A Quote to Start Things Off

"Passive Aggressive. It works for my mother, it works for Duolingo" Luis Von Ahn , co-founder of Duolingo from his TED talk, How to make learning as addictive as social media.

Search Me!

Pictures of Memories I

Pictures of Memories I
Snow kidding! These "kids" now range from 17 to 23

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beginnings Part II: A Walk to the Lake.

Beginnings is a little segment of this here blog that will deal with my observations of how I remember becoming the man who I am today. They will not be in any chronological order. I will just churn 'em out as I see fit. I have taken the hindsight is 20/20 approach and have retitled my post earlier this month about when I first heard about homeschooling under this moniker. that's why today's installment reads part II.

A Walk to the Lake
In the summer of 1983, I was just graduated from high school and just asked by my Campus Life staff person to volunteer and help the club for the coming year. So as I took the bus up to Silver Birch Ranch in Wisconsin. I was part staff, part student. Like most 18 year olds, I felt all adult and none kid.
At camp I remember being mostly student. I clowned around a lot and made people laugh. One such time was early evening as many of us were going down to the lake to swim. I was in a jogging suit with my swimsuit underneath. I was pulling all my unneeded clothes off and tossing them where they might land saying very loudly: "Must! Swim! Now!" After I had all but my trunks off, I ran wildly into the water and dived in as the water came up past my trunk.
Apparently, I created quite a scene, as one of the new Campus Life staff people asked the person they were standing with if I might perhaps, be a "special needs" child.
As I approached the water I was of singular purpose: entering the water. In the years that followed, John Swale, the staff person who questioned my ability to function in normal society, became a friend and mentor.
What I gleaned from our friendship was this: approach life like I approached the lake. A singular purpose of following Christ by serving others. This approach brought me to Western Illinois University, where I met Amy, brought me to Russia, South Carolina and back to Illinois. Through the years, I have sometimes lost track of that purpose, but God has always gently nudged me back in that direction.
Now a quarter century has passed since that walk to the lake. It is important that I continue to model the singular purpose of Loving God through serving others to my family. But I still like to walk into a lake helter skelter from time to time.
Next Time: Skiing, Swimming, Super Bowl, or Sox Fest.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Postings: The Guy who Makes the Donuts

A few years ago we had a family website and I would write occasional articles on it. Consider it a pre-blog blog. I named those articles Memo: Random. Occasionally I am going to post them here under Random Postings. This one is back 7 years ago from 1/27/2002.

Recently, I have been waking up in the middle of the night, usually around 3 A.M. Most nights, I go right back to sleep, but sometiimes I don't even try. This morning was one of those occasions.

I woke up at 4:30 after 4 hours of sleep. My wife, Amy, was feeding Charlie our soon to be 3 month old boy. She put him into bed and went back to sleep; but I was wide awake. So I got up, went into the computer room and looked up some things on the internet.

At about 6, our daughter Emma walked in the room. In order to let the other half of our family stay sleeping, I quietly got her dressed and we went out to buy donuts. I didn't have any cash on me, so we went to a Dunkin Donuts that I "remembered" accepted credit cards.

Emma and I got out of the car. The store looked how I expected a donut shop to look at 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning: sparsely populated. There was one car in the drive-thru, one customer ahead of me, and one "regular" nursing his coffee in the corner booth.

When it was our turn, I made our order, making sure to get a good variety. I asked Emma to tell the man what kind she wanted and in language typical of a 2 year old, she said she wanted a white one while pointing to a powdered donut. (If 2 year olds couldn't point it would be a lot harder to understand them.)

When it came time to pay, I pulled out my checkcard and much to my surprise and dismay was told I "remembered" wrong about them accepting credit cards. They did not!

I rather sheepishly had to admit, I had no actual money on me. My plan was to run to an ATM, get cash, and pick up the donuts. The counter person told me to just take the donuts and pay him back another time. I was reluctant to accept his offer but he insisted.

Emma and I took the donuts, went back to the car, got cash at the ATM and came back. By this time, activity at the store had perked up a little. I got in line to pay the guy back. At the same time the "regular" got in line behind me. I thought he was just refilling his coffee but he had come to talk to me.

The man was probably my Dad's age (late 50's/ early 60's). He was the kind of person Emma would refer to as a Grandpa. To Emma, there are four types of males (Baby, Kid, Man and Grandpa). He told me that I did not have to pay for the donuts, that he was picking up the tab.

The most embarrasing part of this incident of not bringing cash was the implication that our family was destitute and needed to panhandle for donuts. Thinking this was his impression, I politely declined indicating "I have money." He responded, "No, I've got it. It's for being honest and coming back."

I was still tempted to refuse his offer, but I think I correctly labeled that temptation as stubborn pride thanked him and went back home.

Many thoughts have penetrated my cranium about what kernel of truth to pull from this man's act of kindness. The first thought I had was that honesty must be a small commodity these days when a total stranger thinks it an oddity that needs to be rewarded. Another along those same lines was that honesty should be a given and needs no reward. The third was always keep $10.00 in the glove box for donut related emegencies. Finally I latched onto this:

Honesty, like any virtue should be pursued, taught and praised when seen in action. As a member of our society, the "regular" was simply affirming the ideal of honesty by giving my family breakfast on the house.

As Emma and Charlie grow up, Amy and I will try to teach them many valuable lessons about character. I can think of none stronger than when you spot virtue in our fallen world: be the guy who buys the donuts.

Meanwhile in 2009: The Dunkin Donuts was torn down recently and a new Dunkin Donuts just opened up at the same location. They now accept credit cards at least I "remember" using one there. :)

Next Time: Beginnings Part II: A Walk to the Lake

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I stare at a blank page. What to write? What to tell you. What to share? Jimminy Christmas, it's cold out there. No, that's not what I want to write. Jinky's it's tough to write.

That's the last time I leave the computer unattended!! I mean I leave ONE minute to tuck in my daughter, and when I come back: gibberish. (Aka, my wife got ahold of the keyboard!)

No matter, I'll get back on track. AWANA! Awana is what works for me. If you are not familiar with AWANA click here.

Awana is like scouting, except instead of cookies and merit badges, you memorize bible verses. Who would want to memorize a cookie anyway? Emma is in Truth in Training which is for 3rd through 6th graders. Charlie is in Sparks which is for K-2nd graders. Next year Lucy will be in Cubbies. Each week the kids have a theme night such as sports night, or crazy hair night. I have so far been unsuccesful in my bid for Paint Your Neighbor's Spaniel Purple Night. But I understand that in these hard economic times, not everyone can afford purple paint.

Crazy Hair Night!

Last weekend was the Awana Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is very similar to the pinewood derbies I ran in as a cub scout. Charlie and Emma both entered and we took some school time to design and paint the cars. As a family we did not fare very well in the races, but we still enjoyed ourselves. After the races the children's pastor preached a message of how important it is to finish the race of life in the winners circle by becoming a follower of Jesus. It was so reminiscent of the scene in "Chariots of Fire" where Eric Liddel preaches after a race he just won about running the race of life.

Awana, works for me because it meshes the spiritual with the other experiential components of growing up. It also works for me as a home school dad: we start school each day memorizing God's word. To see what works for other folks please click here to go to the Works for me Wednesday page at Rocks in my Dryer.
Next Time: Random Postings: The Guy Who Makes the Donuts

Monday, January 26, 2009

Emma Writes (Photographic Edition)

Recently I gave Emma about 20 random pictures from our picture drawer. I asked her to choose 2 of those pictures and write a story somehow based on them. Here are the pictures:

This is Simon. My father in law's dog. This makes him our first dog, once removed.

This is Charlie. Almost 2 at time of picture.

Here is Emma's story:

Charlie and Simon: The Soccer Star

By Emma

One day Charlie was working at the zoo, when he heard a noise. It was coming from the dog pen. Charlie ran over there, and there was little Simon. Simon got stuck in the fence because his soccer ball rolled in there, So, Charlie opened the gate and Simon ran out with his soccer ball. Then Charlie asked "Simon, what are you doing?"

Simon answered, "Practicing for the Pups soccer tryout."

Then Charlie said, "You mean you are not old enough for the Doggies?"

Then Simon answered: "Yep, well time to go. Bye!"

Charlie tended the animals until closing. He went down the path until he saw . . . Simon, in line for the doggies! Then Charlie said: "What are you doing here?!?"

Simon said: "I was good enough. Want to stay?"
So Charlie stayed for the try-outs. Then Simon ran out saying, "I made the team!"

Then Charlie said"That's Great! Now, let's go home."

So, they went home and after supper they played a good game of soccer. Simon won.

The End

Next Time: Awana

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I have recently been requested to post again here. I understand why people would want me to post again, my posts have the same calories as sugar or honey and are good in moderation, or something like that. So here are some more Random Thoughts:

When I can't find my cellphone I just call my number from my home phone to find it. I wish I could do that with Emma's hairbrush, but I think it's unlisted!

Speaking of phones, did you hear about the introvert who never used his answering machine?
He couldn't leave an outgoing message.

This morning Lucy (who just turned 3 in December) came up to Amy with a piece of paper and a pencil and asked her something about giants. Amy thought by the context that she wanted her to draw a giant and tried three times to do so to Lucy's mounting frustration. Finally Lucy could take no more and said to Amy " Mom, look at me, I want you to write the WORD giant!"

And finally lets head back to the phones to a conversation I have had with more than one telemarketer:

Telemarketer: Hi, I'm calling to tell you about our product.

Me: I'm sorry, I don't do business over the phone.

Telemarketer: Neither does our company, let me go ahead and tell you about our fantastic product.

Me: You are doing business over the phone right now.

Telemarketer: I meant besides that.


Next Time: Emma Writes (The photograph edition)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Secret Surprise Dates

FAQS of Life

My life in "frequently asked question" format.

Today's Topic: Secret Surprise Dates

Q: What, pray tell, is a Secret Surprise Date?

A: A secret surprise date is a festival of fun wrapped in romance. It's the pinata of date nights.

Q: What does that mean in English?

A: When Amy and I were courting, we went on some elaborately planned dates. We coined the phrase "Secret Surprise dates" to describe them.

Q: Do they have to be secret?

A: No, the other party knows the date is going to happen and who the date is with. They just don't know what is going to happen.

Q: I am still not wrapping my mind around the concept, could you give an example?

A: Yes.

Very funny! I'm waiting!

When I lived in South Carolina, I used to frequent a donut chain by the name of Krispy Kreme. Now, when I came back to Illinois to court and subsequently marry Amy, they did not have any Krispy Kremes in the Chicago area. When Amy heard that one had come to the area, she blindfolded me and drove me to the Krispy Kreme. I was so shocked when I got out of the car and breathed in the aroma of the Mecca of donuts. This was truly a secret surprise!

On another occasion, I blindfolded Amy and drove around for an hour finally stopping at the Hinsdale Oasis of the Illinois Tollway System 10 minutes from our apartment. There we sat,ate dinner, and watched the traffic drive beneath us.

Q: Are blindfolds mandatory?

A: No, but they can add quite a bit to the overall effect.

Q: Are Secret Surprise Dates expensive?

They can be, but don't have to be. The Krispy Kreme date cost less than 10 dollars. Last Saturday night, I drove Amy about an hour north of our house to a nice restaurant just over the Wisconsin border. We had great conversation on the way there and back and an excellent all-you-can-eat meal in a quaint atmosphere. The entire cost of the evening including babysitting was under $50.00.

Q: I am more of a visual person, do you have any pictures from these excursions?

A: Yes.

Q: You are not pulling that joke again, are you?!!!

A: Yes. Before you get all upset, here is a picture of Amy outside the restaurant on Saturday night.

Q: So, it sounds like Secret Surprise dates work for you, is that accurate?

A: It certainly is. They really help us to keep the fun alive in our relationship. To see what works for other people click here to be directed to the Works for me Wednesday site at Rocks in my Dryer.

Next Time: Randomness

Monday, January 19, 2009

Because they're nouns....

A noun is a person, place, or thing!

Next Time: Secret Surprise Dates!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Simple Plan

In a previous post I talked about my goals for 2009. If you missed that riveting piece of blog-o-journalism click here

It is all well and good to set goals, but if you want to reach them, you need a plan.

So I reviewed my goals and have made a plan of how to reach those. I share them with you now.

1) Yell less at children.

I notice that I yell at them more when I have been lax in disciplining them. Consitent discipline should keep their behavior in check and certainly my frustration level down. I have been putting this method in practice and see the yelling going down.

2) Communicate better with my wife.

My plan is to spend more time at the front-end making sure we understand each other. Also, we have been bringing back date nights and spending 1 on 1 time outside the friendly but hectic confines of home, is helping the communication as well.

3) Growing in my relationship with God.

My goal is to do 2 things I haven't done in a while:

A) read through the bible in a year
B) keep a prayer journal

4) Minister as a family.

My goal is to make a list of potential service opportunities as a family by the end of this month and pick one by the end of next.

5) Bring back the perm for men.

No hair raising plans in place, as of yet.

6. Write a letter a week in 2009.

There have been 2 full weeks this year and I have written 1 letter. I plan to write a 2nd one tomorrow and a third one sometime this week. I have a list in my mind of people I plan to write and will put that list on paper soon.

7. Be funnier in 2009 than 2008.

I already have received more compliments about my humor on my facebook page in 2009 than I did in 2008. I didn't have a facebook page in 2008, but that's not important.

Funny is as funny does so I am not worried.

So you've seen my goals and now you've read my plans. I'll give a quarterly update. Mail me a quarter and I'll give you an update.

Next Time: Because They're Nouns

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unbelievable (No Child Left Ahead)

I recently received the following e-mail from a college friend who is employed as a school psychologist (She's also my wife, but I digress):


Here's a post idea for your blog:

I was observing in a middle school social studies classroom today. After talking about the topic, students were instructed to read the chapter and take Cornell notes (a specific note taking system.) One student sat there quietly looking at his book. The teacher asked him, “Why aren’t you working?” He said, “I did it yesterday.” She said, “Why?” indignantly. He said, “I was bored.” She said, “Don’t do that again, it messes everything up! Go to the Internet and take the quiz then.” The student spent the next 30 minutes unsuccessfully trying to sign on to a website and take the quiz. He asked the teacher for help several times. Each time she responded, “Don’t do this to me again. Do not work ahead.” She would not help him sign on. She repeatedly reprimanded him for working ahead in the chapter. What do you think this student learned?

Thanks for sharing that Amy. That teacher was probably upset that students were getting in the way of her teaching. I recognize myself in that teacher. Having all these great things I want to teach my kids and getting very frustrated when my children get in the way of that. Seeing my foibles demonstrated by someone is very instructive on how to handle such a situation when it comes up again.

Check out other Home School Blogs at this weeks edition of the Carnival of Home Schooling hosted this week at About.com bt clicking here.

Next Time: A Simple Plan

This Chicago electrician was an angel

I recently saw on the blog of the Illinois Christian Home Educators (I.C.H.E) that a father of a home school family recently passed away. I was moved by the article that was written about him in the Chicago Tribune, shortly after his death. Even though the article does not mention home-schooling it does give us quite an encouragement to live out our faith for others to see.

Click here to see the blog and the article.

Next time: UNbelievable!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Library Week

Libraries are a staple in the Roller family. My across the street neighbor when I was growing up was the Elk Grove Village Public Library. We were never able to borrow sugar, but I could get a cook book out, if I wanted to. Now, many years later, while I don't live as close to one as I did, libraries are still near to my heart.

A couple times a year our family embarks on library week. We stop formal schooling for a week and visit at least 1 library each day.

Here are the kids at the main library in Madison, WI.

In all we hit 5 libraries in 2 states. Library Week works for us because:

1) Libraries are fun, inexpensive places to learn and relax.

2) While library week gives us a break from our regular classroom environment, it does give me many ideas for future studies.

3) A well planned library week allows us the opportunity to drop in on friends and family and to visit other towns and cities. This type of multi-task travelling is educational as well as economical.

Even though we home school, I think library week can work for any family regardless of their educational choices. Spring, Winter or Summer breaks make the perfect time for library week. This is actually when we have done most of ours, so as not to interfere with Awana, and co-ops. Even if you have no children or no children at home, visiting libraries with your spouse or significant other can make an excellent date night.

So, library week works for me. If you'd like to see what works for other bloggers click here to go to the Works for me Wednesday page at Rocks in my Dryer.

Next Time: The Electrician who was an Angel

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Goals for 2009

First of all to anyone referred here from Biblical Womanhood, I have no intention of being a biblical woman. The biblical I can handle, the womanhood, not so much. That being said, you can see many more peoples' goals for 2009 by linking here: Biblical Womanhood

Here are some of my goals for 2009:

1) I would like to yell at my children less. Actually I would not like to yell at them at all. Which would be less. First of all, yelling at them never works. Second of all, it gives them a model for dealing with frustration that is not biblical for any kind of hood.

2) I would like to communicate better with my wife. Since I took over home schooling, my wife and I have been misunderstanding each other. Here are a couple of examples (one of them may be made-up): My wife recently thinks she told me to use some of the money we were given as Christmas gifts to pay down the mortgage. I still distinctly remember her saying White Sox season tickets. Then there was the time at our children's swimming lessons last month, when she told me she was going to pick up dinner on the way home and would be stopping at both McDonald's and Burger King (they are across the street from each other) and asked what I wanted. I thought she said she was going to McDonalds or Burger King. So I gave her an order for each place. She was astounded that I would order so much, and I was equally perplexed when she brought me 5 sandwiches from their respective dollar menus.

3)I would like to grow in my relationship with God. Teaching the kids empties my spiritual tank quicker than anything I've ever done. I want my children to see my dependence on God for direction in mine and their lives.

4) To continue to minister as a family. Last year we began having a special needs child from our church stay with us for a day or two at a time to give the parents the ability to reconnect with themselves and their other children. This is allowing us to minister as a family and is good to teach the kids patience and selflessness. We hope to take other opportunites to minister as a family this year.

5) To bring back the perm for men. I have some pictures from my college days if you want to see them.

6) To write a letter a week in 2009. When I was a missionary in Russia, my roommate called me the post card king. Because as he would send out 4 page letter after 4 page letter, I would send out post card after post card promising a longer letter later (many of which never came.) Now 14 years later, I don't even send postcards. As part of their school work the children are writing a letter a month for the year. I plan to demonstrate the craft by sending out 1 a week.

7) To be funnier in 2009 than I was in 2008. Funny is very important to me. Back in my cubicle days, I cherished my annual reviews that said what a good sense humor I have. I know what you are thinking, that's the workplace equivalent of describing a blind date as having a "good personality." Well what's so bad about having a good personality? Being funny is no laughing matter and I intend to take it very seriously in 2009.

Next Time: Library Week

The Old Switcheroo!

So, if you've been following this blog, you have been informed of why we as a family home school. You have also been told that because of the current job situation, I am the home school teacher.

I would be remiss, however, to give you the impression that I am the teacher because of circumstance. I think its because of providence. I truly feel God's hand in my current avocation. Let me give you the skinny:

When Amy and I got married nearly 11 years ago I was newly employed at a mortgage company. I worked there for almost 10 years. The 2nd half of those 10 years of employment were much more stressful than the first. In addition, as our family grew, we barely managed to live on my salary. The idea of Amy and I switching responsibilites would sometimes bounce in my head, but I never felt peace in considering such a move.

What did occur was this: In the fall of 2002 I was given the opportunity to work a 4 day 40 hour work week. Amy got a part time job as a school psychologist 2 days a week and I got a part time job as a home school father 1 day a week. (For those doing the math at home, we did have 1 day a week wher the children were watched outside the home.)

What the experience brought me was this: I felt much more suited at my part time job than my full time one. I loved being home 1 day a week and being a more formal part of their formal education. Also during that 10 year period, I was given many affirmations whether in Sunday School teaching or training people at work that I would make a good teacher.

In late 2005 we had our third child. At the end of that school year Amy stopped her part time position and that summer I lost my full time position. Amy started subsitute teaching while I looked for work again giving me opportunities to home school the children. I worked in call center positions from 2006 to 2008. When my employment ended in July of 2008, Amy and I were ready for the change. She applied for a full time school psychologist position in the same district where she worked previously and was hired 3 days later. (She would have been hired sooner but there was a weekend in between.) We got to spend almost a month together as a family while we prepared for the switch. In late August of 2008 I became the 2nd full time teacher in the history of the Izola Becker Home School. I have never felt more suited for a job in my life. I love the commute. My students are like members of my own family.

I am far from perfect. I yelled at my children last semester more than I ever yelled at them in their entire lifetime before. Sometimes just getting through the day with the three of them is all I can handle. But with all that said, this is the best job I have ever had!

Next time: Home school goals for 2009

Why we Home School Part II

Pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words. You also don't have to use spell check on them. I used pictures in my first post to communicate why we home school. Pictures of our children. If my wife and I didn't have any children, we probably would not home school. We'd spend far less on curricula, at any rate. The truth be told, Amy and I wanted to home school our children even before children came into the picture. We actually separately desired to home school any children God might bring even before we were we.

The reason we had wanted to home school was that when we separately spent time with home school families and liked what we saw. We saw children who were sharp, well behaved, and knew how to talk with adults. We saw Dads and Moms and children who were unified as a family.

When we got married and became parents we wanted to be the main influences of our children. Not because we thought other people would do it worse, but because it would be a great blessing to do it ourselves.

Now, I must be honest, there are times that if we want to spend time with children who are sharp, well behaved and know how to talk to adults, we need to spend time with other people's home schooled children.

But now a full 9 years into this great home school experiment, we would not have it any other way. Which is why when I lost my job this summer, we said "let's both apply for jobs and whoever doesn't get one first gets the privilege of teaching our own children." And I won!

Next Time: The old switcheroo.

Beginnings Part I: When I first heard about homeschooling.

Do you remember where you were the first time you heard about home schooling? I was at a wedding. At the reception, I was placed at what I call the odd duck table , the table where you sit friends, family and coworkers not likely to know anyone else, I have a name for it because I have been placed at that table many times.

So at the odd duck table there was a lady from out of state, Colorado, I believe, who home schooled her children. This was the mid to late 80's and I had no idea what homeschooling was or why anyone would want to do it. I just sat there as she regailed other wedding guests with stories of her home schooling journey.

I think it was appropriate that I first heard of home schooling at the odd duck table. Home Schooling itself has been an odd duck for many years. People aren't quite sure what to make of it. As Home School parents we can easily get frustrated at seeing the same reaction from each person who learns you are home educating your children. This is why I asked you to recall your first experience with the concept. Perhaps, your initial reaction, was not unlike those you encounter today. We often expect people to understand things the way we do and forget our understanding is part of an ongoing process often over many years.

Home schooling over the years has quietly been inching away from the odd duck table. Everybody seems to know someone these days who is home schooling. It is not uncommon now for park districts and libraries to have special activities for home school families.

Next Time: Why we home school part II

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why we Home School Part I

Three precious reasons: Lucy, Emma and Charlie!

Next time: Beginnings Part I: When I first heard about Home Schooling.

A to Z 2023 Road Trip

#AtoZChallenge 2023 RoadTrip