Sunday, October 30, 2005

Listened to Harried Homeschooler Shows on Homeschool Talk Radio

Last week I listened to two shows on Homeschool Talk Radio, Part I and Part II of the Christine Field interviews on the topic of “Harried Homeschoolers”. I know you are asking when I have time to do this. It is simple. When I need to do some work in the room that my computer is in, I put the show on and listen while I am working. If you have not heard any of these shows yet, I encourage you to take a listen. Note that you can listen to any of the old shows by visiting the archives page. Just link to the site by clicking on the blackboard icon in my sidebar.

I was also telling my husband that if talk shows were able to be heard on an MP3 player that then I’d have a reason to want an iPod (or other brand of MP3 player). I just don’t have a use for listening to music, let alone, having 2000 songs available to me on an iPod. But if the talk was to listen to homeschooling lectures or homeschool talk radio shows, then I’d love to listen to them while doing housework or some other tedious task at which I was alone and feeling bored. I told this to my husband and he made a remark that if all it took was for me to own an iPod to do more house cleaning that he’d buy me one right now. I assured him that until I had a selection of interesting talk shows to listen to, this is still a moot point. I did see, though, that on Homeschool Talk Radio one can download the shows in MP3 format. Hmmm.

My husband was so inspired he set off (unbeknownst to me) to find a cheap MP3 player. Come to find out there are cheap models out there; it is just the iPod that is expensive. He then bought me a little MP3 player that is the size of a keychain that holds about 25 songs. He thinks this has enough memory to hold one show from Homeschool Talk Radio. The cost was $48 minus a $40 rebate for a total cost of $8 (plus shipping), what a bargain. He bought it on eCost.

It arrived about two weeks ago and I have not used it yet.

(Actually the plot thickens as the container it came in was shuffled around the kitchen counter for so long that I finally threw it away. My husband asked where it was as he needed it to send in the $40 rebate and I said I was pretty sure I threw it out. I had to don gloves and go garbage picking lest we lose the $40. Thank goodness I found it in the garbage compactor, about three day’s down. Phew.)

Back to Homeschool Talk Radio
I enjoyed the two shows with Christine Field. There was some talk of homeschooling through crisis. Crisis was defined as homeschooling while a parent or a loved one is sick or through unemployment or some other large problematic life event. I realized then that I have been homeschooling through crisis then, since my husband has been unemployed for over two years! Yikes! I knew we were in a ‘rough time’ but never thought of it as a ‘crisis’. Now that we have Cancer in a close family member we are now living through that type of crisis as well.

I will confess that at times I have seriously thought about just sending my kids to school to alleviate the work of homeschooling and to take the pressure off of myself. I have really been pondering how life would be if I was working full time, making good money, and living the life of a working mother. I still can’t handle the thought of it or accept that lifestyle at this point, for my family. If we had no choice and my income could support this family then I’d step up and do it but since my income would be more of a financial nicety, it is not enough of a reason to do it.

So here we are-- homeschooling through crisis times! Wish us luck!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Show to Air Tonight "In God We Trust" Tom Brokaw Special

I usually don’t listen to Imus but I was lonely this morning as I woke up before everyone else and set in to finish the kids Halloween costumes in a dark and quiet house. (Yes, I did finish them this afternoon.)

I heard Imus interview Tom Brokaw about a 60 minute long special that airs tonight called “In God They Trust”. I think this raises many interesting questions. I also am wary of the slant that will be put on this. Anyway it is about a large evangelical church and Brokaw was miffed about how a congregation could have thousands of attendees while other Protestant churches in the area are nearly vacant. Imus made a comment that how come churches around here are not thriving (Protestant ones). Brokaw also commented that those of us in the NW and NE of USA ‘don’t get this type of religion’ but that this type of church is spreading elsewhere.

He spoke of Christian rock music and lyrics on computer screens so all could read and sing along and ‘the use of technology’. He was interested in the non-traditional church services. He also seemed miffed at the large community events they do such as having coffee shops, day care, etc. I am going to TiVo this so I can watch it.

Brokaw seemed miffed that people are looking for something different in their spiritual life, something different than what they were raised as. He said a lot of the people at that church left their childhood religion, from Prot. Various kinds to Catholicism in favor of this ‘new religion’.

He also said he thinks the Republicans are ‘using’ these ‘new Christians’ to further the Republican agenda. In other words these Christians are not running the politicians but he said the other way around, the Republicans see like values and like ideas being held by this group of people so the Republicans ‘use them’. I didn’t know what to think of that.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another Example of Why Not to Trust the Media (or What You See)

Here is yet another example of why we can’t trust the media. Michelle Malkin’s blog shows the before picture of Condaleeza Rice along with the digitally altered image that USA Today published on their website. Ms. Rice’s eyes were altered to have cat-shaped pupils and brighter whites, and other details of her face were altered to be sharper (and less attractive as a result).

What is going on with the media??? Can we trust no one? Where is the respect? I can’t believe that this happened at USA Today!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part VIII

Day of the Week: Tuesday
Number of days until costumes must be finished: 3

I wanted to crack down and get back to solid homeschooling, five days per week. So today, after sleeping late, we started right in on homeschooling. We did the three R’s and broke for lunch.

I then decided to work on the costumes instead of homeschooling history and science. When the kids got bored I sent them to do math computer games to help with memorization of math facts (with Math Blaster).

I had trouble understanding how to finish the tunic. I read and re-read the directions over and over. I decided to ignore what they were saying and to improvise with my own method. It worked. The back of the neck area could look better but it doesn’t look too shabby.

I went on to make the belt. The entire tunic is very large for my son. However, the belt is ‘just right’. I figured this is unacceptable as if the tunic is so large, I’d like to get a couple of years of wear out of it, if possible. I decided to use this belt for my younger son and to make a new belt in a larger size. Note: my child is not fat at all and does not have a pot belly. I feel this is a design flaw on Simplicity’s part, that is my opinion.

I tried working on the shoulder armor but no matter what I did I could not make sense of the written directions or the illustrations. I called my neighbor to ask her to please come and help me. She has made her own window treatments, which look lovely, so I figured she could figure this out. She was not home but I left a message.

I took a quick break to check email and a friend had emailed me saying to remember Halloween was supposed to be fun. I thought to myself, “I am not having fun”. Also while sewing I was thinking that this project is too large and it was much more fun in the past when I’d buy a costume and just have fun with the holiday.

The other day mother informed me that I am going too far with trying to make these costumes. She said that I am overindulging my children. I asked what I should do. She said that I should make my children settle to be something else that they don’t want to be, for Halloween. I asked how Halloween went when I was young and she said that my brother and I didn’t have big expectations for our costumes, that we were happy with whatever we could scratch up.

My father informed me that I should buy a cheap costume made in China instead of making one from scratch. He was laughing at the idea that I am spending all this time to make this costume.

I went back to the shoulder armor. By this time it was dinner time and due to me working on the costume, dinner consisted of homemade soup which I had stockpiled in the freezer. We didn’t have a family meal this night; we each ate when we got hungry. I was happy when my husband got home as it meant he could help keep an eye on the kids while I worked on this project.

Finally I was in tears over this (compounded also by worry of family multiple member’s health problems). Then the phone rang and it was my neighbor. She offered to come over right then and there. I was a bit embarrassed as my eyes were all red from crying and I knew she’d notice this. She gave me lots of compliments and said the costume looked great. All I can see is the flaws, so I hadn’t thought it looked that great.

She helped me with the shoulder armor. She also helped me decide to skip the dickey. The tunic top is so high on the chest that there is no need to make a dickey as no one would see it anyway. This was a relief.

After she left I continued working on it. When I had one tunic, one set of shoulder armor and one belt done, I went to bed.

I continued to feel happy about my machine and my confidence was growing.

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part VII

Day of the Week: Monday
Number of days until costumes must be finished: 4

I was to be at my parent’s house on Tuesday morning and figured I’d work on the costumes then.

So on Monday we did some of our usual homeschooling. We attended a homeschoolers science class, and later, a homeschoolers book discussion group.

Due to a health matter, we were urgently called to my in-law’s house. Also the plans for Tuesday fell through and I was no longer needed to go to my parent’s house on Tuesday.

After we were done at my in-law’s, I drove over to my parent’s house to get all the sewing stuff to bring home. I don’t know what was going on, on I-95 but it took me 30 minutes to drive about 500 feet. I finally got off the first exit and took the long way home to avoid using I-95. The total time from leaving my in-law’s to walking into my own home was 2 hours. It was downpour-raining outside, dark, and there were many fallen leaves on the ground, making the driving not only not easy, but dangerous.

I made plans to work on the costume on Tuesday.

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part VI

Day of the Week: Sunday
Number of days until costumes must be finished: 5

I trucked over to my parent’s house with my sewing machine and all the supplies. I was motivated and ready. I wondered if we’d be able to finish both costumes in one day. I was willing to stay there until 10 at night if this goal could be accomplished.

On prior days I had read the instructions and tried to figure out how to make the costume. My mother began advising me with different and incorrect directions. I pointed out what the directions said, and each time she agreed that she was wrong. I was beginning to worry and was thinking that I was helping her, rather than it being the other way around.

My mother offered to pin the pattern to the fabric but then she complained that it hurt her hands. I took over the task at her request.

My mother began cutting the fabric but complained that it made the arthritis in her hands hurt. I was miffed as I had never heard her say she had arthritis. She replied that she is sick of hearing about other people’s medical problems so she keeps her to herself. Wow.

So I cut the fabric.

I began making the costume for my older son because that way I could use the larger sized pattern first then cut down the pattern to the smaller size for my younger son.

I found the project not fun and aggravating. I feel that the directions are poorly written and are definitely not written for beginning sewers. One blog reader commented to me, about a prior posting on this topic, that there are special patterns for beginners. As one part of my past career I was trained to do technical writing, with a special style for ‘process documentation’. I learned how to write so that a complete idiot could do a complex task. It is all in the writing skill—the ability to break down a complex task into easily understandable terms, and it also depends on a good visual layout. The computer program I used was called InfoMapping. I have no idea if this is still in production. Anyway my point is that the Simplicity pattern makers could write out better directions if they wanted to. As I said before this would be in their best interest. If more people felt that sewing was do-able, I am sure it would turn into a fad or a craze as scrapbooking, rubber stamping, and knitting has! Also the illustrations stink.

The good thing about this day was that I was feeling confident in the use of my Brother sewing machine and I was surprised at how well I was sewing in straight lines. I also was doing pretty well with curved edges. I outdid myself and my confidence was building.

I was feeling stupid and frustrated with my inability to sew. Then my mother said that I was exhibiting a great deal of patience. I had not even realized that. It is nice to get a compliment once in a while. (My family members rarely give compliments.)

By the end of the night I had a splitting headache and my back was sore from bending over as I had to use the floor as my workspace for pinning and cutting out the pieces.

I worked on this project for a total of 7 hours on this day. The end result was that the tunic top was 80% finished. Still undone was the dickey, shoulder armor and the belt.

Wish me luck.

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part V

Day of the Week: Saturday
Days until Costumes must be finished: 6

We arrived home from camping out with the Cub Scouts. We were wet, dirty, and tired. The schedule was clear so that meant the time should be spent making the Halloween costumes.

After showering and putting on warm clothes, I sat down to figure out the project. I was so tired that the directions looked like gobble-dee-gook to me.

I phoned my mother and asked if she’d help me with the costumes Sunday after we are done with church. She agreed.

I put the whole project on the back burner and sat down to make ATCs while my husband watched his alma mater’s football game on TV. The kids made ATCs along with me and then went to play with their LEGOs.

At this point I was nervous and worried about my ability to figure this out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part IV

Due to high gasoline prices and the tight budget I have severely cut the amount of driving that I do for both errands and fun. Our family has taken errand running to a higher level of efficiency by combining trips and postponing trips to get the most done with the least amount of driving. (This has also made me a bit more of a hermit, it is not uncommon for me to go a full 24 hours without leaving the house, and sometimes if I am busy doing things at home (or hosting meetings at my home or entertaining guests at my home), for me to go two or even three days without leaving!)

I needed to get more sewing supplies for the costume: Velcro, interfacing and twill tape. The sewing store is a 25 minute drive from my home so I didn’t want to drive down there just for this purpose. A few days ago one of my boys had a physical scheduled at the Pediatrician’s office which happens to be very close to a fabric store. After the physical we went over there to find the place a zoo, which was not what I had expected. Come to find out they were having a huge 50% off of all fabric sale for just that day. I didn’t even know this. I did save money on the interfacing. Hooray.

I browsed around a bit and was feeling inspired to make fleece quilts but I refrained from it. I figured that I didn’t have the extra money to spend on this and also that I should tackle one project at a time. Only after these Halloween costumes are finished, will I allow myself to think about doing more projects. If the costumes are a big hassle, I may avoid future projects!

There is something about fabric stores that makes my kids act up. Each and every time we go to this store they begin bickering and roughhousing and complaining about being there. This is even for visits with a total time of about 7 minutes! I also have memories of long trips to the sewing store with my mother when I was a child and I thought it was the most boring shopping experience ever. I had to endure the bickering over who would push the cart, that the cart pusher didn’t want his brother to touch any part of the cart, and other such annoying bickerings. I kept repeating that we were there for supplies for THEIR costumes and that this was a lot of work for ME also and reminders that they were supposed to respect and obey me as their mother. I didn't threaten to not make the costume because after the investment in the cloth and the pattern, I wouldn't want it to go to waste.

I was grateful to get help from a salesperson to figure out how much interfacing I’d need. I needed two different weights of it and we needed to change the recommendations of how much is needed. Instead of simply doubling what we needed, we looked at the layout of the patterns and figured out if I could buy less than double the amount needed. I felt that my math was lacking at that moment.

The line to get the interfacing cut was long and boring. The line to pay was short and sweet. Hooray.

I intentionally kept Saturday’s afternoon calendar clear in order to work on sewing the costumes, at home. That will be Part V of this process…

Ordered More Math U See Math Curriculum Today

Due to my not planning and not buying too much ahead of time this academic year, I find myself needing to order the next levels of math for both of my children. They are both using Math U See.

My 8 year old is finishing up the “Foundations” level. He started this back when “Foundations” was the current curriculum. In 2004 Math U See reorganized their program and changed the names of their new programs. The new programs are still not linked directly to grade level but here is what it basically is:
Kindergarten: Primer
First Grade: Alpha
Second Grade: Beta
Third Grade: Gamma

The old program was:
Kindergarten: Introduction…
First through Third (in one thick book): Foundations…

In my younger son’s prek-4 year (2004-2005 academic year) he did the entire “Introduction” than moved on to “Alpha”. As of today he is in the last third of the “Alpha” book. I just ordered the “Beta” curriculum today from the MUS website. He is 5 years old and technically in Kindergarten. (Can you see how grade levels with homeschoolers are mushy?)

In my older son’s Kindergarten year he began “Introduction” (while aged 5.5). In my older son’s First Grade year (age 6) he finished “Introduction” and then moved on to “Foundations”. He is 8 now and in the beginning of his Third Grade year yet is finishing up “Foundations” which is the Third Grade part of the book. In order to transition to the new curriculum he will be using “Gamma”, so I ordered that today.

I did a quick check over at the Well Trained Mind Sale and Swap board to see if I could find used curriculum with clean pages. I did not find it. Prices on eBay for Math U See curriculum tend to be on the very high side, sometimes exceeding the full retail price for new materials purchased through the official Math U See website. I still cannot figure this out at all. Why, why would someone buy used materials on eBay for an equal or higher price than buying brand new materials at full retail from the Math U See official website??

In case you are not aware and are curious, Math U See cannot be purchased from homeschooling vendors or bookstores. You won’t see their products in the Rainbow Resource Center catalog. You must buy directly from the Math U See website. MUS has official distributors around the country who actually do the sales and ship the materials to you. The nearest distributor to your home address is the distributor that will service your area (from what I can gather; my distributor lives in a state that borders my home state). In the past my orders have arrived in 2-3 business days. I have never had a problem with their customer service. If you buy their materials at their official vendor booth at homeschool conferences the price is the same as if buying from the website (except you don’t pay shipping if they have the item in stock at the conference).

There is also a “Math U See Users” chat list on Yahoo Groups! for discussion about this curriculum. Some of the members are distributors so they are all very positive about this curriculum.

My only complaint about the program is that by using it my children don’t memorize all the math facts. The program wants the children to memorize all the math facts in order to make performing operations easier and faster for the children. My children get all the concepts and like the workbooks. They both like math. I just wish something were different to help the students memorize math facts. We have been supplementing with flash cards, Wrap-Up’s, audio recordings of math songs, and math content computer games.

If you are curious about Math U See, they have a frequently asked questions section on their website.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part III

About one day last week (a weekday):

My two phone calls to my friend who sews (and who is making this same costume for Halloween) remained unreturned. This is unusual. It dawned on me she may be out of town. Yes, I remembered she was going to visit relatives, who live out of state, she must be there. (Yet another bonus to homeschooling: we get to travel when we want to, unhindered by a school’s schedule.)

We were going to the homeschoolers park day so I brought the pattern along. I figured out of the dozen or so homeschooling moms there, someone would know how to sew from a pattern. I was right. The support group leader was an accomplished sewer and she was able to help me.

The pattern instructions are just not written for beginners; at least not the patterm I am using (Simplicity 4426). Perhaps pattern companies should realize that they would make more sales by making their patterns more understandable to novices. I guess their marketing staff does not realize that there are a large number of people who are highly intimidated by the entire process of machine sewing. If the directions were written with the beginner in mind, and they did an advertising campaign to lure the newbie’s in, they may make a fortune. The DIY craze could go a step further to tap into people who don’t know how to sew. If we felt confident enough to do this we would do what we see the designers doing on the HGTV remodeling shows: making our own curtains, drapes, pillows, etc.

Side note: I see that knitting is a big craze now. I knew some of my friends had started knitting but only when I saw that A.C. Moore had expanded their selection of yarn to three huge aisles, and that they added knitting classes to their lineup of craft classes, did I realize that knitting had really hit the mainstream. The most interesting thing to me is that in the fashion world, sweaters are NOT in right now. Yet there are many American women knitting for the first time, making sweaters and all things knitted. Yes, American women are actually spending a lot of time (and a good chunk of money) to make a clothing item that is not trendy and therefore is not being marketed to them by clothing companies. Amazing.

Well anyway I left the playground feeling confident that I could sew this Halloween costume, when I had the time. Hopefully I’d have time on the weekend.

The Way I Get Projects Done

My friends ask how I get projects done. Some of my friends and relatives think I do a lot of things. Since I see the never-ending ‘to do’ list (of my own making), I think I am always behind and think that I am not keeping up with my own expectations. So I don’t think I do a lot or else wouldn’t my ‘to do’ list be finished?

There is no hard formula here. This is how I do it.

1. Prioritize things. This includes putting homeschooling on the list.
2. Figure out where the project goes in the list.
3. Do it.

Most of the time my list goes like this:
1. Sleeping/getting enough rest
2. Eating (kids first, me second—I sometimes forget to eat)
3. Homeschooling
4. Showering and getting dressed (me)
5. Doing the current big project
6. Cleaning the house

Yes, I am usually in my pajamas for our homeschooling. When I shower and dress first, I have found that gives the kids just enough free time to get off on a playing tangent. It is then hard to reel them back in for homeschooling lessons—they want to keep playing all day. So I homeschool them while I am in my pajamas. After homeschooling is done, I shower and dress. (They get dressed right after waking up, again because otherwise they want to play and remain in their pajamas all day.)

Every spare minute I have is spent on the project, until it is done. I work much better with marathons. If it is day when I realize our dirty clothes hampers are overflowing, the project for the day is laundry and it is worked on in all the spare moments of the day, and 100% is usually done before I go to bed. Ditto for housecleaning and decluttering jobs. Ditto for sewing Halloween costumes, or for preparing for a holiday party to be given in our home.

That is how I do it, period. I just do it.

Note: I just amended the above post to add sleep to the priority list! I left it off the original posting. I am not a person who puts off sleep to get anything done. Sleep is my #1 priority.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Listened to John Taylor Gatto Lecture

Someone gave me a taped lecture of John Taylor Gatto speaking at a conference, about a year ago. I believe it was from 1998 and was at a conference held by the Separation of Church and State Alliance (an organization which I had never heard of). I have listened to the lecture about four times in the last year. I listened to it again yesterday while I was making a gigantic batch of beef barley soup from scratch. Each time I listen to this lecture I hear something new and more and more of what Mr. Gatto is saying makes sense to me. The lecture was titled something like “How Public Education Trains Children to be Mindless Consumers”. It was very interesting.

The lecture had some history of how American public education used to be (in the 1800s) then about how it changed in the early 1900s under the influence of a handful of wealthy corporation owners. The theory is that American public education system was shaped in a manner in order to create people who don’t think for themselves and who end up being mindless consumers. While that may sound weird or absurd, the way he explains it, it actually does make sense.

One of the things he says is how in the end we end up being very specialized employees who are so dependent on our salaries that we live in fear of losing our jobs and that if we do lose our jobs we are really in trouble. For our family personally, we didn’t used to live in fear of losing our jobs but now that we have been living with no employment for over two years I can say that suddenly my husband’s career seems so specialized that he is considered un-employable by some companies. The reason his experience is so specialized is that while working for the last corporation he worked for, his job was specialized then was further refined to be even more specialized. In order to keep the job he had to narrow his focus of specialization. When he is qualified for the job he is sometimes told he has too much experience (which deems a higher pay than the no-experience workers, so they hire the lower salary person), or he is told doesn’t have enough of this kind of experience or that. This is a big problem for us now! Being too specialized is not a good thing. Even when he does get a job I am not sure I won’t live in fear of him losing that job and us having to go through the no income and job searching process all over. It is not easy to live with an uncertain future.

Another thing Gatto said is that it is not in the best interest of a corporation to have consumers who can think on their own and basically not be tricked into buying their products. Self-thinkers who can avoid impulsive purchases are not good for the companies who depend on sales of their product by impulse buyers. On the employee side, people who live by certain morals also are not always willing to compromise their beliefs if their employer wants them to do something unethical or even, illegal.

In other words it doesn’t serve corporations to raise children to be free thinkers, logical thinkers, critical thinkers or even, economically savvy adults. I was inspired by this lecture to do all that is possible to raise my children to be free thinkers!

For some people the first book they read about American public education is “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto. I first heard of this book from conservative radio talk show hosts back when I was single and childless. The book is pretty well known.

In case you are hedging on whether this book is worth reading, you can read the first chapter here, called “The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher” (written in 1991). “Dumbing Us Down” is actually a collection of various speech transcripts.

If that link doesn’t work, try this one.

In case you don’t know who John Taylor Gatto is, he is a retired school teacher. He taught in New York City public schools. He was the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.

I have heard Mr. Gatto speak in person and have read three of his books. I can’t quite get through “The Underground History of American Education” but I plan to read it cover to cover someday. Mr. Gatto taught in an unconventional way and sometimes he speaks of his special kind of teaching which he sometimes calls “The Lab School”.

Many of John Taylor Gatto’s speech transcripts are online for free and can be found by doing Google searches. I have also found lengthy interviews.

I encourage you to read the above piece “The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher”. It is food for thought.

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part II

Despite being sick with a head cold and supposedly trying to rest, I tackled the Halloween Costumes again. Here is the report from Day Two.

The fabric was a tangled and wrinkled mess after being washed and dried. I dragged it out of the dryer and began to iron it. The fabric is quite heavy and it is not easy to iron when it is about 20 feet long. I decided to just do one end for now. The fabric is also very wide which surprised me. My 5 year old insisted on doing the ironing which I let him do with very close supervision. He was overjoyed at being able to use the iron. He stood on a kitchen chair so he was high enough to reach. I watched him like a hawk. This took a long time and I wanted it to be a quick chore. Oh well.

I laid the pattern on the fabric and cut the edge so that we were no longer ironing a piece that was 20 feet long. Phew.

I had cut the pattern about one half inch away from the largest line. One of my challenges is that I am making two different sized costumes from one single pattern. I am trying to figure out if I will have to cut on the large line and do the larger costume first then cut on the smaller line for the smaller costume---or---can I somehow not ruin the pattern by cutting it to size. I phoned a friend to ask her about this but got her answering machine and she didn’t call me back that day.

Following the illustration in the directions I laid out the first pattern pieces on the material. I made sure that the selvage was in the right place in relation to the pattern direction. This was an accomplishment as last month I didn’t know what the word selvage meant.

I then noticed it said something about folding the fabric. I folded the fabric over and we re-ironed it. I got worried that I was doing this wrong so I got out a new beginners sewing handbook and read the section about laying out the pattern. It says to fold the fabric with the right side in. I checked and I had done it incorrectly. I repositioned the fabric and ironed it again. I laid out the pattern and the fabric on a clean section of the floor.

My friend had said that no one pins patterns to fabric anymore (even though my new book still gave these directions). She recommended the use of canned food as weights. I hate pinning so I am happy to avoid this. So I stared at the fabric for a couple of minutes, afraid to make the cuts.

I re-read the directions and don’t understand why they have the patterns laid out the way they do. It seems like a lot of fabric is being wasted. I was also unsure if I am to cut through two layers of the fabric or just cut the top layer.

Why does this seem so difficult?

So I put the project on the dining room table and left it there for the night.

My boys are now very excited about their costumes and they are asking that they be completed as soon as possible so they can play with them. My younger son is also expressing doubt in my ability to actually finish these before Halloween. I guess my incompetence is apparent, even to him. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sewing Halloween Costumes Part I

Two weeks ago I took out the directions with the pattern and read them over and over. This was so intimidating I put the pattern away for two weeks. This is my first ever attempt to sew from a pattern. I only recently learned to thread my bobbin and thread the sewing machine’s needle. I can barely sew a badge on a Scout uniform.

I realized I have two weeks until Halloween. There is a Scout camping trip on the last remaining weekend. This means I have little time to make these costumes.

I began wondering if I should go buy a store bought Anakin Skywalker costume. At the time I decided to make the costume by hand there were no Anakin costumes. However now that Halloween is closer, there they are. I did read on a blog about how parents are driving up to an hour and searching multiple stores in order to find Star Wars costumes for their children. Apparently the large chain store which carries them keeps putting them on sale and advertising them but they have been sold out for weeks.

So anyway I took the pattern out of the envelope. I unfolded it for the first time. I realized the costume has eight different patterned pieces. I laid out the paper and began cutting it. Then I realized this was probably too easy and that I should re-read the directions. The directions said I had to iron the pattern first.

So I ironed the paper pattern and cut out the pieces I needed. I cut out the pieces from sheet one and laid them to the side. I folded sheet one up and put it away. I unfolded sheet two and cut those pieces out then folded it back up and it put it away. There were pieces missing. I unfolded piece one again and they were not there, so I refolded and put it away. I unfolded piece two again and they were not there, so I refolded and put it away. I pondered the idea that my pattern was missing pieces and that would entail a trip to the sewing store. I then realized there were two more folded pieces hiding under the directions page. Phew. More ironing of pattern, more cutting.

I then read that the fabric is supposed to be washed and dried so it is pre-shrunk. I bought this about 3.5 months ago and I wished I had realized this fact before. Oh well. I threw it in the washer and washed it, then later dried it.

That is as far as I got on Day One. I did this all at about six o’clock in the morning as I had woken up early and everyone else was still asleep and the house was quiet.

The more I get into this the less confidence I have in myself to teach myself to do this and to do a good enough job to have these costumes be wear-able. Sigh.

I have always felt incompetent about not being able to sew. I learned to do it in public school, in the new middle school which had a huge ‘home economics’ classroom section. I tried comforting myself by reminding myself that a neighbor-mom once told me, in response to hearing that I felt inadequate about this, that I should not feel inadequate about not knowing how to sew. She said that it was a huge endeavor to homeschool my children and that I could cook and bake and even could make a great loaf of bread from scratch. She thought I was being ridiculous to think that my lack of sewing ability put me in the ‘not good enough mom’ category. I still have in my mind that all mothers and all women should know how to sew so here I am trying to teach myself to do it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Over-scheduling Gave Me a Head Cold

Well I finally did it. I overtaxed myself due to over-scheduling and got myself sick. I have a head cold and feel completely wiped out. I am taking this as a cue from God that I should slow down.

Add to the list of reasons why over-scheduling is not good----it can cause not only stress and fatigue, but sometimes it also causes illness.

I need a pajama day. Having appointments and parties on Saturdays and having Church and Sunday School on Sundays, then homeschooling to do on weekday mornings leaves us with no days when we can wake up and just have a relaxing pajama day. So due to my head cold I am clearing my calendar and having a pajama day. I hope this helps.

Linda’s Used Books--- 50% off Sale

This homeschooling family sells used living books. They are having a 50% off sale. There is a listing of $1 books. See sale rules for receiving free books. For sale information, see here.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Isn’t Homeschooling Your Children Hard?

This is the most frequent question I get asked lately: Isn’t homeschooling hard? I also hear this in a statement format, “Wow, that must be hard.”

I still don’t have a comeback for this. I can’t think of one. It seems obvious that if I were just to tell the truth, then how could it be that this statement leaves me either speechless or tongue-tied and stumbling to make up an answer on the fly? The reason I can’t answer this is because I had never and still have not thought out the question, so I don’t have an answer.

Back in 1999 I began writing customer book reviews on Amazon, for fun and to participate in the process which I appreciated. As an Amazon customer I’d appreciate the customer reviews to help guide me to good books and to steer me away from books that didn’t seem like a good fit for our family. I felt that writing the Amazon reviews was a way of giving back to the community. I don’t get paid to do it. I write a lot less reviews now than I used to.

Anyway my point in starting on this tangent is that in 1999 when I had to write a reviewer profile I wrote that I was a stay at home mother and that it was the hardest job I’d ever done in my life, and it was also the most rewarding. At the time my oldest son was two and I had not yet conceived my second child. A few years later I read the profile again (after ignoring it since the time I wrote it). I was surprised to see that I had written that. (I can’t remember if I edited it out or not.) I remembered feeling that back in 1999 I was still on the defensive about being a mother at home. I was feeling the pressure back then that American society didn’t value mothers at home, and that women’s careers were still being place on a higher plane of importance than staying at home to raise children ever would be, and I was sad about that. I wanted the world to realize that I used to have an important professional career but now I was happy and actually was challenged to do a good job at raising my child at home. I also wanted them to know it wasn’t a cakewalk; that being a good parent is not a simple or easy task; it takes hard work and diligence.

So anyway I don’t know if homeschooling a child is hard. At first I thought that it is not hard, because the act of teaching them or learning alongside them or facilitating their own discovery of things, is easy. It is easier than I ever imagined being a school teacher to be. Teaching one’s own child is easier than dealing with someone else’s child. Teaching an enthusiastic learner is a piece of cake. Reading aloud a wonderful book is enjoyable for me as well as for my children. Even teaching concepts that seem difficult, is not that hard on a one to one or one to two teacher: child/student ratio. In that regard it is not hard. For many years this was my mindset: homeschooling is easy, it is fun for parent as well as for the child, and any parent can do it with a good outcome.

However the more I hang around with stay at home mothers who have children in a school, the more I realize my life is harder, or shall I say, less entertaining and relaxing. I am not free to go to the gym whenever I want. I am not free to shop leisurely when I want. I have to do the grocery shopping with kids in tow, which is not always an easy task. My hardest job is not redecorating my house or getting my nails done or having to go to the bus stop in the rain (or to drive them to the bus stop and sit in the warm and dry car, for the bus to come). In this regard, being with my children all day and parenting them all day, and then “doing homeschooling” with them, and also just knowing that I am responsible for what and when they learn things does seem harder. Now I can see why some parents keep telling me that what I do must be hard---because compared to what they do, IT IS HARDER.

I already know that homeschooling my children is harder than working in corporate America. Well, I think that most days. There were many days earlier this year that I actually fantasized about how it would be easier to go back to working and that dealing with office politics would be a piece of cake compared to trying to stop the bickering between two young children. Each job has its own pro’s and con’s. Dealing with a tantrumming child vs. dealing with an incompetent co-worker. What is harder? Office politics, staff meetings, keeping the boss happy, juggling work and home, dealing with commuter rush hour traffic or helping kids memorize math facts?

In the end I don’t know if homeschooling is hard or not. It is all a matter of perspective an opinion. It all depends on our unique family lives. I am lucky to not have a spouse who is breathing down my neck all the time with worries that our kids are not keeping up with the kids in government schools (or private schools). I don’t have extended relatives harassing me either. I think the dynamic of the children and the mother as well as the dynamics between the siblings all contributes to how easy or difficult homeschooling can be. (Parents of only-children, you don’t know how easy you have it! The dynamics between personalities of parent and child and sibling to sibling is something that no one ever told me about, and is something that is rarely talked about in parenting circles.)

The other thing that I have to compare our situation to is if I sent my children to school, what kind of situations would I have to be dealing with, and how easy would that be? I would be dealing with peer dependence, peer pressure, and exposure to rudeness and bullying. I’d have to deal with acceptance that my child was being taught X not Y. I‘d have to accept the fact that a lot of time is spent on test prep for “No Child Left Behind”. I’d have to realize that my children may be not academically challenged enough. If my children went to school they may learn as I did, that learning is work in school and is boring and many times, meaningless. I don’t want them thinking that, because it is not true for real learning and real life, it is true for school learning, though. I’d have to deal with my children being labeled and classified and put on a track. I’d have to resign myself that they would be changed into different people by the very fact that they take the school bus and are forced to be with certain children all day long (not all of whom are children who would be role models).

I can only imagine what I would be like as a parent of a schooled child. (I blogged about this recently.) I would be the questioner, the devil’s advocate, the pusher of reform of policy and procedure. I would be the one who is not afraid to speak directly to the Principal. I would be the one with a black mark against me and my child would be intentionally discriminated against. (I am told this goes on in my town—the parents who complain about things at the school which are substandard or even those who point out that there is a problem and want something done about it, have their children treated differently such as being put in the ‘worst teacher’s’ class.) I have friends who are scared to speak up for fear of retaliation and punishment to their child. I know some of you are thinking, “But this is America, where we have freedom of speech!” Wrong! There are always ramifications for speaking one’s mind, if it rocks the boat and if what is said is not purely praise for the government education system.

As for right now I think homeschooling is much easier than sending my children to school. It was only until I sat and wrote this all out that I was able to figure out the reasons why this is true for me. Sending children to school may be easier for some parents but not for me. I also am not afraid to rise to the challenge of homeschooling my children. As for now this is the right choice for us.

As some of my friends and blog readers like to point out, perhaps there will be a day when I am forced to return to work in order to make money for our family, to survive on. If this is the case then I will need care providers for my children and if that means the babysitter is the government school then so be it. If this day comes I envision that the school’s main role for our family would be for free babysitting. (I say free, even though I know the money we pay for property tax goes toward paying for it, I am still paying it as a parent who doesn’t use the schools; contrary to what many people think there is no rebate given to homeschoolers.) I would not be happy to settle for the curriculum at the school and we would end up ‘after schooling’ them (supplementing their learning at home with more vigorous academics each day).

So for now, no, homeschooling is not difficult for me. It may be more difficult than someone else’s life, or it may be more than a man thinks his own wife can handle. I still contend that it is much easier than most people think it is, if both the mother and father want to homeschool and if the person doing it enjoys it, and if they dedicate the proper amount of time and energy to it. If any part of that equation is not met, then homeschooling would be more difficult and may be unpleasant or unable to be tolerated.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Family Health Issues On My Mind

I have been helping an elderly relative who is having some health issues. Our family is helping her make her home more safe and accessible for her, so she can continue to live in her own home. This has taken one day per week of my time since August. I am happy to help her. Taking one day out of my life to devote to something outside of my home takes a toll, though, as my children miss me and my own housework doesn’t get done. Laundry builds up, and whatever has to be done here in my own home gets put off.

A few weeks ago, I learned that my mother has a tumor. Last week, the surgeon said he thinks is Cancerous. The biopsy is at the end of this month. This was found by routine mammogram. About a year ago there was another thing found which was in the end, found to be benign, for that one she didn’t tell anyone in the family until the biopsy result was known. Her appointments have what I consider to be long gaps in between them and it is hard waiting and not knowing if she has Cancer or not.

Last week I found out that another close relative has a tumor. This came out of the blue. The biopsy is scheduled for this upcoming week.

Last month I was going through a follow-up workup from something abnormal found on my first baseline mammogram. I had a couple of tests and they say it is just a cyst, but needs monitoring and a recheck in two months.

It is interesting how when there are no health problems and when all the relatives are alive and well, how there still seems to be something to be unhappy about or to complain about. Life seems challenging just to get the normal day to day stuff done, like homeschooling, keeping the house clean, balancing work and play, having fun, etc. However once a challenge enters our lives, that other stuff seems trivial and unimportant. When one is faced with possibly losing a relative, many other things in life seem trivial and less important.

Also we are still dealing with unemployment; it has now been 2.5 years since my husband found out his former job was ending. Life was challenging enough with an uncertain financial future. Now we have health issues to deal with. Fear of losing a loved one is terrible. I am grateful to have two grandmothers alive, and two parents still happily married and alive. I am grateful that my husband has his two parents alive and still happily married.

I have decided that during this time of continued unemployment PLUS with the health issues, I am going to lighten up on our homeschooling schedule. I have already dropped the sub-par music class and the history club that we didn’t have time for. I am going to give all us room and leeway to handle the additional emotional drain on our family during this stressful time. Also that means I may not be blogging on a daily basis.

Greedy Toboggan Seller

I stopped at a tag sale a couple of weeks ago. There was a beat up old Radio Flyer sled for sale. It was priced at $65. There was one about a foot longer priced at $75.

I bought one just like the smaller one, at a Boy Scout tag sale for $1.50, a couple of months ago. I bought the same one as the larger one (and in better shape) at a tag sale this summer for $7—she would not budge on lowering the price of it, and I still thought it was a bargain, compared to the $20 thin plastic sleds they sell today.

My issue with the $65 one was that it still had a price tag on it from another tag sale, marked at $1.25. It seemed to me that she bought it for $1.25 and was looking for a sucker to pay $65 for it. Good luck, lady.

I wanted the sleds for my kids to have fun with. I am not a schmantzy interior decorator buying them to decorate wealthy clients’ homes with. Well anyway we have two working sleds now and didn’t need another. I just thought she was being pretty greedy!

Friday, October 14, 2005

La Leche League Press Release about AAP SIDS Prevention Recommendations


Contact: 847-519-7730: Mary Lofton ,, ext. 271; Mary Hurt,, ext. 286, or Katy Lebbing ,, ext. 245.

Schaumburg, IL (October 13, 2005) La Leche League International (LLLI) is concerned about the October 10, 2005 policy statement on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on SIDS. The recommendations about pacifiers and cosleeping in the statement reflect a lack of basic understanding about breastfeeding management.

Pacifiers, which are recommended in this policy statement, are artificial substitutes for what the breast does naturally. Breastfed babies often nurse to sleep for naps and bedtime. The recommended pacifier usage could cause a reduction in milk supply due to reduced stimulation of the breasts and may affect breastfeeding duration.

LLLI recognizes that safe cosleeping facilitates breastfeeding. One important way cosleeping can help a mother's milk supply is by encouraging regular and frequent feeding. Well-known research on safe cosleeping practices by Dr. James McKenna, Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame University was
disregarded by the task force.

Also, the obvious omission of input by the AAP's Section on Breastfeeding may account for the fact that breastfeeding management issues were not taken into consideration. Dr. Nancy Wight, President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine , comments that this statement "represents a truly astounding triumph of ethnocentric
assumptions over common sense and medical research." Dr. Wight also states, "There are many physician members of the AAP who do not agree with these recommendations."

Although the authors do state that breastfeeding is beneficial and should be promoted, their recommendations about pacifier use and cosleeping could have a negative impact on a mother's efforts to breastfeed. The statement causes confusion for parents and falls seriously short of being a useful and comprehensive policy.

LLLI, a non-profit organization that helps mothers learn about breastfeeding, has an international Professional Advisory Board. The LLLI Center for Breastfeeding Information is one of the world's largest libraries of information on breastfeeding, human lactation, and related topics. Monthly meetings are offered to pregnant women
and nursing mothers and babies to learn about breastfeeding management. To find local groups call 800 LA LECHE or visit

AAP Revises SIDS Prevention Recommendations

On October 10, 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a revision of their SIDS prevention recommendations. You can read the information here.

It is my opinion that certain studies and some information was either not considered or ignored in these recommendations. I have heard contradictory information from James McKenna PhD, regarding the safeness of co-sleeping when it is done properly (i.e. adult not using alcohol, adult not using drugs, and some other recommendations). I have heard some wonderful and interesting lectures given by Dr. James McKenna. I am really confused about what the AAP is saying versus what Dr. McKenna says.

I bet this is yet another 'lowest common denominator' recommendation. Dumb down the recommendation to a quick soundbite. Don't leave too much for the parents to decide. Better to tell them all not to sleep with the baby in their bed than to say, "don't co-sleep if you are drinking alcohol or using drugs".

I don't have time to write a lot about this today. Next up, the La Leche League Press Release on this revised policy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

British Study Results: Best Care Given by the Mother

This hit the news in England last week and seemed to be the biggest story going around. I haven't heard this in the American media at all. Unbelievable. I found it only because one story mentioned homeschooling so it came up under my Google News Alert email for the keyword "homeschooling". Here are some articles.

Source: Christian Wire Service (USA)
Author: Press Release
Article Title: Mothers Provide Best Care says New Study
Date Oct. 10, 2005

The quote from the above article sums it up better than I can:

A new study by leading British childcare expert, Penelope Leach concludes that the social and emotional development of children cared for by someone other than their mother "is definitely less good." This study is one of the longest and most detailed studies of childcare in the UK and it has concluded that young children who are looked after by their mothers do significantly better on development tests. The study found that babies and toddlers fared worst when they were given group nursery care. Those cared for by friends or grandparents or other relatives did a little better while those looked after by nannies or childminders were rated second only to those cared for by mothers.


This story talks about the media's release of this study as causing working mothers to feel guilty.

Source: Children Now, Back Page: Hound (UK)
Article Title: Between the Lines in Last Week's Media
Author: Not stated
Date: October 12, 2005


Here is an opinion essay.

Source: The Guardian (UK)
Article Title: A stick to beat women: Frightening mothers about nursery care is utterly pointless in a work-to-survive society
Author: Zoe Williams
Date: October 4, 2005

Her point is that women have no choice but to work so studies on the effects of being raised by non-mothers are pointless and should not be done; to release study results which show children are different if raised by non-mothers is pointless in a society in which women must work to survive.

She also asks why studies are not done that look into different types of non-mother childcare-givers. Well, there are studies about it. They are summarized and organized into a book called "Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn’'t Telling Us" by Brian C. Robertson.

I am going to email her to let her know about Robertson's book.

Source: Sunday Tasmanian (Australia)
Article Title: Daycare kids suffering, study finds
Author: Robyn Riley and Kane Young
Date: October 9, 2005

WORKING mothers are harming the development of their children, a controversial new study has found.

The study, by British childcare guru Penelope Leach, warns that children under three in day care are more likely to be stressed, sad and socially and emotionally disadvantaged.


You get the picture.

People have a choice about who cares for their children, in a free society. I can only hope that parents are making informed choices. If parents make the second-best or third or fourth best choice and it is an informed choice then that is their prerogative and it is not my place to judge them. If they don't know the information about which type of child care is the best vs. worst, I feel they have a responsibility to educate themselves. It isn't hard and it doesn't take much time to do it. Those who intentionally keep their heads in the sand because they don't want to know the information should question their motives. We each should do the best that we can when raising our children, whether that means giving up our careers to be mothers at home or whether that means choosing one type of child caregiver over a different type of child care giver.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Feeling the Need to Escape

I am feeling the need to flee and escape the reality that is my life in Fairfield County. A visit to my grandmother in Northern Maine is due. It is time to check the calendar to see which appointments and classes we have that allow the most leeway for our absence.

Those of you who know me, know I speak of escaping to the Maine woods. It is a total decompression for me. Here is a picture of where we escape to. I took this photo in June during our last trip to visit Nanny. This is the family homestead.

Being in a tiny town of under 1000 residents, where there are no street lights, no overscheduled children, no overscheduled moms is refreshing. Being where the air is fresh, and the people are far outnumbered by various woods creatures and critters helps me get recentered and to put me in my proper place in the pecking order. Up there no one cares what kind of car someone drives, or how big their diamond ring is, or what kind of counters they have in their kitchen. Life is harder up there, and it is more centered around basic survival. Also, living in a small town has the advantage of being a disincentive to acting in disrespectful ways. Everyone knows everyone and you can't get away with much up there. That is good for both children and adults. Someone is always watching and you can't hide for very long!

Anyway life in this tiny town is the anthesis of life in Fairfield County. I need the escape every once in a while. Visiting my grandmother is also an emotionally fulfilling thing in and of itself.

I'd move here in a heartbeat if there was a way to make enough money to live comfortably. The downside to living in this town is that there are not many jobs, certainly none in my career and none in my husband's career field. Sigh.

Ridiculously Materialistic Ad Campaign

Just received an ad in the junk mail from American Express. Their big phrase advertise ment is:

"You are only as good as your last vacation"

I am only as good as my vacation?


For our family, their ad is a failure. They are not inspiring me to spend a boat load of money on a big expensive trip, because that is not in my budget. Sorry. And just because our budget is tight doesn't mean I am not as good as the person who is spending a pile of money on vacation travel!

What a horrible ad!

"You are what you spend" is NOT a mantra in our family!

And people wonder how the notion that Americans are superficial consumers began? Perhaps inspired by ideas in ads like this one.

Reactions to Dr. Phil Show about Breastfeeding in Public

I finally had time to watch the TiVo’ed show which aired on Dr. Phil last week. The title of the show was "The Latest Debates" and it was episode #593. Well it was another case of extremes. If Dr. Phil keeps this up I will be watching less. It just is not so much fun anymore to see the way, way extreme on one end and the polar opposite extreme on the other. It used to be fun for me but now it is draining. Dr. Phil tries to be the middle man, the only voice of reason. However he often says too little and lets the people go on and on. This leaves me (and others, I am sure) talking to the TV screen trying to get our unsaid point across to the extremists.

I watched this to keep informed as to what is airing in the mainstream American media about breastfeeding. I didn't watch it for entertainment as I found it frustrating to watch.

Some people think I am alternative and a fanatic but believe me, I am middle-of-the-road compared to people such as these two women.

The show featured two women who were giving their points of view. The childless woman (named Sheley) never wants to see anyone breastfeed in public, even if the nursing is discreet. Shelley doesn’t want to see the act of nursing going on as she doesn’t “find it attractive” and “doesn’t find it appealing”. Well lady, guess what, if anyone thinks that breastfeeding is appealing or attractive that borders on some kind of sick fetish. I relate the words attractive and appealing in either an aesthetic manner or in a sexually appealing way.

I loved breastfeeding my children and I am happy to see anyone breastfeeding anywhere but I have never found it attractive or appealing in either an artistic or titillating way. I find it loving and beautiful but when I have seen a flash of a woman’s nipple or a peeking of the color of her breast skin I don’t find it attractive or appealing.

By the way, I don’t find seeing women in shirts that show cleavage, or parts of their breasts or bellies and backs, appealing. I also don’t find low riding pants attractive, I don’t want to see people’s bellies or flanks or backs or buttock-cracks either. I don’t care if they are too-thin, just right, or too fat to be wearing those clothes. Frankly, I am sick of the current fashion of skin tight clothing, low cut necklines, crop tops and low riding pants. Enough is enough, when is the next clothing fad moving in to take over this one? I can't wait!

But back to breastfeeding as a problem for Shelley, because doesn’t find it attractive. Even my husband who is a heterosexual and is attracted to me never found my act of breastfeeding our children appealing or attractive! I would not want him or any man to find breastfeeding attractive or appealing. That is gross!!

Another analogy for this woman would be that the act of watching a child emerge from the mother’s birth canal would not look attractive or appealing in an aesthetic (or in a sexual way). I don’t think anyone anywhere thinks that childbirth in itself is attractive or visually appealing. Is this a reason for this woman to never have a baby? Is this a reason if she did have a baby, for the father of the baby to not look at the emerging baby lest he see something non-sexual happening down there? Seeing a baby born is a wonderful thing, a unique and beautiful thing, but it is not something that shows a woman’s genitals in an attractive or appealing way! Just the fact that the childbirth process involves urine, feces, amniotic fluid, and some blood is enough to make any body part unattractive and unappealing.

Nursing Discreetly
I have seen many, many women nurse discreetly. If anyone is nursing discreetly, it can be done with no one but the mother and baby seeing any part of the breast. If she has a problem with seeing the baby being held by the mother and nursing but not seeing anything more than that I think there must be some other serious issue going on with her. She said that in order to ‘not see’ these women such as while eating in a restaurant she’d have to stare at the ceiling. Lady, get real. Why don’t you pay attention to the person you are with and look at them and talk to them? Why are you staring at other customers? Didn’t anyone ever tell you that staring is not polite?

As to the breastfeeding mother, named Synnora, I disagreed with her also. Synnora said it was her personal mission to desensitize people to seeing the breast as a sexual object and to get breastfeeding accepted as the norm. She intentionally does not breastfeed discreetly. I’d like her to know she is doing breastfeeding a disservice. I don’t know what made her think she can personally change the views of lots of people, but she is wrong. She even mentioned changing America’s view and changing the world. She is not going to do it that way. Also in other countries, people don’t even have issues with breasts. In Europe, breastfeeding is done non-discreetly and is not problematic. I have seen Europeans here nursing very not-discreetly—this is because they grew up with a different mindset. Also regarding nudity in general, I am told in Europe, people of all ages and genders change from their street clothes to bathing suits right on the beach! How about that for an example of how public nudity is acceptable? But back to breastfeeding. People who hate breastfeeding are not going to suddenly respect it or like it or support it because she flashes her breast around. I hate the fact that she perpetuates the myth that in order to nurse it has to expose the breast.

Only one time was it said that nursing can be done discreetly without a blanket. I nursed with a blanket one time.

I also hated that on the show there were numerous references to nursings discreetly by putting a blanket over the baby. Guess what, folks, that is a huge flag that the baby is nursing. Also babies can’t breathe under there. IT gets hot very quickly. Sitting and trying to keep an open air vent is a ridiculous thing to do while nursing.

It is very possible to nurse discreetly without ever using a blanket. Many people won’t even know you are breastfeeding. I can’t tell you how many people have seen me nursing but thought the baby was just being held by me. I know this as they stuck their face right in my breast to get a look at the baby, saying things like, “he is so cute”. I assume they thought I’d tilt the baby’s face so they could see it as it was not fully visible. When I said he is nursing they backed way off in shock. I have also held my sleeping babies in the same position and no one knew at all if I was nursing or not nursing.

This is inspiring me to find photos of me nursing discreetly and to put them on my blog. Discreet nursing can be done. Discreet nursing can be done without a blanket.

My grandmother watched the show. She gave birth in the 1940s and did not breastfeed. She thought the show was ridiculous and also there were too many extreme statements. She also said that in her day, people just nursed or used bottles and that was it. No one talked about it or argued or debated. They just fed the child. She said that to live in an environment where all the opinions are everywhere and debate is done about every little thing is exhausting and draining. I don’t find hearing all these debates enjoyable.

Americans take note that not talking about a subject is sometimes better than talking about it and bringing negative press to it. I hope that the breastfeeding mother on the show realizes that she has done breastfeeding a disservice by appearing on the show. It fuels the fire of the people who hate breastfeeding. It also wrongly assumes that every mother must expose her breast to breastfeed. I wonder if she knows the desire to be discreet drives some women to never even try to breastfeed?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blog Comments Word Verfification Added

Today I added the new word verification step to the process of adding comments to this blog. I am getting slammed with spammer comments, comments which are generic bu then advertise their own blogs, all of which so far have been 'commercial' blogs.

In the past I have been deleting those spam comments.

Let's hope this cuts down on the garbage comments.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Dr. Phil Show About Breastfeeding in Public to Air Today

I have no idea if this will be a positive or a negative portrayal of breastfeeding, but on October 7, 2005, Dr. Phil’s show will have a segment on Breastfeeding in Public.

To find out when the show airs in your local area, see here.

What I will say about breastfeeding in public is that breastfeeding can be done very easily in a discreet manner. It is not hard at all to nurse discreetly.

My TiVo is set to record this episode and after I watch it, I will comment on it. Based on some things Dr. Phil has said in the past about breastfeeding I am betting he will advocate for discreet nursing. I hope he doesn't say he is against breastfeeding in public altogether!

Discreet Breastfeeding in Public is Easily Accomplished

Nursing tops make it very simple to nurse discreetly in public. There are also many nursing blouses, casual shirts, sweaters, dresses, etc. that look nice, are comfortable and make nursing discreetly even easier. My favorite company for high quality, good looking nursing clothing is Motherwear.

I have had problem with shirts from Motherhood, such as difficult to use design for nursing openings, thin and transparent knits, and uncomfortable fabrics. Perhaps you will disagree with me about their products. They are less expensive than Motherwear which was the reason that I purchased them. I ended up so unhappy with them that I went out and bought more tops from Motherwear.

Even regular shirts can be used and moved in a way so that nursing can be done discreetly. I don’t think there is a need to expose an entire breast (although I have seen that done).

I know that many preteens, teens, and grown women wear shirts and bathing suits that reveal a lot more skin, or are tighter and let us see their entire breast anatomy (without even showing skin). I feel that babies should be able to nurse in public--absolutely. I also feel, though, that nursing mothers should nurse discreetly whenever they are in the presence of other people, such as in their own homes (and guests are visiting), at other people’s private homes, and in public places. It is a matter of etiquette and social graces.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What Does it Mean to be Socalized and Homeschoolers are Not Sheltered From Society

Entire books have been written on what it means to be socialized, and how homeschooled children are socialized just fine. I have not read any of those books. Here are some of my own thoughts I have about what socialization means.

First, I think that school attendance is not necessary to teach a child to be socialized.

The second part of what people assume means by ‘going to school’ is the act of riding the school bus. The school bus is a tough environment in which some children learn or witness other, usually negative, behaviors. Not every child who goes to public school takes the bus; I know many families who drive their child to and from public school. Additionally, children who attend private schools are spared the school bus experience. I have heard some people say that to not have a child ride the school bus is robbing them of a social experience, but most people don’t ever worry about the lost learning that the private schooled kids will experience (they just worry about the homeschoolers). What can happen on the school bus is disrespectful talk (profanity and other negative words), teasing, bullying-verbal, bullying-physical, taunting, verbal sexual harassment and exclusion. Also sexual abuse-touching and groping can occur, and did occur, on the middle school bus that I took to school, in a small middle-class, 99% Caucasian suburb. (These are not urban issues or things that happen in poverty stricken places.) Perhaps a less harmful thing that can happen on school busses is cheating (copying another student’s homework). Observing others cheating helps make students accept it as typical or normal and may influence their immediate or future desire to cheat. Two years ago in my very small town a student brought a Playboy magazine onto the bus. The students are given assigned seating by grade level, with the Kindergarten children up front near the driver. The magazine was passed up through the grades and was only discovered while the first graders were looking at it.

My children learn things each and every time they are with other children. The playground is a socialization-rich environment.

I find that any time two children are together outside of an adult’s earshot, you never know what will go on (this is not just at the playground but anywhere). Last week my son was told something sexual that made him uncomfortable, from an always-homeschooled boy who has a very religious family. He told me about this because he said it made him feel uncomfortable, although he didn’t know why. I explained that the thing that was said was treating breasts in a disrespectful way by using slang language and that the reference to a person touching them was what he knew to be touching private parts of a body, which I previously explained as part of trying to teach about appropriate touching and inappropriate touching.

Both of my children also recounted a story about how two boys were trying to convince the rest that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. The conversation ended up more like a debate with the two non-believers trying to convince the rest. My children said they gave counter-arguments and they both walked away still believing in Santa Claus. I don’t know how many of the children lost their innocence regarding Santa Claus that day. My point is that homeschooled children are not completely sheltered, they are around other children and even when they are with other homeschooled children they are exposed to things that perhaps we, as parents, wish they had not experienced, seen, heard, or learned.

Other aspects to socialization are realizing that people have different rules and standards than each other. Our family may prohibit use of certain words such as bathroom language and profanity while other children use this freely in conversation. Other families allow the use of slang terms for private body parts. I notice these children seem to get a giddy excitement about saying them over and over. In our home we use the correct terms and there are no jokes about those body parts in our household. But when they are with other children, this language is used frequently. They have heard this talk when children are alone, when children are with their own parents—and the parents allow it to go on, and they have also heard other adults use this language and treat it as normal and acceptable. So our children have learned that our family has certain standards of appropriateness and other families have other standards. They have to learn to control themselves and act in the way that my husband and I feel is right. There just came a point where I had to explain that different families have different rules but our family has rules and standards which their father and I feel is the best for our own family. I don’t like the terminology some families use and allow. My point here is that my children both learn these slang terms and also learn that different families have different rules and standards.

Children are very observant. They see how other children treat each other, both verbally and physically. They see children doing things to each other that they know is unacceptable according to our family. They have seen bullying (in all its forms) and they don’t like it. I am trying to get them to a point where they are not bystanders to the bullying, but to where they choose to stand up and defend the victim or to challenge the bully as doing something wrong and to try and stop it. Perhaps if bullies were to receive negative feedback from their own peers, it would help end the cycle.

Side note: I once heard a taped lecture by Barbara Coloroso called “Bullies, Victims and Bystanders” in which she explains that every person falls into one of these three categories and that we choose to be a bystander if we want to, and she urges each of us to not accept the bystander (or witness) role and to become active in stopping bullying. She has a book with the same title. Some day I will read it. The lecture really was geared toward children who attend school and a good amount of the lecture was about how parents can work with school teachers and school administrators to try and make the school staff not allow bullying. Apparently some parents who know their children are being bullied have a hard time getting the school staff to respond to it, the teachers and/or administrators won’t act on it and it goes on and on. (I know this was true when I was in school, but I had assumed that with all the negative press about it in recent years that maybe it wasn’t even happening at schools—I was apparently wrong.)

Children who play with others, especially in small groupings, at the playground, go through a host of group dynamic-relationships. Some want to be leader. Conflicts arise if more than one wants to lead the group. Followers are sometimes happy to follow. I have noticed that at about age 4 or 5 children would rather play in groups with other children at the playground than to spend time in the sand box, on the slides, or on the swings. They invent games, sit, hidden in low places on the wooden playground structure, or spend time walking and talking and sometimes just follow each other up and down and all around the huge wooden structure that the nearby playground has.

Children negotiate with each other and try to persuade each other, such as to change from one game to the other. Some children seem to be born-salespeople, able to talk a group into nearly anything. Some realize the power of saying no and what happens when they dissent. Most seem to not want to break from the pack, but some seem to delight in the challenge, and then try to get the others over to ‘their side’.

Bickering and disagreements arise between friends. Children struggle to communicate verbally, trying to figure out how to best verbalize what they are feeling. Some desperately feel the need to communicate their thoughts and feelings, while others seem all too happy to bite the bullet, suppressing their individual thought or emotions in order to ‘save face’. Some children don’t mind crying in front of others while others would never allow a group of children to see them displaying their emotions (what they consider to be a sign of weakness).

With boys, some seem to want to play rough and aggressively. Others have no interest in this, but will follow the crowd and go along with or join in with the play that the leader wants. Sometimes when things get a little wild with one child, the next moment many or all are suddenly wild. It is interesting and a bit odd to witness the quick shift from in control and calm to suddenly being out of control. The scary part of this is that when the ‘wild’ mode is on, logic and common sense go out the window. This is when the sword-battles get too aggressive and people are hurt or when they start jumping from high places or running so quickly that they accidentally smash into someone, injuring both the other person and themselves.

Some children are affected when they see another child with hurt feelings. Other children seem to care less. Some give thought to how their actions impact onto others, while others do what they want without ever thinking about the other people. Some will witness a child who is being excluded, while others won’t even realize that other children are excluding that child. Some will want to include the excluded child and will reach out to encourage that child, while others would never dream of acting independently like that (and going against the crowd). Some seem to enjoy the “us versus them” idea and like to be a part of that team and don’t want anyone else on their own team. Some are competitive and begin saying “our team is better than yours”.

Some children divide by gender lines. There have been many happy games played at our playground where the teams divide by girl vs. boy. I think sometimes this is done for ease of play. Not every child knows every other child at our homeschool park day. It is easy to know that if it is a girl they are on the girl team and if it is a boy, they are on the boy team. It also seems that some children (of both genders) like to divide off by gender. Sometimes girls will say with disgust “he is a boy” or vice-versa. I used to think this was something that only school children did. Often homeschoolers are not seen ignoring and treating the members of the opposite gender with negativity. With many children once they are exposed to this, they learn it and use it. A few years ago the two main people who were pushing the boy vs. girl were two boys who did go to school but were now homeschooled. Another boy I know who has never been to school has two older sisters and for whatever reason, he is in the camp of “eew she is a girl”. My children have also experienced this when they are around their friends and relatives who DO go to school.

So can you see yet, that homeschooled children are not sheltered?

About their relationships with each other, I don’t know why all of this surprises me, perhaps because I (used to) think that children did not experience complex emotions and complex relationships with other children. I thought that only adults acted and felt in these ways. I was wrong. I have a feeling that personality traits seen in babyhood and early childhood stay with the children throughout their life. Perfect example: I found a report from my father’s Kindergarten teacher last weekend. He enrolled in Kindergarten at age 4 and turned 5 while in Kindergarten. For his personality the teachers said he was critical and liked serving his own self-interests. He is nearing age 60 now and this description is very accurate! This is scary!

I have noticed that at the playground, the strongest ties that my children have with others are with the children that they have seen on a regular or semi-regular basis over the last two years. The common bond of having known each other for a period of time is beneficial. When we arrive at the playground for our homeschoolers park day, I see the joy on the faces of my children and on the faces of the other children, when they see that their old friends are there. The children who don’t seem to feel so comfortable are those that are new to the others. One thing I have been trying to teach both of my children this fall is to reach out to these new friends and to help make them feel more comfortable. It has been interesting to see how the different personalities of my two sons has yielded two different reactions to my prodding’s. My shy son (the follower) won’t reach out to the newcomers at all and instead, just plays with the other children (whoever is there). My extroverted son (the leader) has reached out to children many times. Whether the other children choose to take up his offers to play is another thing entirely. When the children rebuff my extroverted son’s attempts, he backs off. I bet if his personality trait included persistency and more of a drive to achieve a goal, he would not back off and instead would persevere. I am sure also that other children would then take the child’s refusal to join the group as acceptable but instead of leaving to go back to the group, they may choose to play one-on-one with the other child.

Some children also seem to like to play alone. Some children at the park day bring toys that keep them solitary and separated from the others, such as wearing audio headset units and listening to music by themselves, or they draw or read a book. Others bring chess set and play a game of chess in a quiet spot with one other child.

Another thing which perhaps I don’t need to mention is that homeschooled children are out in the world and with other people often. My own children mix with other homeschooled children, mostly because they are the ones who are available to play with. Even as busy as homeschoolers are, they have more flexibility in their schedule than schooled children. It is very hard to find time in a schooled child’s day to play, such as to play with neighbors after school. Finding time for a playdate if that includes driving time to get to the other child is basically out of the question. By the time the schooled children do their homework, do their extra-curricular activities, and relax at home with family, there is no time left in the day for seeing other children to ‘just play’. My children also see schooled children in the neighborhood, through community sports and through Cub Scouts. We also live near relatives and see cousins from both sides of the family (all of who go to school). They see adult relatives and grandparents and great-grandparents frequently. All of these people (including the adult relatives) have introduced ‘negative’ (in my opinion) socialization to my children. So both positive and negative socialization is learned by my children by both homeschooled children and schooled children, and by adults and relatives!


The one thing that homeschooling children have going for them is that the negative socialization can be more tightly controlled or limited by the parent, if the parent wants to. Examples are that private playdates with certain children can be avoided. Playdates with other children who exhibit positive social skills can be encouraged. Exposure to negative socialization from relatives can be limited or even avoided, if one wants to go that far. The fact that homeschooled children spend more time with their own parents allows the parents to be the ones who are their MAIN influence.

What I hope for and what seems to be happening is that when a negative social experience happens we talk about it and my children learn what I think is right and they have a standard set for them, a higher bar is set as to what is acceptable and right for our family. I can’t control everyone in the world and have them act the way I want them to act when they are around my children. But they are given an opportunity, in our home and within our family, to be exposed to mostly all positive experiences. This allows them to handle negative experiences more easily when they do occur, and to recognize that something happened that was not right or good, and to be able to identify it as such. They can and do learn that their own actions are controlled by themselves—they choose their behavior. I know from experience that repeated and prolonged exposure to negative behavior or peer pressure (such that happens when a child is spending seven or more hours in the day exposed to non-parents and also exposed mostly to same-aged peers), can influence a child to the point of changing their personality for the worse or leading to behaviors and activities that are negative such as engaging in bullying, rude behavior, and by middle school, smoking cigarettes, alcohol and using illegal drugs.

I think that if my children reach age 18 with a good self-esteem, an ability to communicate well with others, and with a standard of good social behaviors in place, that is something to be proud of.

I don’t know how my children will turn out, the only thing I can do is plug away each day, teaching them morals and values and helping them sort out their experiences. We go day by day and that builds to weeks, months, then to years. I am trying the hardest that I can, and that is all that I can do! Active parenting is not easy. I keep telling myself that hopefully all this effort is worthwhile. I do know that the time I am spending with them is precious and I am enjoying have a close, connected relationship with my children. If these two things are accomplished in our homeschooling journey then perhaps that is ‘good enough’ and makes homeschooling worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Imagining My Kids in School

Dear Readers,
I have been swamped lately and have not had time to ponder very much or to write. This is something I wrote in early July and hadn’t published until today. Enjoy.
The Thinking Mother

Imagining My Kids in School

I have been living in a positive mindset of the homeschooling lifestyle so long that to consider stepping outside of it is somewhat shocking to ponder.

Yesterday I was driving in back of a school bus. School is out, the bus was empty, and I have no clue why it was driving around in July, but anyway... As I was looking at it I was thinking, “My kids have never been on a bus, they are not experiencing that at all.” Now, mind you, I am not grieving this. I had a LOT of problems on the school bus in my public school career (including what now would qualify as verbal and physical sexual abuse) and don’t wish those experiences on anyone, let alone my own children.

So yesterday I was thinking, “What would life be like for us if I sent my kids to public school”? I was imagining things like getting them up, ready, and out the door on time. I was imagining them taking the bus and me being one of the mothers waiting at the bus stop. In my area the child is not allowed off the bus unless the parent is there. I don’t know if this is just here or is the norm all across America. But anyway, I vow that I would not drive them to the end of the driveway and sit there in my car while it is running. If they went to school and took the bus we’d all “suffer” by standing outdoors in whatever weather Mother Nature was dealing out that day.

I was imagining what it would be like to hand over the responsibility for their education to the public school system. I was imagining what it would be like if the most help I could give the school was being Room Mother and planning parties.

I don’t think I could get involved with the PTA if everyone believed the propaganda that is dealt to them by the school administrators.

I’d be the only one questioning things.

I’d be the one saying that what matters is the learning that takes place in the school, not that the children need a new school building. They need a clean, safe, comfortable school. But they need good books and wonderful teachers even more. And involved parents!

I’d be the one asking why the setup of our public school system allows incompetent teachers to remain working, year after year. I’d be the one asking why all the normal private sector job processes and procedures are not part of the public school system. (One must work hard and be good at their job to keep the job and to get a raise, for example. Incompetent employees are fired, etc.)

I would be the one reading the studies and asking how we can change what the system is doing to fix things.

I would be the pain in their you-know-what.

I would also be miserable, handing control over to the school and feeling that all I was good for was getting my child to the bus stop on time and helping make sure their homework was done. I’d also feel helpless and upset to think about how their experiences on the school bus and in school may change their personality (for the worse). I would worry about teachers and especially the ones like some that I had when I was in school: the burned out ones who lack enthusiasm and make school work boring. I’d worry about the ones who like to treat people differently, having both favorites and those who they seemed to despise. I shudder to think of one of my children being verbally abused by a teacher. This is all stuff that I witnessed in school. It happens. I am convinced that my friends who claim none of this happened at their school either didn’t notice or have blocked it from their memory.

And my friend who has her children in my town’s government school told me I’d be the one with my kids on the principal’s black list. That means they’d get the worst teachers and who knows what else.

So we are still homeschooling!!

Tip #1 for Pedestrians

Tip #1 for Pedestrians

When a person is backing out of a parking spot, you should not walk behind that car.

Helpful Hint: when a car is backing up, the white reverse lights are on.

Please take note.

This tip is brought to you by The Thinking Mother. Have a nice day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

ABC Books by Ann

I have written in the past about ABC Books by Ann. This is a website which discusses and reviews living books, including out of print gems. Ann also sells wonderful used living books at her eBay store. Ann publishes a newsletter that is free for the asking, which is published on the web and which you can print off on your home computer. Scroll down on this page to find the button to click to join her newsletter notification Yahoo Group!.

Ann asked me to write an article for an upcoming newsletter. I just put the finishing touches on it and sent it to her through cyberspace. I wrote about a nearby town's transfer station which has a shed full of used books which are free for the taking.

Spelling Rules for Its and It's

This is one of my weak spots: its' vs. its. I think I found the answer here. I am always amazed at the number of websites with people writing passionately about broken grammar rules and about the misuse of words in the English language. There are so many now that it is easier for me to search the web for the answer then to get off my butt and pull a grammar rule book off the shelf.