Friday, September 30, 2005


I found out about this fun and cool (and free) website:

This is fun to play with if you have time to spare.

You type in a word then run the program. It searches google images site for images linked to that word, and it uses text found for that word also. It uses a computer program to scramble the images and words and changes the colors, for a collage effect. You never know what will turn up. You can do more than one try for each keyword if you want or ask it to make a new image over and over with the same background, etc.

I played with this a few weeks ago. I saved some of my favorites to my hard drive by using the mouse's right button to click on the image and following the usual procedure for saving a document.

With homeschooling the world is the classsroom

I loved that with the (just the) keyword "Homeschooling" a map image came up. This made me think "with homeschooling the world is the classroom".

Good Sheltering Ideas for the Toddler Years

Good Sheltering Ideas for the Toddler Years (one and two year-old’s)

1. Schedule playdates with families you like and whose children you like. Avoid children whose negative behaviors outweigh their positive behaviors. Remember that everyone your child is exposed to is an influence. No child is perfect but one who is allowed to misbehave or who mistreats or injures your child on a regular basis is a child that should be avoided.

2. Find families with similar discipline styles so your child won’t view practices that you don’t agree with (i.e. if you disagree with spanking then don’t have your child witness their friend being spanked at the playdate for an infraction).

3. Spend time with children whose parents have similar rules and limits for their children. Example: if you are trying to teach your child not to hit but the other child is allowed by the mother to hit and hurt your child, this is confusing to your child and unfair.

4. Keep a close eye on your child while at large group functions such as birthday parties or family picnics. Other children, especially those who are older, can be the cause of hurt feelings, problems, or even physical injury. Let them play with the older children but keep close by and observe.

5. Limit television viewing time. Spend time with your child instead of using the television as a babysitter. Consider this organization’s expert advice: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should not be watching any television at all.

6. Try to avoid viewing commercials. Commercials aimed at children can cause disharmony and “the gimmee’s”. Rationale and logic is not something that toddlers possess and they will have a hard time understanding that they can’t have every toy or food they see advertised. Commercials during prime time television can be full of images of violence and sex and explicit commercials can scare children (i.e. promoting network television show CSI which often shows dead and/or mutilated human bodies).

7. TV shows, videos, and movies should be age-appropriate. Consider getting a DVR (such as TiVo) for television viewing, or buy videos or DVDs and limit television viewing to those acceptable programs.

8. Read books to your children which are age appropriate and wonderful in content. A wonderful reference guide is “Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt.

9. Classes or group activities can expose children to illnesses. Weight the pro’s and con’s of attending paid classes. Toddlers don’t need structured learning environments. It may seem fun but if the whole family ends up getting head cold’s or a stomach bug, it may not be worth it. I have found that some parents ignore the rule about not brining a sick child into the class.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Signs That Homeschoolers Are Doing Too Many Activities

Here are a some of signs that homeschoolers are doing too many activities that have to do with meals.

by ChristineMM aka The Thinking Mother (

1. In order to get to activities on time the children don’t have time to eat the meal that they usually eat at that time; they have to skip a meal.

2. The children have to resort to eating in the car on the way to the activity instead of eating in a more civilized manner at a kitchen table.

3. Food choices are not selected due to nutritional qualities but as to what can be eaten in the car or snacked upon while at the activity.

4. Children must resort to eating granola bars or energy bars instead of other forms of foods.

5. Fast food restaurants must be relied upon to provide meals, while driving to an activity, or while leaving an activity.

6. Parents buy snack foods such as pretzels and crackers so that children can eat them while in the car as a real meal replacement.

7. Parent(s) are so busy shuttling children to activities that there is no time for meal preparation. This leads to an over-reliance of pasta for dinner, or pizza or other take-out foods, or on processed or prepared foods.

8. Activities clash with dinnertime, therefore preventing the old-fashioned tradition of the entire family eating the dinnertime meal together.

Of course any number of these could also apply to families who put their children in school. It is just that I know with homeschooling we are often shutting our children to different appointments in not only the late afternoon or evening, but also in the morning hours or the early afternoon hours. We have more flexibility in our day to schedule appointments, so we have the potential to clash with all three mealtimes which would normally take place in the home.

This is my original writing. This is not an internet circulating piece. If you want to share it with others, please refer them to my blog. And if you dare copy and paste it to circulate it, please give me credit of authorship.

Books I am Reading Now

If you are wondering what the status of my other reading are:

I am half way done reading “Saving Childhood” by Michael and Diane Medved but am taking a break from it.

I began reading "Poor Richard’s Almanack" by Benjamin Franklin. This is my non-aggravating before-bed reading.

I just read Catherine Levison’s “A Charlotte Mason Education”. It was Levison's second book (and full day seminar based on her book) "More Charlotte Mason Education" which made me realize I could do it. I am less impressed by her first book.

I continue to read Karen Andreola’s book “A Charlotte Mason Companion” which is what my Charlotte Mason Study Group is reading.

I am still reading “The Over-Scheduled Child” by Alvin Rosenfeld.

I recently finished the second book in the Gossip Girl series (racy juvenile literature), titled “You Know You Love Me”.

I recently borrowed the boy teenager racy book “Doing It” from the library. I am going to have to put a cover on it if I am to have it out where my young children can see it.

And I can’t wait to start reading “Deconstructing Penguins” by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone.

I also have a stack of books about the history of collage and the art of collage and about collage techniques that I am browsing and skimming. These are from three different area libraries. I am reading these for my personal interest and am using them as inspiration for my collage-ATCs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Can’t Wait to Read the book “Deconstructing Penguins”

Did you ever have a friend (or two or three) tell you about a gem they’ve known about for a while but have never enlightened you about? I had that experience the other night at my Charlotte Mason Study Group meeting.

One mother brought up this new book “Deconstructing Penguins” by Lawrence Goldstone, and Nancy Goldstone. Another mother said she had also read it and that the two of them had chatted. Then a third friend of mine chimed in that this was such a great book. The funny thing is they all assumed I knew all about this book. Then they excitedly began telling me all about the book.

I was in the dark!

All three women were very excited about the book, which discusses the importance of the bonding relationship that happens between a parent and a child during reading aloud (of books) sessions. The authors then propose a certain method of book discussion which involves both child and parent.

I then found out that a nearby library was going to have parent/child book discussion groups, based on the method of book discussion outlined in this book. As a matter of fact the authors of the book founded this book discussion program at this very library. They led the discussions for years. I wonder if they are going to lead this session? One friend of mine is going to attend.

I knew right then that I wanted my son and I to be a part of this group. Three days later I received confirmation that there was still room in the group. (I was very surprised by the fact that vacancies existed.) I now need to go find where in my house the chapter book that we must read before the start of the group is hiding.

I then could not stand not knowing more about the process. The book was not available in area libraries so I forked over the money to buy it from Amazon. It was delivered this evening.

I can’t wait to begin reading it.

Surprise! A 14th Treasure for "A Treasure's Trove"

Thanks to an email from my Treasure Troving cohort, I learned about this today!

Just when I thought it was all over, author Michael Stadther announces a surprise 14th treasure is hidden as part of the national treasure hunt connected to his book "A Treasure's Trove". This token represents the character Rusful.

See here for the press release.

I was kind of relieved when I thought it was over as I knew that I had tried and failed, at finding a treasure. Now it is not over!

I have a theory that I thought would apply to the solving of the surprise 13th Pook token. However that theory was not applied to Pook. Perhaps it applies to the 14th treasure?

I do know that at this point in time I am too busy with other real life things to go back to solving the puzzle in ATT....

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reader Comment About Book “Teach Me”

I have been debating about whether or not to share some of the emailed comments I receive about my blog.

In reaction to one of my blog entries, on 8/21/05 I received the following emailed comment from a person named Arne S.(email address withheld) about the book "Teach Me". I have no information about who Arne S. is. I was wondering if Arne S. is a teacher or librarian or parent or someone who profits from the publishing or sales of "Teach Me".

The NBC piece was dead wrong -- TEACH ME is not trash, is a fantastic literary novel written with great respect for teens. It's so good, it was just picked as a Booksense recommended pick by ABA for fall 05, and has garnered fabulous reviews.

R.A. Nelson was quoted out of context. He was speaking of the richness of the writing in upper level YA novels like TEACH ME helping readers to mature and transition to the adult side of the book store. It was a smear piece grabbing at headlines. Linda Sue Park, winner of the 2002 Newbery Award, wrote to NBC to protest that TEACH ME is such a good book, it was a crime to include it with books like Gossip Girls.

Here is my reply dated 8/21/05. I didn’t receive any reply from the writer.

Thanks for writing. I will have to read it for myself in order to give MY opinion on it.

I have personally been misquoted in the media and magazine articles I wrote to a small publication and a letter to the editor of a huge parenting magazine were edited to the point of putting words in my mouth that I never said! I don’t have much faith in anything I read, see or hear in the media. Frankly, I don’t know who to believe any more. I am sick to death of media people taking things out of context. It is maddening, actually.

I have not read “Teach Me”. I had a conversation with a friend in May when “Rainbow Party” came out and I said I planned to borrow a copy from the library to read it myself as I wanted to judge it myself. My town library didn’t have it, and frankly I don’t think I want my tax dollars buying what appears to be soft porn for teens so I am not asking that they buy it. I was planning to do interlibrary loan to get access to the book. She said I should not as the libraries track the borrowing habits and requests, and also for ILL so if it appears it is being requested then it will be deemed a book that the library should buy. Hmmm. She felt that the little I knew of it was enough to reject it without even reading it.

I used to write a lot of Amazon customer reviews but I only wrote them when I read the entire book. I don’t like to give personal opinion on something I haven’t read. I do have and overall issue with titillating sexual pieces being written for preteens and teens. Between HBO, access to money and stores, stuff their friends show them, and sometimes access to their own parent’s stuff, they can have adult intended-audience sex information and porn-like material if they want it. We don’t need to feed them sex in juvenile literature! Example: in my little town which was ranked #2 top town to live in, in this state, a Playboy was passed around the school bus that goes to my neighborhood, and got as far as the first-graders row before the driver discovered it. Sex information, graphics and text seem to be within even a first grader’s reach!

I am enjoying reading “Saving Childhood” by Michael and Diane Medved. I am also in agreement with what Dan Kindlon writes about as well as David Elkind. I have not yet read “All Grown Up and No Place To Go” by Elkind, about the result when teenagers have been exposed to adult stuff, but I do plan to.

How did you find my blog piece? Just curious.

I never receivd a reply.

Teaching Writing Controversy

Here is an example of a teaching philosophy that is controversial. Perhaps the word controversial is too strong, but I can’t think of a better word right now.

The authors of the Writing Strands series say not to correct a child’s own writings, if they make a capitalization, spelling, or punctuation error. Okay, that sounded good when I heard it during their lecture at a homeschooling conference. But I am having trouble with actually doing it. I started both of my children on Writing Strands 2 (approximately a second grade level curriculum) this month. The idea is that if they fear making an error or being criticized for it they won’t love writing or may even hinder their creative process or be marred for life with a fear of writing.

From what I read from what others say, Charlotte Mason felt a child should never write something incorrectly as writing it wrong and seeing it written the incorrect way can cement that wrong way in their mind. I tend to agree with this as I am a visual learner. Hmm, this is a direct contradiction. What should I do??

Charlotte Mason felt that grammar studies should be held off until fourth grade. Last spring, when I saw that my then-second grader wasn’t using punctuation or proper capitalization in his spontaneous writing, I was horrified. This needed fixing. Reading on his own and seeing print everywhere didn’t do enough to teach him by osmosis as some claim does happen. Sigh.

So, last spring we began using First Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (FLL) by Susan Wise Bauer (first half is first grade and second half is second grade). Even my five year old is finding this easy. With this program they are learning proper capitalization as one of the first lessons.

I had shied away from FLL as three homeschoolers I know said they felt it was a horrible program. One day I was invited to the home of another homeschooler. This was an impromptu visit and we went to her home together. She did not have time to tidy up her home. I spied FLL on a table and asked if I could look at it. She agreed and added that she usually hides it when her homeschooling friends are coming. I asked why. She said that all her friends hate it and she is using it and really enjoying it, but was keeping “in the closet” about it! I thought this was hilarious.

I looked FLL over and thought it was something that would work for us. I ordered it immediately and have been using it ever since, with my older child. My younger son listens in and is learning all the concepts and even memorizing the poetry as well (without effort). So this fall I consider him officially using FLL as a curriculum for grammar.

There are heavy Charlotte Mason influences in FLL, even though the idea of teaching grammar to a first grader is not what Charlotte Mason recommended. The lessons are short; my children do most in five minutes. The child and mother are to repeat a definition, i.e. what a noun is, three times. This sounded goofy to me but my children did memorize this by the second lesson. The lesson content is organized into very short lessons which repeat frequently until it sinks in. There are stories which are to be read aloud and narrated back. There are detailed illustrations which are to be looked at and narrated back (picture study a la Charlotte Mason). There are dictation sentences to write and there is copywork.

Some feel the repeating of the definitions is patronizing. Some may feel the lessons are dumbed down. FLL is working for us and that is all that matters to our family.

I skip ahead in FLL when the concepts are mastered. I also skip the narration exercises as we do that in other areas of our curriculum and we don’t need to use that as the basis for learning how to narrate or exercising the mind with narration of that specific material.

Oh, and there are also light art and craft activities in FLL to go along with the poetry selections.

I am still having trouble letting them not write correctly with their writing composition. Here we are doing spelling and I want it correct but in their writing it can be incorrect? I am drilling them on proper capitalization in grammar but not in writing? I am drilling them in using proper handwriting in penmanship but not in writing? It seems illogical to me to not want them to do it right across the board. To do otherwise seems to contradict what they are learning in their other lessons.

So anyway, I am conflicted about it right now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Homeschooling Update

I feel that since this is a homeschooling blog I should post something about what we are up to since the academic school year began for us. I feel obligated to!

The truth is that I am so busy now that I barely have time to blog and do many other things that I was doing over the summer. Sigh.

We went to a wonderful ‘not back to school party’ the day after Labor Day, which took up the entire day. Therefore, we began homeschooling the second day after Labor Day.

Due to helping a relative and one trip to stay at a realtive’s house on Cape Cod, I ended up not having planned out our academic year. This disorganization is not being enjoyed by me. My children are clueless about it so they are not experiencing any ill effects.

I have decided for both of my children, to both meet their needs as well as impose what I feel is a decent education on them. I have certain expectations and goals for my children. There is a delicate balance between challenging them in a healthy way and not overdoing it. The goal is for my children to learn. The goal is not to do every page in a workbook if they have already mastered the concept, we skip that work as it would be simply “busy work”. I don’t want to waste their time or mine, or make them bored by doing lots of work that repeats things they already know down pat. I feel that I teach the child, not teach the curriculum.

Lucky for me things are not a complete mess as with most of our curriculum we are picking up where we left off last year.

Also while my younger son is officially in Kindergarten, he is not doing any Kindergarten level work, he is doing mostly first and second grade work, because I am teaching him where he is at rather than teaching what someone thinks a child of this age should be learning.

I didn’t think I had overbooked our schedule but now I feel overbooked. We are not doing any sports. We have scouting and then academic co-op’s and paid academic classes.

I am having trouble adjusting to the routine. The fact that some of the classes are every other week makes each week seem different and odd. Also some of the dates are not spread out equally, so sometimes there are two weeks in a row then a two week gap.

I found out one thing we are doing is at 4:30pm and that the rush hour traffic is already heavy then. The ride took 40 mintues when without traffic it takes only 20 minutes. This means yet more time out of our day dedicated to this one class.

I also am finding it very different to homeschool two children with a full courseload. It was different last year when my younger son did some subjects but not all subjects. Since my younger son is doing more there are more opportunities for problems. Examples: both children want me close during math in case they have a question. One asks a question and the other gets mad because he can’t do math if he hears any sound in the house. They both want to read in the same room but since they both like to read out loud, they can’t or don’t want to be in the same room with the other one reading aloud. When one has the colored pencil sharpener, the other wants it. Welcome to my world.

The weather is still wonderful with many sunny days and temperatures in the 70s with low humidity. I am making it a plan to spend many hours at the local homeschool park day playing with the other children. I am so tempted to stay home and cram school since we are all happy to do it and are so enthusiastic about it. However I am holding off on this urge as I want them to see their friends now and play outdoors now while the weather is cooperating. There will be many winter days when we can do lots of indoor schoolwork.

I also didn’t like the music class we signed up for, for many reasons. I am pulling my children out of it. I still need to phone the owner of the company to discuss that.

Another issue I am dealing with is that we are putting the kids to bed one hour later than last year and then they are staying up and reading in their beds for up to 75 more mintues. They then are sleeping until 8:00am to 9:00am. This makes the homeschooling lessons start off quite late. I am finding that the days we begin at 11:00am are days in which we don’t do all that I had planned. So tonight begins a new bedtime.

Okay, it is time to get ready for bed and to watch the season premiere of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. We will watch the TiVo'ed edition sans commercials (we fast forward through them) with the children and we discuss business tactics, professionalism, ethics, etc. with them. You may not believe it but they pick up on a lot by watching “The Apprentice”. (Side note: in past Apprentice shows when we were aware the content would be racy we’d not let the kids see that episode.)

Good Night!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Photos of Our Family Library

A few of my readers have been emailing me, begging me to post "after" shots of my famly library, after the book sort, reshuffle, and tidying up. When I finished the project, I didn't have a digital camera to take photos with, but now I have one, so here you go.

Above photo:
Here is a view from the foyer looking in to the library. My older son is the person reading the book.

After the tidying up, I was given a pair of overstuffed chairs, which I put in the center of the library. An ottoman we already own is serving as the coffee table/foot rest. I don't have an end table to spare so I am using an inherited small coffee table as an end table to house a lamp, as this room does not have overhead lighting. The reading lamp in the library was from freecycle.

The mantle houses various arts and craft projects that my children created. The tops of the shelves house varous science projects and models that the children have built as original works or from kits.

So now the entire floor is no longer empty. When it was empty, we laid on the floor and read books together. Now we can sit. Hooray! It is a little tricky, though, for both kids to sit on my lap, at over 110 lbs. their combined weight is a bit much!

Above photo:
I used to have a big chair in the corner of the room. I removed it when I put the two 'new to me' chairs in the room. This leaves a space in the corner just big enough for a new bookcase. I do need a bookcase there, to house encyclopedias which are presently sitting on the floor or are in cardboard boxes acting as bookcases. After my husband gets a job I'll buy a matching bookcase from Wal Mart. I paid just $40 each for these, on sale at Wal Mart, about 7 years ago. They are melamine. We are not having serious trouble with warping. Minor warping is happening on the shelf with the oversized art books which are printed on heavy glossy paper, so are very heavy. I don't double stack the books. My friends complain of warping, most double stack their books which doubles the weight. For the record my husband hates these shelves; he'd prefer built-in's made of real wood and wood paneling. Well, that is not in our budget right now! What I need right now is places to house books. Period.

Above photo:
Here are my encyclopedias and sets of books which have no home. I will use the new bookshelf to house encyclopedia's and sets. I received two sets of World Book encyclopedia's from a Freecycler. The first set is from 1971. I then got a 1989 set and planned to get rid of the 1971 set. However, the 1989 set is dumbed down, but contains color photos and more graphics. So for now, I am keeping both. Actually each has it's pro's and con's and just comparing entries is a fun thing for me to do in and of itself. I received a science encylopedia from the free table at a homeschoolers used book sale.

Above photo:
Here is the right side of the room. From left to right, these shelves house:
1. Teaching reading, writing, grammar, spelling, penmanship (2 shelves). Five in a Row manuals, FIAR picture books and other picture books which I feel will make great unit studies.
2. All science (5 shelves).
3. All science (5 shelves).
4. Bibles, Bible history, religion (3 shelves). Science (1.5 shelves). Misc. history/science blends (history of farming, history of mining, etc.)
5. World history, in chronological order. There is a little left of Ancient Egypt then what I plan to use this year to teach history through to 1650. There are also various books about the 1700s (4 shelves) These are all elementary school level books. Some US Geography and regional information, history/geography, (1 shelf).

Above photo:
This is my desk and where "The Thinking Mother" blog entries are written I am sure that seeing this thrills you! The books on the floor are waiting to be logged into my book inventory database, so this is a little clutter that has formed. The books in the shelves around my desk are 'homeschooling how to' books and other books on education and education reform. There are miscellaneous books that I reference often double stacking on the shelves also. Yes, I know my desk is messy.

Above Photo:
This is the left corner of the room. These shelves house teaching art and teaching music, and music history (2 shelves). There are two shelves of fine art books. The bottom shelf is books for my older son to read for practice reading. The next shelf houses two shelves of poetry book and three shleves of math books, math curriculum, and fun math manipulatives. The basket on the floor contains books for practice reading for my five-year old son.

This bookcase houses reference books, i.e. dictionaries (1 shelf), activity and craft books to do with children (two shelves) and two shelves of book sets such as "My Bookhouse". This is the new empty spot which is begging for a new bookcase.

Other General Information:
This rug is left over from our old house, and it is berber. Its purpose is to protect the wood floor. It serves a utilitarian purpose and we don't have it for its' aesthetic qualities!

For the record, I hate the wall color, which was here when we purchased the house. It is a weird greenish color whose name I do not know! The window treatments also were left by the previous owner, they are a pinkish/peach color. The former owner used this room as a formal living room.

This room really has poor light in the evening. The room has a southern exposure so it is bathed in sunlight all day long. The sun also bleaches the spines of my books--a problem which someday will be resolved by the installation of pleated shades.

Plans for the future:
Just this week my husband brought up the subject of what do with this room after he gets a job. We would like to intall built in bookshelves made out of wood, from floor to celing and make this a true library. The little wall space that is left will be wood paneling. I will have a different computer deak made out of real wood. (Mine is from pressboard and although it was not inexpensive it really is poorly made and is not entirely functional as the drawers began falling apart when it was only three months old.) Anyway, we would also like to have a beautiful oriental rug in the room. The room will also need to be rewired to put electrical outlets in the floor so that we can have more table lamps. We could also rewire the ceiling to allow for over head lighting. I don't know when that project will occur as after a job is found, there are higher priorities for where our money will be spent, such as paying back debt and rebuilding our savings account.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

About Lapbooking and Notebooking

I have intended to write about lapbooking (other terms and spellings: lap books, lapbook, lapbooking, also spelled lapbooks and lapbooking) and notebooks (notebook, notebooking, note book, note books, note booking) for a while. Here is some information for you in case you are interested!

About Lapbooks and Lapbooking
Lapbooking is the term for taking a paper file folder and refolding it so that there are two covers on the front. It is held vertically, with the 11 inch long side being held in a vertical position. It is refolded so that one cover opens to the left and the other cover opens to the right. This lapbook is dedicated to one topic of study. The child then makes miniature books and little folded flaps about content of that subject area. Those little books are glued to the inside of this lapbook. Extensions can be made, with card stock paper or tag board paper, to make the lapbook have more surfaces in which to place books. The cover can be decorated.

A school teacher named Dinah Zike may have been the first person to write down directions for mini books and to have published in book format. Zike has many ideas for mini books, in many forms. Zike does not use the term lapbooking, from what I have read and seen. The first book on this subject by Zike which I read was “Big Book of Books and Activities: an illustrated guide for teachers, parents, and anyone who works with kids!”

(See Tobin’s Lab here, be sure to scroll down.)

Another book by Zike which is helpful is “Dinah Zike’s Big Book of How to Make Projects: how to design, develop and make projects for kindergarten through college”, alternate sub-title: “fast and easy projects from Kindergarten through College”. This takes these ideas to a higher level.

(See info and customer reviews on Amazon, here).

Also available from homeschooling family business: Tobin’s Lab, see here (scroll down).

I learned about “Tammy Teaches Lap Books”, (scroll down), which I bought for $10. This is a wonderful video in which Tammy talks more about how great lapbooks are and she shows many of the lapbooks that her children created. This is a different and very helpful way to see how great these are. I felt this was more inspiring than looking at tiny illustrations in the Zike book.

I tried lapbooking with my older son but he was too young. I ended up doing all the planning and even the execution, everything from the cutting of the paper, to the writing, to the gluing. I shelved the whole idea until he is able to work more with his own ideas and with his own retained information to create a lapbook which is truly his own.

Then when I attended the MassHope homeschooling conference in April 2004 I saw that Tammy Duby had recently published a book about lapbooking. I bought it immediately! I feel that this book is superior to the Zike books. If a person wanted to buy just one book to get started on lapbooking, I’d recommend this book. I also still recommend the video. If you still have more money to burn and don’t think you will get overwhelmed, you can also buy the Zike books. Please also know that much money can be spent on fancy papers, colorful card stock, glues, and colored folders. So if you are looking for ways to spend money, just know that you will have even more shopping to do if you want to. If you want to make simple lapbooks you don’t have to spend a lot of money. If you are a person who likes to go crazy in the craft store, you will have plenty of opportunities to shop, just go to the scrapbooking aisle and spend, spend spend. Anyway, the wonderful book by Duby is called here.

Alice Robertson’s Homeschooling with Notebooks website is here.

Discuss Lapbooking Online
There is also a YahooGroup! for lapbookers to discuss lapbooking called "Lapbooks" and to show images of their children's work, check it out here. Presently they have over 3500 members! That is the oldest and largest YahooGroup! on the topic, there are now also smaller groups and I see some families have made businesses out of making products for lapbooking.

About Notebooks and Notebooking
The big difference between notebooks and lapbooks is that in lapbooking the information is made into tiny books which are glued inside of a file folder. With notebooking a child may make little books but they are glued into pages which are 3 hole punched and put inside of a 3 ring binder notebook. With notebooking, regular pages can be added as well as pressed leaves or other objects. In other words the notebook pages might just be flat and not have "mini books" in them. Also some people use notebooks like scrapbooks and can add in things like pressed flowers, real dried leaves, photographs your family took, et cetera. Notebooking can cover a whole subject such as “Ancient History” and may hold an inch thick stack of papers, while lapbooking is smaller/thinner and holds less information. Subjects for lapbooking may cover smaller topics such as “Ancient Egypt” or “Pyramids”.

Adhesive Options For Lapbooking and Notebooking
One tricky part with lapbooks and notebooks is what adhesive to use to glue the papers together?

White Glue
While some report they use regular white glue, most find this bubbles the paper.

Spray Adhesives
I have heard spray adhesives such as 3M brand work well. I have tried this. Note that there are many warnings on the label about safety while using it. The product is full of chemicals that are harmful to humans. It is not a non-toxic product, and it is advised to use it outdoors or in a "well-ventilated area" which normal American homes are not set up to be. I have read of the safety concerns with some chemicals in this spray adhesive product and basically it should never be inhaled, not even by accident while using it outdoors.

I also found that the final lapbook stunk like the chemicals, as well, for months! That adhesive spray should not be used by children or around children and I believe it says so on the product label.

I have also had problems with the spray adhesive as the use has to be timed around good outdoor weather and the stuff needs to stay outside (and not blow away in the wind) while drying. I found it messy to use and had to use a lot of old newspapers to protect the surfaces that I was laying the items onto before spraying.

Glue Sticks
Others have reported that regular old glue sticks don't work as after a little time they dry up and the thing you glued together falls apart.

Check the Scrapbook Aisle of the Craft Store
Now that scrapbooking is so popular there are a lot of different adhesives on the market with different applications. You may want to experiment with some.

My Favorite Product
My new favorite adhesive for papers which is used by artists that does not bubble is made by Golden and is called "Golden acrylic gel medium soft gloss". It comes in gloss, semi-gloss and matte. I like the gloss best because it is the wettest and the thinnest. The matte version is less visible if a little goes onto your project. This is water soluable and dries completely clear. I apply it with a cheap foam 1 inch brush (often on sale for 20 for $1 but normally they are about 25 cents each). While wet the product cleans up easily from any surface including clothing. When dry, if you get it on clothing, it is permanent like a clear-ish crusty residue. This product is labeled as being non-toxic.

To use this easily I use an old phone book. I lay the small paper to be glued face down on the phone book page. I put a thin layer of the soft gel medium onto the back of it with the foam brush. I then pick it up and put it on the surface. When the phone book page is a mess I turn the page to a clean sheet and continue working.

This product by Golden does not have a bad odor and while using it, there are no fumes in the room.

In Connecticut I buy the Golden acrylic gel medium soft gloss" at Michael's craft store with the discount coupon. Oddly, one store near me carries the Golden product line while another local store does not.

You can also find it for full retail in fine art shops. Lastly if you want an Internet based source, try who is a fine art supply company who discounts everything. Interestingly, Amazon also sells some of the product line!

I have been using this Golden product to glue papers together while making artist trading cards for over two years. It is an acid-free product. It has other applications and usages for artists as well, it is not JUST an adhesive product. It acts as an adhesive on paper, plastic, fabric and wood.

Golden company's webpage about their gel medium products

I hope you found these resources helpful.

I hope you enjoy your lapbooking adventures.

I plan to try lapbooking again in the future. I am considering doing more notebooking. Wish us luck.

Note: post updated 3/01/08 to add information about adhesives.

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Lazy Parenting Has Negative Consequences for Children

I had really not thought, that when I signed up to volunteer at Cub Scout Day Camp, that I’d learn anything. I thought that I’d help the Scouts have fun and help them learn things. I had no idea that the experience would be so eye-opening for me. I learned a lot about group dynamics of children, specifically, boys aged 7 or 8 who are going to enter third grade this fall.

The thing I learned was that lazy parenting has negative ramifications for children. This was an area that I just never knew about or thought about before. Well, I have heard that these children may break the law when they are older, refuse to follow authority as teens and adults, and things like that. I had never realized that even young children face negative consequences from the people they interact with.

I have heard Dr. Phil say that a parent’s job is to socialize our children; that children need to be taught how to act and behave in our society. He speaks of this on the shows centered on parenting issues which show children who are doing any number of negative things, for which the parents are looking for a solution.

I have heard parents say that the role of school is to socialize their children. Or that other group activities (paid classes or sports) serve to socialize the children to teach them to listen to the authority figure. I believe that socialization starts in the home and should be taught in the home. Whatever they learn from outside sources should be extra. There are many flaws in leaving socialization to same-aged peers, but that is another discussion entirely. And coaches and teachers don’t have enough time in their day to fully instruct an individual child in what they need to know in order to be properly socialized!

On several shows, Dr. Phil has commented that overindulging our children, or “indulgent parenting” is the worst form of child abuse. He explained that giving a child everything they want teaches them selfishness and a sense of entitlement. For example, if a four year old throws a tantrum or even physically lashes out against a parent because they want a new toy purchased for them, and the parent gives in, it teaches the child that it is alright to act that way, hit, or whatever, and their negative behavior is rewarded and reinforced by the parent who does act on the child’s demand. I completely understood this.

However I never thought about the ramifications about how the child’s peers would treat them as a reaction to their behaviors. Perhaps this is because I have never seen how kids act in large groups when they are apart from their parents. The environment I was in was most closely matched with a school classroom’s environment. One step worse is what the school bus ride is like. I don’t think what I saw was like sports events (i.e. Soccer, Little League baseball) because at those events the children are highly structured in a game situation and also the parents are at least present if not watching closely.

I witnessed negative ramifications by peers over and over last week. Since we were in day came for the same length of time as a child is in school each day, it really makes me wonder what goes on in school, with group dynamics, when elementary grade students are around the same group of children for 180 days in the academic school year! I now see from an outsider’s perspective how children can have their personalities affected by their experiences in school. I witnessed shunning of the troublemakers by the rule-followers. If I saw how a child was shunned by day three, I can only imagine what goes on in the same group of children who are together for 180 days!

The first day of day camp was chaotic. None of us knew where each station was, or how long it would take to get there. We didn’t have a sense for the flow of the day, having started off unorganized and without a schedule for a while. We didn’t know what the activities would be like, etc. None of us knew the personalities of each other at all that first day, but we were learning! Even I, as a Leader who had attended a two-hour training session for this day camp, felt unprepared for some aspects of the job. The training also could never have taught me in that classroom environment, what would really go on with regard to group dynamics and children’s personalities and behaviors.

I also was not prepared or used to being around kids who I didn’t raise. I have taught my own kids things which I think are the right way to act and behave. I really don’t have a lot of information about how other people are raising their kids and really was shocked at the horrible behavior, rudeness, lack of knowing how to follow the directions of an authority figure, and other negative things that showed me that some children were definitely “not socialized”. I also had to deal with bullying behavior, verbal and physical, and also kids intentionally doing things to endanger others (throwing rocks, large sticks, etc.) at other people.

By the start of the second morning, I could see that the children already had an awareness of the personalities and traits and issues of the other children. Here are some examples. Some of the boys, at the first chance, began doing very physical things such as suddenly running around and trying to get others to join in on a running game. Another example is that some boys seemed unable to restrain themselves to walking while on a hike, they wanted to run. Well, both of those things were against the rules and dangerous. This was a real safety issue. I noticed that a couple of boys were the leaders; the others would not start this activity. The followers waited for the leader to begin, and no more than one second later, the followers had joined in. Still others didn’t want to break the rules and would not follow the leader if the leader was breaking a rule.

The boys who didn’t want to break the rules, or didn’t want to get me or the other instructors angry, made sure to stay away from those boys, they physically distanced themselves from them. They began to watch their misbehavior and back away. They began to separate themselves from these boys at all times of the day, carefully selecting who they sat next to for lunch or during the sessions, for example. At first, I thought this was “clique formation” but it was not forming of cliques for the sake of finding friends or excluding others intentionally in a bad way, it was more like protecting themselves, by banding together with like-minded boys who would also protect them. For example, it was as if the “rule followers” wanted to cluster together to make sure that they were not erroneously thought by the adults, to have been associated with the trouble-makers.

There were some boys who liked to back talk and mouth off in a rude and disrespectful manner to me, the other adult volunteer instructors and also to the teenaged volunteer helpers and instructors. Some boys were only back talkers, while others were both back talkers and physically more aggressive. Some of the back talkers like to challenge everything, every rule, every policy, and every little thing. All I can say is that dealing with this back talking is exhausting. And receiving verbal abuse from a child is very insulting and disrespectful and is not good for the other children to see. Not dealing with it teaches the others that it is alright for children to disrespect adults. An adult who accepts verbal abuse from a child is not respected by the other children.

Still others were neither back talkers or physically aggressive, being what many adults would label as “good boys” or “angels” or “easy”. Those boys followed the rules, stayed away from the troublemakers, not wanting to associate themselves with them lest they get disciplined. If it were not for some boys being “easy”, I could have been driven mad! (I can only imagine now, what teachers go through.) However, these “good boys” also were almost completely ignored throughout the week, by me and the other volunteers. This was not intentional; it was just that if I have to be addressing the problems all the time, the non-problem children are ignored. By the morning of day three, I realized this and didn’t like it. I wanted to give praise to the boys who were being so well behaved. I was able to do it some, but it was difficult to fit in. When I was not on “damage control”, dealing with boys who were physically hurt due to their physical aggression, or getting physically aggressive boys to stop doing what they were doing, stopping the rock throwing and stick throwing before someone was injured, I was happy for the calm and quiet. For example if an instructor was trying to talk to the group and I had to get one boy to stop doing whatever, we needed the rest to be quiet to listen. This was not the time for me to also interrupt the instructor to give verbal praise.

I also realized by day two that the boys were watching me keenly. Some specifically watched me to see when they could do something to break a rule. I saw this out of the corner of my eye. If they thought I was busy or not noticing them, they’d begin doing whatever bad thing they chose to do. I also saw that when a boy did something wrong, some of the others would look to me and watch to see what I did or when I’d do something about it. If I didn’t address it, more children joined in, and bedlam soon ensued. It was unbelievable to me, how things could go from calm to chaos at the drop of a hat. They key to this was to keep the boys busy, and keep them having fun.

What I did was begin to watch my body language. I made sure that when I was happy that they were behaving properly during an activity, that I watched the “class” being lead by an instructor, rather than walk off to take a breather (which I was allowed to do during these classes). I smiled and made eye contact with some of the boys instead of staring off into space and daydreaming which I was tempted to do as I was having a moment of peace. I tried hard not to nag them and I tried not to have my only verbalizations be about dealing with problems. I definitely was not singling out certain children. I treated them all equally. If one child was doing things wrong continuously, I followed the Scouting discipline plan. I actually was a bit more lenient such as giving them more chances before I sent them to the Camp Director (akin to sending them to the principal’s office). If I had done that, the boys would have been most likely, sent home, which was the final step in the discipline schedule.

When we walked from one activity to another I made conversation with the boys. I thanked them and expressed gratitude when I had time and the opportunity. I did this for both the “angels” and the boys who had broken rules. I also privately praised boys who were acting great but formerly had been received consequences for breaking rules. My heart nearly broke when one boy said to me, “Am I still doing a good job?” after I asked him to not throw rocks while on a hike. He was very disappointed in the idea that he had been doing a good job but had now ruined it. This showed me that he really did care about wanting to do the right thing or perhaps he wanted me to be happy with him. There were a couple of boys who continued breaking rules but seemed to not care at all, and seemed to have hatred in their heart for any of the camp staff who tried to enforce the rules they wanted to break. This also broke my heart--to see hatred in their eyes. I wondered what had happened in their short 7 years of life, to make them so angry and hateful.

Oh, and there were also a couple of “policers”. These boys wanted all the rules followed, all the time. They were upset with their peers who didn’t live up to this expectation. They were also upset with me if I didn’t address every single thing. Some took things to an extreme, tattling to me that during a sports game, someone bumped into them, when it was truly an accident. The reality is that it was impossible to address every single infraction. I tried to stick to the rules and do the disciplinary action in the manner and format per the written policy given to me by the Boy Scouts of America staff. Some of these “policers” also had added their own, more strict rules and wanted me to deal with every single thing that personally offended them, even if it was not against the rules. Those things, I felt, the child needed to deal with the other boy directly. Example, a boy wanted to trade a snack with another child and the other child wasn’t interested. Children really do need to learn to communicate with each other and negotiate. Adults shouldn’t do it all for them.

Anyway, the most shocking thing to me was when the group dynamic shifted. There were two boys that another volunteer had warned me about as they were in his Scout Pack and he knew them well. I was surprised at one boy he pointed out as in the first two days I thought he was “an angel” and I didn’t see any of the problems. However, days three through five proved difficult with that boy. However, the other boy broke a lot of rules, severe safety rules, right from day one. For example, throwing a rock larger than the size of my fist right through a group of boys as they were walking up a path. Now that is dangerous, against the rules, and was not ignored by me. To ignore this behavior and to let it continue would be putting the other boys at risk of physical injury which is not acceptable.

What happened was that the entire group began shunning the biggest troublemaker. No one wanted to be with him. They didn’t walk with him, his buddy for the buddy system complained about having to be his buddy and he wanted to change to a new buddy. At lunch no one sat with him. He was ignored and not talked to. No one clamored to sit near him when he’d sit at for one of the sitting-down activities. By the fourth day, I noticed he had dropped back to always be the last child walking anywhere. Perhaps it was easiest to take the last seat available then to pick one of the first seats and have to see that no other boy wanted to sit by him. This saddened me.

It dawned on me on this fourth day that lazy parenting really does children a disservice. Children must be taught to obey authority, to follow rules (and laws), and to be respectful to others (peers). Permissive parenting, being lax about teaching rules, or intentionally teaching a child that the world revolves around them rather than teaching the child that they are a part of a society and they must conform to certain societal rules cheats the child. Is this fair to the child? I don’t think so. Don’t the parents realize this? I don’t think so. Why don’t they realize this? Because perhaps a lot of the negative stuff happens out of their line of sight, on the school bus, at school, or at drop-off activities such as paid classes or sports. They may see their child misbehave at home, and they think they can deal with it, “take it”, ignore it or whatever. I don’t think they are giving much thought to how others outside the home will treat their child when the child is apart from them.

This is one thing that a homeschooling parent can’t get away from. Not only do we have full charge of the academic content of our children’s education (unless we pay others to do this vis a vis paid classes), but we also have to socialize them. They are with us nearly all the time and this means we see them not only at their best but at their worst. It can be draining at times to constantly “be on duty”. It is hard to have a balance of rules which are necessary but not so numerous that they are overbearing for the child, to decide an effective yet non-harmful method of punishment (some call this discipline but I call it punishment), and even harder to be consistent about dealing with broken rules.

The very fact that we are with our children so much and must parent them all the time is draining. I have found that it is cyclical and changes over time. I also know that diligence pays off. All of a sudden, the issue is fixed and the behavior on that topic is wonderful and life is great for everyone.

The thing is, though, that there is always some type of parenting issue going on, and over time the way in which it is difficult changes. I don’t think parenting is ever an “easy ride”. While it can be hard to deal with a baby who wants to be in mothers’ arms all the time, it is also difficult to keep watch over an active toddler to see that they don’t unintentionally hurt themselves in their efforts to learn to walk, run, and climb stairs. Next up is learning to follow rules and to use words instead of acting out physically. After that comes a host of things, one that I am dealing with now is trying to raise children who have a real childhood and have a period of innocence—not pushing them to adulthood and maturity before they are ready; I am fending off the ills of society from encroaching into my children’s minds and changing who they are as people.

Is it right to essentially not teach the child how to act and behave, when the ramifications are that their peers will shun them? Given that the problematic camp boy goes to school, he WILL be affected by the way others treat him. What person wants to be the one that most or all people dislike or hate? What person wants to be the last one picked to be on a team or not invited to sit with them on the bus, at a lunch table, or whatever? No one does! Would any parent really want their child to be the looked-down upon child? I don’t think so! However, I wonder if the parents who fail to teach their child basic socialization skills or don’t teach the child to obey authority or to obey rules realizes that they are really making life difficult for their child. They may make it easier on themselves, to not be diligent about doing things such as having rules in the home and having discipline in the home. They may not be consistent about applying consequences, perhaps that is the issue.

Parenting is not always fun or easy. It is not fun for the parent to see a child not happy while receiving verbal discipline or while receiving a negative consequence punishment. But these things are necessary in order to guide and teach our children basic socialization skills and rules (and laws) of society.

I stand strong in my opinion that the parent is the adult and they are responsible for their child. And no matter what a pain in the neck it is or how inconvenient it is, it is in the best interest of the child for the parent to stand up, grasp their responsibility, and be the parent! And by the way, their peers, teachers, members of the community will be grateful now and in the future. And the child will benefit from this (although they may never know or realize all the work that went into their upbringing).

Friday, September 16, 2005

On Mildew Smell in Books

In response to an email on a book chat list that I am on, I wrote this reply. The person was upset that a book they purchased on eBay was stated as "excellent" condition. The book was out of print and they paid a good price for the book. The book arrived reeking of mildew which was a surprise to the buyer. Note that the presence or lack of presence of odors in the book was never stated in the eBay auction. The buyer is trying to speak to the seller about this issue and so far, there is no resolution. Here is my reply.

This goes with a discussion I brought up on (this chat list) earlier this year about the mildew or mold odor of books. Some booksellers, even professional booksellers with rare/used book stores, consider the odor of mildew to not be a part of the grading condition of a book. They DO NOT think that odor is a problem and some rate the book's condition highly and even charge a high price for it.

I found a self-labeled "rare book seller" that calls themselves an antiquarian, on Cape Cod, who sells books for high prices that REEK. Nearly every book in the place has a mildew odor. More common books are even priced at 2-3 times the 'going rate' but they smell, to boot.

In response to the discussion I bought up on this discussion list, even some people here said they expect mildew to be NORMAL for an old book (I don't). Perhaps some of those replies that I received were sent to me privately rather than to the group so everyone didn't see them? The subject line was something like "odor of books" or "mildew". I had received some intense emails saying that odor should not be any part of a book's rating (and indeed it is not on the list of how to rate a book either). The scent of old paper is one thing but the odor of mildew or mold is another thing entirely, TO ME.

I also had received a pointed email from one person telling me that perhaps if I thought mildew was an odor to have a problem with then one might also consider the presence of a cat in the home where a book is, in case the book smells of cat urine. (!!) I have never smelled cat urine or any kind of pet smell in the pages of a book.

Mildew odor gives me an instant headache. I have never investigated this medically and don't think I have an allergy. I have never been diagnosed with an allergy of any kind. I had mentioned this, and I also had received a pretty rude email telling me that if I had an allergy that was my problem, but that a bookseller does not have to disclose ODOR when listing books for sale and that it should not lower the price, according to this one person.

So can see the mindset of some people?

In summary I say now and I said then that BUYER BEWARE on Ebay and if the auction doesn't say "no odors" then ask that question of the seller and don't bid on it until you get a reply of "no odor". That is what I now do.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

When People Are Reading My Blog

Here are the results for when people read my blog last week. If any of my readers are homeschoolers, this shows me when you have free time to read blogs. Anyway, we can see overall at what times my readers are online.

As I write this, I suddenly realized, this is also not very accurate as it is measured in Eastern Standard time. If my reader is from somewhere other than here, the time is incorrect. I guess the main thing I can glean from this is if I want to do a blog update before my readers come to check my blog, it would be best to do it before 10am. By the way, in the past the 10am slot has always been #1.

This is measured by the hour, i.e. 10:00am to 10:59am.

10am and 9pm are a tie as the top reading times, at19 readers during each of these hours
4pm, 16 readers
11am, 15 readers
7pm and 8pm are a tie at 14 readers per hour’s slot
12pm and 2pm are tied at 13 readers per hour’s slot
10pm and 11pm are a tie at 10 readers per hour’s slot

The rest of the hours had 9 or less readers per hour.


By the way, I like my free Site Meter service. I have no complaints.

Son Will Be Avoiding Food Dyes

Just to report in, my sons Pediatrician has recommended total avoidance of food dyes due to the breakout of hives he had earlier this week.

I have had many issues with the affects of food on my children, but never a skin rash, hive, or anaphylactic reaction. Both children have had what some call “sensitivities” or “intolerances”, and some did call them “allergies”. I have also seen the negative affects of sugar highs, what happens when insulin levels go up and down, and the ill effects of eating foods with a high glycemic index.

I am not happy about the idea of food affecting him in this way!

What I had expected and hoped for was that our September would be all about getting back into a groove of homeschooling. I didn’t expect to be researching and dealing with a new food allergy that causes hives.

Our normal family diet does not include many food dyes. Most of the food that we eat while at home is not processed. Our challenges come when we eat at the homes of relatives or friends, when we see friends at outings or for a playdate, or when eating in a restaurant. In the overall scheme of things, those situations happen often.

Upon further consideration, I realized that the night before the hives my son ate two handfuls of chocolate M&Ms at his grandparent’s house. We ate dinner at a pizza restaurant (for a birthday party of a relative). He drank one glass of Sprite. I need to research if Sprite has food coloring in it. I assume no, but you never know. He ate a piece of birthday cake from a local grocery store including huge colored roses made out of frosting. The colors were yellow and dark blue/purplish color. At about 11:45am he ate about a dozen M&Ms which his grandparents gave him to take home to eat. At 1:30pm he ate the vanilla ice cream with the colored sprinkles. At about 1:50pm the first breakout of hives occurred.

I am now wondering if the allergic reaction was due to an overload of food dyes within a 24 hour period. In the normal course of a day he doesn’t eat candy or products with food dyes. We also make our own family’s birthday cakes from scratch.

Poor kid. Cake with frosting is his favorite dessert. It will be hard to go to a birthday party and scrape off the colored frosting. Virtually every person I know uses store bought cakes, and virtually all of them are decorated with artificial colors/food dyes (not natural dyes). I may have to bring our own dye-free frosting to such parties, or else he will feel like he is really missing out on something and/or feel like he is different or strange.

I guess I should also begin keeping a food log.

Maybe now is also the time to make sure/force the kids to eat 3 vegetables and 2 fruits per day. They have slacked off on eating fruits and vegetables lately. Their picky eating habits are getting more and more frustrating.

I am debating whether or not I want to my son to go through pinprick allergy skin testing. A second option of blood testing is available. From what I have been told by physicians and naturopaths, there is a high false positive rate with blood allergy tests. Perhaps we should see a naturopath. I hesitate to incur a lot of out of pocket medical expenses due to our unemployment and ‘no income’ situation.

I can’t wait until my husband gets a job and we can begin to live like normal Americans again: working, getting paid, being able to buy the goods and services we need, etc. I love America. I love capitalism. But living in America without money is just not an easy thing to do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thoughts on "The Over-Scheduled Child" Chapter Two

I wrote this while away on vacation, two weeks ago, while I still had time to read books. Since I have been so busy with homeschooling and our new fall schedule I haven’t had time to do much blogging. So tonight I edited this piece. I hope you like it. I really am enjoying this book. I am in the middle of Chapter Four now…

The Over-Scheduled Child: Chapter Two: “Preconceived Notions”

I continue to read and comment on the book “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” by Alvin Rosenberg M.D. and Nicole Wise. Chapter Two is titled “Preconceived Notions” and focuses on preparing to be parents and pregnancy.

I like the way the authors built a foundational theory then begin to build the ‘house’, one layer at a time, one parenting stage at a time. I saw a lot of myself in this chapter, I have lived a lot of what this chapter talks about, especially with my first pregnancy.

Just the thought of starting a family today is overwhelming! More than anything we want to be sure our baby is born healthy. We’ll do whatever it takes.

Yes, this is true and the attitude from obstetricians, co-workers, and friends of our generation is that if one does not take all the steps and precautions, they are being negligent. Some of what our ideas are based on is the false notion that we are in control of much of our experience.
Many of our problems are rooted in our conviction that we can plan everything about our future, including our children. In figuring out when to “start trying”, we weight every factor—careers, life goals, and finances—trying to pinpoint the exact right time.

My friends, who knew me when I was pondering conception, will be laughing out loud if they read this. My husband even tried putting an exact month on when we should start trying as that is when our savings account would be at an acceptable level. I held off until two months prior and we “started trying” before his actual perfect timetable. Since I got pregnant in the first month, he didn’t get the two extra months of savings in, which he, for some reason, felt would have been optimal.

The authors go on to discuss all the lifestyle changes that a woman is put through during pregnancy and how maddening it is.

Later, the authors turn again to the media to place some blame for making parents feel that we are more in control of our children than we really are: but only if we buy this or that product.

Our fears get exploited to market advertisers’ wares. We read, watch, listen, and become convinced that there is one right way to parent for success—and that a particular book, CD, videotape, or nutritional supplement will make it happen in our homes. (page 25)

And for those who ponder going against the recommendations:

So while in truth we don’t have to subscribe to this particular view, in actuality we feel safer taking the practical approach that confident, experienced media voices tell us is right. If doing things the prescribed way is presented as the most certain path to a good outcome, it seems adolescent and irresponsible to insist on taking a more relaxed view of the world… (page 25)

My only comment to this, as a mother who has chosen some (or many) alternative parenting options including breastfeeding and homeschooling, I can argue that there is a way to deal with justifying alterative ideas. I don’t see how a person can just ignore what the experts say, but I feel that a person can choose the road less traveled. How? It is simple: find the other experts who recommend path B. I have found that basically any parenting issue, any infant feeding issue, any where-baby-sleeps issue, and any educational method issue has multiple choices and multiple experts. If you go looking for it, you can find “experts” who will back up your decision. Therefore I don’t buy the notion that a parent must take the mainstream parenting recommendation. If a person doesn’t like the mainstream path, take another path, you won’t be alone.

The authors then compare and contrast our generation with our parent’s generation. I think most of us realize a major shift has occurred: in the past the child fit into the parent’s life, and today, the parent changes their life to bend around what the best thing for the child is.

At this point I began wondering what the authors think of homeschooling. Do they think I have gone too far to educate my own children? I love what they are saying so far. On one hand I hope they don’t think that I am being a hyper-parent by not letting my children go into the hands of the public school system. But on the other hand, I have many reasons to justify my choice and there are experts who will back up homeschooling as the better choice. Phew. That makes me feel better. So long as I have the option to remain at home with my children, and so long as homeschooling is going well, I will homeschool them. It is nice to have a choice in the matter. If I had to work, then this decision would be a moot point and they’d be in school and that would be the end of that.

But back to the book. The authors state that the media urges us to buy this or that product, because in doing so, we will be guaranteed a good outcome and that the safety of our children will be guaranteed.

We also crave information. The authors describe the control process a woman goes through during pregnancy. She wants information. She wants confirmation that the pregnancy is going well. But too much information leads parents down the wrong path:

But we move quickly along the continuum of knowledge. First, we want to understand, just so we can become well-informed. Then we want to know more, so we can do the right thing. And then, almost inevitably, we begin to want some control, attaching great value to how “right” the things we do are and berating ourselves all those times when we can’t seem to get it perfect for our cherished and utterly dependent child-to-be”.

We should be kinder to ourselves. Selfless sacrifice is no more reasonable during the nine months of pregnancy than for the decades of active parenting that lie ahead…
(page 33)

We all need to learn to accept the limits of what we can control. It is the only avenue to serenity. But it is hard to let go that way.
(page 35)

I love this book! I appreciate the guidance that these experienced parents are giving me!

Google Search Box is Only Partially Working

Sigh. I figured out how to change the situation so that the search would allow a reader to search for keywords within my blogs.

I had no choice but to put the search box at the top of my blog as it was too wide to put in a sidebar.

I was very excited that I got this to work, and with less than 5 minutes time invested in figuring it out, until I tested it. The search within the pages of my blog is not working. Sigh.

I don't have the time or energy to figure this out right now. What a disappointment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Added Google Search Box To My Blog’s Sidebar Today

I have added a Google Internet search box to my blog. For now, if you use this, you can search for items on the web right from my blog. The results will pop up in a new window. I will get paid for any searches you do.

For example if I mention something you are curious about, you can use that search box to research it further on the Internet.

My initial reason to put this here was to get the Google search box to search for content inside of my blog, so that you and I could both locate past blog entries by a keyword. I have been trying to figure this out for almost an hour and cannot get that function to work. I can only take so much frustration about something that is supposed to be fun (this blog).

Anyway in the process of learning about this function I discovered that any type of search you do from my Google search box, to search the Internet, may generate income from me. In these times of unemployment, even some pennies will help.

So search away!

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Case of Hives

We did most of our homeschooling this morning, and then we had to leave to attend a (wonderful) homeschooler’s science class today. Afterward, I treated my children (and myself) to ice cream. We did this once after the class (last year) and now my children expect it to be a regular routine! My younger son asked for vanilla ice cream in a cup. The employee asked if he wanted shots (jimmies, sprinkles), which we hadn’t planned on him having, but he said yes.

We drove home to resume homeschooling. I thought we had a second class today. I asked the kids to play for a few minutes while I found the driving directions to the library, since I had no clue where I was going. I had two hours until we had to leave, so I wasn’t rushing around.

Then my younger son came in complaining of a very itchy mosquito bite, saying he must have gotten bitten while in the meadow today. He then showed me another. Then they began growing in size and spreading, right before our eyes. New ones began cropping up. Hives! He has never had them before! When red welts and raised bumps pop up right before one’s eyes, hives is a major possibility.

Just to confirm, I broke out my Merck Manual of Medical Information to research this. I have never seen a hive before, but knew what the symptoms were, mostly from working in the medical field in the past. It sounded exactly like hives to me. Since he was not having any problems breathing or with his throat, I was able to keep calm and decided not to call 911 or even call the Pediatrician.

I looked in the medicine cabinet and saw we did not have Children’s Benadryl. Great. I knew we accidentally left our Benadryl anti-itch crème at my parent’s house last weekend. Great. I then decided to give him an Aveeno (powdered oatmeal) bath. He was thrilled with this idea. After about 20 minutes in the water, most of the hives had disappeared as had the itching. I then found some Benadryl anti-itch gel that we had on hand that I had not noticed before. I put that on what was left of the hives.

Also through this I was wondering if this botched the plans for us to attend the first book discussion meeting today. Through further investigation to find the driving directions, I realized I made an error when posting the date to my calendar, and realized the first class is NEXT week. Phew. Now we can have a more relaxed afternoon.

Later I phoned the general store and asked what the ingredients of the ice cream and shots were. I had read in the Merck manual and also online, that often they are from food allergies. Common allergens are food dyes, preservatives, corn and daily, plus a slew of other things. My son has eaten a lot of dairy and ice cream in the past without a problem. I am wondering about the shots. I also read that it could be from environmental allergens. Since we had just left a meadow and we were shaking goldenrod plants, I was wondering also if that was the cause.

All was calm for a while so I was content to use the gel as we were doing.

Right before dinner a new breakout of hives came out. I sent my husband to the store for Children’s Benadryl liquid.

We have discussed this and decided to phone the Pediatrician tomorrow during office hours. We also, for now, will do an elimination diet of food dye, specifically, the yellow #5 and yellow #6 which were in the shots/sprinkles.

Just when things seem to be going smoothly, along comes a pain in the neck thing like this.

My son is already fretting that he won’t be able to eat things such as M&Ms and birthday cake (that has food dyed decorations on it).

This is another project for me to contend with now.

Suddenly regular homeschooling schedules and running from one class to another seems much easier and less to complain about!

Book Review: Merck Manual of Medical Information Home Edition

I wrote this review in June 2002 and thought I submitted it to Amazon as a customer review. Today I noticed my review is not on Amazon so I will publish it here. Afterwards, I will submit it to Amazon in an edited form.

I can't recommend this book highly enough, for families who like to investigate and learn more about medical conditions. Don't waste your time on the internet sorting through a lot of garbage. Check this book first then if you feel you must search the internet, do it afterwards!

Merck Manual of Medical Information, home edition, by Mark H. Beers

Book review written: July 19, 2002

5 stars

This reference book is easy to use and understand. When I first leaned of this home edition version of the Merck manual I was hesitant. Over the years many books have been published that are medical in nature, some published by doctors, but the content is watered down or so vague that a layperson doesn’t derive much information from it. Some books are actually condescending in attitude, some are patronizing. So many books briefly skim symptoms and then caution to call a physician for more information. I hate dumbed down or insulting books!

My son was diagnosed on the phone by our pediatrician with chicken pox and it was made clear that they did not want to see him for a physical exam. I was given a tiny bit of information by the office staff but was still curious for more information. I spent over an hour surfing the Internet looking for information but found watered down information, repeated many times over on multiple websites, including some written by physicians intended for laypeople to use. I looked at my parenting books written by doctors (one titled “The Portable Pediatrician”) and was still lacking any substantial information.

But when I consulted the Merck Manual home edition, (which I had forgotten I bought recently and had not yet used), I was surprised at the level of information given. There are many details that I had not found elsewhere, such as number of days from exposure to outbreak, how long it takes the pox to change from first appearance to crusted over, about how long the infection lasts, and treatment suggestions. Reasons why some children have a mild outbreak vs. a severe outbreak were even provided, something I had not found anywhere else.

The information here is not dumbed down in that it is not so vague that it is not useful. There is a lot of information here but it is written in a style for the layperson to understand. I appreciated the writing style, which presents information to the non-physician without putting on airs.

Anyone who, like me, prefers to gather information and learn about things rather than making a call or office visit to their doctor to get just one opinion will appreciate owning this book. At about 1500 pages it covers many illnesses and ailments. If you are interested in this book I suggest you buy it so that you have it at your fingertips 24 hours a day, for whatever may arise. I am not suggesting this take the place of a doctor, but I know from working with physicians that there are certain calls that are non-emergent in nature that are not appreciated when the office is closed!

My New Artist Trading Cards Blog

I created a blog to show my Artist Trading Cards (ATCs). This is at the request of some of the readers of The Thinking Mother. The blog features scans and my description of the ATC as well as the creative thought process behind each ATC.

I plan to also do short blog posts on the general topic of ATCs.

So check it out if you are interested. Here is the link. I also put the link in my sidebar.

(Now that I am getting more comfortable with posting sidebar links I may add some of my favorite blogs to a sidebar list. I am taking baby steps, one thing at a time!)

Starting a Family Notebook

I have decided to set up a family notebook. One section in this will be for current activities. I am putting information in this section regarding the class/co-op/sport we are doing, contact info for the organizer, dates of the classes, and directions to get to the location. Emails, handouts, or flyers with information about this activity will be placed in the notebook.

I hope this eliminates the need for doing searches on my computer or looking for scraps of paper on my desk or counters.

My original inspiration for this was from watching the TV shows “Wife Swap” and “Trading Spouses”. The families have to write a handbook (a notebook) that discusses all their current activities, contact information, doctor information, etc. My second inspiration was reading about this in the book “Notebooking! Yes! You CAN be a Binder Queen!” by Cindy Rushton. (I have the paper book but I see she is selling an e-book with a lot of extra information and forms now.)

This will expand also to have birthdays and other important dates as well as contact information for homeschool support groups, etc.

I don’t use a Palm Pilot. I probably would use a Palm Pilot if I had the money to buy one and the inclination to learn to use it properly. I also don’t use my cell phone as a data storage place.

More Thoughts on Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

Last week while at my public library I checked the card (computer) catalogue and discovered that all six of my library’s copies of books in the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar were in circulation. I still have the first book. I want to write a detailed review for my blog and for Amazon but just haven’t had the time or shall I say, made this a higher priority than other things I have to do.

I was pondering reading more in the series to get an even better idea of what the books are about as the series progresses. It took me just over two hours to read the first book, so this is not a huge investment of time.

Then on another visit last week I found the second book in the series was on the shelf. I borrowed it.

I spoke to the librarian who had asked me to share my opinion of the book with her. I did share my opinions in very brief statements as my children were standing right there. She told me something that I did not know. I forgot the name, but she mentioned a book series by the same publisher (Little, Brown) which is read by 9 and 10 year old girls. At the back of the book there are ads for the Gossip Girl series. She stated that her own daughter as well as girls at the library who are way too young for the sex, drugs, and alcohol consumption content in the Gossip Girl books are assuming that Gossip Girl is just like the more innocent books, and they are requesting to borrow the Gossip Girl books.

She also mentioned that so far the Library Director says the role of the public library is not to act "in loco parentis" by restricting the books that the children borrow. An example of this is that parents must give permission before children/teens can borrow movies from the library, which include "R" rated movies. Preteens and Teens are borrowing the "Sex in the City" series, for example.

But back to the books...we again talked about how some 9 year old girls who are good readers are referred to the “young adult” section (which is its’ own space and designed with comfortable chairs for reading), may find these mature and illegal content books quite by accident. I was suggesting that the books be stowed behind the counter but remain open for anyone to borrow, lest someone accuse, “Censorship!”. (The damage is done, the books are already purchased, after all, and I don’t foresee them being pulled from the collection.)

I do hope that the library does not buy any more books of this type. I am trying to wrap my mind around this and have spoken to a couple of friends.

I am planning to approach the Library Director to discuss this. I also am seriously considering writing either a very long letter to the editor or to write a guest editorial piece to our town newspaper. I hesitate to do this as my husband has asked that I not write to or for the local paper lest I bring attention to myself and become a target for attack. He worries that someone in town will discover we are homeschooling and try to say we are doing something illegal and begin to harass us for homeschooling. Yes, it is legal to homeschool in my state (and has been since 1650) but that doesn’t mean that “mistakes” are made by school officials and that families are not harassed in our state.

I also began researching what the American Library Association guidelines are for libraries about purchasing pornography and other materials which endorse and show in positive light, illegal activities. I am interested also about whether this crosses the line into child pornography, because if an adult is reading this for titillation then the Gossip Girl books could be used as ‘child pornography’, couldn’t they? I read a bit about court decisions vs. library guidelines. I need to read more about this when I have time to think and pick apart the legalese. I can’t do that when kids are around me talking and doing normal noisy kid things.

I will keep you posted about this.

Meanwhile, I began reading the second book in the Gossip Girl series last night. More drivel, is all I can say. This really is pure twaddle.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

My School Days Memory: My First Day of Kindergarten

I have a very clear memory of a scary incident that occurred while on the bus ride home from Kindergarten. I don’t remember anything about the rest of my first day of Kindergarten.

I was familiar with my neighborhood, the road, and how to get from the center of town (where my elementary school was), to my home. We were driving down the main road but suddenly, instead of continuing straight, which in just ¼ mile, would take me to my bus stop, at the end of our little side street, the bus took a left hand turn and went down a large road, in the opposite direction of my home. This was a different route than I had taken on the way to school.

I was confused and felt that the bus was going to the wrong place. I worried that it was not going to my house at all. I wondered if I was on the wrong bus. I felt helpless and was truly scared. I had no one to ask as I didn’t feel comfortable asking the other children on the bus. I felt the bus was so full of children who were strangers to me. (Back then all of the children were mixed up on one bus, it wasn’t segregated by grade level.) I was also sitting in the last row, and was too far away from the bus driver to ask the driver what was going on.

I burst out crying. All the kids looked at me and said nothing. They had a blank stare of a complete lack of empathy. After a couple of minutes, what seemed like a very old boy approached me and was very nice. He said something like, “I am ___, the older brother of ___ who is in Kindergarten with you. I live two houses away from you on __ (the main street that our side street connects to).” (I had never seen him before but knew that the boy who was my age had a slew of older siblings.) Then he said in a kind way, “Little girl, what is wrong?” I explained what was wrong. He chuckled in a nice way and then patiently explained how the bus route works, and that after the bus dropped off all the kids on that main road it would go back to the other main road that led to our neighborhood, then I’d be brought home.

I was very relieved. I was thankful that he explained it to me. I distinctly remember all the other kids just staring at me and not caring and not helping. I also remember that my mother had never explained to me how the bus ride and bus route works, and I wondered back then, why she had never explained this to me.

All parents should always try to imagine how life unfolds through the eyes of their child and try to explain things to their children. A lot of times parents assume children know certain (simple) things when in reality, the children are clueless.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thoughts on Teaching Letter Sounds or Letter Name

A homeschooling mom wrote to a chat list asking for advice about teaching reading. Should the letter be called the name of the letter then be taught the sound(s) of the letters or should they be told the name of the letter is the sound of the letter. If you weren’t aware, some ‘experts’ say to not teach the child the name of the letter at all, when teaching reading.

Here is my reply, with some edits:

Definitions to make this make sense, in case you aren’t familiar with these notations:
This /a/ means the sound of a.
The notation “a” means saying the letter name “a”.

Some ‘experts’ are in the camp of teach the letter name first then the sound. Others are in the sound only camp. Example: Alpha Phonics directs the parent/teacher to teach letter name first, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons says to teach the sound only and bypass the name of the letter’s symbol.

Based on my personal experience, I found that not using the name was impossible. For example in the teaching and the sounding out/decoding phase I’d have to say, “no, that is ‘c’-‘a’-‘t’- and that sounds like /c/-/a/-/t/ which makes the word “cat”. (For example if he was sounding out /c/-/e/-/t/. I felt that eliminating the letter name and saying “that is the /a/” was ridiculous. This method also makes no sense when a child is taught the long sounds of the verbs, they need to know that the letter has a name and that the letters sometimes make more than one sound. At that point would a person say the /short a/ also says /long a/?? Another example is when you teach blends such as ‘th’ you can say, “when t and h are next to each other, they sound like /th/---note that /th/ does not sound like /t/ and /h/, like /tttt-hhhh/.

During my experience with teaching my own children I felt that for an expert to assume that a child is too dumb to grasp that a letter has a name that we call the symbol and has a different sound when it is read out loud, was insulting and really was assuming stupidity on the part of the child. Hey, that sound like something Charlotte Mason would say!!

Neither of my children had issues with this. I taught my two children to read, one at 4 and one at 6. Teaching each was unique and a very different experience. The 4 YO was teaching himself at 3.5 years old, and he was mad at himself for not being able to read 100% of the content, so I taught him and it was a cinch. The 6 year old, I taught at that age because he had all the signs of reading readiness and I felt it was “time to do it” but it was a much slower process (9 calendar months with summer break in the middle of it) and also a slower reading fluency ease-level afterward.

I was a teaching-reading phobic mom who really was worried about things such as ‘this expert says to do this’ and ‘that expert says to do that’. I wanted to know the very right way, the one right way to do it as I thought then it would guarantee that the process would be easy and smooth. I now know a large part of the process is the unique child and their response to the teaching, not the tiny nuances of the teaching method or the teacher.

I still hold firm that systematic phonics is the one right method, though.

But anyway---we are homeschooling---and that means YOU get to choose which way sounds best for your family and you can do it the way you want, even if I don’t agree or your curriculum doesn’t agree.

Great Resources That Every Parent Should Read

The best summation of teaching reading and exposure to reading from birth through the end of third grade, I feel, is Ruth Beechik’s “A Home Start in Reading”. This 28 page, small format booklet is a fast and easy read and can help all homeschoolers and also is helpful for parents of schooled children. It is very affordable at a full retail price of $4.00. Beechick also wrote a booklet on math and another on language arts (penmanship, writing and grammar). The three booklets are bundled together and re-named “The Three R’s”, and full retail is $12.00, but Amazon was selling the bundle pack for $9.60 the last I saw. I recommend these three booklets very highly!

Also the best source of information about methods of teaching reading and information supporting systematic phonics is Don Potter’s site. There are many great links here and even free, downloadable, systematic phonics curriculum, which is an antique teacher manual-textbook.