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I’ve been playing around with the idea of a new blog and realized I never actually posted the update I wrote for this one back in November! So here’s a brand new blog post with some really old news. If you already received this 6 months ago via email, please ignore.
Greetings Family and Friends!
The boys just finished their “Thankful Essays” for school and it made me think maybe I should write one, too. So dear friends, on behalf of the whole McEntee family, here are 5 things we are thankful for this year.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Linda and Alex, who introduced the boys to piano and bagpipes while we lived in Hawaii. This lit a fire that has spread to include such instruments as guitar, bass guitar, violin, mandolin, ukulele and drums. Titus seems to have the ability to master any instrument he picks up and Joel has that rare and potentially lucrative talent of being able to carry on an engaging conversation and play a song on the piano at the same time. With lessons, practice, and impromptu jam sessions, not to mention all that talking, you can imagine we have a pretty noisy household. Which leads me to the the next thing we’re thankful for.
We’re thankful to live in the mountains where there is lots of space between us and the nearest neighbor. Otherwise all that joyful noise over at the McEntee house might be a real problem. We’re also thankful that most of our neighbors are families with noisy kids like ours. So even if the sound of life happens to travel through the forest, across the pond or up the road, chances are it’s going to bump right into the sounds of life emanating from other households just like our own. Oh, and speaking of mountains. Nate happened to summit the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt. Whitney, in August and has been eagerly planning his next climbing expedition ever since.
We don’t actually have one (I’d be REALLY thankful if we did) but we did take advantage of an amazing relocation deal offered by Cruise America and had a fun expedition of our own. No mountain tops on this trip, however. Instead we hit up Joshua Tree National Park, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and finished off with a visit to the fabulous Musical Instrument Museum and an NHL Hockey game in Phoenix. This was probably the trip of Sam’s lifetime considering that in a space of about three days he beat all his older brothers at bowling, mini-golf and was the first McEntee boy to get stitches, thanks to the apparent opposition of forces operating between skateboards and gravity. Hands-down motorhomes are the funnest way in the world to travel with a family. After we dropped off the fun-mobile we met the Langford side of the family in Mammoth to have some together time remembering my Mom in one of her favorite places.
Tom and I are both blessed to have been given the best mothers anyone could ask for. I am so thankful that the Lord brought us back to the mainland so we could have a year close to my Mom before her sudden passing at the end of August. Gideon keeps saying how he wants to go live in heaven with Jesus and Oma but I tell him he has to wait until he’s at least 74 like she did. Now we are relishing in the time we get to spend with Tom’s Mom who continues to rejoice despite the presence of Ocular Melanoma in her life. We are so thankful that our boys have been able to call these godly, loving, amazing ladies, “Oma.”
“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
(Below is a letter we just sent out to a lot of friends and family. Besides being a general update it also gives some info on a new opportunity for homeschoolers in the state of California. I couldn’t link to the website on my post though so if anyone is interested go to summitacademycs.org)
To our loved ones far and near,
Far and near. While we have been relishing the presence of the latter since our move back to the Mainland, with every relocation we acquire more and more of the former. It’s overwhelming to think of all the friends and family members we have been blessed with in every corner of the country. At the same time we are enjoying reconnecting with folks here in California we feel keenly the separation from our “Ohana” in Hawaii. We wish there was some way to sit down with a cup of coffee (100% Kona, of course) and do some catching up with each of you but instead we find ourselves checking the mailbox with hopeful anticipation and scanning emails for familiar names (yes, we’ve heard of Facebook and yes, we have good excuses for not being on there). So, this is about the best way we could think of to let you all know how we’re doing and what’s been going on with the McEntee clan.
First things first. It’s cold out there! Except for the few frigid moments we spent on top of Mauna Kea back on the Big Island, this is the first taste of winter we’ve had in almost five years. Gideon, who spent the first two years of his life in little more than a diaper and who refused to even have a blanket on him at night has now become an expert snuggler. The older boys are once again experiencing the thrill of snowball fights and sled runs along with the other not-so-thrilling aspects of winter like stacking wood and wearing shoes. In general, we’re all adjusting pretty well to the change in climate, at least once we have a fire blazing.
Another big change for us has been regarding the boys’ education. All the full-time staff kids up here at Hartland homeschool so it has been a huge blessing to have the added support network and some shared teaching duties. But the biggest blessing has been that with the institution of an online-public-charter school called Summit Academy, we finally get to use our tax-dollars to educate our own kids rather than someone else’s! Summit works kind of like a voucher system would with a set amount of funds being allocated to each student for educational purposes. The parent is then responsible for deciding how to spend the money, choosing curriculum, and overseeing instruction. Basically, we get to keep homeschooling the same way we used to, only now the boys just have to keep a sample of their work from each subject to turn into their assigned “Education Specialist” along with an attendance and PE log every month. The best part is their “Education Specialist” (just a fancy term for credentialed teacher) is one of the other homeschooling Hartland moms who lives just a few doors down. So far we have used our funds to buy a field trip to San Diego Zoo, oodles of science kits, a digital microscope, robotics kits, math programs, and of course, books. And laptops are on the way! If you think Christmas is cool, I’m just telling you a few toys under a glittery tree ain’t got nothing on school supply shipment day.
As for Tom, when he’s not working his tail off at the camp he’s organizing hockey games and dreaming up schemes for an ice-rink. You’ll also be glad to know that he is now overseeing all the boys’ instruction in the literature/grammar department (after all, their mom did use the word “ain’t” a few sentences back). And Julie? Once all the trout in the Hartland pond had been caught there wasn’t much left to do except hang out with the other gals up here, basking in sweet friendships, old and new. She also does some cooking, cleaning, teaching and boy-wrangling on the side.
Yes, life is full of the goodness of God. And you, dear friends and family, just keep our cup running over. During this season when all the world has their eyes turned back to the coming of Jesus Christ as a baby in a manger, it is our hope and prayer that each of our loved ones can look ahead to His second coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords with even greater delight and eager anticipation. We can imagine no greater joy than to say in unison with all those whom we hold dear “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev.22:20, 21)…
… The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all,”
Well, Hello again. It’s been a very long time, I know. Our new home is so perfectly situated amid tall trees and mountain ridges as to render cell service and internet connection impossible. I had already figured there wouldn’t be much need to continue blogging now that there isn’t a giant ocean separating our boys from those people who have a keen interest in their daily activities (mainly their grandparents). What I hadn’t figured is that during our four years in Hawaii we would acquire other “Ohana” who now want to be kept informed about what’s going on in our new neck of the woods. So how does one go about keeping in regular contact with various acquaintances spread about the planet? In the olden days, we wrote letters or newsletters and sent them in the mail. Thankfully we have a handful of friends (Hi Labuns!) and family members (Hi Idaho cousins!) who still indulge in such old fashioned antics. Now days I hear Facebook is the best way to keep in touch. I’ve never had a Facebook account but the other day a friend showed me what it looked like and some wise lady had just posted a quote that said, “Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” That is so true! If Facebook is full of wisdom like that I can see why people are so addicted. But alas Facebook requires internet, as does email and blogging, so I’m struggling to find a way to keep in touch with folks. And boys grow fast and uncultivated friendships fade and there are so many of you that I want to keep a part of our lives. Of course, the best way to keep in touch is with a good, old-fashioned face-to-face visit and we really appreciate friends from far and near who made the long, winding trip up to see us.
So I just wanted you all to know that I haven’t forgotten you and if you have the time try to remember us in prayer here at Hartland Christian Camp. We just said good-bye to 200 homeschoolers who spent 4 days fellowshipping together at our Fall Homeschool Family Camp (there’s another one in May, if you’re interested, click here for some reasons why you should be). This afternoon the sky is brilliant blue but this morning, just as it has often been for over a month now, the sky was a smoky reminder of the 100,000 acre wildfire burning just miles away. The Lord graciously spared a sister camp (Hume Lake) and we pray for His protection over Hartland as well.
When the internet provider was trying to explain to me why we couldn’t get service I said to him, “So the bad news is because of the trees we can’t have internet but the good news is you just saved us $60 a month.” I really, really don’t want to suddenly make an appearance on-line and announce, “The bad news is the entire Sequoia National Forest just burned down but the good news is with all the trees gone, I now have internet connection.” So please pray that this camp which has been ministering to families just like yours since 1946, and the homes of all the staff members who serve here and the beautiful Giant Sequoias which have graced this rugged landscape for millennia would be spared.
As for future updates, I’ll just have to figure something out. In the mean time, here are some pictures of the boys in there new stomping grounds.
Oh, and “Happy Fall Y’All!” This is the first time I get to experience my favorite season in four-long-summer-filled-years.
From the Big Island to the Big Trees of Sequoia National Park, the McEntee Family is on their next Big Adventure.
Some of you long-time-readers might recall that every summer we fly back to California so Tom can work his tail off at a piece of mountain paradise up in the Sequoias called Hartland Christian Camp. Hartland is conveniently located within a few hours of most of our family, so spending our summers there affords lots time with the grandparents as well as fellowship with all our Christian friends there at the camp. The boys spend their days with their buddies bouncing around from one camp activity to the next, riding bikes, catching critters and generally acquiring more dirt to their persons in a day than they could in a year in Hawaii. Some days the only time I see them is at meals in the dining hall. Camp life is heaven on earth for moms and boys. I don’t have to cook or find anything for them to do and they have all the free-time, fresh-mountain-air, friends, and fun you could ask for. This year, the best part about camp will be that we don’t have to leave at the end of the summer. The Lord has blessed us Big Time once again with a year-round-position there for Tom, so we have officially made Hartland our new home.
Before I overwhelm you with pictures of our new life, I have a little bit of catching up to do from our last days in Hawaii. We finished up our school year with a projects presentation. Each boy chose a continent, country, climate and creature to report on. Sam chose Africa, Egypt, the Nile river, and crocodiles. Nathan studied North America, Canada, woodlands, and beavers. Joel did Asia, Japan and then realized there weren’t a lot of creatures there so he studied bamboo forests and giant pandas of China. Titus wanted to really economize so he picked Australia for his continent and country, the outback and wallabies. This was a great way to wrap up our world geography and animal studies.
Besides that we spent a lot of time in the water.
And then it was time to say goodbye to a place and people that we had all grown to love. Goodbye neighbors. Goodbye church. Goodbye students from Daddy’s work. Goodbye lava. Goodbye beach. Goodbye mangos within reach. Goodbye ocean. Goodbye sand. Goodbye sushi made from Spam. Goodbye sunsets. Goodbye shave ices. Goodbye ridiculously high prices. Goodbye condo. Goodbye vog. Goodbye readers of this blog.
A big mahalo to all of you who have faithfully followed our island adventures via this blog. Thank you so much for the many kind and encouraging comments along the way. Internet access will be limited in our home so I can’t make any promises regarding future posts but if I do start blogging again you’ll hear about it right here. Aloha!
It’s always a treat to have Grandparents on-island. But this last visit from Oma and Opa sent our boys over the moon. Not only did they bring candy, they brought more grandkids. So while Oma and Opa enjoyed their ocean-front cottage, Tom and I shared our condo with not 5, but 7 wiggly, giggly, having-way-too-much-fun-just-being-together boys. The amazing thing is, our two extra guests were about as easy to accommodate as could be. They just blended right in and they all got along together beautifully. Really, I’d add these extra two to my crew anytime.
But oh, did things turn dreary once they were gone. It’s like being left with only 4 brothers in the house is the worst form of loneliness imaginable. But I think we’ll pull through. Thankfully we have the summer to look forward to, which means visits with not just these 2, but all 18 cousins, Uncles and Aunts, and 2 sets of Grandparents besides! Oh the familial bliss! In the meantime, we’ll just have to savor a fun-filled week’s worth of memories as pictured here…
After Boys Day I realized that I had spent a number of weeks without posting anything except my series on “Industrial Waste” and the Omas might be wondering what all their boys have been up to. They have in fact been hard at work with piano and paddling,
5k running and window revamping,
lava viewing and lobster hunting,
swimming with dolphins and sewing with Mom, bag-piping and baking, and somewhere in there we manage to throw in a little school work and sleep.
You may be surprised to find cooking and sewing in the mix of activities after my five week rant about letting boys be boys, but there are two very good reason for their sudden interest in domestic affairs.
#1: I started working on this little project:
which project was immediately hijacked by the subjects of the quilt images themselves who insisted that if I was going to use their likeness they were going to get to do the stitching on their own profiles. So what began as a solitary quilting project for Mom has now become this:
#2: We’ve been studying world geography and have had whole lot of fun learning about the history, culture and cuisine of different countries through these supplemental books (thanks again Kristin C):
Each of the boys has chosen a different continent to study and then focused their attention on one of it’s countries. They each cooked us a meal using recipes from this series and with the exception of Sam’s Egyptian Palace Bread they all turned out great! The absolute highlight of our geography studies has been reading this book aloud:
We followed Phileas Fogg’s journey in our atlases, learning about all the different countries he passed through along the way and trying some recipes from each one. We kept waiting for the part with the balloon ride as the book cover portrays but alas, a balloon ride is actually not a part of the story. New assignment: Design a book cover that actually portrays the story inside…
So that’s what’s been going on around our little world. Hope all is as full of God’s goodness in your own.
I would think it would be a little bit hard to be a boy growing up in an era where the advancements of women are continually lauded but any success by men is just par-for-the-course and probably unfairly earned. Imagine seeing “Girls Rule” t-shirts all around while the slightest bit of enthusiasm over your own gender is met with disapproval and downright disdain. That’s why I am such a huge fan of the Japanese holiday, “Boys Day,” which is still celebrated every May 5th here in Hawaii, although it is slowly morphing into the more politically correct, “Children’s Day.” After finishing up a rather dismal series on “Industrial Waste,” it felt good to give my boys a chance to celebrate being boys. While our Boys Day celebrations have taken different shapes every year (click here and here for examples) the following 5 elements are absolutely essential: comrades, competition, Japanese cuisine, candy and carp. The carp comes first.
This fish is revered for it’s energy and power which enable it to battle it’s way upstream and thus symbolizes spirit, strength, courage and determination to overcome all obstacles. These aren’t exactly the traits most cultivated in our boys today. Traditionally each family hangs out one giant black carp-shaped wind sock for the Dad and then a smaller, brightly colored one for each boy in the house. Since the big ones cost about $75 here, we just hang out our five small small ones, which sadly aren’t nearly as brightly colored as they used to be. After paddling practice at 5:05 (since 5 is the special number for Boys Day, I thought the party should be at 5:55 but they weren’t about to wait an extra fifty minutes), the boys met a couple of their buddies by the pool where they did some Japanese calligraphy. Sei’s mom is a very talented artist and is always ready to share her finer skills with a bunch of rowdy boys.
Then we played a couple games which included a rather violent Japanese version of “Paper, Rock, Scissors,” and diving for nickles in the pool.
After an amazing feast of roll-your-own sushi it was time for another competition, this one involving racing to pick up tiny beans with chopsticks. Our Japanese friends were kind enough to use their left hands but I was still so proud of my winning score that it is now posted on our fridge. I guess the boys aren’t the only ones with a competitive spirit in this house :).
By the way, there is also a Girls Day celebrated on March 3 and whether you have boys or girls I think these are great holidays to honor the unique God-given design and characteristics of each. Happy Koinobori, everyone and remember to let your boys be boys!
I do apologize for not being able to wrap this up sooner. It’s a big topic and I’m trying to do it justice, but at the same time there are oodles of other things going on here that I’d like to write about and scant amount of time to do so. Here are 7 points I would like to throw out there. No pictures. No frills. Just my two-cents worth and a hope that you will add yours.
1. Boys are made for work. I’m not pigeon-holing males into a meat-head role here, but Genesis 2 is very clear that God created Adam first and “put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” This was his primary created role and he was perfectly equipped to fulfill it. This role was also the subject of his subsequent curse, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground.”
2. For thousands of years that is exactly what boys grew up doing. They worked. And when they weren’t working, they played. Except for a few exceptions who were devoted to scholarly work at a young age, most would already be apprenticing for a career by 14.
3. With the advent of the printing press, Reformers like Martin Luther envisioned an entire population that could read the Bible for themselves (a noble and worthy goal) and primary schools were born.
4. The Industrial Revolution took this concept to an entirely new level with the effort to create a uniformly educated workforce universally equipped for factory operations.
5. Until the last century the purpose of schooling was to either provide a rudimentary
understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic or to prepare a student for a career particularly conducive to academic rigors.
6. Fast forward 100 years and social engineers now have boys as young as 3 years old spending the vast majority of their time in a classroom setting for the next 15 years of their life. Add to that the immense pressure to continue into higher education and another 2-6 years in an industry they possibly neither like nor excel at. Nor is this prolonged existence in academia any guarantee of a profitable career. There are some careers that necessitate a long and arduous classroom education. And I reiterate my awareness of those boys who thrive in a classroom setting. But the sad by-product of the education industry is the vast population of boys who not only fail to thrive in the classroom setting, but are also deprived of years and years of potential development actually doing what they were created to do.
7. Boys want to be good at something. It’s part of the drive God instilled in them. If they find out early on that that something is school then by all means cheer them on in that regard. But if the classroom is just not their thing, then give them a chance earlier on than 18 to find out what is! By 18 that drive to succeed may be already wasted due to the years of frustrating failure being forced to do what they are just not made for! That is industrial waste of epic proportions.
The video below has been widely circulated for a while now but I thought it illustrated a few of my points well.
Last Saturday, Nate spent his Birthday working in a booth selling the coloring books he helped make for the Church fundraiser (for more on that click here). Today is Sam’s Birthday and he, on the other hand, has opted not to lift a finger for anyone. While the contrast is clear, it is also inconsistent. Nate is by no means a captain of industry and Sam is hardly a sluggard. I think they are each just the right combination of plough horse and puppy. In fact, if we ere on any one side of the work/play equation in our family we tend to be heavy on the play. Actually, I should probably say since moving to Hawaii we’re leaning REALLY heavily on the play side. Hopefully some good hard work in the mountains of California this summer will remedy that. The point is, there needs to be balance, especially with kids.
The child-labor laws enacted in the early 1900’s did a lot toward bringing some of that balance into children’s lives, many of whom were spending a full days labor in factories and fields for substandard wages. Unfortunately the compulsory education laws that soon followed, however well-intentioned, eventually served to throw off whatever balance was achieved. Today, the average child will spend about 7 hours a day in the classroom with about 20-30 minutes of recess and 15 minutes for lunch. Add to that the typical 1-3 hours they will then spend doing homework and squeeze in an hour of practice if they happen to play a sport, and that 9-5 job with an hour long lunch break Mom or Dad complain about is a cake walk. American children are spending more time in the classroom and other school related activities than almost every other country on earth. With the remaining spare moments devoted to screens of various shapes and sizes, actual play time has become a thing of the past. For all our humanitarian efforts, how much have we really improved the lives of our children in the last 100 years? With obesity rates, behavioral issues, and childhood stress at epidemic levels it seems this new life style is wreaking havoc on the body, minds and souls of our kids. Especially our boys.
I want to pause here to emphasize two things. Number one: I am speaking in generalities. While my own education was exclusively in the public realm, my husband’s was public K-12, private for University, and he has taught in Christian schools, primarily at the high school level, for almost 12 years. That said, the choice we have made for our own family is to homeschool. I do not think this is the appropriate choice for ALL families. The most important thing to me is that families have the freedom and the courage to choose what’s best for their own children. The advent and subsequent evolution of compulsory education has done much to limit and obscure those choices. So when I speak of compulsory education I am not merely targeting public schools. I am targeting the GENERAL practice of forcing children to spend the bulk of their entire childhoods in a classroom and doing school related activities, whether that be in the public sector, the private sector or even in a homeschool setting. Good grief, just how many thousands and thousands of hours should it take to make a kid literate? But I digress. Number two: from now on I am going to be speaking very specifically about the effect compulsory education has had on boys. Now of course, in specifying boys I will once again be speaking in generalities :). There are multitudes of boys who thrive and show great success in the modern classroom setting (I’m related to some of them), but a vast majority do not and those are the ones I am addressing in general. Why just boys? Click here for an explanation.
Now that everyone’s feathers are sufficiently ruffled, I have to leave you all dangling one more time because I have some serious Birthday business to attend to. But before I go I wanted to inform all you kind folks that requested copies of the coloring books the boys made that we have some available for $4 each plus postage. Just email me your request or leave a comment and we’ll work out the details.