Saturday, December 20, 2014

Older Son Not Applying To Four Year College Right Now

As other teens his age scramble, my son is firm in not wanting to apply to college now. He really wants to do community college for a year. He is an August birthday and we did not red shirt him so he will be 18 and two weeks when college starts.

After one year full-time at the community college he will probably be a second semester sophomore. If he really, really cracks the books he could be a junior. I doubt he will choose that heavier courseload.

We met with the adviser at the community college and she said there is nothing to do extra to apply or matriculate as he is already accepted as a student due to taking dual credit courses there since age 16. He will just use the regular registration procedures by directly registering when that day in April arrives. They have early registration in the lobby of one of the buildings where you can speed enroll and get a prize of a college t-shirt for doing so. He plans to do this to "avoid the stampede" in the spring to enroll for the fall.

I personally suspect the entire process of being judged by the SAT score, the big research process, the annoying essays with introspection, the marketing and selling of oneself are things my son does not want to do right now. He said, for example, that selling oneself is braggy and it's uncomfortable. He wishes he could be judged on who he is as a person and projects he has done instead of putting so much on the SAT score.

He was not interested in the big college search last year. However after making this decision he is more interested in researching colleges. I found out he has used some extra time he has in the robotics lab to read college websites. He discusses the college search with other students. He talks about colleges with me. He has come to the decision that he would like to attend college in Boston, New York City, New Orleans, or in the Chicago area. Right now he is saying no Texas colleges and definitely not a Texas state college. Things may change, you never know.

My son is aware of college costs and says he would rather get an Associate's at the community college for under $3K then use other money on a master's degree at an expensive private college with a bigger name. Good thinking, Ace.

Oh, and he said if they want him, he will be an adult mentor to his FRC team in that year following high school graduation.

His one discomfort he says is that he is the only one he knows taking this path. His peers are attending Ivies, top or second tier colleges or Texas state schools (including honors colleges at those state universities). He is putting his own priorities ahead of doing something to be just like the others.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Older Son Is Working Now (& His Grade 12 Course Load)

In spring of my older son's junior year he really wanted a job. He had no time due to homeschooling, community college, and FIRST Robotics. He would eat lunch and do schoolwork at Panera after his class at community college and the manager offered him a job, the guy waited on my son twice a week and saw him regularly. He took an application home. We discussed it and my husband and I felt the priority was FIRST Robotics. I offered $5 an hour to pay him to do FRC to keep him in FRC. So we paid him for FRC. In season he does 30-35 hours a week.

As summer approached before his grade 12 year, he wanted a job. However he was leaving for three weeks for a college summer class so I explained you cannot just get a job then disappear for three weeks. He put off applying.

In August he attempted to secure an internship. I will discuss that in a different blog post.

FRC runs all summer long and in the fall with the most hardcore dedicated kids participating. In the years that my son was a varsity rower he would do rowing as top priority until the "in season" competition. Well in his junior year my son dropped rowing in January in order to dedicate his time to FRC. So when not in that college class in the summer my son was in the robotics lab multiple times weekly. When school started in the fall he also was at every meeting, which was usually two afternoons a week plus Saturdays.

In September my son was offered to do a little project at my husband's place of employment. It was a filing job. I was under the impression that it was a two or three day job. The first thing he did was a one time thing. However the job morphed into a gigantic project and the boss asked my son to stay on longer term, working as many hours as he could do in a week. My son did well and was offered more and more time. At this point he basically can work as many days a week as he makes time for an is able to do.

For November and December when his schedule changed to have less coursework he increased his work time. Every day that he does not have FRC he is in the office. Sometimes he has to sit in the lunchroom and attend his homeschool math class online.

In order to work my son has been waking up at 5:30 in the morning. He gets home between four and six in the evening. He also takes the commuter bus with the working adults. He often comes home on a different bus than my husband, coming home earlier when he is exhausted. Since he drives and has use of my husband's old vehicle most times he drives himself to and from the commuter lot.

I think doing a job and doing it well, even if it an office filing and paper organization type job is important for my son. He is in a real professional office with white collar workers. He navigates the Houston tunnel system to get lunch and snacks and is among the professionals. Some of the things he sees and tells me about are pretty funny. At present he is finding it odd and funny to see both women and men dressing up in goofy Christmas themed clothes and jewelry.

There is a confidence that has happened that I think is of vital importance. Something has happened and he is maturing more and more.

(Right about this time my son stopped playing a lot of video games. He had been playing iPhone app games, online games on his PC and XboxOne and Xbox360.)

I wanted my son to have that working experience but I wanted him to be able to do his schoolwork and to still do FRC. He has a best friend he sees every weekend but otherwise FRC is his main social outlet. I estimate there about 20-25 hardcore kids at FRC who do the year-round work and community service projects. Being with these high achieving, good influence students for 15-35 hours every week year round is a good thing.

The only problem is the pay is higher at this temporary job than some other entry level job so when the makes the transition to a job such as at Panera or Chick-Fil-A the paycheck will surely disappoint.

On January 2, FRC 2015 season kicks off and he will be back at 30+ hours at FRC and working will be different or harder.

Oh, and he was offered a leadership position with FRC and took it. He is a 'sub team captain' of the media team.


As discussed earlier due to health issues my son has a lighter than normal course load for the second half of this fall.

Original plan vs. Reality, Summer-Fall Grade 12

Intro to Space Flight (engineering) college class 3 credits (summer, completed)
US History 1877 to present (withdrew), community college
Algebra II self-study summer (withdrew)
Pre-Calc fall (cancelled)
Algebra II August-May (in process)
American Sign Language self-study (on the back burner for fall)
Physics, algebra based, August-May (withdrew)
FIRST Robotics
Boy Scouts Eagle project (two projects rejected by BSA)

Spring Semester Grade 12

(continue Algebra II)
US History 1877 to present, community college
Intro to Sociology, community college
American Sign Language self-study
Boy Scouts Eagle project (looking for 3rd option for a project) Deadline: August 2015 when he turns 18 and ages out.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Met With New Dual Credit Advisor

The homeschool dual credit adviser who my son worked with for the last two years has taken a new job on a different campus. To be honest I am glad because we were told things that others in my town were told differently with other staff. When one adviser says you can take this class and cannot take that, then you hear another adviser does something different, it's a problem. I just let it be and did not take up the fight.

So when we called to ask for an appointment to register for spring classes for grade 12 dual credit homeschool we found out there was a new adviser. The rules are that I, the parent, have to be present and to supply a transcript. So we had our meeting.

I put low pressure on my son, due to his ongoing medical issues and changing medications, the first priority is his health. The hypothryoid and very low vitamin D level are big issues for energy level. I let my son make the decision to NOT take a mini-mester class which runs the week before and during Christmas and in New Year's week. He thought it might be too intense with too much textbook reading when he has been struggling to read. (A post about his eyesight changes will be forthcoming.)

My son decided to retake US History 1877 to present which he withdrew from last semester.

He decided to take classes later in the day. This meant he could not retake the same history professor.

He chose (shock of all shocks) to take sociology. He wants to get the core classes done toward an Associate's Degree.

This college offers some fun classes such as sociology using The Walking Dead, zombie apocolypse, superheros and other things. He used to say he wanted to do that but when it came down to the course selection he decided he wanted "normal sociology". I think he'd like the other but he doesn't want to hear it from me.

So he decided on two classes for the spring semester of his senior year.

The tuition is free (normally $135) and the class fee for this semester was $70 for each. Last time I swear we paid $80. Anyhow, $70 for 3 college credits is fantastic. Texas has a great community college system. We do pay a property tax that goes directly to the CC system. Our family pays $750 annually so we pay in that manner.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Teenage Brain: Chapter 14 Chapbook Entry

Title: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Authors: Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: January 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-296874-5

Chapter 14: Gender Matters

Females are better with oral communication due to the parietotemporal area, where speech and language are processed and due to the frontal lobe which controls decision making. pg. 227

Girls are 1-2 years ahead of boys with communication as well as reading and writing. pg. 228

There are real differences anatomically between females and males in the adolescent. pg. 228

Female brain can switch use between hemispheres faster and easier than males. pg. 230

This causes organizational challenges for males, forgetting details, not doing all they have to do, having to be told many times to do a thing and still forgetting. pg. 231

Adolescent females have superior language abilities. pg. 231

When learning to read and sound out words the male and female brain used different pathways to get to the same task, studies showed. pg. 232

Boys are closed to communication, mope around and stay quiet at home. Girls chatter more and open up easier. pg. 232

Both genders have large mood swings in adolescence. Both genders cannot yet control their emotions when they feel them. The control resides in the frontal lobe. (Boys taking longer for frontal lobe development will take longer to gain control of their emotions than girls will.) pg. 232

"Organization requires brain connectivity and integration, not just raw intelligence and synaptic power.".... "The time of greatest disparty in this process occurs during adolescence." pg. 233

Discussion of the current way of applying to college requiring many steps and lots of detail is harder now than in the recent past. This is too much for some boys to handle. pg. 233

Discussion of a rigorous high school academic curriculum today mandates "suberb attention, planning and organizational skills, all of which develop more slowly in boys". pg. 234

Story of a boy who took a year to get himself organized in high school to juggle the workload. pg. 234

Boys adaptation to school organization requires "gentle nudges" at home, at school as well as good sleep habits. pg. 234

On page 235 the author shames the United Kingdom for their early tracking of career paths before the brain is anywhere near finished being developed.

"There is so much on the line for our teenagers, it seems incomprehensible that their futures should rest on an evaluation of their not yet fully developed brains." pg. 235

"What stereotyping confirms is that our ideas about gender differences are almost always behind the times -- and behind the science, too. " pg. 235 --- Meaning that even when science knows something the schools and society are behind in adapting to make changes to match brain development. Amen!

Interesting discussion of interest in STEM, 74% of girls express an interest in middle school but this is peak. "By the time it comes to choosing a college major, only 0.3 percent of high school girls select computer science." ..... "Twenty-five years ago, girls and boys did equally well in elementary school, but boys far outstripped girls by the time they reached high school." But a recent study showed equal math ability in middle school and high school for girls and boys, the field is "starting to equalize". pg. 236

Author suggests schools use gender based curricula for high school. pg. 237

Mentions new earlier ages of puberty and wonders how this will affect brain development. pg. 237

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on their website. I was not paid to read or review it nor was I under obligation to blog about it. If you link through to Amazon from the above link and buy anything you add to your cart within 24 hours I will earn a small commission. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Teenage Brain: Chapter 13 Chapbook Entry

Title: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults

Authors: Frances E. Jensen M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: January 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-296874-5

Chapbook Notes: Chapter 13: The Digital Invasion of the Teenage Brain

"Social isolation itself can be a stressor for teens who are roaming the digital world alone in their bedrooms." (pg. 206)

Teen brains like novelty, brain is easy to stimulate. Dopamine is triggered by any rewarding fun thing, video game, sex, fast driving, eating, pot, anything. pg. 206

Link between depression, poor academic performance, and the inability to control time online. pg. 207

Need to be digitally connected is compulsive both behaviorally or biochemically. "Every ring, ping, beep, and burst of song from a smartphone results in an "Oh wow" moment in the brain. When the new text message or post is opened, the discovery is like a digital gift; it releases a pleasurable rush of dopamine in the brain." pg. 211

(I say: turn off notifications! I have my phone set to one ding only for a text message and to ring when someone calls me. Everything else has no notifications.)

Video gaming "one of the most time-consuming Internet obsessions". pg 212 (Nothing new there for me!)

Mentions the Malcolm Gladwell notion that 10K hours is what it takes to become an expert at something. Video gaming and time doing stupid crap (my descriptor) is "building experts in a skill set that has limited outside use itself, except of course for those who go into professions related to the gaming industry or whose job involves a lot of computer simulations." pg. 214

Not clear if video gaming is 100% bad for the brain. pg. 214

"Obsessive gaming in the adolescent, to the exclusion of most other activities, appears, like addiction, to ahve both immediate negative effects and long-term negative effects on the brain." pg. 214

More time online has been shown to shrink the brain's size. pg. 215

Hypothesis: increase of density of white matter as seen in compulsive video gamers "could indicate problems in temporarily storing and retrieving information". "A reduction in whate matter in other nearby areas could impair the ability to make decisions, including the decision to turn off the computer or turn away from the online games!" pg. 215

"Behavior addictions are just as insidious as chemical addictions because they make use of the same brain circuits. This is why, whether it's gambling, interacting on social media, or snorting coke, teenagers are particularly susceptible to the rush of good feelings that comes with stimulating the brain's reward centers." pg. 216

To the list of physical symptoms on page 217 I would add that when looking at a screen the eyes blink less which causes dry eye. This is per our Connecticut optometrist who specializes in eye tracking and visual processing issues.

"Despite the emotional rewards teens seem to get from multitasking, some researchers have found a correlation between multitasking and symptoms of depression and anxiety." pg. 219

Recommends reducing multitasking. Encourage priority setting and structure. Make lists, to do lists for schoolwork and home tasks. Have TV turned off in the background when kids are doing homework. pg. 219

Make yourself turn away from digital connections for a period of time every day. pg. 224

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on their website. I was not paid to read or review it nor was I under obligation to blog about it. If you link through to Amazon from the above link and buy anything you add to your cart within 24 hours I will earn a small commission. Thank you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Things Kids Need To Do In School For Success

Here is a short list of things my younger son is struggling with that affect his learning and his grades as well as his teacher's perception of him as a person and how he feels about himself (self-esteem).

My current thinking is year of routine and struggles to learn these things in elementary school and middle school (junior high) is the way most learn these things.

The notion of a homeschooler learning alternatively or with systems that are mother-dependent quickly entering high school and the ability to pick up these organizational tasks and behavioral tasks is something I question. Most of the homeschool propaganda I have heard is that homeschoolers easily make the transition if and when they ever enter a traditional school or college, or go to early college. I question the validity of this. Perhaps some of the former homeschoolers who enter voc-tech school, the military, or who enter high school and slack are just victims of not having ever learned these skills.

Really listening in class, to hear assignments and deadlines.

Writing down the assignments and dealines, thinking they will remember, when in reality, they forget.

Not remembering a deadline until they hear a reminder it's due tomorrow or the test is tomorrow. Then cramming and rushing, not able to have time to do quality work, incomplete work, and a lower grade results.

Not wanting to stand out in the class so does not ask questions.

Not wanting to be labeled as a weird former homeschooler so does not ask for clarifications on assignments or with terms. (One test has an abbreviation my son did not recognize. He scored a 25 on the unit final. When he met with the teacher for help he demonstrated mastery when he realized what she meant by the abbreviation, he could do the work.)

Thinking a concept does not matter than missing a chunk of questions on the quiz or test and scoring in the 70s. They need to learn that knowing every single thing matters as you do not know what will be on the test and not knowing one type of information can hurt the whole unit grade.

How to plan one's time to spread out the studying and memorizing to manageable chunks and for best memory retention.

Not leaving hands on projects until the last minute.

Being thorough with written work. Last week my son had to write a 2-3 page report on an electric car model he built. He was skimping and not stating how he tested it. I made him insert that info. I said, "You did the test, you modified the design based on the result, that is the kind of thing the teacher needs to hear about." My son's reply was, "It says 2-3 pages and I have 2 pages so that is enough, I'm done!" Also he did not write about a first design he made that failed and how he came up with the idea that worked in the end. I made him insert that information.

Forcing oneself to participate in class discussion in the classes which are discussion and debate oriented. When the grade is dependent on discussion, you have to talk!

Being organized with the student planner to write everything down. A learned behavior of using lists.

How to set priorities for use of one's time, using the to do list.

Using a calendar and plotting out homework and tasks that take time to see where you are spending your time.

Having some contact phone numbers for student friends so you can ask questions if you are in a bind and need to double check something when you are home.

Organizing paperwork handed back so when you go to study you know where papers are.

Remembering to take home the books and papers necessary to get an assignment done or to study for a test.


There are small things that a homeschooling mother does every day that takes the burden of self-organization off of the homeschool student. I did not realize all I was doing until everything rested upon my son and realized he was incapable of an easy transition.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lavender Soap

Lavender essential oil cold process soap I made with my own recipe of a gentle soap for sensitive skin. This takes 406 weeks to cure, to harden up and mellow out. Although Christmas is just around the corner I need to be making soaps to sell for Valentine's Day!

You can buy my soaps in my etsy shop: Spring Creek Bath Works.  Follow my business page on Facebook to see photos of what I am making in your newsfeed.