Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The truth...

We have spent the past week doing test preparation. Our test is not until May and our preparation is not driven by it. However, I have found that the test prep books are a good way to see where I might have dropped the ball on subjects covered. So far, I can say we are in great shape. I did notice Lily needs to learn the difference between fiction, non-fiction, and biography. She also needs to be taught where to find certain information - an encyclopedia, atlas, almanac, newspaper. Although I think using encyclopedia is a little dated considering Brittanica is no longer publishing theirs. Lily promptly answered, "The Internet," when I asked her where she would look to write a report about turtles.  Can I really argue with that?


Lily came into the bathroom where I was getting ready for the day.  She had chosen an outfit that looked good and shoes that were cute, just not together.  I tried to explain to her that they didn't exactly match and why.  Visualize large purple and light blue dotted outfit and hot pink small polka dotted shoes.  Her response, "Mom, its not about the shoes, its about the attitude."  I let her wear what she wanted.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Odds & Ends

Two times in as many days someone has referred to my Sadie as having a Tatum O'Neal look going.  I believe one said the Paper Moon/Bad News Bears time period, not her adult cocaine days (whew!).  I think it must be the reemergence of freckles on her face from being in the spring sun.  I checked it out on google images and well, maybe it is her Doppelganger? 

Lily is obsessed with caterpillars.  Always finding them, naming them, and trying to keep them alive while they inch along her arm, or leg, or even along her glasses.  They are her friends and anytime she finds one, she doesn't stop smiling.

I took the girls to an Anatomy seminar this morning.  It was very well done class conducted by a group of high school homeschoolers who had recently completed their Anatomy class.  I was quite impressed by their communication and presentation skills (just another notch in the homeschools are not anti-social column).  Sadie would not relent on her request to take a certain item home with her.  No one else in attendance requested anything, nor went home with any of the "props."  Actually, I should go ask her right now where the said item is...a pig's heart in a ziploc bag.  That is definitely one thing I don't want left in my car.  I have no idea what she is going to do with it.  Scary.

On a recent trip to Pawley's Island with friends, Ethan chose to dive into a hammock resting above a deck.  Not knowing the full measure of his strength, he overshot the entire hammock, landing full-force on his face.  Ouch!  Lovely scrape-type burn running form his forehead to below his mouth.  Other than that, it was a really delightful trip.  Well, Lily did run a fever for a couple of days.  I chalk that one up to my ridiculous kids who at 9 AM were chest-deep in the ocean. In the mid-Atlantic. In April.  Very cold.

Ethan is trying very hard to learn how to whistle.  Trying to teach someone to whistle ranks up there with teaching Passive English or Singing/Voice to those tone-deaf.  I keep trying to tell him where to place his tongue, where to position his teeth, cheeks, how to blow...and then, we heard it.  It was the slightest, faintest of chirps, but he did it.  His eyes grew about ten times, but he did not break the his mouth position.  Unfortunately, we did not hear it again on our ride home, but I am sure the practice has not ended.  He has wet his whistle!

Lily has been very funny with the one-liners lately.  For example, Ethan ended a little school relationship a couple of weeks ago.  When he announced it in the car, Lily piped up and went, "Womp, womp, womp.  Game over."  She is also getting very screechy and a little sassy, but that is for another blog entry.  She also loves playing with younger kids.  She does seem younger than her 7 years sometimes.  Academically, she is ahead of the game, but socially, she does not necessarily have street-smarts.  Of course, I shouldn't worry as she does have Sadie to teach her the ways.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Springtime Joy

It is springtime which is the signal of many things in the Dumoulin house - the start of our garden, the collection of many critters who now reside in our "backporch zoo," late dinners due to outdoor play, a desire for our typical routine and schedule to change. I am antsy for the school year to end which makes it doubly hard to hunker down and complete our daily academic tasks.
Sadie's make-shift reptile and insect zoo has come to life again, her various collection of old tupperware containers, aquarium tank, and even empty glass bottles scattered along the porch. Currently we have a worm snake, tadpoles, a large frog, and an Eastern Fence lizard.  Last night, I had to call her in from down the driveway.  She arrived red bucket in hand, muddy boots, her hair slightly matted to her head - a mixture of an earlier swim practice and sweat from her activity.  She arrived with a joy in her soul that there were an unbelievable amount of frogs and tadpoles down in the little water pools created from the recent rains.  How she loves to be in the world exploring.

For me the yard beckons to be tidied up from its winter doldrums.  The birds began chirping in early March and we have enjoyed watching and documenting the transient birds that make their way to our feeders and bird houses. Our little garden patch overgrown with weeds and a few leftovers from last season needs to be cleaned up and tilled.  I almost feel the outdoors whispering our names each day to abandon what keeps us inside and run carefree and wild in its offerings.  Hard to resist.

Chef Sadie

Sadie made her first casserole, Chicken Divan, completely from scratch last night. After reviewing the recipe and instructions with her, I went out side to muck some chicken coops. After an appropriate length of time had passed, she announced that it was in the oven. After finishing up our "farm duties" we went inside to eat dinner. I have to say that it was the BEST casserole I have ever had. I am not a huge fan of casseroles with all of their fatty creamy sauces.  Actually, I am a fan, but struggle knowing it is not often healthy.  Maybe I enjoyed the dinner because I did not have to cook it. Or, maybe it was that it came from Sadie's heart. 
She has always enjoyed messing around in the kitchen.  She easily whips up brownies, cookies, and cakes from mixes and can be found cooking eggs for her siblings on the weekends.  However, this was her first from scratch entree.  Boiling and cubing the chicken, cooking the broccoli, and mixing the remaining ingredients were part of this process.  She was pretty pleased at the way it turned out.  I enjoyed "discussing" the lessons learned while she cooked, like the fact that it seemed to have too much creamy goodness in it and how to remedy that.  I imagine it will not be the last dinner we enjoy by Chef Sadie.
We made the leap into the poultry world in November.  I have become...a chicken farmer.  The idea was to get 4-5 hens and maybe one rooster to learn about life, responsibility and for a little fun. It is not surprising that Sadie was the initiator of this adventure. As I type this we have about 40 chickens in our backyard.  Yes, 40!  I came home one Saturday afternoon in early January to the announcement by Jay and Sadie that we should expect 35 day-old chicks at the end of the month.  I was not a part of this decision, though I am certainly responsible for making sure they receive proper care.  I have learned not to be bitter about that fact. 

Honestly, it has been a great "hobby."  We have learned a tremendous amount about life - how it comes to be and how it can quickly and unexpectedly end, particularly with the loss of our sweet Iris.  We have learned a lot about how hard and time consuming farm life must be as we have only experienced it on a tiny level.  It takes about 2 hours to clean out and replenish the coops which we do weekly.  We also feed and water daily along with throwing out scraps, chicken grit, and occasional corn.  We have also learned about the intricacies of God's design in His creation. The process by which chicks are brought into this world is fascinating and it is amazing to me all of the pieces that come together to make it happen - daylight, temperature, timing.  Although this might sound a bit hokey, it is actually entertaining to watch the chickens when we have them free-ranging in the yard.  Some of them have distinct personalities like our group of Polish ladies who are always curious. Others, like our Silkies, who are sweet and docile, are not the smartest chickens on the block. It is pretty hilarious when one chicken finds a worm and all the rest go crazy trying to get it out of the mouth of the finder. 

Our current breed selection include:  Silkies (a chicken with black skin - google an image for a picture of the black skin.  It looks a little creepy), White and Silver-crested Polish chickens, Wyandottes, and Crevecoeurs.  We also have 4 Giants and 4 Red-Star Roosters.  We also have a "mystery" chicken that was sent to us as a bonus.  We think he is either a Americuana or a Buff-Laced Wyandotte.

We have names only for the Crevecoeurs (Bob and Brenda) because they were our first chickens and are endangered.  We also have a name for our Polish Rooster, Fred.  Fred has gone a little kooky since his original mate died and he had to be separated from Bob due to fighting.  His group of ladies are not quite old enough to be in his same coop, but I hope once they are, he will calm down.  Currently, he does a lot of prancing around and crowing and displays signs of haughtiness.  He still allows Sadie to pick him up and carry him around like a baby on his back, so at least no pecking has begun.
Lily likes to create these funny names for the chickens.  She has named one Mrs. High Places because she perched up on the highest corner of the coop.  Other chicken names include Florida and Dudlette Do-Wrong, Cooper (short for Coppernicus), and Bob Junior.

Only Brenda, our lone Crevecoeur, is laying.  The others should be ready in another month or so.  She lays about 1 a day.  We are letting her keep her eggs in hopes she will become broody and want to sit on them.  Time will tell.  Eventually, we should get about 20 or 30 eggs a day.  Our plan is to sell what we can and donate the rest to the Open Door Shelter.

On these warm spring evenings after Jay has returned home, we will get a drink and sit in some lawn chairs down by the coop watching our flock free-range around the yard.  There is a bizarre sense of peace down there amidst the clucking and cooing.  I never thought I would find contentment in that.

Images (top to bottom): Silver-crested Polish hen, White-crested Polish hen, Crevecoeur rooster, Silkies, Silver-laced Wyandotte

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our Typical Week...

For those considering more seriously about homeschooling, here is an idea of how our week typically runs.  We spend the core of our day doing our Language Arts and Math block, opting to tackle this first.  The girls have learned that when that is completed, they are allowed a break. Then we reconvene to complete science, history, geography, and bible.  After our "formal" homeschooling is over, the girls practice piano and spend at least 30 minutes a day reading and completing chores.  In a perfect world, all of this is completed before we collect Ethan at 2:45.  Not every day is a perfect homeschool day; life gets in the way, and sometimes you need to just bag it in order to get a piling to-do list complete.  Typically we start around 8:30, sometime at 8, sometimes at 9.  We usually finish the core at 10:30 and complete the rest before 1.
Language Arts, Math, and Bible until 11.  Girls pack their bags, eat lunch and we head out to HPHE for classes that begin at noon.  This semester, Sadie is taking Dance, Drama, Electricity and Magnetism, Rockin' recorders.  Lily is taking Math Logic, a 3-5 grade Language Arts class, Dance, and Young Illustrators.  Typically, I don't use HPHE for core classes.  I like to control that myself.  However, we are using the Language Arts class for Lily for exposure and re-enforcement..
Full day of subjects:  Language Arts, Math, Science, Geography, History and Bible
Full day of subjects:  Language Arts, Math, Science, Geography, History and Bible

Language Arts and Math, Leave house at 10:30 to take Sadie to do Latin with my mom.  Sadie then goes to piano and I meet her later for Lily to have her piano lesson.

Full day of subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science, Geography, History and Bible

Under Language Arts, I include a mix and variation of grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, and handwriting (for Lily only). 

They complete Language Arts, Math, and Bible individually.  We work on Geography, History, and Science together.

For science we completed Apologia's Astronomy book and have now moved on to some basic Biology, Chemistry, and weather. 

Our history is A Story of the World.  The girls follow along in their books while a CD plays.  They must answer questions, complete map work, and often have art projects that go along with their history.

We began the year working on World Geography.  We have made our way through Australia, Antarctica, Africa, South America, landing in North America in January.  We are now working on the 50 states, spending time learning something about each one.  Sometime in late March we will move to Europe and then Asia.  The curriculum I am using is great because it is a multi-year book, meaning each year you can drill down a little deeper (history, religion of the regions, etc.) while still using the same book.

Sadie and Lily also have some brain teaser books that they do just for fun and to help mix things up.
I have been told be several teachers that I am doing way, way more than necessary.  However, I stress a bit if the girls are getting what they need.  I think that is normal.  My main focus is if they are reading and writing enough.  We are spending a week in early March doing only that - reading and writing.  Next year, I will probably block out more time in the day for just those two things.  Then again, it is only February, the year is not over and I can still revamp to include more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homeschool 101

Lately, I have fielded an enormous amounts of inquiries regarding homeschooling.  Understandably, it is that time of year when most private schools asks parents to make re-enrollment decisions. Other parents begin asking themselves if their child is in the best environment possible.  It is my opinion that twice a year, parents should evaluate what their child is learning and where their child spends 7-9 hours a day.   

There are nearly as many ways to homeschool as there are individual families.  That is the #1 reason most people will say they have chosen to homeschool - flexibility and freedom.  The flexibility and freedom comes from choosing the topics you will cover, how you will cover it, the pace in which you do so, the methods you choose, where you educate your children, and the schedule you keep.  The ability to speed up when your child is excelling and slow down when they are struggling makes learning less stressful on everyone.  Taking an impromptu field trip when the natives are getting restless or tired of the same routine is a joy.  Seeing your child discover a love for an extra-curricular activity because you have more time to explore it is another advantage.  Simply spending more time with your children develops your relationship with them - a true blessing while they are young.

Knowing a bit about how your kids learn and the subjects and topics they tend to enjoy covering are some of the first things you want to consider.  Are they auditory, visual or kinesthetic learners?  Are they very social?  Do they enjoy hands-on activities or do they prefer to spend time reading on their own?  If they are old enough, ask them their thoughts. What would they like to learn?  How do they see homeschool working out for them? 

Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses as a parent is another consideration.  Are you a
type-A planner or do you tend to procrastinate?  Do you want to be hands on, or are you more willing to check on progress, but not actually do the teaching?  Do you have the time and drive to spend on this endeavor.  While I know homeschoolers who work full-time, I know this cannot be the ideal when children are young and dependent in their learning. I tend to be an eclectic homeschooler.  This means that have picked individual curricula for each subject area, yet I stick to a structured and quite planned out schedule with my girls.

If you have made it this far, I suggest visiting your local library for books on homeschooling.  One I read early on was, So You Are Thinking About Homeschooling, by Lesa Welchel.  It is a quick look at how fifteen different families go about homeschooling.  It was eye-opening as to the various schools of thought on educating children.

Legal Issues:
Did you know that there are over 50,000 children homeschooled in NC?  Due to this, NC is fairly organized with their homeschool policies.  They set some very simple rules and for the rest, leave you alone.  There are only three things that North Carolina requires:
1.  Register your school with the state.  The link to do so is here:
2.  Keep an attendance record
3.  Take an end of the year standardized test.  The list of approved tests is on the above website and most homeschool groups offer this to its members.  You can also administer some of these tests yourself, while others opt to go to private testing centers.  You are not required to submit these test scores to the state, but you must have them available if requested.
They do state they have the option for a "drop-in" visit to check on your homeschool, but I have yet to meet anyone who has actually had this done.

State and Local Support Groups:
Here is where you can get a wealth of information, ask questions, find co-ops, playgroups, classes, hobby clubs, and sports opportunities.

North Carolina Home Educators is our state's main support group.  They also host the annual three-day conference in Winston-Salem around the end of May.  It includes many, many workshops and seminars with a book fair that will overwhelm you.  They also host a graduation exercise, cotillion-styled dance, and an all-star basketball game for girls and boys during this conference. 

High Point Home Educators:  Like most local groups, you must join in order to participate in their discussions, post discussions and to take classes.  HPHE offers classes on Mondays ranging from core classes (reading, math, etc.) to dance, drama, lego physics, cake decorating, sign language, etc.  Classes run a semester in length and course selection varies each time as well.  You can pay for one or up to 4 classes.  They also offer field trips, occasional parties, field day, sports teams for middle school and up, and spirit days.  They have a end-of-the-year Showcase while affords the kids to perform what they have learned on stage and display art projects. 

Other groups include:
Classical Conversations.  To quote their website, "Classical Conversations" programs model the three stages of classical learning—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. Using age appropriate methods, children are taught the tools for studying any subject.  The Classical model emphasizes mastery of facts during the early years. This gives students a foundation on which to build later learning and a solid framework where ideas can be categorized and compared as students mature. (For more information on the classical education model, read Dorothy Sayers’ essay The Lost Tools of Learning.)
Classical Conversation groups meets once a week with a lead tutor and then complete all assignments on their own throughout the rest of the week.  Groups are located in Thomasville, Greensboro, and Kernersville.
FAITH Academy:Greensboror.  Contact Kathy Long at for more information.

EMMA classes:  Another group that offers classes once a week in Greensboro.  This is a fairly large group that offers a wide selection of classes, including AP classes for high schoolers. For more information, contact Hayley Saffer, Registration Coordinator, at
Piedmont Homeschoolers has a yahoo group which keeps people fairly informed of resources and opportunities.  I'll let you google some of these groups yourself.

Forsyth Home Educators and Greensboro Home Educators are strong groups that offer a wide variety of sports teams for middle and high school. 

Check with your local YMCA as they usually offer P.E. classes.  Nearly every sports organization also offers homeschool classes throughout the day, too.

I would take a look at Cath Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style.  She has already weeded out a lot of material that might not be up to snuff and reviewed the rest.  She also has a comparison chart listing how much time is needed by the instructor, to what type of child would do well with the way the materials are done.  She also has a website, but I believe that it is overwhelming unless you know what you are looking for.
I buy our books from several sources:  Amazon, Rainbow Resources (which carries everything with  great customer service people who will answer all your questions, and has a huge catalogue which you can request), and straight from the manufacturer when I can't find it elsewhere.  I have also bought materials at the homeschool conference and at a bookstore in Winston-Salem called Guillions.  They have a used section of books, will buy back books for credit, and the ladies there are wonderful.

I also use the following book for reference when charting our course for the year:  The Well-Trained Mind:  A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer.  Her program is not for the faint of heart.  It is rigorous, but results are very well-rounded children with superior writing skills.

Finally, there is a tremendous trend in online classes of varying levels.  I do not have much experience with these.  It is my plan to investigate them quite thoroughly this summer.  I understand they can be pricey, but also allow your child to take some pretty advanced or specialized classes.

As your child enters high school, many community colleges offer classes.  The result of which means your child can earn credit hours for college while still in high school.

Final Notes:
You will find that the majority of homeschoolers are Christians.  Therefore, most groups reflect these beliefs and promote them as well.  There are secular homeschool groups, but you will need to do some research to connect.

We decided to homeschool when our middle child was struggling with behavior in school.  She is extremely bright, yet very active and impulsive.  My relationship with her was broken and I knew that if we continued down our current choice, we would never be able to repair it. We opted not to put her on medication and brought her home to see what we might accomplish here.  Now, she is able to sit how she wants, get up from her chair for a break when she needs, explore areas that captivate her attention, like raising chickens, and has thrived in this environment.  This year we brought home our youngest daughter.  She is a logic-driven, math whiz and she has been able to move through at her own pace, recently completing 2nd grade math in February.  Yet, we are able to take time with handwriting and other activities that involve fine motor skills, an area in which she struggles. The girls are each performing at least a grade above what they should be and sometimes even two grade levels above.  More importantly, I know that the over-all tension in our house has decreased, the amount of arguing has diminished, yet the trust level and respect has increased.

Homeschool is a journey.  Some days you will feel that you could win Teacher of the Year, and other days you will want to drop off your children at the nearest school doorstep and squall away.  Some days you will feel like you were always meant to do this, yet on others you will wonder why in the world you chose this torture.  There are days where I really, really don't like my children.  I think you have those days even when you aren't homeschooling!  As you journey along, however, the better days will out number the not-so-good days.  You learn how to switch things up to keep it fresh and enjoyable for everyone.

Recently, I read an acceptance speech given by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991, entitled, "The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher."  It is a very critical and thought-provoking look at the institution of school.  If my kids gain nothing else in homeschool, I want them to develop the joy of learning and desire to be life-long learners.

Good  luck on your decision-making process!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Life lessons from my 30s

I have had a couple of days to come down off my birthday project high. It has given me some time to reflect on two eventful days that nearly collide together each year, my birthday and the new year. It is all a little more monumental this year as I turned 40. Naturally with that comes surveying the landscape of my 30s. 
In a nutshell, my thirties were a time of great upheaval, turmoil and yet, growth. The birth of my two youngest children, the building of our house, moving twice, the illness and subsequent death of my sister, the breakdown of several familial relationships, changes in my own friendship circle, examining and discovering what really matters in my life, my own health issues including major back surgery, from weight gain to weight loss, becoming a stay at home mom, to starting a new business, to homeschooling my kids, learning new skills and exploring new hobbies, to the constant challenges, successes and failures of parenting. Actually, that is a lot for 10 years when I write it out. Wonder what I forgot?
In retrospect, here are my top life lessons from my 30s - in absolutely no order and vastly simplified.  Can't wait to read these when I turn 50 and laugh.
1. If it doesn't feel right, don't keep trying to make it work. Walk away, change it up...something. Just don't keep trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  The only exception to this being marriage.  Marriage is not a commitment based on how you "feel."

2. Food. Only necessary to survive, doesn't have to be enjoyed. Although one tiny piece of chocolate a day can stop any binging or over indulgences in a basic healthy eating plan.

3. Keep your mouth shut. Yeah. Still working on that one. With the exception of spreading the gospel, offering a word of emotional encouragement, or asking forgiveness, no word is ever actually necessary.

4. Friends will come and go. It is alright if you don't stay close to everyone you have ever been close to. Life circumstances, daily routines, and your personal growth can lead to your circles changing. It is natural, normal and not a reflection of your self-worth. Ask for forgiveness over any grievances and move on.

5. Avoid political conversations. Just avoid them. Same can go for "religious" conversations.  I could really care less about religion these days, but will never refrain from a discussion about Jesus if asked.

6. Trusting God as the sovereign God will get you through anything in this life with joy and peace that surpasses all understanding. We waste so much time on the what-ifs of life.  Knowing a God is ahead of me eliminates worry, anxiety and panic.  A hard lesson to learn, but wow, life is so much easier.

7. A consistent, team-approach is the key to parenting.  Even with the best intentions, you will fail, dislike your kids, and question everything you have ever done.

8.  Every once in a while try something you have convinced yourself you really don't have an interest in doing.  You might find you like it and are actually good at it!

9.  Believing in #6 means that you do not have to worry about giving your kids every possible opportunity to try out every activity, hobby, and academic endeavor in the world in hopes that they find success and happiness in this life.  It will not damage them to be at home in the afternoon after school.  Still a work in progress on this life lesson.

10. Prayerfully decide on what you commit to do, knowing that saying no is always ok.  If you commit to something, you are committed.  Give it 100% regardless of whether you are tired, something better comes along, or you just don't feel like it.  The phrase "good intentions" is always followed by some comment of unmet expectations.   

11.  Know when to ask for help before you get to the point where you can't. Be your own advocate in matters of your mental and physical health.


12. From Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Everything is temporary, especially life on this earth. Therefore, ALWAYS be the first to ask for forgiveness and ALWAYS be thankful for your blessings.
I could rally a few more funnier ones like always check the pockets, pocketbooks, hands and mouths of your wildest child before leaving the house and don't assume that a yes or no question gives the full story.  Oh, how about there is rarely a completely innocent bystander in a childhood fray.  I'll just leave those for the "Things I Never Expected to Learn as a Parent" list.