Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homeschool Replanning Out Loud

Write your plans in pencil and let God have the eraser. ~Unknown

L.I.F.E. is the name of our homeschool: Lessons in Faith and Education. The name is far more than the acronym, it is our life and if there is anything that is constant in life, it is change. I know, the terms themselves are contradictory. "Constant change" is an oxymoron—hey, even "oxymoron" is an oxymoron—but such is life.

Since my post Homeschool Planning Out Loud and even my latest enthusiasm over Ask Dr. Callahan's math bundle more recently, I have changed my mind or added some other items.

Before I list my final (?) decisions, I have to write about the mandatory parent meeting for the Home Study Center on Tuesday night. We asked one of my best friends, who also happens to be the Princess' piano teacher, if we could drop her off while we attend the meeting as no children were to be there and her place was on the way. The meeting was 7:30 to 9:30 PM with us driving a two hours there and back. For the most part, it felt as if it was a meeting for the school's benefit rather than ours or at least for the mainstream homeschool "schoolies"...kind of a rah-rah thing. They did cover the online interface, which was pretty self-explanatory to me once I logged on after paying the tuition, and a few things offered that I would would have looked over in the newsletters as they are not really relevant to us currently, but mostly it was pep talk. There was no talk of dress codes or supplies; in fact, they said that they read through the manual last year, which made the meeting go into overtime, and that we could read the manual ourselves. Many people were talking to each other as if they knew each other, but we were not in that group and I did not get connected with my mentor, who had called me earlier saying she would try to meet up with us.

As I sat there, I felt increasingly out of the mainstream...for this school, I mean. (I know how out of the mainstream I am with homeschooling as it is.) For one, my daughter is only taking one class and we live an hour away while many of these people have multiple children going to this school for several classes. We simply are not going to be as involved with all the other social and fund raising activities. I saw a map of where most of the students live and probably 50% are just fifteen minutes to the school with another 40% within a thirty minutes. We might make it for the barbeque picnic next weekend, but not much else other than maybe tagging along with the expedition in the spring. However, when we watched some of the videos with their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program, we just knew our daughter would want to do more there, especially the engineering.

After that meeting, I felt overwhelmed and oddly inadequate...and this after taking pride in her great test scores. I know I got her to this point and I know that we felt that the science class would enhance her learning. But, when faced with the "institution," even one as Christ-centered and homeschool-based as this one, I felt that everything I have been doing was second they could do it better than me in every way. I was interested in a few sidelines: They had a company that was very familiar with preparing transcripts for their students (for a fee) and another company who would help students get scholarships (for free but worth $3,000+) as his way to support the school. It made me think how I was on the right track about my instincts to get even more serious about preparing the Princess for the future beginning this year. Still, it took a few days to shake off those inadequacy feelings and get real about it all, but I am now in the mode of its a supplement for our homeschool as it was meant to be for us.

As to my thoughts of this year, when both her father and I were the age of the Princess, we were at least a year ahead in school, actually he was nearly two years ahead for he graduated within a month of after turning seventeen years old. So, his entire senior year he was sixteen until the last month, and I graduated at the age of seventeen a few months before turning eighteen, one of three of the youngest in my entire class. He skipped a year after going to a private Christian school, even though they took a year off from school as they traveled the country, and I just started early at the age of five into first grade because of a change in birthdate deadline in the county I lived at that time. So, when we were twelve and a half as the Princess nearly is, I was over halfway through 7th grade and my husband was in the first half of 8th. I have always had this in mind as I planned her lessons because she gets one-on-one tutoring and should be ahead of the standard grade for her age, however I also think it is time to step up our approach and tighten up on some subjects. I have always focused my encouragement on her piano and creative arts, but I want to focus heavily on building her skills within language arts, art, and music.

One big change for the Princess is that she is going to be tested regularly. I did not find testing necessary previously, except with spelling in a way, because I know what she really knows (and doesn't), however I have also noticed in the past two years that if the information does not interest her and she sees no obvious reason to retain it, such as she will be tested on it, she may not be able to recall it few weeks later. Oddly, she seems to want to be tested and many of the curricula I have decided on have built in tests. Maybe she will thrive on the challenge regular testing and grading will provide! Okay, it is not my ideal homeschool philosophy but, hey, whatever it takes.

The two problems that we really need to work on are following through as instructed, whether in writing or verbally, and listening to her instructors (so she knows how to follow through with the instructions), mostly me, but her piano teacher has problems with her at times and now we are adding a science teacher. I am hoping that the science class will be a good lesson for her in more ways than in science itself.

There have been some changes since the Homeschool Planning Out Loud post—actually, some were made just today as I was writing this post:


Language Arts/Grammar
  • Vocabulary from Classical Roots starting with Level 4.
  • Analytical Grammar which has 18 units of daily work. Then it has just two sheets of review and reinforcement exercises for each of following 10 weeks, at which time I will make a decision about what to focus on like reading, narrating, copywork, memorization, or writing.
  • Classical Writing for Older Beginners Here I go trying it again! I know I wrote previously that I did not like the grammar of the Aesop book, but I either am into self-punishment or I really do like the way they present their progymnasmata method. I am at least going to give it another look, because the Older Beginners version should move along faster so we can get the basics down and get to the really good stuff in the next level.
  • Classical Writing Poetry for Older Beginners to follow the one above and I am hoping she have a greater understanding of poetry as she used to write poems often.
  • Writing Strands beginning with Level 3. This is to further develop her writing skills.

Required Reading
  • This year I am going to have a list of books for required reading. The Princess is an avid reader (and writer), but I would like to at least have an age appropriate list of classics and good literature from which she can choose.

Classical Languages
  • Lively Latin has caught my interest just today. I wish it had been available years ago when I first looked at Latin programs for young children, but once I started another program, I was not looking for this one when it came out. Both book volumes together made for younger students are equivalent to one high school credit. Although Greek 'n' Stuff's Latin's Not So Tough!, currently Level 4, has been a program that worked well enough for the Princess at a younger age and we stayed with it even though I was getting lost with how it was structured. I have been doing the lessons myself along with the Princess and have had as much difficulty as she was (and she gets languages). The switch to any other Latin program would mean they will not line up so I have to determine with which book to begin or get both and find a good starting place with a little review and before launching into too much new stuff.
  • Elementary Greek is another switch-off just-decided-today from Greek 'n' Stuff's Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!, currently Level 4. Greek has been the Princess' favorite of the classical languages, but I was concerned we would be slipping into the same rut as we did with Latin, which is further along in Level 4. Elementary Greek has copying scripture built into the lessons, which we were doing as extra work with the other. A huge plus is that it is currently on sale, so I just now bought all three courses for just a bit more than I would pay for just one course alone and even less for two, and I did not have to make a hard choice of only ordering what I hoped would line up with where we are now. Wow!

Modern Language
  • Tell Me More French is the first homeschool version and it is very good, however now available is an updated version with a friendlier user interface available up to ten levels, which goes well into college level. The one I have is comparable to the current five levels...still, I would really like to upgrade. It was on sale through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op but I restrained myself to buying it only if I could sell the one I have first. That did not happen before the sale deadline so I will be patient for the next sale, which is at least once a year, sometimes twice, I believe.



  • I am still planning to direct that myself without a curriculum.

Social Studies
  • Story of the World Audio CDs to listen to on our errand day, which is more of a school day for the Princess than ever before with her science class and piano lesson. This was one change I had in back of my mind, but thought it was unaffordable until I found that they are discounted at I already have most of the books for this series, but the problem is we will be spending about two hours or more in the van on Wednesdays and the Princess gets carsick reading, so this might be our best solution for using a portion of that time wisely. I still need to work out a social studies plan for lesson time at home also.
  • Uncle Sam and You is my pick for civics, but the change is that I think I would rather begin it next semester.

Well, I think I have finalized my decisions...maybe. I received the history CDs yesterday. I just order Elementary Greek today, but still need to order Lively Latin and I think I am going to do the online option and download everything. I should be receiving the algebra curriculum and a few missing books for the two Classical Writing curricula next week that I am buying used. I will order Uncle Sam and You later in the year and after I sell off some of my no longer needed curriculum, which I should get busy to listing now.

Such is my L.I.F.E. homeschooling.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the guiding through this selection process and please bless the Princess with desire to learn, enjoy, and thrive in all these choices to guide her education. And, if I may, please help her to actually enjoy algebra more than she thinks she will or may want to admit. ~

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Be-Tween You & God

This review is months overdue, but that is because my daughter has actually been and still is using The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotional for Girls by Sandra Byrd. I had become discouraged about reviewing devotionals for tween girls until I found this one, which I can highly recommend. In the mornings, we have done it together and she has done it independently...without being reminded most of the time. I even caught her reading through it in the afternoons.
First let me judge this book by its teal, leather cover with impressed flowers and butterflies that my daughter found so pretty and I found so functional. It has a journal-like quality, being under 7½  x 5½ in size, making it rather convenient to carry along. It also has a gold ribbon bookmarker that keeps her place quite nicely. I was at first disappointed that the book was not in pink, previously my daughter's favorite color, but lately she has been liking teal, so she was thrilled.

Inside is not colorful, but not boring either; the pages have a girl-appeal, journal-like quality with decorative sections. A tab layered in flowers at the top with a date and beside it a note in a clean handwriting font with a question addressed to God, common and relevant to many pre-teen girls generally and specifically. Although the more specific might not be relevant to the child that day, the body of the message is still beneficial.

Dear God, I'm afraid my grades will start to fall if I get one bad grade on a test, even though I'm usually a good student.
Dear God, One of my friends gets mad if I "dare" to have another friend. I hung out with other friends, but I don't tell her. I feel dishonest. What should I do?
Dear God, I'm only a kid, really. What can I do to tell others about you? I'm afraid if I speak up, people will laugh at me.

The body of the page starts with: Consider this..." It is not preachy, but helps lead the child into a deeper thinking and change of perspective as a good devotional should. The advice given is gentle but firm, Biblical, and quite age-appropriate, like something a grandparent might say.

At the bottom of each page is another note-like section that begins with "God says..." with a scripture. Next to it is "How About You?" with one or more questions to make it even more relevant and help the child to put what was learned into practical use.

The one thing it lacked is a reminder to pray at the end of the pages. Personally, as an adult, I find such reminders in my devotionals annoyingly unnecessary, particularly when it is written about for what I should pray as if the devotional itself was not adequate to prompt a person on its own. However, considering the target age, I think a reminder to talk with God at the bottom of the page might have been beneficial for the girls who would be doing this devotional independently. So, I would suggest to parents, to begin with the child guiding her through the devotional time process ending with a time for prayer, until the child seems prepared to take the initiative to spend this precious time independently with God guided with devotional.

I received a complementary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for my honest review.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Math Matters

'Can you do Addition?' the White Queen asked. 'What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?'
'I don't know,' said Alice. 'I lost count.'
'She can't do Addition,' the Red Queen interrupted, 'Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight.'
'Nine from eight I can't, you know,' Alice replied very readily: 'but—'
'She can't do Subtraction,' said the White Queen. 'Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife—what's the answer to that?'
'I suppose—' Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her. 'Bread-and-butter, of course. Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?'
Alice considered. 'The bone wouldn't remain, of course, if I took it—and the dog wouldn't remain: it would come to bite me—and I'm sure I shouldn't remain!'
'Then you think nothing would remain?' said the Red Queen.
'I think that's the answer.'
'Wrong, as usual,' said the Red Queen: 'the dog's temper would remain.'
'But I don't see how—'
'Why, look here!' the Red Queen cried. 'The dog would lose its temper, wouldn't it?'
'Perhaps it would,' Alice replied cautiously.
'Then if the dog went away, its temper would remain!' the Queen exclaimed triumphantly.
Alice said, as gravely as she could, 'They might go different ways.' But she couldn't help thinking to herself 'What dreadful nonsense we are talking!'
~Excerpt from Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

Ah, poor Alice trying to apply logic in a world without logic! My daughter, I think, believes that only logical course to take with math is try to get the dog to eat her homework, and it is all homework when you homeschool, but I keep hoping to spark a bit more interest.

Although we homeschool year around, there are certain times of the year that I feel the urge to reassess, revise, and re-equip. One trigger for me is the "after" back-to-school sale markdowns. To be brutally honest, I am a school supplies/office store junkie year around, but I restrain myself well until this time of year. I just have a thing for clean ruled paper, pencils begging to be sharpened, pencil sharpeners begging to sharpen pencils, construction paper, fancy pens, paper clips, blank drawing paper, staplers, highlighters, poster board, and, of course, index cards both the regular size and the larger. Oh, my! I do not really even need any supplies as I already have so much, yet markdowns on school supplies call to me; I want to go shopping right now and buy more. However, I am also determine to keep all the office supplies in one file cabinet to counter the clutter issue caused when I get these things that I really don't need into my home!

Okay, now I am consciously taking that little step away from my strange attraction to supplies and getting some focus on the topic of this post.

Last week and this one also, we took a break from formal lessons, as I promised we would do after her testing, which ended Tuesday last week. Except for having to focus on preparing items for a consignment sale for this week, I spent much of my time mentally planning the next year--well, maybe just the next few months to get us to Christmas. The Princess will be starting the science class at Living Science in the first week of September and I would say, tongue in cheek, that I will be in parent-teacher homeschool conferences probably until that week. It is tough talking to oneself and planning out this child's education as mother, teacher, and principal, but a homeschooling mother has to do it.

Math was the weakest area for the Princess in testing. Not because it was so difficult for her, but because she is just not challenging herself to use short-cut techniques, even though I have taught them to her. This is why she finished too few of the problems to get the score I know she can get. She has been using Teaching Textbooks 7 for nearly a year—I originally planned for just a few months and then moving her into pre-algebra around the January or February, but...well, I think I just relaxed my grip on math enjoying the peace that came with her using a computer program independently. Math has always been where we had the most difficulty working together, so it was souring our attitudes for the rest of the day and even our entire relationship.

I will say that I am glad that we used it to give us both a break and I was very glad that I started her with the grade 7 level, one grade above her age level—actually she was always a bit ahead in math. I like the format of TT, but not the scope. It is a wonderful program for those who struggle with math and have parents that struggle with teaching math, but it is slow and at this level at least a year behind other texts. I had spent most of the week trying to find a good condition, previously used Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra in version 2 with the autograde feature, but somehow just did not feel settled about continuing with TT.

So, I began to look at Math Mammoth, which I already had, and check out the worksheets that are in beginning algebra. Although the program covers only to grade 8, it is certainly has more depth and practice. I also went the the website to see what the creator recommends for an algebra program after Math Mammoth. There is where I found out about Jacob's Elementary Algebra, which eventually led me to Ask Dr. Callahan's bundle with supplemental DVDs and a solutions manual. I looked up the reviews and previews, and I would say that this is the book that may answer my daughter's ever repeated inquiry about when is she ever going to use this stuff.

The introduction disarms the difficult math child right off by beginning with a number trick: Think of a number from one to ten. Add seven to it. Multiply the result by two. Subtract four. Divide by two. Subtract the number you first thought of. (Not thrilled with that preposition at the end of the sentence.) Is your answer five? My daughter will be memorizing this to use on every child she knows! You can see a preview of the book here.

The book begins gently, reviewing math terminology and basic operations, which they should already know, and introducing abstract algebra concepts, relaxing any fears and confusion to the switch into symbolic letters in an equation. Many of the lessons begin with quotes or cartoons or stories or even funny quips all that engage the child and help her see some practical use what is being taught. Even better is that it has an exploratory approach that worked so well with the Princess when she was using Miquon Math. I think—I am hoping—that this curriculum will work better for her. And, I like the depth and scope of it. It is not the most rigorous of the algebra programs out there, but I believe I can start her on it without doing pre-algebra and supplementing with Math Mammoth to work on speeding up her techniques, which means we are going to be working closely together on math again.

Also, I decided to go back to a scheduling format with math that we used when she was younger. She will do no more than one hour of math a day in total, but it will be split up into two timed periods, most likely following her morning and afternoon piano practices. I still have our lesson schedule to work out and starting next week her piano lessons will be on Wednesday with the science class starting a week later.

Math with the Princess...oh, yes! Prayers will be much appreciated.

~ My Lord, thank you for Your continued guidance in educating the child You have given to me. ~

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Still Pleased Homeschooling Mama

Fail at love, and the other tests don't matter.
~Richard Bach

I choose the California Achievement Test (CAT) from Christian Liberty Press (CLP) for our state required national standardized test this year. Three years ago, as I wrote in Pleased Homeschooling Mama, I used Seton's CAT, but I felt it was far too easy. The tests from CLP are based on 1970 standards, which are supposed to be higher academic standards than the updated versions today. Another difference between these two is Seton's test is set up for testing at the end of the school year and CLP's is set up for the beginning of the school year, so they say.

I wanted to stay with the CAT as it does not test social studies and science, only the 3R's. My reason is that in those areas of study I do not follow state or national standards at all. In other words, we do not cover history, government, geography, or science in the structure as required in schools. We are following a world history timeline, not an American history timeline, and I believe that the concepts of American history and government are more relevant when the student has an understanding of world history and other governments. They also are better understood at an older age. I want her to be intrigued with politics and take interest in how it influences her life. The rest is just empty knowledge to get good grades on tests, which has low priority for me.

Having chosen CLP's test, I was face with the next quandary: Should I have her take the 7th grade test as that is what grade she would be going into according to her age or the 8th grade test as she is at the end of her 7th grade math curriculum. In our home educational program, math is the only subject that has a grade level format, the rest is not grade specific even if the subject is leveled in some manner. My husband and I decided to stick with the grade of her age so it would be the 7th grade test, although the CLP representative suggested that I use the 8th grade test.

With CLP I had one other decision to make: paper or online. My husband suggested we encourage the Princess to make this decision for herself. The pros (and cons) for online version is that it would be strictly timed for each section and I cannot look over the questions to try to prep her specifically for anything we might not have covered. This high tech format would prove to be more like how I took such tests in public school, with the exception that we would be receiving the results as soon as the test was completely finished. The Princess decided on the online version, proving I was more nervous about it than she was.

I tried to tell myself that the scores would not matter really, but I am homeschooling--more specifically, homeschooling an only child. I know she is intelligent and knowledgeable, but there is no real measuring stick without testing. On one side, I want to know how she compares to others and, on the other, I fluctuate between "it does not matter" and worrying because the truth is that is does matter and "what if she does not do well?" I would see it as failure on my part.

The Princess also had been worried about the test, wondering what would happen if she did not do well. She would see it as her failure and at this emotionally fragile tween age too. Still, I think that testing yearly, although it is not required, might be something to consider from now on for the experience. I just think she needs to improve her confidence in the testing process as she will preparing for college. At least, she has been talking about colleges and potential careers quite a bit this past year.

The Princess was ready and nervous, typical pre-test stuff. She was able to pick the test sections in any order she wanted, but once the test was started there was no way to stop the timer. She felt she did well until she tackled the math sections. These she did yesterday in the morning. By lunch time she had finished them and had only one section left to go.

It was then that the meltdown occurred....

With tears running down hot cheeks, she screamed that she did terrible and had timed out on the math sections with computations being the one with the most questions left. I sent her to her room to cry it out and cool down for about two minutes and then I went to her to give her the loving she so needed. Meltdowns are expected with this age and I usually handle them well...when I am not the one having one, that is. She does not know it now, but this test will be a vague memory in the life and times of my maturing Princess; how I handled the situation will be the lasting memory.

I assured her that most children do not finish all the sections as I had told her during our test prep. Even I, who loved math, often timed out on the math sections, but I still scored quite high. She might have done better than she thought. I had prepared her for the last few weeks by telling her the tests are not about grades or how many you get right or wrong as much as how your scores compare to others who had taken the same test. It is a concept of gray in a girl who likes things black and white. I am thankful that to her right is right and wrong is wrong but it makes it hard for her to understand that getting just half right would be average, like a "C" not an "F." (And, after all those years I purposely did not do any grades...well, it is just such a major influence in the lives of her friends that there is no escaping it, I suppose.) After lunch, she felt better and finished the remaining section.

Immediately I received these results, which I arranged in order from the best to the worst.

Subject Raw Score Grade Equivalent Percentile Rank Stanine
Language Mechanics 59/72 12.694 8
Reading Comprehension 35/45 11.3 93 8
Language Use and Structure 32/50 11.7 918
Language Spelling 24/32 10.0 82 7
Mathematics Concepts & Problems 29/50 8.6 79 7
Reading Vocabulary 26/40 7.7 62 6
Mathematics Computation 22/48 6.8 46 5

I actually thought she would score worse in math, even though I know she knows it well enough and is actually good at it. She just does not like math, so she takes it slower than she needs to be able to finish the test before timing out. Still, her lowest score was as if she was in the eighth month of sixth grade so even though the percentile is just below 50, I think she still did very well. We will just need to work on her speed in math, which is one of the short comings of her using a computer based curriculum. I will have to supplement it with working in techniques. She still tends to have a habit of doing it the long and slow ways instead of the shorter and quicker ways and I think this test help her to realize that her methods need to change.

I also noticed from our test prep that she was weaker in vocabulary and somewhat in spelling, which is one of the reasons I ordered a vocabulary curriculum. She is actually interested in stretching her vocabulary and improving her spelling.

The rest I expected she would do well, but I was a bit surprised in how well! I knew that she should be way ahead in grammar, but when we were doing the test prep, I was not as sure about how well she would remember it. Reading comprehension was also one of the areas in test prep that I thought she was not doing as well as I thought she should be able to do.

I am so a very pleased with her. Come this Saturday, not only will we be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary (which is actually today) at the Melting Pot, but also how well the Princess did on her test. 

~ Some days, my Lord, I wonder as work at educating with my daughter, if she is doing as well as I think she is or as bad as I fear she might be. I thank You again for calling us to homeschool her. We have had some bad days, but we also have had many more very good ones. It is certainly worth the effort. ~

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Cleaning House

I wish I could say that I loved Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement as much as I hoped I would, but I did not. Although I found some of transparent honesty of author's personal experiences enjoyable and even funny, I had difficulty reading the book in its entirety. That may be because I am just not in the target market for the book; before I finished the first chapter, I knew that would be very little relative to my lifestyle. Unlike the author, I homeschool and part of my daughter's education is living in the real world, which includes housework, laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping, budget keeping, yard work, etc. If anything, the author's "experiment" to add chores and projects to the lives of her children was in the direction of how things are done in my own family.

Kay Wyma started simply in the first month with just having her five children, ages four to fourteen, making their own beds and picking up clutter, very doable for all the ages of her children. Each month she either added to the chores or had them work on a particular project with the last month being etiquette.

The second month was to learn to plan a menu, shop for the groceries, prepare the food, and clean up after the meal one day each week. I thought it was much for the youngest of the children, but there was plenty of help from the mother. I also thought this was an excellent regular chore for the older children, but later in the book it is mentioned that after the second month, she only required them to cook one meal a month. That is when I had to put the book down for a few days, which turned into many weeks. I thought the older ones could do a meal at least every two weeks, if not weekly. How were the older children really going to learn how to prepare meals making only twelve meals a year?

When I finally picked the book back up, I continued to read trying to enjoy it as a chronicle of the author's experiences in her twelve-month experiment, rather than a book that would share any insights that I hoped to incorporate into my own lifestyle. However, two troubling factors kept surfacing throughout the book: the family's financial advantage and the husband not being on board.

This book was published in a time when our country had not yet recovered from a long economic recession and within the writer shares that she has a maid that comes to her home twice a week. I am happy for them and for the maid they employ, but their lifestyle is a little out of touch with those of us who cannot afford a maid or work as maids. One might think that is why her children were not doing anything, but the reality is that the parents were the ones who needed to change the most, which leads into the second problem that really grated on me: the parents were not in agreement with the experiment. It was such a major undertaking to change the entire family's lifestyle and having the father not more actively involved and supportive really bothered me.

At the end of every chapter, the author summarized what her children learned during the month and what she learned as well. After the first chapter, she writes, "I had no idea the number of areas in which my enabling tendency prevails." This was quite obvious because she was making the five beds in which her children had slept each day, not to mention she was picking up after them all as well. I am glad that this experiment helped her to see this and make lasting changes that are beneficial to her children in preparing them for taking care of themselves in adulthood. Perhaps my frustration was in reading the painstaking steps of an enabling mother finally learning how to be a parent.

In the end, I am torn about giving this review. On one side, I can see it would be helpful for some families who need it, but I found it to be less helpful and somewhat irritating to read being on the other side of the fence.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No Public School Day

Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.
~Henry S. Haskins

Public school began on August 1st in our county, but most counties surrounding will be starting within a week or two. On the first day that public school starts in our county, my daughter and I have a tradition of taking a holiday, a Mama and Daughter Day. This year we called it Mama and Daughter "We Don't Do Public School" Day. We could not do it on the first day as it was our errand day, so we planned it for Friday.

Last year we kept it low-keyed, shopping for used books and eating cupcakes in a very small historical area of a nearby town, which used to be a train stop with a few store fronts. It was a nice quiet afternoon and within our budget as we were still working on paying off our debt then. This year I wanted to do something really special with the Princess. In fact, I decided that she and I really have not done fun things together for far too long so we might have a Mama and Daughter Day once a month, something simple or educational but the main thing would be to go somewhere to enjoy the day and each other without formal homeschooling or housework.

We decided to go to Stone Mountain, even though I knew there still would be a lot of children because so many were still out of school. We had not been there in years, seven years to be exact. Here is the Princess at Stone Mountain when she was five years old.

The park is about an hour and a half drive mostly on the Atlanta by-pass. I bought the tickets on-line with a discount. We arrived as the park was opening at 10:30 am.

We both wanted to hike up the mountain this time, but it was really hot with very little breeze. It would have been better to have done it earlier. Still, I was hoping that the train that goes around the mountain stopped at the trail head for the hike up, but it does not. The first thing we did is took the train ride around the mountain, which we had never done before; the Princess still loves trains.

A little later we took the Summit Skyride to the top of the mountain, which is not one of my ideas of fun and the pictures on the link are not realistic. First, they pack too many people in to be comfortable, not like there is this one family alone as in the pictures posted there--I do not like being closed in. Second, it goes up off the ground by 825 feet--I do not like heights. But, I have been on it before a few times and so for the love of my daughter.... She loved the top of the mountain.

At the highest point of each mountain a marker like this is placed. We make a point of finding the markers, if it is possible. On Stone Mountain it is easily accessible and out in the open. All we had to do is find the highest point of its rounded top.

Generally, there is nothing much up there to thrill a child, but my daughter can always find something when she wants to do so and she did. One thing that I find particularly interesting that is not well known and not really advertised is that there are two kinds of tiny shrimp, clam shrimp and fairy shrimp, in the seasonal water pools there. I find it as another piece of evidence that our earth was completely flooded, because there is just nothing explains how tiny shrimp get on the top of mountains that makes any sense.

Since she enjoyed the mountain itself so much, we decided we would come back on another cooler Mama and Daughter Day or on a day that her father could join us and just pay for the parking to hike the mountain and the other trails as well as rent paddles boats. This day we did the attractions and shopped.

We walked around the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard areas, saw a 4-D movie, and fed and played with butterflies to name a few of the activities. We had a light lunch, a turkey and cheese deli sandwich and iced tea that we split, and then the Princess was introduced to a funnel cake, her very first experience with one.

We also did the craziest thing I have ever done in my, I am not kidding! When I say this, I used to be pretty daring with a motto that I would try almost anything at least once, and maybe twice if I liked it--my thoughts were how would I know if I would like it if I did not at least try it once. Now that does not mean I intentionally go thrill-seeking or do something illegal for the experience, but there is something to facing your fears and face a very big one I did that day.

The Really Crazy Thing I Did at Stone Mountain Park

Little did I know that waiting for me at Stone Mountain Park was the hardest thing, mentally and physically, that I have ever done in my life...well, up to this point at least.

There is an attraction call the SkyHike. Go ahead and click on the link...I will wait for you.

So, you read it over, right? The Princess really wanted to do this and had talked to a girl, who had done every level telling her that the highest one was the hardest, but the lower levels looked pretty easy to me...from the ground anyway. Now when you are in line you cannot really see it well, but watching people that I could see, I was pretty confident that we could do either of the lower levels without much trouble.

We rented a locker and put everything in it except for my sunglasses, as we were instructed to do. I write this so you know why we have absolutely no video or pictures to prove what I am about to tell you, but in retrospect we could have tucked the Princess' camera in a pocket.

We had waited nearly an hour in line with the last five minutes being fitted for a harness. I want to point out that I did not see anyone test their harness, but the Princess and I did; people are so much more trusting than we are, I guess. There is a track above us in which the harness is attached and it determines where we can go.

We get up to the first level, but the Princess goes up the stairs to the second level. Okay, we are higher off the ground, but I am thinking...well, I really was not thinking actually, because if I had been thinking, I would not have asked the Princess which of the levels she wanted to do when we got on the second level. I thought she would pick the second, but forgot what a risk taker she can be. I heard the little daredevil say she wanted to go up to the third level and the next thing I know the attendant had set us up on that track.

I could have said "No. Let's just do this level." I should have said no. Why, oh, why did I just not say no?

I said something to the attendant as she opened the gate...I honestly do not even remember what, but I heard her responding, "Well, you have done the other levels, right?" as I watched my eager daughter walking up these narrow steps made of boards suspended on ropes that were surprisingly stable. The "no" that I managed to voice was so full of uncertainty that I thought (maybe "hoped" would be the better word) she might advise against it, but instead she said nothing. She did not even look at me.

That is when I had this feeling of cold-sweat dread come over me. I began to think maybe I should not be doing this, but there is my daughter waiting for me on the platform...all by herself about 40 feet in the air.

As I ascended the stairs, I began to realize with absolute clarity the distance I was from the ground. By the time I reached the platform, I was wrestling with vertigo and thinking I was going to pass out or throw up or freeze up completely or babble incoherently or something else as embarrassing! (What a memory any one of these would have been!)

Before I could say anything, my daughter had turned and was walking out on a rope. As I watched her carefully step her way toward the next platform, it did not escape me that there was no one else up on that level at all, which concerned me as the other two levels had people waiting in line.

Now this challenge had two ropes on which to hold, one on each side but they were angled so that right one was very low and the left high on the starting platform and that is reversed at the next platform. In the middle, it is advisable to switch your hold between the ropes. The Princess was doing so well. She seemed so confident. Until...

She was just two steps away from the platform, but she could not really hold onto either of the side ropes. One was too low and the other too high for those last two steps. She turned and looked at me with an expression of absolute terror.

There are times when really bad moments seem to bend the time-space continuum--this never happens with the good moments, just the really bad ones. In that moment, she seemed twice as far away as she was and time seemed to slow to a crawl and she was younger. All I could think of was that was my baby girl all alone clear over there standing on a rope that seemed 100 feet from the ground!

She was frozen in fear and I cannot help her or even go to her until she gets off the rope. This in real time was probably only a few seconds, but it felt much longer. Inside I was in terror with her, but outwardly she only saw me do the motherly thing she needed from me. I looked at her with all the loving encouragement I could muster in my pallid, queasy state and told her that she could do this. She turned still looking a bit unsure, but she figured out a way to take those last two steps. I let out the breath I had been holding in relief.

And then I realized it was my turn....

My daughter, now safe on the platform, was facing me and saying, "Come on, Mama. You can do it!"

Mama was not convinced!

I took a breath in and stepped out on the rope, which began shaking from side to side immediately. Since it had not done this for my daughter, I deduced that it must be myself causing this. I know I certainly felt shaky from the very core of my being about the idea walking on a rope about 40 feet up.

Once I reached about halfway and switched which rope I was holding, I found myself thinking the craziest things, like "Why am I doing this when I don't even have dinosaurs chasing me?"

I was just two steps from the platform and I had the same dilemma that panicked my daughter: the ropes were too high and too low to use. I had been using one hand on the guide rope and the other was firmly grasping the tether to my harness. I decided to grab the tether with both hands and just go.

Yes! I made it to the platform and began immediately looking for an emergency exit. My hands were sweaty and I was a wreck. I had absolutely no intention to go on. I was done. But, there was no emergency exit and my daughter had started out on the second challenge.

The next one was walking on a 4" x 4" wood beam. They say that you never forget how to ride a bike, I guess that goes for walking a balance beam from teenage gymnastics also. I found myself wishing I was barefoot, but other than that it felt familiar and I began to forget about the height and just focus on each of the tasks.

I would not say it got easier, just oddly familiar. The other ropes I did were not shaking like when I did the first one; I assume I was a bit more relaxed after surviving the first panic attack. Every time the Princess made it to a platform, she would call out to encourage me, "Come on, Mama. You can do it!"  It was so precious--encouraging the old, frighten woman behind her.

There were eight challenges in all. Oh, and there really was an emergency exit, the turn around platform halfway through the course. Watsupwitat?

One of the attendants came out to the middle platform to help a small boy when we were on our way back and I said something about the difficulty. She said that I had already done the one where the ropes we walk criss-cross and it was the hardest. "No, that was not the hardest. The first one was the hardest!"

They have brag T-shirts about conquering the mountain, but none about conquering the third level of the SkyHike. They are missing out on a marketing opportunity there, if you ask me. I would have bought one.

When we were again on solid ground, I noticed that my fingers ached and my low back was a bit touchy for just a hour or so, but it would be a good 24 hours before I felt all the soreness in the rest of my muscles. I recuperated mostly by the next day, so I guess this 50+ year old body did alright for doing the hardest and highest level first.

Was it a crazy thing to do having not done anything like it before or even doing the lower levels?
Absolutely! I would not recommend starting with the top level first.

Would I have done that top level if I really had looked it over before we went in line?
Absolutely not! Not knowing what to expect probably was working in my favor in retrospect.

Was it worth doing?
My daughter and I will never forget it, so, yes, I think it was worth it.

Would I do it again?
Hm, well, I lived through it so...uh, maybe?

At the very least, my daughter knows I love her enough to walk the hardest and highest level of the SkyHike even with my paralyzing fear of heights.

~ My Lord, thank you for such a lovely day with my daughter and for the opportunity to face one of my fears. It was quite challenging and enlightening for both my daughter and me. ~