It’s been six days…

It’s been six days since I wrote last. Where has the time gone? We’ve been venturing out during the weekends. Last weekend we made the 30 minute drive in 100 degree heat to my husband’s grandmother’s house. This is the house where he grew up (next door) and where he lived as a young adult. We lived there one week after marrying.

Stevinson2  His grandmother and grandfather were a stable, supportive loving presence in his life. His grandfather passed away the summer before we met. His grandmother now lives about two hours away. The house sits. So we went to visit.

The drive is sentimental: all those late nights after long dates, driving home in the dark, the memories of the places where we stopped, for him the memories from all his life.

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I sneaked in and decorated one year. He lived in an apartment built into his grandmother’s garage.

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We live near your parents so we see your places all the time, he told me. We don’t often get out to see his.

He feels that sadness as we visit the house. That sense that it isn’t the same, it never can be again. My grandmother sold her house several years ago. I experienced the same sadness. All those hours spent, step by step observing her collection of art and furniture from China (my grandmother is Chinese), while there was nothing “kid-like” to do, but we were visiting anyway. Those places have a power all their own and it’s awful to let them go.

But that was just last weekend. Prior to that, I have been investigating new opportunities for my career, unsure if where it will all take me. Not ready to make a move just yet, but investigating, with a sort of amazement at the newly emerging possibilities.

My sister visited from Kansas. Reunions are funny things. I have only one sibling and we do not see her often. It’s interesting to see how my children sense that something familiar about her. It’s the genetics. And they like her very much.

My work schedule has changed. In the program for which I work, we are placed in schools, and as the schools are not operating during the summer, if we choose to work we will be placed in other programs. I sought out the Marketing Director and lobbied for a spot. I get to spend the next two months writing (and doing some interviewing then writing) for 12 hours a week. This is an unlooked for dream I never realized I had.

Our daughter is now enrolled in Mother of Divine Grace, a classical education homeschooling program. I don’t know if we could be more excited. As I wrote before, everyone has to find their own fit, based on their beliefs about education and their needs as a family. After our first consultation, I think we’re found ours. It isn’t about religion, it’s about art and it’s about accessing the unique gifts of the developmental age. And when it comes down to it, it’s about family. Driving her to preschool from 8-11am caused an immense disruption in our flow. We’ll adjust, I told myself. Yet it was joyful to go back. I don’t mind continuing the way it is now.

That said, I’m very excited to enroll my daughter in Vacation Bible Camp for the first year.

This weekend is a parish festival at my parent’s parish which we’ve been attending more and more. In two weeks I hope we’ll make it to my aunt and uncle’s home near Santa Cruz.

So with everything going on, and the change in my work to lots of writing, I anticipate writing here less. I hope you’ll stay with me when I do post, and when I pick it up again more frequently.

I will soon have for you the plans for the Triple Bunk Bed put together by my husband, and my experience making over our bathroom vanity. I tell you, what impact!

Godspeed!

School: what is it good for?

What is the role of the school? Why do we send children to school? I think we send children to school be educated. Some people will put up with a substandard education because they believe that, equally important to education, another purpose of school is socialization.

Story Time At A Country School A Painting by Norman Rockwell

Because our children spend so much time in school, the culture of the school becomes a strong influence on the culture of our children. If religion has been historically the transmitter of culture, but schools will not allow, or teachers do not perceive any allowance of the discussion of religion or the influence of religion on curriculum, then a type of secular culture will be transmitted to students. Is the culture secular humanism? Or is it also driven by marketing, as I have argued many things are?

My only experience in sending my child to school consisted of the local state preschool. Discussion of religion was not included when celebrating or learning about holidays. Christmas was about Santa and this fact was hammered into them through re-written classic songs. They did not learn any Christmas hymns as we did while we were children, “Silent Night,” and all that.

What else happens at school? Organizers of the school, apart from religion determine the virtues children should develop, without a sound virtue theory. Locally, character traits encouraged in school programs consist of six pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship. They aren’t bad things, but without a foundation and without also emphasizing prudence, which helps one determine the right response in the given situation to the right degree, the character traits will, in the end, be empty, flat, and forgettable.

Another quality I have noticed is that school is intent on filling in where parents are failing. Children are mandated to go to school. For those who do not choose private or home schooling, public school is available to everyone. Therefore, the public school is where “we” have access to children, so this is the best place for vision tests, dental hygiene, and now, to the interest of many in California, mandating vaccines.

SB277 would require children without medical exemption to be vaccinated or they cannot attend public school in California. Whether or not I think children should be vaccinated, the use of school as the place to enforce it, seems to me, a gross overreach of the point of school. Public school has become the place where the state becomes the caregiver. They provide breakfast and lunch for free, even through the summer, because many kids would not eat otherwise. They bring in health professionals to make sure kids are up to the mark, even in preschool, even when a physical was required for admission, without informing or the consent of the parents.

What is the goal of school? Is it free daycare? Is it free parenting? Is it what we want our children to inherit? I think my children would benefit from the social opportunities that comes with school. They love to be with people and other kids. But I can’t get past the fact that I believe community and church equally provide social opportunities (nicer one’s in fact since they are more stratified), and that school is for education. I do not attend a church of a different religion just because nice people go there. I attend a Catholic Church because I want to practice my Catholic faith. The religion is the point, the people are the plus. I do not want to live in a community with a nice house but terrible neighbors. The people are the heart, the home is the plus.

I can’t get over the idea that school is for education, learning. So even though I would love to send my children out of the house for schooling, to be with others, to enjoy the revelry of their age group, I will find other sources. I radically disagree with the utilitarian approach to education couched in our school programs, at the heart of the common core curriculum. I disagreed with it when I was in junior high and high school. I disagree with it now.

Let learning be for learning’s sake. Let education make us better people. Let it teach us empathy by great literature. Let it create opportunities to develop skills such as memorization, and mental flexibility through music. Let it transmit culture by not rejecting European culture. Three quarters of my heritage is European: Greek, German, Irish. One quarter is non-European: Chinese. Would my children encounter the classics of these cultures in the common core? I doubt it.

I want them to have a childhood full of stories, of rhymes, of imagination, of natural science. I want religion to part of their way of life, not just something that happens at home and Sundays. How can I explain why for a majority of their hours God is never mentioned?

You may make a different decision. It comes down to that question. What is school for? We’re free to decide for ourselves what qualities we value most, and decide from there.

The Office…reveal

It was some time ago when I wrote about our effort to overhaul our office. It became a dumping group for all things not baby-toddler friendly. Because of that, it looked like a dumping ground, ever tempting those three foot and below persons who live in this home. I do not have many pictures of it before. We started with me using a dining table as a desk, Ikea Expedit shelves for bookcases. Kyle had an old computer desk from my parents, flanked with two more Ikea Expedit bookcases to house all my book plus file storage boxes.

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This is not a large room. The round table was too much. Out it went and in came an antique wood desk. This was better, but we still had little floor space and many problems with the kids. Because I often use my computer standing up, not sitting down (because I’m holding a baby of course), and because my other projects usually involve a sewing machine, I realized I needed a standing desk. My husband just needed anything with more surface space, plus cubbies to stick instruments. I hated the idea having such high ceilings and not utilizing these walls for upward storage.

Now, with the exceptions of a few small things, our office is finished. Already I am experiencing the fruits of a workstation built to serve the activities I have, from sewing craft projects to uploading photos to writing for this blog. The children are able to be in here without causing any distress. Our eldest has a school desk where she can work.

Without further adieu, the guided tour. This is the view when you walk in the door.

IMG_6658Using black track and brackets, my husband mounted four tracks along the wall you see when you first walk in. We used magnets, lightly dragging them along the wall, to locate the nails which connect the drywall to the studs. The man put it well when he said the house would have to fall down before those tracks fall down.

We used 1 x 12 boards found at my father’s farm. My husband sanded them down with his new random orbit sander. We chose to keep them different lengths with a few rough edges.

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IMG_6661 He intentionally sanding the edges very lightly to keep the texture.

To prevent the books from overwhelming the space, some designers recommend grouping them by category, or making book covers. If you are being paid by the hour to do this, make book covers. I’m morally opposed to grouping them by color unless they are purely for decoration, and I don’t believe in owning books for pure decoration. I recognize the beauty of leather binding, but I firmly believe it’s the stuff inside that makes them valuable. If the stuff inside makes them valuable, that’s how they shoudl be organized. The other trick to breaking it up visually is have other objects on the shelves. Since we do not own enough bookends, other objects were a necessity.

IMG_6684IMG_6676We turned the Expedit shelves on their sides, installed drawers and a couple cabinet fronts (on mine) for closed storage.

IMG_6668Currently we’re borrowing barstools from my father’s bar, which is in his remodeled barn, which were sort of buried in things not related to bars or barstools. I actually really like how they look and may hold onto them for a while. They swivel.

IMG_6670We removed one shelf in the Expedit to accommodate my sewing machine. My husband screwed in six 6-inch Ikea Capita legs to raise my desk. We acquired a workbench top from my father for my desk top. He really does just have this stuff lying around.

IMG_6673IMG_6675I kept the shelf above my desk for my current reading (or reading list books) and to keep other things accessible to me, but out of reach of children.

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Another thanks to my family of origin for our vintage pencil sharpener. Why do it electric when you can burn calories? It’ll last longer anyway, and if the power goes out, we can still sharpen our pencils.

I finally have my diplomas on the wall, plus a bulletin board. Pinterest is a dream, but some times you need to pin things that aren’t digital (paint chips, fabric swatches). You can’t beat the real thing.

IMG_6688For storage we purchased a tall cabinet from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. We discussed finishing the side with reclaimed redwood siding but with the desk there, I’m thinking sheet metal and chalkboard paint (= chalk board and magnetic board) might be just right since this will be a school space.

IMG_6669 A filing cabinet from when my grandmother moved replaces the old cardboard file storage boxes.

IMG_6672There is a gem that came with the house, a house which had nothing but standard lighting.

IMG_6690It fits perfectly with our decor and I’m so glad the light bulbs aren’t exposed!

Let’s put the room to work.

IMG_6674    IMG_6679     This has been a wonderfully satisfying project, done on a budget but done in such a way that fits us, without taking short cuts on what we wanted out of the space. There are still little things to be done, like a desk top for my husband. But for the most part, we can sit back and consider this a job well done. What do you think?