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.

Got a topic you’d like to hear our thoughts on?  Leave it in a comment!  


  1. Awesome! I loved Arby's observations that you are short and sharp! I didn't think short because we are about the same height but sharp is dead on! I love the he said/she said! And congrats on finally meeting up IRL. Sounds like it was a lot of fun!

    Oh, and YAY and the AOP Geometry purchase. hee hee!

  2. What? You think I'm short??!?! LOL! Okay...I won't argue the point. But I believe the politically correct term is "vertically-challenged". :-)

    Meeting Arby and Melissa was definitely one of the major highlights of my summer. I can't wait till they come back to Chicago. Now the question is, Melissa, when you come back should we send the kids with the guys to the Wade Center or bring them to Cantigny with us?

  3. I'm jealous! Next time, I'm going to Cantigny with you guys!

  4. The Cubs DEFINETLEY need a goat. It’s August 9th, they are 16 games behind Milwaukee and in 5th place. 103 years of rebuilding, anyone?

    Linda, you are very kind. Thank you. (That’s one of things I will expand on in my next post. )

    Take the kids? To the Wade Center? Did the dentist use too much nitrous oxide? I’m going where the fun is – Cantigny with both families. I’ll go the Wade Center alone, when I can read uninterrupted for hours. Just me and the worms.

    I did marry up. I fell in love with a baggage handler and learned years later exactly how smart she was. That’s called having your cake and your ice cream, too.

    Packing up at the convention was fun.

    I’m going to enjoy this new feature, “He Said/She Said.” I hope readers submit a lot of topics.

  5. What a lovely post and wonderful venture.
    Thanks so much for stopping in, I'm your newest follower


  6. Thanks for stopping by, Storm Front! Thanks for following...we hope you'll enjoy your visits to our blog.

  7. I'm looking forward to the new feature too, Arby! Now we just need a few topics!

  8. woot!

    but I still can't get past the Cary Grant thing.

  9. Stepping out of the realm of Lurkerdom just gotta say, "Well done, you two!"
    Very entertaining...and informative :-).

  10. Julie! Thank you for stepping out of Lurkerdom! (I recognize you - you've stepped out before.) Thank you for reading. Keep coming back!

  11. I must say... I was there and itwas as much fun as both Linda and Arby say it was. We had a great time meeting you and Jim.

  12. I agree, @TheBoss, it was a GREAT evening....one that I hope we can repeat WITH KIDS someday soon!! I'm dying to meet your offspring! Any kids that think it's fun to push chickens down a wavy slide are okay in my book!!

    @TobyBo...so glad to have you stop by!! It's been a long time...I must get over to your blog!! And I'm with you, I don't care what Arby REALLY looks like, in my mind he'll always look like Cary Grant! :-)

    Thanks everyone for your commments. Now, how 'bout some "He Said/She Said" topics?

  13. I'm heading out on a three day camping trip tomorrow. While I'm gone, I'll write something.

  14. Good. Those camping trips always seem to be good for providing blogging ideas. :)

  15. Wow, you don't look like Cary Grant? That's the sole reason the kids and I were loading up the camper next year and driving across country.....!! Seriously, love your blog!! And Linda, you are fantastic!

  16. Aww...thanks, so much ichelle!! (just wondering if the missing M is a typo?? :-)

    I'm sorry to shatter Arby's image by revealing the truth about his non-Cary Grantesque appearance. Someone had to tell. Sorry it had to be me!

    Glad you love the blog! So what would YOU like us to write about??