Thursday, June 30, 2005

School As Work Philosophy and Hooked on Entertainment

About 15 years ago something dawned on me. This was long before I was married, had children, and began homeschooling my children.

I feel that Americans think of learning and schooling and entertainment in this way:
A child has to go to school, that is first and foremost. People don't say "a child must learn", they say "a child must go to school". School is considered a child's work. Sometimes the teachers will say the main goal of school is to learn, and sometimes the parents will agree. But much of what school is, is not actually learning. School is a process and a place and an experience in and of itself.

Many students don't like school. Some hate it. Some students are tortured by school, whether it is having problems learning, being bored by the school work, or whether they are victims of negative social issues from teachers or other students. The school bus ride also can be a huge source of problems, and some children are spared this experience, if the parent is able and willing to drive the child to and from school each day.

It soon becomes clear to children that school is work and non-school time is time to be entertained. From a young age then, school/work is thought of as hard or bad or unpleasant, and entertainment is good and fun. Some people make the leap, then, that learning is not fun and learning is not good. There also becomes a focus on having fun and being entertained. A child begins to want more and more fun and more and more play time. This then morphs to an entitlement, in childhood and continuing in the teens, then into adulthood. Children and teens (and adults) then feel they are entitled to this or that since they worked hard. For example, children want more toys of this kind or that, they want to go to movies (or nowadays, own the DVD for home viewing).

Children want all the things they can get their hands on and it never seems that they get enough. Here are some examples focused around outdoor play. They want a bike, the latest and greatest one, a skateboard, a scooter, all manner of outdoor sports equipment: the baseballs, the mitt, the pitchback, the bat, the soccer ball, etc. Sometimes a child feels they need these things. "I need to practice for Little League so I need this piece of equipment and that". It is not good enough to use the team equipment; they need to replicate the whole experience at home. Parents may think to do the best by their child they need to provide all this stuff. Whether the child actually uses it, and enjoys it, or learns from it (gets better at the sport because of it), is another step in the process that may never happen.

The mentality follows into the teenage years and adulthood. Some college students feel they work so hard at college that they shouldn't have to work part-time to make some money. They feel entitled to their free time. Their entertainment pursuits cost money, and they fell entitled to be handed money from their parents to pay for it.

As adults move into full-time employment, the entitlement continues. "I work hard, so I deserve X, Y, and Z." It is easy to get into debt this way. A young adult can quickly spend money on things like a gym membership, an expensive mountain bike, a new car, a collection of music CDs, DVDs, not to mention whatever home electronics are in fashion at the time (plasma screen television, X-Box, etc.).

The next big spending seems to be a big wedding. A bride feels she deserves to have her big day, even if the couple must put themselves into huge debt with credit cards to fund it.

When a person or a couple buys their first home, then the spending really begins. It is always a rude awakening for the first-time homeowner to realize what it takes to maintain a home, let alone improve it and furnish and decorate it. Watching home decorating shows on television fuels the fire and the belief that we all deserve to renovate our homes. No matter if a person doesn't cook much, they should have a top-of-the-line gourmet kitchen. A lot of money can be spent on home entertainment. Regular sound from a television doesn't seem good enough anymore, it must be surround sound, which can be quite expensive when one ponders the cost of the equipment and then paying for the wiring job.

I was thinking about house size and how often young people move and renovate. Many people in my parent's generation are still living in the first or second home they ever bought. But people my age have often moved several times, and simply to get into a larger house. Many people I know (myself included) are living in grander homes then our own parents. This all costs money. It is easy then, to see how easy it can be to get trapped into a dual-income family. When financial choices made before children are born include and require two incomes, it is hard to make a downshift to adjusting to life with one income, especially if a family does not want to change their lifestyle.

So the baby arrives and for more than 50% of families, the mother returns to work. The parents work hard and want to provide the best for their children. They work harder and harder and buy lots of stuff that they feel enriches the life of their child. The parents feel they are entitled to new clothes, a well-decorated home, and maybe even expensive vacations because they work so hard, they deserve it.

And for many adults, learning is not fun or is even painful, due to experiences they had at school. These adults may never read a book after they finish (or quit) school. They may or may not read magazines or newspapers. And if they are not reading those things, they are not reading to research things or to learn new things. Many people focus their lives on their careers, and work hard, and become wonderful consumers. They spend and spend and get into debt. And this debt locks them into working a certain type of job for a certain type of income, or working two jobs, or three. Working for money to pay the bills is an obligation, and it drives their life, affects their marriage and their children. Whether a father sees very much of their children is dictated by the work schedule. Work and career is the all important driver of their lives. Other times, a person wants and loves their career and makes their choices to fulfill their own desires, saying the income is a secondary issue for them. But they still want all the entitlements, all the stuff they can have fun with, because they deserve it, after all.

For many parents, enrolling their children in school is automatic. It is what is done, it is how children learn in America, they think. Others think, "I went to public school, and it was good enough for me so it is good enough for my children." It seems that some parents have forgotten the bad things that can go on in school. Or maybe they think that learning in that way is good and fine. One quick example if you don't know what I am talking about is being forced to memorize in short term memory, dry facts, just for the test, then forgetting them. Maybe they really do think that is what learning really is. I don't know what they think. I know back when I was in school I realized that was a silly exercise. I deemed it a "game" and I played the game because I was forced to.

These are some things I think about when I consider how I want to raise my children, how I want them to think about learning, and when I ponder if I want my children in an institutional school setting (whether it be public or private). I want other and different things for my children, and right now we are living out what we think is best for our children.

I had a fun and rewarding career before having children, one that was difficult to leave, at the time, but I consoled myself by knowing I could always return to work in the future sometime, whether that be when my children start college or earlier, if I wanted. I was not fulfilled when I was working at my career on half-time hours and mothering my baby--I felt torn and tired and unsatisfied by my performance in either arena. It was too much to handle and too much to juggle. I loved the idea of "having it all but not all at once". I also found mothering my baby much more personally rewarding, in a very different way, than my career. I missed a few things about my career which were real and which I mourned for a while. Sometimes now I yearn for things such as the special and different friendships and bonds with co-workers, or the satisfaction of completing projects and tasks and being appreciated for it, for short projects that actually were finished, on time and properly. Some of those things aren't seen when the work at hand is raising and home-educating a child. The fruit of the labor of an at-home, homeschooling mother can take much longer to ripen. This lifestyle can be hard, easy, fulfilling, aggravating, fun and frustrating. Throw a difficult situation such as no employment for the breadwinner of the family in, and the roller coaster ride intensifies. I take life one day at a time and try to live with gratitude rather than focus on the negative or live in a state of worry and anxiety. That is the best I can do!

I know that learning can happen outside of a classroom. Learning can be fun and interesting. Learning can also be frustrating or difficult. Going to school doesn't always mean that learning happens. Being with kids on a school bus or in the school building doesn't mean a child is well-socialized. Sometimes the experience of attending school or taking the bus can actually harm a child, and help form their personality in a negative way, ways that affect who the person is for their entire lifetime.

Life should not be divided into two categories: hard work (in a negative way) and play. Working at a job should not always be a bad experience. I wish more people loved their jobs and careers. But it is as if the mentality of being forced to attend school and hating it, for so long, paved the way for them to endure working at a job they hate. Learning can be fun and good. Entertainment is not an entitlement. We have hard work to do in our non-work or non-school time. A house needs to be cleaned, a house and yard needs maintenance. The non-work time is not just "entertain me" time. The cost of entertainment should not drive the person to work longer hours to fund it. It seems to me we are becoming a nation of people who work at work and play at home. This is very different experience than Americans lived even 50 years ago. Look at the hard work that families did just to be able to eat and have shelter, 100 years ago. The hard work was all day long, not just while "at work". I think that the way we are living now is a relatively new phenomenon, work at work and play at home and never the two may meet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Blog Was Reviewed in the AHA Weblogs Blog

On June 27th, a review of my blog was published on the American Homeschool Association (AHA)weblogs review blog. Kim Campbell has made a hobby of reviewing homeschooling blogs.

You can read her past reviews as well as browse a listing of blogs by category. By reading the blog summaries it is an easy way to find blogs with subject matter that interests you.

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On Our Summer Homeschooling Break, Our Summer Plans

As of last week we are on our summer break. So far the kids are pretty bored. At first the cry was for lots of TV watching. I am trying to keep that to a minimum.

It seems more and more my children want to have playdates with certain friends. (I know we parents are not supposed to compare children but my oldest is experiencing this for the first time now, meaning that my younger son is experiencing this at a much younger age than my older son.) They want long playdates such as 5-8 hours long. It is pretty convenient when children come here as they are all so occupied that it is like I am having a "day off". So many of our friends are traveling frequently this summer and are not available for playdates. I intend to make plans with some families, perhaps for one playdate per week. During our playdates all the siblings interact with all the other siblings. In other words I am not setting up one playdate for my younger son and another for my older son.

I have been keeping homeschooling records in a spiral notebook which is easy but stinks for re-reading and is impossible for quick checking. I plan to spend some time back-loading the data into my Edutrack program. There is something nice and neat about seeing all the work my chidlren (we) did and having it all laid out in nice reports. It makes their learning look "real" or credible.

I want to review my original goals for the academic year and see how reality compares to the original plan.

I will feel best if I make academic plans for next year before we resume homeschooling. So I plan to do some homeschooling planning in July and August.

I'd also like to spend the summer break resorting books in the house and tidying them up. I'd like to not have boxes of books in corners of various rooms.

Note I didn't say that I plan to buy homeschooling curriculum. I am on a very tight budget and am trying to enter the school year without any purchases.

Today we signed up for the library's summer reading program. I intend to have the children read independently every day, 30 minutes per day for my older son and 15-20 minutes for my younger son. I also plan to read aloud picture books and would like to read the Thornton Burgess chapter books (Old Mother West Wind and others). I would like to go through some American folk tales and read some chapter book versions of classic fairy tales.

My own plans for entertainment include reading fiction (for adults not children's fiction). I started reading "The Lovely Bones" last night and am hooked in and addicted already. I would like to use these books as an escape from reality. Maybe when I reenter the real world my husband will have a job and therefore we will be more like a typical American family living in the 'burbs.

I want to get the kids swimming and having fun in nature. Perhaps we will investigate various state parks this summer. I want to get back into riding my bike (with the whole family) as both a fun thing to do and a way to burn some calories. I'd like to do some letterboxing and hope to pair up with another mom and her children (as I don't like to go hiking alone with my children), (and my husband hates to hike).

Also on the job front my husband has decided to not tell me anything that is going on to save me from stressing about it. He thinks that the only thing he will tell me on the subject is his announcement that he has a job.

Another goal is to kick the caffeine habit. I am on day two of coffee abstinence and have a splitting headache right now. All I can say is that a headache can really alter one's mood for the worse!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Clicking "Next Blog" on Blogger

Lately, when I have a few minutes to spare, I have been clicking that link at the top of the blogger window that says "Next Blog". It is very interesting diversion.

If you are going to try this I advise first to not do it when children are in the room. I am surprised at the number of blogs with photographic images which are x-rated. What most of these blogs are is just a repository of photographs, with no text or very little text. I have seen only one that has real text which was x-rated text and that one had no images.

I am surprised at the number of foreign blogs. It seems Blogger is a world-wide thing. I don't know much about Blogger and don't pretend to.

There are a lot of artists who are blogging. They may take photos and post those, or do artwork and post the scanned images. It seems some are doing this as a virtual portfolio for fun, while others are using this as a platform to sell their works. Yesterday I found an 8 year-old artist. He draws in pencil and sometimes partially colors it with various mediums. Then his mother scans it and he sometimes finishes coloring it using artist software. The results are very interesting. His blog is called Cheruboy.

There are some people documenting very personal details of their lives. This is not always a good thing, according to what I read in Rebecca Blood's book about blogging called "The Weblog Handbook". It seems that some employers read the blogs of job candidates to get a feeling for who their applicants are. Some people have even lost their current jobs due to content published in the employee's personal blog.

Some of the blogs are intended for personal friends and family to read about a person's life. I guess they didn't know that Blogger has an option to make a blog private; they listed their very private blogs as public, and therefore that is how I stumbled upon them.

One of the most interesting things for me to see is the format and style of the blogs. I barely know anything about the technical side of HTML and whatever else one needs to know to spiff up their blog. If you have a good book for amateurs that you can recommend to me, please leave a comment. I have browsed a few HTML books at libraries and book stores and they are all too intimidating and goobble-dee-gook looking for me to even try to comprehend.

Typical Mom Story; A Cleaning Barf Story

Here is a story of what happened to me the other night (and day). I don’t put a lot of personal stories here on my blog but I’ll tell this one, maybe you will get a laugh out of it, or will think, "been there, done that".

After a long ride home from visiting a relative out of state, I was not in the mood to make dinner. I had a coupon for a “buy one get one free” dinner at our children’s favorite family (Mexican) restaurant. I figured the margarita also would go down smoothly after driving 500 miles with the kids that day (I was alone with the kids on the trip).

My older son pigged out on tortilla chips and salsa, and then ate the children’s meal: a hot dog. He drank lots of water and plain seltzer. We went home and they went to bed after our usual nighttime routine. I watched a TV show with my husband then tried to go to sleep. I was wide awake and could not sleep so after about 30 minutes of tossing and turning, at about 11:30 p.m.; I went downstairs and sat down at my computer. I decided to write a blog entry rather than read accumulated emails or surf the web. I also am burned out of trying to solve puzzles in “A Treasure’s Trove” and decided that working on the last three puzzles would only annoy me and possibly keep me awake even longer.

After only about five minutes, I heard child’s footsteps walking quickly into the bathroom. I then heard my older son call out to me that he had barfed. I ran upstairs to find barf in a trail going across the bathroom, on the tile floor, and up the front of the cabinet. My son was bent over the sink with a LOT of puke in the sink, in a pink-ish colored pool (salsa diluted with water and bile color) and with chunks of hot dog and pieces of tortilla chips floating in it.

The first thing I thought after “yuck” was “at least he didn’t puke on the (bedroom or hallway) rug” then I wondered as to his well-being. (I am being honest about my thoughts here, so please don’t label me as a bad Mommy for this.)

I guided him to the toilet and asked that he continue in there. I didn’t want him to throw up again just due to the smell and taste so ran the water into the sink to flush down the barf. It began going down then it clogged. I then grabbed the towels and wet them and began wiping up the barf from the floor.

My son said he thought he was done but he hated the taste in his mouth, so I asked him to use the other sink and to brush his teeth. As he did that, I tried unsuccessfully to wipe the barf up; instead the chunks of food clinging to the dark green towel made it seem that maybe the floor was not getting cleaned. I ran downstairs to fetch plastic bags and paper towels and a cleansing chemical. For this I broke out with the already on-hand store bought chemical product and began spraying away. I washed up the floor so we could walk.

My son complained his mouth still tasted bad so I had him wash it out with water. This did not work. I found a little bottle of hotel mouthwash and instructed him on how to use it. He hates mint and complained of this but I said the mint taste would overpower the barf taste.

I went in and flushed the toilet and made sure that no barf was around the toilet. Check. He washed his mouth with the mouthwash then complained that it didn’t work. I looked at the bottle and by the look of it, he had used only about ¼ teaspoon. I explained he had to use more if he wanted it to work.

I then turned my attention to the front of the cabinet. Chunks of food were clinging onto the wood grains. Yech. I washed this off, and then opened the cabinet. To my amazement, barf was not only inside the doors but was inside the cabinet along with chunks of food. My son must have projectile vomited with such a force and when it hit the cracks in the cabinet doors, it went pretty far in. I cleaned this all up.

My son reported that he felt ready to go back to bed. He said he felt all better and that he wanted to go to sleep. I tucked him in, and then returned to the bathroom. I then decided that I should give him a trash bin to barf into, in case he needed to, again. I set one up with a plastic bag liner and placed it next to his bed, with instructions to use that instead of running into the bathroom.

I then returned to the horrible clogged sink. I reached my hand into the murky barf water and found chunks of food clogging the drain. I pulled them out with my hand and deposited them into the trash bin. I then pulled out the drain closer-thing and that didn’t work either. I tried using the plunger on it, to no avail. I then woke up my husband and explained what happened and asked if he wanted to fix it now or in the morning. I thought for sure he’d want to do it now, but he said he’d rather wait. Yech.

After washing my hands about three times, I picked up the dirty laundry and loaded it into the washer and started the load. Another hand washing ensured that they were clean. I then returned to my computer to finish the blog entry because after all that I was more awake than ever.

I then picked up a book off my shelf to begin reading, and went to read in bed for about 45 minutes before finally being able to go to sleep.

My husband and I concluded that our son got sick due to overeating greasy tortilla chips. He slept fine that night and woke up 100% healthy.

Stories such as this are typical in the life of a mother. If you had ever told me, when I was a teenager, that I’d have to do this someday I’d have sworn to never have children, even if it meant a lifetime of celibacy. But the fact is that I am a mother and sometimes I have to deal with gross things in order to take care of my children. It is something about rising up to meet the responsibility of parenting, you just have to take a deep breath and do what you have to do.

Oh, and here is the conclusion. My husband reported when he woke up all the water had drained out of the sink and the food had dried, looking like a pinkish tortilla. What an image. He said the drain was clogged and he’d have to remove the trap to fix it.

I offered to use some lye to unclog the drain (which I have on hand to make homemade soap) but he felt lye was too strong and would damage the pipes. I explained that lye was made to unclog pipes, so how or why would it corrode pipes?

He then got busy and avoided fixing this. We were getting ready to go to a family party which would run all afternoon and we’d not arrive home until bedtime. The thought of leaving the barf in the sink that long was giving me the willies. As an interim measure I used paper towels to clean out all the sinks surface that was outside the puddle of puke. I didn’t want the food to dry on and make clean up more difficult, later. Additionally I worried about how hygienic it was to leave barf in a sink all day.

We went to the party. My husband had said to ask his brother, a plumber, if lye was safe for pipes. So I explained the situation to my brother-in-law and he said that lye was fine for the pipes but not necessary. He also said removing the trap to unclog it was unnecessary. He instructed me to close the hole in the sink with a wet rag, put water in the sink, and then use the plunger on it. I tried it as soon as we got home; it worked. Actually what came out was, at first, small chunks of black crud. Then a giant chunk of long hair came out, which was all balled up and all black with mold or mildew. I realized this must be the long hair of the teenager who used to live in the house (YUCK)! I was so inspired to clean out the drains that I went to all the sinks in the house and plunged them out. They all had black chunks in them, but no more big hair clogs were found. I got to wondering about allergies and asthma and if people who were allergic to molds and mildews knew that maybe their bathroom sink drains were full of this black colored mold or mildew? Can that be healthy for them?

I was so moved by the dirty drains that we cleaned the house from top to bottom the next day. Houses need maintenance. They need cleaning. No matter how “not fun” it is to do, it has to be done. Period. I enlisted the help of the boys who were thrilled to be helping. We used my homemade all natural cleansers and the house smelled wonderful!

News From Peace Hill Press - Summer '05

Here is the full text of an email that I received from Peace Hill Press dated 6/09/05. This had no copyright notice, so I figured it was okay to post the whole thing to my blog, so long as I make it clear that I didn’t author it. As I said, it was an email I received from Peace Hill Press dated 6/09/05.

Peace Hill Press is the publisher of “The Well Trained Mind” and other classical homeschooling books and materials.

If you would like to be on their email notification list, sign up on their website.

Summer's here, and we've got a bumper crop of news from Peace Hill Farm. We hope your
sun is hot, your pool is refreshing, and your tea is iced. (And for our Southern Hemisphere
friends, we hope your snow is fluffy, your driveway is clear, and your chocolate is hot. Have
you seen our new mugs?) The respite that most get when the summer months roll around
(Wait! Why are you laughing?) is not to be found at Peace Hill Press, where we're working hard
at getting new books and materials ready for you for the fall. Here's a little update with some
news about our latest releases.

The moment many of you have been waiting for is finally here. Volume 4 of The Story of the
World is available! That means the series is complete, and your 1st - 6th graders can get
their complete introduction to world history. As proud as we are of all of our books, we're
most excited about Volume 4. 1850 to 1994 was a time of both amazing accomplishment
and intense darkness for humanity. The final book in the series covers it all, beginning with
the Great Exhibition in London (celebrating the breadth and power of the British Empire) and
ending with the election of Nelson Mandela in South Africa (celebrating the spread of
democracy throughout the world). In between we see brilliant inventors, brave explorers, and
heavy-handed dictators. SOTW4 is out, available now at Peace Hill Press, available soon at
bookstores everywhere. We're thrilled.

We're working on the Activity Book for Volume 4 now. Although we aren't sure when the
Activity Book will be available in print form, we'll post PDFs of the first several chapters
online by Labor Day so you can begin your history study for the year.

More exciting news: Our first biographies are out! You might remember the biography
contest we held a little while back. Over the last 18 months, we've worked with the authors
and an outstanding illustrator, and we're releasing the first two books in the Who in the
World? series. These books cover famous, infamous, and not-as-famous-as-they-should-be
figures from history. Our first two tell the stories of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the
printing press, and Ethelred the Unready, who became the Anglo-Saxon king when he was
just ten years old. These readers are perfect for a second-grade reading level. For those of
you with students in Volume 2 of The Story of the World, these work well as additional
reading. You can find out more about these books by visiting the front page of our website,
http://peacehillpress.com. We'll have free bookmarks from these biographies at the HEAV
conference in Virginia, so come by our booth and pick one up!

We have some more bios in the works. Stay tuned for more information on those.

Again, we hope summer's treating you well. We'll leave you with a "roadtrip tip" that several
parents have passed on to us: Reading aloud a Story of the World (or playing the SOTW
audiobook) in the car is a great way to keep the kids (and you) entertained, engaged, and
distracted as you make your way to the mountains, the shore, your in-laws', or wherever you
might be going. Wherever your summer vacation spot is, we hope you have a great time, that
you get there safely, and that you send us a postcard.

Sincerely,
The Folks at Peace Hill Press

Books Mentioned in This Update:
+ The Story of the World, Vol. 4: The Modern Age: From Victoria's Empire to the Fall of
the USSR
- by Susan Wise Bauer
- illustrations and maps by Sarah Park
+ Who in the World Was the Secretive Printer? The Story of Johannes Gutenberg
- by Robert Beckham
- illustrations by Jed Mickle
+ Who in the World Was the Unready King? The Story of Ethelred
- by Connie Clark
- illustrations by Jed Mickle

Our Website (for more info and ordering):
+ http://peacehillpress.com

Our Message Boards (for insight, input, community, and summer cookout recipes):
+ http://wtmboards.com

Our Address (for postcards):
+ Peace Hill Press / 18101 The Glebe Lane / Charles City, VA 23030

Sunday, June 26, 2005

TV Show Review: Made (Reality-Based Teenager Show)

Made is an hour-long television program which airs on MTV. One day TiVo recorded this program, suspecting I may like to watch it. I had never heard of it before. I don’t know the logic which TiVo used to make this determination, but it is interesting to watch anyway (when I have time). This is a reality based show. Last week a new season began. I have watched a handful of shows, and it is serving as a reinforcement of what I don’t want my children to turn into and also why homeschooling is a good thing.

The premise of the show is that a teenager is unhappy with some aspect of their life and has a dream and aspiration to do some other certain thing (i.e. win the high school beauty pageant, be a surfer, etc). The beginning of the show depicts the teen in school, telling why they want this dream, why they are unhappy with themselves, and includes interviews with their fellow school mates. The portrayals of school life seemed to have changed little since I was in high school, 20 years ago. However I am surprised at the candid admissions by fellow students of their brutal opinions of the star of the show. These teens show no “political correctness” nor do they demonstrate putting on a phony face for the camera. They are brutally honest and judgmental in the criticism of their peers. We hear and see bullying, put-downs due to the teenager’s way of looking (hair style, wears glasses, etc.), criticism of the way they dress, act (talks too loud), and sometimes (when applicable) criticism for getting good grades. Labels and name calling are everywhere: “geek”, “nerd”, “weird”, “ugly”, etc. The show’s producer’s hook them up with a coach and the cameras roll as we see them transforming into their dream. In the end there is a test of sorts and not surprisingly, often the star of the show wins their competition or is successful in their endeavor.

An interesting thing for me to see is how some teenagers admit they are not social with others, despite having been in school all their life. These kids often are complaining of feelings of isolation or feeling like being an outsider. The cameras provide no shortage of footage to show the cliques and shallowness of teenagers. Anyone who thinks that school teaches children to communicate, be nice people, make friends, etc. can get a reminder wake-up call by watching Made.

Three Boys Die in Car Trunk

This is such a sad story! Three boys, aged 5, 6, and 11, went to play in the trunk of a car and ended up locked inside and died of suffocation. According to the articles the trunk had not been opened/searched by Police or anyone else during the large scale, two-day investigation which included the use of helicopters and search dogs. At the end of the second day an uncle opened the trunk to retrieve jumper cables and the boys were discovered, dead.

How sad to think that a relatives car, 30 yards from the house, was not fully checked! The fact that large scale searches can go on while something as simple as opening the trunk of a close car was not done seems crazy to me. The father’s comment that he had a feeling they may be in the trunk is even more upsetting as his intuition was not followed earlier, before they perished. This is a tragedy!

Here are some articles with information about the story:

Fox News article with contact information for making donations to help cover the cost of the burials.

Another article is here.

Another thought that I had about this was that it is interesting that our society immediately thinks of kidnappings or thinks they wandered off and were lost instead of fully checking the immediate vicinity. Kids love to play in cars (when allowed to) and the simple idea of checking the nearby grandmother’s car’s trunk was not done—how sad. Remember when kids used to play inside of discarded refrigerators and would suffocate? This is similar. Kids love to hide in small places and make little houses and such. This is just so sad!

Cars manufactured after 2002 must have a latch which enables a person trapped in the trunk to open the trunk from the inside out. Older model cars may be retrofitted with a glow in the dark pull-ring latch which costs $15. Here is an article about that product. Perhaps all people with trunks in their vehicles should install this device!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thoughts on Reselling My Used Stuff

I have been trying to get rid of anything and everything that our family is not using.

A few weeks ago a friend came over and helped me go through a lot of the toys we have here. The deal was that of my cast-off’s, she’d take home what she wanted and the rest would be donated to her town’s community center—for the toddler play room. She carted off eight boxes and large bags.

A couple of months ago I went through my son’s overflowing closet, looking through the boxes of clothes that my younger son had outgrown. I gave about 12 boxes to my brother and his wife to use on my two nephews.

Last week I went through cast-off’s from my brother, of clothes his family was done with. They were clothes that I had handed down to them then were handed back to me. The deal with doing that was that I had thought we’d be having a third baby and I wanted the clothes I had bought to use with this future baby. Well, no baby is here due mostly to intentional abstinence due to not wanting to be pregnant during unemployment times. (I was trying to get pregnant up to the point when he came home from work announcing he was now unemployed.) I decided to let all these clothes go, and not to hoard them in storage. I got them boxed up to pass to my cousin who has an infant son. They were passed off to her yesterday.

While looking over the clothes I had second thoughts about giving them away, and wondered if I should be trying to resell some of the clothing. I rationalized that perhaps instead of being generous and giving them away, I should resell them and get some income out of them, especially due to our tight finances. There were Land’s End, Gap, and Osh Kosh clothes in very good condition which I knew people would be willing to buy. There were some dressy sweaters in “like new” condition. But, I reminded myself that the last time I checked, the local consignment shops only offer $1-$2 per item, which to me is an insult. Why should I resell for $1, something that I paid $15-$25 for? I’d rather give it away. I then had a thought, “What about the Internet?” I went to check out EBay and found some of the same exact clothes for sale there for ridiculous opening bid prices (and not selling). For example, one toddler romper that sells for $12 was listed at a minimum bid of $8. There were no bids. I checked that seller’s other auctions and found that she had loads of clothing for high prices, with no bids. (This proves my theory that people think their stuff is worth way more than what the market value is.) While investigating on EBay, I also found “lots” of Land’s End clothing going for as low as 8 pieces (a $160-$200 value) going for 99 cents (yes, for the whole lot). Now that is a bargain. Maybe we should be buying our clothing, used, from EBay! No, my husband would freak out if I did that. But it is tempting especially given the fact that Land’s End clothing is guaranteed for life for quality, wear, etc.

I listed 5 different baby items on Freecycle last week and all the stuff was claimed by three different people. Well, none of them showed up to get the stuff, so I am making arrangements to give them to someone else at the moment.

I am feeling good about getting rid of all this stuff that I don’t need!

Now is the time to ponder getting rid of some more homeschooling books, supplies, and curriculum.

In February, took boxes of used books to two different used book stores to turn in what they would take for credit. I still had books left over that they didn't want.

In March, a local homeschool support group had a used curriculum sale at their regular meeting but I was the only person who brought stuff to sell. That stuff was the result of culling #1. In April, a different local homeschool support group had a larger used curriculum sale and I performed culling #2 and sold some things there.

In May I donated two boxes of used books, curriculum and educational computer software to the state homeschooling organization’s used curriculum fair, these were things that had not sold previously.

I am trying to avoid EBay due to high fees. I recently sold one math curriculum for a friend, on EBay. The listing fee was $4 and their commission was $13.50. The item sold for $455. I don’t want to take all the time to prepare an EBay listing then pay the listing fee and perhaps have it not sell. That would be a waste of my time and of money.

I think I am ready to get rid of most of my phonics and teaching reading materials. Since my younger son became a fluent reader before he turned five, most of what I owned never was used.

I also think I can let go of the preschool Montessori books and perhaps even some or most of my Waldorf preschool topic books since my youngest if offically now past the preschool years.

It is hard to let go of stuff! I always wonder if I am really done with it or not. I ask myself "What if we have another baby?". For now I answer this by saying that when my husband gets a job, if we ever have another baby, we can buy whatever it is we need. For now I need to concentrate on what we need right now. And right now I could use some cash and it would make me feel better about buying a few things we need for homeschooling books and materials for the 2005-2006 academic year.

Last week I glanced at the brand new Rainbow Resource Center catalog and found some new (to me) things that I felt we simply must have. Then the list of goals and objectives for next year began growing. I bet you may know what I am talking about. "Oh, look at this, this sounds so great, we should be learning about XX and ZZ this year!" That was my cue to put the catalog away for a while.

I still am chanting the mantra: “Use what we have, use what we have”. It is working, for the most part!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Top Secret Recipes Website

Here is a fun thing. A man named Todd Wilbur replicates popular restaurant dishes and publishes the recipes. His company is called Top Secret Recipes. At his site, you can view the archives from 1996-2000 (scroll down for A-Z recipe listing). In 2000, the policy changed, to being able to view the weekly featured recipe only (in addition to the 1996-2000 archives). There is a free email service which you can sign up for to receive the once-weekly email to notify you of what the current recipe is. You can print off the current week's recipe if you like (for free). The recipes are also published in his recipe books, which of course, he sells.

Not everything that he replicates is something I want to eat! This is a fun site to browse and to ponder about whether I want to replicate some of these dishes!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hope To Resume Blogging Soon

Major PC problems have struck. My PC is completely non-functional. For a couple of days it seemed all my files were also lost, including drafts of blog posts that I had been working on, but it seems there is hope that they can be recovered. I am also out of town and am posting this from a very slow public library PC. It is too slow to allow me to write a normal post. Let's hope when I get home, I will find my husband has been able to get my PC working. It is not yet known if my email program will be recovered so I may have lost all my email contacts as well as past communications! Yikes!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tag Sales as Sources of (Cheap) Homeschooling Materials

Tag sales can be a great source of cheap homeschooling materials. I am at a bit of a struggling place with tag sales as my husband hates them, and for years, he politely but strongly encouraged me not to attend them. He was quite proud and wanted only to buy brand new things and said if we had to rely on tag sales to buy what we needed then he'd gladly get a second job to earn more income so the things could be bought new. Since his unemployment I have been to a few tag sales and want to share a few tips. I have found some wonderful, educational things at tag sales!

1. Rare and out of print books: Tag sales can be a source of rare and out of print books. I have found some rare books at very cheap prices (as low as 10 cents) which are selling online for much more. You never know what you will find for books, at a tag sale. Check the odor of the books if you are concerned about mold, mildew, mothball, or smoke odors.

2. Board Games: By attending just a handful of large tag sales you can probably buy every classic board game (Parcheesi, Scrabble, Monopoly, etc.). You will also find newer or once-popular games such as Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. I find a plethora of educational games in "like new" condition such as games with subjects of Bible, geography, science, and history. Check to see if the directions are included. Sometimes you can find missing directions on the internet and sometimes you can get them from the manufacturer for free or for a nominal fee. Check to see if parts are missing, and if general pieces such as dice or place markers are missing, consider using some that you have already at home, in their place, but if unique pieces are missing, it may be problematic. I bought two games recently which were labeled as “complete” which ended up missing directions and key, unique pieces—so buyer beware!

3. Building toys: I have found kits of LEGO, K'nex, and a myriad of other variations of the building/construction toys. Beware: directions for kits may be missing or key, unique parts may be missing. However if you buy them just to add to your general collection, they can be found for very low prices sometimes.

4. Science experiment kits: I have found lots of unused or 90% unused science experiment kits ranging from 50 cents to $2, including: volcano kits, grow your own crystal kits, chemistry kits, and water and light experiment kits. I have found a lot of space kits such as several different kinds of 3D space/planets kits or models of the solar system kits. Check to make sure the directions are included before buying them, though.

5. Other educational things: I have found Brain Quest packets, various children's educational trivia games, and maps and map activities by National Geographic.

6. Educational Workbooks: Math and reading, and other workbooks can sometimes be found for under $1. Rip out the used pages. I have used the workbook for a "change of pace" from our regular math program. I also realized I could save money by doing this rather than printing worksheets off the internet for our cost of 10 cents per page (the cost of our paper and printer's toner).

7. Arts and Crafts materials: kits can be found in the children's toys and games section or in the adult section. I have found kits new and sealed, as well as kits opened and unused or 95% unused. Materials such as yarn, thread, embroidery thread, latch hook kits, needlepoint kits, ribbon, lace, and fabric can be found at many tag sales.

8. Jigsaw puzzles: A huge assortment of puzzles can be found at tag sales, from 24 pieces to 5000 piece to 3D puzzles, often for 50 cents or less. Make sure to check for off-odors.

9. Videos: educational and entertainment VHS editions can be found for $1 or less.

10. Books on tape or CD: Check the price and see if reasonable. A set of cassettes I bought last week for $5 (list price $29.95), ended up having two ruined (warped by heat) cassettes so the set is pretty much useless, which is disappointing. Check to see if all the parts are there: I saw a set of Harry Potter audio CDs with ten of the CDs missing!

11. Computer games: Check to make sure they are compatible with your PCs operating system. Older games don’t always run on newer computers, but sometimes they do. This is a risk but may be worth the risk of them not working if they are $1 or less.

Some general observations:

1. Private tag sales (one family tag sales) tend to be the most expensive. I feel that people over-rate the value of their own possessions. They often don't realize that they are charging 3-5 times higher than the charity tag sale down the road, on the same day. Books are often overpriced compared to books for sale at library book sales.

2. Charity tag sales tend to be the least expensive. I assume when people price items that they didn't personally buy, they price them at lower prices. It also seems that people don’t always know the value of what they are pricing. Example: $30 worth of LEGOs priced at $1 or a $25 board game priced at 50 cents.

3. Charity tag sales who hold over inventory from year to year tend to have some rare and out of print books at very cheap prices. Also these sales can have children’s books for as low as 10 cents and board games for 25 cents.

4. Consider who the donors are to find your “target” items. If you are looking for toys and children’s games, bikes, etc. go to sales where parents of children are donating, such as fundraisers for Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts and/or church fundraiser tag sales, or some private sales. If you are looking for unused arts and crafts materials, jigsaw puzzles or out of print and rare books, go to sales for senior citizen fundraisers or church tag sales.

5. Tag sales are often run in conjunction with or on the same day as community festivals. A small city near me has a big craft show on their Green each year. A church on the Green takes advantage of the crowds to hold their annual tag sale. Families and neighborhood groups often hold tag sales on the same days as large community events, to catch visitors who are traveling en route to the festivals. These are often not advertised in the newspaper as the sellers rely on drive-by’s as their main source of advertising.

Happy shopping!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Some Thoughts on Educational Computer Games & Our Family Policy on Video Games

I picked up a used copy of “Math Blaster ages 8-9” at a used homeschooling curriculum sale last weekend for $1. It seemed like a bargain and worth a try.

My 7.5 year-old son began playing it a couple of days ago. He was playing it by himself and needed help understanding what they were asking him to do with a certain game. I was shocked to hear, at the end of a timed drill of addition facts, a boys terrible tone of voice respond to his score with a nasty comment that he was so slow, that even his grandmother could go faster than him, “and she is OLD”. I can’t describe this tone of voice but take it from me, it was rude.

I also was shocked that an educational math computer game would come back at kids with rude comments. There was nothing to indicate that the issue was he was not going fast enough in this timed speed drill, and therefore could not progress through to the next level. I helped him along by typing in the answers, because a part of the problem was not just computing the sum but it was using the keyboard correctly and fast enough. Also the switching back and forth of computing the sum and then looking down at the keyboard and typing the numbers in and then hitting enter, looking back up and going back to “math problem solving” brain mode was a challenge for him. He is not a good typer and has not taken lessons on typing let alone speed typing.

This brings up another subject, which is that educational computer games sometimes the results (i.e. advancing to the next level) is not always a true indication of mastery of the material. In this case maybe he couldn’t pass the timed test with a fast enough speed but it was due to typing speed and keyboarding skills, not due to not having his math facts memorized.

Another issue with computer games is that with some games, even games for toddlers and preschool aged children, the children (and users of all ages) can trick the program into thinking the user is competent by simple guesswork. So if you leave your child alone with a computer game, don’t take the advancement to the next level as an indication of subject matter mastery. Once when my older son was five (and not reading) he was playing a reading game and I realized he was purely guessing at every answer. I asked him about it and he said, “Yes, you start at the left and click each one going across until it says you got it right.” That was surely an eye opener for me!

Due to these personal observations and experience, I do not rely on playing educational computer games as the curriculum for my children or as the main teacher of the content for my children. (Some homeschooling parents tell me their math curriculum is a math game such as Math Blaster.) My children play the games occasionally for fun. For our homeschooling I use other teaching methods such as books or curriculum including one-on-one direct instruction.

As to frequency and limitation of educational computer games, I don’t limit them. What I allow to happen is for them to regulate themselves. It works in this area! What they typically do is play one game for 1-3 hours at a time for a few days in a row then abandons it for another game. They may play a total of two or three games then abandon the computer for up to five months!

Our Family Policy on Video Games

In case you are wondering and didn’t see my past blog entries on the subject, I don’t allow the use of handheld electronic games with the exception of the little ones that come with the McDonald’s Happy Meals (which are played with a bit in the car then forgotten). We don’t have a Playstation, Sega, X-Box, or any of those things and don’t plan to have any in the near future. My younger son did receive a video game “thing” for Christmas last year, unsolicited. These are joysticks, which plug into a VCR and have the computer chip for about ten games inside the joystick. One is a silly “Sponge Bob Square Pants” game, and the other are ten of the first Atari games from the late 1970s. These two games are so boring that they have been played less than three hours total in the last six months. I was upset when these games were received as a gift and felt quite powerless about it. But once I realized how boring the games were I realized my children would not be interested in them for long. My older son has only played for about 15 minutes since we received it. My younger son is more of the mentality of “craving the forbidden thing” so he has been the one playing it (plus he is overjoyed that they were given to him, not his brother).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Parents: Please Educate Yourself About Problems with Schools

Here is a great article by the Publisher of Forbes magazine titled “Real-World Advice for the Young”. It appeared in the April 11, 2005 issue of Forbes magazine. This is a brilliant one-page editorial which talks about how $900 billion a year (8% of the GDP) is spent on education in America yet we are getting less and less for our money. Dumbed down curriculum is causing our country’s educational ranking to drop lower and lower, when compared to other countries. The author is critical of public schools as well as colleges.

Schools, on the other hand, strive to make students feel guilty about their weaknesses. Now, I accept that students need a basic proficiency in a broad range of topics. But at some grade level the emphasis needs to sift from shoring up weaknesses to building on strengths. The trick is to teach students how to look outside themselves for strengths that they’ll never possess. Inventors need marketing help. Product designers need salesmen. We all need heroes and mentors. This is how the real world of free-market capitalism works. Do we teach it?


The article is great and I’d reproduce it here in its’ entirety, but copyright laws prohibit it.

Parents of all children need to read this, perhaps those who sent their children to school need to read it even more than parents who homeschool their children.

Hey, homeschooling moms with doubting husbands: show this Forbes article to your husband!

For more information about how the American public school system is getting more and more dumbed down, written for parents of children who are in schol, see "The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide From Preschool through Eighth Grade" by William J. Bennett, Chester E. Finn, Jr. and John T.E. Cribb, Jr.

Books about school reform are quick access to some explanation of what is wrong with American public schools. The old classic, "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of COmpulsory Schooling" by John Taylor Gatto is a good source of thought-provoking opinions. I preferred Gatto's "A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling". If you want more about what is wrong with American public schools, look for books on educational reform. Note that these booksa re 99% written by school teachers and/or administrators! Yes, parents, it is the insiders who are revealing the problems.

I remember how surprised I was when I realized that the big school reform movement really began in the 1960s. As the parent of a child born in the late 90s, I thought this issue was something new. As I was going through the public school system in the 70s and 80s, I had no idea that teachers and school administrators were upset that the quality of the education that I was getting was horrible and going downhill. Actually since I have done more research I have found evidence of "school reform" movements as early as 1900! The stacks in our local libraries are full of books revealing the problems with American public schools--you may be surprised at what you find!

All this information about the problems of American public schools is important to know when considering what kind of education we want our children to have (whether that be homeschooling, or sending children to public or private school). There is a good amount of information about problems with compulsory schooling in general (so that makes private schooling also not only not perfect but almost equally undesirable in the eyes of some adults--mostly the teachers who write these school reform books). What I mean to say is that when educators point out what is wrong with public schools, a large part is actually the fault of institutational education in general, so it overlows and applies to (most) private schools as well.

I wish parents would educate themselves about these important things before making decisions about their children's education. I am all for "informed consent" in all areas of life, and that includes what parents should know before enrolling their children into any school. Homeschooling parents benefit from knowing this information for three major reasons: 1) So the husband and wife can jointly make the decision to homeschool and have real reasons to think that it is better (for whatever reason) for their child, 2) So they don't duplicate within their home schools, the negative parts of institutional schools, and 3) when a bump in the homeschooling road is hit, they know the downside of schools at the times when they think to themselves that life would be perfect if they decided to send them to school (now or next year). Knowing the negative aspects of institutional schools can underscore the benefits of homeschooling just enough to get through the rough parts or the potential homeschool mother burn-out phases.

Why I Don’t Want My Children Watching Television News

I may be preaching to the choir here but I need to write about this. Perhaps maybe my own husband will reconsider this after he reads this blog entry. (At times I don’t like the fact that my husband reads my blog as I feel I have him watching over my shoulder as I write. Perhaps not everything I write should be read by him!)

For the first seven years of parenthood my husband went along with my request that we not have news programs on our television so as to protect our children from their toxic content. He got his news fix during the workday: radio news and talk shows while in the car on the way to work, newspapers paid for by his employer, and of course, the internet. Sometimes if the children were not in the room he’d watch a little Fox News talk show banter while working in the kitchen.

I lost the battle during the last Presidential election. Suddenly it was imperative that he follow closely, what Fox News was saying about the Presidential election. He has relied mostly on Internet news since he is unemployed; we only subscribe to the little town newspaper. It began gradually, with watching television news while washing the dishes after dinner (a job he has done since the birth of our first child). More and more he began watching the news, when the children were not present. But then it would remain on after they were in the room. Next, as with both his and my parents, the television would remain blaring even when he walked out of the room and was “done” watching it.

I can’t stand the constant blabber of the television talk show hosts. I can get all I need to know in a very short period of time, by reading Internet stories. If I want to hear commentary and debate, I certainly don’t need 60 minutes of it, let alone hour after hour of it. I can’t take the repetition of the same thing over and over. I find the news depressing and the constant hearing of negativity, of crime and depressing statistics, over and over, to be a real downer. I also can’t stand when the “news” turns to guessing about the future. You know, when they run out of new things to report so they speculate. “Well, if this happens then I think this will happen”. Then someone else says, “No, that won’t happen, I think this will happen and then this will be the result.” Then they argue about things that have not even occurred in real life! So I try to ignore what they are saying and think my own thoughts instead, when my husband has it on. After all, he has been making dinner lately, and cleaning up after dinner, so how much can I complain when he says he wants the TV on “for company” while he does these things?

Because I am not happy about my children watching the news, my ears perk up when it is on. I am hearing some horrible things. One night right when dinner was being served, and before I was able to shut it off, there was a detailed report about children missing and suspected murdered. I just don’t think this is a good thing for young children to hear. One night while visiting a relative out of state, my younger son and I went to bed. My husband was downstairs with my older son. My older son then came up to go to bed and was upset about a show that my husband was watching. He described to me how there was a long story of a father who took his daughter and tied her up and took her away in his car and then murdered her. He was very upset about this. And this was at about 10 at night and right before bed. The time when he is supposed to be winding down for a peaceful nights’ rest was corrupted by this horrible story. I had a discussion with him and tried to explain that sometimes people do really bad things. He was shattered to think that a fathter may actually murder his own young daughter. I think his realization of this robbed him of just one more piece of his innocence. He was very, very upset. My blood was boiling and I wanted to rip into my husband, who was still sitting downstairs watching whatever it was. I calmed my son down and got him to bed. Then I went down and addressed the situation. Come to find out the program was 20/20 and so it really was a long segment. My husband said that our son wanted to stay up later and he was reading a book and he assumed that he was not hearing the television that he had tuned it out. WRONG. I had what I thought was a reasonable discussion with him and he seemed to regret it.

However he continues to watch the news and more and more is leaving the television on when he exits the room. Lately we have had an issue with the fact that he watches the television news early in the morning before anyone else is awake. When the children wake up and go downstairs, they watch the news (as they will stare at anything that is on the screen when given the chance). My husband then allows this to go on, unbeknownst to me as I am still sleeping (which I appreciate but at what cost?).

What has been discussed during the Michael Jackson trial is just unprecedented. X-rated language is being talked about right on the news. Body parts and details of alleged activities are being talked about all over the place. It is insane and unnecessary. My kids have been spoken to about not letting people touch them inappropriately, etc. but they don’t know what the word “molestation” means. A couple of months ago we saw a picture of Michael Jackson in a store, as an advertisement for his music. Jay pointed to him and said, “Oh, there is the man who murdered the children”. I was shocked! Somehow my son had misunderstood the news and thought that Jackson was a child-murdered. I explained to him that he was on trial for a crime but that he was not on trial for murder and that we didn’t know if he did anything wrong or not. I write about this to demonstrate how children can misconstrue what they hear, and sometimes into something worse.

Yesterday my husband told me that our older son woke up early and came downstairs. Of course the news was on and he said that the reporter announced that Michael Jackson is requesting that photos of his (insert name of male genitals), which were used during the trial, be returned to him. My son heard this and said with shock, “What the heck?” My husband thought this was hilarious but I wasn’t laughing. I asked how he responded and he said that he laughed and told my son he didn’t know what it was about.

I can’t wait for the Michael Jackson chatter to be over with. Even radio news has gone graphic, making listening to that with the kids in the car impossible for me. There were mentions of sleeping with children, giving children alcoholic “Jesus juice”, etc.

My husband retorted a few months ago that perhaps it is time that our children realize what kind of world they are living in. I wanted to brain him at that moment in time. I think we need to preserve our children’s innocence as long as possible. This path of watching the news when our children were 4 and 6 is not one I wanted to go down. And now that they are 5 and 7.5, we are still on the path. I am not quite sure what else I can do to get my husband to see things from my viewpoint or how I can get him to stop having the kids exposed to television news. I know if he were working, he’d be around the house less and this would be more of a non-issue. But I have to deal with what we are experiencing right now. If you have any ideas, please share them with me! Just know that if you leave comments here on the blog, he is also reading them. If you agree with me, then perhaps you can help persuade him as well, by the comments that you make.

Perhaps I need to go do some research as to the harmful effects of children watching news programs, maybe that would get his attention. If you know of any research, let me know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Google AdSense giving me a second chance

I wrote two emails to the Google AdSense staff exclaiming my dismay and surprise at my account having been disabled; one on 6/12/05 and one on 6/13/05. I defended myself against their accusation of using software or robots or other technology which I am completely ignorant about.

Today I received a reply stating that they will give me a second chance. They are monitoring my account closely to see if there is suspicious activity. They have warned me severely about not clicking on my own ads. I admitted to having clicked on about 5 ads, which was done to check out the advertisors websites in an honest manner.

I have been chatting with other Blogger users and other Google AdSense users. I have also read some articles on the internet about Google AdSense. Numerous sources state they monitor accounts closely and are suspicious if a blog has too many clicks or gets a lot of visitors.

So in a day or two you will see ads on the blog again. I hope this generates some income for our family.

I did receive an email from a friend today saying she had clicked on every ad on my blog out of true curiosity and found a few homeschooling vendors she had not known about and had even emailed one of them for additional information.

However if my blog's traffic is too high and they accuse me again of intentionally clicking on my own ads or using some kind of automated computer program to generate clicks, I will give up with them.

As I sit here my PC is having problems again. My virus software said I received three trojan's today, and my email is acting funny again. Sigh. I can barely handle the spam and these various issues and certainly am NOT using whatever clicks software that Google AdSense suspected of me. Sigh. Anyway it took me hours to figure out how to post the Google AdSense data into my blog's template correctly, then I had to delete it. Now I am back to figuring out how to do it properly again. Wish me luck and patience.

Great Book About Making the Decision to Not Use Preschool, Home Preschool and Setting Up Your Own Preschool Co-op

"Playful Learning: An Alternative Approach to Preschool” by Anne Engelhardt and Cheryl Sullivan, published by La Leche League Interational, is the only book I am aware of on the topic of making the decision of whether to use a preschool or not. First published in 1986, this book is still in print.

Once a parent has decided to not use a preschool, the book outlines what the at-home parent can do with the child to get equivalent (or in my opinion, superior) academic and play opportunities. Full directions and information for setting up a preschool co-op with other at-home parents is included.

This is the only book I know of that helps a parent decide if preschool is appropriate for a child. Issues addressed are separation issues, wanting to have close family relations, and using this special time for increased bonding, as the children are only young once. The book is written with an assumption that children will be attending Kindergarten at a school, and the author’s state that this is the at-home parent’s last opportunity to have such a close relationship with their child, and that children grow up so quickly.

Additonally, the book is a resource for directions for many different games, arts, and crafts. Information for exercising both fine motor and gross motor skills is included. Other activities such as music, sound, rhythm, senses, words, storytelling, and listening skills are al in this book. Of course information about learning letters, sounds, shapes, numbers, measurement, science experimentation and ideas for trips is included. This same information can be found in other books, though, or you can use this book as a basis and if you exhaust all the ideas, seek other ideas from the internet, from books from your local library, or you can buy additional books from the myriad of books available on this subject.

This is a unique and wonderful book. I first read it when my oldest was approaching the preschool years and it cemented for me, my decision to keep my children at home with me and to avoid the preschool experience. I also used this book as a basis for a presentation I gave at a La Leche League conference about how to make the decision to use preschool or not, and options for doing preschool at home, and basics for setting up a preschool co-op.

The overall tone of this book is loving and nurturing. This book does not slam preschools in any way. It takes the viewpoint more from the child’s perspective. For example, the authors don’t support pushing a child into preschool who is not ready for separation.

If you are looking for a book which is more focused on why preschool can damage a child, see “Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk” by David Elkind. Another book loaded with statistics and studies about the dangers of separation and a lack of bonding between parent and child is “Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn’t Telling Us” by Brian C. Robertson.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

June 22, 2005 Call-in Protest Day for Connecticut Education Issue

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

NATIONAL HOME EDUCATION LEGAL DEFENSE
(NHELD)

www.nheld.com

Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director
(860) 354-3590

Judy Aron, Research Director
(860) 523-7257

CONNECTICUT PARENTS SCHEDULE A “CALL IN DAY” TO URGE GOVERNOR RELL TO END ABUSIVE PRACTICES BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Connecticut parents from across the state are outraged that children are being held hostage in our public schools by administrators coercing and intimidating parents into compliance with illegal demands before parents are allowed to withdraw the children from enrollment.

On June 22, 2005, parents will be calling Governor Rell’s office at (860) 566-4840 to ask her to end this abuse.

Among other things, parents want to know why the Governor has taken absolutely no action to end this abuse since she was first informed about it in 2004.

Parents also want to know why the state Education Department legal staff continues to tell public school districts that “only the public school districts have the authority to determine when a child is no longer enrolled in a public school.”

Parents want to know why she has taken no action to direct the state Education Department to have the language in the “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction”, otherwise known as the C-14 Guidelines, accurately reflect existing state law. (Even though they are only a suggested procedure, the Guidelines state that parents “must” file a Notice of Intent and attend a portfolio review, (even though no state statute requires any such thing,) or the children “may be considered truant”, (even though truancy does not apply to children who are no longer enrolled in a public or private school.)

Parents are demanding that Governor Rell and the state Department of Education immediately eliminate from the Guidelines the phrase, “must file a Notice of Intent and attend a portfolio review” and the phrase, “may be considered truant” so that the Guidelines accurately reflect existing law.

Failure to have the Guidelines conform to existing law does nothing more than condone and officially sanction the continued abuse of authority and criminal coercion by state and local government officials.

Parents are outraged by this abuse and will not tolerate it any further.

“The Scholar”: New Reality Show Features Homeschooler

A homeschooling friend emailed me last week to ask if I was watching “The Scholar”, a new show on ABC, which airs on Monday nights. As I write this, the first two episodes have aired. Due to my own user-error TiVo programming, last night’s show did not record, so I can’t give you my two cents on this show.

TiVo is great! But you know what they say about computers: “garbage in, garbage out”. I misprogrammed our TiVo and had less desirable programs on a higher recording priority so the TiVo recorded a program that overlapped with “The Scholar” instead. I just took some time to re-prioritize my recording list, all fixed!

Information about “The Scholar” can be viewed on ABCs website. The contestants seem to be high school seniors. My friend compared this show’s style to that of “The Apprentice”. The prize for the winner is a full scholarship to college.

One of the contestants, Scot from Pennyslvania, was homeschooled his entire life. The scholars even have their own blogs with their views on the outcomes of each challenge and each episode.

At least the contestants on this reality type “game show” will be intelligent. After scanning some of the other popular reality shows I was beginning to question the overall intelligence level of Americans and worried we were sinking to new lows.

Tear-jerking story about an autistic high school senior’s moment of basketball glory

This story made me cry! This is a true story, not one of those fake emailed phony-baloney stories.

Title: A Long Shot in More Ways Than One Brings a Town to Tears
Subtitle: Ryan Belflower’s Future is Uncertain, But for One Shining Moment…

by Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press

Date Published: 6/13/05

Why We Started Homeschooling

A local homeschooler asked these questions of the members of our homeschool support group's chat list. Here are my answers.

Why did you decide to homeschool?

My husband wanted a superior education for our children, whatever the method is, that is what he wanted them to experience. We had discussed, back while we were dating, that he wanted kids to go to parochial high school-- the same one he went to (and was serving on the board of directors for, and I agreed despite me not being Catholic). He felt at the time that the parochial high school was a more rigorous education than public high school. But we were going to use public school for grades K-8.

Then the notion that HSing was possibly superior to private and public schools was spawned by a March 5, 1997 Wall Street Journal article (scroll down to read the WSJ article) that reported that a study showed that homeschooled kids did better on testing than public or private schooled children. He thought perhaps homeschooling would be best for our children. So, it was my husband’s idea. He also knew a business acquaintance, from Texas, who homeschooled their children. My husband said the kids were smart and polite and friendly and would actually talk to him, which was a first. He couldn’t pinpoint it but said they were different than other children in a very good way; they were more able to talk to adults and were nice, good kids. I didn't know that family. So when the article came out he phoned me at work and proposed this idea to me. Given the fact that I was just four months pregnant with our first child at the time, I thought he was nuts. My mind was on completing my bachelor’s degree (which I was doing at nights and on weekends), getting through the pregnancy and working at my career. Thinking about homeschooling was not at all on my radar screen of things to think about at that time.

I myself got curious when my oldest was just a baby. We had a bunch of issues regarding bad advice from experts (hospital staff, doctors, etc.) and I got the impression that perhaps the mainstream way of doing everything was not always right and best and following my heart and doing things the old fashioned way was better. Due to doing alternative things like breastfeeding (it felt that BF was alternative at the time) and nursing beyond 6 months and co-sleeping...all that alternative stuff was working for our family, and it was apparent that the mainstream was not on the same path, so I wondered if education in a non-mainstream way also could be better.

I also had negative memories of public school, for me, burnout and boredom past 6th grade and also I had good observation skills and I was sensitive and witnessed a lot of problems other kids had with learning (it was always easy for me). So I began opening my mind about homeschooling, but still felt I had a long time to think about it. I then realized that three moms I knew for many months, whom I met through La Leche League, were homeschooling, I never knew it all that time (or I may have made some judgments about them) and I already liked their kids, thought they were normal and nice, etc. I approached one mother with questions and she lent me a stack of back issues of Home Education Magazine and Growing Without Schooling, which I read from cover to cover. Thus began the research and here we are...

I also realized that in our area, stay at home mothers commonly use preschools beginning when their children are two years old. Therefore I realized that the preschool issue needed to be addressed when my child was a baby or one year old. I also knew that some preschools had waiting lists, so it is not a joke about some children being put on preschool waiting lists when they are just infants.

What method will you follow, i.e.- unschooling, eclectic, classical?

We started off doing very unstructured and loose learner-driven learning aka interest driven learning aka natural learning aka unschooling until my oldest was close to six years old (the end of Kindergarten), at which time I put structure into our day and began using Charlotte Mason methods.

I think the labels sometimes overlap. I am inspired by Charlotte Mason’s method, which is a classical curriculum with a specific teaching method. Since I create our own curriculum for some subjects, and use packaged curriculum for other subjects (i.e. phonics, math, grammar), that qualifies for the eclectic label. We don't do everything that the classical model recommends and we don’t do everything that Charlotte Mason recommended. For example, students of Charlotte Mason learned the history of their own country and world history, at the same time as learning the Old Testament and the New Testament. So that is actually learning four periods of history at the same time. We are learning one world history period at a time and my children attend Sunday School for their main religious instruction. Another example is that students of Charlotte Mason were learning English, Latin, and two other foreign languages, all at the same time. My children are only learning English right now.

I use some of the frameworks as outlined in “The Well Trained Mind” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. However I don’t do what they say exactly and I don’t do everything they say to do. For example, with my older son I did not follow their plans for preschool and Kindergarten as I felt they were too rigorous and too “school-y” for a child who seemed to want to “just play” (which has its merits but that is a topic for another day). However with my younger son, I followed his lead and that meant a more rigorous formal academic schedule. That son began a phonics curriculum at age 4 and finished at 4.5 and was reading fluently at 4.5. At 4.5 he has completed Math U See’s Kindergarten math curriculum. The fact that he insists on listening in on his older brother’s studies means he is getting second grade science and second grade world history.

Are you nervous about taking on this endeavor?

Not anymore, things are going well. My children are learning so I know what we are doing is working!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Parenting On Reality TV Shows: My Summary and Thoughts

I think we are at a high point with reality television shows that feature parents making bad choices, which negatively impact their children, followed by some self-proclaimed “expert” telling them what they need to do to fix it.

It all started a few years ago when Oprah started having Dr. Phil McGraw on her show as a regular guest. This was a slow start to the parenting problems on television theme. His first book was about making oneself a priority "Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters".

Some of the most entertaining and interesting shows with Dr. Phil on Oprah were about the parenting problems, rude children, etc. After Dr. Phil began his own show, he began regularly featuring parenting issues such as toddlers with tantrums and all different children’s behavior problems, along with “quick fixes”. In his first year, his main focus was on marital relationships, and he had a book “Relationship Rescue”, and the parenting shows were less frequent.

Last year, the main focus was on weight loss, and promotion of his weight loss book, “The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom”. At the beginning of this season, he was promoting his latest book on the topic of parenting and families, called “Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family”. The publication of his parenting book, of course, led to even more parenting shows.

Some of Dr. Phil's very recent shows are going a step further: showing footage of a mother terribly beating her drunken, alcoholic, husband, in front of the children as they run from the room crying. Another show featured abusive behavior of a mother to her adopted, disabled child. A two part show about a now-19 year old man who admitted to sexually abusing his little sister (who was two the first time) brought the parenting problems and child’s problems out in great detail. So far there have been two follow-up shows for this family, making their airtime to 4 hours total. I probably will never get the image of this man putting his hand up the now-4 year old sisters dress out of my mind, as he looked toward his siblings to make sure they weren’t noticing so he could “get away with it”, undetected. I shudder whenever I think of that scene.

I also will say, in case you are curious, that my children don't watch the controversial Dr. Phil (or Oprah) shows. I don't want them seeing how some dysfunctional families live, especially since so many of them are on the show defending their behavior or not really seeing what is wrong with it. My kids have seen some of the Dr. Phil and Oprah shows, in snippets, with child-friendly content. Many of those shows, while interesting to me as an adult woman and mother, are inappropriate for chidlren, in my opinion. Celebrity interviews often contain questions regarding relationships, sex out of wedlock, sex topics, etc. A recent Oprah show featured detailed lessons on how to exercise one's body and titillate onself and one's spouse by learning to dance on a pole like a stripper. They even had past Oprah viewers on the show demonstrating the moves they learned and that they bought a pole for their bedroom (!!). There was a demonstration of a woman doing it in front of her husband. Celebrities were shown doing it and taking the California-based classes and the segment ended with a promotional piece for the new series of home videos, so women across the country can teach themselves this and exercise this way in the comfort of their homes. An interview with Sting discussed Tantric Sex in detail. Many times sexual topics are inserted in otherwise normal seeming interviews.

In the fall of 2004, some new reality shows appeared at the same time. One is "Nanny 911" in which one Nanny from a team of Nannies is selected to help a family deal with negative children’s behaviors. Different shows feature different Nannies, so we see some variety on the part of the Nanny. A companion-parenting book titled “Nanny 911” is due out this spring.

Another show, "Supernanny", on ABC, has (just) one Nanny who goes to each home and helps the family. The two Nanny shows are very similar and they use some common techniques: restricting sugar intake, adding more healthy foods and reducing junk food snacks, putting a rigid schedule in place for structure and giving negative consequences for bad behavior (most commonly, a time out). The families choose what will be addressed and common things are having children sleep in their own beds, go to bed in a timely manner, respecting everyone in the house including no physical injury. Other measures have to do with stopping “babyish” behavior such as stopping use of pacifiers, bottles (for preschool aged children) and stopping the use of sippy cups.

Interestingly, last fall another type of show about family relationships and parenting premiered on two different networks. Both involve a family changing mothers for a period of time. "Trading Spouses", on Fox, exchanges mothers for one week and there are no set rules about whether the mother is to adapt to the family or vice-versa. This can cause strife as the families are unclear as to if the new mother is to do things her way or if she is to adapt to their way. Of course each mother thinks that life in the other house is dysfunctional and wants to change it and she is always grateful to get back home to her (almost) perfect life. Oh, and each mother is given $50,000. When the mother agrees to participate in the show they assume they will get $50,000 in cash. The twist is revealed to them while they are with the other family: that they determine how the other family will spend their money. The show ends with the reading of the letter, which the visiting mother wrote, revealing how they are to spend the money and getting the usually negative reactions to the choices that were made.

"Wife Swap", on ABC, goes for 10 days and there is a schedule of the visiting mother doing things the family’s way for half the time, then a “rule change” occurs and the visiting mother gets to make whatever changes she wants for the remainder of the time.

(My friends have asked me so I will share here also that each visiting mother is given her own separate bedroom and the swapping is not on a physical level.)

For whatever reason, both of these mother-trading shows have featured homeschooling families on several occasions. These homeschooling families are nothing like any homeschooling families I have ever met, showing once again that we come in all shapes and sizes (thank goodness). The oddest was the homeschooling family from Southern California who have never had their children wear shoes (the oldest was about 17) and they were both distraught at the idea of the new mom making them wear shoes for a couple of hours. I wonder how many people now think that homeschooled children don't wear shoes?

A new show premiered last month on the cable channel Bravo. “Sports Kids, Moms and Dads” is the title, and it is about families who go to extreme measures to try and make their children professional sports stars. I have not seen this yet but did see some of the families interviewed on a recent Oprah show and clips from the new show were shown on Oprah as well. I don’t know the format of the reality show but on Oprah there was a psychologist who was given a short amount of time to tell each family how wrong what they are doing is.

We watch the two Nanny shows and the two mother-trading shows with our children. I let them watch these with us as I like that the parents are both in agreement that what is going on in their house needs fixing. This is very different from so many segments on Oprah and Dr. Phil's shows. Example: one mother on Dr. Phil's show proclaimed that her verbal abuse and screaming was just fine, and cited "The Osbornes" as her role models. Dr. Phil responded that the reason that the Osbourne family was on television was that they were not normal and were outrageous. (On a later show Dr. Phil consulted the Osbourne family to give parenting advice.)

Anyway, back to the reality shows. We watch them together and it has been very interesting and actually a positive thing for our children. When they see the footage of the children bickering or hitting or talking back to their parents, it makes an impact. Both my husband and I could see a light bulb almost going off. We talk about the bad behaviors (and the good behaviors). After this the complaining about going to bed at night stopped. The bickering and back talk also subsided almost completely.

I asked our family if we could apply to be on Trading Spouses so that in a weeks’ time we could earn $50,000, which would be very useful and appreciated to our financial situation. I lost the vote by 3 to 1. I am the only one who is willing to endure the torture of living with a family that is opposite of us for a week. I could take that kind of irritating experience for $50,000. I would not go on "Survivor" as I don't think I could physically handle it, nor would I go on "Fear Factor" as I am not fit enough but more importantly, would not want to be forced to eat horrible bugs or animal's body parts or be covered in stinging scorpions or hissing Madagascar Cockroaches. Yech. But I could put up with living with a family who is the opposite of me on a temporary basis.

One day my older son was pondering what type of family would be considered opposite of our lifestyle and he asked me about what I thought about it. We discussed this and came up with a situation of a family in which both parents work many long hours and in which the parents seldom see their children. Also, the children would have a Nanny or daycare as their main non-school staff care givers, and of course they would go to school (not homeschool). Perhaps they’d be able to watch unlimited television, have video games and be able to eat a lot of junk foods all the time. That was the best that we could come up with. The idea of the temporary mother sending them to school was terrible for them to ponder (as some of the homeschooled children were forced to go to school). I tried to explain that to go to school for just one week would not be too hard to take, but they declared their love of our homeschooling lifestyle. And of course they said they would miss me and not want me to leave them to go live with another family, even if it was for 7-10 days!

Anyway, it seems to me that parenting reality-based shows on television is peaking. I predict that they will begin a rapid decline, especially once the Bravo show is over and after the Nanny shows are discontinued. Then we will be back to just Dr. Phil and other daytime television talk shows highlighting parenting problems.

My Quiz Result: How Normal Are You?

Another short, fun quiz.









You Are 60% Normal

(Really Normal)











Otherwise known as the normal amount of normal

You're like most people most of the time

But you've got those quirks that make you endearing

You're unique, yes... but not frighteningly so!


My Quiz Result: How Your Friends See You

I agree with this only about 50%. I was on the fence for almost half of the questions so went back and changed my answers. I got the same result, which seemed strange.

I would say my friends think I over-think things or that I analyze things they never dreamed of thinking about.

I have never been told by anyone that I am a "slow and steady plodder", nor do I think that I am a "plodder".

I do examine almost everything from every angle but DO MAKE A DECISION, of course, it is always the best decision for me, at the time.

Serious decisions are never made impulsively, so making a serious decision without careful thought is not at all my style. I am impulsive about fun things, like what to do on a free day, traveling on a moment's notice, or back when this was possible, I was an impulsive shopper and had fun spending money.

The quiz is short and fast. Check it out, maybe yours will be more accurate.

Slow and Steady
Your friends see you as painstaking and fussy.

They see you as very cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady plodder.

It'd really surprise them if you ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment.

They expect you to examine everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.


My Quiz Result: My Birth Number

Surprisingly, This result seems accurate.

Your Expression Number is 8
Driven and ambitious, you have the potential to reach great things.

You're both good with money and good at getting things done quickly.

You are an excellent leader and a great judge of character.

Full of energy and confidence, you undertake projects that seem impossible.

Dependable and determined, you are able to understand the bigger picture.

Even if you are not in a position of power right now, it will fall to you.

At times, you can be very materialistic - and obsessed with status and power.

While this isn't always a bad thing, you sometimes take it to the extreme.

In order to be truly happy, you must balance the material and spiritual in your life.