Friday, December 2, 2011


I hate Lyme disease.  No that's not true, hate is not a strong enough word.  I loathe, despise, abhor, and resent the hell out of Lyme.

This disease is taking my little boys childhood and turning it into hell.  Hell for him, me, his father, and sisters.  We thought he was on the road to recovery, for close to a year we had a different kid and then just before we were planning to wean treatment he relapsed and all hell broke lose again.  

Funny how in such a short time I had forgotten how bad it could be.  What's worse is that he's a year older now, which translates to a year bigger and a year stronger.  When I get attacked it hurts more and it's more difficult to fend him off.  The words I hate you, you're stupid, and I wish I had a different family somehow hit me harder now.   Watching his face twist with anger as he spits these phrases at me I get flashes of the smiling happy boy that was here 3 months ago and my heart aches.  I want to break down and crumble into a heap of sobs on the floor but I'm Mom so that can't happen.

I am terrified for my son.  Terrified that he will have to live his entire life feeling this way, terrified that if he can't gain control that he will hurt someone, terrified that that someone will be me or one of his sisters, terrified for what his future will be like.

The heart breaking reality is that my boy is sick and despite spending a small fortune on doctors, tests, and medication there is absolutely nothing I can do to make him well.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recess Interrupted

The kids went out for "recess" on this beautiful day only to discover this in our yard.

Their first reaction was one of sadness that this beautiful creature had died.  That, however, quickly turned to interest in the Monarch Butterfly and thanks to the internet an impromptu science lesson took place.  

Did you know that Monarch Butterflies go through four generations each year?  The first 3 die within 6 weeks but the fourth lives 6-8 months; long enough to migrate to a warmer climate, hibernate, and start a new first generation in the Spring.  Amazing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Scheduler

I don't know about your kids but mine do better if I provide them with a daily task list.  I decided I wanted to do something more interactive and fun than a piece of paper.  With the side of our fridge, a can of chalkboard paint, and some magnetic letters ($15 total) I was able to do this.  Starting Monday (we have to wait 3 days before we can write on it) each morning I will write their assignments on the fridge and they can erase them as they are accomplished.  Hopefully this works as well as I think it will!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Ideas

Now that the Trick-or-Treaters have come and gone it's time to start thinking about all the fun things we can do for Thanksgiving.  Below are some of the free things I've found online.  We can't wait to get started!

Thanksgiving Preschool Pack
Thanksgiving Tot Kit
Thanksgiving Tot Pack
Tt is for Turkey

All Ages
Toilet paper roll pilgrims & indians
Possible Placemat for kids table  - for this have the kids color and write what they are thankful for then laminate to use as placemats at the kids table.
Teepee Treats
Lots of crafts and printables

Unit Studies for Older Kids

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

At 2:11 on 11/2 my life changed forever when this amazing person decided to make her entrance into my world.



This sweet girl made our family complete and we are so blessed that she graced us with her presence.  She is loving, sweet, and keeps us laughing daily with her crazy sense of humor.

Happy 4th Birthday Allie, I can't wait to spend the day celebrating with you! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reality check

I read blog after blog about the joys of homeschooling.  You know the ones, every day is sunshine and flowers, the children are happy and engaged in learning, and nobody misbehaves.  They are great reads and give you that warm fuzzy feeling about what we endeavor to do.  What they aren't is reality, at least not any reality that lives in my home.    I love homeschooling my kids and at least 3/4 of our year is great but I'd be lying if I said the other 1/4 of the year I didn't fantasize about sneaking them on the school bus as it drives by.  If you weren't lucky enough to be blessed with perfect kids or are imperfect like me read on and know that you're not alone.  

I remember it like it was just yesterday, oh wait, that's because it was yesterday.   It was a day of frustration.  One where lessons that should have taken 15 mins took over an hour,  one that saw many breaches in the magical sofa cushion barrier, where the sweet sounds of "stop touching me" and "Mooooooooom, make her stop" rang in my ears.  This after a week of hearing this is too hard or that is too boring and "why can't I just play video games all day?" This Mom was at the end of her rope.  As I listened to the words "I HATE SCHOOL" come out of Michael's mouth for the 5th time that day and 3,782nd time in 7 days I wanted to "go global".   My brain screamed "How can you hate school?  Do you have any idea how hard I have worked to find topics that you are interested in.  Do you not realize that I have spent hours upon hours researching curricula, planning for months on end, in the hopes that you would have a year you loved yet somehow 7 days in you're telling me how much you hate it.  How is that possible?!"   Instead what came out of my mouth (which wasn't much better) was this:  "you do realize the teachers at school would never put up with this behavior don't you??"  (which he does because he was there for 2 years)  I quickly followed that up with some sort of veiled threat of sending him back there.  As the words were coming out of my mouth I was regretting them but I couldn't seem to figure out how to shove them back in.  It was not my finest moment as a Mother or teacher but it was my reality.  My reality is kids who are fidgety, bicker with each other, aren't blindly obedient, and who seem to misbehave at the most inopportune times.  Thankfully, my reality is also kids who are silly, funny, love each other, and are quick to forgive. (even their dear old Mom)

I am grateful that each sunrise brings with it a new day full of promise and opportunity.  I enter each one striving to make it better than the one before but still grounded in the reality that I am not perfect and that this is my life.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Go ahead admit it, you think we're odd.

Really it's okay, we don't take offense in the slightest. As a matter of fact we embrace the fact that we're different.  Humor me while I take a moment to speak my mind and answer some common questions about our bizarre lifestyle.

1.  The fact that we choose to homeschool is not an indictment of your choices.  (I have bolded this because I believe it is the most important thing I will say in this entire post) We are not sitting in judgement of you because you send your child(ren) to public or private school.  As a matter of fact our children were publicly schooled for several years before we started this journey and we are both graduates of the school system who turned out just fine.  We do not have an us vs. them mentality.  We are doing what we believe to be best for our children and assume that you are doing the same.  We feel blessed and lucky to live in a country where we have the freedom to make this choice.

2.  Contrary to popular belief (and media portrayal) not everyone homeschools because they are religious whack-a-do's.   We do not sit around the table in our matching denim jumpers dissecting scripture all day.  We, like many others, homeschool secularly and for academic reasons.  

3. Yes, what we are doing is legal.  In fact, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and has been since 1993.

4. Yes, there is oversight.  Even if there wasn't or if we lived in a less regulated state we would still be educating our children in a way that fulfills the deep responsibility we feel to make sure that they are adequately prepared to make their way in the world.  

That said let's take a look at what we must do each year to homeschool our kids here in the great state of PA, one of the 6 most highly regulated states for homeschooling in the US.  Prior to beginning our studies each year we must send in a notarized affidavit that includes the supervisor's name (me), all children's names and ages, our address and phone number, certification that no one living in the home has been convicted of a crime, a statement that all subjects are being taught in English, immunization records and a health certification form from our pediatrician, and last but certainly not least, educational objectives ("an outline of proposed education by subject area") for each child.  All of which must be approved by the school board.  PA also gets to dictate to us what subjects must be taught and when.  As you will see, this is not something we can be ill-prepared for.

     Elementary school – Grades 1-6
"At the elementary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art."
Secondary school – Grades 7-12"At the secondary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include language, literature, speech and composition; science; geography; social studies, to include civics, world history, history of the United States and Pennsylvania; mathematics, to include general mathematics, algebra and geometry; art; music; physical education; health; and safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires.  Such courses of study may include, at the discretion of the supervisor of the home education program, economics; biology; chemistry; foreign languages; trigonometry; or other age-appropriate courses as contained in Chapter 5 (Curriculum Requirements) of the State Board of Education."

Then, at the end of each school year we must submit a portfolio of work that has been reviewed by an evaluator.  In grades 3, 5, & 8 the kids are required to take standardized tests.  Copies of these results must be included in our portfolio in the appropriate years.  

     "The evaluation shall also be based on an interview of the child and a review of the portfolio … and shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring."  ""Appropriate education" shall mean a program consisting of instruction in the required subjects for the time required in this act and in which the student demonstrates sustained progress in the overall program."

We cannot just get anyone to sign off on the fact that our children received an "appropriate education".  The evaluator must be:

     "a licensed clinical or school psychologist"

     "a teacher certified by the Commonwealth" ... "The certified teacher shall have experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students."

     "a nonpublic school teacher or administrator. Any such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have at least two years of teaching experience in a Pennsylvania public or nonpublic school within the last ten years. Such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have the required experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students."

     "At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent."

     "In no event shall the evaluator be the supervisor or their spouse."

4. No, I do not worry about my children's socialization.  Webster's defines socialization as "the process by which a human being beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training for adult status".  We believe that you don't need to sit in a room of 25 kids your own age to be properly socialized.  Being part of a family, a sports team, volunteering time to help others, interacting with people of all ages at the store, library, and in other public settings are all good ways to acquire this knowledge.  

5. Yes, homeschooled kids get into college.  Many colleges, even good ones, actively recruit homeschoolers.  No, I am not worried in the slightest that we are ruining their future.  

Now next time someone mentions they homeschool you won't have to ask them one of the above questions because you'll already know the answers.  You'll also know that while they may do things a bit differently their end game is the same; kids that end up as successful, happy, well-adjusted members of society.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our journey with Lyme Disease

This weekend we watched the documentary Under Our Skin which made me feel compelled to share our experience with Lyme disease.

In 2005 this tiny bug changed our lives forever.

Megan - "Mommy there's a bug on Michael's stomach"  Me - "That's not a bug it's just dirt" 

Those words will haunt me the rest of my life.  If I had a time machine that is the day I'd go back to.  If I had listened to my 4 year old I would have discovered the tick that gave my boy Lyme disease.  Maybe if I hadn't brushed her off I would have removed it before it transmitted this nasty disease to him.  But that's not how this story played out.  The next day when I went to give him a bath I discovered that in fact it was a bug.  I removed it, kept it in a baggie, and called our pediatrician.  I was told that is was "highly unlikely" that this tick was carrying Lyme but to keep an eye out for the bulls eye rash.  The next morning I checked his belly only to find this damned rash.
Bulls Eye rash
So off to the pediatricians office we went.  He was unfamiliar with how to treat Lyme and had to leave the room to check a book or website or something.  We were prescribed 30 days worth of Penicillin and told that all was well.

Fast forward 2 years.  We had just moved out of state when some strange behaviors started to pop up at home.  Michael began to get aggitated and angry at the drop of a hat.  After another year or so he became uncontrollable at times.  He would scream how much he hated us, that he wished he had a different family.  So of course we went to our pediatrician. (different group this time)  We were told that it was a behavioral issue and to put him in a corner and tell him that he could rejoin the family when he could calm down.  When we questioned how to keep him in this corner we were told to stand in front of him if we had to.  So home we went armed with this new knowledge that if we were just consistant then things would get better. We, however, were not armed with the knowledge that standing in front of him would endanger our safety.  He would kick and punch at us until we had to move for fear that we would really be hurt.  Somehow this 5 year old boy had strength enough to make me fear that he would break my leg.

Over the course of the next 3 years Michael saw numerous pediatricians for ear infections, pneumonia (which he had 6+ times in one year), H1N1, and a number of other illnesses.  He was sent to an allergist who discovered a horrific sinus infection and pneumonia yet again, and believed he had asthma (which we treated with an inhaler) an ENT who discovered that his adenoids were blocking 85% of his sinuses and removed them, a child psychiatrist who diagnosed him with anxiety (and prescribed Zoloft) and believed he may have Bi-polar disorder.  Not only did he have these physical problems but his violence and aggression got progressively worse.  It was at this point that I had had enough.  Enough of the doctors not knowing what was wrong, enough of being brushed off every time I mentioned Lyme disease, ("if he had antibiotic treatment then there's no way that that's the problem") enough of spending my hard earned money on "specialists", enough of pumping my little boy with drugs that I didn't believe he needed, and more than enough of being abused verbally and physically. 

I took to the internet and started to reseach. (what did we ever do before the internet?!) Michael did not present with "typical" Lyme symptoms but my gut kept telling me this was the problem.  He would complain that his brain shook, he didn't sleep, his immune system was completely compromised and he would get sick if somebody looked at him wrong, he couldn't make a decision because he couldn't think clearly, he was just a mess.  What I discovered was chronic Lyme disease.  (which the powers that be don't believe exists) I was lucky enough to find a Lyme specialist that would see children.  (not an easy feat mind you!)  It took 6 weeks and a letter written to her about Michael's symtoms for us to get an appopintment and I thank God every day that we did.  Michael has been on antibiotic treatment for the past 7 months.  I now have a different child.  Is he compeltely well?  Not yet.  Does he still lose it from time to time? Yes. (especially the 3rd day after taking Tindamax)  But for the most part we have our son back.  We don't fear for our safety.  The girls are no longer afraid of their brother.  This is a miracle in my book.

It's so difficult to describe to someone the pain and heartache we all went through for 5+ years.  Just before Michael started treatment when things were at their worst and I was at my wits end I wrote this poem, it is the only way I could put into words what we were going though.  I am sharing it today in hopes that it may help others.  What I have learned through all of this is to follow your gut.  Fight for yourself, your spouse, and your children.  Don't allow those who "know better" dismiss you.

I wave my white flag
But still he attacks.
I hear the battle cry
And feel him running towards me.

Somehow he cannot see that I have surrendered
I am defeated.
Still he charges at me.
He has taken everything yet he keeps coming back for more.

The sound of his voice rings in my ears
His words taunt me.
His actions haunt me.

Where once there was love
Now is contempt.
He spits words at me like bullets
Each one piercing my skin
Leaving gaping holes.

He leaves me to bleed.
Unapologetic for the carnage he has dealt.
Finally he retreats
But I know he will be back to fight another day.

I wave my white flag
Somehow he cannot see that I have surrendered.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Homeschooling Battles

There is currently a battle going on within the homeschool community.  Young Earth vs. Old Earth, otherwise know as the "I'm more Christian than you" argument.   Maybe I do not fully understand this fight because I am not religious nor do I homeschool for religious reasons, but to me the whole thing just seems absurd.  People are attacking and ridiculing each other, beating their chests, and spewing rhetoric but for what purpose?  I have a very difficult time believing that this is how God would want us to behave.  What about this passage from Matthew 22:37-40?

 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Or what about this from John 8:7?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Or this from John 13:34-35?

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As a lifelong Catholic (non-practicing at the moment, sorry Mom & Dad) and the product of 13 years of Catholic school I have received my share of indoctrination and holier than thou attitudes.  My current belief however is live and let live.  Why is this such a difficult concept for people to grasp?  I believe that at the end of my days it will be God, and God alone, who will judge me for the life I have lived.  I also believe that if I am a good person, love as He has commanded, and ask for forgiveness that I will receive it and not be damned to an eternity in hell because of my mistakes.  

I said it in one of my previous posts but I think it's worth saying again.  The world would be a very different place if we could just muster up a little compassion for and a little less judgement of the people in our lives that have chosen different paths than we have.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Are we failing our future?

I have been contemplating this question for a while now.  Based on the things I have read, conversations I have had with teachers I work with (local community college), and what I have witnessed first hand with my own children in our local public school my answer is a resounding yes.  

Teachers have their hands tied by test scores and spend the bulk of their time teaching to the test.  School boards have adopted terrible curricula and teach it as gospel.  Many parents are apathetic at best and adamant that their kid can do no wrong.  Larger class sizes and the inclusion of everyone in the regular classroom setting results in teachers who have to deal with disruptive behaviors and end up teaching to the lowest group of kids.  It results in middle of the road kids being forgotten and students who excel being forced to help those that are having trouble rather than allowing them to work to their potential.  

Many kids get pushed along to the next grade even if they are not ready to go there, because failing is not an option.  They end up graduating High School with little more than an elementary grasp on the basics and move on to college only to be forced to spend money on remedial classes that offer no credits towards a degree.  They are paying big bucks to learn the things they should have over the course of the previous 12 years.  For example we have several sections of ENGL 001 that are all full.  In this class they are reading The Giver, which is a 6th grade reading level book, and many don't have the skills to comprehend it.

The bar has been set so low that most kids don't have a challenge to rise to.  I don't know about you but I don't want to live in a country where being mediocre is the aspiration.    Righting this ship will take a major shift in the way everyone thinks.  The emphasis needs to be taken off of standardized test scores and put on teaching skills.  Kids need to be challenged and allowed to fail, if warranted.  We need to go back to the basics and start over.  

We are raising a generation of people who are going to run this great country when we are old.  I, for one would like to grow old with the knowledge that we did everything in our power to prepare them for this task.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making Blood

For the past two weeks we have been learning about blood and today we tried our hand at making our own.  We followed these instructions -

First we poured in our plasma (corn syrup)

Then we added our red blood cells 
Next came the white blood cells so we could fight off infection
Finally we added the platelets so our blood would clot

Trying desperately to get our white blood cells to sink.  Marshmallows didn't work so well.
The finished product.
The great books we have been reading.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Showing Compassion

In the past 10 years I have been many things.

A full time working Mom.
A stay at home Mom.
A Mom of publicly schooled children.
A homeschool Mom.
A part time working out of the home Mom.
A work at home Mom.

I just finished reading a blog post that made homeschoolers sound like they are leaps and bounds better than those that do not homeschool.  It really made me pause and contemplate why we as a society feel the need to think we are better than the next person?

I am currently working 2 part time jobs, one at home and one out of my home, as well as homeschooling my 3 children.  I do not have what you would call a traditional lifestyle and I know many of you would look at me and think I am nuts but why does it have to be that way?

Everything that I have been and done has been because it's what was best for myself and my family.  Isn't that why 99.9% of us make the difficult decisions and sacrifices we do?  We are all in this together, why do we break each other down instead of supporting and building each other up?    The world would be a very different place if we could just muster up a little compassion for and a little less judgement of the people in our lives that have chosen different paths than we have.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Heart Dissection

In science today we dissected a sheep heart.  It was a really great learning tool (after getting past the freak out!) to be able to see the parts up close that we've been learning about for the past two weeks.  Here are some pictures from our adventure.  :)

Freaking out before we started

Mom making the 1st cut

Megan decided to check it out

Getting braver
Actually cutting!

So proud of herself

Pointing out the ventricle

Michael begrudgingly decided to check it out

Pointing out the ventricles

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up - Week 20!

So it has been brought to my attention that I've been neglecting my blog, and here I thought I was the only one who read it.  :)

This has been a week of getting back on track.  We seemed to have veered from our path some in the past month or so but this has been the week spent righting the ship, so to speak.  We got back into a groove and actually accomplished everything I had set out to do, every day.  Thank God for small miracles.  :)

In history this week we learned about the Phoenicians;  how they were great sailors, famous for making glass, and were the first to invent glassblowing.  We also learned about how Ashurbanipal and the Assyrians conquered the Babylonians and stormed up and down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers taking over all the cities in their path.  We learned that while Ashurbanipal was cruel to the cities he conquered,  he created the first library and made his home city of Nineveh a beautiful, wonderful place for those who lived there.

In science we learned about the heart.  We created our own models of the heart and learned about all of the different parts and how blood is pumped through the most important muscle in the body.  Next week we will be dissecting a heart to see the different parts first hand!

Heart models
 In math both kids are working on area, volume, and fractions as well as continuing to practice the skills they've been taught so far this year.

We've been learning about lines of latitude and longitude in Geography, possessive nouns in Language Arts, and have written some pretty great paragraphs and stories for Writing.

My wheels have also started spinning for next school year.  The big decision I'm facing is do we move on to Story of the World - Volume 2 or do we alternate years with US History.  My concern is Megan not getting US History again until 7th grade if we follow the 4 year world history program.  I'm not quite sure which way the cards will fall with this one but luckily I have some time to figure it out!

 The cupcakes are baked, we've practiced our signing, and we are looking forward to a great weekend full of family and friends for birthday celebrations as Megan will be 10 tomorrow!!

I'll leave you with a picture of the birthday girl doing her favorite thing in the world, cooking!  :)

Have a wonderful weekend!