To Everything There is a Season

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    By Monica Cappelli

(Editor’s note: Please excuse us for the delay in posts. We’ve been having some technical difficulties and are working diligently to fix them. We’ll resume our regular posting as soon as possible.)

Autumn = Baking.

Muffins. Bread. Cake. Pies. When autumn days are crisp and a roaring fire warms the night, my circadian clock chimes the magic words, “Let’s bake!” My family agrees.

Autumn is a wonderful time to bring your kids into the kitchen. Yes, as a homeschooling mom and nerd, I appreciate the math lessons inherent in any baking project. As I parent two ten-year-olds, I love having a fun and delicious way of teaching basic homemaking skills such as planning a dessert to complement dinner (especially if you plan to eat dessert first), shopping for a recipe and, best of all, kitchen clean-up. Gifting baked goods is also a yummy opportunity to teach your child the Godly art of hospitality: Invite a friend for tea and scones; be a great guest and take along a treat when you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, and give baked goods to home-bound or sickly people in the community. And nothing says “geography” like preparing desserts or meals from other times and cultures. Most importantly, though, I love the creativity my kids experience as they measure, mix, adjust, embellish, decorate, and anticipate eating their yummy confections.

Over the years, strangely enough, I’ve discovered a happy truth: even ugly baked goods are delicious! Trust me, I’ve received several unappetizing custom creations over the years, and I have never ever turned one down. Lopsided loaves, rubbery rolls, fallen cakes, terribly “crispy” cookies, sunken cupcakes, and even sad-looking pies (private joke, dear Renee), can be redeemed with laughter and a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s — or a serious whirl of whipped cream! Moreover, a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar is like fairy dust to an ugly pie
crust! In other words, you’ll be able to survive with grace and encourage your child’s earliest forays into the world of baking. Know that friends, kind neighbors, aunts and uncles, grandparents and pastors (especially the last two) are willing recipients of even the most disastrous dessert gift when presented by your child with their very proudest grin.

Last week I posted some of the kids’ and my favorite bread recipes (yes, on Facebook! Yes, I spend too much time there. Yes, it’s a problem.) That post led to requests for gingerbread from friends. Those requests (slurping solicitations, really) led to this article. Which leads me to invite you all to post or link to kid-friendly recipes or some of your other autumn favorites!

P.S. Those ugly pie crusts? Yep. They’re mine. Somebody, help me, please. I could really use a good high altitude recipe!

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    Monica Blog PicMonica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

Time to Share Your Great Learning Resources and Ideas

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    By Monica Cappelli

Reading. Writing. Math. Grammar. Vocabulary. Logic. History. Foreign Languages. Geography. Art. Science. Life-skills. Drama. Sports.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Scream.

Science! Advanced math! Science! Advanced math with basket weaving?

Since you’re the “most” fun, active, patient, upbeat, confident, multi-talented, knowledgeable and energetic parent in the world you’ve probably never struggled or worried about teaching any of these subjects. Good for you! But since there can be only one “most awesome parent ever,” the rest of us . . . well, we need help!

Enter family games, online learning, co-op learning, apprenticeships/internships, field trips, travel, and community resources. It’s important to use these and any other opportunities you can find to insert variety, depth, experiential learning, and fun into your family’s learning journey. Burn-out, fatigue, frustration, boredom, resistance, and daydreaming can result from a dearth of variety. Beware: your children might begin to exhibit some of these symptoms, too. Hang in there!

Today I will scratch the surface of the world of digital enrichment opportunities. Following are a few of both the online and software resources I have found to be of tremendous help to my family.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courseware): Free college courses?! Yes! Moreover, they neither require matriculation nor discriminate based on age. MOOCs will issue certificates of completion, and some may offer limited fee based credit courses in the near future. These are great tools to supplement, enrich, or accelerate your student’s education, to sample college level work, or to “observe” and prepare before taking a similar for-credit college course. Another benefit is cultural enrichment, as students gain meaningful real-world insights by engaging in mandatory discussion forums with students from all over the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I took last spring after learning about MOOCs from a homeschooled 8th grader in a local homeschool group – so parents, let’s go! These MOOC aggregator websites list and link to thousands of online class opportunities: http://www.mooc-list.com or http://www.class-central.com

Individual K-12 subjects, and even full curricula, are readily available online or on disc. Computers are supremely well suited for certain tasks. Typing instruction; flash card creation and review; computer programming (SCRATCH, and others); math drills (Reflex Math, IXL, or many free math websites); spelling/vocabulary exercises (Spelling City, Literacy Planet, Word Voyage [I LOVE Word Voyage!]); oral reading fluency (Reading Assistant, Fast ForWord and others); curriculum enrichment videos (Discovery Streaming, Brain Pop); and Theater (PBS online, and Digital Theater.com). These great tools can help alleviate concerns like eye-rolling boredom, “Am I covering all of the basics?” “How do I fill those aggravating gaps?” or, “Hey, I need a little help here!”

There are many on- and off-line resources available – please share your favorites in the comments section below. Go ahead and post your questions, too – I’m sure you’ve got a few!

Our blog readers look forward to sharing and learning about the great learning tools your family enjoys!

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Monica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

The Tiger in the Boat

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    By Monica Cappelli

The book The Life of Pi was amazing, fearful, thrilling and allegorical.

As I recently considered re-reading it, the idea for the following post occurred to me.

Energetic, graceful, nurturing, and fun on good days. Heartbreaking, rife with error, and full of regret on other days. My “Life as a Parent” is full of mountains, valleys, triumphs, and mistakes. These are the tiger’s contrasting stripes – faith and doubt, courage and fear, triumph and failure. The tiger is my life in this flesh.

How does one know if the sum total of all your years of parenting – your life poured out on behalf of beautiful, happy, strong-willed, challenging, flawed, adorable little persons (gifts!) – will amount to good in either your lifetime or in future generations?

Sometimes I am able to: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV.)

And for those other times: “Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. . .” (Psalm 19:12-13.)

What contrast!

Oh yes, we are temporal parents. Yet our God, the eternal Father, has a plan and a way that transcends our earthly triumphs and depressions. In that knowledge lies faith, encouragement, and strength – the life boat that carries us (despite our doubts and foibles), through the sometimes cruel waters of life.

Parenting with this perspective leads me to think: As a parent do I want to be remembered as a slave to my own stubbornness and sinful habits? Or on “those days” will I be able to submit to God’s calling on me and humble my heart in apology, then offer life-giving love and warmth to my family, coupled with sincere prayer to God for forgiveness, healing, and restoration?

The latter choice, trusting my Father, (e.g., climbing out of the storm-tossed sea into the lifeboat) is my only option for assurance and peace, given my faith. “Peace. Be still.”

The question is not whether I’m a perfect parent – oh my, I most certainly am not (I’m a tiger: striped with conflicting hues of flesh and spirit)- but rather, do I model faith, hope, love and forgiveness even after I make one of my numerous and inevitable mistakes?

I am glad (very glad!) that our sovereign God is perfectly perfect: loving, parental, concerned, protective, involved, just, strong, forgiving, generous, and completely tender-hearted toward me.

My job as a parent is to keep my lifeboat watertight and afloat – whether the “tiger” is having a good day or not.

Have you seen or read The Life of Pi? What did you think of it?

    ______________________

    Monica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

Books, Glorious Books!

    By Monica Cappelli

books[1]There’s just something about books. The weight, the texture, the smell. The feeling that they’ve been thumbed through before. The stimulation derived from communicating with great minds across the ages.

I am an avid Bookie. My children have inherited that passion, so some areas of our home are rather overrun with tomes from days gone by. All kinds of fiction, nonfiction, and those curious creations, Historical Fiction (how does one classify these?!)

A few years ago I was given a Kindle eReader (love it!) But still, my predilection for paper often gets the best of me. I’ve visited amazing libraries and bookstores over the years in many parts of the world. I’ve also visited countries where bookstores and libraries are extremely difficult to find, and literacy takes a backseat to more pressing concerns of life. That, to me, is terribly sad. Of all places on earth, those are where people have the greatest need for great ideas.

Still, while many tourists visit museums and famous sights, I hunt for the local bookstore or library. There, I meet real people: the locals, who are so often curiously similar to the characters dwelling within the bound pages.

If I were to write a book of my life, most of it would be about reading!

As a youngster I read copious amounts of literature, encyclopedias, as well as the dictionary to escape to worlds of wonder populated by both real and fictional heroes, villains, and my own imagination. During middle school and high school I discovered books were the gateway to broader horizons with subjects I would never learn about in school, but could plumb to my heart’s delight at the library.

Even now, my heart thumps with the same enthusiasm as my little girl when we call “Library Day!” Nowadays we declare Library Day rather liberally; some homeschool days start at the library and end when our eyes are crossed with fatigue. You see, I really am addicted-three hours of labor during my last pregnancy were spent at Borders! I didn’t leave until I really had to (when other patrons began displaying sympathetic labor pains.)

Some of my favorites?

From my elementary years:

Who Will Comfort Toffle?
The King’s Stilts
Hilty: The First Hundred Years

In junior high:

All Tolkien – everything he ever wrote.
Til We Have Faces
Tarzan
Gone With The Wind

In high school:
Sister Carrie
Pride and Prejudice
Dracula
Jane Eyre
Ethan Frome
Atlas Shrugged
East of Eden
The Count of Monte Cristo

Recently:

The Kite Runner
Unaccustomed Earth

All of Francine Rivers’ novels.

What are some of your favorite books or authors?

    ______________________

    Monica Blog PicMonica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

Recognizing (and Surviving) the Beginning of the Logic Stage: “Whaaat?”

    By Monica Cappelli

question-marks[1]Well, it had to happen sometime. My sweet, compliant, easy little girl is growing up, and I am no longer the epitome of reason in her eyes. As she approaches her first double digit birthday, the Logic Stage* of learning is quickly gaining upon us.

Below are two of the many, daily, and sometimes hilarious examples of what the beginning of the Logic Stage looks like at my house. Needless to say, not all “opportunities” will end in giggles, but these recent moments did!

1. While deciding what to watch during a Mommy/Daughter Mani/Pedi:

DD: Let’s watch SpongeBob. It helps me think. (Scary…she was serious and straight-faced when she said that!)
Me: No, no, no, no, no. NO! Please, I can’t stand that show!
DD: But it’s FUNNY!
Me: I think it’s disgusting, and repetitive. Not funny at all. No way can I enjoy my pedicure with SpongeBob on TV.
DD: But please Mom!
Me: Uh uh. How about Ella Enchanted?
DD: No, thanks, Mom.
Me: Or Nanny MacPherson?
DD: Mom, now you’re just being difficult.
Me: But you like Nanny! We both do!
DD: But I don’t want to watch it! You know. . . Jon, and Aaron, and Chrissy like SpongeBob. Only you don’t like it…
Me: Ahhhh, but they’re not here. So you can watch it when they come home…When all three are here together. (Even though I secretly know that will probably be next June!)
DD: But Dad likes it. And he’s here. So who’s more important: you- or DAAAD?
Me: Well, when it comes to pedicures – I am!
DD: Uhn uh. Dad is. ‘Cause he married you, and then you got the babies!
Me (choking): Whaaaat?

Your child will probably offer many such mind-boggling “arguments” as they transition from the grammar stage to the logic stage. They will enlist all kinds of faulty reasoning in an attempt to understand their world, and to bend it to their liking.

These are good times to model well a reasoned argument – if you can manage to contain your laughter. (I admit, her appeals to popularity [siblings], authority [DAAAD], and the great big straw-man [babies. Really?!] left me laughing too hard to marshal my thoughts). Eventually their arguments will mature, as they practice under your cheerful tutelage.

2. Picking up my rather dramatic little daughter one day after school:

DD: Where WERE you, Mom? I didn’t see you ANYWHERE! I looked all over the place!
Me: Well actually I was parked right across the street from school. (Okay, so I wasn’t standing patiently outside in the cold, like some of the native Colorado moms, but she knows my car – right?)
DD: But I didn’t SEE you!
Me: Ah, but I saw you. You followed that little puppy all the way down to the other end of the block. You didn’t even look for me! I had to go get you!
DD: But I couldn’t help it! He liked me, and he was sooooo cute! And did you see his cute little ears? They were soooo floppy!
Me: Yes, he was cute, wasn’t he? (You see, I, too, am easily distracted by puppies!)
But I need you to come straight to the car from now on, okay? I shouldn’t have to go looking for you.
DD: Okay. Sorry. Well, I’m hungry and I think you owe me an ice cream.
Me: Whaaaat? What are you talking about?
DD: Well you’re the responsible adult. And you weren’t being very responsible, were you? I was a block away and A STRANGER could’ve grabbed me! So you owe me an ice cream. (A very self-satisfied smile followed this little zinger!)
Me (cracking up): Sorry, kiddo. . . Nice try though! That might have worked if it was true and if I wasn’t on a diet! (She laughed and settled for the two-day old Wheat Thins which happened to be in the back of the car!)

Ahhhhh, parents! Let’s enjoy this rocky transition from compliant Grammar to challenging Logic. Here are a few strategies:

1) Enjoy the mental gymnastics.
2) Choose your battles wisely.
3) Keep it positive whenever possible – the goal is to train, not to conquer.
4) Help your child analyze the quality of questions, reasoning, and arguments witnessed at school, in the community, in books, as well as on TV and other media by asking questions like:

a. “What did you think about that?”
b. “Did they really prove their point?”
c. “How would you have approached that question?”
d. “Did his/her decision make sense, in your opinion?”

5) Be willing to be convinced when their arguments are well-reasoned.
6) Your counter-arguments should model the same reasoning and respectful tone you expect your child to employ.
7) And just for fun: Give in sometimes with a mutual giggle – acknowledge the ridiculous and tip your hat to their valiant ingenuity!

Please share a story about your child’s Logical Journey. How are you coping with your budding logistician?

*To learn more about the three stages in a classical education-Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric-read Dave Miller’s post here: http://wp.me/p2UgVn

    ________________

    Monica CappelliMonica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.