7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 88)

UPDATE: Linky list now fixed! Sorry for the problem — the host was having technical difficulties. We’re going with MckLinky this time.

— 1 —

I’m a bit short on time today. I would love to tell you that the reason is because I was doing something really productive, but the truth is that I spent about 60% of my free time this afternoon messing around with my Amazon wish list. Honestly, I work on that thing like other people work on their gardens. I could easily spend hours reorganizing the 11 different categories of books, re-setting priorities, deleting ones I’ve already read, etc. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. (And, yes, I realize how much it says about me that I consider “sitting in front of my computer and staring at my wish list on Amazon” a hobby.)

— 2 —

I’m becoming increasingly interested in non-traditional school options. It’s neat to see people thinking outside of the box to offer parents and children new ways to approach education that combine elements from both homeschooling and traditional school models. I mentioned once before that we’re considering a part-time private school for our kids, but I’m still researching other options as well. If anyone knows of any cool “Education 2.0” models (e.g. One Day Academy, Texas Virtual Academy), I’d love to hear about it! I’ve started keeping a list.

— 3 —

We got my five-year-old son one of these “balance bike” things a while back, and it’s really helped him learn to ride a bike. It’s small enough that he’s not intimidated by it, and the lack of pedals lets him focus solely on balance. He’s almost ready for a real bicycle after just a few days of spending time going up and down our driveway on his balance bike. I highly recommend it as a gift for toddlers. (Note: this is not an ad, just a product I like.)

— 4 —

During our visit to Mt. Angel Abbey I learned all sorts of interesting stuff about my family history from my cousin, Br. Claude, who’s really into genealogy. One cool tidbit is that I’m related to Brad Pitt. Br. Claude, Brad and I are all direct descendants of a man named Tidence Lane who lived in the 18th century (notice I call him “Brad” now, seeing as how we’re kin). This has led to no end of self-congratulatory, self-aggrandizing jokes between my dad (who is also in this family line) and I about our good-looking genes.

— 5 —

A big THANK YOU to those of you who recommended that I read read Son of Hamas. Based on your recommendation I bought it to take on our vacation, and I ended up finishing it in three days. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s part real-life spy thriller, part family saga, and part spiritual conversion story, written by the son of one of the founding members of Hamas.) I’ll talk about it more in my next book review post, but it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Thanks for the tip! Keep ’em coming!

— 6 —

The kids and I recently put together this corkboard (made from our own corks!) as a gift for my dad and grandfather:

It was surprisingly fun and easy to do, and it made a great Father’s Day present. It took almost two weeks to save up enough corks from the wine we drank, but it was well worth it! (Kidding. We’ve been collecting corks for years.)

— 7 —

I just love this quote. When new bloggers email me asking for tips on what to write about, I often suggest that they simply follow this advice:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman

That applies to so many things in life.


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  1. Katie Alender says

    LOL at Cousin Brad! You do know this means you can never run off into the hills with him, right?

  2. Elizabeth@GoodnessAdded says

    Thank you for advice in number 7! I am new at this and currently I think my husband is the only one who reads my blog regularly. (He is a good husband!) I have to say I am enjoying the experience anyway. I think taking the time to think about my experiences as a parent in order to write something about it is actually helping me be a better and happier mom.

  3. Dakotapam says

    I love your blogging advice!

    I've been interested in non traditional school options as well, but dh was an engineer first and a pastor second, and tradition is all he knows! Oh well…I fill their heads full as soon as I get them to myself!

  4. KC says

    I'm so excited to be a part of Quick Takes! Thanks so much for your wonderful blog, Jennifer. 🙂

  5. KC says

    Wow…I just caught #7. Further proof that I can always count on your blog for the answers I'm looking for.

  6. Jaimie says

    I was homeschooled my whole life. (Except college.) We did some of those class supplements for English, speech and higher math. They were great, because you get social experience with an actual teacher and actual peers who aren't your brother and sister.

    My mom also had us doing lots of stuff on the computer. (Switched-On Schoolhouse, a Christian curriculum.) It did most of the grading for her.

    Homeschooling taught me to be very self-motivated. Also, I have learned that I can teach myself anything I want to know. Especially in the information age, this is invaluable — and more true than ever.

    I LOVE that quote. I'm putting it on my blog. Right now.

  7. Erin says

    You make me laugh, lol. (Are you sure it wasn't from two weeks of drinking?;) )

    I totally get the Amazon list, I've just finished writing in my 7 Quick about my library cataloguing, I even have a data base (Reader ware) and a bar scanner. I've been having fun this week organising my library. If you lived closer;) I'd invite you over to have a play:)

    btw#7 is just what I needed to hear.

  8. Ute says

    I totally agree with you on #3! We have one, and my son learned how to ride on it when he was only 2 years old. And boy, can they get fast! A better option than tricycles when you want to go on a bike ride with the whole family!

  9. simchafisher says

    I think Brad Pitt looks like an overgrown chipmunk,so you're probably helping out that particular gene pool.

  10. Jamie says

    #7 – Beautiful. Just beautiful! I think I may have to share that quote.

    So funny about Brad Pitt…

  11. GrandmaK says

    Well, done! I really enjoyed your Quick7. I especially like the cork table top. I wondering what to do with the corks we have accumulated. Wishing you well and have a wonderful weekend! Cathy

  12. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith says

    As a new blogger, I can really appreciate #7. I started my blog nine weeks ago when I left the corporate world to stay home with my two preschool children. The act of writing has given me the emotional and creative outlet I need for the HUGE change in my life. Thanks Jen!

  13. Tami Boesiger says

    You got me with that cork comment. I was like, "What?! Two weeks?! You've got to be kidding!" And of course, you were.

  14. Kim says

    Love #1! Go for it! 🙂
    And thanks for the recommendation on Son of Hamas…can't wait to check it out.

  15. Barb says

    We bought two striders this spring. Yes, beaucoup bucks, but we have three children very close in age so sharing bikes isn't in the cards right now, amongst other reasons.

    Love the striders! My four year old treats it like a dirt bike. My three year old daughter very quickly taught herself how to coast down a hill. We ended up taking the pedals off of our six year old's bike and turning his into a strider, and now he rides it all over the place.

    I love my Amazon wishlist! Mine probably isn't as big as yours, but I love having a place to keep all those book reminders for someday.

  16. Ashley says

    Have you written a post regarding these non-traditional school options? I would really love to read your thoughts on this subject.

  17. Barb says

    Just take the pedals off of a regular bike to make the balance bike. Then when the child is ready put the pedals back on. That's how my kids learned how to ride bikes.

  18. linda says

    omg, i LOVE that cork board.

    man. i wonder how many bottles of wine I'd have to start drinking to do this.

  19. Jennifer @ Conversion Diary says

    Sorry for the trouble with the linky list. Looks like Mr. Linky is having problems today, so I switched to a new host. If you put in a link you'll need to resubmit. Thanks!!

  20. scmom (Barbara) says

    Do you chose your wine based on cork style? I get a lot of those fake plastic corks these days! (not that I drink a lot of wine! ;-o )

  21. Dorian Speed says

    Even though I can't seem to operate it correctly, I like the new link widget thing.

    Totally fell for the line about the corks. I mean, you did just go to a wine festival.

  22. Rebecca says

    Surely you will invite us to your next family reunion, right?

    Son of Hamas sounds really interesting…thank-you for causing me to spend a ridiculous amount of time on my wish list. 🙂

    I love the corkboard, what a neat idea!

  23. Sr Anne says

    My sister lives in Austin (by St. Catherine of Siena); she looked into a Protestant semi-homeschool called Veritas; they seem to use a classical curriculum. Naturally, you would need to recognize where their approach would not be consistent with Catholic tradition, but it seemed like a solid program. (My niece, in the end, she is going to the math/science magnet school.)

  24. Miriam says

    I highly recommend Mother of Divine Grace Homeschool curriculum. They use the classical approach. Also Catholic Heritage is a more gentle approach of learning but very Catholic and my kids love it! If you can join a Homeschool Co-op, it's a bonus! I learned so much about my country and my Catholic faith by homeschooling. I love it!

  25. Liesl says

    Love the cork table! I also have added that book to the list – would love to hear more recommendations. My quick takes for today were 7 books to read haha

  26. Dave M says

    A few years ago, there was an interesting Schoenstatt affiliated school near Austin, which was a hybrid of homeschooling and private schooling. I don't know if it is still there, but you might want to look into it. We were considering moving to Austin a few years back, and that's how we found out about this school.

  27. Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle says

    Sure, sure, on the corks, Jennifer!

    Just kidding, of course! I was thinking of making one of those cork boards a while back and then ended up throwing away the corks because I was de-cluttering. I now just save champagne corks from special occasions and write the date and occasion on the cork with a sharpie. Yep, more room to write on a champagne cork. 🙂

    God bless!

  28. Martina says

    #6 cracked me up…two weeks?!

    we should get together soon and talk about homeschooling – i could use all the support i can get. i'm three weeks in and am having both good days and bad…i keep telling myself it's going to get worse before it gets better, but each evening i have *such* a sense of accomplishment that it gives me the energy to keep going. 🙂

  29. Martina says

    oh, as for researching your HS'ing options, try http://www.catholichomeschool.org if you haven't already. this was where i dove in when i was first checking out options. we ultimately went with seton for all the kids – with #5 scheduled to arrive in the next four weeks, i needed that flexibility.

    as always, let me know how i can help. 🙂

  30. Anne Marie says

    We are using an on-line option for school next year, Classical Liberal Arts Academy. http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/

    The lessons are on line in both audio and text format and the tests are a pretty cool interactive format. There aren’t any additional materials to buy and the lesson plans are pre-set with lot’s o’ Latin & Greek memorization and the good ol’ Baltimore Catechism.

    It’s solidly Catholic, and I agree with most of what the headmaster writes, although my style of interaction with the world is very different from his. I have a friend who has children in the program and he tells me that they don’t have any interaction with the headmaster at all they just work the lessons.

    With regards to the genealogy, I think you got the best end of the pool on that one.

    Does your cousin have any recommendation on how to research ancestry? I would love to run my son’s genealogy for him. He is so proud of his Irish ancestry and I would love to be able to take walk with him back in time to a place where his ancestors were practicing Catholics in County Whatever, in the Emerald Isle. I have a friend who’s convinced that he must have priests or nuns in his biological bloodline praying for him, and I’ve often thought that he must have some pretty powerful intercessors as well. It would be interesting to check it out.

  31. Headless Mom says

    I've been wanting to do a cork project…do you have a link or tips? Thanks!

  32. Joseph M says

    Dear Jen,

    Re: education. Please read John Taylor Gatto if you have not done so yet. 7 Lesson Schoolteacher and Dumbing Us Down are good. Then maybe Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept.

    We're Catholic and have 5 kids. We were part of a group that started a Sudbury school in Concord, CA. You could call it radical unschooling – or radical trust in God. All 5 of our kids attended – the oldest 2 graduated this year. The oldest will be attending Thomas Aquinas College this fall.

    Don't know if there's a Sudbury school in your neighborhood. It's at least good to think about these things, whatever you end up doing.

    Good luck and God bless.