Monday, July 31, 2006

What We Homeschooling Parents Learned From Learning About Space (A Lot More Than Space Facts)

My older son’s first real passion to learn about something was about space. He was close to two years old at the time. He was a fan of the series of videos for children called “There Goes A…”. Some of the titles in the series are “There Goes a Spaceship”, “There Goes a Train” and “There Goes a Police Car”. He liked all of the videos but the ones he asked to see over and over were the space and train themed videos. While other toddlers seem to love to learn about pets and farm animals and nature, my son was asking about space!

My husband and I would talk about space exploration with our son, casually, to respond to his questions. Really this was the first interest he had in something other than what he was doing before, which was playing all day, with typical toddler toys. Space was the first informational topic, the first science topic, the first thing that he could learn about and the first thing that others would consider a ‘school topic’ (something legitimate that other adults thought were worth learning about). Trains were also of interest to him, and trains did become another passion, the two developed side by side, but space and space travel had a different sense of wonder and curiosity. Trains were something that he could see in his daily life, they were developed by man, they were machines that we all could use (and that his father used on a daily basis to commute to work with). Space travel also involved machines, but it took astronauts to places that he could not go (unless he became an astronaut as an adult!) and space was special and different and full of wonder for him.

When my son was two, my husband went on a business trip to Houston. During that trip my husband visited the Space Center for the first time. The gift which my husband brought home to our son was not a stuffed animal or a small toy, it was space documentary series. My son loved to watch these videos, even though they were intended for viewing by older people.

At that time, we didn’t think too much about the fact that perhaps other parents didn’t indulge their children with such informational type things, when their son was just two years old. We just felt that we were supplying him with things to answer questions he had and we were happy that he was entertained and that he was also learning. Don’t get me wrong, we were not trying to push him to early academics or anything like that. It was that we saw a passion in our son; he asked questions and we answered them. We both saw that he loved those videos. And he learned from them! He really did learn things, and we were surprised that a child of that age could understand and would be interested in something as abstract as space, when most parents were focusing their children on things that were created just for children to entertain children. Of course he also watched Sesame Street and had some Elmo toys and other common toddler interests, but he loved space travel from that early age.

The important thing was that our son’s passion for space was the thing that allowed us to see that children can and do learn, easily. We saw for the first time that very young children can have a passion about something that others think is “boring” or “a school subject”. We were excited by this because we already planned to homeschool our children. This cemented for me, back at the time, that interest led learning (aka unschooling) is a good thing, and that not all children hate learning. It reinforced what I suspected from my own experience in public school: that a child has to learn to hate learning, through negative experiences that happen at school. Truly learning is not what they hate, it is school, but most children and teenagers don’t realize that fact, which is sad.

Over time, we purchased some children’s book about space. My son would look at these over and over. One book that we purchased for my son when he was just two, which he still loves reading is the Eyewitness book about Space Exploration. The book’s publisher states it is for children aged 9-12. In the early years my son would look at the photos only, and ask me to read sections to him. Now that he is close to 9 he is already reading the whole book to himself. This book was the main entertainment for our son on numerous airplane flight.

Also when he was two he developed a passion for trains and we inundated him with train toys, train videos and train books for all age ranges. He soaked in the information and played with his toy trains just as a young child should. This was more proof to us that young children can learn quickly and with eagerness, and they want to learn and that when a passion exists, learning comes very, very easily.

We didn’t go crazy with the space stuff; by that I mean we didn’t force things onto him with the intent of “filling a bucket”. We felt that we were giving fuel to his fire. The desire came from him, and we saw it in him and we supplied him with the information and that is fun to him. I see other children with passions, and some of their parents intentionally don’t indulge them, citing it as ‘not necessary’ or for some reason, they just don’t ‘get’ why they are doing their child a disservice. Some say “it is just a phase, if I ignore it, it will go away”. I think some of my friends think I take things too far, that I get carried away, by diving into my/our interests and curiosities.

We didn’t force him to learn things. We didn’t expect a certain amount of learning to take place after he viewed the videos, for example. We just let him take from the experiences whatever it was that he took away from it. The fact that he had fun in the process was what mattered to us, after all, he was just two years old (when it first started).

We were asked to read the space books over and over to him, over all these years. Now that he is reading on his own, he reads them by himself when he feels like it. On a recent trip to the library, he appeared from the stack with an armload of space travel books. I was surprised as I don’t think he’d touched a space book in perhaps a year (which is okay).

When he was three we visited a small planetarium near our home (The Discovery Museum and Plantarium in Bridgeport) and saw a short show intended for young children, and he enjoyed that. When he was 3.5 we visited Space Center Houston and he was in heaven. (That was back when my children and I would be able to tag along with my husband on his business trips, using his frequent flyer miles to pay for the airline tickets.) I was happy that we could indulge our children in this way, as I had never been to that Space Center until that same day, and here were both of our children visiting it at such young ages (our younger son was not yet one year old). When my son was four, we visited the Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. That show was a bit long (it was not intended for young children) but my older son enjoyed it (my toddler fell asleep in my arms after nursing in the dark). My older son also loved walking around and looking at the displays with wonderful photographs of the planets and of our solar system at the museum/planetarium. When my older son was six and then when he was eight, we were able to visit the Boston Museum of Science’s Charles Hayden Planetarium to see more planetarium shows. (My younger son has not shown much interest in space, so far.)

When my older son homeschooled first grade, I had switched to using the Charlotte Mason method. We did a unit on the solar system for three or four weeks. Using the Charlotte Mason method, I read aloud the wonderful living books by Seymour Simon and had him narrate to me what he had retained. (I recommend the single topic planet and space topic books by Seymour Simon, not the big book he has on the solar system, which I find boring, as it is condensed from the original text, leaving mostly the dry facts.) During that study we also painted the planets onto black paper and made a small book of his representation of our solar system.

One big lesson that I learned during that homeschooling lesson about space was to not trust everything that one reads in a book. As I was reading various books aloud to my son I read conflicting and different information. I had been taught that the only planet with rings was Saturn. Well apparently that is now not true (who knew?). However depending on what book you read and what year the book was written in, you will find different information about which planets have rings. We all know that some planets moons, and that some have many moons. Well, some scientists now dispute whether what they thought was moons are actually just debris. I recall that another controversy was whether some moons might actually be planets. Then there was the controversy over whether or not one planet is actually a planet at all, that might have been Pluto. Even in books for elementary grade aged children, these things were discussed, that is, how we define a moon vs. a planet vs. a mass of debris. I recall going to the Internet to try and find the right information as I was getting all confused. I used the NASA site as my main reference and still ended up very, very confused. It was a big lesson for me to learn, to check several resources, and to compare facts. It is not always clear cut about who we should believe. I also was humbled, realizing that we probably know hardly anything about our solar system (we humans). My goal to find these facts was to make a simple list for my son that we could use to include the data in the little solar system book such as the name of the planet, whether it had rings (for the illustration) and also how many moons it has. I gave up on the project and the solar system book ended up being just paintings that my son did on black paper, period.

Here and there over these years we have made various solar system models from kits. I found the kids at discount stores, tag sales, or they were given to us as gifts. The first thing we did as a special event to decorate his bedroom when he began sleeping in it (when he moved out of the big bed where we had co-slept), was to hang glow in the dark models of the planets from his ceiling. Rather than try to make a properly scaled model, I let him decide where each planet went. Each night when he goes to sleep he looks up at the glowing planets, which swing gently in the breeze of the ceiling fan. We also put some cling-plastic planets on his bedroom windows.

Some other things that we’ve done that are space travel related are supply him with space shuttle toys, when he was younger, ranging from durable plastic toys to little die cast metal versions. Now he has made the elaborate LEGO model of the space shuttle. He never wanted war-related action figures, but he did love his G.I. Joe astronaut!

Our much-appreciated TiVo DVR unit has allowed us to easily find and record documentaries about space, and they have been watched for fun over the last five years that we’ve been using it. I never knew that so many different space documentaries existed, nor did I realize that there is a Discovery channel dedicated to space and flight.

As I shared in a recent blog post, we watch NASA space missions on the "NASA Television" channel that our DirecTV provider offers. That channel is not fancy but it is real; it is the raw recordings of missions and we hear the actual scientists speaking and we hear the astronauts communicating with Mission Control. On the one hand it is not Hollywood-ized and glamorous, but on the other hand it is very real and authentic, and live!

Last year my son said something that made me realize he had forgotten some of the information that he learned during our homeschool studies of the solar system. I quizzed him a bit and realized he didn’t retain a lot of what I knew we’d covered (more than two years ago). I will admit that at first I was annoyed that with all that I had put into organizing a unit on space and having used the Charlotte Mason method, I thought he’d have remembered it all, but then I remember hearing Susan Wise Bauer caution parents (in a lecture) that what they learn in first grade and the elementary years may not be all remembered but it is laying a foundation for learning, placing hooks to hang knowledge upon. He has not forgotten about space travel in general and his passion for space has not been squelched. For example I don’t think he could name every planet. His interest is more with space exploration rather than the scientific facts such as the size and temperature of the planets.

Last Christmas my brother-in-law and his wife gave my son a model rocket by Estes. This spring we launched some and had fun with it. The model that we have has an altimeter on it and it went up over 600 feet! We blasted it off at a local park, in a wide open baseball field area, and it drew attention from everyone around us. Lighting off the rockets was tricky, if you don’t pack it correctly, it won’t ignite. The rocket we have can be used over and over, just by purchasing new refills. Adult supervision is definitely needed (the manufacturer is not being overly cautious with their direction!).

My older son is nearing his ninth birthday and space continues to be his interest. After watching the recent NASA mission, he is talking about not just being some general kind of engineer, but being a rocket scientist. I don’t know how that will pan out but I am not going to squelch his dream!

I am glad that my older son has this interest in space since such a young age. My husband and I have learned a lot in our journey of supplying our son with information and experiences that he was curious about. This is what is meant when people say that the adults who homeschool their children learn ALONG WITH their children. I definitely would say that learning about space travel and the solar system was the first school-ish subject that my older son showed an interest in and that it was the portal to make us realize that homeschooling could work and it does work. My husband and I saw that our children do learn, that children do want to learn, that learning is not something that happens only at an adult’s insistence through a taught lesson. We learned that even very young children can have strong curiosities, and when those curiosities are fed and responded to, the child can handle the information and are interested in the information. Charlotte Mason believed that each child will take away different things from their experiences, that no two children will necessarily learn the same thing from reading a book or having the same experience as the other. I saw this first hand when my son didn’t retain every single thing that we had read about together when he was in first grade. I am not upset that he didn’t retain all the facts and statistics. What he came away with is retention of space information that is of interest and spoke to HIM. And most importantly he came away with the idea that learning can be interesting and fun and that there is a whole world outside that man is still trying to learn about, that even adults are still learning and exploring, and that we don’t know it all. The solar system and space are such huge topics and I am thrilled that my son is filled with wonder and curiosity about it, rather than being intimidated by it or disinterested in it.

So as you can see, learning about the topic of solar system and space exploration with our children has taught my husband and I many lessons which were not just about facts on those topics, the more important things we learned (and retained) was about children and learning and curiosity and homeschooling and education. Who knew that a child’s interest in space could lead to such big revelations for the parents?

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Question From Blog Reader Answered: About CHOW, Sonlight (and I’ll add in SOTW)

Question from one of my Blog Readers:

Q. “What is Sonlight CHOW?”

Note: I will also include information about SOTW (Story of the World)

A. Sonlight is a homeschooling curriculum company with a Christian worldview. They provide a plan which lays out their program, all scheduled out with either a four day plan or a five day plan. There is an emphasis on the use of exciting, real books to teach history including historical fiction and biographies. They also use great fiction books for literature/pleasure reading. The actual books they use are not written by Sonlight. They are not textbooks either. They are real books published by other authors and other publishers; some books are older and some are newer; some are classics and some are not.

When you purchase the Sonlight program you can purchase just the teacher guides and find the books through other channels (the library, used books, Amazon, etc.), or you may purchase the full program of the teacher guide and all the individual books, it is your choice.

Some people enjoy looking at the books that Sonlight uses in their program, as if they are looking at a highly recommended book reading list.

Note that there is a lot of information on the Sonlight website about what their company is, scroll down from their home page to find lots of articles. They even have an article to help you decide if Sonlight is NOT for you. Sonlight also has discussion boards where you can post questions and read replies on the site, for free.

CHOW is an abbreviation for a book called “A Child’s History of the World” by Virgil M. Hillyer. Hillyer was the Headmaster of Calvert School (which is another homeschool curriculum provider). The book was written in the early 1900s and did contain what we would not consider politically incorrect racial slurs. There have been some revisions of the book to take out some of those terms as well as an expansion of the book to tell more of history since its original publication date. In your quest for this book you may find any number of different editions including the book in paperback and also in hardback.

Sonlight uses CHOW for some of their history curriculum.

CHOW is written in the narrative style, that is, the non-fiction facts and events are told in a story format. At one time CHOW was the one and only book for elementary school aged students to use to learn world history. CHOW is one book telling all of history, in a chronological arrangement. There are not many books on the market that cover all of world history and are written for children of this age and where the telling is a story format style (the narrative style), which lends itself to great reading aloud and which captures the attention of young children.

In 2001, “The Story of the World” (SOTW) series, by Susan Wise Bauer, with the intention to start teaching world history at the beginning of time, in first grade and moving forward in a chronological manner in a four year period. This history teaching method is further explained in Bauer's book "The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home".

Therefore, SOTW Volume One is written to be read aloud to a first grader and it covers Ancient History. SOTW Volume Two is written with a read aloud audience of a 2nd grader and it covers Medieval times. Volume Three covers 1650 to 1850 and Volume Four covers 1851 to Present. There are four books in total for use in Grades 1-4. Since SOTW is published in four volumes (not one) the page count is longer and therefore the book contains more detail. I also feel that the tone of each SOTW book increases in difficulty a bit as it is intended to be read aloud to different aged children.

I use SOTW with my children. I own CHOW but don’t like the tone of it (I find CHOW a bit dumbed down) and feel it is too superficial, that is, in an attempt to squeeze all of history into one book it skims over some things too quickly.

SOTW also has Activity Books to go with each Volume. These guides incorporate maps to teach the geography of that country at that time. They contain narration prompts and comprehension questions to ask your child (if you desire to do so). There are arts, crafts, recipes and some games to play. There are some coloring pages as well. There are many suggestions of suggested reading for supplemental reading of literature/fiction/fables/fairy tales and also a non-fiction category, that meshes with that exact chapter and that period of time/subject matter. Lastly they have supplemental readings by page number in other books such as the Usborne World History book to read to go along with that exact chapter that provides more information than SOTW covers. (SOTW cannot cover every single thing that a child could or should know of that time period!) I use the Activity Books with my children. I appreciate that all of that information is laid out for me to pick and choose what I want to do.

To contrast if I were to use CHOW I would have to find my own coloring pages for the kids to color in. I would have to find period appropriate maps to go along with the chapters. I’d not have supplemental readings to go along with the book. I would also have to do research on my own to find games, crafts, art projects and recipes to go along with that lesson if we wanted to do those things. Arranging all of that is not impossible but it just takes time and energy (and money, usually, to buy more books and resources).

So for me it is less work for me and much more convenient and also more comprehensive to use SOTW. So our CHOW sits on the shelf, unused.

If you wish to use both CHOW and SOTW (as some homeschoolers do) you may want to use this very handy, free index which is on Paula’s Archives site, that shows which chapter in CHOW matches with which chapter number in SOTW. That chart also has a column for using Vos’s Story of the Bible book. You may read that chart here.

Where to buy CHOW
Sonlight sells CHOW, here. Presently they are offering the 1997 hardback edition for $28 (new of course), see here.

I cannot find where on the Calvert site that CHOW can be purchased separately. It may be that at this time the book is ONLY available for purchase with their prepackaged curriculum by grade, I am not sure. They used to sell it separately, I believe.

You will be able to find the old, rare editions of CHOW at online auctions but be prepared, they may be expensive. I am not sure why you would opt for these older books over a new copy, if you are able to buy one new “a la carte” at Sonlight. You might try eBay.

Presently I do not see that Amazon is selling new copies of CHOW. I do see that third party sellers are selling it, with the lowest price today at $36.60 for a used book.

SOTW and the SOTW Activity Book can be purchased new from the publisher, Peace Hill Press, for full retail, here.

SOTW and the SOTW Activity Book can be purchased at a discount from Amazon. They are the lowest price I’ve found.

SOTW can also be found for sale, used, sometimes posted for sale from homeschoolers, at The Well Trained Mind Sale and Swap Board.

If you want to chat with others teaching history with SOTW (or discuss any classical education topic) you may want to chat at the discussion boards at the Well Trained Mind website.

I blogged about how our family homeschools history in one of my first blog entries on February 25, 2005, if you want to read it, go here.

I hope this answers your original question, and more! I bet you didn’t know there were that many options available to you to teach world history in a chronological manner to elementary grade homeschooled students!

And of course these books and materials could be used by parents of schooled children who want to fill gaps in their child’s elementary school education by teaching world history at home, (which some call “after schooling” or “afterschooling”).

SOTW Products:

SOTW Volume One, revised edition, the book

SOTW Activity Book One, 3rd edition

SOTW Volume Two, the book

SOTW Activity Book Two

SOTW Volume Three, the book

SOTW Activity Book Three

SOTW Volume Four, the book, ISBN 0972860339

SOTW Activity Book Four ISBN 0972860355

Note: There are audio books for the above SOTW volumes also. Volumes Three and Four are read by Jim Weiss, a wonderful storyteller.

Note: The books come in a variety of formats, some are available only through the publisher. For example some come in paperback, spiral bound paperback, and hardback.

Note: The Activity Books have consumable pages or the statement in the book states you may make one copy to use with one of your children. Additional “student pages” can be purchased through the publisher (Peace Hill Press). The publisher also now sells tests for each volume if you so desire them.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pequot Library Sale: So Far I Haven’t Gone

Yesterday the Pequot Library Sale in Southport opened for its annual used book sale. The sale usually has over 100,000 books. Yesterday was free admission but “double the marked price” day. I have never gone on double price day. Yesterday I felt lousy and spent nearly the entire day resting in bed and I had the children with me, so going to the sale was out of the question.

The main reason that I attend library fundraiser used book sales is to buy children’s books which our family uses as the staple of our homeschooling curriculum. We use mostly “living books” in our homeschooling (instead of textbooks).

Today is also free admission and “priced as marked” day. Thank goodness I woke up without a headache today. However I was not in the mood to attend the sale for three reasons:

1. Most of the books that I am interested in are sold in a tent outdoors and today the weather was in the 80s and very humid (oppressively hot).

2. I have a ton of books here and am backlogged on cataloging them and sorting them, and putting them away. I feel like at this point I don’t even know what I own so I fear buying duplicates.

3. I had a family party to attend and in order to make that party I would have had to rush to the sale to be there at opening time then I would have to rush to buy books and get back home on time to then leave for the party.

Since tomorrow is day three of the sale and it is still a ‘full price’ day, I am wary if anything good is left.

Day four is half price day. Day five is free day. I will not be able to attend either of these sale days as I will be busy elsewhere during the sale times on these days. Well actually I could make it to the last two hours of the sale on Day four. I don’t know what would be left at that time, slim pickings, I assume.

I truly feel overwhelmed by all the books we have here and so I may just avoid going altogether. I don’t know what to do. To go or not to go tomorrow?

So that is something that has been on my mind yesterday and today, because my original plan last month was to defiantly attend this library sale. I think I have changed my mind and I think I am at peace with that decision. I think I am. Maybe I am not. I’ll see how I feel health-wise tomorrow, maybe that will help me decide that going is not a good idea. Or I could plan to spend tomorrow organizing my books here at home, if I feel well enough.

Such things are contemplated seriously by book addicts like me.

Decisions, decisions….

Here are some articles on the Internet about this library sale.

Untitled (but very good and long) Article from the Fairfield Citizen by Michelle Herrmann

Rare books go on sale at Pequot by Christina Crapanzano

Pequot Library’s Website about the Book Sale

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Nature Study I Didn’t Want To Have Today

This is how my day started.

My husband’s alarm went off at about 5 in the morning as he had an early interview in the City today. I was so tired that I had no problem going right back to sleep.

I then began having a dream, I thought, with a fluttering and flapping sound. The sound got louder and louder. I found myself starting to wake up. As I lay in bed with my eyes closed telling myself “go back to sleep, go back to sleep”, I could detect that the sound was not a fluttering but actually was a flapping. And it was farther away then coming at me then tapering down again, turning around then coming back across my bed.

I opened my eyes and indeed something was flying back and forth directly over my bed!

The first thing I thought was, “Great, I let the Chimney Swifts live in the chimneys and now they have fledged and are flying around INSIDE the house which crosses the line!”

I looked at the ceiling fan and determined quickly that the sound was not the whir of the moving ceiling fan. I have poor eyesight and didn’t have my glasses on. I could see a black blur flying back and forth over my head.

I then imagined what might happen if the creature flew INTO the moving ceiling fan blades and cringed at the thought of that.

I ducked under the covers, with flashes of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” going through my head.

As I listened to the sound I realized it was a bat not a bird, as it definately was a flapping sound.

I decided to turn on the light (as it was still pretty dark in the room). I also knew this may scare off the bat or at least make it perch someplace. I then jumped up and shut off the ceiling fan. My eyes were so sensitive to the light that by the time they could handle taking a good look around, with eyeglasses in place, the bat was long gone (and the sound was gone, too).

I could not run to get my husband to come to the rescue as I heard him in the shower. When the coast was clear, and after he was done with his shower, I emerged and gave him the news. He had no time in his schedule for stalking bats in the darkened house. So he got ready to go and left me there.

So that is how I started my day.

Another Bat Experience
I was not too freaked out about this as one time about four years ago I went to Maine to with just my children, to visit my grandmother. On our first night, we were all snuggled in the King sized bed and I was reading aloud from a picture book that my grandmother bought for them to have when they are there, so every night for many years I had to read the darned book in its entirety (Burt Dow, Deep Water Man by Robert McCloskey, which is a fun read but very long for an exhausted mother to read at the end of the day.) Anyway I was reading that book and my older son (then about 4 years old) said, “Mama, there is a bat flying around here.” I said, “No, it must just be a deer fly, they are pretty big.” Then he said again, “No, it is a bat Mama!” and just then it swooped about six inches above the book I was reading. My older son screamed. At this, the bat perched on the side of the chimney. I didn’t know what to do! So I grabbed the waste basket and slammed it down, to trap it to the side of the chimney. I then directed my older son to grab a magazine that was lying nearby. I shimmied that underneath and trapped the bat inside. I then had my son open the doors for me while I made my way downstairs and outside. I put the wastebasket down on the ground and went back inside (leaving it there overnight). This left an impression on my older son, not a good one.

More Detective Work Today
So anyway this morning I was wondering where the bat was flying now and I wondered what other rooms it was swooping around in. After doing some reading in bed with the light on, and with no reappearance of the bat, I went back to sleep.

When the kids woke up and woke me up, we went on a hunt around the house for the bat, looking at the ceilings and walls for a perched bat. We didn’t find one. But we did find that we had left one of the fireplace flues open. (Wonderful for nearly two months we’ve had the air conditioning on with a flue open!) So we closed the flue.

I wonder if the bat is still in the house or if it is out. We will see if it wakes us up tonight. This time I am glad that my husband will be here all night, and he has no reason to get up early and he can be here to deal with the situation. His idea so far involves swatting it with a broom. I envision using the children’s large insect nets to snag it and release it outdoors. You can see that we have different approaches to dealing with things.

That was a little nature encounter that I didn’t want to have today.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I Will Be More Careful About What I Complain About

I am sure you have heard people say, “Be careful what you wish for or God may give it to you”. The problem with that statement may not seem apparent to some people. The issue is that in order to get us to appreciate various things in our lives we often must first be exposed to something worse and something less desirable in order to then appreciate and be grateful for the better way that things used to be for us!

I ranted last month in this blog entry. The gist of my complaining was that I was overburdened with volunteer work and the other typical work of a mother. I don’t recall if I specifically blogged about in that LONG entry but I know I was feeling resentful of other people who enjoyed the fruits of my volunteer work labor yet I was rarely on the receiving end of such acts of kindness or works of other volunteers. I wanted to be on the receiving end for a change.

Today I regret ever thinking that as now I am on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers and I am in a place of need. It is not a good place to be!

Being in a place where things are good and others come to me looking for help is much better! I now know this for sure!

As my symptoms worsen and my health fluctuates between bad and acceptable but not normal, I have been spending time (when able) to teach myself about Lyme Disease. Also very much in my mind is the health of my two sons, who have both been diagnosed with Lyme Disease (and one with Ehrlichiosis). I definitely have a too-full plate right now with taking in this new and controversial information, digesting it, forming opinions, and making decisions about future health care options.

This week I have been on the receiving end of volunteers and ‘regular citizens’ who officially are not in a volunteer work role but who gave their time and energy to speak to me over the phone and others via email, to help enlighten me and guide me to good sources of information and about the different health care options we have. So here it is, I am the recipient of the goodwill of others.

I am very grateful to the people, these strangers, who are helping me. I don’t know where some of them live but I also know that two strangers live right in my own home town.

This leads me to something else that is important that I want to mention. I am polite and nice or at least cordial to people that I have encounters with in my daily living, such as cashiers, librarians and workers of all kinds who I interact with. Through chit chat with the librarians at my town’s library, over time, I have developed a fondness for some of the librarians and we have some interesting discussions (when they have time) and other times we only have time for just a few words. While I was at the library and feeling very under the weather recently, I was checking out videos for my children to watch while I rested in bed, and I was borrowing a book about Lyme Disease. I know I felt sick and terrible and it probably showed on my facial expression and in my other body language, and I was not my typical self that day. I sensed that this certain librarian sensed that something was wrong. I quickly explained that my kids have Lyme and that I thought I had it also and that I was there on an information gathering mission. It was that quick conversation that not only guided me to an up to date DVD recording of a physician’s seminar about Lyme, but also on the next visit I was asked if I wanted my name passed onto a fellow patron whose family is suffering with Lyme Disease who may be willing to speak to me. I said by all means, yes.

I ended up having a long conversation with one family (strangers to me) yesterday, on the phone.

Today through an International email chat list I was contacted by private email by a person who passed my email to another who passed it to another and so on, and this lovely person who offered to help me via email, lives in my very own small town. Even an atheist would have to admit that such ‘things’ don’t happen by chance. An atheist (and I say this as I was raised in a Godless home) would say, “That is about people helping people and nothing more.” Yes, that is true, it is people helping other people, but God works THROUGH people, not necessarily by direct acts. It is pretty amazing to me that in a very short time of seeking information I have found so many strangers willing to take time to help me. One person spent about an hour on the phone with me today discussing our family’s symptoms, the care we’ve received, the controversies with Lyme and who the local Lyme literate medical doctors (LLMDs) are.

As I was washing dishes a few minutes ago it dawned on me that I got exactly what I had asked for, even though I didn’t realize I was asking for it. I resented that I was maxxed out and burned out with various volunteer jobs for which other people were the main recipients of, and I wanted to be on the receiving end. I wanted someone to help me in some way. I was almost challenging God to let someone else do some volunteer work that would help ME out, to let me be just the receiver and not the giver. Well, I got what I asked for.

I am grateful that people are helping me understand this Lyme Disease thing. To be honest, though, I’d give anything to be completely healthy again, and for each of my children to be Lyme-free and totally healthy again.

So not only will I be careful about what I directly ask God for but I will be careful about what I complain about as well.

I beg you to consider my situation and to take it to your own heart; maybe you can avoid an experience such as I am going through, to learn these lessons:

Be grateful for what you have.

Give when you can give to others, and do it with a loving heart and with good intentions.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 30 Has Been Published

Today the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 30 has been published by Melissa Wiley at her blog, The Lilting House.

At this Homeschooling Carnival you will find links to many articles by experienced homeschooling families. Reading this Carnival is like having a homeschooling magazine right on your screen. It is full of information and support, and it is free. Take a look!

I have an entry in the Carnival. If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to contribute; you can read about how, here.

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Technorati Updated Their Site

Today when I visited to ping my blog I noticed they have updated their site.

Technorati is a service in which a person can search for blog entries by topic of interest. The entries are given with the most recent post at the top (just like a blog’s format!). If you want to read about homeschooling you can type in the keyword “homeschooling” and you will see a list of blog entries on this topic. As a reader of blogs you can find new blogs that you may not have known about.

I see today that now each blog has a ‘cloud’ which shows a list of words which appeared in recent blog entries on that blog.

For we bloggers, we can now use the ‘ping’ (update) button right on the front page of Technorati (more convenient).

The style of the information is all moved around and I think it appears much more clean and easier to read.

For each blog you can view the inbound links that were made to that blog.

There is also a little graph of the number of posts that were done each day in the last month.

If you are a blogger and want to increase traffic to your site, you should consider signing up for a free account at Technorati. By using the tags at the end of your blog post, Technorati will point users to your blog entry with the keywords (tags) of your choice. One of the reasons that I like Technorati is that I can see what blogs or websites are linking to MY blog and also I can have a link on my blog to that same information for my readers to view if they so desire. I also use the Technorati blog search window on my blog and find that it works much better and more accurately than the Google search box worked (there was some problem with the Blogger configuration and Google Blog Search box that made it not work properly). As the author of my blog I do use my Technorati blog search window to find old posts that I had published by keyword (easier than searching manually!).

So check out Technorati if you haven’t done so already!

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My Opinions of Millsberry (

Editor's Note 8/4/06: I edited the title of this blog entry today to more accurately reflect the exact content of the post. This whole blog is about my opinions and my thoughts, as is stated in the description of my blog. Frankly, I am surprised at the number of comments I am getting about this post. I am also getting some very rude posts from some people, some who seem to be children and others state in the comment that they are a child or a teen. For the record I refuse to publish comments which call me names or use profanity. The sooner that people begin to learn that there are different opinions in the world, the better, and the sooner they learn that opinions can be expressed without insulting those who disagree with their stance, the better. In real life, in a civilized society people don't go around calling names to those with different opinions. And if you think that as you go through life you will ONLY be around those who share all of your same opinions, you will be very disappointed (or angry) as that is NOT reality. I will post some responses to their comments as a comment rather than do a separate blog entry about it. But I will say here that I feel strongly that the games on the site are NOT educational NOR are the sugar-cereals a health food NOR is the site 'commercial free'. I feel saddened that some children and teens are blind to those facts.

At a playdate with some other homeschoolers the boys were abuzz about and were asking my kids to join and play not only during the playdate but they wanted to know my children’s screen names so they could add them to a buddy list or something like that.

I had never heard of Millsberry before.

Well here is what it is. I joined with my own account and played around with it. is run by Mills, Inc. the food company which makes sugary breakfast cereals for children. In my opinion it is advertising to children disguised as free online video games. Mills, Inc. is clever though, as this is not JUST little video games.
And it is not a site with ads running all over it, either. First, some of the games have the food brands as part of the game. Secondly, some show the cereal box at the time that the short game’s final score is given. Some of the games have a food brand as the name of the game while others have the images of certain cereals as part of the game (i.e. parts of the game are little cereal bowls with little pieces that look like the cereal’s pieces.

As games are played, points are awarded (pretend money which is called “Millsbucks”). This money is used to dress your person/character/yourself up to look more exciting and cool, or to look less generic/plain and more customized. You can buy a house and the furnishings for the house.

Because the children earn points/pretend money, there is an incentive to better outfit oneself, to better style oneself and to bring one’s own home to a higher status level by playing more games to earn more ‘money’ to buy bigger and better things. The child can further define themselves by buying objects to adorn their little bodies to further define themselves, like a skateboard or sunglasses that look sporty or ‘cool’. Wow, pretty much this is teaching them to be little materialistic consumers, isn’t it?

But there is more.

Each child can have their own player/account. Children then can swap their screen names with other children. I am not sure about that level because right now I have the function shut off, that allows some kind of chat to go on.

Children at the playdates are discussing what their screen names are, what they are wearing, what kind of house they have bought, etc.

After hearing about this on one playdate, with three boys (aged 5-9) raving about this, my children were BEGGING to join. I expressed discontent at this and was suspicious. The other mother, my friend, said it is harmless and a free game service, and that she intended to allow them to use it only during the summer, and once it was time to restart homeschooling, no video games online would be allowed. Now, mind you, I consider this parent to be quite strict about what she allows her children to view and play, and they don’t own a video game console or a hand held electronic game, either, in other words, they don’t ‘push’ video games onto their boys.

My younger son is the one who gravitates the most toward video games. My older son cares less about them but both kids were very interested in it due to their three friends raving about it (peer pressure does affect homeschooled kids to, to a lesser extent than schooled kids perhaps).

I went online to join and check it out myself. I felt the games were overly simplistic and boring. However my younger son thinks it is great. So that is what I have learned so far.

Due to the kind of hidden advertising and the idea of pushing them to buy, buy, buy and to play more to ‘earn’ more money, I don’t like the game.

I am sure that some of you think that I really over-think or over-analyze things and may be too strict. Oh well. I am who I am.

I also hate this kind of advertising to children. And I think the corporation is taking advantage of families by offering free video games, as the lure is there to play it because it is free, after all, versus the parents who refuse to BUY video games for their kids. This time the children can say “but it is free” and then it is tempting to sign up to play but then the parent may not know up front that this is advertising!

As of right now my boys have played the game on three occasions over a four day period (I put a ban on it one of the days). I find that they argue about the use of the computer, bicker of who got more time, etc. My younger son seems obsessed with buying everything under the sun (he is now buying pets and furniture and foods and everything). My younger son is completely in the ‘buy, buy, buy’ greed mode. The game seems to have both of them addicted and they ask to play it all the time.

I will also say that the games are pretty primitive and due to the not great computer keyboard as ‘joystick’, it is easy to get frustrated (I know I did). I also hear my boys getting angry at the computer or at the game because of frustrations (“I hit the up arrow and it didn’t go up!”).

I will let this game playing go on a little more but soon it will be banned, I think. I am only letting this happen because I don’t feel well, we are not in ‘homeschooling mode’ and I just don’t have the energy or ability to have them out and about or to otherwise keep them occupied.

But I still am annoyed by the advertising. And lastly, the ads are not set up to make it clear to the parent what the child will be exposed to. The children find the ads as they play along with the game.

(I also have a pop-up ad preventer program in place and so I have no idea if pop-up ads are on the site.)

I remain unclear about the confidentiality of our children’s information. I had to enter their birth dates in order to give them an account. I think I may go back in and change it to fake information! I also used my real date of birth in my own account and I should change that as well (to protect from identity theft, which I have been a victim of, twice so far.)

So, be informed about what this is in case your children start asking about it.

One last thing, this is an example of how a parent can’t completely prevent what their children are exposed to. The kids talk to each other and information and opinions are shared. The other two family’s boys think that is great and they are praising it all over the place. We parents can’t control the fact that kids talk, no matter if we homeschool, are religious or whatever.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 29 Was Published

On July 18, the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 29
has been published at Nerd Family.

I have an entry in the Carnival. If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to contribute; you can read about how, here.


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Monday, July 24, 2006

Homeschooling: What We Focus On, Our Children Succeed At

The longer I homeschool my children and the more that time goes on and I see other homeschooling families grow and change over time the more convinced I am that what we focus on we succeed at accomplishing.

It is one thing to read about homeschooling success (in a book or on a blog) but to see it happen in real life is so interesting and sometimes phenomenal. I love it when I see in real life, a theory or an idea actually come to fruition. It is interesting to see it with other families that I know, when I know their goals and what they are doing, then see how it works for them (as they are doing different things than our family does, because no two homeschooling families are alike). While all homeschooling families share some common goals most of us have goals with different details or plans and we all do things to achieve them in different ways.

(If you don’t believe yet that every homeschooling family is different I suggest you read the book “Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days” by Nancy Lande. Each chapter is a story of how a family spends their day, as well as an overview about their family and their homeschooling philosophy. If you like that book and want to read more, including how those same families are five years later, you can read the sequel “Homeschool Open House” (which also contains new families; the book is double the size of the first book). If you are wondering about the content of the book, religion-wise, exactly half the families mention their religion in their story and the other half never mention it.

Most if not all homeschooling families have goals and plans. So long as the work is done to achieve those intentions, then it will happen, whatever the ‘it’ is. We just have to trust the process and do each little step, to keep going and to move forward. It is hard to explain but I will try.

Living the homeschooling lifestyle is so all-encompassing that some of us like to refer to homeschooling not as something we do, not as just lessons that happen between this time of day and that time of day, but we describe it as a lifestyle. Homeschooling is a lifestyle for many of us. Part of that lifestyle is knowing that what we do and how we do it is broken down into such teeny tiny pieces that they are embedded into each minute of our day, and also affects some general decisions we make for our family (no watching that TV show, no video game playing, etc.). Having so much going on, not always busy-ness per se, but having our children with us all the time, and having so many experiences together can make living one day seem very long or endless, sometimes. Each day can seem very long and each day can seem like a lot of little steps. As one day moves to the next and the next, time goes on in a seamless way, blending from one day into another, flowing on and on. Sometimes it seems that time goes by slowly, and other times it seems that time is flying by. Our lives are so rich and full that it can sometimes be hard to gauge the big picture; we are living so much in the micro-environment that is our family’s lives.

When we have our noses to the grindstone of our life (especially for the homeschooling parent, the one who has the majority of the educating and the child care duties), it can be hard for those of us who are so close to our children to know what things look like from the big picture perspective. At times we may not even be able to see our own children through the eyes of others (what the grandparents see, what the store clerk sees). What we know is that they don’t know this certain math fact, or that they keep forgetting to capitalize that word or that they keep leaving their dirty laundry on the floor. We see all the little flaws and those things seem so big in our mind, and dealing with those things is always on the tips of our tongues. Unfortunately sometimes I find that my knowing all of the flaws sometimes prevents me from seeing the good things about my children. Since we have so little exposure to great numbers of children (unless we were formerly classroom teachers), we don’t have much of a measuring stick to measure our children against. Sometimes I think we may make the measuring stick with very high expectations, but that is another thing to ponder on another day.

I found that in this last year of homeschooling, that my children have excelled beyond my expectations in the area of reading ability. I made certain plans and goals and we took steps to arrive there. We didn’t follow those plans exactly as intended, due to the family crises and illnesses that we’ve had, and they had gaps in the formal lessons (forced daily reading practice) due to those things. However this spring we continued homeschooling by using the unschooling method. That led my children to self-initiate reading (after about three weeks of not reading anything because I was not TELLING them to). What they chose to read was Calvin and Hobbes comics, in book format. They read the books over and over and over. They read them in the car, in hospital waiting rooms, at relative’s houses, around the house and in bed until after midnight, sometimes. The result was when I tested their reading ability last month, they are both reading very much ahead of their ‘grade level’. I will withhold the actual test results as it may be perceived by some as bragging. Let’s just say I was blown away (especially since my older son did this same exact test 13 months ago and I can measure apples to apples in a test score format).

My friends and acquaintances in my local homeschooling community have the same experiences about success with what they focus on. This can happen too with schooled children depending on the things that the family chooses to focus on in the after-school hours. Here are some examples:

A family who won’t allow any television, video, movie watching, and no video games, but promotes reading by provides thousands of books in their home library have children read well and often.

A family who is active with their church, lives their religious principals in their home, and who all volunteers their time each year to volunteer work in Mexico has empathy and a fondness for the people of Mexico and Mexico as a place and a strong connection to their church and their spiritual beliefs.

A homeschooling mother who fretted so much about teaching certain subjects hired a private tutor for one school year (for those subjects) and now the children are above grade level in those subjects (and she is befuddled about what to do with them this year).

A family who spends lots of time writing has a child who loves to pen her own stories in her free time.

A child who spends hours preparing for a play excels while acting in the final stage production.

A child who loves to dance and takes many dance classes per week, over many years time, becomes quite good at it and is contemplating a career in dance.

A boy who loves baseball and is put on many baseball teams, continues to grow his skill and abilities over time.

A family who loves to read history together and who spends a lot of time homeschooling history has children who enjoy history and know way more than their same-aged, schooled peers.

A schooled first grade boy attends classes after school to learn Chinese, so he can know the native language of his parents, while most other American children of his age only speak English.
Feeling that American public schools lack math skill teaching, some families send their children to intensive after-school math classes starting at Kindergarten or younger (and continue through high school), and are able to do advanced college level math far before graduating from public high school. (Is it no wonder they are doing advanced math in college and that they have an edge in math and science fields?)

I see this happening over and over. What we concentrate on doing or teaching our children, the children will succeed at doing. This is not to say that every subject taught in the homeschool will be loved or will come easy. Not every subject a child is exposed to will become a passion; just as every sport tried will not become a passion. But what we set goals for, what we make plans to accomplish—if we actually do those plans (and don’t abandon them) ---our children will succeed at.

If you are at a place of worry about accomplishing something in your home school, try not to worry. Just set goals, long term (years ahead of time) and short term (this ‘school year’). Set those goals. Make plans to get there. Then DO WHAT YOU PLANNED.

If things don’t go well or something needs tweaking along the way, then by all means do it.

Just know that the work you do, what you choose to do and what you actually do (versus just thinking about it), will work and it will produce results. Put a process in place, and then trust the process.

The moral of the story is:

Trust the homeschooling process.

And know that:

Homeschooling Works.

If you are at all worried about starting to homeschool, I’d like to encourage you to:

Just Do It.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Delicious Buffalo Mozzarella at Costco

We usually use fresh mozzarella cheese made daily at a local Italian cheese shop (made from cow’s milk). That shop’s fresh cow milk mozzarella is far superior to what is sold at the big chain grocery stores, which we find has an odd off-flavor and is not always fresh. Some shops allow customers to access the bins with the cheese in it and I worry about the sanitary conditions with that. (I won’t mention the name of that grocery store chain!)

My husband was very surprised to find fresh buffalo mozzarella at Costco, of all places (imported from Italy). The prices averages to $10 per pound. The price for fresh buffalo mozzarella at other local shops is $26 per pound (way out of our price range).

We have been buying one package per week or one every ten days or so and have been enjoying it immensely. Eating fresh buffalo mozzarella is a special treat and we are not used to having access to it at such low prices, so we can’t resist it…it melts in the mouth!

If you enjoy fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and you are a Costco member I suggest you see if your local Costco carries it!

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From the Archives: My Italian Tomato Salad Recipe

This was originally posted on June 5, 2005. I updated it tonight with some more information. Our family continues to enjoy this recipe in this summer of 2006.

I adapted this recipe after watching my mother-in-law make her favorite version and after tasting different tomato salads at Italian restaurants.

Farmer’s markets in my area have opened for the season and delicious tomatoes have arrived! Our family eats this salad a few times a week (sometimes daily) during tomato season.

Christine's Italian Tomato Salad Recipe (an original recipe)


Tomatoes, preferably in-season, organic, your favorite variety.

Fresh mozzarella or blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese, cut or crumbled into small pieces

Olive oil

Fresh basil, cut or torn into small pieces, as much or as little as you like

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Optional: friselle (a hard bread, from an Italian food specialty shop)

You can make as little or as much salad as you want so therefore I am not giving quanties of each ingredient.

Cut the tomatoes up into bite-sized chunks.

Cut or crumble the cheese into small pieces. I like to try to get a little cheese in each bite of the salad, so if you are using crumbled Gorgonzola this is the easiest. You may prefer to have larger chunks and not have cheese in every bite. It is up to you how much cheese you want to have in the salad.

Put tomatoes in a serving bowl.

Add cheese.

Drizzle some olive oil over the top.

Add fresh basil.

Salt and pepper to taste.


If it is too try, add a bit more olive oil.

Optional: Dampen the frisalle with water. Crumble into chunks and add to salad and toss.

Storage Information: This salad can be eaten immediately or the following day. The longer it sits, the more juices come out of the tomatoes, and the more the flavors will mingle together. But, note that on the third day the tomatoes are very mushy and may be unappealing to you (it is to me, so I make only what we'll eat in one or two days).

Store in a sealed container the refrigerator.

If you make it with frisalle and don’t eat it immediately, the frisalle will soak up the juices and will keep the salad from sitting in a tomato-juice soup. The frisalle tastes delicious when it is full of these juices. If you eat the frisalle immediately after making it, the frisalle won’t have much taste. The frisalle is optional. It is nice to have to soak up the juices as it sits.

Serving Suggestion: Serve as a side dish with dinner. Eat as a lunch or as a light dinner.

Optional things which other people do that I don’t like (do what you want!):

1. Use fresh oregano in addition to the fresh basil.

2. If you use dried spices the flavor is very different and inferior and can be bitter.

3. Dry oregano, especially, can make this very bitter tasting.

4. Add diced red onion, to your taste.

5. Add minced fresh garlic, to your taste.

6. Add chopped roasted red peppers.

7. Add Balsalmic vinegar.Another serving method: You can slice large tomatoes into thick slices and recreate this as a layered salad. Put the tomato slice at the bottom, the fresh mozzarella on top, then the basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Optional: drizzle Balsalmic vinegar on top also.

Optional: add slices of roasted red pepper. This is a nice way to make sure that you get a little of the tomato, cheese, and basil in each bite.

NOTE: If you use horrible tasting tomatoes this will be awful. You have to use great tasting tomatoes, preferably in-season tomatoes. My favorite variety is the heirloom Brandywine tomato.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Updated My Blog Sidebar Today

Today I updated my blog's sidebar links.

You will now find links to some eBooks authored by Elaine Krieg Smith. Look for two eBook reviews from me for two of her books to be published here on my blog soon. I earn a commission on any eBook purchases that my blog readers make after clicking through my blog. I hope some sales come through!

I have updated my Library Thing sidebar listing. I made it look less cluttered by having only the book cover images show (not text titles and author names). I also changed it to show only books which Library Thing has a graphic for the book’s cover on file. It looks nicer. Those books shown are books that I own and recommend on the topic of ‘how to homeschool’.

I updated our list of what books and materials we I to homeschool our children. The lists of books and chapter books we read aloud and such are too many and change too often for me to keep updating them on a regular basis, sorry!

I noted in the sidebar my two favorite book list books.

Now that I have refreshed my memory about creating HTML codes and creating sidebar links, next up maybe this weekend will be links to some of my favorite blogs and websites. I can’t list them all but I will list a few.

Making these changes took me hours! I am so not-good at HTML that it is not funny. It was a good reminder for me of what it is like to learn something new. I do HTML so rarely (from scratch) that each time I do it, I have to basically re-teach myself by trial and error. Now I know some of what my children go through when they are learning new things.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Living in Abundance

Today this is what I was thinking about…so I jumped online to write it and to post it to my blog.

I am living in abundance. Despite our financial woes and lack of employment, we are still living in abundance. I’d like to think that everyone is living in abundance or at least they have it around them and may not realize it?

Despite the fact that I feel sick and have some sickness and despite the fact that my children are both sick with tick borne illnesses (Lyme and Ehrlichiosis), I still feel we are living in abundance. We have the medical care we need and we have the medication we need. It may not be easy to obtain it but we have it.

Today I opened a homeschool supply catalog. To be honest I have been avoiding doing that for years since my husband’s job ended, because I get usually tempted to buy something I never knew about, or I begin to doubt what I already own, or think that new thing that they have that I don’t is better or what I NEED.

The fact of the matter is this. And this applies to many things in life not just homeschooling supplies. The fact of the matter is that I have what I need, or 99% of it. If I were to just use what I have, it would still be more than enough. The challenge is that there is so much ‘out there’, meaning specifically, there are so many products and things that stores and companies and marketers and advertisers are trying to convince us that we should buy, that it can make us think that we don’t have enough or we don’t have what we need, or they change our minds to thinking that our ‘wants’ are actually ‘needs’.

Let me boil things down further…

What a marriage needs most is two people who love each other who communicate well and treat each other with respect.

What children need is time with parents, happy parents, and love and a stable home environment. What homeschoolers need more than anything is desire and drive and persistence, and some basic books and supplies that GET USED. What homeschoolers don’t need is a ton of stuff that sits on shelves and is not used but that looked good or whatever. Ditto for board games, decks of cards, computer games, educational games, fun games, books, toys, clothing, etc.

What babies need most of all is loving parents who are willing to learn about and meet the needs of a baby not a boatload of STUFF. Babies could care less about the BABY STUFF they want loving arms to hold them when they need to be held and they need to be fed when they are hungry preferably with healthy food that was designed uniquely for them (read: human milk). Babies want to be loved and paid attention to and not made to feel that they are being ignored or are an inconvenience to their parents---this is the same for children and teenagers.

What toddlers and preschool aged children need is lots of love and attention and to not feel pushed off onto others, to not feel discarded. Parental time with children is a display that the child is a priority to the parent that the child is wanted and is loved. Rejection is not a good thing for children of that age to feel.

What everyone wants most of all, everyone of all ages, I think, is to be loved and appreciated and respected. All the material things come after that/behind that in the priority list.

So today I am feeling very abundant. I have the love of my husband and children. I have the presence of my husband and my children. Homeschooling allows us to have even more time together, school is absent as a thing that forces separation. I also have a lot of material things and a nice home and so despite our zero income I am focusing on the fact that we really do have all that we need and I will try and stop thinking that we are living with not enough or that we can’t buy all that I want.

Thanks for listening.

I hope your life is abundant, too. Perhaps it is and you may not even realize it? It is all about perspective and how we look at our situation…

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Leaving America for Canada?

For over three years we have lived in a weird limbo place due to my husband's job. During this time he had interviewed for various jobs in various other states and even one in Bermuda and St. Thomas. Moving has been a very real and possible option for us. That may not seem like a big deal to you but both of our family's roots are within a 35 minute drive from our home and we both have extended family living all around us, two of our parents have Cancer and we have been the major caregivers and care coordinators. We are needed here and we want to be here.

Anyway my point is that for the jobs that were the 'hottest' I would begin imagining what it would be like there, is homeschooling legal, what are the housing prices like, where and what would we be able to afford for a home?

So the current hot thing is a job in Canada. So on my mind today is thinking about what it would be like to not only leave our nice house and nice neighborhood and our town or state but also to leave America?!

We are in desparation here and something must be done. If it means that we must leave America then so be it. We have no choice at this point, we need income, badly!

I guess it could be exciting to move to a different country...

I am happy that my husband has had some great interviews with this company. He is very excited about the position which is a very good thing.

Stay tuned.

(Tonight I did take a peek at the legal situation with homeschooling in Canada and it seems it is legal but one must enroll as a "willing non-resident" in a private school. This seems quite wacky to me but, whatever. One that caught my eye was the Moore Academy Canada.)

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

About PaperBack

Today I was told by a fellow homeschooler about This is a free service/internet site.

In a nutshell, here is how it works.

1. You go to their site. If you link through my blog’s icon in the left sidebar, you will go to the site. Sign up for a free account. You do not need to give a lot of personal information (no financial information, for example), and you don’t pay anything.

2. You then list at least 9 books that you are willing to give away. After you post 9 books for swap, you are given 3 credits. You can then search for books that you want and request that they be mailed to you.

3. Hopefully, someone sees your book listed and requests it.

4. The site notifies you of the request. The site prepares a mailing label to you, which you print off. They suggest that you wrap the book in the computer printer paper (!). They even tell you what the postage fee is that you must pay for the media mail rate. If you have the stamps on hand at home you just add them to the package and put it in your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up.

You do not need to swap with the person that wanted YOUR book (just in case you were wondering).

Each book is worth 1 credit. Each audio book is worth 2 credits.

So the gist is you list a bunch of books and when they are mailed out and received by the other party, you get 1 credit to use in the future, for each that you swap out.

I listed over 70 books today and already 9 have been requested and mailed out by me.

Tips I’ve already learned (after one day of swapping books!)

1. To get first dibs on a book you can create a wish list of books which are ‘unlisted’. Then if that book gets listed you will be on the list of those who are notified and given first dibs on the book.

Therefore it pays to keep a few credits sitting and ready for if/when a book that you want suddenly appears.

I have 2 other people who have 2 books that I listed today in their wish list. They have 48 hours to say they want it or else it goes to someone else (or onto the general listing, I guess).

2. Uploading books to list them is very fast and easy if you have an ISBN. It takes more time to list an older book that doesn’t have an ISBN.

3. There is an option to put in a book review. Perhaps if you do this, someone will be motivated to request the book?

4. There is an option to rate the book with a star rating system.

5. For each person that you refer that either follows your link or who mentions you by name in their sign up process, you get 1 credit. If you are going to join based on you reading my blog entry I would ask that you give me the credit for the referral. You can do that by following the link in my sidebar or by manually inputting my Nickname which is “ChristineMM” (the same name I use here on Blogger, so it is not too hard to remember).

Fun Tips

1. Book lists: You can read the top most requested books. You can read the top wish list requested books. You can quickly see the bestseller list (New York Times).

2. There is a discussion forum. That forum has a category for homeschoolers. I see that people are putting up announcements when they list books for homeschooling while others are posting ‘wanted’ lists.

3. You can flag other users at your ‘buddy’. This can help you keep track of other book lovers who have similar tastes in books.

This is fun! Check it out!

(By the way so far I have not wrapped my books in 20 lb. printer paper. I am using bubble wrap envelopes, so far, and am double checking the weight. I can’t stand the ida of books going through the mail with just 20 lb. printer paper protecting them, sorry!)

For the Doubting Thomases (such as my husband is about this):

1. If you were planning on buying a book new, even at a discount, you would save money if you were able to get it from

2. Yes, you may be out some money up front, but in the end it will save you money.

3. This is easier than going around to used book shops and trying to find ones who want your used books who then just give you store credit in the end anyway.

4. This is convenient. Just keep some stamps on hand!

5. This is more convenient than listing books for sale on eBay, Amazon Marketplace, or on other websites, in my opinion.

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Fond Memories of My Children’s Imaginative Play

I am feeling a bit better (with the suspected Lyme Disease) but I still need to rest a lot. Yesterday I decided to sit in the playroom (a converted fourth bedroom) which was a disaster area. The goal was that my children tidy up the room a bit while I mostly watched from my restful place on the couch. I was too grateful for feeling better and for feeling in a right mind (no longer feeling dizzy, etc.) to feel resentful of the mess that lay before us.

We had decluttered and purged toys so many times over the last two years that there was not a lot of cr*p in the room (meaning junky stupid toys). However in May we did move the toy kitchen pieces up there (moved up from the family room) as it was not being played with any longer. It is a lovely set from Elves and Angels (made in Maine, USA) and we have no intention of getting rid of it. I couldn’t bring myself to put it into storage in the basement so up it went to the playroom. (I figure that younger children guests will still like to play with it when they visit).

My younger son asked if we could rearrange the kitchen pieces in some way so that all the pieces are together. To achieve this I had to rearrange the room. The room is set up similarly to learning centers in a Kindergarten classroom. I removed the wooden castle and wooden dollhouse from a corner and made a kitchen out of the corner.

It was so cute to see my younger son want to organize everything. This child is very organized and neat and wants everything in its right place. So we began placing the toy foods that should be frozen in the freezer, etc. He then asked for a shelf system of some kind for the dishes. I had recently received a scrapbook paper organizer from a Freecycler and went to fetch that and it is now part of the play kitchen. For the rest of the day the food play took place. It was a nice flashback to what used to be a daily occurance in our home.

The kids picked up all of the Thomas train track from the floor. They had made this layout last month when friends were visiting. I continue to be amazed that children up through the age of 12 want to play with the wooden train set and make elaborate layouts. I hesitate to move this wooden train set to storage, even though it is rarely played with any longer. Visiting younger relatives love to play with it on each visit, so for now I do plan to leave it out (put away on shelves and in the storage units).

I rounded up all the Rescue Hero toys and got them out of the room. I am taking them to my mother’s house so my younger nephews can play with them while they are there on their very frequent visits. My children will also be able to play with them when we visit there. They are not being played with at all anymore here but my younger son got upset at the idea of giving them away, so this compromise to put them at my mother and father’s house was the decision that I made.

All the little die cast cars and vehicles were gathered up and put in their bins. I weeded out some to give away.

We picked up the toy farm and lots of little animals and put them in the bin of little animals.

We picked up the plastic dinosaurs and I weeded out some of them to give away.

All in all there are two paper grocery bags worth of toys that we are getting rid of.

Toy musical instruments were gathered up and placed in their bins where they belong.

The dress up toys were gathered (some more tidying up needs to be done in that corner).

I also unearthed a few pairs of dirty socks (belonging to my sons, of couse). Yuck.

I was not feeling very overwhelmed as I don’t think at this point that we own a lot of garbage toys. What is left in that room will probably be saved (in the basement) for use with our future grandchildren. The things that are left are store-able and high quality or else are highly sentimental (either to my children or to my husband or me). Since we have the room to store it, I don’t think it is problem to save it. (On the other hand if we didn’t have the space or if we had to move to a smaller living space we’d be forced to do some more purging of the toys.)

What was most fun of all was that as the toys were sorted and put away, I saw my children playing with them and having fun with them. There was no looking down upon the toys as “they are baby toys” (things I’ve heard other kids say).

My computer used to be in the playroom and one year I did a huge volunteer job that took 10-20 hours of work on the computer each week (plus I had other duties and other online work to do). I would use the computer while they played right there in the room with me. I have many hours of fond memories of seeing them and hearing them build elaborate layouts with their wooden train set and acting out long dramas with the trains.

As the day ended, even though the job was not 100% finished, I was left with a happy feeling. I had many flashbacks of good memories of fun times that my children have had growing up. One thing that homeschooling and not using preschool has done is given my children lots of free time to play. As a parent I have chosen to also give them lots of unstructured play time. I credit my children’s vivid imaginations and their high level of creativity to the years of freedom and being given unstructured play time.

I wish that all mothers were able to raise their own children and to develop the close relationship such as I have with my children. I wish that all children could have unstructured free play time, rather than being forced to do this or that by their parents or the adults who are their caregivers. There is nothing like the gift of time, the gift of a parent being home to raise a child and the gift to allow a child to direct their own play and to have a free schedule (not over-scheduled with activities).

I hope you take some time today to play with your children today. It is good for the soul (the soul of both the parent and the children).

Some books which I have read cover to cover and that I can highly recommend are:

On the importance of free play and ‘being a child’ in the early years:

Teaching Your Child Creativity by Lee Hausner PhD (secular)

Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind (secular)

Please Touch by Susan Striker (secular)

On using play as a bridge to form bonds between parent and child:

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen PhD (secular)

Books about protecting child’s innocence and letting children be children:

Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence by Michael Medved and Diane Medved, PhD (secular)

Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad by Rebecca Hagelin (light Christian content)

My children still play a lot now, but with different things. My older son would be happy to play LEGO for 6-8 hours per day. My younger son prefers to play with toys tied in to the Star Wars movies. In the last couple of weeks my older son has been playing with the K'Nex that he received in the past but was not interested in playing with much (so they sit in storage bins in the playroom in a corner). More and more my children are spending their free time reading books to themselves (Calvin and Hobbes comics, chapter books or non-fiction books, not picture books). My younger son continues to press and beg for a video game system for the television and for the newest handheld gaming contraption. They are playing the educational computer games more lately and also the computer chess-instruction program. Board games and card games are played more often now. The little die cast cars and other vehicles are seldom played with. If I had to pare down the toys, books and games in the house I could do it down to the things they play with most often. However, I am not yet ready to put away the little Hot Wheels cars and definately not the Thomas trains! I just can't do it yet!

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