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Flashlight Egyptian Tomb Tour

Camster (left in coral), Sher Bear (blue floral) and Jor Man (right)
Littles and their mom at the mummy diorama
The Fitchburg Art Museum, in Fitchburg, MA, opened their new Egyptian exhibit last week.  And we were among the lucky home schoolers who got to be the first ones to see it.  This was another of the programs organized by the Family Resource Center.  I am so grateful for them, as I would not have known about this museum otherwise.  We are making friends at these outings, as many of the same kids and parents were also at the Rhode Island School of Design the previous week.

The museum staff did a marvelous job of keeping the kids (and the parents) interested and curious about the exhibits.

Everyone's favorite part was the flashlight tour of the "tomb".  A corridor was painted with the story of what happens after you die (according to the Ancient Egyptians).  We sat in the dark hallway while the docent pointed her flashlight at the walls, pointing out the various gods and goddesses, and telling their stories.  It was a captivating presentation for all but the very youngest of the visitors.  There was a tunnel you could crawl through, which the girls loved.

She did an excellent job of explaining mummification
Following the flashlight tour, the docent took us through the exhibit and showed us the large collection of artifacts, including a real mummy, uncovered.  The kids were all sharing their knowledge of Ancient Egypt - and it was really fun to see how much they have assimilated into their knowledge already.  Sher Bear told everyone about our mummified chicken.  LOL!

Using Hieroglyphics to decorate Obelisks
We took a lunch break before going on to the arts and crafts room to make Obelisks and Egyptian Necklaces.  The girls were so excited just to color and cut out the paper necklace.  It reminded me that they love to do crafts, and I want to incorporate more simple crafts into our days.

Everyone liked using hieroglyphics to write their names and simple phrases.  Sher Bear found a chart of them in one of our Egypt books, and has been writing things in hieroglyphs ever since.

The educator explains how to fold the Obelisks
I was very impressed with this museum and their staff.  Following the official class, we toured the rest of the museum on our own.  I have been to some museums where they have been visibly uncomfortable with the children being there, and I have felt rushed to leave.  This was not the case at Fitchburg.  Everyone was warm and welcoming to the kids.  They talked with us, and gave us suggestions as to what to look for.  Upstairs, they had a monoprint exhibit, with a film explaining monoprints.  We were all so fascinated, that we want to do some monoprints now.

I cannot believe that I forgot my camera that day!  But I did.  And the Director of Docents at the museum was kind enough to send me these pictures to include in my blog.  Thank you, Ann!

Wish you were here!

Jiminy Peak

Sher Bear climbs the rock wall

Jor Man at the top of a double flip

Campster flying

Jor Man, Campster and Big Dad all ready to go up the Mountain Coaster

Sher Bear patiently waits for her turn

Campster and Big Dad come speeding down the mountain

Camster climbs to the top - again!
My Mom came to visit recently, and took us up to Jiminy Peak for a couple of nights.  Jiminy Peak, in Adams, MA, is a ski resort, primarily.  But in the non-snow months, they have what they call Mountain Adventure Park and Aerial Adventure Park.  With all our crazy adventures in Guatemala this summer, the kids felt they had already done the Aerial Adventures, that consisted of zip lines, and a ropes course.  So we opted for the Mountain Adventure.

For one price, we got bracelets which allowed us to go on any of the rides for the whole day.  Actually, the first day the weather was too cold and rainy.  So, after about 20 minutes, we gave up and turned in our bracelets to try again the next day.

And the next day was glorious.  The kids all enjoyed the kid zone, with the usual bounce house, a mini ropes course, a playground, and a spider web climber.  Then they moved on to the rock wall.  Jor Man and Campster mastered the rock wall - making it to the top on all the levels multiple times.

Big Dad and Jor Man went in the big swing.  I didn't get a picture of that - but let's just say you don't want to do that one right after eating.  No one tossed their cookies, although I nearly did just watching them.

We broke for lunch - which consisted of the largest plate of Nachos I have ever seen.  Yum!

The bungy-jump followed, with Jor Man able to do a double flip before he was through.  Campster was flipping singles.  Sher Bear just loved to fly up high.

The mountain coaster and luge (two separate rides) were the hands-down favorites.  I gave up counting how many times they all went up and down.  Big Dad did double duty as only one of the girls could go with him at a time, and they weren't tall enough to go on their own.  (Nope, I didn't do it.)  I stayed with the non-riding child.

At the end of the day, the hotel pool and wonderful hot tubs were happily received by all.  What a great place.  We will be back.  Thanks to my Mom who made it all possible.  :)

Wish you were here!

Sowing Love

Recent events have only served to remind me of some of the reasons why I homeschool.  Children are being bullied to the point of suicide.  There is a lot of hate going around.

How do we, as Christian parents, stand firm on what we believe the Bible says about sexuality, while still teaching that hate is not the response God calls us to?

Last week I got to see an old friend.  He was in NYC to see some shows, and we arranged to meet him at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My children have many people in their lives who are gay.  But because they are children, and are so innocent, they do not yet know.

They know about sex.  We answer all their questions openly and honestly.  They see the chickens mating.  They have a natural curiosity about such things.  And we have always emphasized to them that sex is for marriage only, and between a husband and a wife.  I understand that others see this differently.

As I thought about our upcoming visit with my friend, I knew that he had "married" his partner and would it would probably come up in conversation.  I didn't want him to have to hide it - but I also wanted the opportunity to discuss it with my kids beforehand.  I knew that they would pick up on it.

Jor Man poses with the Medieval weaponry
So we talked with the kids about it.  I explained to them that there are actually many people in their lives who are gay.  This was met with groans and "Yuck" faces.  I continued, "Even though we understand that this is not what God would want for them, we need to remember that we also do things that God says not to do."

"Like what?" Jor Man asked, unbelieving.

"Like being unkind to your sisters."  I answered.  "We all fall short and do things that God tells us not to do.  That is what Jesus died for.  To love us anyway."  I explained that some kids in America had been bullied for being gay.  "Is that how God wants us to treat people?"  I asked.

"We should love them," was Sher Bear's reponse.  Jor Man was least comfortable.  I assured him that we would not ever put him in harm's way.

The whole idea of loving people who were openly doing what God said was wrong was difficult for them to "sit with".  We will need to revisit it again and again, I expect.

But the day came, and we went to the Museum.  I met my friend, and informed him of our little experiment.  I told him that I wanted them to have the opportunity to meet someone, knowing that they are gay, and see that they can still choose to be loving of him.

My friend was glad to go along and be the "guinea pig" in my social experiment.  I told him that if my kids made comments that were rude, I hoped he would forgive it, and point it out to them.  Thankfully, that wasn't necessary.

At first when they met him, they were a bit afraid.  They hung back a bit.  But within five minutes, they were fighting over who got to hold his hand, and Jor Man was regaling him with Greek Mythology.

The kids, my friend and I, in front of a Pollock
Somewhere, amidst all the paintings, and pottery, the statues and the lunch, they forgot that he was gay, and just enjoyed him.  When we left the museum, I asked the kids what their favorite thing in the museum was.  "Bill!!"  They all cried out.  I think it was a success.

Wish you were here!


Fairy princesses making fairy houses at Sher Bear's birthday party
Sher Bear had a birthday this week.  Yup!  She's FIVE.  I wish you could see her do it - her hand so proudly foisted forward, palm out, fingers at attention, face all smile and eyes.

Fairies deliver "dew drops" through the Fairy Obstacle Course, designed by Jor Man

Lately, there has been considerable discussion amongst my friends about gifts and how to handle them.  So here's how we do birthdays and Christmas.  I'm not saying my way is the right way - just sharing how we do things, because I understand it's a little different than the norm.

A pixie and her dew drop in the tunnel
First off, now that the kids are getting a substantial allowance for doing their "helping hands" it is expected that they will buy presents for birthdays and Christmas.  So, for Sher Bear's birthday, both Jor Man and Campster chose and purchased presents for her with their own money.  Creativity is fine.  They can make something instead of buying something.  This helps keep the focus on the giving rather than the getting.  They really love giving their gift, and seeing the joy in response.

Sher Bear and her Fairy cake

On the child's actual birthday, they get to chose what we do that day.  For example, Sher Bear chose to have coffee cake (homemade and gluten free) for breakfast, waffles (ditto) for lunch and (get this!) popcorn with chocolate chips and marshmallows for dinner.  She didn't have to do her chores that day.  And she got to decide what games we played, what movies we watched, etc.  She ate it up!  Jor Man was wonderful about it.  Campster learned a lesson in humility.  It was hard for her to have Sher Bear get her way all day.

For her birthday party, Sher Bear got to invite five friends (and their siblings and parents) because she is five years old.  She picked the menu (Cranberry everything!) and the theme (Fairies).  We went all out, and did it up really nice for her.  And, as usual, that was her present from Mom and Dad.  The party IS the present.

Playing Fairy Freeze Dance
We do a similar thing at Christmas.  We all get little presents for each other, but for the kids, Mom and Dad do the stockings.  Our kids know "the truth about Santa" from the very beginning.  So they know that Mom buys the presents to put in the stockings.  And the stockings are their Christmas presents from Mom and Dad.  They have plenty of other presents to open on Christmas day - and, again, we want the emphasis to be on Jesus and on giving.

To that end, each child chooses the gifts that they bought and wrapped, and hands them to their recipients.  This makes it special between the giver and the giv-ee.

Fairies playing "Hot Potato" with the "Take Home" bags
I was surprised by how many people I shared this with who thought that they had to get their kids presents on their birthdays.  Expensive stuff.  Nope.  Not here.  We simply can't afford it.  And I know that a lot of other families can't right now, either.  And yet we feel that our kids have to have stuff that they don't need and we can't afford in order for us to feel like "good" parents.  Let yourself off the hook.

Wish you were here!

Museum of Art @ Rhode Island School of Design

The kids at Brown University

The girls wanted me to take this picture of the public art at Brown.

The leaves were so lovely against the old buildings at Brown.

Autumn leaves

Campster and Sher Bear admiring the Egyptian sarcophagus

Sher Bear's jaw dropped when she saw a real mummy

Model of an Egyptian Boat

Ancient Buddhadista - wooden statuary

Huge Japanese Buddha Sculpture in Wood

Campster wanted me to take a photo of this Tibetan, gold dagger for Jor Man, who was on the older kids tour.

Sher Bear wanted me to take a picture of this "beautiful jewelry"

This Babylonian wall art depicts the false goddess Ishtar as a lion.

The girls listen intently as our docent explains the battle story told by the intricately carved, marble sarcophagus.

Jor Man took this picture of Athena

A Gryphon carved on a stone casket
This is the marquis for the First Baptist Church in America.  I really liked it!
 Yesterday, the kids and I drove to Rhode Island.  I don't know that I have ever been to RI before.  It's lovely.  I particularly liked Providence with its old, historic buildings on steep hills.  Jor Man thought it would be great for skateboarding (if you want to die young!), and Sher Bear had fun stuffing her pockets full of all the beautiful leaves she found along the way.

Since we got there a little early, we walked over to Brown University and looked around.  It was very nice.  Everyone was quietly studying away.  Jor Man and I talked about the different types of architecture represented in their quadrangle.  Campster insisted that I take pictures of the art.

The First Baptist Church in America
Then we walked back down the hill to the Rhode Island School of Design's Museum of Art for a tour.  This tour was arranged by the Family Resource Center.  They have an amazing collection of art from all eras.  But our tour focused specifically on art from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Although we also saw their collections of modern, Chinese, Japanese, textile and Tibetan art.

It had been a while since we had been on a long drive, and I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed it.  I  had told them I would get them up at 6:45 am, but they were all up and dressed at 6:10 am!  I guess they were excited.  It was nice to realize that we do travel well, and fall into a certain rhythm in the car.  So, were going to do it again, soon!

Wish you were here!

Double Pharaoh Crown of Egypt

Walk like an Egyptian.
Because Sher Bear really wants to study Egypt this year, we are getting together with another homeschool family and doing projects every so often.  First we did cave paintings, and next we made Pharaoh Crowns.

Sher Bear rocks the Pharaoh crown.
Originally Egypt was split into the Upper and Lower Kingdoms.  The Pharaoh (or king) of the Upper Kingdom wore the white crown.  And the Pharaoh of the Lower Kingdom wore the red crown.  When the Upper Kingdom was victorious over the Lower Kingdom, the conquering Pharaoh wore a double crown, also called a sekhemty.  (For more info on the history of Egyptian crowns, see this website.)

Our crowns were made out of foam sheets, and colored duct tape.  We used the pattern in the book,
Historical Headgear, Hats and Helmets.

Jor Man making Pharaoh faces.

Campster's crown needs to be adjusted.

Pharaoh fun!

 Wish you were here!

Train Your Child to be Unhappy

A Happy Sher Bear
Did you know that you can train your child to be unhappy?  Yup.

I saw this post on BlogHer this morning, and I gotta say, I really take issue with the whole assumption behind the post.

Now I don't know if the link above will work for you or not, so, here's a quick synopsis:  The mom writing has a three-year-old and is pregnant with her second child.  Like most parents, they went all out on the first kid, including getting a 3D ultrasound from one of those private companies (not doctor prescribed).  All of which I have no problem with.

Now she is realizing that, while she really excited about the second child, she doesn't feel the need to get the whoop-dee-do ultrasound for $200 this time.

Her question is, and I quote:  Will my January baby someday feel slighted (or even unwanted) because we skipped the fancy ultrasound?  Is it unfair of us to not give the same gift to our January baby that we gave to Gracie (a DVD of her in utero)?

In response, people have written in about their experiences as a child with not getting equal treatment as their siblings.  And on the whole, it's split about 50/50 as to whether they were upset about it or not.

I think they all miss the point.

Is the point of parenting to make certain that your child is happy?  

Not that we wouldn't all want our children to be happy.  Of course we do!!  But is that something that we can achieve by making certain everything is fair?

Say it with me:  Life isn't fair.

It occurs to me that the happiest people I know are not the ones who get things their way all the time.  No, they are the people who have learned to roll with it.  They understand that life has its ups and downs, and they don't get all bent out of shape when things don't go like they expected.

Just looking at the responses to the blog post - everyone who responded was writing about a time when things were not equal between them and their siblings.  Yet half of them chose to assume that one must be upset about such injustice, and the other half didn't think it was a big deal.  Any bets as to which half is happier on the whole?

So how does this play out in our day-in, day-out parenting?  I find scripts to be helpful tools.  So here are two scripts.  In this first script, the parent is training their child to use unhappiness to try to motivate themselves and others in their life.  The parent has the best intentions, but they are not able with this method to achieve the happy child that they were after.

Kid:  Mom!  Sister got a better doll than me.  That's not fair.

Mom:  Your doll is nice.  (Trying to convince child they are wrong, and it is fair.)

Kid:  No, it's not.  It's stupid.  Hers is bigger and has fancier clothes.

Mom:  Well, it was her birthday.  Maybe you'll get a bigger, fancier doll on your birthday.  (Agreeing that it wasn't fair, and should be.  But encouraging her to wait.)

Kid:  I want a nice doll now!  (Whines, stomps foot, pouts.)

Mom:  (Convinced that child is unhappy, and wanting to "fix" it.)  How about we go and order a new one for you?  

Kid:  (Smiling.)  Okay!!  Thanks, Mom!!

Can you see in the above example how this child now knows that being unhappy will get them what they want?  Next time they want something (give them a few minutes!) they will try being unhappy again.  Meanwhile, Mom is believing that child is happy now, and that she's done her job by "making" the child happy.

Now let's try an example of Mom not training her child to be unhappy.

Kid:  Mom!  Sister got a better doll than me.  That's not fair.

Mom:  Yup, she did.  (Not denying reality.)

Kid:  I want a nice doll!  (Stomps foot, whines, pouts.)

Mom:  Don't you stomp your foot at me.  If you want something, use a nice voice.

Kid:  Mom? (turns on the charm)  May I please have a nice doll like sister's?  (Smiles a fake happy smile.)

Mom:  Thank you for asking in your nice voice.  Sure.  If you want to save your allowance, I'd be happy to help you buy that doll.

Kid:  That's not fair!!  I want a nice doll, now!!  (Tries stomping and whining again.)

Mom:  Please go to your room.  That is not the way we behave in this house.  

Kid:  (Growling on their way.)

After a short while, Mom goes to Kid's room.

Mom:  Are you ready to come out and be happy?

Kid:  Yes, Ma'am.  (Not looking super happy, but no longer angry.)

In this scenario, it's harder for Mom to feel like she's done "a good job" in helping her child to be happier.  But in the long run, this kid will choose to be happy or not - but they will know that being unhappy does not work to motivate Mom.

Perhaps, if the doll was really something that they wanted, they will save up and get the doll.  But the doll is not the important thing - the heart is.  

I find myself shaking my head at the whole idea of some one thinking about spending $200 they wouldn't otherwise spend, just in case a child, who isn't born yet, might decide to feel offended at some point in the future.  I don't want to spend my years as a mom walking on those kind of eggshells.

So can we get rid of that should:  Everything SHOULD be fair and equal among siblings?  

I have.

(For more information about Happy Parenting, please check out www.option.org - that's where I learned it.)

Wish you were here!

Sitting in the chair

 This painting of a rustic chair, by Heidi Hafemeister Dagen, now hangs in our dining room.
We want our kids to fall in love with Jesus.  The problem with this is that we cannot see God.  We are asking them to believe in an invisible superhero, who loves them.  How can we demonstrate God's love in a way that they can see?

Imagine that there is an invisible chair.  We might tell others about the chair, but without seeing it, they would not be likely to believe.  We could describe the chair in detail, but they would still not be seeing.

The only way for others to "see" the invisible chair is for us to sit in it.  And put our feet up.  When we are resting all of our weight on the chair, then others are able to see it supporting us.

It is like this with Jesus.  We can talk about Him, describe Him, tell stories of what He has done.  But it is only when we are completely dependent on Him, with nothing else supporting us, that those around us can see Him.  Then, and only then, are they likely to be willing to sit in the chair themselves.

As parents, we often want to shield our children from our fears, our concerns, and our troubles.  But in order for them to see Jesus at work in our lives, we need to pull back the curtain a bit, and let them see our dependence on Him.

When life is full of trouble, sit down and put your feet up.  "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

Wish you were here!

Pen Pals

When I was young, my travel agent parents arranged a pen pal for me.  She lived in Vienna, Austria and wanted to practice her english.  So we sent letters back and forth for a long time.

Now I am trying to think of ways to encourage Campster to write.  She made a good friend last year at Aquarium School.  The two girls were inseparable every class.  So I suggested to the other girl's mother that they become pen pals.

We certainly could have done it over email.  And they could have even talked on the phone.  But I think there is just something special about getting an old fashioned letter in the mail.

So Campster and her friend have been writing back and forth.  Her letters are brief, and covered with artwork.  She's had the opportunity to practice letter writing and addressing envelopes.  She gets to work on her penmanship and spelling.  And when the letter arrives, she gets to read and practice that all important skill of deciphering someone else's handwriting.  Of course, Campster doesn't realize any of this.  She just thinks it's fun, because it is.

The internet could come in handy when finding a pen pal.  There are so many Christian Homeschooling blogs and sites up - If you want to find a pen pal for your child, just ask around.  You could also have Grandparents, Aunt or Uncles or cousins write.

By the way, the purpose of these letters is not to have them be perfect.  Don't ruin the fun by insisting that their penmanship be neat, the words spelled correctly, or even the sentences complete.  It's all about writing for fun and for the joy of relationship.

You could decorate some plain paper with stamps to make "Stationery".  Postcards are fun for older kids with smaller handwriting.  Think of including photos or artwork as a part of the letter.  Talk with your child about the process of getting to know someone and making chit-chat.

Wish you were here!

Vote Early, Vote Often

Sher Bear writing her name on her ballot

I grew up in Chicago, where "Vote Early, Vote Often" was more of a tradition than a mafia joke.

But, seriously, if you are an American, did you vote yesterday?  We did.

After breakfast, we took the kids to Town Hall and up the stairs to the polling place.  One of the benefits of living in a small, rural town is that we knew almost everyone, and they were fine about the kids being there - reminding us politely that the kids were not to touch our ballots.  They gave each of the kids their own "Sample Ballot" same as we had, but printed on bright yellow paper so as not to be confused with the real thing.

Then we all went into our little cubbies and got to the voting.  The girls filled out their ballots, too, copying Mom's and Dad's.  And Sher Bear even wrote her name on her ballot. (I'll have to talk to her about how voting is supposed to be anonymous).

If you voted yesterday, kudos to you!  I hope you took your kids with and talked about the process, and the privilege we have in the US.  I commented to the kids as we crossed the street after voting, "We are so blessed to be able to vote at all.  Blessed to be able to vote as women.  And blessed to be voting without threat of violence for having done so."  How nice to realize that there we no guns on the streets on election day.

Campster carefully considers her vote
If you didn't vote yesterday, please make sure to register to vote this week and do so next time.  I believe it is important to instill in my children not only the right to vote - but the responsibility. Please understand me, I am not saying that this is a should.  I am saying that voting is a use it or lose it proposition.  If enough of us fail to vote over the years, our children will not see the value, and we lose that wonderful privilege.  Please make sure you are registered to vote, and take your kids with you so they see how it's done.

Regardless of whether you voted or not, take time over the next few days to share the election results.  My kids were excited to compare their "ballots" with the election results.  I won't tell you how we fared, because, excepting where your rights to homeschool or parent are concerned, this is not a blog about politics.

But most states (I'd hazard a guess that all) require that you teach your children federal, state and local government.  And here's your opportunity.  Talk with your kids about why you voted the way you did.  Explain your choices and do your best to express the alternate viewpoint and what you see as it's shortcomings.

Ideas for next election:  Get involved early.  Candidates would love your help stuffing envelopes or delivering fliers.  Visit your state capitol building and talk about how it all works.  If you need a refresher course, here is a great website explaining how our government is set up.  Or, break out your Schoolhouse Rock DVD and dance around the living room while you learn about how bills turn into laws.

Lastly, I want to share ParentalRights.org with you.  Please take a moment to go over to their website and get familiar with what your rights are as a parent, and how they are in jeopardy.  It's important, and most parents I know didn't have a clue about these important issues until I told them.
Apres Voting.  Jor Man is camera shy.

Wish you were here!

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