Thursday, July 31, 2008

ice cream...good ice cream!

thoughts on the first week of homeschool

Wait, what? School in July? Yeah, we started school in July. A few reasons: the Sonlight box came and Jason was drooling over all the books he would get to read... he begged me to start early, the baby will be arriving in December and I'd like to take at least a month off of school to get used to life with the newest Rusco, also my doctor said my body's tired of having preeclampsia with every baby so this last one may be a rough ride (please help us pray for a safe delivery). I'll keep you posted about the baby. Oh, and we're homeschooling this year, here's a few thoughts on the why and how of that announcement.
First of all, we love our kids and want the best for them, I think every parent would agree with that statement, so the process to arrive at this decision was actually 2 years in the making. I started reading about homeschooling and asking questions of friends before Jason entered kindergarten. At the time Darren had no interest in the subject so we gladly enrolled Jason at NCCS. As former students and teachers at NCCS we have a deep appreciation for the ministry of the school and the wonderful people who work tirelessly to operate it year after year. I am very grateful for Mrs. Ricks and Mrs. Reasor, because they lovingly poured out themselves to Jason and his class this year. However, as a parent I always felt there was something more to my child's education than just dropping him off every morning and hoping for the best. I don't mean to put down or offend anyone who sends their child to school, public or private, I just want to explain my arrival at the homeschooling conclusion.
I was only a teacher for two years and Darren taught for 7. In that short time I realized that the classroom situation was a mission impossible. I was given the task of leading 20 students through a course of study and the expectation was that they would pass the course. The expectation was that during our 30-40 minutes together each day I would teach and they would "get it". However, many times our time was stolen from us by school business, discipline issues or other distractions. Most importantly our time together was ineffective because I had 20 unique individuals in my room with different learning styles. I could do my best to reach every kid with every style, but it never seemed optimal for everyone all at once. I know that there are very effective and talented teachers in the public and private schools and they do a great job of engaging their students. But I also know that there are far too many mediocre teachers who are just punching in their timecards, leaning on the aggressive nature of their union and counting down the days until retirement. Like I said earlier, I want the best for my kids.
So why homeschool? Because I can. I am a college educated woman, but more importantly I am a life-long learner. I was actually disappointed at my college graduation because my school career was over. They wanted me to leave. But looking at the next quarter's catalog I realized that there was so much more for me to learn. Imagine getting the chance to take a history class again... don't you think you would appreciate it more now? And what about the opportunity to watch your own child learn, to see the light bulb click on when they "get it". And what about the opportunity to study your child's unique learning style and developing a school program just for him? Wouldn't you jump at the chance to do it? Sure it will be hard. There will be days that I doubt my sanity and want to put my child on a school bus. My house will look like a disaster and we may not eat gourmet meals for a while. But my child will be taught be a teacher who loves him, one who loves him more deeply than any state employee or private school teacher. I think he'll excel in that kind of environment.
Please understand that we're taking this one year at a time, one child at a time. If we realize that this homeschool utopia is not to be for the Rusco's we will gladly enroll Jason in Mrs. Well's 2nd grade class. I am not going in blindly. I feel like I've done my homework, interviewed enough people (both pro and anti homeschool), and have prayfully asked the Lord for guidance. If you are skeptical please continue to check in on us throughout the year as I attempt to honestly blog about our homeschool. Here's an example of my conclusions from our first week:
This is hard! Cameron is a very jealous little girl and she does not like all the time I am spending with Jason. I did a lot to prepare "school work" for Cameron before we started this week. I made her activity bags including a flannel board and felt shapes, pasta sorting, coloring books, picture puzzle cards and stickers. This does not seem to matter. As soon as we sit down to start our day she is right there making a fuss, talking louder than normal and generally interrupting everything. By the end of our first half hour she has covered the living room floor with toys and activities but has finally found something to do. Jason is doing well except for writing assignments. Apparently it is torture to ask a little boy to write a sentence or practice his handwriting. He loves math and science, especially when we work with manipulatives or do experiments. We break up our 2 hours of school work with little breaks every half hour to either snack or play. I see clearly that he needs to wiggle and he actually works better after a break. I'm happy to oblige and am doing my best to not be rigid with our schedule. So far I am most impressed with the Singapore Math program. Jason is learning addition facts up to ten and he is learning them backwards and forwards, mentally and in writing. It is a very thorough program!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

fair fun

Yesterday I took the kids to the Mid-State Fair. We invited my parents along so that Jason could have a buddy on some of the rides. Since I'm pregnant I'm not allowed on the rides (nor do I WANT to go on the rides....). We started out at the bus stop, waiting for the school bus. Again, this seems to be a huge highlight of the day for the kids and a very uncomfortable trip down memory lane for the adults! We started our fair adventure by hunting for a friend's pig and eventually found her (the pig, not the friend). Cameron refused to go near the pigs so my dad took Jason in to tour the stalls and they were part of a runaway pig incident (not the cause, just bystanders). We plundered the Cal Fire table and got bags of fire related stickers, coloring books and other stuff for the kids. Then we were off down the midway to go to the carnival. Our first stop was the carousel because both kids love the horses. Cameron would yell "Hi Nanny and Da!" every time we passed by them. She was smiling the whole ride. Next Jason invited Nanny on the Ferris Wheel with him and they enjoyed views of the entire fairground. Then Jason headed to the giant slide where he braved crazy heights and slid solo down the longest bumpy slide ever! He also took a few turns at the obstacle course and rode on Dumbo. We walked over to the Zoo to You presentation and watched the animals, it was here that Jason also had a pony ride. After the show we caught the mini train back to our bus stop and headed home. They nearly fell asleep on the bus ride home, but Jason did his best to stay perky because Tuesday nights we let him stay up late to watch "Wipeout". He LOVES that show! My parents graciously stayed with the kids that night so that Darren and I could go back to the fair for the Matchbox 20 concert. We met up with some friends and watched the show from the top of another friend's gelato stand (if you see Colossal Gelato at your local fair, buy some gelato.... it's really good and these are really nice people!). It was nice to finally take off my shoes at the end of the day and let my marshmellow toes out of their captivity....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

new webisode!

Ahh, yes. I love me some Darryl :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

cattle drive

I like living in Paso Robles. This place is a nice place to live. Nothing much happens here. The parks and library and pools are nice. The Rec Department is very well organized and has something for everyone. The streets are well-maintained. There isn't much traffic, crime, or other general yuckiness. In fact, the billboard outside of town pronounces Paso to be "Darn Near Paradise". One of the things that makes Paso really nice is all of the beautiful vineyards surrounding the area. We like to think of ourselves as a little Napa Valley. But just when you think Paso Robles is starting to get a little sophisticated the fair rolls into town to remind you that it's still a cow town deep down!

Today marks the beginning of the fair, and to kick things off there is a cattle drive to the fairgrounds. Last year the kids and I got caught in the middle of it as we unknowingly drove up the wrong street. We pulled over to watch the cowboys keep the cows contained. Although there were more riders than cows, there were still a few cows that got away to chew up the landscaping along the side of the road. The kids and I sat securely behind the doors of our Korean-made car, confident that a longhorn could not possibly penetrate our vehicle! Well, this year I decided to be prepared and drove over to church early so that we could watch from the safety of God's parking lot. As you can see there were more riders than cows again, in fact it was difficult to even see the cows! It was a very uneventful parade of horse-drawn covered wagons, cowboys and cows. Until this guy drove through...

And then they went and saved the best for last...
(sorry, picture won't upload)
The awesome thing for a 6 year old boy is to watch horse poop swept up off the street.... but it's even better when it gets smeared across the road by mistake!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

cloud jello

Today we made cloud jello! Jason and I have been studying water, the water cycle, evaporation, etc. in his science studies. I had planned on starting our homeschool adventure the first week of August but Jason couldn't stand waiting any longer and I compromised by starting science early. This is an easy recipe: make a batch of Berry Blast blue jello. Whip up a small carton of heavy whipping cream and 1/8c. of sugar. Take a spoonful of jello and plop it in the glass. Follow it up with a plop of whip cream. Layer until you reach the top. Eat, eat eat!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Yesterday I read an article in the paper about how kids are not getting enough physical activity. Especially as they get older, which in turn leads to the inevitable obesity threat on our fabulous healthcare system.... Also, yesterday, Jason was incredibly cranky, I think because of boredom, or lack of activity. I tried my best to keep him busy with time in the pool and a little bit of a science lesson, but nothing would satisfy the beast once unleashed. Also yesterday it was almost 100 degrees out and we have a pesky bee problem in our backyard. I know that it's a good thing for mankind that we have such lovely roses lining our yard and attracting bees, but it is not a good thing for the kiddos. They go outside to play and last maybe three minutes before a bee sighting sends them into a frenzy and they scramble back into the house. The bees particularly love Darren's grill where culinary greatness is born and meat is tamed to melt in your mouth. (I know right, I'm totally scoring points here...).
So this morning I thought we would take a hike along the river trail before it got too hot. The kids would get in a little physical activity and they would be glad to settle in to a quiet morning of playing inside. We set out at 8:30, it was still cool. The kids had field bags and were ready to collect rocks and leaves and sticks. The sun was shining, birds were singing, lizards were scattering across the sidewalk.... a beautiful start! We checked out the geocache that we had hidden on the trail, still there. We checked out the first sign along the trail, and matched the animal tracks to the animals pictured on the sign. My plan was to walk to the next sign and then head back, it would be enough of a hike for Cameron. The next sign was about the Chumash Indians and how they used native plants to build shelter and create medicine and food. I had seen these signs many times on my walks and knew Jason would be interested. We approached the sign and began to read but I heard a voice faintly singing through the trees. I knew that most walkers and joggers didn't sing, and I started to get worried. As the voice got closer I could tell that it was shaky, off-key and slurring. I told Jason that we needed to go quickly because a drunk man was coming up the trail. He didn't believe at first, was a little confused but I quickly told him to just obey and I'd talk about it later. Thankfully for our nightly Bible readings, Jason's already had discussions with us about all sorts of lovely things like drunkenness, murder, etc. Cameron, of course was not about to cooperate so I grabbed her and held her like a football while she kicked me and yelled. We ran up to a short spot in the fence and hopped over to the sidewalk of a busy street. I looked back and saw the gentleman leaning on the sign as he continued his song. No danger, just a little scare for me. I had my cell phone with me, but what kind of weapon is that? I suppose I could defend my family with a rockin' ringtone...
We walked back home safely on the sidewalk, enjoying the lack of nature. Although we did see a dead cat that someone had wrapped up in a beach towel.... As we walked back home I leaned down to Jason and apologized for the disasterous ending to our hike. He looked up at me and said, "yeah, I knew it was a bad idea...." What?! We got back home and the kids watched an episode of Dora the Explorer. From now on I think we'll leave the exploring up to the professionals...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Yeah! After 32 attempts (maybe a slight exaggeration) the pictures are finally here. I included a pic of the mini cupcakes and 2 pics from our scary beach adventure. (Pictured are Cam, Chloe and Garrett). We went with some friends to San Simeon. They said they knew of this hiking trail that led down to a little beach with great shells. They failed to mention the hike was about 30 minutes (no strollers) and included a death-defying scramble down a cliff. Nice. We are happy to be alive.

Monday, July 14, 2008

what's the scoop, jen?

Well here it is... I officially hate my camera. Yeah, that's pretty much the cause of the blog delays around here lately. Last week we did a cool mini cupcake project that was both fun and delicious... pictures to come soon I hope. This weekend we went on a hike on the coast (on some scary bluffs and then down a scary trail to a wildly scary beach at high tide with a wicked undertow.... but very beautiful shells to collect)... pictures to come soon I hope. And we received our boxes filled with our delightful homeschool books for this year, it was like Christmas opening them.... pictures to come soon I hope. And this is why I hate my camera. It takes forever to coax it to turn on. And then, once it's on, it eats through batteries like Jason attacking an In-n-Out cheeseburger (or, more honestly, like ME attacking an In-n-Out cheeseburger). Do you watch the show "Jon & Kate Plus 8"? Kate hates her camera too, and then one Christmas Jon bought her a new one. I was so happy for her because I understood her frustration. All you want to do is record the adorable things your kids do and your camera wants to torture you. Like I said, I'm so happy for her... and a little jealous. Darren, I don't want to wait for Christmas! Our kids will do too many cute things between now and then, and maybe our new kid will arrive too, and then what? Poor third child, no pictures, no baby book, no memories.... This is how you can make up for your very unfunny joke about being "Darren & Jen Plus 10". We'll start the "Make Jen Very Happy By Buying Her A New Camera" Fund.

Friday, July 11, 2008

new Office webisodes

Hey gang! If you are in the minority who still have no idea why I posted a picture with a guy named Oscar, play the video on the right of your screen. This summer The Office produced webisodes, 2 minute shows telling the story of Kevin's Loan. There will be a new webisode every week, so check in here or Kevin is an accountant in the office who needs help tallying receipts, filing paperwork and controlling his gambling habit, er wait, what gambling habit? Did I say gambling? I didn't mean that.....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

happy 4th of july!

We spent the evening with Grammy and Papa in the motorhome at a RV park across from Barney Schwartz park. The city does a huge fireworks show every 4th at Barney, so we had a great spot to view the show. Cameron and Jason love the motorhome (or the "mohome" as Cameron calls it). They especially like to spend time with their cousins. The kids spent the afternoon swimming, riding bikes and scooters,playing games and eating snacks. In the evening we settled n to watch the fireworks and as soon as they started Cameron declared "I want to go home!". She calmed down in the motorhome and watched the show from inside because the noise was just too scary! Jason loved the fireworks, especially the ones that looked like Saturn and the happy faces. (Double click on the top picture for a special message from Darren, the super-patriot).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

first look

We got our first look at the new baby on Tuesday. The kids voted to put this picture on the blog because it looks like the baby is sucking his/her thumb. It finally feels real, seeing a picture helps so much because my symptoms have been so mild. (I really don't mean to brag, I just can't believe how easy this one's been.) Cameron is convinced that she has a baby in her belly too, it's a girl. She thinks my baby is a boy. So does Jason, I really hope he's not disappointed! I'm in between regular clothes and maternity clothes, one set is too small, the other is too big. So I wear a lot of t-shirts and elastic waist shorts... dressing for church is the hardest right now. We'll have another ultrasound in 7 weeks, I think we might find out the gender... maybe... it's such a temptation!