Saying Goodbye

Cari’s Collage

Last Sunday, Stefanie and her brothers hosted a reception to honor the passing of their mother. It was a fantastic event that was filled with much food, storytelling, and great visiting time. Cari would have loved it.

Click on the picture to see more pictures from the event. It was a fine way to say goodbye.

A Fond Farewell

Carolyn OrrAs many of you know, Stefanie’s mother, Cari Orr, had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in April. As her health slowly degraded, she moved to a nursing home on our side of town. She was there for about two months as the disease and other complications slowed her down considerably. We were able to visit her virtually every day and knew she was getting the best of care. Even so, Cari passed away early on the morning of Wednesday, August 22. We don’t have all the plans made, yet, but we wanted everyone to know what had happened.

Oddly enough, I have known Cari longer than I’ve known Stefanie. She was working as an admin at West Linn High School while I was a student there. She was always very warm and helpful when I had to interact with her then. A few years later, when Stefanie and I were preparing to get married, she and Stef’s dad, Jack, were very supportive during our somewhat bumpy ride from engagement to our wedding date. She even made Stefanie’s wedding dress and did quite a bit to make it the special day it was for us both.

As the years have passed, she loved visiting with us and David. She was very proud of her children and, especially, her grandchildren. She was equally proud of how her mother brought Cari and her sister from meager beginnings to living a full life. Cari never lost her passion for strongly-held opinions. I enjoyed the occasional verbal jousting with her when the topics would range through politics, social issues, and our faith. There was never any question, though, that she loved us all.

Cari will not be forgotten as her legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren. Something that, I think, she’d be very happy to know.

Don’t Call Me “Coach”

I apologize if I sound annoyed by this, but this is a hot button for our family. We are proud to be homeschoolers and we think it’s the best choice for David’s education that we could make. It’s not just an acceptable alternative. We are not substandard teachers. We teach David because we believe he will learn more and learn better in this environment. So, you will understand if we get a little put off by the condescension implied in this story about Oregon’s virtual public charter school by KCBY Channel 11 in Coos Bay/North Bend, Oregon.

One of the parents interviewed describes the extra effort needed to be both a mother and a “learning coach”. This is deceptive. What would any good parent do if their child were in public school? Wouldn’t you help them with homework and “coach” them with their learning? How is being a “learning coach” any different? It’s different because what they really are doing is being an assistant teacher. But, public schools can’t bring themselves to calling anyone without a teaching certificate a teacher. Guess what, gang? Stefanie and I are teachers. Deal with it.

Even so, this quote really got me:

Laura Howard, a kindergarten through second grade teacher for the academy said, “It allows people the opportunity to work with their kids from home, but also have the structure and the accountability of a public school.”

Wow. I’m so grateful that the public school system has given me permission to be involved in my child’s education. Notice that I don’t get to control any material aspects of it, though. I just get to help out with their system.

Also, don’t miss the subtle dig at homeschoolers with the bit about structure and accountability. It’s the faulty structure of public schools and the failed accountability that I’m glad we don’t have in our home. Those are precisely things we’re trying to avoid.

The bottom line is that this is a ruse. This is a sweet deal for public schools because they can tell parents they are homeschooling (which they aren’t). They are just doing public school at home. They can claim public school students and collect the funds, but there is much less overhead when these students stay home. The public school curriculum is still used. These students take the same high stakes tests their public school cousins take. There is no difference in the education.

If public schools want to offer this up as an alternative for special needs children or other cases of extenuating circumstances, that’s fine. But, to claim this is homeschooling with better structure and accountability is misleading at best. I happen to think this isn’t accidental.

All Hail Hail!

We had a very localized thunderstorm roll through here the other night. Being fascinated with the beautiful lightning, we sat out in the driveway watching it roll over Portland and towards us. It was quite impressive.

While watching, we began to hear what sounded like someone slowly emptying a bag of gravel on the roof. We could hear it all around us, but we didn’t feel anything. But, it was getting louder. Finally, we realized what it was and began to get pelted a little. We hurried back under the porch cover and watched as a few hailstones suddenly turned into a torrent. I’m amazed it didn’t kill the chickens across the street:


This turned to rain and passed after a few minutes. By the time we turned on the news a few minutes later, the weather radar showed that the storm had already moved several miles north of us. Very quick, but very impressive.

Belated Birthday

Now, that’s not to say that we forgot David’s birthday. We just didn’t get around to putting up pictures. So, here’s one to get you started:

David’s 15th Birthday

The rest of the photos (included David and Dad playing Guitar Hero) are in the photo gallery. Happy birthday David!

David Polishes Off First Year

As those of you who have been following us for a while, you know it’s about that time of year that we get David’s test scores back. As a review for the non-homeschoolers, Oregon only requires that David tests after his 5th, 8th, and 10th grade years. We have tested him every year, though, for our own purposes so we can keep track of what areas need more attention.

As is usual, he blew away most subject areas. We always seem to have one or two subjects where he’s lower than the rest, but even those are still well above average for his age. In ten separate tests, he was rated as being at a post-high school level in seven of them. Two were rated as being at a senior level and the lowest score was rated as being a sophomore. That was in the reading comprehension, though, and David complains every year that the stories he has to read are “girly”. Nonetheless, he continues his march through school with high scores and great skill.

Since David is likely to attend college, we have also begun keeping an official transcript for his schoolwork. For the first time in his life, David received a report card with actual grades. The result? Five As and two Bs and a 3.71 GPA.

We’re very proud of David’s grades and we’re gearing up for a busy sophomore year! Way to go, David!

Life Goes On

RosesWell, despite our best efforts life continues to march onward. Spring continues to produce some beauty in our otherwise desolate backyard. These roses are from a rosebush given to us by Wyatt’s mom a few years ago. We just love how they go from yellow to pink and they are very fragrant!

Quizzical DavidDavid’s freshman year of high school is almost over. One difference about homeschooling is that not all of our subjects finish on the same day. We’ve wrapped up everything except algebra which will continue on for a few more days. Also, David will be taking his annual assessment test in a couple of weeks. We are confident he will do well! Even his church youth group will officially recognize him as a sophomore as of June 17 when all kids will graduate to the next level of Sunday School and Youth Group. Nonetheless, David isn’t so sure about this doing school into late June.

Stefanie’s mother was hospitalized for a couple of weeks due to complications and side-effects of her chemotherapy. She is slowly recovering and has been moved to a nursing home and rehabilitation center. The good news is that the new place is only minutes from our home rather than the forty minute drive to the hospital. We can all visit more frequently and it’s easier to run a quick errand when she needs it.

Liz GraduationFinally, we all drove to Ellensburg, WA to see Wyatt’s sister, Elizabeth, receive her Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology from Central Washington University. Crazy person that she is, she’s turning around and going right back for a degree in Graphic Design. She is hoping to mix the research she has done on captive primates with some design skills to make life for those animals better.Madison and Cake

It was overcast during the ceremony (the first of two and the football stadium bleachers were FULL!), but the rain held off. Well, it held off until it was time for the party at Liz’s place. We had fun eating and meeting some friends. It was also a chance for us to catch up with Wyatt’s parents, his other sister Brittany, and her daughter, Madison.

The whole crowd was entranced with Madison’s antics which included sucking the frosting off of the plastic animals on one of the cakes. A good time was had by all despite the four hour drive through the rather dry and unexciting landscape of central Washington between The Dalles and Yakima.


So, we continue to think that life will slow down for the Webb family. We continue to be wrong.

It finally occurred to me that this time of year is often busy for us as we’re trying to wrap up school with David and there are a variety of birthdays, graduations, and other events going on. This year has proven to be no different.

David is finishing his freshman year of high school which means we are not only just getting all of his subjects completed, but also that this is the first year we need to start generating more rigorous records and transcripts which he will need to apply to college.

Stefanie has been actively supporting other women in the church who are going through various events and traumas and have been appreciative of her friendship. Unfortunately, Stef now has need to ask for the same kind of support as Stef’s mother was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Stef is also on the verge of turning 40. Woot!

Wyatt has been juggling two projects at work as ScrumMaster (don’t ask. If you really want to know, go read this.) and writing code. He is doing volunteer IT work at church and for various family members. Wyatt is also doing engineering work on Windows Mobile devices for Smart Box Design during his off hours. But wait, he’s also the admin and one of two authors of the Daily Push Up email devotional. (Feel free to read the archives and join the list here!)

Oh, and they also chaperone and provide snacks on Wednesday nights for the high school youth group that attracts between 50 and 70 teenagers every week to Solid Rock Fellowship.

When do we find time to blog, do home improvement projects, or even watch a movie? As a college buddy of mine once said, “That’s easy. I’ll do it in my copious amounts of free time!” Right.

Life is good for us and we love being a part of all of these things, but I’m disappointed we don’t get to share our thoughts here more often. We’ll keep at it though and be back soon.

Spring Has Sprung

We’ve been amazingly busy lately with the most unusual variety of unexpected events. However, I wanted an excuse to post a couple of pictures.

Spring is absolutely upon us with a smattering of beautiful days over the last couple of weeks. Even better was that the rhododendron in our backyard bloomed for the first time this year and bloomed big. It teased us all last spring with large buds that always turned into more leaves. This year, it exploded.

Rhody Blossom


After a little rain one evening, Stef and I stepped out to go for a drive and saw this little fellow on our front step. He sat quietly while I took a few pictures and seemed completely unperturbed by the three of us staring at him. When we returned, he had gone on his way.




Just another reminder that spring is here and we’re enjoying it. Even if we are running around a little more than usual.

Chipping Away

For whatever reason January always seems like a buffer month to me. It moves by quickly and only seems to serve as a separator between Christmas and the coming year. But, it’s February now and it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

I felt the need to write about something that impacts us as homeschoolers more directly than other parents, but it’s important to us all. Because the inherent right of parents to decide how to raise their children is not spelled out in the Constitution it is perpetually vulnerable to those who wish to impinge on it.

For example, in Germany, the courts there have recently found that because every child is “entitled” to a multi-cultural education that children cannot be allowed to be homeschooled. This is a dramatic infringement of the rights of parents to control how their children are raised.

There are certainly forces in this country that would prefer a similar application of education. As judges come and go our rights are in danger. I had my first encounter with the mindset that we’re up against just today.

In the Oregon State Senate, SB 392 has been introduced to lower the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 6. I wrote to Senator Vicki Walker to explain why this was a bad idea. Primarily, I was concerned that the State was deciding when children were ready to be educated and taking the decision out of the hands of parents. Furthermore, by starting them earlier, homeschoolers would be required to test their children at each grade level up to a year earlier, whether the parents felt the child was ready or not.

The response I received took the usual approach for defending an infringement of my freedom. I was told that while I may be a good parent, there are many bad parents out there that this bill will force into being good parents. So, the senator concluded, the good citizens should be willing to give up freedom in an effort to fix the bad citizens. I disagree.

The email went on:

As a parent myself, I assure you I am not trying to chip away at parents’ rights. This bill is meant to impact the at-risk children who need its protection most. It is my responsibility to act to make sure that Oregon’s children are legally entitled to the early and strong start in life that they deserve.

This blows my mind. Whether Senator Walker is trying to chip away at parental rights or not, that’s exactly what this bill does. Also, I’m a little frightened by the notion that she thinks it is her responsibility to make sure that Oregon’s children get a good education. I think it is her job to make sure such an education is available. I don’t think it is her job to force parents into using the system others have designed.

There’s a subtle change that happens in each of these arguments. There’s a difference between being “entitled” to an education and being forced into one. Both the German court system and Senator Walker are heading down the road of forcing us to participate in the system of their choice. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me.