Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back to Square One

House roof structure failed to pass inspection.  (Can't get a loan for it in its current condition).  And there were some other issues, like the radon levels.  I am bummed.  And upset that this wasted two months and we are back to square one on finding an affordable, existing property that meets our requirements. 

And I'm also just tired and irritable due to being hugely overscheduled.  Therefore, I have a new rule from this moment until at least a month AFTER we have moved into whatever house we actually end up in.  That rule is NO.  NO, I cannot go there.  NO, I cannot do that.  Do not ask me to volunteer for anything.  I already volunteered for too much.  Do not ask my kids to participate in anything new.  They already have too many outside activities.  NO, NO, NO!  There will be no new activities.  In fact, as this semesters' activities wind down, we will NOT be signing up to do them again next semester.  Do you know how many nights in the last two weeks we have gotten home in time to read bedtime stories? That would be ZERO.  Do you know how many nights we've sent children to bed crying because they are overtired, and angry that it is too late for a story?  Too many.  We're done.  I'm done.  Goodnight. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Home Inspection Appointment

In the endless quest to buy the BIL/house, I have completed another step.  The home inspections (radon, pests, plumbing, elec, structure/roof, etc) are all set for Thursday...  really, except for the radon test, which takes three days.  I just hope they can get it all done in three hours, so I can leave and get the Pirate to her afternoon appointment on time.  Our biggest concern is still the roof framing/trusses/whatever.  I do hope the inspector says a further inspection by a structural engineer is unnecessary.  And may I just note here that I despise keeping our dog in this apartment.  He needs space, and exercise.  And I need him to stop being under my feet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I am not a real archer, anymore

Yesterday was the Women's Expo over at the university ranges.  El Jefe took the girls - I didn't - he was keeping them out of my hair so I could do my own thing.  They had a blast trying the kids' compound bows... much more accurate with them than with the stick bows.  (Thank you from the bottom of my heart, El Jefe).  My own thing involved buying some earth-scented soap to wash with in the week before gun season starts, and trying out the crossbows.  I've wanted to try a crossbow for the last two years - ever since I discovered that I cannot pull my compound while in the tree saddle (don't even talk to me about tree stands; unless you have a ladder stand, I'm not getting into it).  I've used my compound to hunt from the ground blind, unsuccessfully, because the deer get hinky about it just outside my range.  I want to hunt from the tree saddle.  Just deal with it.  I tried the lightest crossbow there.  With, get this, a SCOPE.  This was just like shooting my .22.  So eeeeeeasy.  So accurate.  And I had no trouble cocking it either.  I expected it to be a WHOLE lot harder.  It had a dry fire prevention mechanism, so I could cock it on the ground and take it up the tree and then load a bolt.  Then it got funny.  There was a much heavier crossbow (too heavy for me off-hand) that you just press a button down and it cocks itself, pneumatically?  I think that's the word.  Using a bottle/tank of pressurized air, anyway.  I love how accurate the crossbows are.  And how easy it is to use a scope.  I'm waiting for someone to tell me they've got one with a red dot sight.  Anyway, I'm re-writing the hunting equipment acquisitions list to put that first, light crossbow right up at the top... and Christmas is coming...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Thinking Mother: Another Reason Why Unschooling Can't Work for My Son

This post by another homeschooling mom got me to thinking about what we are doing and why...
The Thinking Mother: Another Reason Why Unschooling Can't Work for My Son

We homeschool. We don't unschool. We especially don't to the radical unschooling thing. The reasons we do it the way we do, with a formal curriculum and daily lesson plans and goals, are similar to Christine's.

First of all, neither of my children knows "what they want to be when they grow up" and they are not mature enough to be making that decision anyway. Therefore, I am responsible for keeping their options open. That is, I must design their education to allow for the possibilities of college, trade school, military service, or entrepreneurship directly upon independence from El Jefe and me. That means a college prep curriculum, with activities and lessons that allow them to investigate the other options, along with the inclusion of economics as a subject starting in grade school. A college prep curriculum won't keep them out of trade school or the military or running their own business, but the lack of college prep will decrease the likelihood of them from getting into, or succeeding in, college. If I let them "design their own curricula" at their ages, my youngest child would do nothing but storytelling, and my oldest would do nothing but draw dresses. Now, I could explain that good storytellers must read a lot of stories in order to be able to tell them, so the Pirate needs to learn to read (and write and spell, at least until she can afford voice recognition software and design a better spell-checker than what is currently available). And I could tell the Princess she should learn history for inspiration, and geometry for converting her drawings into patterns. But there is no way I could justify algebra, calculus, trig, chemistry, or physics, to either of them. Unschoolers would say I shouldn't need to, that they don't need those subjects in order to achieve their goals. This has not been my own personal experience. If I had taken the higher math courses in HS, I could have graduated from college a semester early. Additionally, while I earned degrees in Education and Spanish, my interests now run toward the hard sciences, and if I ever have the opportunity to return to school, I'll be stuck in remedial math before taking the required courses for my chosen degree.   Goals and interests change over time.  And if you are never given the opportunity to try something, you may never know if you would be interested in it. 

Secondly, we need a schedule, or nothing will get done. Without a daily lesson plan, we procrastinate, because it is easier to just say "We'll do it later" and keep playing, than to accomplish the necessary, if occasionally unpleasant, tasks.

Thirdly, I need to know that my students are learning. I need to know where they are excelling and where they are struggling. Without some type of evaluation, I cannot know if my students have actually learned the material. Having said that, I do not grade anything. We operate in a mastery paradigm. If the Princess gives me three days of error-free math, she can skip the rest of the lesson, because she obviously understands the concept. When either child spells a word incorrectly on a spelling test, it goes onto next week's list, and will be continually added onto future lists until it is spelled correctly. What is the point in marking something wrong and not seeing that it is corrected? Do you want a surgeon who got 80% of his anatomy test correct, but missed 20% and never learned it? I do not believe in test-taking for its own sake.  I do, however, recognize that good test-taking skills are necessary for success in this culture.   I also recognize that a talent for bubble tests is meaningless in the larger scheme - the real test is in demonstrating what you know without the props provided by a test made of discrete questions.   Can you stand up and give me a GOOD five minute speech on a topic?   Can you sit down and write a GOOD essay on it? Can you develop a GOOD multi-media presentation on it? Can you teach the information/activity to someone else? These all require skills and knowledge beyond the information itself, and it is my opinion that THOSE are just as important as the information.

Lastly, homeschooling is far less controversial than it was even five years ago, but it is still not without its detractors.  Most people are far less negative about homeschooling when they discover I actually HAVE A PLAN.  They assume, inaccurately as it happens, that unschoolers as a whole have no plans, goals, and/or methods of evaluation.  But it is sometimes easier for me to simply shorten a ten minute  explanation  of what we do and why into "We're homeschooling, not unschooling," and simply let the assumptions stand.  This is intellectually dishonest on my part, I think.  Having realized that, I will have to stop doing it, but it still applies to the extent that I may choose to teach something in a manner more acceptable to someone else (family, other homeschoolers, the general culture) simply because it saves me the hassle of justifying to others why I have chosen whatever method I'm using to teach my children what they need to know to survive and thrive in this life.  And that IS the point.  I've chosen to homeschool because my children's education is MY responsibility, and it is MY well-researched and experienced opinion that homeschooling is the best method to teach them what they will need to know in order to survive and thrive.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Existing Home

So.  The quotes on the new build came in.  We considered it carefully, but just cannot get past the idea of being $50,000 underwater the day we move in, with a higher mortgage payment than what we had before, and therefore no cash to put up a polebarn or other outbuilding.  So I narrowed down a list of 23 existing properties of 10-40 acres, and a residence, by first eliminating all those that did not have the outbuildings we wanted.  Then by eliminating everything with an open floor plan, so that we would not simply be moving back into the house we hated for the lack of anyplace to go for peace and quiet.  Then anything with an excessive commute (over 45 minutes).  Got it down to seven places.  Actually got to look at four of them.  It was very quickly obvious that the only place I'd be willing to live was the first one.  Fortunately, it is the first one on both our lists.  It isn't perfect.  It's smaller than what we had, and there are only 1.5 baths.  But, oh, the kitchen.  Big.  Tiled.  New hickory cabinets.  Lots of storage and counter space.  Only downside is the dw is to the left of the sink (I'm righthanded).  Considering I spend way more time in the kitchen than in the bathroom, that kitchen makes up for a lot.  Especially compared to everything else we looked at.  Doesn't anyone else actually cook anymore?

And the land is huntable.  Backing onto the state gamelands.  And there is a horse barn.  And 5 acres of fenced pasture.  The rest is woodlot.  Handy, considering the wood stove in the sun room.
The roof needs an inspection.  The septic system is original and the house is 45 years old.  There are no walk-in closets.  No geo-thermal heat, no steel roof.  Like I said, it's not our idea of  perfect.  But mortgages are now under 4% for a 30 year fixed, which would give us a payment about 70% of what we were paying before, leaving cash (eventually) for some remodeling.  It isn't possible to make this into the "perfect" house, but I think it is the "good enough" house, that will allow us to be more self-sufficient more quickly than a new-built home would - on half the land with no $ left for outbuildings.  And maybe it'll leave enough cash to take the kids to Poland next summer... hopefully before they conclude their argument over the relative merits of sheep versus goats, and start hitting me up for animals to fill the barn...

Anyway, we made an offer on the house this afternoon.  Now, we wait.