We did it!

It’s official: I have successfully homeschooled three children for a school year. Granted, it was just kindergarten for Houston and pre-K for the twins, but we have all survived no worse for the wear.

In fact, I think we all enjoyed the experience overall and learned a ton in the process. The kids have soared academically, while I have grown in my understanding of the teaching styles that are most effective for the boys, both individually and as a group.

Gabriel plays w/ Iron Man in our “sand egg” (really, a mostly red-dirt egg right now) on one of the rare warm days we’ve had recently.

Our last day of Classical Conversations community was 3/26, so we don’t start with Cycle 2 of CC till September. That’s when Houston will move onto Apprentice (the grammar stage for 6 and 7 year olds), and Gabriel and Zeke will begin Abecedarian (grammar for preschoolers and kindergartners).

Besides successfully completing two 12-week semesters of Abecedarian studies, Houston decided to challenge himself with something called Memory of Excellence (MOE). This is when a child can recite all 24 weeks of memory work for two subjects.

“The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; & every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God: this is his task on earth.” — R.L. Dabney, theologian, pastor, Confederate Army chaplain, chief of staff to Stonewall Jackson & an all-around great Virginian

Houston picked history and Latin. So, the last couple of weeks we’ve slacked in other areas of school to make time for drilling 24 history sentences, and Latin noun endings and 1st through 5th noun declensions.

Houston’s best friend, Asher, was also going for MOE and had chosen history. So on 3/18, we had a practice session at Miss Christie’s house, where I quizzed Houston and Asher on the memory work.

We fed the geese & had a wonderful time playing w/ Miss Jessie & her little sister, Kaylee, @ the park on 3/14.

The two smarty britches proceeded to jump on Asher’s bed, singing their history sentences into their fists like rock stars. It was a bit wild, to say the least, but they nailed all the facts, historical figures and dates. Quite impressive.

The next step to earn MOE is to have the child recite the memory work another parent. So on 3/25, Houston did his history and Latin for Miss Christie, and Asher did his history and English grammar for me.

The final step was for each boy to do his two-subject recitation (sans any mistakes or hints) with their CC tutor, Miss Murphy. And to our great delight, Houston did so on 3/27, as did his buddy, Asher. Way to go, Big Hashy… we are so proud of y’all!

It’s so cool how much the kids’ CC memory work has seeped its way into their everyday lives. It’s as if their brains are just overflowing with the newfound knowledge. A good is example is last week when the 3 Amigos were playing war games.

Another great thing about homeschooling is that you can bite your pastry into the shape of a handgun w/o any fear of school suspension or expensive litigation.

Houston said, “You be Japan” to Gabriel “and you be Britain” to Zeke “and I’ll be America,” as they ran around the house, waving flags, shooting toy guns, dramatically acting out scenarios and singing “WWII and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Wow, who knew homeschooling would actually be so effective?

And then there’s a recent joke of Gabriel’s: “Knock knock,” he said. “Who’s there?” I asked. “The War of 1812,” he replied. “The War of 1812 who?” I continued. “The Missouri Compromise!” he answered with a grin.

Sure, it doesn’t make much sense out of context (but what little kid’s joke does?), but the information was dead-on congruent with the CC Timeline. I, for one, appreciate your classical nuance, G-man!

Besides school, we’ve been dealing with a few health issues lately. On 3/4, Houston visited the radiologist to get an x-ray of his adenoids — masses of tissue that are part of the lymph system and are closely related to tonsils.

Zeke proudly displays his frontier fort. He & brothers have come a long way in building the log-cabin constructions.

See, Houston snores, and has pretty frequent nosebleeds and headaches, so his pediatrician thought his adenoids might have something to do with these ailments. And the x-ray did show that his adenoids are indeed enlargened.

The next step was getting a second opinion at an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. The doc said that, yes, both Houston’s adenoids and tonsils are huge, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to get these throat lymphoids removed.

The ENT doc explained that he would only recommend surgery if Houston was showing signs of sleep apnea. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that both Stephen, Grumps and Papa have.

I was advised to watch Houston during his REM sleep cycle; and lo and behold, I do believe that poor child has inherited the apnea gene. Thus, we will be forging ahead with the surgery, so please keep big bro in your prayers as we maneuver through the stages of this medical treatment.

On 3/16, Daddy & the 3 Amigos met up w/ Miss Christie, Mr. Logan & the kids @ Reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Seen here, Houston & Gabriel strike a pose w/ one of the colonial revolutionaries.

The boys’ pal, Sam, invited them to Awana on bring-a-friend night last Sunday. They were excited to attend the event with their CC/Westover buddy, and Stephen and I were eager to take advantage of the free time for date night.

But when picking up the kids, Zeke was a bloody mess (and not in the British sense). Apparently, he had bitten his lip during a nasty fall. Zeke, who we just might have to nickname “Scar,” was a bit rattled, but turned out to be fine.

The Awana workers who took care of him were so apologetic. But as I explained, the Dillinghams sometimes leave a little blood and destruction in their wake. That’s how we like to make a first impression! Par for the course of raising the 3 Amigos.

Zeke also enjoys a warm day in the backyard sand egg, building castles, towers & mounds.

Well, if Zeke is Scar, maybe I should be called “Feeble Mama.” On 3/22, I incurred a foot injury while trying to turn a fallen tree into a good climbing tree for the boys. I attempted to kick off a huge dead branch, while balancing myself atop the log — a feat I surely could’ve pulled off 20 years ago.

But due to my age and lack of physical prowess, I instead toppled to the ground, hurting my heal during the landing. The result was what I think was acute plantar fasciitis, which was completely debilitating at first, but got better with ice, ibuprofen and rest.

Once I recovered from that, I started experiencing intermittent surges of pain and intense pressure in my head on Wednesday. They would come and go every few seconds, and felt like a vice clamping my skull behind my ears and then thrusting sharp pains forward toward my forehead.

Donning our newest cowboy hat, Gabriel is ready for a good night’s rest in the bunkbed.

I went to the doc the next day, and after a battery of tests, she ruled out any brain issues. Thank God! And after further examination, she concluded that my strange pain was either caused by a strained trapezious muscle or temporomandibular joint.

I’m leaning toward the latter diagnosis ’cause I have been a nighttime teeth-grinder for a decades and have been wearing a dental night guard for many years. But I suppose sometimes even with the guard, the jaw joint can get extra irritated.

I am taking a prescription anti-inflammatory, so my weird surging headaches have gotten better (they’re not as intense and not as often). But unfortunately, they’re still present. So if you would, please send out a few prayers for me and my decrepit old body.

In the meantime, I hope you and yours have a wonderful and happy Easter!

Don’t let the vortex get ya down

Sometimes I let this fallen world get me down. Whether it’s the politics or the culture (or both), it’s occasionally my wont to focus on the negative.

Zeke loving it on the Pullen Park carousel in Raleigh: How could anyone be bummed out around this cutie pie?!

Honestly, it’s difficult not to occasionally fall down that deep, dark vortex of pessimism when hostility, division, narcissism, corruption, amoralism, nihilism, tyranny and a deficit of common sense seem to be the norm.

Or when the contentions that “there is no right and wrong,” “there is no such thing as objective truth” and “the Constitution is archaic” seem to be gaining traction, you know that (at best) the stability of our nation and (at worst) the perpetuation of Western civilization are both  in deep doo-doo.

The 3 Amigos enjoy checking out a freight car @ Pullen Park during our visit to the Capital City for Education in Action Day.

I mean, it’s hard not to get down when the feds are trying to their damned best to strip Americans of our right to keep and bear arms. After all, if I’m void of the ability and means to defend myself and my family, all other rights are meaningless, since they can so easily be infringed upon.

Or the executive branch’s hubristic attempt at trampling the rights of citizens to due process, which is enshrined in the 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. So, the killing of an American in the homeland should be cool, as long as it’s “appropriate.” All I can say is, “Don’t drone me, bro!”

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein

And then you have our Attorney General Eric Holder, the highest judicial officer in the land, arguing that it’s not necessarily a violation of a parents’ rights if the government were to (hypothetically, of course) outlaw homeschooling. As long as the law were to be applied equally to all citizens, he sees nothing wrong with such a legal argument.

“No nation can remain free when the state has greater influence over the knowledge & values transmitted to children than the family does.” — Dr. Ron Paul

Whether it be the Red Guard, the young paramilitary communists Mao Zedong used during China’s Cultural Revolution; or the Hitler-Jugend, the revolutionary youth-group movement organized by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (a.k.a. the Nazis); history shows that seizing parental authority has dire consequences.

“When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’” Adolph Hitler said in 1933, “I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already. … In a short time (children) will know nothing else but this new community.’”

“This new Reich will give its youth to no one,” Hitler declared in 1937 (one year before the Nazis outlawed homeschooling), “but will itself take youth & give to youth its own education & its own upbringing.”

You can easily spot such power grabs by authoritarians throughout history. It’s scary that it ever happens, but even more unsettling that it always recurs in yet another place, in another time and by another despot, all while folks say, “Oh, calm down. That could never happen here.”

Houston, Zeke & Gabriel are so proud of the “types of ocean floor” model we made for a recent science lesson.

And then there’s just the tyranny of law. I mean, there are so many federal statutes (more than 4,000) that you’re certainly in violation of one of them at any given time. And somehow we’re supposed to keep up with it all while maintaining our liberty.

Case in point: federal anti-trust laws. If a business keeps its price the same as a competitor, that’s collusion; if the biz raises its prices higher, that’s price gouging; if the biz cuts the price, well, that’s predatory pricing. It’s a pickle, ain’t it?

But it’s not just the leaders, the lawyers, the special interest-groups, the political power brokers and cronies that make me wary. What about the some of the garbage the so-called the “intellectuals” are pushing?

Houston & his Stuffee camp out w/ brothers in the teepee Mommy picked up for cheap @ a kids’ consignment sale.

Example: There’s a school of thought in academia within the ethicist community that says infanticide is okay … but just up to two years of age. Whew, that sure makes me feel better! Man, who ever knew “after-birth abortion” would ever be an idea that any feeling human would entertain?

Here’s another: There’s a growing movement in higher education that’s pushing to normalize pedophilia. Seriously, I’m not lying. I know you think I must be mistaken, but it’s real stuff. Check out the insanity for yourself.

Having said all that, I’ve never been a defeatist and, overall, I’m a pretty positive person — always have been, always will. My parents reared me in an empowering way and in a freer time that instilled in my core the currently unfashionable truth: You can do anything, if you put your mind to it.

“Whoa, lugging all this cool stuff around is hard work,” Gabriel says of his Stuffee, & the beads & clapper Cousin Casey sent to the boys in a fun-filled Mardi Gras package.

Couple my not subscribing to the woe-as-me, always-a-victim mentality that pervades our society with my efforts to become a mature follower of Christ, and I actually have hope in these times that oftentimes seem so hopeless.

“I am your refuge & strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid of anything — not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter. … If you focus on such dangers & forget that I am your refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest my grace in countless places & situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings, but also outright miracles on your planet. … You have eyes that see & ears that hear, so proclaim my abiding presence in the world.” — From “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young

Here’s a more secular take :

“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from human haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
— William Shakespeare

And most importantly, I already have a joy that’s so abundant and powerful that no man can tear it down. It’s a kind of empowerment and liberation that no hater can ever understand. Nor can he regulate, confiscate or legally banish it from my heart.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Education In Action

The 3 Amigos’ behavior has dramatically improved the farther we get away from January. I guess that’s why I decided to take the boys to Raleigh (sans Daddy) on 2/20 for a day of politics, activism, history and sightseeing.

The 3 Amigos take a break outside of the North Carolina House of Representatives chamber in the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

“Parents Know Best”

The main purpose of our trip to the Capital City was to participate in Education in Action Day. This was an event organized by the North Carolina Coalition of Home Educators (NCCHE), a political homeschool group that lobbies state representatives for pro-homeschool legislation.

“Parents have a natural and inalienable right to educate their children, publicly or privately, as they see fit, and that right should be recognized and encouraged.” — Ronald Reagan

Our first order of business was a group meeting with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is a proud homeschooling dad. I was a big supporter of his during the last election, so it was really cool for the kids and I to rub elbows with the second most powerful man in the state.

After that, the boys and I wanted to visit with Phil Berger, who is our state senator, as well as the Senate President Pro Tempore. Unfortunately, he was in a meeting. In fact, we accidentally walked in on the seemingly serious sit-down. Whoops. Next time, I’ll be sure to make an appointment.

Houston snaps this photo of a painting of the baptism of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas, who died in the mysterious Roanoke Colony.

In our defense, Berger’s office had just been relocated, so the mishap wasn’t entirely our fault. Plus, Berger was cool, and we chatted instead with his gracious assistant, Beverly. Interestingly, as it turns out, she homeschooled her grandson. We are everywhere!

“If there be a people on earth given to sober second thought, amenable to reason and regardful of their plighted honor, I believe that … it is the people of North Carolina.” — Zebulon Vance, Confederate military officer, Governor of N.C. and U.S. Senator

The dudes and I passed along the four school-choice issues that we’d like our good senator to address in upcoming sessions of the general assembly:

  1. Give homeschool kids access to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities at their local public school, which their parents fund and support through their property taxes;
  2. Change the currently vague and often narrowly interpreted state homeschool definition to include outside resources, like online classes and co-ops, if parents choose these means to enhance their child’s educational experience;
  3. Offer tax credits for homeschool families as to eliminate double taxation of homeschool and private school parents. It’d be like a voucher, but better! In fact, a tax-credit bill was filed with the NC House of Representatives just two days after our visit to Raleigh … seems the 3 Amigos made an impression!
  4. Put parental rights language in the state homeschool statute, which would give additional protection for parents to make all decisions for the child, which would, of course, include education.

The dudes pose w/ North Carolinian-born statesmen who have served as President of the United States: James Polk, Andrew Jackson & Andrew Johnson.

A positive sign on the latter is the recent passage of Virginia’s Parental Rights Act, which codifies that “a parent has a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” So, once the VA governor signs the bills, the rights of parents in my home state will be secure, even if a federal court decision tries to erode said rights.

VA’s Parental Rights Act “recognizes parental rights as a fundamental right and requires strict scrutiny in their protection.” — Michael Ramey, ParentalRights.org

Later in the day, we had the opportunity to meet with a few other pro-homeschool members of the General Assembly and a NC Supreme Court justice who home educates his kids.

But I figured the boys had gotten their fill of activism early that morning. Instead, we proudly donned our “Parents Know Best” stickers as we toured the Legislative Building and explored the capital grounds on this crisp, sunny day.

The kids check out a statue of a Saura Indian woman, whose tribe lived along the Dan River in North Carolina’s piedmont region.

After munching, we hit Pullen Park and let off some steam with a couple carousel rides and lots of outdoor play. After all, politics and history require a great amount calm, quiet and maturity, and the dudes delivered, so I figured I owed ’em!

Visits with grandparents

Back during the last weekend of January, Gabe’s basketball game was postponed due to bad weather lingering from the day before. Temps were actually higher and the driving conditions improved, so Stephen took the boys to see Granny and Grumps. It was a nice break for me and a treat for our mountain kin.

Then last weekend, I repaid the favor and took the 3 Amigos to see Gramsey and Papa. Stephen got to recharge with a little alone time, and the kids and I had a great time seeing lots of our Virginia family, especially Cousin Kara, who is always a blast!

Gabriel stands atop the staff of the goddess Liberty, who is part of the State Seal of North Carolina.

Trekking around town

On 2/16, Stephen and I treated ourselves to an hour-long couples massage for Valentine’s Day. It was quite the relaxing, therapeutic experience. Of course, we dutifully undid all the detoxifying by following up the session with lots of Mexican food and drink, but hey, it was a date night not to forget!

On 2/25, I took the dudes to their semi-annual dental appointments; but as it turns out, we were there a month early. Oops! The boys were kinda bummed ’cause they actually love going to see Dr. Mike. (He’s always voted the best pediatric dentist in the area.)

So, I figured we might as well try to make the most of our trek into town. We played at the park, met up with Daddy at a doc appointment he happened to be having the same day, and then feasted at the new Mellow Mushroom downtown. Yum!

In casual cowboy-boot style, Zeke looks dapper leaning against this cannon wheel.

And today, Stephen and Mr. Logan took off work so that they could accompany Miss Christie, all the kids and I to CC community. Our families had to do a group presentation during the opening, which was a vocal rendition of “Who Did Swallow Jonah?” while I accompanied on guitar.

Stephen and Logan got to see what it is we do every week at CC, the kids were ultra-psyched to have their dads around, and then we finished off the outing with yet another Mexican feast. Good times!

Improved attitudes abound

As mentioned earlier, everyone’s behavior (including my own) has been on an upturn lately. Good attitudes just make for happier homeschooling and a happier home.

During a lesson on the area of circle a few weeks back, Houston said, “You make it easy to learn, Mommy.” Wow, that was music to my ears and a definite improvement from some of the bad-attitude-laden comments I had had to endure during our school days earlier in the year.

vietnam memorial

Houston closely soaks in the sobering image of this Vietnam War memorial, quickly realizing that war is a lot different than the way it’s portrayed in video games.

And then when doing our “highs and lows” at dinner recently, all the boys’ highs were that day’s math lesson: measuring and comparing liquid equivalents and differences. That’s quite an amazing shift our rough month of January, which I’m sure included some homeschooling lows from the peanut gallery.

Another thing that abounds is Houston’s appetite. Case in point: dinner one night last week was chicken noodle soup and with pears for dessert … then cheddar cheese and crackers … then a couple bowls of cream of chicken soup … and then a grilled cheese sandwich. He’s a bottomless pit!