Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Renderings, Volume 3


Now we move on to a view from the front of the home. This view is interesting not only because it's of the front, but because it contains a few design changes as well. Here it is, click to enlarge.
Beautiful, isn't it? Landscape-wise, my brother thought we should have apple trees or some other flowering tree in the enclosed wall in front of the house, and we really like that concept. I think we'll definitely go with apple trees, and stay on top of trimming them so they don't get too large. He added that little door in the wall so that you can go in and tend the other plants in there, and also to pick apples. It's kind of monastic!

Also, he thought that a good way of transitioning from lawn to wooded area was with wild flowers. It's also low maintenance, which I had requested of any landscaping. Our current home has too much landscaping and it takes an incredible amount of time and effort to take care of it all. We'll probably have more lawn that what is shown here, but I like the concept, especially how the flowers go right up to the house.

Structure wise there are other changes you can see. First, there are new forms of windows on the lower level. The front entrance and the clusters of windows to either side are meant to be a family of similar forms, and there are now only three windows on the upper level which are aligned with the clusters on the lower level. This eliminates yet another window on the upper level for cost and I think aesthetics are still preserved. Also, there used to be brick that went all the way up the southern face of the main volume of the home, which my brother said he didn't end up liking once it was rendered. So now the brick on that face is limited to being even with the brick on the front, and a small brick face is added on the secondary volume of the home to continue the small brick wall into the hillside to the right.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Some good news for California home schoolers...


This from the Home School Legal Defense Association...
Court of Appeal Grants Petition for Re-hearing

On March 25, the California Court of Appeal granted a motion for rehearing in the 'In re Rachel L.' case--the controversial decision which purported to ban all homeschooling in that state unless the parents held a teaching license qualifying them to teach in public schools.

The automatic effect of granting this motion is that the prior opinion is vacated and is no longer binding on any one, including the parties in the case.

The Court of Appeal has solicited a number of public school establishment organizations to submit amicus briefs including the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and three California teacher unions. The court also granted permission to Sunland Christian School to file an amicus brief. The order also indicates that it will consider amicus applications from other groups.

Home School Legal Defense Association will seek permission to file such an amicus brief and will coordinate efforts with a number of organizations interesting in filing briefs to support the right of parents to homeschool their children in California.

"This is a great first step," said Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA. "We are very glad that this case will be reheard and that this opinion has been vacated, but there is no guarantee as to what the ultimate outcome will be. This case remains our top priority," he added.
Praise the Lord!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Home Renderings, Volume 2


So now we are on to the next in the series of photo-realistic renderings my brother has produced to help visualize the home and tweak the finer design details. The next rendering is from a position in the family room, with one's back up against the wall that adjoins the stairway upstairs. Again, it's best to click to enlarge it to see the details better.
Again, we laughed seeing Aidan plopped in the picture way off in the corner of the terrace!

I really like this view because this really shows the design concept of this volume of the home, to separate the wetland area from the wooded area and create two separate views with the home running in between. I think this also shows how the terrace, being at the same level as the interior floor, really makes the home feel much larger than it is. In actuality, the volumes of the home are quite thin (which I think is unique and will make cooling the house in the Summer a breeze... literally), but the terrace enlarges the feeling of the spaces. Also you can see the exposed flue here, with a fireplace that my brother designed.

We had a lot of discussions after looking at this rendering with my brother. First, those doors are cool but huge. I had modeled the doors in my Google Sketch-Up rendering as the standard 7 ft. height, but here they go all the way up to the ceiling (which is 10 ft. in this room). Wouldn't those be expensive? My brother convinced my that they wouldn't. The doors are very simple and could be custom made (hollow even) using quality plywood or other basic materials. And he has no door hardware on them. It would probably cost more money to do a standard door because then you have to continue the wall above the door with the framework behind it. We did tell my brother we'd rather have the doors to be "pocket doors" or sliding doors, which he is going to try to change. The doors will almost always be open, so we'd rather not have them sticking out into the family room all the time.

Another discussion point was the height of the windows by the terrace. I had modeled these to be shorter to save cost. But my brother really felt like they needed this level of height, and this was one of the reasons he got rid of the large windows in the school room to save on cost. It is still yet to be determined what we can afford in terms of these windows, and they will certainly be subdivided into smaller, stock-size windows to lower cost.

Lastly, the fireplace is to be a see-through fireplace so that it can be used in the library area as well, something my brother forgot about. The windows on the woods side are also too large. But these are all details that can be worked out later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home Renderings, Volume 1


My brother has been working on the exterior design details of the home, and as part of this process he has created some photo-realistic renderings for better visualization. He has a CAD model of the home which allows him to set up the design of the home and exterior, and once that is in place he uses his fancy schmancy architectural software to create the rendering. The rendering takes the form of a single picture of the view of the model he wants, and it usually takes an hour or two for the computer to actually create the rendering (a lot of it is probably calculating light reflections and all the subtle details that fools the eye into thinking it's real or near real).

The renderings have blown Molly and I away with their reality and ability to give us a preview of how the home will really look. Each one is fascinating to look at. I'll post these renderings in a series of posts, with only one rendering per post to give each its due. Volume 1 of this series is a rendering of the back of the home, as if you were standing on the covered walkway outside. It includes actual photos of our land so that this is essentially exactly how this will look in real life. You'll want to click this to enlarge it for better detail.
We thought it was hilarious how he cropped an actual photo (from our trip to Florida a couple months ago) of Molly with Aidan and Eleanor and included it in the rendering! Here's a link to a previous post that has the real photo.

A few points of discussion. This for the first time shows exterior design color schemes which we really liked. The accent color, which is located on the columns and in all of the trim is a cream/yellow color. I think it looks great, and since it is included underneath the balcony in the covered walkway it really brightens up an area that could have been too dark.

In terms of the terrace, my brother rendered it with all brick, and it's this rendering that has convinced us that this is the way to go. We had previously thought we would attempt to simply use wood decking to make the terrace, which certainly would cost less money. But given the fact that we almost certainly will not be able to afford to do the terrace or balcony right away, and seeing how much stability, permanence, and quality the brick adds, we figure we'll just wait (and wait) until we can afford to do it right. The brick is also much lower maintenance than a wood decking material, which we all know degrades badly over time. Oh, as an aside, you'll also notice that any brick on the home will be this more subdued gray color, with cream accents in it. My brother thought this would be best with anticipated roof colors and the trim of the home.

The chapel at this point is only starting detailed design, and so you can see there are no windows in the rendering in the chapel. This will not be the final form. He also left out a few windows that should be there underneath the balcony along the side of the home (to the right in the rendering). He did actually remove large windows that were planned in the school room and these will be replaced with more standard windows to conserve cost (and they weren't really needed anyway).

I love the fact that in some ways the back of the home feels like a lake home, except without the worries of actual water for children. It's rare to have wild areas come right up to the back of the home like this. Garden areas and lawn will be more towards the South and front of the home.

One last thing. Right now he also rendered the home with a standing seam metal roof, which we would absolutely love, but probably won't be able to afford. We need to get a quote on this first. Also, he rendered the in-set gutters along the lower roof-line, and this is something I'm having second thoughts about (watching the ice in my current gutters). I think I have a different solution that I'll post about in the future.

Thanks for the votes in the 2008 CBA's!


The 2008 Catholic Blog Awards have concluded, despite being a low post-volume blog I think we did well. It's great just to be nominated and get new readers visiting the blog. Here's the buttons that appear now at the bottom of our sidebar at the right...

We did the best in the "Best New Catholic Blog" category, where out of 87 nominees, we came in tied for 33rd.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Have a Blessed Holy Week


May the Lord truly bless you this Holy Week and may we all be grateful for the suffering he endured for our sake.

Below is an image of my favorite painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a painting that is worth sitting in front of and reflecting upon (the real painting is roughly 4 ft. by 5 ft., quite large)...

The Betrayal of Christ, Sir Anthony Van Dyke, oil on canvas, ca. 1618

God bless you!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Great article on chapel design in the NY Times...


I subscribe in Google Reader to any article in the NY Times having to do with architecture. It's a good way to stay up on new developments in the architecture world. Mostly what you get is articles on new museums, theaters, skyscrapers, and other high-profile projects from around the world, but what I found in my reader yesterday definitely was a pleasant surprise. It was an article devoted to a new chapel being constructed for a Franciscan Catholic high school in Long Island, NY. And it's a great article on the important points of good Catholic chapel/church design. Check it out here!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Some disturbing news for homeschoolers...


From the LA Times yesterday... (please keep reading below, action is needed)
Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families
State appellate court says those who teach children in private must have a credential.

By Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families.

Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation.

"This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling. "If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California."

The institute estimates there are as many as 166,000 California students who are home schooled. State Department of Education officials say there is no way to know the true number.

Unlike at least 30 other states, home schooling is not specifically addressed in California law. Under the state education code, students must be enrolled in a public or private school, or can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor.

The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts' responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.

Home schoolers and government officials have largely accepted this murky arrangement.

"This works so well, I don't see any reason to change it," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn.

The appellate court ruling stems from a case involving Lynwood parents Phillip and Mary Long, who were repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services over various allegations, including claims of physical abuse, involving some of their eight children.

All of the children are currently or had been enrolled in Sunland Christian School, where they would occasionally take tests, but were educated in their home by their mother, Phillip Long said.

A lawyer appointed to represent two of the Long's young children requested that the court require them to physically attend a public or private school where adults could monitor their well-being. A trial court disagreed, but the children's lawyer appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has jurisdiction over Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The appellate panel ruled that Sunland officials' occasional monitoring of the Longs' home schooling -- with the children taking some tests at the school -- is insufficient to qualify as being enrolled in a private school. Since Mary Long does not have a teaching credential, the family is violating state laws, the ruling said.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."

Phillip Long said he believes the ruling stems from hostility against Christians and vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"I have sincerely held religious beliefs," he said. "Public schools conflict with that. I have to go with what my conscience requires me."

Public schools teach such topics as evolution, which Long said he doesn't believe in. He said his wife spends six hours each day teaching their children reading, writing, math, science, health, physical education, Bible and social studies. Court papers say Mary Long's education ended at 11th grade.

It's unclear if the ruling will be enforced, given the likely appeals. Typically, these rulings take effect 30 days after they are issued.

Other organizations that plan to get involved include the Pacific Justice Institute, Home School Legal Defense Assn. and the Home School Assn. of California.

Meanwhile, state Department of Education's attorneys are reviewing the ruling.

Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

"What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.

While many educators and officials remained unfamiliar with the ruling Tuesday, news about it has been sweeping websites and blogs devoted to home schooling. Organizations have been getting tense phone calls from parents worried that they will be targeted.

Families who home school includethose whose religious beliefs conflict with public schools and those whose children are in the entertainment industry or have other time-consuming activities that require them to study at an individualized pace.

Glenn and Kathleen, a Sacramento-area couple who requested that their last name not be used for fear of prosecution, home school their 9-year-old son Hunter because their Christian beliefs would be contradicted in a public school setting, Glenn said. He is troubled by the idea that his son would be exposed to teachings about evolution, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sex education .

"I want to have control over what goes in my son's head, not what's put in there by people who might be on the far left who have their own ideas about indoctrinating kids," he said.

If the ruling takes effect, Glenn vowed to move his family out of state. "If I can't home school my son in California, we're going to have to end up leaving California. That's how important it is to me."
Here's the original article link.

The consequences of this decision being upheld at the CA Supreme Court level would indeed be dire, not only for CA homeschoolers but for homeschoolers across the country whose states and judicial systems may be influenced to follow CA. I agree wholeheartedly with the father in the article quoted at the end. If I lived in CA and this decision were upheld and enforced I would leave the state. It matters that much.

Of course, readers of this blog will be no stranger to the ridiculous statement of the Teacher's Union representative that "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher." This is simply false, and an attempt by a Teacher's Union rep to try to leverage this decision to grab political points in the face of mountains data that disprove his point. For background information on the longstanding NEA bias against homeschooling and their denial of homeschooling achievement, see my previous post on the topic.

And lest we forget what the Church has said about the rights of parents to educate their children: "Parents have the most serious duty and the primary right to do all in their power to see to the physical, social, cultural, moral and religious upbringing of the children." - Canon 1136, Code of Canon Law. Pope Benedict himself has regularly commented on this right.

This is a situation that definitely requires prayers on the behalf of all homeschooling families in California, and homeschoolers everywhere. Please pray for wisdom for the CA Supreme Court, and pray for all of the legal organizations who are fighting this in the CA court system, especially the Home School Legal Defense Association (there's nobody better). In fact, take a listen to this Focus on the Family broadcast where James Dobson interviews legal experts including the HSLDA about this decision. And sign the petition over at the HSLDA website to depublish the appellate court decision.

Lest we forget the lessons of what can happen when Government decides that it must take control of children's education from their parents, one need only look to recent events in Germany (see link here) and much of the rest of Europe. "Persecution" isn't too strong of a word when it comes to how the German goverment has treated homeschooling families there.

I am encouraged that since we are dealing with homeschoolers regarding this issue in CA, the outpouring and response will certainly be overwhelming given the level activism that exists within the homeschool community. One can only pray that the California Supreme Court will listen.

UPDATE: Here's another link to an article in Time Magazine on this. I've been surprised at how supportive of homeschoolers the mainstream media seem to be.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cost-saving "cool"...


In the course of my expansive travels on the internet looking for insightful home design ideas, coupled with my recent homebuilding reading (see sidebar near the bottom for good books), I came across one design idea which my brother has already incorporated in the design. It's a fireplace with an exposed flue. My original thought was that brick would encase the fireplace flue on the roof of the home, and that this would be carried down through the interior. However, brick is expensive, and it would have been expensive to surround the fireplace and flue with brick. A few of the books I read recently cited an exposed flue as a cost-saving measure, and I really liked the look from the pictures I saw. Luckily, Molly really liked it too! (I wasn't too sure she would, so I was pleasantly surprised). Here's a few example pics:
An exposed flue does a few things in terms of design, in my opinion. It adds metal to the design "palette" of the interior, it's unexpected so it adds interest, it's a contemporary look that won't go out of style due to it's simplicity, and... well, it's cool. AND it's less expensive. You can't go wrong there. We'd really like to do something like the last pic above, by having a concrete fireplace surround. Decorative concrete is definitely one of the coolest materials now being used in home construction (and retail construction), though it can get a little expensive. We'd like to use it for kitchen countertops as well, but again the expense will have to be checked.

I modeled my own vision of our fireplace in the family room in a pic I posted previously:
The fireplace is a "see-thru" model, so that it is usable on the other side of the wall in the small library. The flue would be exposed only on the family room side, but the fire can be seen on either side of the wall. I was just playing around with the model, but my brother will integrate this more formally in our home plans soon.

Another idea I came across was an incredibly cheap way to do a cool wood floor. It sounds cringe-worthy at first, but it actually is being used in a few architecturally designed homes (for clients who are penny pinching). It's a plywood floor. Typically this takes the form of plywood squares pieced together via tongue-and-groove joints (milled in), where the plywood consists of sandwiched layers of wood (with grain, not little wood chips). It can be done for somewhere around $2 per square foot, and the look, again, is unexpected and interesting. A few examples:
We're considering it, especially since one of the general contractors we are interested in actually installed the floor in the bottom pic. In any case, it's definitely a low-cost option for anyone considering wood flooring.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Thanks for the nominations!

We've been officially nominated for no less than 4 categories at the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards! Thank you to the readers who graciously nominated us. Voting is now open at the CBA's, and we are up for the following awards:

Best Designed Catholic Blog
Best New Catholic Blog
Best Written Catholic Blog
Most Informative and Insightful Blog

Head on over to the CBA site and vote for us, especially if you already registered previously. You only get to vote once!

And check out the dozens of other wonderful Catholic blogs that are up for nominations.