Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


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The State of Things

If you will indulge me ever so slightly, I thought that I’d go through a little “State of Things” post. I figure if politicians can do so with gusto, then little old me could too. Shhhh….no need to point out the differences in the two. I’m not vain enough to think that the state of things for me is anywhere near as important as the state of a State. It’s still a useful exercise, though, yes?

School – We’re about a little more than half way through things as far as the public school is concerned and I continue to be pleased with Groceries’ social opportunities. Seeing as this was one of our primary reasons for enrolling him in public school, this is a very good thing. The adjustment period was, contrary to a certain person’s opinion, rather smooth. After a rough couple of weeks at the start, he became a model student and an asset to the class by the first parent teacher conference. This surprised me even though it shouldn’t have, but at that point I was just so uncertain about me, my abilities as a mother, and my fears that I was causing him irreparable harm by not putting him in school. Because really, in spite of knowing that my kid was doing just fine, I let too many other people (with their own baggage and assumptions) drown out my gut feelings on the matter. I let that particular person rattle me and I hate that.

Academically, however? I continue to be underwhelmed. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but before enrolling him in school I was under the impression that we were behind academically because all homeschoolers are, at least according to the prevailing cultural narrative. Yes, I knew cognitively that this isn’t the case for every homeschooler out there and that homeschoolers, like every human being, everywhere, lie on a continuum from better to worse. Deep down, though, I should have been far more confident about how we were doing. We made academics our focus and pushed through our material. I was methodical, well planned, and driven to keep moving.

As a result, he’s above grade level in everything (except the practical skills part in art and music as we focused much more on appreciation and history rather than doing) and it seems to us that he’s basically repeating a year. The things that most stick out in conferences? Yeah, I taught him those things. His ability to participate in book discussions more than capably? I didn’t spend all that time on the Read Aloud Project for nothing. His penchant for random facts? We had time to follow rabbit trails and didn’t just limit ourselves to “at grade level” resources. Oh, and his beautiful handwriting that his teacher fawns all over? Yeah, that was me too. I admit I might have been a bit obsessive on penmanship and probably annoyed the kid to no end, but compared to the rest of his class (and his father) I think it was worth it.

Still, it doesn’t seem like he’s being challenged in his class work or moving forward in his knowledge base. I had plans on working with him some after school (because that what all anti-homeschooling liberals tell us we should be doing), but I could never get past the conflict in my values. Yes, additional work in math, science, and history would be helpful, but what about play? In the end, play has won out because that seems important (and he’s still a kid), but I wonder about that. He still tells me he doesn’t get to play enough and complains when other parts of life get in the way, like grocery shopping. It’s much the same refrain I got when we were homeschooling and I’d say his playtime was double then what it is now.

And so I’m torn. It was a good thing for him to go to school because I had never been able to figure out the social aspect because it’s just too damn hard to find opportunities that don’t come along with a side of conservative Christianity. There are certain homeschoolers who will not let that go one little bit. Either they’re in control and their beliefs rule everything or they take their toys and go home. I hate that. Anything I did find was simply not of sufficient quantity to help him get what he needed. Mostly, I hated that he didn’t have friends that he could see often enough or invite over to play or for a birthday party. Also? He blossomed into a writer at school in ways that I only dreamed of. He’d fight me tooth and nail to write a handful of sentences at home, but at school he willingly sits down to write and excels at it.

Did I mention that I had really great lesson plans for this year?

Deep within me I struggle with the missed opportunities. History! Real history! Staying up late reading! Science! Evolution! Museums! Oh, the hours of reading we have missed! *sigh*

On the other hand? I stunk at taking care of myself. I was overwhelmed, overstressed, and stretched way too thinly. I was never able to find the balance necessary to get done what needed to get done while also taking time to let go. All my free time was spent taking care of things and getting ready for the next school day. Something had to give and sadly, there was no option to give any of it over to the husband. Simply put, he’d have to be home more often and the kids and I have this silly little habit of eating and needing a place to live. I’m the one who makes the husband’s hours possible and he’s the one who keeps working so that we have a house and cars and food and can do something fun every so often. Then there’s that little hitch that if I went back to work, the husband and I would hardly ever share a day off.

What would I do differently? I would drop the workbooks and worry less about grammar, writing, and logic. I’d go with copy work and dictation on a weekly basis. I’d focus on workshop-y writers stuff and creating a family writing habit. I’d let the rest lie until he was much older. I’d take any money I might have spent on English workbooks and buy that expensive spelling program I always dreamed about. I’d sign the kids up for a foreign language class, try out that group down in Rockford, and travel to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center for every homeschool class they offered. I’d have signed him up for sports at the YMCA sooner. I would have focused on history, science, math, art (every day!), and read alouds. We would have finally gotten around to nature study.

I can’t rewind time to change any of those things, but there’s something comforting in knowing it never-the-less.

Currently reading aloud – We’re still plodding along with “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly. It was a slow starter, but the kids have since really grown to love the story. Reading it make me a bit itchy, though, because I can totally see how you could have structured an entire unit study around the book. You could cover history (the Alamo, slavery, the Civil War, Texas, gender roles, prejudice, the spread of technology) and science (the scientific method, nature study, female scientists, evolution, Darwin). It’s been a nice change of pace from Rick Riordan and JK Rowling. After this I’m thinking of switching gears to lighter and more traditional kid fare. Oh, and shorter books because I’d love it if we could make quicker progress down the list which I’ll admit seems like a silly way to pick books.

As for me – I’m learning how to speak up, say no, and ask for help more. I have three or four new works in progress in my sewing room. I’m enjoying the quiet hours in my life more. I love it that the husband and I have more time to spend together when two of the three children are at school. I’m feeling (somewhat) less stressed. I’m making myself branch out into more adult focused spaces and there’s a part of me that is secretly looking forward to the day that all three children are in school (especially if we can avoid me going back to work). Oh, the husband’s looking forward to that as well. He’s got day trips planned. I’m also trying to leave the house, the kids, and the dog under my husband’s sole supervision more often. See you later dears, mom’s out of here!

Going forward – That whole Governor Crazy Pants business really set us back quite a bit hence the crazy number of hours the husband works. The level of uncertainty and animosity still continues, though, and I wonder how we’ll ever un-break things. I hesitate to talk about the things that are looking up because I’m afraid something else is going to fall and wreck any semblance of hope I might feel. So I keep tiny bits of hope to myself.

What about you, dear reader? Does hope spring eternal or go tumbling down the stairs?


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At least there was Sun Bread…

The last ten days have been…different around these parts.

I’ve gone ten rounds with the health insurance and the employer over audiologist coverage for one of my children.  They won’t cover an audiologist unless the individual has a certified hearing deficiency, but the only way you can get a certification for a hearing deficiency is…if you see an audiologist.

I try to be an optimistic person and thought that if perhaps I tried to present my query with logic or reason (hearing is kind of important for language development in children) then I might at the very least get an explanation of some kind to satisfy the “why.”  All I got was a “I can see how that doesn’t make sense to you,” and reason number 1,548,699 for why the rest of the world thinks the way we Americans handle health care is crazy.

Is it necessary?  This more than anything is the question I least know the answer to.  What do you do when the doctor thinks a referral to a specialist is warranted?  What do you do when the doctor orders a particular test?  How can I, non-medical school individual that I am, determine the answer to that question?  The main benefit that proponents of High Deductible Health Plans (or perhaps more accurately, all tea soaked conservatives everywhere) crow at the top of their lungs is that if the consumer is responsible to pay for everything (or just about everything) then somehow they’ll magically become experts and become capable of acting as their own second opinion and all of our problems will be solved by the unseen, divine hand of the all-knowing and holy market.

See?  Crazy.

You want to know what happens in these situations?  Delayed or skipped care, even if someone needs it.  I get that because among the worst that can happen, aside from pervasive cancer or death, is that I could conceivably spend my grocery (or gas or electric or rent or mortgage) money on a test that some other holier-than-thou-I-don’t-ever-have-to-worry-about-my-next-meal-judge-y-judgerson will point their fingers at and say is unnecessary and responsible for all that is wrong with our country.

In my relatively sheltered but not without uncertainty middle class life this sort of stress and pressure is bad enough, but if I were in a different income bracket and fed my kids those same Uncrustables for lunch in order to let off a bit of the pressure in my life, folks would be calling out the fiduciary inquisition.  Take myself out to the movies to try to forget, for the briefest of moments, the mountains of stress waiting for me while in need of government assistance of any kind?  Suddenly they go all apoplectic and foam at the mouth about freebies and freeloaders and some other ridiculousness.  For the record, this sort of freak-out is closely related to the “cadillac health insurance” and “bankrupting the government” tics common in my state.

The coolest thing?  We got to see a dromedary hump.

The worst thing?  That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you don’t really know the answer and you want to be responsible.  How much additional testing is necessary?  I’m no slouch when it comes to reading comprehension and I’ve read a few journal articles over the years so I’m Google Scholar game, but what about when the way forward isn’t clear? Then what? Perhaps more succinctly, is this not what we send folks to college and graduate school for?

Science education – Seriously, people, if we’re going to demand that your average American second-guess their doctor and function as their very own in-house specialist, then we have got to stop fucking messing around with science education in our public schools.  Could the Christians, just this once, please stop treating science curriculum as the front lines in some ill-advised religious culture war?

Best new idea for a life skills class in high school?  Reading medical journal articles.  You know what else we’re going to need to provide?  Wide open access to full text journal articles for everyone.

Compounding factor?  I’m not just making these sorts of decisions for myself – I’m making them for my children which means I have a high(er) probability of messing them up for the rest of their life.

No pressure or anything.

IMG_1515At least there was Sun Bread (honey orange challah).


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Movie Wednesday – “The Revisionaries”

On account of a most wonderful upper respiratory…thing going through the family WIP Wednesday has been cancelled because we’ve been watching our fair share of movies.  Or at least I have.  My kids have been reenacting the battle of the Titans from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series which I take as a sign that they’re feeling better.  Since it’s a bit difficult to recreate the battle of the Titans on a blog, I thought I’d instead share a movie with you instead.

Many Public Television stations have been airing this documentary lately (and may still be airing it in your area).  For those of us (like me) who don’t have access to broadcast television or cable, I’m happy to report that you can watch it online at the Independent Lens’ website.  It’s available until February 27th and will play on iOS devices.  I can’t remember if there’s an Airplay option, but it should work with mirroring if you’re so equipped.


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My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from Birmingham City Jail