I’m moving over to my other blog for the summer. I’m in organizational mode. Also, I’ve been having technical difficulties with this blog since I came back from my Lenten fast. However, I have so little technical knowledge or time to fiddle with it that I’m just putting it on hold for now. I need to get Rick or Hannah to really help me and, well, they are so busy most of the time. Soooo.

See ya over there. Or not!

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Eulogy for my Mother

Rick’s mother died last Thursday. Here is the eulogy Rick gave at her funeral:

Eulogy For My Mother
Geraldine B Roberts
(January 11, 1937-June 26, 2008)

By: Richard L. Roberts

In my mother’s final days, with her body shrunken and yellow, lacking the strength to leave her bed, she gave everyone around her a gift. It was her smile. She felt miserable and she was frightened. But when she looked up and saw me, or my brothers, or my father, or a grandchild, or a friend, or any of the wonderful caregivers who helped her so much, she would brighten up and smile. And her smile would raise our spirits, if just for a moment. The smile said that she was happy to see us. But it also said that she did not want us to suffer on her account. She died as she had lived: caring more for others than she did for herself.

My mother was born, Geraldine Springer. It was during the depression and she lived in St Mary’s county in a house attached to the family’s failing general store. As my grandmother says, “they had running water only when it rained.” But she was fortunate in two respects. First, she grew up during a time when being named Gerry Springer was less of a problem than it would be today. Second, she had caring and hardworking parents who always found a way to put food on the table, a roof over her head and clean clothes on her back.

At the age of 14, her widowed grandmother fell ill from heart disease and could no longer live alone. My mother left her home and went to live with her grandmother in Baltimore where she attended high school at Forest Park. She helped care for her grandmother for almost three years until she awoke one morning to find her dead. Then, barely 17, my mother lived alone, hours from home, in her late grandmother’s apartment while she completed high school.

Soon after high school, while still 17, my mother met Leonard Roberts, my father. Many of you know my father, and know him to be a smart, hardworking and honorable man, which he is. But from all I have heard, those qualities were far from obvious back then. He was penniless and unemployed, lacking both formal education and trade. Yet my mother saw through that; she saw him for the man he truly was. And she loved him. She married him when she was just 18 – a happy marriage that lasted 53 years, ‘til death did they part.

When first married, they both struggled to find steady employment, starting out with an income of only $34/week. Their favorite way to spend a night out was to buy a five-cent cup of coffee at Howard Johnson’s and sit there talking for six hours while slowing drinking it. A favorite Sunday ritual was to lay in bed reading the paper and sharing a giant chocolate bar. Although they initially struggled financially, and at times they each faltered, the other was always there to pick up, and together they made a powerful team. Within a couple years they were able to buy a three bedroom, one bath house – the house in which they raised me and my two older brothers; yes, I said one bathroom.

My own early memories of my mother are of her taking care of me and my brothers all day – then, after tucking me in at night, she would get in the car and drive to her night job at Baltimore Gas & Electric. I don’t know how long she worked at night, but she was always there to wake me up in the morning and give me breakfast. When I was bit older, she started working full time during the day and, at night, would take college classes to help her advance at BG&E. Despite working full time, she earned straight A’s and yet never left us in any want of her care and attention.

Many of you know the extent of my mother’s extraordinary volunteer service to others. In any service organization, a small percentage of the members perform the bulk of the work that makes the group’s service possible. My mother was one of those essential few in every service organization she touched, from the Jewish War Veterans Auxiliary where she served as district president, to AARP, where she was an officer and board member, to Toastmasters where she was a district officer. She taught public speaking classes to both school children and home schoolers. She provided volunteer services to area veterans hospitals for more than 25 years. In 2007, she received the Award of Distinction from the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, an award that was certainly well deserved. In all of these things, she worked with my father – they were an inseparable team.

As many of you know, my father also served as a leader in many of these organizations. He was always president of this, governor of that or commander of the other. But what you may not know is that for every leadership position my father held, for every honor he was awarded, my mother played a critical role, behind the scenes, doing much of the day-to-day work that made my father’s work possible. You might have known this, but if you did, it is because my father told you or you figured it out on your own – you didn’t hear it from my mother. She never sought the spotlight nor claimed credit for herself, even when credit was greatly deserved.

I would like to tell you something else you may not know about my mother: she was highly intelligent. I don’t mean that as a casual description; you all know she was smart. I mean it as a matter of verified fact. She was curious whether she could meet the requirements to join MENSA – the club for people with exceptionally high IQs – so she took their standardized test. Her IQ measured over 150 and easily met their membership requirements. She never actually attended any MENSA meetings or events and she told very few people about it. She did it for only one reason: she just wanted to see if she could.

My mother spent her life taking care of everyone else, and she did it with love, intelligence and quiet humility – she had always done so and we blithely assumed she always would. That she was like a force of nature, constant and unchanging. Now, with her passing she defies the laws of nature: for some of us she leaves a vacuum which will not be filled. She was truly the best of people and she will be dearly missed.

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William made the papers!

Will got interviewed by the local Youngstown paper.

Here’s the link:

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Surreal time

Things have been feeling so surreal around here, waiting for my mother in law to pass away. We don’t want her to, of course, but it is inevitable and only a matter of time. We keep thinking she’s at the end and any minute now . . . but she holds on. It is a slow sinking away. Rick goes over every day. His poor father is so profoundly sorrowing.

In spite of this foreboding that filters into everything, there is beauty and joy. The days have beeng gorgeous summer days. The kids have been relaxing, playing, laughing, quibbling. I don’t have anything planned for them right now, so the days are fun, slow summer days.

The house is much quieter with Hannah and Will gone. Josh and Sean have this thing where they watch other kids playing Super Smash Bros. on youtube to see how fast they conquer a level or whatever you call it. Then they go down to the video game system and play until they’ve beaten the record. Their conversations are highly technical, all about jumps and moves and different characters and how many seconds (down to the decimals, mind you!) it took them to do such and such. Sean really missed Josh while he was at his 3 day workcamp and now they are the best of friends and brothers.

Becky has been hanging out with me and keeping herself busy. She plays with Tillie (the puppy) and works on various art projects of her own design. We’ve played Chinese Checkers, phonics bingo (long vowels! I picked up a bunch of phonics bingo games at a going out of business sale for a teacher’s store and every once in a while we pull them out.) She also found an old 150 piece puzzle of animals (all black and white, zebra, tiger, penguins, etc) which we’ve been working on putting together. She helped me clean out the dining room credenza where we are going to keep all our Latin-Centered Curriculum books. She has her own cubby. I bought a new math program for Sean and Becky. It is Shiller Math, a Montessori math program. Well, it looks like the coolest math program ever. We put all the manipulatives in Becky’s cubby but she loves to take them out and play with them. Yesterday she was playing with the balance and weighing all sorts of objects. She asked me if she could please start Second grade when she turns 7 on July 12th. I said certainly! She’s so excited! Oh happy day! To be 7 and starting second grade!

I started reading The Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne to the kids yesterday. I meant to read Tanglewood Tales but I mislaid it somewhere. Luckily I have The Wonder Book too. We just read the first story about Perseus and Medusa. Since I just read The Scarlet Letter earlier this summer, for the first time ever, I am in awe of Hawthorne’s magical writing abilities. He is a wonderful storyteller.

Other good things: Becky has learned to climb the rope ladder we have tied to the maple tree at the end of our driveway. She was showing me how she could climb it and get up into the branches of the tree. It is a great tree for climbing! While I was watching her perform this new feat, we both noticed many neat rows of holes all over the bark of the tree. Apparently, they’ve been there forever and I had never looked closely enough at the tree to notice. We just finished read the book Children of Summer about Henri Fabre, so we wondered if there wasn’t some kind of wood boring insect that had made the rows of holes. We googled and found much to our delight that holes were made by YELLOW BELLIED SAP SUCKERS! I always thought Yellow-bellied Sap Suckers were some rare bird that intrepid birders got to see if they went to some far off, exotic location. But no! They are right here in Northern Va. We’ve seen them many times. They look like little woodpeckers. In fact we always confused them with woodpeckers before. Apparently, they can damage a tree but our maple looks good and healthy.

Another good thing: Last night the kids decided to wait for Rick to come home outside while chasing fireflies. This was about 9:30 p.m. So they went out but soon came back in asking about the stars in the sky. So we took a blanket out and binoculars and laid on the lawn gazing up at the stars. We definitely saw the the Little Dipper. We weren’t sure about the other stars and constellations. I’m so bad at identifying constellations myself, I wasn’t much of a teacher. But still we enjoyed looking at what the night had to offer: stars, fireflies and the occasional bat.

And another good thing: Since Rick goes over to Baltimore every afternoon and stays until about 8, he’s been calling us and having us say our night prayers over the speaker phone so that grandma can hear us praying. It is very sweet. I’m glad Rick thought to do this as I think it will be a memory the kids will always have and I hope it is a gift of love to Grandma. Rick says it is.

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Workcamp week

Hannah and Will are off to workcamp in Youngstown Ohio. We got up at 4:45 a.m. to get them to church by 5:30. We had to pick up a friend on the way. Got them there on time. Stayed and saw the caravan of mini-vans and Penske truck off. I hope they can stay for the whole week. I’m worried about them having to fly back because of my mother in law. Praying she holds out a bit longer! Ah, but it is all in God’s hands. Will was excited to go. Last year I kept him home because I just didn’t think he was ready, but this year in spite of all the behavior issues, he seems a bit more mature.

So both older ones will be gone. Only three kids. Small family.

I’m babbling. I am sleep-deprived.

Everything seems to be falling apart. We now have two broken toilets. Must call plumber tomorrow a.m. first thing. My lap-top went on the blink, literally! I mean the screen just flickers and then goes black and there’s no way to get it back again. So I’m typing this on the study computer. And we seemed to have developed a sinkhole in our driveway. A small one, but Becky noticed it and sure enough there is a deep hollow hole in our driveway right by the garage door. I’m waiting for the whole house to suddenly lurch sideways and go under! Could an animal have made the hole? But it’s, you know, a paved driveway???? And on top of that we seem to be invaded by all sorts of insects. Ants mostly. But we have beetles too. And I’m still battling mealmoths.

Life seems to be in a state of disarray.

Prayer. I think I need to pray more.

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Life’s been so busy lately. What’s today, Friday? I can only remember back to Wednesday. Rick and I went to see a James Taylor concert Wednesday evening. I remember being 12 years old and staring with deep love into the eyes of Mr. Taylor on his Sweet Baby James album. So beautiful . . . . Now he’s . . . well, he’s aged a bit, but haven’t we all???? He’s still a wonderful singer. He sounds exactly the same as he always did. We really enjoyed the concert. He really rocks it up. I loved Steamroller and he did a great cover of On Broadway. And I’ve been humming Shower the People ever since. So it was a nice trip down memory lane.

However, yesterday I awoke with a killer migraine. Whoa, it wiped me out the whole day practically. Haven’t had one that bad in a while. Must have been my high-living the night before!

Also Wednesday night Josh started his Jr. High Workcamp at church. Hannah is leading a crew. I think Josh is enjoying it. Yesterday, Thursday he said they went to a food pantry and packed rice. I don’t know what other events they did. He did mention they went to Mass. Anyway, he seems to be having a good time. He’s there again today and also tomorrow. He’s been reading up a storm. He read his three new Tin Tin books and then both Alfred Hitchcock short story books. This morning he told me he really wants to read Fahrenheit 451 next. I think Will got him psyched about it.

Will found a drummer for his band he wants to form. We hauled this guy’s drum set over to our garage and he and Will jammed for hours. Our next door neighbor came over to listen. Fortunately, she likes Rock and Roll and thought the whole thing was really cool! Anyway, this guy, Jose, can really play! He’s great. I think he’s a rising high school junior. I asked him if he took drum lessons but he said no but his dad’s from the Dominican Republic and plays the bongos and stuff, so he kind of grew up around rhythm. Then a teacher at his high school gave him his (the teacher’s) dad’s old drum set and he just fooled around on it. The kid is a natural, I’m tellin’ ya! Then last night Will’s friend Johnny came over. They’ve been friends since second grade. Johnny’s decided he’ll learn bass. He was already the designated singer. He’s got a real voice. He sings solos at church and can be in musicals because he actually has a good voice. Will can sing rock n roll. I mean if Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty can sing rock n roll, so can Will. . . so personally I think they should switch off the singing, bass playing and guitar playing. Will just picked up his bass for his birthday and starting playing. He just knew how to do it. Anyway, I think we have three really talented kids and I think they’ll make a splendid trio. They sure are having blast with this band thing.

This morning, since my usual bluebird monitoring partner, Josh, was off at workcamp, I coerced Becky and Sean into going with me. It is an absolutely glorious day today weather-wise and I don’t have a migraine, which means it is even more glorious. Those two sure do bicker though. I don’t know to disengage them and it rankles me to no end. But we saw some lovely things, dragon flies, a beautiful unusual butterfly (gotta look it up), another 5 lined skink, two northern water snakes, some folks out horseback riding AND we found 5 eggs one of the 10 bluebird boxes we are monitoring.

Now I’m getting ready to take Will to get his haircut. Gotta drag Sean and Becky along as there are no older ones here to watch them. Sean will resent that because he is currently going through a very intense Super Smashback Bros phase and here I dragged him out with me to the nature park against his will and now I’m dragging him out again . . . .

And on a final note, my dear mother in law is really suffering. Rick has been going to Baltimore nearly every day to be with her. We are praying and thinking of her constantly through all our busy-ness. But she is a tough lady and rails, rails against the dying of the light.

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American History with the Littles

Here’s my very elaborate plan (tongue firmly planted in cheek!) for teaching American History with the Littles (meaning Sean and Becky).

1) Get all of our picture/easy reading/read alouds appropriate for their age group. Put them all together, more or less in chronological order, on a couple of shelves in the study. When it comes time for a new read aloud, go to study shelves and pick one out.

2) Each month have a theme for crafts: August – Explorers/pirates, September-Native Americans, October -Halloween/All Saints, November – pilgrims, December – colonial Christmas crafts, January-more colonial crafts, February – pioneers, etc (haven’t planned it all the way through). Corps of Rediscovery has a lot of cool kits.

3) Have a family movie night once a week and watch lots of movies based in American History.

4) Go on lots of fieltrips: August – Outer Banks – Lost Colony of Roanoke/Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown, September – local Native American stuff, October – Mom and Dad go away for weekend?, November – Philadelphia, December – Old Town or Mt. Vernon. (Other fieldtrips I wanted to do this year but didn’t get to them: Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg; Frontier Life museum of Virginia). Also for spring – Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg and other Civil War Battlefields, panning for gold in Goldvein Va., tour the Capitol and National Archives, etc.

5) Picture study of American painters; study American music such as Stephen Foster, folk music, Negro Spirituals, patriotic songs, Ragtime music, Gershwin, musicals, Copeland, jazz

Of course this isn’t just for the littles. Most of it will spill over into the older kids study too. But they are going to also be doing pretty scheduled reading and writing in American History.

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I don’t think I’ve been reporting lately on William like I should.

After a most trying year doing his A Beka Chemistry homeschool class, where many times we wondered if we were going to make it, William wound up with a B average. Hallelujah!

William got to perform with his School of Rock band at our town’s Memorial Day Fair. He also has appeared twice at Jammin’ Java, a local coffee house which is quite popular in this parts. He got to play lead guitar on Ina Gadda Davida and Helter Skelter. They really rocked out during Helter Skelter. I had never cared for that song, especially with its association with . . . I don’t even want to say his name! But now it has taken on a much better connotation for me. It was a great moment. And he also played rhythm guitar for Magic Carpet Ride. That was really cool. Of course there were a lot of other kids on stage playing lots of music, but a couple days after his performances I went into the hardware store located right next to Jammin’ Java and I was chatting with the owner and he started talking about how this past Saturday all these kids were playing old sixties music, like Ina Gadda Davida and Helter Skelter. he mentioned those two songs particularly! I was able to brag that my son played lead guitar!!!!

Last night we had Will’s 16th birthday party. His birthday is really June 29th but he’ll be coming back from workcamp that day and will be exhausted, so Hannah did a wonderful job of planning and executing a party for him last night. So we had about 15 kids here, mostly teen-aged boys, They played pool, video games, talked and jammed on guitar. Rick grilled hamburgers and hot dogs in the pouring rain. We all sang happy birthday around an ice cream cake. Rick gave Will an electric bass guitar so there was more jamming (until about 11:30 at night). Will is trying to form his own band which he calls the Hypotheticals (since it only exists in his dreams right now). Apparently, first practice is here this coming Wednesday.

Alright, time to get Father’s Day started!

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Keller Books

This year I had an even shorter amount of time to spare for the IHM Conference that Seton holds every year in Northern VA. I usually go for a few hours on Friday evening but that couldn’t be done. So yesterday morning I got up, dragged Josh along with me, and went for maybe a total of little more than an hour. It’s amazing how much damage can be done to one’s wallet in that short amount of time. I blame it all on the Keller Books folks. This year their selection was an incredible number of great Landmark books, most of which focused on American History. Did they know I was coming and that we are doing American History next year????

Here’s what I got:

The Story of Daniel Boone by William O. Steele
The First Northwest Passage by Walter O’Meara
Thomas Jefferson: The Making of a President by John Dos Passos
Mark Twain and the River by Sterling North
The Story of Stephen Foster by Esther M. Douty
Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody
The Story of Geronimo by Jim Kjelgaard

Isn’t that incredible?????

I also got:

Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain
Indian Captive; The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski
Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis (my dad fought at Guadalcanal as a Navy bomber)
The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
Saint Philip of the Joyous Heart by Francis X. Connelly (old Vision book – a saint I don’t know very much about).

Josh got 3 more Tin Tin books and two Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries Series

I also went by the Bethlehem Books table and got:

Nacar, The White Deer by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
Miss Jane Austen by May Lamberton Becker
The Switherby Pilgrims, A Tale of the Australian Bush by Eleanor Spence
Jamberoo Road by Eleanor Spence (these last two Josh picked out).

Josh picked out another book too but we had to order it and I can’t recall what it was right now. He got spoiled because he agreed to come along with me.

I also visited the Kolbe table and finished ordering books for Josh. He’s decided he’s going to just follow Kolbe’s 8th grade syllabus, except for Latin ( Josh, Will and I are taking an outside course) and science which we’re doing through our co-op.

Another wonderful thing is that I got to meet Margot Davidson of Hillside Education! I do wish I could link to everything but this blog is still acting glitchy. As soon as life slows down, I really must deal with that!

It’s a good thing that I weeded through all my old curriculum this past week. I got three big boxes of stuff. I had it in the trunk of my mini-van because I’m going to donate it to a local Catholic homeschool library someone is starting up in a nearby parish church. But yesterday I also attended my niece’s baby shower. I got to see some of my sisters that I haven’t seen since Christmas. Isn’t that terrible and we all live within an hour of each other! Anyway, my niece was glowingly beautiful 7.5 months pregnant. Another niece-in-law plans to homeschool her kids (her oldest is just five now) and she’s been pumping me for info. Well, I was able to just give her stuff since it was all conveniently in the back of the mini-van. So that worked out very well.

So I do have shelf room for all these new books. Hurray!

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The History of The Church – Reading Course

My high schoolers have chosen to do a pretty traditional high school curriculum. I really like the way we’ve done History with Hannah. She did Ancients in 9th grade, Church History in 10th, British history in 11th and she’ll be doing American History in 12th. William, however, hasn’t had such a neat progression. He jumped from 7th grade to 9th. He had ‘repeated’ 2nd grade way back when, because he was a late bloomer in the reading and writing areas, but an outside homeschool science class opened up just at the time when he thought he could move to the grade he ought to be in, age-wise. So he jumped to 9th to take high school Biology. Since he was taking two outside courses that year (the other was a Shakespeare course), struggles with ADHD and had never done any classes before I just felt I couldn’t burden him with too many courses. So he didn’t do any history in 9th. He did lots of Religion though because he was preparing for Confirmation at the time.

Anyway, so far he’s done British history and that’s it. And he’ll do American History this coming year. But I’d also like him to take on Church History as well and then do Ancient History with him next year.

So how to do a Church History on top of American History! I got the book The History of the Church from the Didache Series. It looks really wonderful! Wow. Last night I spent about 3 hours reading through it. I also wanted Will to read The Confessions by St. Augustine and Chesterton’s biography of St. Thomas Aquinas. I came up with this schedule:

History of the Church

Read approximately 4 to 6 pages a day, 6 days a week (Sun through Fri)

Read the Study questions first to get an idea of what the authors feel are the most important facts to take away from the chapter.

Week 1 Background Chapter
Week 2 Chapter 1
Week 3 Ch. 2
Week 4 Ch. 3
Week 5 Confessions by St. Augustine
Week 6 Confessions
Week 7 Confessions
Week 8 Ch. 5
Week 9 Ch. 6
Week 10 Ch. 7
Week 11 Ch. 8
Week 12 Ch. 9
Week 13 Ch. 10
Week 14 The Dumb Ox by Chesterton
Week 15 The Dumb Ox
Week 16 The Dumb Ox
Week 17 Ch.11
Week 18 Ch. 12
Week 19 Ch. 13
Week 20 Ch. 14
Week 21 Ch. 15
Week 22 Ch. 16
Week 23 Ch. 17
Week 24 Ch. 18
Week 25 Ch. 19
Week 26 Ch. 20
Week 27 Ch. 21

I feel that since this is only 27 weeks long, we have wiggle room for Christmas, Easter and any other breaks that might occur during the school year.

I’ve decided that since he’ll be doing a full blown American History/Literature course along with an Economics class and a Composition/grammar class that we should keep this class as a reading course. So it will probably be worth .5 credits. He’ll read and then have a set discussion time with me each week to ensure comprehension and retention.

His other reading materials will be:

The Gospel of John
A History of US (using Hewitt’s Jr. High syllabus)
The Scarlet Letter
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Life and Narrative of Frederick Douglass
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
My Antonia
The Grapes of Wrath
Several Short Stories/Essays
Some famous American speeches
Excerpts from Common Sense/Federalist/Anti-Federalists Papers
Declaration of Independence/Constitution
A Long Day’s Journey into Night (play)
A Raisin in the Sun (play)
Rhetoric by Aristotle (using Memoria Press’ Rhetoric workbook)
Economics; Principles and Practices (Glencoe textbook)

Along with all this reading:

Rod and Staff – grammar, mechanics
Chalkdust SAT Math review
First Steps in Latin – outside homeschool class

So I think it will be a hefty but very interesting year for Will!

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