Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Last night during the standing ovation after Ben's final homeschool orchestra concert, it hit me.  He got his diploma in June, orchestra class is finished.  That's it.  July 1 marked 18 years since I started the homeschooling journey with the kids at 10 months, 2 years and 4 years of age and now we are at the end.  What is that overused saying?  The days are slow but the years pass quickly?  That's it in a nutshell, even if it's not word for word.

I have struggled with what's next for the past few years.  The kids did high school on their own with help from the internet.  I know their education has gaps, but they will fill them in as needed.  Teaching yourself what you need to know is easier than ever.  So is falling down rabbit holes when looking for information, but I did that all the way through school.  Went to the library to research an assigned topic and came out with a stack of novels and a few nonfiction books on things that caught my eye.  Too bad the internet isn't always that benign as most forks in the path lead more toward funny videos or memes than anything semi-useful.

I don't think I realized what an impact computers would have on our homeschooling.  We had one, ONE, at the time.  It was on dial-up, I used it off an on during the day, Matt at night after work and we barely touched it on weekends.  The other stay at home moms I connected with were the same way.  About 4:30 local time, we'd start signing off with, "See you tomorrow!" Or Monday if it was the weekend.

When we first got the computer, Matt suggested I could store recipes on it, I barely touched it.  After a few months, I joined a couple bulletin board chats and the first time I got a direct response, which at the time went right to your e-mail, I was SO excited.  An E-MAIL!  I joined a ghost story site, bought things from one of the early auction sites-everything from toys to an elliptical machine.  We still use a small cabinet I got for the bathroom.

We got a printer and I printed out worksheets from one of the two or three websites with them at the time. We printed out directions for trips, and later confirmations for campsites or hotel rooms booked ONLINE.  I messed around with building websites.

The kids had several computer games that taught them shapes, typing, reading, spelling, math.  The levels progressed all the way through 5th grade and computer time was scheduled into the days.  We got a second computer, a laptop for me.  Then that was passed to Chandler and I got a new laptop.  Matt eventually built his own for gaming and Jake and Ben shared the family computer until Ben was 13 and got his own Dad-built computer.

I look back and wonder how many hours we spent sitting around the kitchen table vs sitting in front of a computer.  We used to go to the local state park on Wednesdays when it was free and do school at the picnic tables.  They would finish their lists and I would check their work while they played.  That is honestly the only 'sit together and work' time I recall outside of co-op.  They usually sat while I went over the daily goals and we would read history twice a week and they would do math sheets twice a week, then science and whatever experiments we had going before lunch.  After lunch was computer time, reading, copywork and then journaling as they got older.  Friday was art, roller skating, friend time, field trips.  Everyone we knew had a similar schedule, Friday was Fun Day.  After a while, we turned Tuesday into the hangout day, most often at our house, and kept it that way for years.  Jake was 19 before we stopped hosting.  The last gathering was his birthday/graduation celebration.

We did Charlotte Mason when they were very young, then unit studies, then child-led as they got older and their interests went different directions.  Then unschooling, with me not so much strewing as just sending them assignments from Khan Academy on Sunday night.  I don't know what it was at the end.  Lots of me with lists of things they 'should know' and stocking the shelves in the bathroom with all the high school reading list books, sending links to Crash Course, pointing out various colleges.  I'll call it Hopeful Nagging.

And here we are.

Last night Ben thanked his band director, his friends who played with him, his friends who came to see him play, his sister for her support, his Dad for pitching in last-minute to cover drums and that was it.  No 'thanks Mom' at all.  And that's how it goes.  That 18 years of them growing up was 18 years of my life as well, time I am glad I was able to spend with them day in and day out.

I will keep blogging for a bit here before swapping to a new blog.  The website is gone, "roamschool" is no more, though I will retain the name a little longer.   Not ready for just anyone to be able to set up shop under what was our banner for many years.  It may have been a thankless job, but it was my whole world for a long time.  And I was very lucky that it was.

Monday, September 17, 2018

St. Louis

Elan has turned 18 and is leaving for Colorado for 10 months, so Amanda decided we needed a road trip to celebrate.

I planned exactly zero for this trip.  Katy arranged our tour time at the City Museum and paid for tickets and we all sent her money.  Amanda picked where we camped and got all the campsites together and made our mining tour reservations and we all sent her money.  I just drove north with gear and clothes and that is about all I have put into this.  Well, and I got new front tires, but that would have happened anyway. 

Ben and I arrived hours ahead of everyone else and got set up, went to get him some dinner and made a run by the store for a few things.

Everyone else came in through the afternoon and got set up.  Matt and Chandler arrived very last.  

Friday we got up and hung out for a while, then I decided we should go to the zoo, which is free, so we did.  It's a great zoo, well worth checking out!  

After the zoo, it was time for the City Museum.  We stayed 6 hours and though the kids could have done 6 more, it was also pushing midnight.  Back at camp, everyone crashed.  

Saturday morning, Matt and Chan left early to go back home and everyone else managed to get up and ready for the mine tour at 10.  

Afterward, it was Mexican food time, then a nap back at camp, then a group suicide attempt via rope swings and shallow water.  Dinner, marshmallow fire, shared tales of personal injury-the little kids wanted LOADS of gory details, nothing short of at LEAST blood was deemed worthy.  

I crashed out at 9 and Ben and I were first up Sunday.  No one else was stirring, so we packed up and finally, Katy popped out of her camper.  We said our goodbyes and headed back into St. Louis to do the Arch.  Everyone else headed home, though we beat them in, even with a few hours at the arch and adding 2 hours to the drive.  I guess traveling without little ones means longer stretches of drive time.  

The photo file from the zoo did not survive the upload.  I had pictures of prairie dogs on there, too.  :(

First up in pics is the City Museum.

Amanda is VERY excited

At any given point, you can see 900 feet straight down to the floor below.

These are things you are meant to walk on.

Katy and Amanda
Eyrin, Eamren, Inde

Kurt and Robbie

Eyrin and Inde

We sat in the bus drinking cider and watching the sun set.
I didn't drink cider because it was after 4, which is pretty much the worst part of fasting.

top of the elevator

This is right next to the bar and just before the 10 story slide.

14 (16?) inch wide slide that goes who knows where.  The basement was scary and I didn't go back after I finally figured the way out!

This is Ben, my baby, crawling through chicken wire caging about 60 feet above the ground.  I was actually a bit giddy watching him

The view from the castle turrets

Kurt and Inde and then Matt climbing up in the inside of the dome

I probably sound like everything there horrified me, but I really did have a good time.  There is plenty to do and see without wedging yourself into tiny spaces or dangling out over huge drops.
If heights/tights are not your thing, there is still much to see and do here.  Just go your own pace.

Keep in mind there are no outside food or drinks allowed and inside drinks are almost comically expensive-$4 for a tiny Gatorade.  We spent more on drinks for the 4 of us than we did on admission.
There are refills available for $1 on most open cup drinks, like tea, but keeping up with the cup (a thin plastic thing) isn't much fun.
Leave bags, jackets, basically anything other than keys, wallet, and phone in the car, it's $10 to park right at the museum, $5 to park down the street a bit.  We paid the extra to be able to run back and forth to the car as needed.  I'd do that again and leave a cooler in the back to guzzle cold drinks as we needed. 
Knee pads were vital for me, Ben wore them, Matt did not, Chandler ended up with mine and wished for her own.  Just pay the $5 for the Ace brand ones in the sports section at Walmart.  They will make your knee pit sweat after an hour or so, which is preferable to having huge bruises on your knees for a week.  If you went to do the caving section, I'd say a helmet would not be overkill.  Everyone knocked their head at least once and we mostly were just passing through.  There are tunnels and spaces galore to squeeze through, you could stay just there the whole day, knocking your head into all kinds of hard surfaces.
Headlamps were suggested, but we never used ours, even in the creepy basement.

There was a good bit of info on the website about needing ID to prove age for roof access, but it never came up at all. 
The Ferris wheel on the roof requires no additional ticket itself, though overall roof access is an extra $5.  This is because it isn't always open.  So you aren't paying for more than you get.  And, some people don't want to go up there even if it is open.  The roof has the bus, a bar, that weird climbing thing, a preying mantis, the dome and spinny chairs, some tables, a big fountain, 3 slides, the Ferris wheel, and the views.
It is close to the arch, but you can not see the arch because of the building with the green roof.

From the mine:

To strengthen columns, they wrapped them in steel cables and drove wood blocks into the gaps.
These have held for 100 years now.

Sammy's life vest amused us all.

One of the original shafts used to haul the lead out, this opening is now just behind the city funeral home.

the mine is open for diving and though it's technically a cave, it's considered open diving.
It's all lit from above, which makes it easier for divers to orient themselves than it would be to have lights under the water as well.
The mine has 5 levels, the bottom three are flooded.
On the third level, there are still buildings and an old movie theater.

The Arch:

630 feet high
630 feet wide

The windows are 7x27 inches

The drive home:

Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Ohio River

it rained just enough to spatter my side windows.
It was still an amazing sunset!