Friday, June 30, 2006

Big Decision Made About Cub Scouts

Our family made a big decision, one that we have thought about off and on for almost a year. We both feel a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. We have left our Cub Scout Pack and are going to another Pack. The decision was not made without a lot of discussion and thought. My husband and I have put a lot of time and energy into this Pack and we felt loyal to it. We really wanted to see the Pack thrive and to stay with it. Perhaps we have put too much heart and soul and energy into it, as we definitely did both burn out.

My major reason at this point was that I was finishing up a year of doing one Den Leader job and one Pack Committee job. My husband held a Pack level job also. For the upcoming fall I faced having to be a Den Leader to both of my children and with no one else stepping up for the Pack job I faced doing that as well. I don’t like that with the old Pack they let the Leaders decide when the meetings are. That meant that I’d have to be at two different meetings in two different places at different times each week, then the once monthly Pack meeting would be held on a certain weeknight. I was very worried about leading two Dens and also so many meetings all over the place (and dragging the other sibling to the other meeting each time).

I decided to go to a Pack where another homeschooling family presently is a member of; a family we’ve known for four or five years Our children love their children.Their older boy will be in a Den with my older boy, and they are already friends so that will be good. My younger boy will be in a Den with their younger boy, so again, that will be good. But possibly the best thing of all is that they hold their meetings on one weeknight at one time. Every Den meets in a parochial school. Each Den goes into a different classroom for their meeting. One of those nights is the Pack’s meeting. So I know already for the whole next year that the one weeknight will be booked with the meetings. It is nice to have the meetings planned out a year in advance.

I also can’t be in two places at one time so I will not be my older son’s Den Leader. I will be a Den Leader for my younger son only. I will not volunteer for Pack level job, in an effort to reduce my volunteer commitments.

My husband is pondering his choices for what one job he will do. So we will have two boys in their program and each parent will do just one job. That seems very reasonable and fair to me.

I am just so relieved to not have it up in the air as to when the Den meetings and Pack meetings will be held.

So the upsides are less volunteer jobs for me (down from three to one) and less meetings for all of us to go to, and to know the meeting schedule a full year in advance, which makes planning the rest of our time easier. Oh, and because they are weeknight meetings now we have two afternoons free for either playdates or for homeschooling classes or events (the last two years my older son missed out on a wonderful wilderness program due to a conflict in the schedule). We will also leave the various problems with the lack of volunteerism in this town behind; as I am told this other Pack has much more parental involvement.

The downside is that my children won’t be with others who live in this same town. That is alright considering that my older son has only made one real friend from the three years in Scouting (also due in part to the fact that many of these boys I would not want around my son too much)! Another downside is that my children won’t see the boy they consider their best friend on a regular basis for Scouting activities. However I know that if he is a true friend they will make time for playdates at non-Scouting events. They will no longer be marching in our little town parade, which is disappointing.

Hooray! I am so excited! So it looks like we made a very good decision. It was a hard one to make but it seems to be good to me!

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Homeschooling and Education Podcasts

I wish there were more podcasts about homeschooling. I’d also enjoy hearing some on education in general and also on education reform.

If I had the time I’d look into starting my own podcasts. I don’t have the time.

I don’t quite know what is involved with podcasting. I have heard some people say that it is so hard, you have to spend a lot of money, etc. But I have also heard that it is so easy and so inexpensive to do that teenagers are doing podcasts with their random thoughts just for the fun of it.

I used to love to listen to the podcasts on HomeSchoolTalkRadio. However they have not issued one of their free talk radio shows for a number of months now. I don’t know what is going on. I checked their site last week and there was no explanation given for the lapse. I hope they resume broadcasting soon. Go here to listen to archived radio shows.

I also enjoyed listening to Homeschool Habitat. There has not been a new release since November 2005. Go here to listen to past recordings.

Last night while doing book sorting and organizing in our library I listened to more podcasts from Education 911. These are recorded by a long-time teacher and they are about the call for education reform. The host talks of problems in the public school system. Go here to find the list of archived podcasts.

Last night I found short podcasts by David and Shirley Quine under the podcast name “Homeschool Helps”. They are a married couple who have homeschooled their seven children, six of whom are finished with homeschool high school at this point. They are Christian. These seem to be a combination of home recording spliced in with recordings from homeschooling conferences. Go here if you want to listen to one of the many recordings they have made.

Listening to these podcasts is just like listening to a lecture at a conferene, but these are free and done in the privacy of your own home.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Book Recommendation: Art in Story: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children by Marianne Saccardi

Book Title: Art in Story: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children

Author: Marianne Saccardi

Publisher Information: Published in 1997 by Linnet Professional Publications, North Haven, Connecticut, USA

Format: Soft cover

Price: (no price on cover, can’t remember what I paid but I bought it on Amazon, new, and I am pretty sure it was a discounted price)

This is a very helpful non-fiction book that informs about famous artists and art history. The book is divided into art movements then is sub-divided by each artist. There is a story to read aloud to elementary aged children about the life of the artist. This is not a picture book. It is a non-fiction reference book to be used by teachers or homeschoolers or parents. The story for children to hear is to be read aloud to them, and there are no illustrations. Each artist has background information intended for the adult to know and use in any other way in their teaching or for their own knowledge.

For each artist there are activities such as journal writing prompts, and art/drams projects. There is a section on ‘how to view the art’. Some artists have sections for teaching science, history, social studies, etc. For each type of art (i.e. impressionists), there are several pages of references for more books to read about this artist. Some have lists of A/V materials and a section of ‘other materials’.

(I am a big fan of any book that uses a story (narrative) format.)

This is clearly a book written for teachers to use for teaching children in a classroom setting. It is not a straight lesson, but provides lots of information for the teacher to design their own lessons for their students. This book is very helpful and useful for a homeschooling parent, or for other teachers such as summer art camp lesson plan designers, or even library-based extracurricular class/program planners.

My homeschooling parent-friends and I love this book. It is a worthwhile investment for the homeschool especially if you have elementary grade aged children. I feel it is also worthwhile if your children are older. If nothing else it can serve to teach the adult/parent the information if they don’t already know it.

I wanted to share today that this book is currently out of print. We discussed it at my Charlotte Mason Homeschool Support Group meeting last month and at that time the cheapest copy on Amazon, used, was $50. Today I see that the cheapest copy on Amazon is $84. I saw a copy on The Well Trained Mind (TWTM) Sale and Swap Board going for $6 last month. I often see them selling on TWTM board. (I have not checked other used bookseller sites to compare prices at other online used bookseller sites.)

Yesterday I found out by surfing the web researching different books, that there is a 2nd edition coming out in December 2006. Since they are labeling it as a 2nd edition I assume it will be revised and expanded. I assume that the resource listing may be expanded to include the most recently published books (and they may remove out of print books as well, who knows). The retail on the 2nd edition is listed as $35. Amazon used to discount the price of the first edition of this book when it was in print.

So I am sharing this: if you want to make money on your copy, consider selling it now for a high price. If this book is new to you and sounds good to you I’d say to hold out until Dec 2006 and buy a new 2nd edition copy for $35 full retail, or try a book discounter such as Amazon for a discounted price.

By the way, the book is so helpful that it would help teach art to children older than elementary school age if you ask me. It also has more art history background for me as an adult than I have ever learned in public school or at my liberal arts college, so it is good also for background info for the parent/adult as well as a good ‘book list book’.

The website of the publisher is Libraries Unlimited, which is where I learned that a second, revised edition is set to be released in December 2006.

Art in Story on the Libraries Unlimited website

Out of print edition for sale on

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How Much Is Enough For a Stay at Home Mother To Do? (A Rant)

Okay here is a rant. I was ready to write this in May but put it off and the anger subsided. However reading more about Linda Hirshman has me fired up about this all over again.

I ranted last week in this blog entry, about volunteer work. Well here is some more ranting.

I started thinking about this topic of how much society thinks that a stay at home mother should do back in May when I had a certain discussion with a working mother. This mother knew that I homeschooled our children and had commented in the past that it was a huge undertaking. She knew that I volunteered to do two Cub Scout jobs, one as her son’s Den Leader and one job on the Pack level. (Note that in the last two years she did not have any volunteer positions with the Cub Scouts, so she relied on mothers like me to do the work necessary for her son to have a program to participate in.) This mother knows of my volunteer work with helping mother’s breastfeed and she had commended me on that endeavor in the past and felt that was of high value. This mother does volunteer with the PTA, specifically, to rally for more spending for the schools by doing publicity to push passing the budgets (in our town each citizen votes on the budget).

What this mother was upset about was that she felt that I should know more about the details and negotiations between the Board of Education, the Superintendent and the town officials about the content of the education budget and about the proposed tax raise. I was told that I should be attending meetings to hear the budget discussions, etc. I was a bit put off by that and explained that with all my volunteer work and with homeschooling my children I didn’t have time in my schedule to attend the two long night meetings that she was telling me that I should go to that week. Probably what set me off was also the fact that one of her opening lines to me was that "as a homeschooling mother I don't know if you care about the children in town who use the public schools" implying that as a homeschooler I'd vote the budget down just because my children are not in the public school. I found that comment highly offensive.

I explained that while living in my hometown, when I was in my 20s and single, I served as a volunteer as an elected official and that I know what that the whole process is like, “been there, done that”. I explained that I was on the education committee to boot so I know what it is like to go to the meetings to discuss budget, etc. etc. I know what the spiel is, and it seems the same now as it was then. “The increase in the budget is almost all fixed and non-negotiable. Past agreements in the teacher contracts to give the teachers raises cannot be negotiated. Necessary repairs on the school must be done. Special education services mandated by Federal law are making the budget soar and nothing can be done about it.” Blah, blah, blah. Other than the hot topic of the moment the process never seems to change.

I was really ticked off after that conversation. Yet again someone was making me feel that I was not doing enough. I find that in 2006 a mother at home is not just allowed to be a mother at home. Back when I was a child (not too long ago) people accepted that a mother’s job was at home (and even when kids in school) and that was it. Not all mothers did volunteer work. When the children were in school the mothers did housework or whatever other things they did. It doesn’t seem to me that such pressure was placed on mothers back then to do a zillion volunteer jobs.

Now mothers at home are not expected to do just one volunteer job, nor are they expected to do just one per child they have. You see the guilt trip comes on, “If you want your child doing this activity then you must volunteer”, they tell us. So that means that for each child we are asked to do at least one job. But one job is not the reality either. I am asked to do numerous jobs for each child, for community based events. No one gives a hoot that we homeschool and that really that is like a full-time job. Teachers are given such praise, “Oh that is such a noble profession!” School teachers are given kudos for doing their hard work on their job, and often are let off the hook from doing volunteer jobs in their non-work hours. As a homeschooling parent, don’t expect that same treatment; if you do, you will be disappointed. If you are lucky your support will be from your husband. My heart hurts for those homeschooling mothers who don’t even have the support from their spouses. The reason that I have worked to help homeschooling support groups thrive and exist is because for many of us, the mothers we meet there are our main support systems. Those of you who have churches that support your homeschooling lifestyle are very lucky (I don’t have that).

Then in the homeschooling community, since we are such a grassroots movement—with no infrastructure guiding us or providing us with services, we have to create the things we want. There is no shortage of opportunities within the homeschooling sphere for us to do ‘volunteer work’. If we so desired, we could be arranging field trips, gymnasium days, co-op’s, homeschool 4H groups, First Lego League, Odyssey of the Mind, Geography and Spelling Bees, and any number of other things. I have found that if I want my children to do something with other children I often have to create it. Okay that is fine and well. Additionally there are opportunities to help support groups, to be a leader of one, to help the state’s homeschooling organization, etc.

But something has to give. I was told by that mother that it was my duty as a taxpaying citizen of my town that I go to all those meetings so I can know the most about what is going on (in order, she said, to realize that a 10% tax increase every year is fully justified and in fact, even more money would be better). “If I only knew, if I only realized”, she said, then I’d be happy to approve every tax raise.

I only have so much time to live and to try and enjoy life and to spend with my children when they are young. How much is enough for me to do for volunteer work? I’ve given up my career and money in order to raise them and to home educate them. At the point in time that this conversation took place I was doing no less than eight volunteer jobs. Isn’t that enough? How much is enough?

I told the mother that I read the town newspaper and that all the things she talks about are not discussed in detail in the newspaper. I said that I rely on that source of information to base my voting decisions on. That is as much as I could do. I was told that is not good enough. As a busy homeschooling mother at home with eight volunteer jobs, is it really reasonable to expect me to go to every Board of Ed meeting and every Board of Finance meeting? As a taxpayer should I and do I really need to be spending multiple hours per week at such meetings to fulfill my obligation as a taxpayer and a citizen of this town? I don’t think so!! Sorry!! Enough is enough.

The whole discussion got me thinking seriously about how much volunteer work is enough. I am really getting sick of the mentality. Not only does this American society not respect mothers at home overall, they don’t show much appreciation for those of us who do volunteer jobs, let alone eight of them. I am constantly being asked to do more and more, to fulfill my obligation to society. I have been told that if I want something to happen or something to exist I must work to make it happen. I can understand that to a point but there is a point where overload occurs. Is it not possible for my children to just attend something as a participant? Why am I always the organizer? Why are the others let off the hook while I am given the guilt trip? I have been made to feel guilty when I refuse to do a certain volunteer job. One organization I work with has no problem making up loads of red tape positions then complains when there aren’t enough bodies to fill the open positions; they have no problem asking people to do three, four, or five jobs all at the same time!

When a mother at home is overworked with volunteer jobs, some enjoyment in life can be taken away. Throw a problem in the mix, like a sick or dying relative and all heck breaks loose.

Homeschooling mothers are seldom given kudos for what they do. The mentality around here is basically “you wanted to do that weird thing (homeschooling) that goes above and beyond what the normal people do so don’t complain if your life is stressful as you brought it on yourself”. THAT is the attitude that is all around me. (I hope that this mentality doesn’t exist all over the county, I don’t know if it does, and if that is the case, then that is a shame.)

So after that discussion with the mother in May I seriously began reexamining my volunteer jobs and began resigning from some of them. I have been thinking about what I want to achieve, what I want my children to achieve, what kind of home environment I want our children to grow up in, etc. I realize that some volunteer jobs that I have held have hindered or prevented me from being able to do some very simple things like relaxing with my kids and reading a book aloud to them, because the minutes to a Cub Scout meeting must be prepared and distributed, or because the latest problem with Cub Scouts resulted in me being on the phone for over an hour with the Cubmaster.

So one by one I am eliminating my volunteer jobs. No one is looking out for my best interest. I feel like the various charity organizations and other organizations are like blood suckers, they will take all they can get from a person to achieve their goal and their mission, even if the family of the volunteer suffers in the process.

Another thing that hit home for me is hearing children’s book authors speak at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature. Each spoke of achieving a dream, that we should be doing what we love, and spending our time working at what we love and spending time on that which is our passion. It was long ago that I heard Joseph Campbell say “follow your bliss”. Well, in 2006 it seems that no one wants anyone to follow their bliss. It seems to me that the overall attitude is that anyone who does something like following their bliss is living out some luxury that they don’t deserve. It is all about achieving someone else’s goal or some smaller goal that is not ‘a dream to fulfill’. If the goal is to have a child in the First Lego League Competition then work must be done to achieve it. If the goal is to help mothers breastfeed then X, Y, and Z jobs must be done to help that come to fruition. If your child is to be in Cub Scouts then you must step up and do volunteer work for that. None of those people give a hoot about your own personal bliss; they all are working toward their goal. I know this because I hear it. When I reach out for support for feeling burned out, all I get is one-upmanship. “If you think it is hard with two children then how about what I go through with three (or four) children” and “I am even busier than you” (followed by many details of all the things they do and how their lives are driven by the many appointments that they have). In the end I am left feeling even more incompetent, because my friend over there, and that one over there, and that one over there, well they are even busier and they are doing more and their children are doing more culturally rich and educationally deep or more physically demanding sports activities.

So the hard part of finding balance in one’s life is about defining what the children need vs. what they want, what mother wants vs. needs, whether time will be spent doing something to help make a program happen for your child to participate in or if the mother will work for pay so money can be had or will the mother spend time working on something to fulfill her own bliss? Oh, whoops, I forgot to mention the husband and the marriage and doing things to nurture intimacy and a strong connection with the spouse (that is another area that ends up being a target for neglect in this busy-busy-busy lifestyle).

Just to make myself very clear: the last thing I’d ever do with my time is spend it in political meetings in town. That is a lost cause. I have ‘been there, done that’ as a volunteer and saw that it is a machine, and I know first hand that the involvement of the taxpayer citizens in the political process is next to nil (i.e. the citizen impacting setting the education budget, the citizen doing something to get spending in the education budget in the right place, etc.).

I don’t quite know what a perfect mother is. People used to think it was SuperMom who was home with the children and did lots of volunteer jobs and who did worthwhile work to help the community, or maybe they thought that it means the mother works outside the home at some great career which fully utilizes her fine education for high pay, and then is also a spectacular mother and wife.

Well I have come to a point where for the sake of my own health (physical and mental) I need to cut back on some volunteer work and concentrate more on my own self and on my family. So right now I am cutting back and back and back on my volunteer jobs. And guess what? I don’t think I am being selfish at all. I don’t care if someone accuses me of not being SuperMom. I am going to realign my priorities and my family’s priorities to do what is best for me and all of us and for once helping charity organizations and helping ‘the community’ will be behind my own family. Sorry if that disappoints some of you.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 26

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 26 was published today by Natalie at The Homeschool CafĂ© blog and is called “Black coffee and conversation”. I have a submission in this CoH.

How about sitting down to relax and unwind by reading what 35 homeschoolers have to say. It is just like reading a magazine, and it is free!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is published each Tuesday. For information about submitting entries, go here. If you are a homeschooling parent, I highly recommend that you submit an entry!

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Discount Home School Supplies is Giving Away a FREE Microsope

To find out how to enter a contest to win a new, free MSK-01 microscope (retail price $199.99), read Tami’s blog, and follow the directions to enter the contest.

We Took 8th Place in the "Great Park Pursuit" Contest

Okay I am being emailed asking for the outcome and getting complaints that I hadn’t blogged about it yet. So here it is. Due to the tardiness of my blogging you can see I am not bragging!

We took in 8th place in the contest.

There were 450-ish families who signed up to participate in the No Child Left Inside initiative organized by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, which was a contest called the “Great Park Pursuit”. (I keep reading different statistics: 426, 430 and 450.) The goal was to increase children’s time outside and get them away from screens and indoor play. Another goal was to boost residents’ awareness of the Connecticut State Park system. By the end of week seven, 97 families had done all the challenges which meant they were finalists in the contest and would participate in an 8th challenge at Fort Trumbull State Park in New London, Connecticut on June 24th.

We were told the first challenge would take about 20 minutes and would be ‘tabulated’. My husband and I took this to mean a trivia test of sorts would be given (what else would be ‘tabulated’)?

To study I copied the contest website’s hints from the first seven parks and their blurb about the history and about the park in general. I printed that out and on the way to the Park I read it aloud to my family in the car (one time). That was the extent of our studying. A little cramming but not much time spent on studying at all. In the past in order to find the location of the secret State Parks which we were given hints for we had researched either on the Internet or had read a book called “A Shared Landscape" . So in our memories was some of the information from that research.

Before going to the Park we dropped my younger son off at my parent’s house to be babysat because he was on day two of high fevers and the weather prediction was heavy rain all day, and the event was an outdoor event. To drag him there would not only be unfair but a health risk and just plain irresponsible on our part. We missed him though, as he had been with us for the entire contest. (Rules stated only one adult and one child must be present to participate.)

When we arrived at the Park we were directed to take a multiple choice and fill in the blank test. The whole team could work on the test together. We were stumped on two questions. One asked what birds an Audubon Center showed at a certain Park but the time that we saw that exhibit, none of the listed birds were shown. Using logic we did process of elimination and made our choice. Also for one other question that stumped us, we were asked what reptile was not shown at an exhibit. Seeing that exhibit was a non-mandatory event at that certain Park and we did four other activities that day and so we didn’t visit that exhibit (having to rush out to attend a party that afternoon). Again using process of elimination and logic we made our guess, by choosing a non-native species of snake as the one not shown. We knew all the other answers off the top of our heads. Indeed some of the questions asked were from the hints given in the past.

Of the 97 test takers, with a possible score of 130, 11 teams scored 120 or 125, and they did a second challenge and won prizes. Eight teams scored a perfect score of 130 and we were one of them.

First the runners-up did a run off contest while our group watched. In our opinion this event was a mix of luck and a little skill but it was not fully in control of the participant. We did not have any practice time. We stood at the top of the Fort while two people held a large sling shot (one person holding each side). One member of each team was to take one of those squishy water balls and pull back and aim the sling shot to shoot it up and outward, at a small (about 6 feet long) dinghy which seemed to be about 80 feet away. Each team got three balls to shoot (no practicing was allowed). This was not the same as shooting a sling shot at a target that one could aim at. For the round with the top 8 teams, my husband took on the job and he did the worst of the group so we came in 8th place.

The goal was to get the ball into the boat. If no one got it in, then the closest to the boat would win. Of all the teams that competed not a single player got it into the boat. However after the contest was over the moms and the children took turns doing one shot. One mother and three young children got the ball into the boat, how funny is that? A ball in the boat during the contest would ensure a top prize, unless more than three did it, in which case a run-off round would have taken place.

The top three prizes were packages worth over $2000. The packages were: kayaking, hiking, and camping. The rest of the teams in the top 8 received a pair of binoculars with a price tag of $80 on it.

For making it to the final day, the 97 teams received free t-shirts for the children and each team received one small flashlight (value $11). As we were leaving they were giving away left over adult t-shirts for free (prior they were selling them), so they gave us two.

So that is the information on the competition part.

About Our Visit To Fort Trumbull
Fort Trumbull was amazing to visit. In between the competitions we were able to go inside the museum and tour it. It is an interactive museum with audio displays, computer simulators to play with and use and with two movies to watch about the rich history of Fort Trumbull. This Fort is full of military history. We didn’t tour very much outside/in the Fort itself as it was a full downpour at that time and then it was time to hear the results and to finish the competition.

The other things we did that day was to do a wheelbarrow race with children in the wheelbarrow and an adult running and pushing it. My older son decoded a long Morse Code message at another booth.

We had a lot of fun despite spending yet more hours outside in the rain. I have not spent this much time outside in the rain, ever, I don’t think, as I have during this contest.

At the end of the Event they announced that they intend to try and do this contest again next year. It is apparent that a lot of time and energy went into putting this contest on. Many volunteers helped execute this event. I hope they do it again and I hope we are able to participate again. (Of the 450 who signed up to participate, I was told only 250 showed up at the first event. They had limited the event to 450 and it is a shame that registration had to be shut down and that some people were prevented from participation due to some not showing up. I know two people who did sign up but then didn’t go to one single event due to busy schedules and choosing to do other things instead.)

My husband has grown to enjoy hiking; he hated it in the past. My husband is excited to do some fly fishing in some areas that he had never visited before (Barkhamsted). I want to do more letterboxing hikes with our children. We plan to continue exploring the State Parks this summer. By reading the book “A Shared Landscape” I now know about many State Parks and State Forests that I had never heard about in the past. Now that I know where these places are and what can be done at them we can plan trips to attend some of these places. (The primary reason I bought the book was to help with the contest.)

Now Dealing With Possible Lyme Disease
Talking of the Contest would not be complete without mentioning this.

As I write this my younger son is on day six with fevers that fluctuate from low to high and the doctors are trying to figure out if he has Lyme Disease (or Mono or Strep). We have been outside a lot this spring and summer due to this contest, Cub Scouts activities, and playing in the yard and at playgrounds. I refuse to not let my children play outdoors to try to protect them against Lyme Disease. I worry now about his health and wonder if this is Lyme and the battle with the doctors to try to get him treated for it (early in the disease the blood tests can show false-negative, by the time the blood levels are high enough to show positive, joint, cardiac and neurological problems may already be taking hold).

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Will the Apes in Spain Have More Rights To Life Than Humans?

I am a bit speechless about this news story about Spain’s proposals to give new rights to apes.

The Roman Catholic Church has expressed concerns about his resolution.

The Archbishop of Pamplona and Tudela, Fernando Sebastian, has said that only a "ridiculous or distorted society" could propose such a law.

"We don't give rights to some people - such as unborn children, human embryos, and we are going to give them to apes," the archbishop said.

I agree with the Archbishop.

It is not just Catholics who have a problem with the lack of rights of humans. Read this quote:

Amnesty International's Spanish branch has also expressed concerns, saying that humans have yet to see their rights fully guaranteed.

HUH? A community of equals? Humans are equal to apes now?

The proposal has been front page news since parliament heard testimony from members of the Great Ape Project (GAP), a Seattle-based pressure group which campaigns for the creation of a "community of equals" in which humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans would all enjoy three fundamental rights: the right to life, to freedom, and to protection from torture.

Of course I don’t want any animal to be tortured! Is there someone who does? I am bothered by the fact that apes may indeed have more rights than humans, especially where the rights of the unborn humans are concerned.

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Blog Entry About a Teacher Quitting

Thanks to a post on Why Homeschool I was directed to this teacher’s blog entry, Mrs. W. The blog told of her first year teaching, and her year ended with her resignation in the post I just linked to. In this entry, she tells of feeling that in her teaching job (public school) she was working without practicing integrity. I find this an interesting blog entry and the comments are also worth reading.

So for everyone who wants to think American public schools are so wonderful I wish you would listen to those who work in them and with your children. Here is a quote from one comment from Mike:

Reality check: While we claim to be for high standards and academic excellence, we are, at best, for solid mediocrity. By we, I mean our educational system as a whole.

I don’t want mediocrity for my children. We are still on the homeschooling path and happy about it.

When pressed for more details about why this teacher gave a passing grade for a plagarized paper this is the response from Mrs. W:

...if I were to give you the details of everything, I think you would understand better. However, please understand my need for some degree of anonymity. If you want to e-mail me privately, I'll be happy to tell you more.

But, in a nutshell, the grade could and would be changed without my approval.

I believe this and have heard other stories about administrators overriding the grades the teachers gave for various reasons, from teacher friends and relatives that I have.

Here is an earlier post by Mrs. W about why she became a teacher in the first place. Note she was on the corporate path before switching gears to do something ‘more meaningful’.

Ah, she was in the camp of “wanting to make a difference in a child’s life”, one of those.

I am sorry that she is disappointed to realize that teaching won’t achieve that.

I wish Mrs. W will find a well-paying job that is at least palatable if not rewarding and inspiring and joyful! Really I do! (Since private tutoring of homeschooled children seems to be on the rise perhaps she could check out that career path?)

Response To Homeschooling Parent About Socialization with Attachment Parenting Families

A homeschooling mother in my local area posted a question asking if there were other homeschoolers near her that practiced attachment parenting. She wants to connect with others who parent with a similar style. Her oldest child is five years old. Here is my reply, edited for confidentiality.

Hello! We live within 30 minutes drive from you. My children are now 8.5 and 6 (boys). We still use attachment parenting (AP). I first began having trouble hanging around with other AP families when my oldest turned five, as some of the AP families were using school and got so busy. The AP homeschoolers are also very busy and sometimes hard to get together with. In order to not be isolated I have had to allow friendships with families who don't practice AP or perhaps never breastfeed their children (I am a La Leche League Leader also).

I also don't just isolate our social circle to homeschoolers as the longer I am in it, I realize it is a small community of very busy people who are spread far and wide. I wanted my kids to have friends in town just because they lived in this town and I wanted them to feel at least a little connection with this town. My kids have done a little soccer, did gymnastics, and did Little League 'with the community' (not homeschoolers) although frankly none yielded new friendships and the socialization was minimal, however relatives and strangers were relieved to hear my kids were doing such things with the town kids. We also do Cub Scouts and have done it for three years now since my older son was old enough to join (first grade) which is not a homeschooling exclusive Den or Pack, let alone AP exclusive.

One thing I learned from doing things in the town/community was what other kids are like and do realize that in many ways my kids are different than they are but in some ways they are the same. It is good for me to have a measuring stick to compare my children to (to at least see they are not weird, at least in my eyes they are not weird compared to the other children). Also the other parents would never have known that we homeschooled unless I told them (I don’t tell everyone). It is just interesting to me that some families I’ve been around for three years in Scouts didn’t know that we homeschooled, so apparently our kids were acting ‘typical’ enough to not make them think “that kid must not go to school”. If you think about it that is not something that a person would think anyway, would they?

At one point I was trying to socialize only with homeschoolers so that I'd not get criticized for my choices. However I realized at one time that it was always me doing the driving here and there. In other words I had friends who wanted to see me if I went TO THEM but they'd not come here, which made me realize our friendship was not truly equal or two-way. I think you should evaluate if you are going through that. If a friendship is not two-way then it is not good.

I now have friends for myself who homeschool their kids and some who don't homeschool their kids. My kids' best friends (three kids) are not homeschooled. My children have homeschooled kids they really like but the families don't always make friendships and play a priority (this seems to happen at age five or six). A bunch of homeschooling families I know will only agree to something if it is academic or culture or sports related (not just a play time). I don't know what you experience but around here everyone is very, very busy. It is getting to a point where I think the homeschoolers are more busy then the schooled kids; or it may be that the homeschoolers are busy then stay home to be together and say no to more things to do while the schooled families are very busy with school and school related stuff then in non-school hours they are doing still more/other stuff.

My life and my children's lives are enriched by friendships regardless of parenting style. I draw the line with parents who do things that I find really offensive (i.e. parent verbally abusive to the child). However with family members, they are the worst of all for doing and acting in ways that I hate and object to (but I can't restrict 100% the exposure to them, either, so you see my children are not sheltered from seeing the most objectionable types of behaviors in others).

In general one thing my children are still learning, but my just turned 6 year old is now realizing and having a hard time with is that different families have different rules and standards. By the way, we also experience this with strangers. For example we'll go to a playground and my kids will be bullied or verbally abused by strangers. One recent trip to the playground, my 8.5 year old was being punched by a little kid who was 3 if not 2.5 years old. Another 3-4 YO was swearing at my kids. Many kids say 'shut up' which is not in our family's repertoire. I refuse to isolate ourselves inside of our houses and not go out into public. Trips to Wal Mart...we always see at least one of these things: screaming crying (hungry probably) baby being ignored, swearing at children, yelling at children, spanking children, slapping children or children being verbally abusive to their own parents. My point is that it gets to a point where just going out in public exposes my kids to the non-AP way of life.

Also some AP families I know do things I object to. So what to do then? Using AP as a definition or filter for who is acceptable to be around doesn't always work. Plus the older the children get the fuzzier the AP definition becomes, for example they co-slept but now don't do it any longer, they used to not separate but now ask for it, etc.

The older my kids the more I realized that staying with only La Leche League families or only AP families or only homeschooling families was not possible. Then the problem of when an AP family does something you don't agree with...anyway my point is that to avoid isolation horizons need to be broadened.

At some point it becomes about having friendships for your kids with others who they like and get along with rather than the parenting style that is shared between you. I am disappointed that one AP family that I know who lives near me, I love the mother, but our children don’t get along. It is so disappointing. I am not forcing my children to be with them against their will simply because we share a parenting style.

I have also had problems when I realized that at some point AP parents start to change. It is easy to define oneself as AP when a child is a baby or a toddler but it gets fuzzy as the children grow older. For example setting limits can get to a point where one person may think the other is not following AP (but the other thinks they are). Perhaps one AP parent thinks the other discipline measure is not AP but it is. I know parents who swear Dr. Sears said never do X when I see it right in his books that he does say “do X”. It gets kind of crazy after a while, it is about perceptions.

Another example I heard a speaker talk of doing AP with older kids and she defines two things that I would never, ever do. First, she is overweight and her kids are too but her limit is one soda (can size which technically is '2 servings’) per day for each child is their limit and she claims that is a healthy limit and to say no to soda on a daily basis is too restrictive. I disagree with that as I feel it is unhealthy to drink one can per day (and it can lead to obesity by JUST drinking one can of soda per day). Another thing was she criticized parents who don’t give parents candy and claimed it is AP that led her to realize to leave a giant bowl of candy out and to say that they can eat all they want and she claims they self-regulate over time. I just am not comfortable with that but I feel I do use AP but that person thinks I don’t. Do you see what I am trying to say?

There is a great park day held (a support group in our area), they meet in spring and fall, and are still meeting for a little while longer this year. There are AP parents there. There are people from your area who come there too, from your town and the town’s right next to yours. The kids have a blast at the park, everyone gets along, and the funny thing is that the kids don't know who was raised AP or who wasn’t, and the parents don't know either as we don't talk about it. From observation and talking with some of these parents for years I know some are practicing AP and some are not. Others I have no clue about.

I will say to close, that non-AP families often share values with others that become more important as the children get older. The kids like the other nice kids or they like the kids they get along with and they kids don't know or care the parenting style or the religion or whatever else defines them.
I am at a point where I want my kids to not be isolated, to have a few great friends they see on a regular basis as well as to have a larger bunch of acquaintances that they can do large group play with (for group dynamics socialization). If my kids are happy and have nice friends I could care less what parenting style they have or what religion they are. Generally speaking if they are good kids they have good parents and they have a good parenting style.

I respect your desire to want to have more AP friends but I have given up on restricting our family to socialize only with AP parents.

I hope something I said here is helpful!

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Homeschoolers Go Hiking: I Spy...A School Bus!

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom to do what we want when we want and not being constrained by a school schedule.

One Friday in early June we headed out on a hike to complete one of the self-guided tasks for the contest we are participating in "The Great Park Pursuit". It worked best for all of us to go on a Friday. This State Forest (People's State Forest in Barkhamsted, Connecticut) was more than a 90 minute from our home. We were to complete a letterboxing activity/hike at this State Park.

When we approached the first overlook of the hike my younger son proclaimed, "This is like a dream" and later, "It is like we are up in a cloud". Actually, yes, we were in a cloud, literally. My older son proclaimed, "It is like we are on a helicopter flying and looking down on the world".

Then my older son with his eagle eyes, spotted a tiny dot, a yellow school bus taking kids home from school. I snapped a photo, I am not sure if you can see the school bus which is stopped at a house dropping someone off.

I thought it was interesting that we were on a hike and enjoying the real world and nature and having a grand old time and way down below were some children just then getting out of their school. It struck me that homeschooling is really about freedom and living out in 'the real world'.

Can you see the school bus?

Another view looking northward toward a village.

At the second overlook, further south, we saw this beautiful view. This is the Farmington River snaking through the hills of Litchfield County, Connecticut, looking southward.

This trail is on a trap rock ridge. Near the trail head is an ascent then it levels off when we are on top of the trap rock ridge. It is so interesting to be immersed in a forest then to come out to the edge of the ridge and realize we were high up and looking out on a beautiful view.

Here is a view looking straight out from the overlook onto another State Forest called American Legion State Forest (which is on the other side of the Farmington River). Yes, these are rain clouds. A second later the rain hit us and it was a downpour. I did the letterboxing activity in the rain. Then we had to hike the half mile back to the car in pouring rain, which actually was pretty fun. However the 2.5 hour drive home and being stuck on the highway due to a car accident, while in soaking wet clothes (we hadn't worn rain gear) was not fun, we were freezing our buns off!

And from my "drive through photography" experiments, here is a view of Waterbury, Connecticut on our way home, whilst stuck in traffic.

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Feeling Inspired by Sabrina Ward Harrison’s Work

Today we were in the car for a long time and I was a passenger. That meant I had time to read books with leisure and not feel any pressure that instead of reading I should be doing something else (which is what I feel lately when I am home and I try to read a book or even a magazine).

Today I chose to finish reading “Brave on the Rocks” by Sabrina Ward Harrison.

I was about 1/3 through the book when I picked it up today and I finished it. This is an artist’s journal in which the author/artist shares some very intimate thoughts (during the year that she was 23-24 years old). Part of the journal is based on a trip to Italy so it is also in part, a travel journal.

I can’t describe her style, it just must be seen. Go to her website at

Here is an area of the site showing works from “Brave on the Rocks”.

You may also look through the Portfolio section of her site. Note that you can click on the icons for photography, on paper, on wood, and special projects.

I won’t do a full book review right now but I will share some things I am inspired to try based on what she did in “Brave on the Rocks”.

Write in water soluble crayon then put a little water on it and let the colors blend.

Add bits of dried plants to the pages with tape.

Tape photographs to the page, with messy shreds of masking tape (not hidden super clean scrapbooking type tape).

Repeat a favorite hand drawn object/item or a doodle that you like to do. Repeat it many times on a page. Make one large. Repeat the image throughout the journal in various sizes.

Take small torn off portions of maps or tickets and add them to the journal. You don’t have to use large pieces of things, just little snippets.

Use a sticker book and use the stickers randomly throughout a journal. It seems to me that she used a Dover sticker book of Victorian woman images. On one page there was a cutesy Bugs Bunny.

Combine elements and don’t worry about them matching, fancy writing font, stickers, maps, photos, etc.

Alternate between large images on a page with little writing with pages with lots of writing and small sized added elements (photos, etc.).

Use itemized bills and receipts on a page.

Make lists of what you see or hear or what you did that day or still need to do. Make wish lists of your dreams and short goal lists for your life.

Try keeping the words minimal but do use words that express the emotion you are feeling.

Try using a page with lots of color. Take an image that you are drawn to and make the centerpiece of the page. Leave it ‘empty’ like that or write on the background colored page. For example, one thing she did in the book was to use the clothing of paper dolls, floating on a page, when the writing on the page had nothing to do with that image.

Use fabric! Glue fabric to the page, fabric that you like or are drawn to.

So there are some things that I feel inspired to try.

I am considering moving away from doing all my collage work on ATCs and instead to try to do more journaling ‘to keep’. I do love the sharing of the ATCs, though. I like making my ‘art’ then giving it away and swapping it for some other ATCs that I like and am inspired by. I feel selfish to just do journals that I will keep. I feel that I’ve already ‘spilled open’ enough in my life that I don’t need the journal to get myself free of penned up emotion. I feel like my heart is already being worn on my sleeve.

I will wrap up by saying that I have not read any of Sabrina Harrison Ward’s other books (but I am dying to). You can see a listing of her books on her site, here, and if you click on the book you can choose to see a bunch of scans of the pages from that book.

I had a hard time finding a copy of “Brave on the Rocks” and I wonder if it is out of print. I had to resort from buying a used copy from an Amazon Marketplace seller and paid near full retail for it (but that is okay because the condition is excellent so it is worth it). It normally kills me to buy a used book at a price which is near the full retail back when the book was new.

On the way home today I stopped at a Borders bookstore outlet store and wondered if I’d find any artist journal books like these there. I looked in the art section and found none. When I was back in the car I realized that this book is categorized by the publisher as a self help book (!). So apparently I was not looking in the right section of the store. I guess the next time I am in a used book store or a book discount store I am going to have to check those sections. I usually avoid them as I feel pretty well and not in need of ‘self-help’ at the moment!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

What We Did Today 6/23/06

What We Did Today, or, Worry: Is the Fever Lyme Disease?, or, Homeschool Used Curriculum Tag Sale---this blog entry is too hard to make a title for!

Last night I held my monthly Charlotte Mason Homeschool Study Group meeting in my home. During the meeting my younger son came down with a fever. By bedtime it was 99.5 degrees which didn’t seem too bad to me. He said he had a bad headache and so I gave him some Children’s Advil. I had my husband put him to bed while I continued running the meeting.

After the meeting ended, when I went to check on him before going to bed, I found his bed was empty. I found him sleeping in my bed (typical, when the kids have a fever we let them sleep in our bed with us). The poor thing tossed and turned in the night and sweated it out. I didn’t sleep too well as a result.

This morning our plans for early morning was to go strawberry picking with my friend/neighbor and her children was altered due to the continuation of the fever. They asked if they could take my older son along with them and I agreed. The little guy slept on and off until almost noon. My older son had fun with my neighbor picking strawberries. He came home with about two quarts.

I had three different pending plans for the late morning/early afternoon, all which were up in the air. One was to spend the day cutting down trees in our yard with my father but heavy rain was predicted for all day today so that was cancelled last night. (By the way, it never did rain.) The second plan was to possibly have a Board meeting for a volunteer job I hold, but that was cancelled yesterday afternoon. So plan C was for me to bring my used homeschooling books, curriculum and educational games to a homeschool item tag sale that five families who are all friends were hosting. I had prepared that stuff to sell at an event in May which I ended up not being able to attend due to helping a sick relative. But now I had a kid with a fever on my hands and I didn’t know if even plan C would pan out.

While he slept in the morning for a fever-nap, I blogged. I then decided to go to the tag sale with him in tow and hauled out the stuff which I had priced months ago. I realized that most of the price stickers were falling off due to my having used a knock-off of the Post-It Notes ™. So much for saving money by purchasing them at a Dollar Store. It does not always pay to buy an imitation: pay the higher price for the real deal and you will then have a quality product.

I reprised things that were missing stickers, and I lowered prices on some items so they would sell. I rearranged stuff into boxes so it all fit nicely.

After feeding the kid’s lunch we were off and running, a little later than I had planned.

The car then acted weird while driving and it seems to me it lost power as the accelerator would not work. I then was able to get it going again and pulled over to phone my husband. A reality check showed this: 87 degrees, hot and humid and sunny, a car possibly breaking down, a feverish child in the back seat and me heading to go onto two highways to get where I was going with the back of the van full of boxes of books. Was I nuts or what? I tried to find the darned headset for the cell phone but it was not anywhere to be found (talking on cell phones without a headset in this state is illegal). I pulled over to the side of the road and phoned my husband who confirmed he took the gadget out of the car and it is on his desk (how useful). I told him the car was acting weird and possibly breaking down but I was heading to my destination but he may get a call from me if we break down on the highway. (We let the AAA membership go due to budget cutting measures. I was not in agreement with that decision.)

I arrived at the tag sale when it was about eight minute’s pas the start. The place was like a feeding frenzy. I ordered my feverish child to remain in the car and not to move. I began hauling boxes into the garage. Now the hard part, look and shop first then lay out my stuff later or lay out my stuff and get the early bird customers.

A quick glance around showed many wonderful bargains had already been found and claimed by a bunch of my friends and acquaintances. Boo. Hiss. Examples: Story of the World for $5, Story of the World Activity book (didn’t see price), Artistic Pursuits which my friend raves about, she spent $32.95 and it was selling for $5. I don’t even want to know what that K’Nex Ferris Wheel sold for.

The decision was made to see what was for sale, so I went around and snagged a few good books then set back to hauling books from my car (and a friend helped). I got all set up and then those who care about stuff for kids in grades preschool through First Grade looked it over.

I spent about $57 and sold about $45. I am happy to have cashed out on $45 worth of stuff although I don’t want to think about what I paid out on it (possibly $300-500). People around here are frugal and if you don’t price used homeschooling supplies low enough then it just does not sell. I am happy to have spent JUST $57 and am not sure what the value of what I bought is but I am sure I made out like a bandit.

After sitting in the car for over an hour my younger son was really not doing well. He had seemed alright when we got there but by that point he was in a full sweat (it was up to 90 degrees then). I decided to leave (as there were no more customers anyway). I was asked if I wanted to leave my stuff there for the other moms to sell on my behalf. The sale continues tomorrow but I won’t be there as we have the mandatory finals in the contest “The Great Park Pursuit” to attend. I made arrangements to pick up what is left of the 10 boxes of stuff on the way home from the contest. I am grateful that they offered to help me in that way, it goes above and beyond what I had expected.

Let’s hope I sell more stuff.

We needed some things at the grocery store so headed there for a very quick trip. We then came home and settled in to watch a movie together in bed, due to the feverish boy. I am letting him sweat it out so that his body can kill off the bacteria or virus. I am told by others around here that there is a head cold with fever going around.

However today I worry that it may be Lyme Disease, because the fever this evening was 103.5. So far his other symptoms are headache and a little scratchy throat; that is good news. If the fever was in the absence of other symptoms that more indicative of Lyme Disease.

I had been remarking that this spring we’ve hiked at least once per week, been at playgrounds each week and the kids have been in the back yard playing nearly every day. With all that exposure to the outdoors not a single member of our family has found a deer tick on us yet this season. (Last year by this time I’d found nine on the two boys combined.)

Please, please, let this not be Lyme Disease.

So tomorrow is the big contest’s grand finale and we may be dragging a feverish boy with us (not fun). However to leave him with a relative and to attend the contest alone doesn’t seem right as it is not our team and it is not our family if one of us is missing. I will have to see what happens in the morning.

Wish us luck with the contest!

I’ll share what I bought at the homeschool tag sale on another day (I still need to write it up).

(By the way if you are wondering what the format of the sale was I will share. There were four or five friends who put color coded prices on their items. Each person had a certain color pen on a white price sticker or they had a colored sticker (sticker was yellow background for example). All the stuff was laid out in a garage (as rain was predicted). Stuff was on tables, in boxes on the floor, on bookshelves, etc. There was one cashier. The cashier kept running tabs on the total sold for each seller. Then the money was collected to represent the grand total. Checks were taken as well as cash. The money was put in one ‘pool’ and is to be divided out at the end. It seems like a very do-able system especially when there were a total of 4-6 sellers.)

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Some Philosophical Questions Asked By My 6 Year Old

My younger son recently turned six years old. Two weeks after his birthday he began asking these questions within about a 48 hours period. He doesn’t ask such heavy questions every day but he had my head spinning with trying to answer these within a two-day period.

These were the questions asked either as the first thing he said when he woke up int eh morning or the last thing asked before going to bed.

How is it that a child of six years old has such heavy thoughts?

I think children are capable of much deeper thought than modern Americans give them credit for being able to do. I have no clue if our homeschooling has contributed to my son thinking such deep thoughts. I don't know if schooled children think like this. I do know that the parenting style we use (attachment parenting) leaves the doors for communication open enough so that he is comfortable asking questions such as these.

If God is not a person then how can he see us if he doesn’t have eyes?

How can God be everywhere at once?

Why does time keep going and going and why does it never stop?

Why does the Earth keep turning and never stops?

Will the Earth ever be destroyed?

Will the world ever end?

Why do some people get Cancer and others don’t?

Why do some children get Cancer?

Will I get Cancer?

When will I die?

When will you die? I don’t want you to die.

I know I said I wanted to be a Fighter Pilot in the Navy when I am out of college but now I think I don’t want to die in a war so maybe I will do something else for a job when I grow up. I don’t want to die young, I want to live a long life and die when I am old.

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A Benefit To Blogging Over Chat Lists

A person who has a very useful homeschooling website emailed me to ask me what a benefit to blogging is over a chat list. She has a website and for now does not blog and stated she wants to better understand the blogosphere vs. regular websites and also how blogs are different than Internet chat lists. Right now her opinion is that Internet chat lists are the best way to get support and fellowship from others (such as about homeschooling) and she said she is active with chatting on some chat lists about homeschooling. I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. Here are a couple of thoughts.

One reason that I enjoy blogging is that it allows me my own place on the web in which I can talk about whatever I want to talk about without being censored. This is my space and I control it. I can add to the data or edit it, correct errors, or manipulate the entries in any way I want as I own and control the posts and the archives. (As a rule, I don’t tamper around with the archives except to make stated corrections of erroneous information, though.) I am responsible for my own words here on my blog, and I can say what I choose to. I am not censored by anyone else; any censoring that I do to myself is done because I choose to. I have chosen to focus my blog on parenting and homeschooling and reading and books. However who I am as a person and the things that interest me go beyond that and I reserve the right to discuss whatever I want here. And maybe others who read my blog for a certain reason will benefit from hearing what I say about some other topic.

Okay here is where I beat around the bush and tell long stories…if you want the bottom line scroll down to the ending.
In the past (starting in 1998) I had most of my internet support and information about parenting and education topics from other people by way of Internet chat lists such as those on Yahoo Groups!. I developed online friendships with some people and respected their opinions and realized that there were some pretty smart people out there. However due to the rules of the chat lists we often were confined to talk only of certain narrow topics. Again, I like that on my blog I am allowed to speak about what I want and that I can sometimes throw in a topic that I usually don’t talk about but which is important to me.

Some significant things have happened to me based me reading what a chat list person breaking the rules and discussing something that is ‘off topic’. Also sometimes I’ve slipped in a little off-topic mention of something and private emails to me on that topic provided me with much needed information or support. One example is that in April, while on a chat list for artist trading cards, I briefly stated at the end of an on-topic post, that I was very busy caring for my cat with a new heart condition, and she was dying. I received a reply that more information on the condition and on hand feeding methods could be found on two certain Yahoo Groups!. Connecting with the ladies on those two lists provided me with information that went above and beyond what my own Vet had been telling me and helped me revive and prolong my cat’s life for another three weeks, a good three weeks in which her suffering ended for a time and a period when our entire family was able to adjust to this new bad news and to help us prepare for her ultimate death. I am so grateful for the information and support I learned about from posting one sentence of an ‘off topic’ subject which was just one sentence of a longer message that was ‘on topic’.

Chat Lists and Censorship
I recently found out that one pretty low volume chat list which I am a member of is on moderated status. This means that the list owner reads every single message that is posted and decides if she is going to allow it to be posted or not. Since in these few years that I’ve been on the list, I’ve never had anything rejected I had no idea that the group was moderated. (It probably is noted someplace on the site but I never noticed as I seldom visit that webpage, as I read my emails in my email program not on the Internet site itself.) I have been disappointed in the low volume of chat as in the past the volume was much higher. People seemed constrained sometimes and a couple of times people have posted “I hope it is alright to talk about X”. Also, days go by without any posts.

Based on a private email that another member of the list sent me, I found out that the list owner has been censoring many of the posts from her and from certain other mothers. This is a shame. The posts were related to the very narrow subject of the chat list. However just because an opinion on something was different, the emailed communication was banned from being shared with others on the list. One example is a discussion of viewpoints on a certain book’s content and the list owner didn’t like or agree with what was said.

One other list that I a member of also censors out messages that don’t exactly agree with the list owner’s religious beliefs even though the chat list is not religious in nature nor is religion mentioned in the definition and description of what the chat list’s purpose and subject is for discussion of. I am very disappointed about that. If religion is to be the nature of censorship on the list then the religious issue limitation should be stated up front on the chat list rules or in the description such as “this list is only open to discussing Christian worldview topics”.

Hidden Agendas of Chat List Owners
I used to be on a chat list about using the Charlotte Mason method for homeschooling which was moderated. However I found out from private emails from the list owners that the list owners and many members used a certain curriculum and that my discussions about finding books that covered certain topics in order to use them in our homeschooling (with the Charlotte Mason method applied) was problematic. In private emails the discussion continued and basically came to a point where it became clear that although it was not the stated purpose of that chat list, that anyone not following Curriculum X was not welcome on the chat list. I left the group immediately. I also found out from private emails from other members (strangers to me), that many of their posts had been deleted prior to publishing as she didn’t tow the line of those that created Curriculum X. Basically anyone not using Curriculum X was seen as ‘the enemy’. Communications from some of the homeschooling mothers treated Curriculum X as a God to be worshipped and any straying to not use a book on their book list and to use a different book instead was seen as a sin in need of punishment (or being banned from the list). I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

I can understand a chat list having a focus for discussion. It is not always a good thing, though, to be super strict or to prohibit certain discussions. Sometimes in homeschooling topics it is helpful or necessary to discuss politics or religion. However some chat lists ban this topic. Sometimes a discussion such as “where can I get a book with a Christian viewpoint on sex education” cannot even be asked on a homeschooling chat list as ‘it is religious’. Other times, post 9/11, there was a problem on one of my chat lists with discussing the Muslim religion in the context of discussing books and online resources that parents could use to inform themselves and to teach their children about the Muslim religion. To me it is one thing to just discus a subject or to argue about it but it is another to discuss things like X politician is recommending X action which affects homeschoolers in X way, and you should know about it.

Another ‘off topic’ subject on homeschooling lists (sometimes) is parenting issues. This can be problematic as so much of homeschooling is enmeshed with general parenting issues. For example if your child refuses to do a lesson that you tell them to then that could be a defiance of authority which I feel is a parenting issue. That then gets into discussions of authority, does the parent have the right to tell the child what to do, limit setting, and what the next step will be: discipline measures, how to talk to a child, losing of privileges, time-out’s or whatever. However on some lists those are deemed ‘parenting topics’ and cannot be discussed. On another list a few years ago there was a big blow up about a young child who didn’t want to separate from his parents to take a class they had paid for (I think it was gymnastics) and that got into a discussion of discipline, forcing of the separation vs. respecting the desire to not separate, etc. A discussion could be had about pushing a child too hard or letting them just ‘be a kid’ which may entail no paid classes or sports until a later age than the parents had desired.

An off-topic post helped our family immensely!
One of the most important things in my parenting ‘career’ was realizing that my older son had an issue with food sensitivities or allergies or intolerances (whatever phrase you prefer, choose it and use it)! The one and only reason that I found out about this topic at all was I was a member on a homeschooling chat list, one for people interested in the Waldorf method of alternative education. The people on the list (including me) were learning about Waldorf and were trying to figure out how Waldorf methods could be applied in the home school environment or what elements of the method would we want to include in our home school. The list focused on the preschool years. It was a great chat list with a limited focus and it was also a high volume list (sometimes over 100 posts per day). If you are a homeschooling parent you already realize how many times the line between parenting and raising children gets blurred with ‘homeschooling’. A person asked a question of the group which could have been said to be ‘off topic’. The question was asking for help with a parenting situation. The parent wanted to know what Waldorf ideas could be applied that may help in the parenting or communication methods and/or discipline methods or punishment of this child (so one could argue that this was an 'on-topic' discussion at that point. The mother went on to explain a list of symptoms and problems that were happening with her daughter who I believe was four years old. When I read the email I my jaw dropped as my son, was doing almost all of the same exact things, which had started around age 2.5 and had been going on for about 6 months. The things he was doing were weird and strange to me and he was not acting ‘his regular self’. I couldn’t wait to read the responses but I feared they’d recommend X punishment method or some other parenting style method that I was opposed to.

I was very surprised when a person responded that she felt the child was having food allergies or intolerances. It was suggested that she read the book “Is This Your Child” by Doris Rapp M.D. The mother said her child had been through the same exact thing and changing the child’s diet made everything disappear and ‘get back to normal’. After that was mentioned a flurry of emails came through saying that other mothers had similar experiences with their children and how after reading that same book and altering the diet of the child, all the weird physical and behavioral symptoms disappeared suddenly and ‘their old child’ returned. I was speechless.

Now at that point the list owner really could have shut down the discussion as this was truly off topic as Steiner's views on parenting and discipline were no longer the focus of the discussion. The topics may have been flagged “off topic”, I don’t remember if it was or not. Strictly speaking, nutrition and food allergies in children and physical symptoms and behavioral symptoms had nothing to do with homeschooling and the Waldorf education method; it was nutrition, health, medical and parenting issue, although in Waldorf education they want children to eat wholesome foods. However if that discussion had been shut down or prevented in the first place I never would have found out about it (or at least not right then). I was so happy that the chat list was not moderated and that the posts ‘slipped through’.

I went on to read the book “Is This Your Child?” immediately and suspected my son was indeed having problems with food vs. just exhibiting weird behaviors. The only way to verify it in my mind was to eliminate the suspected foods. After elimination of dairy and wheat my son’s symptoms disappeared within 48 hours. I kept him off the offending foods and his ‘old normal self’ remained (for weeks and months). I went on to read more, attended some lectures and did more research. Over the years I consulted our Pediatrician, a Pediatrician Allergist, a double degree M.D./Naturopath (who later closed his business) and so lastly switched to a Naturopath. (We still use our regular Pediatrician for all the rest of the medical treatment, in case you wondered if we jumped ship and are doing 100% ‘alternative medicine’.)

So far I have been dealing with food issues with my children for six years now. Thank goodness most of the problems and sensitivities are gone. This process has also opened my eyes to how food affects my own body. I have also learned more things about the glycemic index and other important health and nutritional issues that have carried over into putting everyone in our family more on the road to a healthy lifestyle and more toward achieving wellness.

The Bottom Line
So anyway my point is that with my own blog I am able to talk about what I want. If some of my readers like my blog and appreciate my viewpoint, they may also like to occasionally hear about something else. If they know I am smart and level headed and then they hear me speak of success, ease, cost reduction and health benefits of using natural homemade household cleansers then maybe what I say will open their mind or expose them to this topic that perhaps they’d not ever have thought about before. If a person hears of how I made homemade soap with lye and reads that I thought it was pretty easy and produced great natural soap, then maybe they will want to give it a try. If they are see a recipe that I post and think, “hey that sounds good and not too hard” then maybe they will try it.

I have learned other things from local friends and online friends that are completely unrelated to the subject that I usually discuss with them. I think that something is lost when we confine ourselves to only discussing narrow topics.

I understand that a blog has to have some kind of main focus or else it would be too scattered to attract regular readers. Due to me not spending the time to figure it out and due to me not spending the money to pay for specialized tracking of the traffic on my blog I don’t know how many regular readers I have or how many readers read topics on X subject. I am not a professional blogger and don’t feel that at this time I want to spend money and time analyzing the reading habits of my blog readers. I am doing this for fun, to share my opinion, to provide support and information to people. Since this is my blog I feel I have the freedom to discuss what I want and sometimes the things I talk about are not directly about homeschooling or parenting.

Something else to consider is that sometimes a regular reader of a blog will come to like that person as a person and they become more open minded or interested in hearing what that person has to say about various topics or even what they think of current events or opinions on books or other products or services. For example maybe someone found my blog because I homeschool but they were now alerted to the invasive plant garlic mustard and have now begun ridding their own property of the nasty and dangerous non-native plant. So something good may have come from my mentioning it.

Internet Search Engines Find Blogs but Usually Not Chat List Threads
On the flip side, based on emails and comments left on my blog, my blog entry on the garlic mustard plant drew people to my blog ‘the plant people’, and maybe when they see that we homeschool, who knows, maybe I was their first contact with a homeschooling mother. You never know how that may impact someone, perhaps my intelligent post on the topic will leave them with the impression that not all homeschooling mothers are weird and some are pretty smart and who knows, maybe some day they will homeschool their own child or maybe the positive impression they have (however little it is based on) may somehow impact someone in their future. Maybe if that person hears that their friend is going to homeschool instead of thinking something like “Why would you do that?” they may say t the person, “There are homeschooling blogs out there and there is support on the Internet for homeschooling parents, you should go check it out!”

From the little time I spend looking at the statistics for my blog, I realize that some readers find my blog by doing Internet search engine searches on very narrow topics. Others use or Google’s Blog Search service. People come to my blog for some narrow informational topic and perhaps they never come back. That is okay with me. If they got something out of my blog post then that is good enough. If they didn’t get anything from reading my blog post then they can move on to the next hit on the Internet search engine.

When I write of a certain topic I not only get to inform people of the topic but I can insert my own thoughts and opinions. Perhaps someone has found other sources for the information but never thought of the topic from my perspective or maybe they never analyzed it beyond the surface. I find that sometimes topics which are not widely discussed but that are discussed by me are near the top of search engine searches by the topic. If my post can cite an original source that may, for whatever reason, not be coming up on the original search engine query, then that is a good thing. I want people to have access to information and source materials. A perfect example is that it appears that many people are looking for information on Dr. Ferber’s thoughts on his own recommendation of the ‘cry it out’ method of getting a baby to sleep. For whatever reason people are not able to find the original magazine article which was published in 1999 in which Dr. Ferber discusses this. Instead they come to my blog and read my opinion and read of the sources I cite and I hope they go read those original sources and learn more about it. If someone was helped by reading my post

Commenting or Not Commenting on Blog Entries
One thing about blogging is that so many visitors to my blog don’t connect with me. It seems from what I read about blogs in general that other topic-blogs get lots of comments (many shallow or rude or inflammatory) but they get lots of comments. I don’t see a lot of comments being left on homeschooling blogs. I wonder why? I also have a certain friend who reads my blog and admits she feels 'in touch' with me enough so she phones me less than before! (Can you imagine?) I have explained to her that she may feel in touch with some of what I blog about but much more goes on in my life than what I share, and with me not connecting with her, I know nothing of what goes on with her, not to mention the back and forth friendship aspect of the relationship (reading each others blogs should not take the place of normal friendship, in my opinion).

If people don’t leave comments, I have no clue if they liked what I said or didn’t like it. What a chat list, I don’t know how many people read my post. With this blog, I know the statistics from the Site Meter stat counter. However I don’t know if they really read it all or just part of it. I don’t know if they disagree or agree with me. I don’t think I need to know, but sometimes it is nice to know. For now I will keep blogging and if something I say helps or interests or entertains someone then that is a good enough reason to keep going.

Blog Archives Are Not So Great
One downside of the blog is that the archives are not that accessible. At times I find myself wishing I also had a website in which I could rearrange and organize the posts by topic so that my readers (and I) could find the posts easily or at least see them all arranged in one place. It would be nice for me to have all of my posts about teaching reading in one place, or for me to have links to all of my recipes in one place. For now the (free) Technorati search box at the top of my blog does a great job of finding old posts by keyword search, so it will have to do.

Other Thoughts on Blogging and the Internet
When I am searching for information on the Internet using Internet search engines I have been finding useful information all over the place. More and more, blogs are providing the information, but also websites and sometimes Internet bulletin boards. One thing that is a shame is that it seems to me that all the great content on Yahoo Groups! private chat lists are not accessible by searches on Internet search engines. For example a person looking for homeschooling information may never know to go to Yahoo Groups! to find their information, but they may be pointed to a website or to a blog instead (and maybe through those places they’ll learn what a wonderful resource private Internet chat groups on Yahoo Groups! can be).

To answer another question I was asked, I don’t think that blogs will take the place of websites completely. I think that blogs are yet another method of Internet communication, publishing and documentation. I think that blogs, websites, bulletin boards and chat lists all have their pros and con’s and they each have their unique traits.

Also it is important to know that the original intent of blogs has already changed and morphed. In the beginning a blog was a way to point to other websites to communicate “hey here is a good article to read online”. Well, now the blog entries have expanded to become some family’s private photo albums, some read more like magazines, some read more like amateur news reports/journalism stories and features or op-ed pieces, and others probably would be better suited to a website format (but the free blogging software availability is better than free website space, so the person blogs instead of having a website).

I also feel that the type of accounts that are on are still different than regular blogs. I feel that the Homeschool Blogger blogs are really more like the MySpace accounts than blogs, due to their focus on social networks, circles of friends, limitation of advertising restrictions, etc.

Lastly, I feel that the back and forth discussion such as with an Internet chat list won't ever be replaced by blogging as it is not conversational and doesn't provide enough back and forth discussion. With chat lists, people can sign up to discus very narrow topics, then when they no longer want or need the information or support, they can quit the list. Blogging is quite different than Internet chat lists, while there are some similarieis, there are also differences.

So anyway there are some thoughts I have on blogging vs. websites vs. Internet chat lists.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 25

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 25 was published yesterday at the site and is called “For the Birds”. I have a submission in this CoH.

Grab a cup or a glass of your favorite beverage and take a look at over 20 articles about homeschooling. It is just like reading a magazine, and it is free!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is published each Tuesday. For information about submitting entries, go here. If you are a homeschooling parent, I highly recommend that you submit an entry!

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