Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Don't Have a Title for This Post

I wasn’t going to say anything. It’s a personal decision about a controversial topic that elicits strong reactions from supporters and opponents alike. It’s also one of only two topics this morning that come to mind as I stare at a blank Word page and ask myself, “Do you have anything to say?” I don’t want to write about the Alpha Omega Social Media Awards, which end today. The dominating thought in my mind is the steady tick-tock of our homeschool clock as it counts down the eight hours and twenty-three minutes until my appointment with destiny. I feel like Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus as midnight approaches. This afternoon I’m getting a tattoo. 

Don’t worry; it’s nothing large or gaudy. I’m not getting arrows painted on my neck or my favorite sports team’s logo permanently emblazoned on my buttocks, which would be the appropriate place for a Cubs logo. Let’s face it: they’re 59 and 77, 22 games out of first place with a .434 winning percentage. The tattoo will be a simple double ring of lettering on my right arm, just below the elbow. It will be placed in such a way that I can cover it with a long sleeve shirt should I choose to, even if I roll up my sleeves (which is my preferred method for wearing a long sleeve shirt). I can put it on full display with a short sleeve shirt. The upper ring will read

Proverbs 22:6 Ephesians 6:4

Underneath that on the second ring I will have my children’s signatures. General Mayhem, Major Havoc, and Captain Chaos each signed their name in their favorite color on a piece of paper. The tattoo artist will be able to duplicate their names on my arm, so it will look like they signed my arm with a Sharpie. On a partial ring underneath the Captain’s name, will be printed

1 Samuel 1:27

Five or six years ago, while reading a magazine in the Midwest Airlines bag room, I came across an article about a musician who had his children’s names tattooed around his wrist. I loved the idea. Since then, The Boss and I have had several long conversations about tattoos, what we like and dislike about them, and their purpose, as well as what scripture has and doesn’t have to say on the subject. I’ve spent time reading about Christian perspectives on tattoos. I’ve spent time praying about this decision.  Making this decision has been an interesting journey, but it has been neither quick nor easy. 

The Boss has been teasing me about becoming a manly man. Yeah, I’ll look hot, riding down the street on her scooter, tat in full view. I might even get a biker wave from a couple of six year olds fresh off of their training wheels. I am happy that this decision has been a mutual decision. She accompanied me to the tattoo parlor to discuss the design with a tattoo artist.   I mention this here today for no other reason than eventually it will come out.   In a few hours I will have a constant reminder of two very important passages about parenting on full display on my arm, and one equally important reminder that God answered my prayers (not that the Captain’s antics doesn’t already do that).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Where the Homeschooler Socializes the Socialized

I fell in a vat of chocolate.
I fell in a vat of chocolate.
What’d you do when you fell into the chocolate?
Laly do dum, laly do dum day.

Months of planning came to fruition last weekend when our Boy Scout Troop took our Webelos I & II’s from our Cub Scout Pack camping at Camp Bromelsik in Lawrence, Kansas. The camping trip was designed to help the cubs complete some requirements for their Arrow of Light award, give them an idea of what camping will be like when they cross over to the troop, and act as a recruiting tool. When the Webelos return to school and tell their friends that they learned how to throw a tomahawk last weekend, other kids might become interested.

I yelled fire when I fell into the chocolate.
I yelled fire when I fell into the chocolate.
Why’d you yell fire when you fell into the chocolate?
Laly do dum, laly do dum day.

Our troop has 4 homeschooled scouts. Our Cub Scout pack has two homeschooled scouts. One of them is Major Havoc. That means that scouting is one of those critical opportunities for the homeschooled boys to be socialized by their public and private schooled peers. This is where they will learn to give and receive wedgies, snap towels, swear, spit, and make inappropriate comments about girls. Homeschooling critics often fret about homeschooled children missing these opportunities, you know.

During the drive to the campsite, Major Havoc requested that I play my Smothers Brothers CD. Specifically, he wanted to hear Chocolate, a perfectly silly, clean, song about a man falling into a vat of chocolate. Two lines into the song and the van became silent. My camping hardened boy scouts were leaning towards the van speakers, straining to hear Tom Smothers explain why he yelled “FIRE!” when he fell into the chocolate. When they heard the answer, laughter erupted. Hours later, I knew that I had successfully warped another generation of children when I walked past a campsite deep in the woods and heard scouts singing I yelled fire because no one would save me if I yelled CHOCOLATE! I can cross off another entry on my bucket list.

It appears that the homeschooler socialized his fellow scouts instead of the other way around. Now, I don’t agree with the commonly accepted definition of socialization as it is used in discussions of homeschooling; but, in that context, the social misfit of the group - an 8-year-old, homeschooled, Christian boy - entertained his peers with a song that contained no swearing, no derogatory comments of any kind, without sexual references or suggestions of violence.

They enjoyed The Saga of John Henry, too.

Let’s hear it for the homeschooler!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

He Said/She Said #2 - How Has Your Teaching Changed?

"He Said/She Said" is a new feature here at The Homeschool Apologist.  It started when Linda and Arby met for the first time.   Today we present our first reader submitted topic.  It came from The Boss. She wrote:

Since you've both got a number of years of homeschooling under your belt, Arby is starting his 8th year and Linda's starting her *phlwash* th year, I'd like to know what you've significantly changed from the first year (or two) to now. For example, if an unnamed HS dad never wrote out lesson plans or organized early on but now finds himself writing out entire years and organizing history lessons to coincide with certain times of the year, that would be a significant change. I'm curious...

She Said:

Where do I begin?

Let’s start with the obvious. 

First, I was 28 then.  I’m 48 now. 

My hair was brown then.  Now it’s gray.

I was short then.  And…well…I’m still short. 

Okay, so not everything has changed.  But the fact is, in the 20 years since my homeschooling journey began, there HAVE been many significant changes in how I homeschool.  But more important than what has changed is the reality that I have changed.  And inevitably, it is the changes in me that have brought about the biggest changes in the way I homeschool. 

I’m older…and hopefully wiser.

I definitely apply more wisdom and “real world” experience to my teaching than I did when I was in my twenties.  I find that the decisions I make are more intuitive and less agonizing than they were back then. Consequently, I second-guess myself much less.

I’m more confident.

Age and wisdom have increased my confidence.  In the beginning, I was always looking for validation.  I wanted proof that what I was doing was working.  Today, I’m confident in my abilities and in the superiority of homeschooling.  And I never—and yes, I mean never—doubt the effectiveness of my homeschooling. 

I’m more relaxed.

I think this little truth has brought about the most significant change in how I “do” homeschool.  In so many ways, how I approach homeschooling—our schedule, our curriculum, actually, our whole life—is so much more relaxed than it was when my daughters were young.  Several factors—an unexpected (and difficult) pregnancy at 40, a new baby, and three moves—all within a period of 18 months—played a huge role in forcing me to realize that school happens, even when I can’t make it happen!  Life itself is learning.  When you’re with your children 24/7, you can’t help but teach them.  It just happens.  Of course I still teach very intentionally as well, but at times when that’s impossible, it’s okay.

I’m less rigid. 

When we first started homeschooling, I was pretty locked into my image of the perfect homeschool.  We always did school five days a week.  We always did every problem on every page.  We always finished every book.  We had a desk for everyone.  A schoolroom with stacks and stacks of books and resources.  Maps and penmanship posters on the walls.  An American flag in the corner and the pledge of allegiance every morning.  These days you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence that a homeschooler lives in my house.  Partly it’s because no longer have room for all that stuff.  But mostly it’s because I’ve realized that most of it is overkill.  At least for me.  Homeschool doesn’t rule my life anymore.  My life rules my homeschool. 

I’m more adventurous.

I used my first curriculum for 9 years.  I used my second curriculum for 10 years.   But in the last 2 years I’ve tried curriculum, methods, and resources that I never dreamed I would use.  I’m branching out.  I didn’t think I would ever do that.

Yes.  I’ve changed.  But despite the changes, I really don’t believe I’m a better homeschooler today than I was in 1990.  I’m just different.

He Said:

I know why The Boss asked this question.   She’s witnessed firsthand the single biggest change in my teaching over the past sixteen years.  Quite frankly, she’s surprised.   This year, more than any other year teaching either professionally or here at home, I’m lesson planning.   A lot.  I’m scheduling our work to not only insure that we cover all of our lessons in two 18 week semesters, but I am also organizing our material so that it makes more sense in the school year.   I’d love to share with you some pedagogical insight or fascinating educational theory to support this change in my teaching style, but I’ve never had much time for the Ivory Tower approach to education, either during college or since.   My reasons for planning or not planning a lesson are practical. 

I’ve never been much of a lesson planner in part because I was never taught how to write a lesson plan.  I graduated with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BA in the Teaching of English, and a complete lack of training for and practical experience in writing lesson plans.  That doesn’t say much for the university.   I never found this lack of experience detrimental to my teaching.  I never felt the need to plan my lessons for the same reason that I do not write outlines as a part of my writing process.  That’s not how my mind works.  My best instructional work came when I was thinking on my feet in front of a class.  I trusted my instincts, my knowledge, and the material at my disposal.  They served me well.  When I transitioned from classroom teacher to homeschool instructor, I stepped down from teaching high school English to teaching second grade everything.    I figured that if I couldn’t teach the second grade without elaborate planning, someone needed to shoot me. 

Our first year of homeschooling was a monumental challenge.  The fact that we survived to homeschool for seven more years is a miracle in itself.  When we started, General Mayhem was in second grade, Major Havoc was about to turn two years old, and Captain Chaos was four months old.   During our first month of homeschooling, back when we were so broke that we couldn’t afford to buy any curriculum and we scrabbled together whatever we could find for free, Captain Chaos was diagnosed with her heart defect, was hospitalized, and had surgery.  General Mayhem, confused and frightened concerning his sister, realized that we weren’t bluffing when we told him we decided to homeschool; consequently, he decided to be as uncooperative as possible in hopes that we’d abandon this homeschooling silliness and send him back to his beloved parochial school.  The Boss lived at the hospital five days a week.  I took weekends.  The Major was silently stressed beyond belief.   The boy did not talk at all, but he sure did scream.   When the girl came home two months later, every waking minute of each day was consumed with medicine, feeding schedules, therapy appointments and doctor visits.  We squeezed teaching into the gaps.  Three months later we moved across the state line to Kansas.   It was a good thing I could think on my feet and teach the second grade with an eclectic curriculum.  My experience provided the skills to navigate these rough waters.

Back when I was only teaching one child, I was correct about my need to lesson plan.  When the Boss and I came up with a wild idea of having more kids, we screwed up a perfectly good non-plan.  Throughout the years, reality dictated changes.  The girl is a healthy if not slightly delayed seven year old who just started first grade.  The Major is in 3 ½ grade.  He’s a happy and chatty eight year old boy.  The General is in his first year of high school.  As we’ve progressed from the perfect storm that was our first year of homeschooling to now I’ve learned a lot about what my children need.  Through trial-and-error, tears, frustration, disbelief, doubting, yelling, laughing, tremendous amounts of prayer, and a brief yet spectacular failed attempt at public schooling, I have learned that General Mayhem needs closely supervised, structured teaching.  That takes resources, good time management, and a lot of planning.  The more we plan, the better he performs.  Add two additional children in two different grades and without a carefully planned schedule, dad would lose his mind.
I’ve become a lesson planner out of necessity.  The first two days of this new school year still left me feeling like a plate spinner at the circus, but a well planned plate spinner.  There is no way that I can keep everything straight in my head.  I must have plans written down.   If truth be told, I’m not planning lessons as much as I am scheduling material into time slots each day.  We are blessed to be able to purchase our curriculum.  That makes life easier.  I use teacher’s guides when they are available, and when they add good material that isn’t found in the accompanying student’s book.  Every little bit helps.  

The Boss sees lesson planning as the biggest change in my teaching over the course of…yikes…fifteen years of teaching both professionally and here at home.   She’s correct.   I guess you can teach a young dog new tricks.     

If you have a question that you would like to see us answer, leave it in a comment or send us an email.  We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Rare Grey Striped Albino Rhinoceros

Teaching Captain Chaos is a lot like trying to get Governor William J. Lepetomane to sign a bill into law.  “Give us a hand here,” Governor Lepetomane commanded.   As Lieutenant Governor Hedley Lamarr grabbed the governor’s hand and guided it through his signature, Lepetomane announced, “Work, work, work!  Work, work, work!” while looking everywhere and anywhere except at the bill in front of him.  Life imitated art yesterday when I told Captain Chaos to color a rhinoceros. 

It was a simple Language Arts assignment.  On a sheet of paper there were different shapes.  Inside each shape was printed a letter of the alphabet.  She needed to color all the shapes with consonants in them green.  All the shapes with vowels in them were colored grey.  If she colored all the shapes properly, there would be a picture of a rhinoceros standing in the jungle.  Captain Chaos understood the concept.  The problem was that she was more interested in anything and everything going on around her than on the art assignment in front of her.   Her hand moved as if it had a mind of its own, while she looked around the room and spoke about one of her brother’s video games, a fly in the kitchen, the squirrel running across the phone line in the back yard, and cumquats.  I only kept her interest by coloring a little bit of green for every little bit of grey she managed to smear on the paper.  I discovered that my daughter has an amazing ability to repeatedly drag a crayon back and forth across the same segment of paper without ever branching off to uncolored sections.  She completed her assignment with a nice rendering of the rare Grey Striped Albino Rhinoceros.

Of my three children, Captain Chaos is the most easily distracted.  She has the shortest attention span.  She also has physical challenges that make holding a pencil or a crayon difficult; consequently, she tires easily.  This causes her to lose her concentration.    I have to be aware of the need to chunk her work into smaller bits so as to not lose her attention.  This is easier to do at home than it would be in a classroom full of children: 24 individual sources of distraction for my daughter.  Our local elementary school wanted to greatly increase the number of hours Captain Chaos spent in school this year.  I politely declined their offer.  She will only attend Speech and Occupational therapies.     It wouldn’t take much time for my daughter to become a major distraction for a classroom teacher and the other students.   Seeing the success that we are having teaching her here at home, I am grateful that we have the freedom to homeschool in our country. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Days It's Easier Not to Ask "Why?"

The first day of school did not start with the traditional “First Day of School” song, a song with no discernable melody that The Boss and I boisterously sang while clanging pan lids and pounding on toy drums to wake-up our children.    We broke with a seven year tradition and gently roused our young learners.  They began their day with a prayer and a breakfast of pancakes with bacon.  Naturally, the girl asked for noodles, because a day without Ramen is a day not worth living.   

This morning was interesting.   The dynamics of our homeschool day changed dramatically this year.  We now have three fulltime students.  There’s a part of me that feels like we are back in a comfortable groove.  It’s just another day of homeschooling.  There’s a very real part of me that feels like we are back on day one of year one.   Balancing the diverse needs of a high school freshman, a third grader, and a special needs first grader is challenging, harried, spastic, fun, and loud.   We started our day with a prayer for patience and guidance and cooperation, but I’m not certain the children understood that it was meant for them, too, since the 14 year old boy who can cook for himself over an open campfire and sleep comfortably in a snow bank and throw a tomahawk twelve feet and hit a playing card nailed to a tree stump had a near meltdown over the rules for hide-n-seek with his younger brother while they took a short break from studies. 
These things still baffle me.   In fact, there is a lot about homeschooling that still baffles me, but instead of asking why, I think I will just accept that it is.  Life is easier that way.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Curriculum? No Sweat!

“What curriculum do you use?” 

That is the number one question that homeschoolers ask when they first meet, after “Hi, what’s your name?” and “Which of these wild hooligans are yours?”  The third rail of American homeschooling is the number one question every homeschooler wants answered.    If answered carefully, everything will be fine.  Fumble the answer and you might find yourself in an academic mosh pit. Homeschoolers identify themselves by three main categories: secular versus religious, method of instruction (i.e. classroom model, Charlotte Mason, classical, eclectic, unschooler, etc.), and curriculum source.   I don’t get myself wrapped around the axel over those identities.   In fact, I am so unconcerned that I allowed another homeschooler to pick our math curriculum this year.  Now, how cool is that?!

This year was the first year that The Boss and I struggled over our curriculum choices.  Well, at least The Boss did.  Math is her department. She has the math degree.  She’s the person who teaches upper level math in our house.  I trust her judgment.    We have an unspoken agreement.  I don’t question her about math.  She doesn’t question me about Shakespeare, either the Riverside or Pelican editions (of which I own both).  I supported her efforts while she diligently researched geometry curriculum for General Mayhem by keeping the volume muted while I channel surfed.   The Boss narrowed our choices to Jacobs geometry and the new Saxon math geometry book.  With reasons to like and dislike each one, we withheld judgment until we could place our hands on an actual copy of Jacobs Geometry (we had already viewed the Saxon book), something we were unable to do while visiting two homeschooling conventions this year.     

Enter the world’s greatest blogging partner. 

With half an hour remaining at the Schaumberg Homeschooling Convention, we sat down across a table from Linda, our stalwart Alpha  Omega sales rep, blogging partner, and new friend, convinced her to stop surfing Twitter, and asked her to talk to us about Alpha Omega’s geometry curriculum.   Ten minutes later I heard words that I never thought would escape from The Boss.  Flipping through a LIFEPAC geometry book, the woman who once gleefully announced to a crowded convention hall the reason why she hated LIFEPAC materials actually said, “This isn’t bad.  Not bad at all.  I kinda like this.”  When she discovered that the box set of LIFEPAC geometry only cost $62.95, half the cost of Saxon’s $116.00 geometry set and a third of the cost of Jacobs $178.85 curriculum set, we knew we had a strong contender.  We decided to return home, make a decision the following week, and purchase our choice.  I knew we were leaning strongly towards LIFEPAC.  Our only concern was whether or not we could get Alpha Omega to give Linda credit for the sale if we called the order in a few days later. 
Thirty minutes after we sat down the convention ended.  We started helping Linda pack up her display, something we had decided to do in advance.  The only thing standing between us and fine dining at a Portillo’s Hot Dog Stand was this task.   Shortly before we finished, Linda made a phone call and then informed us that Alpha Omega was shipping us a complete LIFEPAC geometry set.  Gratis.  Either we were really entertaining company, or she genuinely appreciated our help with the breakdown.  Or she was hungry.  But that’s exactly how we let another homeschooler pick our geometry curriculum for this year. 

Both Linda’s and Alpha Omega’s generosity still has my wife and I at a loss for words.   We are grateful for this blessing and we thank you both for sending it our way.   I will be reviewing this curriculum set during this school year.   At first glance we see that the material is competitively priced while offering math instruction that appeals to a mathematician who wants clear, straightforward, rigorous math instruction without tricks, gimmicks, and flashy graphics.  I knew Linda’s choice was good when I showed it to the General.  “That’s twice as big as the set I used last year!” he complained.   When you’re 14, the weight of your curriculum means far more than the content.  It must be good.

Now, how cool is that?!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Baby Jenna died today.  She was nine months old.  At 9:40 in the morning she passed away quietly in her mother’s arms in a hospital in Indiana.   I’ve been praying for Jenna for a few months.  Praying for a sick child is not something to brag about, so I kept it to myself, unless I was encouraging others to pray for her, too.  I do not know Jenna or her mother.    I have few details about her illness.  She had a heart defect and was a candidate for a heart transplant.   Her doctors did everything they could for her.

I have a soft spot for cardiac kids.  My daughter was born with a congenital heart defect that nearly took her life when she was four months old.   When she was sick I witnessed something that was utterly amazing.   She received prayers from around the world.  I cannot begin to describe the feeling of having complete strangers contacting me to tell me that they were praying for Captain Chaos, that their churches were praying for Captain Chaos, that their relatives were looking for updates on her condition.  It was a good thing, too.  In the heat of the battle, praying was very hard to do.  I prayed.  I prayed earnestly, but I was mentally and emotionally numb during a great deal of the experience, and if God was answering me, I couldn’t hear it.  It took all of my power to make it through each day and digest the diet of complicated medical information that had become my daily fare.   Praying for Jenna was far easier, far more satisfying, and far more cathartic.   I prayed with a clear head.  I prayed with confidence.  I prayed with peace of mind.

I received news of Jenna’s passing from a cousin through a Facebook message.  While I wrote a response to her message, Captain Chaos decided she was hungry.  Against my directions not to forage for food, she climbed onto the kitchen counter, opened a cabinet door, and knocked a jar of instant coffee off of the shelf.   It fell onto my USS Portsmouth coffee mug, an irreplaceable souvenir from my submarine days, and chipped off a huge section of mug, instantly transforming it into a pencil holder.   And in that moment I was reminded of a lesson I have learned over and over again since bringing my daughter home from the hospital.

I prayed for this.

When your child is near death, you pray for their survival.  There is little else about which to think.  I wasn’t praying for her first steps or her first day of kindergarten or her first date.  I simply prayed for her to remain with us.  That meant, of course, the good with the bad.   Throughout the years, with all of its challenges, with the View Master disks in the aquarium and her love for eating dog food and the writing on the walls with permanent marker, I kept remembering how hard I prayed for her survival.  My prayers were answered, answered positively, and I would not be ungrateful.  It didn’t alleviate my frustration but it did prevent me from getting angry.  And the goldfish got to see Mount Rushmore.

After her timeout, and after her lunch, I returned to the computer to complete my message to my cousin. Captain Chaos decided that it was time to show me her Hula Hoop skills.  She stood next to me wearing her “kajamas,” gyrating violently to keep the hoop spinning.  Of course, her kajama pants were a bit too big for her, so after five or six revolutions they slid down past her bare butt, causing her to burst out laughing while dropping the hoop to pull up her pants before she started spinning again.  She just might be learning a bit of modesty, but obviously not enough to stop and put on underwear before continuing.    

With the start of the school year a few days away I take great delight in adding my daughter to the class as my third fulltime student.  I take great delight in her enthusiasm for life, expressed last Wednesday night at Cabela’s where she walked into the bargain basement with her mother, pointed to a black rifle on display, and said, “Oh, yeah! Let’s take that baby out and see what she can do!”   I marveled at her sincerity today when she walked up to me and apologized for breaking my coffee mug.  She’s learning.  It’s wonderful.

My heart breaks for Jenna and her parents.  I shed a few silent tears before asking God to help them.  I’ve walked a mile in their shoes, but their journey is far harder than anything that I’ve ever gone through.  Because baby Jenna died today. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

How Refreshing...Someone Who Gets It!!

Every once in awhile you read something that just makes you smile!  Though this article has one of those "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me moments," (courtesy of an "enlightened" school board member), the article goes WAY uphill from that point on!  Here are a few highlights.  Please go read the whole's GREAT!

First a thought from someone who doesn't get it...
"Those kids are nothing but problems,” he said. “They’re not socialized. We had one boy who wanted to go out for football because that’s something you really can’t do at home, and when he got to the locker room, the other kids found out he didn’t even know how to snap a towel or give a wedgie. That’s the problem with homeschooling." --a quote from a "big-city school board member"
To which the author responds...
"Yes, why can’t homeschooled children act as if they’ve been raised by wolves like socialized children? What were their parents thinking?
"I can always tell if children are being schooled at home. They call me “Mr. Mullen” instead of “dude,” or “yo,” or a couple of words that we can’t print. Homeschoolers are usually smarter and more talented than I am. Regularly schooled children may be smarter than I am, too, but since they are socialized to be uncomfortable speaking to anyone outside their age group, I will never know."
And finally... 
"Parents and teachers know that what works well for one child may not work for another. How old were you before you found out what you were meant to do in life —  if you ever have? Was it something you found at school or on your own?
"Maybe the best education is a combination of conventional schooling, homeschooling and unschooling —  or something we haven’t thought of yet. But what isn’t working is socialization."

Interesting....Take a Look and Share Your Thoughts

Via: Online College Source

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Apologists Finally Meet in Person!!

On October 10, 2007, a crazy, stay-at-home, homeschool dad stumbled on a brand new homeschool blog and left a comment.  Little did they know that with that single comment, the seed of a blogging friendship had been planted.   Over the next several years, Arby and Linda became regular visitors on each other’s blogs.  Arby’s posts made her laugh.  And Linda’s posts made him think.  They both thought a public school classroom was the worst possible place to educate a child.  And they both thought the Chicago Cubs needed a goat.  It seemed a partnership made in blogging heaven.

So in August of 2010, Arby emailed Linda with an invitation to join him in a new blogging venture.  She accepted, and The Homeschool Apologist was born.  But 12 months, 114 posts, and 180 followers later, and despite Arby’s many trips to visit relatives in Chicago, the blogging duo from The Homeschool Apologist had still not met “in-real-life.”  For all Linda knew, Arby really did look like Cary Grant.

But on the afternoon of August 6, 2011, at a homeschool convention west of Chicago, Arby and Linda met in person for the first time. That evening, over Portillo’s Italian beef sandwiches and French fries, Arby and Melissa and Jim and Linda became real friends.  Of course the topic of blogging came up and a new blog feature was created.

One thing that we have discovered over years of reading each other’s writing is that we don’t always think alike.  So, we wondered…what would happen if we each wrote our thoughts on a single topic and turned it into a post?  No collaboration.  No discussion.  No reading each other’s thoughts before publishing.  

Just “he said.”  And “she said.”  We think it’s seems worth a try.

So, for better or for worse, here’s our first installment.

He Said/She Said:  On Meeting for the First Time


A Saturday Night Full of Unexpected Surprises
After four years of online friendship and one year of writing collaboration, I finally had the opportunity last Saturday night to meet Linda and her husband Jim at the Schaumburg Homeschool convention.  I have to admit that I was nervous.  We always say that Linda is the serious writer in our blog team, and I’m the comic relief.   Or at least I’m supposed to be.  Would I live up to the billing in person?   I was thankful that The Boss was with me.   We always have fun at homeschool conventions because we never take the kids.  That allows us to walk hand-in-hand, talk, laugh, and plan, without the need to constantly herd three children and reveal our dark little secret to the entire homeschooling community for controlling our kids: electric cattle prods.  It was a date night.  That’s always relaxing.  I quickly found that I had no need to be nervous.  Saturday night was a night of unexpected pleasant surprises.
My big surprise of the night was learning that Linda is short!  She looks taller in pictures. I think she’s an inch shorter than my wife, which instantly made me wish Melissa had trimmed my nose hair before we left the house.  Something else I quickly noticed about Mrs. Difino is that she is even sharper in person than she looks in pictures.  You can see it in her eyes.  I always knew that my blog partner was smart, but I was unprepared for how much that comes across in person.   The most interesting aspect to meeting Linda was that The Boss and I were instantly at ease.  It was as if we weren’t virtual friends meeting for the first time but long established friends who were simply picking up where we left off the last time we were together.  Only there wasn’t a last time.  It was comfortable. 
The Boss and I solved our sole remaining homeschool problem for the upcoming school year at Saturday’s convention.  What curriculum would we use for teaching geometry?  We stopped at quite a few booths and looked through many options, disappointed at the fact that it was our second convention this year where we could not put our hands on a copy of Jacob’s Geometry.  Long time readers, you’ll be amused to learn that once The Boss looked past the packaging, we opted to step away from Saxon Math for LIFEPAC Geometry.  LIFEPAC - the very product line that earned us a spot on the AOP conventioneers’ Wall of Shame.   There is more to this story that I will explain in another post.  We also discovered, thanks to Linda, a fantastic microscope for our upcoming biology class.  We will purchase it next week.  I will review both LIFEPAC and the microscope in future posts.   
We stuck around to help Linda pack up at the end of the convention.  It was interesting to watch how all the vendors disassembled their displays as the convention hall became one large, empty room.  The rather extensive AOP set-up fit on one pallet once it was packaged.  After we finished we headed out to Portillo’s for beef sandwiches and fun conversation.  The Boss told me many years ago that if I bought her beef she’d follow me anywhere.  This year that meant Schaumburg, Illinois.  We were joined by Linda’s husband Jim.  It was nice to meet the man we’ve seen so much of on Linda’s blog. I enjoyed listening to him talk about their ministry work.  By the end of the conversation we found an area of mutual interest.  He told me about the Marion E. Wade center and its C.S. Lewis collection while Linda and The Boss planned to meet at Cantigny on our next visit to Chicago. 
There’s more to tell about this fun night, but I will save it for future posts.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jim and Linda’s daughter, Janna.  She was at the convention and joined us for dinner, an attractive young lady stuck in a booth with four middle aged adults talking about stuff that would have bored me to tears in my early twenties.   The public homeschooling dialogue is dominated by adults.  Rarely do we hear the voices of our children, the very people homeschooled.  You cannot meet this young woman and think, “weird, un-socialized homeschooler.”    She is a polite and friendly college graduate who is a natural with babies (not her own, another sales rep’s little boy) and an excellent representative of the homeschooling community.  I suspect all of Jim and Linda’s children are, too.    I hope that one day they will add their voices to the discussion.
Saturday night was special.  We made new friends.  That is always fun. 


Now, I KNOW I’m not the only mommy blogger that was dying to meet Arby.  There are homeschool moms all over America who want to know what an honest-to-goodness, real-life homeschooling “house husband” is really like. 

So for all Arby’s fans (and you know who you are,) here they are:
The Top 10 Things I Now Know About Arby (and The Boss): 
  1. I’m still not sure why he used this picture for his avatar on Arby’s Archives, ‘cause he doesn’t look a thing like Cary Grant. (Sorry, Arby…but I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em.)
  2. That being said, weight watchers must have worked for Arby.  Just sayin’.
  3. Though he calls his wife “The Boss,” she really isn’t. It's very clear that they’re an amazing team who manage to pull off an arrangement that most couples wouldn’t be able to.  I’m impressed.
  4. Arby and the Boss met via email.  Over loaner airport baggage claim baby strollers. Seriously.
  5. The Boss really DOESN’T hate Alpha Omega Publications curriculum.  In fact, she's decided to use AOP’s LIFEPAC for Geometry. (No, Melissa, you never will live this down!)
  6. He married up.  The Boss is REALLY smart.  Really.  I think that’s why she’s teaching math. 
  7. Arby’s a bit of a bookworm.  We were all having a really nice talk until we lost Arby and Jim to a lengthy discussion about literature.  That’s okay.  Melissa and I did just fine talking about important stuff.
  8. Arby’s great at packing boxes.  Okay, I’m struggling to get to ten here, but seriously, thanks for all your help after the convention, you two!!
  9. Arby’s family is his inspiration.  He loves his wife and his kids.  That’s very obvious.
  10. Nothing at all surprised me about meeting Arby.  What you see is what you get.  The Arby that you catch a glimpse of between the lines of his writing is the real deal…he’s every bit the man that he appears to be.  I’m honored to be his blogging partner.  And now, I can also say, I’m honored to be his friend.

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