Monday, August 31, 2009

Life in the Dining Room

Until recently most of our family meals were consumed in the kitchen. Our kitchen is fairly large and there is a butcher block table with four chairs that sits in the middle of the floor. We have two folding chairs that are stored in the laundry room that we bring out for meals. It's a little bit crowded to have six people sit down for meals in the kitchen, but the floor is linoleum and the clean-up is easy.

Earlier this summer Chris volunteered to set the table if we could start eating dinner in the dining room. Our dining room is carpeted and the antique Duncan Phyfe table combined with the white upholstery on the chairs made me leary of letting small children eat regular meals in that room. Chris was adament that this was something he wanted to try and the little boys were excited about setting the nice table and using the good placemats so I decided to let them eat Saturday dinners in the dining room and we would practice our "good" manners (instead of our evil manners).

After about three weeks of eating Saturday dinner in the dining room we started eating most dinners in there. Chris and Sam set the table every night (a new chore) and Jake takes out the salt and pepper and napkins.

In the beginning I thought it would be more work to eat in the dining room. I was scared the kids would make a mess and I'd wind up with even more stuff I had to do. It's actually easier than eating in the kitchen. We don't have to look at the mess left from cooking. I can move around the kitchen table without tripping over kids sitting in chairs waiting for me to serve food. The kids set the table. All I have to do is carry the plates to the table (we use Fiestaware and it's heavy). The boys love choosing which placemats we're using and which color plates we're eating on every night. They all know which side of the plate the forks go on and can usually place the salad and place forks correctly.

It's been a good thing. I'm glad that I gave in and let the kids fuss around with setting the dining room table. Dinner is actually less stressful and less work than it was while we were eating in the kitchen. We still eat breakfast and lunch in the kitchen, but there are fewer people being served for those meals and we are more informal. All three boys have gotten into the new routine. Chris and Sam have also started making the salad or vegetable for dinner. Setting the table has made them more aware of how many dishes need to be carried out before we can begin eating. They also realize that they can help more and by helping have more input about what we're eating.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


In preparing to begin a new school year I've been spending a bit of time analyzing our goals. Of course each child has educational goals, but we also have parenting and life goals that should be evaluated as well. One word keeps popping up in my evaluations:

  • strength: Pronunciation: \ˈstreŋ(k)th, ˈstren(t)th\
  • Function: noun
  • 1 : the quality or state of being strong : capacity for exertion or endurance

2 : power to resist force : solidity, toughness
3 : power of resisting attack : impregnability
4 a : legal, logical, or moral force b : a strong attribute or inherent asset strengthsand the weaknesses of the book are evident
5 a : degree of potency of effect or of concentration strengths b : intensity of light, color, sound, or odor c : vigor of expression
6 : force as measured in numbers : effective numbers of any body or organization strength
7 : one regarded as embodying or affording force or firmness : support strength

My ultimate goal for each member of my family is strength. I want to raise these boys to become strong men. When the world changes around them I need them to be strong enough to deal with wise changes and to hold steady (even to the point of becoming counter-culture) against change that is occurring simply for the sake of change.

When their faith is tested (and you know it will be) I want them to be strong enough to look into other beliefs and question everything that they know... and then rebuild their faith based upon the truths they discover when their questions are answered.

When the media tells them what to believe and how to live I hope they will be intellectually strong enough to question the media sources, and the motives of individuals and companies backing the research leading to the "latest results."

When confronted with people and ideas foreign to them I hope my family has strength of compassion and character that allows them to see all individuals as equal and all viewpoints as valid- even when they disagree.

There is a movement afoot (not a new movement either) that believes it's in the best interest of our children to remove from public view everything that does not fit in with our own personal belief systems. That is a dangerous way of thinking. It removes individuals rights to liberty and personal expression. It suppresses art and political dissent. Perhaps most disturbing- it prevents our children from experiencing the opportunity to hone their judgement and truly embrace the morals and values we're trying to teach them.

What sort of future men and women are we raising if we truly believe that simply seeing others living and believing differently is a threat? Is it really a threat if women show a bit of cleavage or a lot of leg? Will it damage your children to see strangers drinking beer at a restaurant? Does having dinner with a gay couple actually have the power to destroy nuclear families?

Strength of character, intelligence, convictions, and faith is the most important thing I can teach my children. More important than reading, math, or science is strength. Less tangible, not quantifiable, and uncertain until tested is strength. Yet, I think it may be the most important asset of them all.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Ok, we're back from our first meeting with our "contact" teacher. She's the person who will be coordinating our education efforts, monitoring how well we meet standards and benchmarks for the grade, etc, etc.

I really like our teacher. I don't really like the whole education process. One point that's bugging me immensely is the target reading fluency for second grade. By the end of the year my child should be able to read (out loud) 94 words/minute. If you've ever spoken with Chris you know that while he may talk non-stop he does not talk fast. I don't think he can say 94 words in a minute much less read 94 words out loud in a minute. I understand that it's progress the school is looking for. Progress is great. Progress is our goal. Setting an arbitrary standard (and yes, I do think it's pretty arbitrary) and then having to work toward it makes no sense to me. Shouldn't our goal be to have him improve fluency period. Goals are important. I'd like to set some goals that are more achievable and in line with my child's abilities.

My son has really poor fine and gross motor skills. His speech is greatly affected by lack of fine motor control. He speaks slowly, pendanticly, and in a monotone. One of the standards for second grade reading involves reading with appropriate expression. Does my child have to have an IEP in order to account for his lack of expression while reading or speaking? Will meeting once a week with the special ed director improve his motor skills, speech, and expressive abilities? I don't want to be running all over the valley to interventions again this school year. We've been there, done that, and don't have a lot of improvement to show for it.

Why is it so important that all stages of reading be taught with intensive writing? If the writing is physically very hard, shouldn't it move at a different pace than the reading? If my child has different challenges than the average child does that mean he needs to be in special education? Why isn't it enough that as a homeschooler he gets one on one time with his teacher? He makes so much progress every summer. Quatifiable, visible progress. During the school year he doesn't gain nearly as much in terms of skills or knowledge.

What's the difference between school time and summer time? We stay home in the summer and don't deal with interventions (expect speech). Could it be that all the time taken up by "special ed" actually leaves him farther behind? Is it possible that allowing him to remain focused on his daily routine is more beneficial than running around meeting with "experts?" By Jove, I think I've got it! If being part of the charter school means weekly meetings or interventions I don't think we want to participate in it.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room