What to do with teens

I have a teenage son who is 15. Sometimes I despair of him EVER getting an education. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, or study, except play RPG’s for the rest of his life. I’m not sure what this is from….the 4 years he was in public school, or just his temperament. His older sibs were always engrossed in something: the oldest was machine-mad….he would spend his days taking apart and fixing anything with wheels. His sister read practically every book we owned by age 15 (and we owned thousands) and his other older brother was raising saturnid caterpillars and building his own greenhouse during his early teen years. so to have this child, whose idea of a great time is to watch Heroes on TV, walk about the house aimlessly, is very disconcerting. I do feel he needs a basic education, so I insist on SOME schoolwork, like math, science, and the like. And he’s not dumb- he’s very bright. But he has, what seems to me, absolutely NO ambition. He’s good-natured and all. If I give him a job to do, he does it. He cooks dinner once a week, helps shovel snow off the roof, keeps the fire going. But then he does totally asinine things like a 3 or 4 year old in the next breath. I wouldn’t trust him in a car….he’s just not ready for his learner’s permit. (He doesn’t even want one- says it will be too expensive for driver’s ed and car insurance) What he really cares about is ACTING and theater. He is a clown, a comedian. He can do impressions so well, it’s uncanny. He spends hours watching comedians work. Hey, I like to laugh too, but he picks the most inconvenient times to display his routines. I thought, having lived through 3 teenagers and surviving them, that I had a good handle on what teenage boys are like, but this one has thrown me for a loop.


The Adventure of “Heating with wood”

When my husband and I were first married, our first exposure to heating with wood was in our first apartment in Maine. We had a second floor apartment in a big brick house which was built in the early 1800’s. The thermostat was in the downstairs apartment below us. The landlord supplied heat, but was rather stingy. We were able to get hold of some seasoned firewood and used our fireplace (the house had double chimneys with double flues inside, since each large room had a fireplace). Short of asking permission and checking the flue for squirrels’ nests, we did not preparation. Not until we had our own house did we realize that there could be missing mortar in the bricks, which would allow extreme heat to get into the space around the chimney and maybe burn the joists under the floors.

We moved and took our woodpile with us. In our new house (actually 100 years old) there was an old Portland parlor stove. (Something like the one pictured below, only not as solid-looking) It had an outside flue, built of cinder blocks. We put our woodpile about 30 feet from the barn in the back yard. 

Parlor Stove

Parlor Stove


Well, the first winter we had about 70″ of snow. In order to get the wood, we had to go out the back door of the barn and walk to the pile, and carry the wood in our arms to the house. About half-way through the winter, we had a large snowstorm. When I went out to get wood, I couldn’t even find the darn pile. I had to get a shovel and dig 2 feet DOWN until I hit the top. (Hey, we were originally from New Jersey-anything over 6 inches at a time was a disaster). After that winter, we learned several things; 1) Keep your wood pile close to the house. 2)DON’T use an old, unrestored woodstove (we later got a Shenandoah, which we still use). 3) Don’t use an outside flue- we had the chimneys in the house relined and when it came time to dismantle the cinder block chimney, we found tons of creosote inside and something REALLY scary……All around the flue opening into the outside chimney the sideboards of the house were black- scorched, burned, etc. Our house could have burned down at any time!

Now, we have a stove thermometer, we clean the flue religiously, we just had the lining upgraded  (Supaflu- a great product and highly recommended for  older chimneys like ours) and we make sure the wood is thoroughly seasoned. I can even cook a whole meal on the stove now. I can’t believe we were as dumb as we were back 21 years ago. guess the angels of clue-less people were watching over us….

As for the old Portland Foundry stove, we sold it to a starry-eyed couple who were in love with heating an old farmhouse the old-fashioned way. Good luck- I hope their house is still there.

Sick Days

Being sick while homeschooling is so much more sane than having to send kids off to school while they feel lousy, because they can’t miss schoolwork or activities, or whatever. We are all feeling a bit under the weather today, in addition to having had to shovel over 12″ of snow that fell yesterday. So we’re ALL going slow today. It feels so natural to just let your body do what it needs to do to recover. There is lots of reading to be done, drawing, playing with much-loved toys, and even some computer time. I am fortunate that I can work from home, but then, I gave up having a lot of new stuff, a new car, or even new anything to stay at home. My husband is grateful that he can take a nap if he needs one. When you come right down to it, we have all we need…good food that I made, warm clothes thanks to goodwill and yard sales, cars that work, although they sure aren’t pretty, and plenty of heat in the form of wood that my husband and sons cut all summer. What else do we need?

Homeschool 101-Real Life

Today’s homeschooling consisted of cleaning my son John’s room. He uses Legos, a LOT of them. They were hiding everywhere, like fleas. We also cleaned up a bunch of hero-clicks, with and without bases. And evil foam beads which were infiltrating into every space. I told him that cleaning was just as much an education as doing math. If you can’t find your pencil or your math book, then you can’t do the work anyway. He thinks we should clean everyday (emphasis on the word, WE). But I like the freedom to just take the day and make our lives a bit more orderly without worrying whether it’s part of some dumb lesson plan or not.

Moral Bigotry

What a great word! I was reading a history of England and found this description of the Roundheads Puritan regime. It’s in a book called London, by Edward Rutherfurd, an amazing author. He takes you from pre-history times all the way up through to the present, recounting the story of several families who live during those eras. Moral bigotry: judging someone’s beliefs or lack of, by our own moral compass. I think it applies to other things rather than religion; I have seen some bigotry even in the ecological movement. It’s so easy to feel that one is right and everyone else is wrong. Something we need to guard against.

Don’t label me

It surprises me constantly, how so many people see what I do, or what I wear, or even how I eat, and assume I must be of a certain political persuasion. Two instances spring to mind. In one, the mother of a student of mine assumed (perhaps of the fact that I was a homeschooler, or the way I dressed or whatever) that I was up in arms, as she was,  over the fact that the NRA was sponsoring something in the local school district. I hadn’t even known about it at the time. And I really wasn’t sure if that bothered me, since I didn’t have all the facts. She just assumed that I would be very upset to know about it. I sympathized with her feelings but wisely deferred to offering my own opinion.

In another instance, an older woman I know pretty well, who is a political conservative, saw me in my Birkenstocks for the first time, and afterwards told me that she commented to her husband to disregard that fact that I was wearing “official” liberal footgear because she KNEW I was one of them. Well, the reason I wear Birkenstocks is that they don’t hurt my feet, which is more than I can say for most shoes. I also wear cheap $3 crocs because they don’t hurt either. Does that make me what?…..a Wal-mart type person? I think people don’t know where to pin me. 

I like it that way.

Reason for being

I started this blog for 2 reasons, actually, 3. 1) I had one about 3 years ago- but it was really boring to look at and I didn’t log in much. 2) I will be setting up a blog page on our state teacher’s website and want some experience. 3) There are a lot of things that occur to me about homeschooling, teaching and life in general and I always think, “gee, I really should write that down somewhere”, so this is an easy way to do that.