Christmas List

As I mentioned in my last post, it is early. But we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving, so really that's not too early. (Each year we switch families for Tday and Xmas.)

R wants a fogproof mirror for the shower so he can shave in the shower.

My boys want some PS2 game, Bloody Roar 4 or something that sounds like that.

I want cards to actually write real letters on. (Or keep because they are too pretty to send.)

Christmas present

I know we're starting early, but I got a Christmas present today. A queen size bed.

We had a full. Four years ago we bought a queen size bed. Within a year we were rolling into the middle of it. However, being constantly broke, we just kept rolling. Then my folks bought my eldest a full size bed. It was well made and didn't roll. So we traded him. Over two years of sleeping on it and it's still rock solid. So my folks bought us a queen size bed today. My dad brought it over, moved the full size upstairs to my son's room by himself, and put the bunk beds back together in my youngest's room.

My husband wasn't thrilled. (Pah on him.) I figured we spent bunches of money on a bed that didn't last and my folks picked out the boy's bed, which did last, so we should be glad. We're much less likely to get one that doesn't last AND this is the bed I wanted anyway.

Homeschooling: pros and cons

Originally written May 2003.

After 7 years, I'm considered an old hand at homeschooling. I have two sons, one who would be in 6th grade in public school and one who would be in fourth. My oldest is working at 6-8 grade levels and my youngest is working at 4-6 grade levels.

My husband feels they are getting the best education possible because I have a BSEd and a PhD and I care about them more than any other teacher would. I also have ten years of teaching experience, aside from homeschooling.

I think that they are getting a good education because they are learning to study on their own, they can go at their own pace, and they are not held back or pushed forward by politics or social considerations. This has been a great blessing for my youngest who would have been in “special ed” classes because he did not learn to read when he was 5 or 6 or 7. But he was never laughed at or labeled and he has not only learned to read but his reading level is several grades above his age level now.

Recently, however, I have kind of “hit the wall” with the whining and complaining. I thought for a while it was just my kids, but I subbed the other day for a class of kids their ages and every single one of the boys in the class was just as whiny and complainy. The fact that it is a function of their age should have made it easier to deal with, but it has not. I am tired of it.

A simple, but wimpy, answer would be to put them in school somewhere else besides at home. They would be a little bored (or maybe even a lot bored) by the work which they've already done and would have to sit through again. But they would meet a lot more people with whom they could talk and argue and their teachers would be dealing with them all day and not me. Of course, if they were in trouble at school that would still involve me and, unfortunately, when you aren't there it is sometimes hard to tell what is true about a situation.

Pros for homeschooling:

teacher loves them

can advance at their own pace

can take more time when they need it to learn a concept

have to master a topic, not just move beyond it

learn manners and etiquette in a family environment

Cons for homeschooling:

have the same teacher every year

teacher needs a break

are with each other all day most days

Many people are concerned about the social aspects of homeschooling, but usually those who are concerned are non-homeschoolers. Homeschoolers know there are a myriad of social situations the kids are involved in without letting the peer group become the major influence.

I can't find the study, but I read it back when my kids were babies. This study says that parents are the main influence on their children's lives until the kids are 8. At that age, the main influence switches to their peer group. I don't know about you, but I would rather my children continued to be influenced more by me and other adults in their lives than by a bunch of 9, 10, 11 year olds, etc.

My kids do soccer with the YMCA. They do an extracurricular morning once a week with other homeschoolers, studying science, art, geography, readers' theater, poetry, etc. They do a Bible study once a week with other homeschoolers at the local Baptist church. Since we're not Baptist, believe me that this allows them to get used to people disagreeing with their beliefs. Plus we have class at church on Sundays with other kids their own ages. And, finally, every day that it isn't raining, they are outside playing with the other neighborhood kids, homeschooled and public school students as well. My extrovert son is also in a chess club.

I wish there were an easy way to take a break from homeschooling. But I don't know one. So, I guess I will keep it up and hope that the whininess ends soon.

Secret Sisters: Children's Books

I was trying to find something about secret sisters online and got stuck in Nevernever land with some awful music and my cursor would disappear when I got anywhere near the close button. Ouch.

This idea of secret sisters is something that groups do to get women in touch with women. The church we attend is doing it. You are supposed to write your sister a card each month and send her a small gift, less than $5. I didn't know what kind of information they wanted when I filled out my information sheet, so I am not sure that my secret sister is going to get anywhere with the info. I got a secret sister who is well-known and well-beloved in the circles I am hanging out in so, even if she hadn't done a great job of giving ideas on her sheet, I could have gotten her small gifts. But she did do a great job.

My secret sister collects children's books. So do I, but that wasn't on my list. Wonder if I can redo my information sheet?

I went looking at Half Price books for one of my favorite kids' books. I'm in Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor. I was introduced to it as a new mom and although it is really too old for little kids, I love it. They didn't have that one.

I did find Clown of God by Tomie dePaolo. This is also one of my favorite children's books. Barney did some good. He introduced my family to Tomie de Paolo. The kids really liked him when they were little.

Another book I would like to find is James Weldon Johnson's The Creation. I heard it read by James Earl Jones and it always echoes in his voice when I read it. I don't like the illustrations in this book as well as some of my other children's books. Realism does more for me, but the poem is worth it.

Another favorite book of mine is Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. I would like to be able to find it in hardback. Collector's of children's books tend to want theirs in hardback. That's the way mine is. It is in fact available in hardback, but for more than I am supposed to spend on the present each month. (Can I fudge?)

When I was in college my favorite was If I found a wistful unicorn. It's available in hardcover for less than $10. That's amazing.

Another favorite of mine, though I actually love the art more than the poems, is Storm on the Desert. It is illustrated by Ted Rand. I'm impressed. I can get it at Amazon for $11.20 with a school and library binding. My mom bought it when she was in Arizona and gave it to me when I mooned over it. Maybe I should buy two. One for my secret sister and one for my mom.


I was reading the Curmudgeonly Clerk of October 5. He quotes a Sports Illustrator author as saying “Austin is so not Texas.” He disagrees with that. I don't.

One thing he argues is that all large cities in Texas have Starbucks, Walmarts, and Best Buy. Well, I haven't checked it out, but I'm guessing most major cities in the Southwest have those. It doesn't mean they're in Texas.

Austin has some things in common with other Texas cities, but it has more that is not common. Austin is the liberal city in Texas. Even if you might argue it's not, it claims itself that it is.

In Young Conservatives Rate Texas Legislators it says, “The Legislators from the City of Austin scored very poorly in this year's ratings. Senator Gonzalo Barrientos (Dist 9) received the distinction of being the most liberal State Senator by scoring a zero on the ratings. Four Austin Representatives scored a zero and tied for the most liberal Representatives. These four are Dawnna Dukes (Dist 50), Sherri Greenburg (Dist 48), Glenn Maxey (Dist 51), and Elliot Naishtat (Dist 49).

Representative Terry Keel (Dist 47) was the only Legislator from Austin to receive a score above zero as he received a solid 86%. The mean legislative rating for Austin is a 14%.”

There's a lot more I could say, but I'm sick of the topic after looking for quotes on the net. Houston is conservative. Dallas has good roads. Austin is liberal. Fort Worth still shows its cowboy roots. Midland's an oil town. Lubbock's on the plains. Texas has a lot of different cities. Some of them are more alike than others. Austin is one of the most different.

To Start: 40 Books I've read more than 10 times: Reading List

I couldn't come up with a list of the best books. But I did come up with books I've read more than 10 times each. Here are some of them.

Christopher Stasheff's A Wizard in Rhyme set. There are 8 starting with Her Majesty's Wizard. I have read five of them more than 10 times each.

David Weber's Honor Harrington series. There are 12 books in this series. I have read 10 of them more than 10 times apiece.

Gordon Dickson's Dragon and the George series has nine books in it. I have read at least 5 of them more than 10 times and I read one (The Dragon, the Earl, and the Troll) at least once every December as well.

Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion has three books in it. There are others attached to the series but they stink. The three in this omnibus are Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold. You can find reviews and lists of other books here. There's no review for The Speed of Dark, which I've only read once, but it's a fascinating near future book about autism, a disability which Moon's son suffers from.

Patricia Wrede has four books in her Dragon Series. Reviews are here. I have read all of these at least ten times. Also, they are suitable and accessible for younger readers.

PC Cast's Goddess by Mistake is a fun and fanciful book. It is set in a parallel universe and is funny. It's even better if you've had a chance to hear PC read it to you.

Robert Aspirin wrote the Phule series. The best are the first two: Phule's Company and Phule's Paradise. I've read them way more than ten times. The others in the series weren't as good, but were still very readable.

Mercedes Lackey wrote a Valdemar Series which has more than 23 books in it. I've read all of them at least twice. I'd say I've only read six of them more than 10 times. Those are the original three and the Gryphon set.

Lackey also has a Bardic Voices series. I've read the first four multiple times. When the fifth one started on the premise of women being murdered, I just couldn't keep reading.

Dinner and Pool

I was standing at the door of Dave and Buster's waiting for R to come in. I was wearing high heels, so he let me off. I looked good: high heels, tight vest, mini skirt. As I was waiting a guy came by with a friend, touched my arm and said, “Give the Jim a break.” Then he smiled, looked at my legs, and said it again, with his hand on his heart. That was fun.

R and I had fun before we ever left on our date.

We did go to CA Pizza Kitchen to eat. I like the art. They have shadow boxes filled with their take out boxes painted with different things, onions, garlic, apple slices, egg plants, asparagus… It is different.

Then we went to Dave and Buster's to play pool. That was fun. I lost all three games and by the last one my feet were hurting, but it was still fun.

Unfortunately, I'm getting old and didn't sleep too well Friday night, so after the games instead of sitting down and people watching and eating dessert and then going to play video games, we went home and I went right to sleep.


Tonight my hubby and I have a date, but no plans to go anywhere specific. Think we're going to end up at California Pizza Kitchen for dinner and maybe go to some strange theater for strange shows. It'll be different.

Usually we go to dinner and the bookstore or dinner and the movies. Tonight we're trying for something a little different.

Reading Lists: Someone's Idea of what to read

This list by the Observer UK gives 100 books in chronological order that are “must reads.” Does it say anything about me that I've read all the oldest and none of the newest?

The oldest are Don Quixote, Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels. I consider myself well read. I've only read 34 of these and I've never even heard of at least 12 of them before.

The BBC has its own top 100. I've read 41 of those and have to say that more of my favorite books are on that list than the other. But really, three of the books are by Terry Pratchett (in my opinion a mediocre SF/Fan author of British origin) and four are by JKRowling. I admit her tales are interesting but really one of the best books ever? Of course, BBC viewers got to vote, so I guess that explains part of it.

National Review has a list of the top 100 Nonfiction books of the century. I've read 17 of them.

Of course, SF and Fantasy fans have a site of the top 100. I have read 29 of these. They do lump together series, so I've actually read about 40, but then the list is longer than 100, and in one series I only read one.

Harvard's Book Store, the ones that bring you the Harvard classics, offer their staffs' top 100 books. I've read 39 of those.

In Boston Library's list I've read 32. In their “almost” list, I've read 12. There weren't 100 there, but I didn't check how many were there.

A list of 100 books for modern persons (please note the PC language) includes 12 I have read. It is from the LA times.

After this, I may have to write a 100 list.


For two days my husband's computer at work has been down and he has been unable to connect to the net on his own computer, which he takes with him. For two days I have not been able to ichat him when something has come up and even my emails have not gotten through. I did not realize how much I relied on these things to keep up with him and keep him apprised of changes in our lives.

Yesterday I ichatted one of his coworkers, since he wasn't on. B was the one who told me R's computer was out. I do think I freaked B out a bit by ichatting him. I don't know him very well. But R borrowed my computer when he had to send his in to get the hard drive repaired and so B was on my buddy list. I ended up having to call R on the phone to talk to him. That's much less useful than the net, because he has to write down anything I have to give him, like phone number or something.

I don't like it when he's disconnected from the net. I hope he gets back on soon.

Daily Life as a Homeschooling Mom

I spent three hours today rebuilding a shed with my dad. My dad did most of the work. I drilled holes, held walls, got screws, poured Dr. Pepper, bought Snickers, moved wood, etc. I participated in all of it, but it wouldn’t have gotten done without my father. I have no faith to try stuff I’ve never done on my own and my husband, wonderful as he is, couldn’t have cared less that the floor had rotted out of the shed. Thanks, Dad.

I also spent an hour running errands at the college. I teach two classes and when students have to re-take a test, they go to the testing center. I then go there to pick up their tests. (Why can’t they mail them to me?) Then I walk back across campus to the English office to grade the tests, because that’s the only place the answers to the test are. One of my students passed the re-take. Thank goodness! She’s been studying three hours a week with a tutor since the first week of school. Two others, who have done diddly, failed big time. Bigger than the first time through.

I spent two hours working with my sons on their school work. I gave a spelling list out to my youngest. Set out my oldest’s history reading for the day. Checked his math. Looked over my youngest’s math and science. Talked to my oldest about his project for school tomorrow.

I also spent two hours going to, teaching, and coming back from college. It would have been longer, but the students told me the short cut to get home. Took 20 minutes off my going-home drive. Wish I had thought to ask earlier.

That’s eight hours. What else did I do? I watched half an hour of TV, House Hunters and 2 Wheel Tuesday.

I re-read two mystery novels by Ellis Peters. Both in the Cadfael series. The Pilgrim of Hate and A Morbid Taste for Bones. I also would have re-read A Virgin in the Ice, but it appears I don’t own it. Drats.

I read Bill O’Reilly’s book Who’s Looking Out for You? because my dad brought it over. I also read it because it was well-written and because I pretty much agree with his assessment of everything except that any religion will do you. That took about an hour and a half.

I went out to dinner with my family. I ate too much. (Not at dinner, but earlier in the day.) I graded papers. I reviewed the syllabus. I did laundry. I added to the grocery list. I thought about school tomorrow. I made a decision about which class I would prefer to teach at the college next semester. I put dishes in the dishwasher and took out the trash. I rewound the clock, which had run down three hours earlier. I usually wind it twice a week, but I had forgotten.

It was just a regular very busy day.

Dual Income no cash

This link talks about why two income families actually have less discretionary income than they used to.

I would like to point out that homeschooling would remove one income from the pot, but would allow you to decrease the housing costs. (Truth to tell, though, we live in a neighborhood with reasonably good schools, just not in California.)

Move with your brain

It isn't science fiction any more. Already someone is using their brain and an implanted device to make a robot arm move and do what they want. It's hope for paralysis patients.

Right now the someone is a monkey.

Question: If they can play video games with a chip, can they learn English? If they can, what will that do to our understanding of the animal kingdom?

New Cars

My sister keeps getting new cars. This is not her idea, though she did want to trade the roll-over/don't stop Ford in. It is my brother-in-law's idea. He wants their cars to show how important they are, in case you don't know.

This week my sister lost her Suburban and her BMW. She got a Hummer instead. I don't know. Anyone out there who wouldn't like to be driving her car?

Her husband traded in his Mercedes and has ordered a Bentley. Apparently only 55 a year are sold, so he'll stick out as unusual. (Or maybe they only sell that money because that's how many people will spend the money for one.) The regional base cost for this car is $296,000. That's more than ten times what my original house cost. More than ten times what my most expensive car ever cost. Amazing.

Are you a boy or girl? Your writing tells.

If you go to this site and put in a text of 500 words or more, the algorithm is supposed to tell you whether the author of the piece is a male or female. I figured I could fool it.

First, I took 1342 words out of chapter 8 in my novel. It scored 1860 points female, 1801 points male. It said I was a female. It was right.

Then, I tried to take part of my dissertation, figuring that would be definitely more male. But Word wouldn't read it. Guess my old version was too old. Instead I used the lecture I gave to a bunch of homeschooling moms. 1833 female, 2193 male. Oops. It missed.

Third I went to my blog. (It has a category for blog entries.) I took 1361 words on homeschooling and bad drivers and got 2092 female and 2111 male. Wrong again.

Fourth I took other blogs about my family and teaching and midterms. For 1484 words I got a 3174 score female, 2033 score male. So I definitely talk about teaching and my family as if I were a woman.

I think it is interesting. Try it.


R and I have talked about M's history class. We have decided he is really just too young to be in the class. So we will leave him in for the rest of the semester but not put him in again next semester. At least that is our plan for right now.

E and I have agreed that if E doesn't want to do Friday classes next semester that he can abstain. I expect M will still want to go. And E will have to do some schoolwork on Fridays, just as he does now. But he will have more time free.

The college called and said the E and M have to either be in the classroom or not come to school with me when I teach off campus. That's a bit of a stretch. It's 15 minutes home. Too far to be able to race home if they need me. I am unsure what to do. It is after school so I could get someone to take care of them, but they are old enough to be babysitting. It seems a bit odd to get them a babysitter. A woman from church said she would give them her cell number. She lives less than five minutes from our house (if you are in a hurry). There is also a neighbor two doors down who is home most afternoons, if it's a true emergency. They can go with me, but they'll be in class with adults and have to read or play gameboys. Wisdom. I need wisdom.

Teaching high school is much more work and more stress than I expected. I am not handling it well and feel like quitting. But I won't. Too much work ethics and too much money riding on it. God, please make it go better.

Midterm take-homes, good news

Most students said they spent 3 hours or less on the midterm. My younger students' lowest grade was a 93. YEAH. My older students had some poorer grades, but the average for both classes together was a 90.

That's good. The in-class sections should be a bit more difficult for the older students because it is over their notes. However, I don't expect that the average will be much below a B+. If it is, I don't know what I will do.

The second section of the midterm has 94 questions for English 3 and 40 questions for English 2. I expect English 2 to be finished before class is half over. Maybe even in 20 minutes or less. I think English 3 will take at least 45 minutes and some people will take most of the hour and a half of class. I am hoping they don't take all of it. If they don't then we can grade at least two sections in class and get a clearer picture of their grades.

Elvis: Historical figure of great importance (and Chuy's)

I had a student telling me that Lilo and Stitch, Disney's movie, is great because it brings Elvis to the younger audience who might not know about this “historical figure of great importance.” I liked Lilo and Stitch, but Elvis is not that important.

I did recommend Chuy's to her, since it has an Elvis shrine and celebrates his birthday with fried chicken covered in potato chips with green chilies.

Of course, I used to hate Chuy's food. But after eating there maybe once a week for the past five years, I have finally gotten used to the food. The service is extremely variable. Jose is great. Other servers are atrocious. –Had an atrocious one today.– But my kids love Chuy's, so I kept going. My favorite time to go is during the Green Chili Festival held in September. Then they've got freshly roasted green chilis hanging out to buy. Like that. You can watch them roasting them outside.

Anyway, back to Elvis. Yes his music was a change at a time when change was accepted, but for the man himself, he was not that important. His life was sad. He didn't deny himself anything and he eventually died from it.