All posts by Mary

A Little Extra Care

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long time ago I met a girl who loved children. She loved everybody actually. We became close friends and later roommates for several years. She could be infuriatingly optimistic, seeing the good side of everybody and everything, almost to the point of ridiculousness. Or so I thought back then. When we were roommates she was working as a daycare provider while going to school for Art Therapy. I often would tag along with her to work when she needed help with the kids. She always amazed me by making each child feel special and by treating them so respectfully and kindly. They loved her in return and would literally glow when receiving her attention.

One summer we were living in an apartment in Bangor and she had bought a huge Fuscia to hang on our deck. It was gorgeous but at the time I couldn’t imagine taking the time to water that thing every day. A Fuscia needs copious amounts of water and then it will bloom like crazy. Miss one day of watering and it immediately starts wilting. I thought it was silly to buy something that took so much work. My roomie on the other hand was always on the look-out for things that needed extra care; sometimes I think even me.

Fast forward about 25 years….last month I decided I wanted a Fuscia for Mother’s Day and my family went to a greenhouse and picked one out for our deck. Normally I only grow things I consider to be useful, like food and herbs. I don’t have time for ‘needless things’. But having something beautiful at the entrance to our home, something that needs a little extra care, is a simple reminder to me. I am surrounded by the beauty of children day in and day out. With a little extra care every day they will bloom and thrive.

So to my friend and to all people who give a little extra every day to make a child feel special; to all those who offer their precious time and energy to make a difference in a child’s life, thank you.

Happy Father’s Day.

Emily’s Art and the Neatness of Visuals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince my daughter has attended public school, with her brothers continuing to homeschool, I have missed her presence during the days. I also miss her art. Emily’s art has always been a large part of our home. There are always unfinished projects laying around and her bedroom walls are covered with her art. But with Emily gone during the days, and the afternoons and evenings filled with softball and homework, it is challenging to fine the time she wants to create.

At school she has an art class once a week and I rarely see her work. I’m assuming it’s displayed at the school – I often see walls covered in the artwork of various classes. But somehow they all look very much the same. I’m afraid that art in grammar school has become an assignment with specific guidelines and it makes me pine for the time when Emily would make art with only her imagination and materials laying around the house.

An language arts assignment she is working on right now, due at the end of the week, is to complete two book reports in which she will be answering specific questions, and creating a visual project such as a poster, a diorama or a clay model. The instructions clearly state that the students will be graded on inclusion of required materials, spelling and grammar, and on the neatness of the their visuals. That last phrase tears at my artist’s heart. The one part about this big project she is working on that involves creativity, must be neat?

Emily enjoys school and her art class, and her art teacher is lovely and comes up with amazing ideas for the students. But something deep inside of me cringes when I hear of art assignments resembling something other than a little girl’s way to express her imagination.



Homeschool Blogging – Writing to Distraction

I don’t know how other bloggers write. I imagine sitting in a quiet nook, alone, pondering homeschool moments and writing out my thoughts. As reality has it, I am now writing at my kitchen table, which is covered with books, pottery, seed packets, headbands, writing utensils, water bottles, Legos, workbooks and a cribbage board, while my homeschoolers are at work close by. In the last few minutes I have stopped writing to find a screwdriver, look for D batteries, listened to a food-related complaint and been introduced to a new creation – a DJ mixing table made with Legos.

Finding some typos? Because while I edited this post I simultaneously refereed an argument, yelled at ‘someone’ to get the baseball bat out of the house, drank my breakfast (no alcohol, just bananas and blueberries!), Googled the oldest living humans and checked emails.

When you read a homeschool blog it’s important to cut the writer some slack. Expect a smattering of brain-cramp related peculiarities…

Just stopped now for a consultation on the porch:

Kid: Can I nail holes here?

Me: Why?

Kid: I want to blockade the windows with this sheet so I can set up an automatic pitcher.

Me: O.K. (?!?)

…and bursts of confusion (“Mom! Look it’s done!” Followed immediately by a five minute detailed description). If any part of this blog post is even vaguely coherent, I consider it a success.

Mom, is there mercury in the toaster?”




Will increasing test-taking skills improve your chances of getting into MIT?


When I read this week that Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School successfully raised their grade from an F to a C during the past year, I felt relief for the students and staff at the school. It couldn’t have been easy to have your school graded in such a public, callous way and then rise above and find ways to improve. The two methods used to up their grade were supplying plentiful snacks before testing time and spending more class time learning test-taking strategies. It is this latter part that saddens me. Our public school kids and teachers are required to spend more time on better test-taking – and less time experiencing science, arts, math and everything else.

I have a 12-year-old who wants to go to Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT). Since he is dyslexic and homeschooled, you can bet your bottom dollar I have already reviewed the application process. Many things come to mind as I look ahead for his application to one of the worlds most prestigious places of learning. And getting good at testing is not one of them. MIT has specific recommendations for homeschooled applicants including exhibiting entrepreneurial spirit, taking advanced classes during high school, participating in extra curricular activities, taking collaborative summer programs and having varied recommendations. No where does it suggest increasing test-taking skills. As MIT so aptly puts it in the admissions information on their website, “Standardized tests are required for any freshman application to MIT. However, they are not the only factor, or even the most important factor…We admit people not numbers”.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

(The photo above shows my son watching a 3D printer in action at the UMaine Engineering Expo in March of 2014)