Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unique kids

I have very special kids. Each of them have a unique personality with exceptional talent in different areas. When I really think about it, it amazes me.

Kevin, my first born, was just so highly intelligent that the first 3 years of his life made me think that all kids could be this way if just given the right environment to grow up in. You see, from the beginning I believed in treating children as if they had intelligence. We read to him in the womb, we read to him when he was a newborn. We played special music for him in-utero when we went to sleep at night (Brian Eno’s Evening Star, for those who want to know). Later we played this same music to help him sleep at night, or as a calming music for those times of colic.  He was not an easy baby, by far! As my first born I had all kinds of struggles. He never slept more than 20 minutes at a time during the day. Unless it was in the snuggly while I went for walks. But he learned things so quickly. He was holding his head up within the first week and I swear he smiled at 2 weeks of age. You’ve read about his early reading ability. Because I worked in preschools and daycares during his formative years, he was surrounded by learning materials….books, magnetic and felt board sets, educational games, computers (back then it was the Commodore 64!). He grew up so smart. I thought I had all the answers for creating early readers. However, I learned differently.Each child is unique.

I’ve talked about Adam’s amazing music talents. When I think about how he had the freedom and the resources to pursue this talent, it totally validates the unschooling method. At 22 he is getting ready to launch out into the world and see where this talent will take him. We are excited.

Stephanie at 16, is blossoming into a beautiful young woman. She works for our dive shop, is a member of GHSA’s Academic Challenge Bowl team, and currently in the GATE theater program’s Cinderella. In her free time (which she has lots of!) she writes and draws for hours on end. She is polite and friendly and modest. She has a few good online friends and a few real life friends. She has no boyfriend and no bullies. She is not pregnant, nor doing anything that may bring her to into that situation. She is not sheltered or isolated either! She interacts daily with all kinds of customers and people. And she is a great big sister (and little sister too – being the middle child!).

Eric. I’ve written lots about Eric. He’s the child that taught me what it was like to have a real boy! Kevin and Adam were pretty laid back kids when I compare them to Eric. He has always been my “go to” kid,. However, in the past year he has really settled down and matured. To the point that I can actually trust him to be on his own for  a few hours and not worry if he’ll cause trouble. He’ll be 11 in less than two weeks. He continues to be loveable and enthusiastic about life, with an incredible imagination.

Recently he had an opportunity to attend a costume event where he was allowed to dress up in whatever he wanted, as long as it was non-scary. He chose to be a hobo. Not only did he design his own costume, complete with “beanie” (I’d call it a toque in Canada), but he also developed the persona behind the costume. Cardboard the Hobo was created – a down-on-his-luck defense attorney who lost his money gambling. Courtesy of Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney video games. For Eric, this kind of imaginative play is so important that it becomes part of his real life. He doesn’t quite get kids who aren’t as into this as he is. Thankfully, little sister Cassie is more than willing to participate! IMG_0279

Eric also has these little tics and thrums. Anyone who has an autistic child, or one with Aspergers, would understand what I mean.  They come and go. A few months ago I was thinking he had outgrown them, but then this past month they came back. I started to try to monitor what makes them happen. He rolls his eyes, jerks his shoulders, stutters, etc. usually when trying to communicate with us. And it happens when he is interested or excited about something. Two things have excited him lately. Getting ready for the costume party, and a new computer program – The Games Factory 2. He is creating his own video game on it. It has a squirrel named Gordon as the main character. Presently he is using a free downloaded version of the game but I will be buying the full version for his birthday.

Because I’ve figured out how the tics come and go, I was wondering how aware he was. So the other day I asked him.

“How often does this happen”

His response: “About once a year.”

“How long does it last?”

“About a year.”

After laughing at his response I finally got him to explain himself and he was letting me know that he could go a year without it happening in between episodes. Still too funny.

Do I worry about these tics? No, not really. I know it is a part of who he is. It is just the way his brain is wired. Part of his uniqueness.

Each child is different.

Cassie, my baby, has finally figured out how to read. I have shared many posts about this struggle. Having had a kid read at 3, and then one that is not reading by age 7, did worry me a bit. Not as much as I’ve seen some parents stress over it. I knew eventually she would get it. She still stumbles on longer words or ones that have strange phonetics, but she is reading and comprehending, and questioning.  Sometimes too many questions. She is also drawing at a level far above her age. In a little over two weeks she will be 8 years old. I’ll probably have to quit calling her my baby!

At present I’m just so proud of my smart, unique, artistic kids. We are truly blessed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Learning Styles

I recently came across an article about the different learning styles. It was complied from several reliable resources and gave a fair description of each learning style, including strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

My first read through of the various styles caused me to squirm. Who would use such a method on a child? This was when reading the “traditional” approach. In other words, re-creating the school in your home.

Strengths included Easy to implement, follows standardized scope and sequence, testing and grading easy, milestones accomplished.

Weaknesses were:

o Doesn't take into account individual learning styles, strengths, weaknesses or interest (Yikes, this is all that I base my teaching on!)

o Assumes that there is a body of info that completes an education and that this can be broken down into daily increments(yeah, who says we need to know this then or now?)

o Treats students minds like containers to be filled with information (Little Robots….)

o Focuses on transmitting info thru artificial learning experiences(And we keep hearing how we need to get back to nature…..)

o Teacher-directed and 'chalkboard' oriented (I smell teacher burn-out….)

o Different ages study different materials(hard to juggle with more than one child)

o Expensive with multiple children (Yup, cost was probably the biggest factor in stopping me from pursuing this method)

o Discourages original, independent thinking (And we all know, my kids are very original thinkers!)

o High burn out rate (Yup, saw this one coming)

Compare those to the Unschooling Approach:


o Takes little planning

o Captures the child's teachable moments

o Children have access to the real world, plenty of time and space to figure things out on their own.

o Children are less likely to become academically frustrated or burned out.

o Children can delve into a subject as deeply or shallowly as they want

o Provides a discipleship model of learning

o Creates self-learners with a love of learning.



o May neglect subjects

o Hard to assess level of learning

o Lacks the security of a clearly laid out program

o Is extremely child-centered

o Difficult to explain to others

o May be overly optimistic about what children will accomplish on their own


Let me just focus  this post on the weaknesses of the Unschooling method and how I refute them all.

May Neglect Subjects – based on whose idea that all subjects need to be taught? Honestly why do we need to do Advanced Algebra? If needed in a career, the unschooler will learn it. If not needed, why waste the time to learn?

Hard to assess level of learning – I hear this all the time. How do you give your kids grades? How do you know if they learned something? Answers – I don’t give grades and I ask them questions. Simple. You spend time with your kids, you listen to your kids and you will know what they do and do not know.

Lacks the security of a clearly laid out program – Only an issue if that is what you want. For me, it’s no big deal. There was a time in my homeschooling life when a clearly laid out program made me feel secure, but I have come a long way from those days and no longer need that security blanket.

Is extremely child-centered. – And this is wrong because? I have no problem with my child’s learning being child centered. After all, it had created “The Long Dark” which will be a musical masterpiece in its time.  (My son, Adam’s music). Education of a child is all about the child! He/She needs to be free to become whom God planned for them to be.

Difficult to explain to others – Okay, I’ll concede on this one because no matter what I say, there are those out there who will not understand. But every once in a while I’ll find someone willing to listen and take some of my ideas to heart.

May be overly optimistic about what a child will accomplish on their own – Here is where the biggest misconception about the unschooling method abounds. That we leave our children alone to do whatever they please. The truth is, a good unschooling home is educationally rich. Our house is strewn with learning opportunities all around. My book shelves spill over with books, the craft shelves abound with paper and craft supplies, the game cupboard is stuffed with teachable games.  If a child shows an interest in something we do whatever we can to inspire that interest and provide the learning material for them. Because we do this, our children have a vast array of interests. Some are more focused for a season than others.

But all is good and produces the desired affect. A child who loves to learn. And that is the bottom line and the ultimate strength of our learning style.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List

This has been going around recently on facebook and email lists since 2007 but is still worth commenting on.

The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List

I almost want to print it out and keep a small card sized copy in my purse to whip out anytime I run into a person who either has to canonize me for being  a saint for homeschooling ( as they exclaim, “ I could never do that!”) or who wants to toss me the “socialization” card.

The above article does come from a secular homeschool magazine but that shouldn’t give it any less merit for a Christian homeschooler to relate to its truths.  I for one, fall under #9 on the list. We are Christians who homeschool We do not homeschool because we are Christians.

And #20 is my favorite:

20 Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

The more I think about it, a laminated pocket card would be very useful.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Musings of late….

I recently joined a Christian Unschoolers blog ring (see the green box?) and have been enjoying reading some pretty incredible blogs. Blogs written by people just like me. With the same philosophy on education and religion, for the most part.  I read their stories and the things they children have been doing and feel like I’m looking into my own life. With variations of course. My kids are not skating across a pond, for instance. But the ideas, the thoughts, the philosophy….all of it matches with how we have been raising our children. And I realize I am part of something so much bigger than me.

I admit I was feeling lately, a little out of place. The homeschoolers I know all use some form of curriculum. They talk about schedules and bedtimes and chore charts. Lesson plans and grading. And how do you teach your child to write? or learn their multiplication tables?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these are not good things. If this is who you are and how you homeschool then that is what is right for your family. That is my belief. We are all different and so what I do with my kids isn’t necessarily what is good for your kids. And vice versa.

But I’m really not alone after all, as I have discovered. It is just hard to find a person like yourself living as your next door neighbor.

While I have pondered these thoughts and felt out of sorts, I have come to realize that I need not apologize for who I am or how I raise my children. I shouldn’t have to make excuses or try to explain. If someone really wants to know and understand and is willing to listen, I will tell them. 

I realize I have a lot to offer others. I have successfully graduated two of my 5 children. I have children of all ages – adult, teenagers, pre-teen, child. I have experienced all stages of children’s development, (five times up to age 7 so far anyway). There is a lot of wisdom to be shared.

My dear husband must have been thinking similar thoughts today as he said to me that we should write a book together. We have over 24 years of homeschool experience. We have tried everything! It would be interesting to see what we could come up with together to share.

In the meantime I’m happy to be part of a new blog ring that hopefully will help me develop more of a readership as well as make new friends.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Dad

My Dad died  Saturday morning, May 15th at 5:55am. Hmm….looking at that number 5, 15, 5:55 Wow. That’s a lot of 5’s . Wondering the significance of this?

So I’m thinking of all the little things about my dad to remember. It’s easy to remember the bad things that happened. The fights, or the angry words or hurt feelings. But it’s not healthy. To remember the good things is much better.

I started by going back through the emails we have exchanged over the years I have lived on Guam. I have probably communicated more via the written word, then we ever did in person as I was growing up.

The emails I have had this year from my dad, assure me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is with Jesus in heaven. My dad knew the Lord. It wasn’t always this way. I grew up in a fairly neutral religious home. I remember going to church as a child, just vague memories of pews and stained glass. When my younger brother was a baby, I vaguely remember (or maybe was told in later years) that it was too hard to take the family to church on Sundays because my dad wasn’t supportive of my mom’s desire. And without that support it was too hard to bring little kids to church and Sunday school. From 1st to 6th grade or so I remember attending Sunday school sporadically with the neighbor family, the Wrights. We would walk to a Baptist church  on 18th street. We attended VBS there (or at least I did) during the summer and various other kid club type activities.

After we moved to Powell River, there was no more church for me. My mom went to the Anglican church all on her own. Later, married with 2 children I became a born again Christian and started attending a Pentecostal Church. I think I told my mom something about the Anglican church being boring and stuffy.

When my parent’s divorced a year or two later, my dad decided he would try to change and learn to like  the things that made my mom happy. Unfortunately it was too late for their marriage, but in the process he found God. He told me a story about how he attended the Anglican service and during the Peace – where they turn and shake hands with each other – he turned and shook hands with an angel. Most likely it was just a sweet old lady in the church, but something in that simple ceremony touched my dad and I believe he had an encounter with God that day.

So back to the emails. First he sent this simple one:

Here is a question for you:-

"How many times does the word Christian appear in the New Testament of the bible?"

Love Dad

This is such a typical email. Our correspondence would often be short one liners back and forth. A little humor thrown in. A little lesson or seriousness intertwined. With this one I didn’t know if it was a rhetorical question, a joke, or something more serious. I responded with:

My guess is zero. I'm fairly certain it was a word made up after the fact.

I regret I’ll never know what his answer was, as shortly after this email he discovered he had cancer and from there his emails became more serious and guarded.

He also shared a wonderful poem with me. “Truck Lights” by Rene  Fumallo. He heard this on a podcast of the Vinyl Cafe.

My dad and I shared recipes back and forth. He sent me humorous email forwards and I in return did the same.  Ones that reflected his particular type of humor. Like the one I sent him that showed snowmen in various poses. Kind of a Gary Larson style (He loved Gary Larson cartoons).  I said the cartoon reminded me of him. He responded with “my sick sense of humor or are you calling me a cold old fart?”. It was all in fun.

I’ll miss those email exchanges. And the opportunity to see him one more time and introduce him to his two grandchildren, born on Guam, whom he has never met. We will be heading back to Canada late this summer to say our goodbyes.

At least I have the assurance that Dad is in heaven with Maggie and the other children I lost via miscarriage. He is not alone and someday we will be reunited.CIMG0072

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I've been contemplating time a lot lately. Like how fast it flies by. I can't believe it's been 3 months since my last post here! I admit, I have other blogs I've been doing some writing on, but that is a bad excuse.

So back to time. The older I get the faster it seems to go by. It is getting downright scary at times to wake up in the morning and suddenly realize it's time to go back to bed and you can barely recall what took up the time of the day. You know the feeling? As Les and I approach 50 (and we admit, he's approaching faster than I am!), it is like we are on this fast flowing river -  perhaps entering the rapid stages, heading towards a water fall - and there is no way to slow it down.

In the big scheme of life, with the hopeful expected lifespan of 100 years, we are only almost half way through life. Which means that we have almost doubled our flow of time since birth. At birth, or let's say 1 yr of age, you have only lived out 1/100th of your life. So time is slow. There is so much still ahead. As a child time moves much more slowly. Remember how long it seemed to take for special holidays to arrive? Or that expected vacation? Looking at my children today I see an endless life ahead of them. Endless possibilities and learning opportunities. And plenty of time to accomplish those dreams.Compared to how many years adults have lived, children have time on their side. It is like they are riding in the lazy river, enjoying life.

So what can one do? As I pondered this it came to me that one of the things that makes me the happiest is that I have spread the births of my children out over a 20 year time span. My first son was born when I was 21 and my final baby, when I was 41. So as a result I still have little kids in my life. Ones who have time moving slower than mine. This makes me have a much deeper appreciation for life. I can still marvel at the little things that children discover. Life is more fun with kids around. For those of you who are beyond this stage, then I imagine Grandchildren would suffice. Grab hold of the nearest child you know and hold on tight. Perhaps we can slow down the river of life that we are in, to match the gentle flow of the lazy river that children play in.
Willamette River, OR: Photo courtesy of Jaci from CCU

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coffee Snobs

Les and I have finally confessed to being coffee snobs. It crept up on us gradually and wasn’t until we had a recent coffee bean shortage that we realized just how snobby we have become.

It started out over 20 years ago when we started to drink coffee from Amway – Nine to Five brand – sold in individualized 12cup  foil packets. From there we moved onto whole bean coffee and grinding our own. We used to buy beans from the bulk buy bin at Safeway. Looking back on that now we wrinkle our nose in disgust. How old were those beans anyway?

I remember one of the first purchases I made upon arrival on Guam was a coffee grinder. And then we searched for coffee beans. Eventually we stumbled upon a very reliable brand of coffee beans from Cost-U-Less (Guam’s version of Costco). A 2lb bag of Columbian Supreme Beans from San Francisco Bay Coffee Co. Up until a few months ago, this was our mainstay for coffee.

But recently our supply dried up and for some reason this coffee is no longer being sold on Guam. We’ve had to resort to the more expensive Starbucks whole bean coffee.  Even this is hit and miss. We have dared to foray into Western Family beans, and some other generic brands, but then gag our way back to the Starbucks every time.

Finally out of frustration I started researching online for a good source of coffee beans. Preferably some kind of automatic shipping system that I can rely on.

And thus we found Peets Coffee. My first 2 lbs of coffee beans arrived this week, along with a free complimentary lb of ground coffee. So far my husband and I are pleasantly impressed. The house blend coffee was smooth and went down easy for my morning coffee. Les tested out the Major Dickason’s blend (supposedly their most popular coffee) and now he is hooked. Tomorrow I will discover if this is truly the best coffee ever. Poor Les is worried that he has been tainted for life. Good for Peets coffee. Not so good for any other coffee company.

All we can do now is pray that the automatic shipping will be consistent and our coffee will arrive in timely fashion.

Oh and the coffee grinder? It still works great today, after 15 years.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Attempt at Vegetarian Dinners

Not being a true vegetarian, and definitely not heading into the stream of vegan, I have however been doing my best to accommodate my husband’s desires to eat less meat. So here are a few of the meals we’ve had in the past few days.

Friday night I made homemade Macaroni and Cheese and a pot of frozen peas. I used egg noodles for the pasta. Made a white sauce with added Cheddar cheese for the sauce. Served the peas on the side. 

Saturday night we had baked salmon (the packaged claimed it was wild caught – but how far can I trust the packaging label?). Served this with garlic toast and steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Sunday (tonight) I first baked an apple crisp for dessert and set that aside. Then I made a type of vegetarian pizza. Home made pizza dough spread with garlic butter and then topped with sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, chopped pickled artichokes hearts, basil and 4 shredded cheese mix. (On sale at Payless today). I made a smaller pizza with no mushrooms and the artichoke hearts more finely chopped for me and whoever didn’t like mushrooms. I also fried up some steak I had in the fridge that needed to be eaten. Like I said, we are not total vegetarians yet. I did however, do my weekly grocery shopping and bought no meat. (It helps knowing I have some things in the freezer I confess….) And Les and Stephanie did not eat the meat. Les was very impressed with my “pizza” and said it was a “taste sensation”. Highest compliment a wife could expect!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spring has come to Guam

I never realized it before, but Guam actually has a “spring”. I don’t know why it has taken me 15 years to notice this. And maybe I’m wrong and there is more than one “season” like we are experiencing. What I’m specifically referring to is the abundance of flowers I’m seeing around Guam lately.


This I think is what as known as a “bird of paradise” though I may be wrong. I don’t claim to be a flower expert. Perhaps it is ginger.


These are bougainvilleas. We have several varieties growing in our garden. These are my favorite color.


This is a mix of a variegated white/purple bougainvillea and the purple (though it looks red here).


Even the weeds sport pretty pink flowers. This is a vine that grows all over the jungle, choking out other plants. But doing it very prettily.


I believe this is really the “bird of paradise”. That other one was ginger I’m fairly certain.


Though they look pink here, these are a lovely purple color and one of my favorite Guam flowers. Don’t ask me the name though!


Our first crop of cherry tomatoes, and the beginning of our vegetable garden.


And finally our lone Palm Tree in our front yard, just to prove we really are in the tropics.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Game

I’m not sure what they call it. It seemed to be a cross between Chess and Risk at first glance. When I came home from work tonight, Cassie and Eric were spread out on the floor intent on the game before them. It consisted of an interactive Around the World electronic game board ($10 K-mart special) and chess pieces. The chess pieces were situated on various countries on the World Map.

I watched for a while trying to figure out their game. Eric described it as a mixture of chess and RPG games. I watched as Russia attacked China and the children each took hold of their “pawn” and placed them in a line on the floor.

“I’m throwing a fire spear” said Cassie.

“I’m blocking your spear” Eric replied, with a whooshing sound affect attached. Serious thought prevailed as they both considered their next line of attack.

Apparently this game had been going on for the past hour. In the process, Cassie would ask what country her piece was on and occasionally push the button on the board to hear the country fact.

Geography facts are learned, imagination is used, and creativity abounds when kids are left to their own devices.

Monday, February 8, 2010

History, the unschooling way

Interestingly enough, history is being learned in my household via an anime comic. Specifically, Hetalia. Stephanie discovered Hetalia on one of her message boards and has downloaded and watched all the accompanying audio dramas and streaming anime videos. She has then, in turn, passed on her knowledge of WWI and WWII facts she has learned to her younger brother and sister, and to anyone else who will listen to her.

In the past few months she has learned more about the Allied and Axis countries and their different idiosyncrasies, than an entire social studies curriculum would have taught her. And what’s more, she has learned about the personalities in power at the time and how they influenced their countries to do what they did in these wars.

What is so wonderful is that she is not only learning history in a fun, interesting way, but she is retaining what she is learning. She is intrigued enough to do further research and to ask questions about events in history. And everything she learns she shares with her brothers and sisters.

Think about that for a moment. Would this happen if we had used a regular curriculum with her? Would she have felt inclined to share this with her younger siblings? I don’t think so. It is the very unique nature of this particular series that has intrigued her. And what has encouraged her to share with others.  So much more effective than pages of memorization and regurgitation of facts. What she is learning and passing down, becomes part of my children’s homeschooling repertoire. I love it that when I made pizza last night for dinner my kids were sharing facts about Italy with me that I never taught them! I was learning from them. How cool is that?

For more information on Hetalia and how you can use it in your unschooling journey see

Warning, mature themes and language in actual comics and shows.

Writing when Ready

In the past two weeks Eric has finally figured out how to write neatly and legibly. Or print actually. And to spell. He is 10. This is a boy who would not have done well with a printing/writing curriculum that required repetitive handwriting practice. He has always been a free thinker. Very artistic. He would only write in capital letters and had consistent letters and numbers that he reversed.

Because he has great recall of stories and wonderful comprehension I did not worry too much about his lack of hand writing skills. I learned to decipher his writing and to understand his creative spelling techniques. And I knew that when he was 20 he’d be able to write neatly enough for someone to read what he had written. And that he would be able to spell. And that he would no longer write his number 3 backwards. Because eventually it would all “click” for him.

Well, thankfully it happened long before he was 20. Today he spent an hour carefully writing out a title page, intro and first few pages of a story book. He used both upper and lower case letters. he used proper punctuation and he took extra care to use correct spelling, verifying with me when he was uncertain. All completely self initiated.

I have not had to use an expensive writing or spelling curriculum with him to have this happen. I allowed nature to take its course. Provided him with the material and encouragement when necessary. Stoked his creative genius with appropriate books and drawing tools. And as maturity level was reached he blossomed. By the time he is 13, I am sure there will be no sign that he used to write his “k”’s backwards or could only write in all capitals.

This is what I love about unschooling. I firmly believe that with a mind and talent like Eric’s that a traditional school method would have severely limited his creative genius. As it is he has been allowed to grow in the areas that he wanted to grow in, and when he realized that having others understand his writing, and that writing was just another form of drawing, it all has come together for him and “clicked”.

Today he asked me, “Mom what is your favorite letter to draw? I like ‘g’ and even ‘d’ is pretty cool too.” I had to quickly print out the alphabet and informed him I’m partial to "'f, j and q”. Try it and tell me what your favorite letter is!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Saga of the iPhone

I wanted to title this post “My Horrible, No Good, Rotten, Very Bad Day” but in retrospect I realize it really wasn’t so bad. And there was a good lesson learned.

It started last night when two of my cats decided to have a battle royale that careened across the kitchen table, where I had put my barely one month old iPhone a few minutes before.  And proceeded to knock over a bottle of bubble mix that Cassie had been playing with earlier. It was only a small bottle, one of those $0.99 ones that hold barely an ounce of the stuff.  No one noticed at first but maybe 10 minutes later Cassie noticed my phone in the puddle of liquid. I quickly wiped it off and prayed that it still worked. It did, but the screen had a weird streak through it and the sound wouldn’t work. But other than that….unfortunately I didn’t turn it off right away and continued to fiddle with it. Then it wouldn’t turn off so I put it in a container of rice like it was suggested on several websites.

Morning time and the phone was very dead. I hoped it just needed charging so took it into town and plugged it in for an hour. But still no deal so  I headed over to the phone company. After waiting almost an hour, the tech guy assured me it was water damage and not covered so I had to buy a new phone. Except they didn’t have any and I had to head over to their other branch. An hour later I finally get to talk to a sales rep where I am told I can no longer purchase a phone for the great $99.95 deal but had to pay the replacement cost of $539.95! I did some quick math in my head and realized that if I canceled my contract (which I had been advised on purchase a month ago was a HUGE mistake) and realized it would cost me more to cancel the contract than to buy the phone.  So I reluctantly handed over my credit card…only to be told that it had expired (though the exp. date clearly on the card was for 3/10). AT this point I’m beginning to wonder what I did to anger God? Was it because I didn’t go to church on Sunday? I’m sorry I wanted a day off! I promise never to do THAT again!

Well, as it turns out we had had a good weekend at the driving school, pulling in triple the amount we usually do. So I was able to pay cash for the phone. Or at least debit card instead of credit card.

So why didn’t the credit card work? Turns out the bank had issued me a new credit card since mine was expiring in 2 months and it produced some kind of glitch in their system that caused my current card to come up expired just for this one day. The bank actually called me to apologize for the inconvenience.

So what did I learn from all this? Well, for one, though I prayed for God to fix my phone, He answered my prayer in a completely different way. Not only did He provide the funds for the phone, but He also prevented me from going further into debt over this little fiasco.

Now I would have preferred to do something else with our extra money. I had plans on sending some to a needy friend and I’ve been wanting to send money to our older son as well. I can still do this, just not as much as I had originally planned.

Could God have prevented what happened? I like to think so. But perhaps not. It was after all, just rambunctious kittens, and my misfortune to put my phone down on a table in our house. I should have known better. If it wasn’t bubble mix, it might have been stale coffee, or a forgotten glass of water. The fact is I need to be more responsible. Isn’t this something we want to teach our children?

Oh and I was pretty peeved at the phone company for '”scamming” me in this way. But then my husband pointed out that these really are $500 phones. I had just originally got a great discount. Can you imagine if everyone went into the phone company, bought a phone, pretend to lose it, buy another one for the great discount and then sell their first one for a profit? It would be a potential nightmare.

So to the nice man who was so kind and patient with a very frustrated lady today, sorry for my behavior this afternoon. You were just doing your job.

The irony of it all is the cat’s name is Applesauce.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Making Lemonade

One of the perks of living on Guam is making your own lemonade. I prefer using calamansi lemons, tiny tart lemons that grow in abundance on island. Alas, we have no calamansi tree in our new yard so I have to rely on the kindness of water aerobic buddies who give me bagfuls of  Guam lemons.


Here is Cassie diligently squeezing the lemons for me.  I love the Pampered Chef citrus press!


Eric contemplates the lemons.


Ya gotta put muscle into it.

After squeezing the lemons we had 1/2 bowl of lemon juice. Mixed with a pitcher of cold water, sugar to taste (a lot less than my kids would have liked!) and you have the best tasting lemonade in the world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

25 years ago….

I gave birth to my first son, Kevin. Where has the time gone? It is hard to believe that the first baby I ever had is now 1/4 century old.

Kevin was due on December 30th and I was slightly hoping to have the new year’s baby with him. But he chose to remain inside for another 13 days and emerged into our world a day before his daddy’s birthday. It was a hard labor, I pushed for 4 hours straight and finally he was born with the aid of forceps. Back in those days a very acceptable birthing tool. Poor baby had a cone head for the first few days. He also had a head of amazing “orange” colored hair. I remember being wheeled to my room and passing some nurses in the hall and they said to me “oh are you the mom with the new little red head? His hair is gorgeous!”

Kevin was my experimental baby. Being my first born I was determined to be all natural with him.Read to him in the womb, played soothing music for him in utero that later we used to help him sleep.  Nursed him on demand, made my own baby food, co-slept, carried him around in a snuggly (no slings back then that I knew of), and his first birthday cake was made from the La Leche League Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook – a pumpkin cake with crumb topping – no sugar laden icing for this boy.  This sugar free lifestyle lasted until his second Easter when he was given a chocolate bunny from his grandma. All my grand schemes went out the door from that moment on.

Kevin was an inquisitive child, who spoke early, walked on his first birthday, was fascinated with books and reading and taught himself to read by the age of 3. I remember his first interest in letters and the sounds they made – at 18 months! He was constantly asking me what words said, what letters meant and he’s the one that put the connection together that there were sounds associated with the letters.

Kevin was the reason I discovered homeschooling. By the time he was old enough for school I sent him off like a diligent mom. I didn’t know I had an option. He hated kindergarten. he had spent three years hanging out with me at various preschools and daycares I worked at and he told me kindergarten was just like preschool. They don’t even know how to read!  We made it through K and 1st grade and then I found out about homeschooling. By then the damage had been done to my son though. He had lost his love for learning and  his desire to write. it took another 7 years before he once again realized he could be creative. Sad that it took that long.

We had many challenges with Kevin. He was stubborn, opinionated, highly intelligent and thus too smart for his own good most of the time. We totally exploited him at 14 and made him the webmaster of a Web design business that fed our family for 2 years. But it was hard working with a rebellious teen and all his moods.

By 17 he thought he knew everything and moved out on his own. I was busy with 3 other children by this time, and though I regretted having this strained relationship I knew he was up for any challenge that faced him.

Now at 25 he is a productive member of the US Air force. and we are very proud of how he has turned out. He left Guam saying he would never come back or call. But he does call on occasion, and if we call him is always willing to chat.

He’s an amazing young man with a lot of potential. I believe he will go far in life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Many Marvels of the DSi

These hand held video game devices are all the rage. Yesterday when I took two of my children to Wendy’s for lunch after church I counted no less than 5 DS’s on the surrounding tables. One was being used by a grandma! Truly marvelous devices. The newest hand held game system from Nintendo is the DSi. It has internet capabilities with WiFi connection and a built in camera that takes fairly good quality pictures.

We first bought one of these for Cassie for her birthday in November. Eric already had the regular DS,well used. Of course the day she opened her new toy, Eric’s game system had mysteriously disappeared and remained lost until two days before Christmas. By that time we had caved in and bought him his own DSi. The lost one was found buried under garbage in the door of the truck.

Cassie has become quite the photographer with her DSi. It can hold 400+ photos and she has already maxed out her memory card. I enjoy browsing her photos and seeing the world through her eyes. There are also embellishments and effects that can be done to the photos and she has been quite creative with these.  The coolest feature is the direct link to facebook. I was able to upload some of the better pictures to my facebook account and share them with my friends.

Eric discovered Flipnotes on his DSi. It is an animation program that allows you to create little animated movies out of your drawings. Perfect for my little budding comic book creator. And he discovered you can add sound to your videos too! Since the photo program had an upload feature to the internet I looked at the flipnotes program and discovered the same. Today I’ll be emailing in permission for Eric to upload his animations to a special website so that  I can share his creations with his fans. Check back later and I should have a link posted.

So if you were concerned that DS’s were nothing but time wasters, think again. They are doorways to your child’s creative side.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cassie’s Story

Around 10:30pm last night Cassie was industrially working away on a piece of paper writing or drawing something. Every once in a while she would ask me if something spelled something, just to verify she was getting it right.

“Does T-H-E spell the?” for example. Which she knows perfectly well it does. She just lacks confidence sometimes. So anyway, the only word she really needed help with was Dance (with a “c” not an “s” her brother corrected her). And the word “night”, which I just casually recite to her and explain that “igh” makes the long “i” sound sometimes. She always thinks it’s funny when there are weird combinations of letters to make certain sounds in words.

Her final paper read:




She also started one about the Dog and Me. We shall have to wait and see just what the dog will do with her.

Cassie is 7 and my late bloomer when it comes to reading. All the rest of my children learned to read by the time they were 6, some earlier (Kevin at 3 and Stephanie at 5). But Cassie enjoys being read to and I highly suspect she wants to hold onto that privilege just a little longer. Even though I have explained that I will always enjoy reading to her.

I’m not worried though. Her comprehension and understanding of plot subtleties in books and movies prove to me that reading is only one aspect of language arts. She can sit and watch an episode of Lost and remember 2 seasons back what the reference is. I have to ask her to explain situations to me sometimes on these shows!

What I love the most about this little story writing episode is the spontaneity of it and the self directed learning that takes place. It really helps the child retain what they are learning when it is child directed learning.  Without a doubt I know she now knows how to spell “night” and I expect to see it appear in future daily writing activities.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blogging for a New Year

I’m tempted to change the name of my blog to better reflect what purpose it has. I started this blog when I was teaching in a private school. And then when that teaching year ended, I continued to use it to blog about unschooling my children. There have been times when I’ve deviated even from that purpose and just written a post for the sake of venting, or airing my feelings on a certain subject.

Recently it has been brought to my attention that blogging is not about freedom of speech but about making sure not to offend anyone. Yikes. I  can’t agree with this. My blog is my personal space where I have the freedom to write whatever I so chose. I try to be careful. I don’t use names if I can help it. I have no qualms about using my own children’s names on my blog. I know some bloggers who give their children nicknames  for the sake of privacy. I can respect that. And if I write about something I have read in the paper or an anecdote that happens to me or to someone I encounter, I will keep it anonymous. But I refuse to apologize for saying what I feel and think.  And if the person I’m referring to happens to stumble across my blog  and recognizes themselves in the words that I have written, I hope they will be brave enough to ask me what I meant by what I wrote, or to clarify my position. Sometimes I’ll take a situation and expand on it to include the generic “we” or “you” or '”they” and maybe what I write doesn’t come across the way I had intended. Alas, I’m far from perfect and don’t claim to be.  And I will be brutally honest when it comes to critiquing a book or curriculum. I probably won’t get any curriculum review contracts out of the deal though.

So should I change the name of the blog? It is my memoirs and I am an unschooling teacher/parent. I believe in this method of teaching and in general most of my posts will be about my children and the things they learn. Occasionally I will digress and write about something completely random and strange. But that is my prerogative.

And to anyone who reads themselves into any of my past posts, understand that I’m only using you as an example and I have no personal agenda against you. I may not understand where you are coming from. You may make me question my religion, my beliefs and my overall view of humanity. But I do not dislike you, nor wish to cause you offense. I am thinking out loud, here on my blog, my own personal space in cyberspace. And that is what blogging is all about.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reflections on 2009

This past year has been a tough year economically for the majority of the world. I feel guilty for what I am about to say. This has been a great year for our family. How dare I admit that when so many of my friends are losing their homes, been jobless or lost jobs this year and have had to suffer untold loses and stress? My prayers go out to all those who have suffered this year.

But reality is, it was a GOOD year for our household. We have had our trials and struggles and looking back I wonder if God smiled down on us this year because we have already “been there, done that” and paid our dues. Is it bragging to say that? Or should I have a more thankful tone? Because truly I am grateful and thankful and am blessed that I can say “it was a good year”.  After all we have suffered in years past, I truly am thankful that God said, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Be blessed.”

2009 started with Les beginning work for a new wedding company. This move doubled the amount of weddings he officiated for the year as well as earned him a position as assistant manager. He has enjoyed this career move.

With Les busier, I have had to take a stronger lead in the driving school business and face my fears and actually get out on the road and teach some students the practical lessons. I’m still not confident enough to deal with the brand new drivers, but am an expert at teaching parallel park! Both offices have done well this year. We also gained a little fame with some media reviews – both radio and newspaper and even a short TV interview!

The kids have all thrived and grown as well. Kevin almost 25 is still serving in the Air Force and stationed at Travis AFB in California. He recently moved into his own two bedroom apartment and has been promoted again. He also completed his Associated Degree, mostly via CLEP testing. Our unschooling success story, I like to say.

Adam,,21 continues to manage our northern office and compose and write music.  Though he keeps to himself, he is an invaluable asset to our family, helping with the business and the running of our home. And he still manages to be creative in his spare time. One of our goals for 2010 is to figure out how to get his music noticed by those of influence.

Stephanie,15,  had a wonderful opportunity this summer to spend two weeks in Hawaii with her best friend Miki. Her first solo plane flight. Mom was a tad nervous while her baby was away, but Steph had a great time and proved she is mature enough for more travel adventures. She continues to perfect her artistic skills drawing anime and writing stories to accommodate her drawings. Stephanie is also a member of the Guam Homeschool Academic Challenge Bowl high school team, which currently has lost only 2 matches this season. She has also been actively involved with her church youth group, enjoying paintballing among other activities.  She has grown into a mature young woman and we are so proud of her sensitive nature, strong character and loving spirit. My favorite memories this year include the many times I have caught her reading stories to the “babies”, as she affectionately calls her younger siblings.

Eric, 10, has definitely grown up this past year. Many of the concerns I had with his schooling have been for naught as he has once again proved how unschooling can work, especially for boys. Eric has always been my “all boy” boy with his zest for life and enthusiasm for everything.  We had issues with his spelling and number writing at the beginning of the year but now he has finally “got” it.  Other homeschooling moms ask me what we did to help him improve, but to be honest the answer is nothing. He just had to reach a maturity level where these things mattered to him. He continues to create comics and his humor amazes us.

Cassie, 7, has finally declared her independence and we have seen it displayed over and over this year. Our “princess” struggles with being a princess or a tomboy,and could be seen preening in front of mirrors in pretty dresses, or running down the beach in nothing but shorts, sporting self inflicted tattoos and muddy feet.  She continues with the weekly Guam Skipjacks jump rope class  and has shown great improvement in her jumping skills.

One major change for us this year was to move from our cute beach house cottage to a larger house in southern Guam. Our living quarters doubled in size with the move, while our daily commute was increased ten-fold. But the longer drive is well worth the increased living space. We have a nice 4 bedroom ,3 bath concrete home with a large extension that is our library/craft/ exercise room.  Stephanie finally has her own room and bathroom too!

Our final blessing of the year was the purchase of a third vehicle – a truck – for Les. A man has to have a truck you know! And last but not least, we had a chance to reconnect with old friends and join a new church – Firestarters Discipleship Center – with Pastor Brad and Jessica Dunagan.   God has been good in leading us to a new church home without conflict with our old. We continue to pray for the Calkins our former church and pastor who has had many health issues this year.

It truly has been a blessed year for us. Weather has been good. Health has been good. Business has been good. Though the world has been in turmoil, God has smiled down on us and we are very grateful for His abundant blessings.

May 2010 be such a year for all our friends and family.