I can possibly avoid it).  We got all the newspaper and cardboard down, and put out almost all of the mulch (well, all of it we had-we were one bag short...ugh!). Tomorrow we'll put in the dirt and plant the flower seeds, then we'll work on the back beds. 
I can't wait!!
I do have some photos, but I'll wait until I have a few more before I let you see everyone kind of happy at work!