Thursday, August 31, 2006

Homeschooling Supplier: Love to Learn Catalog

I received a paper catalog in the mail from Love to Learn, a homeschool supply company.

I read through the catalog and they offer so many great books! The bulk of what they sell is regular books which are living books. The catalog is nicely categorized by topic and features full color illustrations of the cover of the books. Some of the books are non-fiction such as history while others are historical fiction.

They also offer lots of games and hands on activities for each subject. For example they offer board games about US Geography as well as maze books. They offer books full of hands on activities for various subjects.

Rick and Diane Hopkins are the homeschooling parents who own this company and run it. They have been in business for 16 years.

I would say the catalog is geared toward the homeschooler who designs their own studies, whether they consider themselves eclectic or classical or unschoolers.

There is a Bible study category. I don’t see Catholic materials here so I assume they are Protestant Christians.

The science section contains secular materials as well as creationist materials.

There is a section on character training books and materials which contains some religious materials.

They also sell various homeschooling curriculum and materials but as I said the bulk of what they sell is living books or homeschool helping books.

I highly recommend this homeschool supplier. I have flagged a bunch of books that I would like to use in the future. (I already own a bunch that they sell!) I have never ordered from this company.

I was not overwhelmed by this catalog. It did not leave me feeling confused or that I should buy every single thing, for example. Having used and read some of the items they sell I can see that they provide way more than one family would ever need to study a topic, yet everything they offer seems so good! If a family used a fraction of these materials, they would be providing their children with a high quality home education!

I highly recommend this catalog, especially to new homeschoolers, as a fine reference and resource for very good materials.

Company Information:
Love to Learn
Questions and orders phone line: 1-801-423-2009
Order phone line: 1-888-771-1034
email orders@lovetolearn.net
website:
http://www.lovetolearn.net/
hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday


Note: I have not received payment or any kind of compensation for mentioning this company on my blog.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 35 Has Been Published

Today the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 35 was been published at Category Five on August 29, 2006.

I have an entry in the Carnival this week. If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to submit an entry, for information, read the information here.

Enjoy!

"Stupid in America" 20/20 Transcript Link

Here is the link to the transcript of 20/20's hour long documentary with John Stossel called "Stupid in America".

So if you missed the show in the past, think you will miss the re-run on September 1, 2006, or think you are too busy to spend an hour watching the show, you can read the transcript instead.

Note: the visuals in the show are great and to not see them will take away from the full impact of the show, but reading the content is better than nothing.

Hat tip: Why Homeschool

“Stupid in America” Documentary To Re-Run on September 1, 2006

At the Why Homeschool blog I learned that the “Stupid in America” 20/20 hour-long documentary about the problems with American public education that originally aired in January 2006 will rerun on September 1, 2006.

I blogged about my thoughts on the show when it first aired, here.

If you have not watched it, you simply must! All tax paying citizens should watch the show. Also all parents of schooled and homeschooled children should watch the show. Do note, though that some of the schools that are shown to be doing well are charter schools, not regular public schools; that fact is not disclosed on the show.

Thoughts About the Re-Run Timing
One thing that I find interesting and different is that usually at back to school time, problems with our educational system are not discussed, if anything they are hidden. Back to school time is propaganda time, when parents psych their children up for a new year, when children hope that this year will be a good year (better than last year if last year held problems for them) and it is when schools are psyching the students and parents up about how great the school year will be.

From what people I know say, parents of schooled children are rejoicing that summer is over and that it is time for the kids to go back to school, to get them out of their hair, and/or to ‘get back to normal’ with a schedule and a routine. This is not usually the time of the year that slamming the schools or shall I say shedding light on the reality of the problems with our education system is done. I say this because I am doubtful that parents will be open-minded or interested to hear anything negative, especially at this time of the year.

This is not exactly the right timing to discuss educational reform and problems with public education because at this point in the school year most if not all parents are optimistic about school. I bet even those who have negative opinions are trying to be positive, perhaps like their children, they are thinking and hoping that this school year will be different, and better.

Perhaps the best time of the year for discussing education reform and especially how throwing money at the schools won’t solve the problems is at town/city budget time, instead, when the newspapers are running articles about the increase in the education budget (is there any town or city where the spending remains the same or goes down?). It is at that time that citizens (not just parents of schooled children) are questioning the spending and worrying about possible tax increases.

Well anyway, watch the show if you haven’t watched it, and even if you have, watch it again!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Excellent Article About Boys and American Public Schools and Special Education

Online Publication Name: City Journal, Summer Edition

Article Title: How the Schools Shortchange Boys

Author: Gerry Garibaldi

Thanks to Reddit.com I found this excellent article about boys and American Public Schools titled "How the Schools Shortchange Boys".

This article talks about boys in public schools, how feminists have changed the content of the teaching in public schools to favor women writers, it addresses special education labels overused on boys and how female teachers (especially childless ones) have a low tolerance for the normal behavior of boys. One interesting point that this teacher makes is that special education helpers in the schools sometimes do all the schoolwork for the students thereby preventing them from actually learning.

I found this part of the article very sad.
"I noticed early on that my special-ed boys often sat at their desks with their heads down or casually staring off into space, as if tracking motes in their eyes, while I proceeded with my lesson."


I have feared for some children with various labels put on them by schools, feared the loss of their self-esteem and worry that some will be hindered for life due to negative thoughts they have of themselves as being defective, incapable, incompetent, and a misfit.

Here are the two closing paragraphs.
"Boys today feel isolated and outgunned, but many, like Brandon, don’t lack pluck and courage. They often seem to have more of it than their parents, who writhe uncomfortably before a system steeled in the armor of “social conscience.” The game, parents whisper to themselves, is to play along, to maneuver, to outdistance your rival. Brandon’s struggle is an honest one: to preserve truth and his own integrity.

Boys who get a compartment on the special-ed train take the ride to its end without looking out the window. They wait for the moment when they can step out and scorn the rattletrap that took them nowhere. At the end of the line, some, like Brandon, may have forged the resiliency of survival. But that’s not what school is for."

This reminds me of my years in public school (as not a special ed student) when I was wise to the fact that school was a game that I needed to learn to maneuver through and to get out of with as much of my own self and my sanity intact. My goal was to finish and get out as soon as possible so I could get on with living a real life. One of my reasons for homeschooling my children is to let them be the people they are rather than be changed in a negative way by experiences on the school bus and at school. I know that if they were to go to school, in addition to any positive things that may happen to them, it is also guaranteed that harm and being changed by their peers and the school staff in a negative way would occur—and I don’t want that.

Monday, August 28, 2006

That Topic Is the Focus of a Book?? And It Is Selling??

Today I was reading Mental Multivitamin (one of my favorite blogs) in which a book was mentioned which I had never heard of before. The book is "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. My first thought was "What is this book about?" so I read the description on Amazon and also some customer reviews.



I then got annoyed when I realized that Levine intentinally chose to not go shopping (for anything but the very basics) for a year and to keep a journal for the purpose of writing a book about it. Somehow the fact that it was done for the purpose of writing a book demeans it or lessens the respect I have for a person who endured the torture of not shopping (that was to be read as sarcastic if you didn't realize it).

First I thought, "Why didn't I think of that?" and "I could have written that!".

I then read that Levine had high credit card bills and this prompted her to have the idea to do the project. My respect dwindled at hearing that as it was not done out of a pure project idea but party of necessity. I've been there, done that, back when I was single, I ran up my bills to higher than my gross annual income, and had to work very hard and restrict my spending to next to nil in order to pay them off (rather than to declare bankruptcy which I could have done).

I plan to borrow Levine's book from the library to read, or to try to read, I should say. If it is worthwhile I'll finish it. If it is annoying and whiny I will stop reading it. I am not sure how empathetic I'll feel about reading her whine about not buying latte's from the take out coffee shop. I'll let you know what I think about it!

Perhaps I should write a book on what it is like to be living well as a happy stay at home mother who formerly had a fulfilling career, but left it to stay at home with her children, later to find her husband unemployed, and what a shock to my system that was. Or how about the not under my control reality of that unemployment stretched not to 6 months or 1 year or 2 but hitting 3 years and going beyond? Or how it feels to know that even if I were to go back to work full time that I could not even pay our mortgage let alone the property taxes and all the other normal expenses that we incur (such as grocery store food)? Shall I share my experiences with the world? I have a lot of bigger issues than skipping take out latte's and skipping Broadway shows and 5 star restaurant meals (which was a part of my former life). Perhaps there is a story that I could write, of living in Fairfield county where money is flung to and fro as if it is in an endless supply and where people love to flaunt what they have? Where we as a zero income family stick out like a sore thumb amongst my neighbors who redecorate for fun (with an interior decorator) and those who feel that using private jets is the only acceptable method of travel to their hot vacation destination? I no longer fit in with those living in my town and county. I didn't think anyone would want to hear about that type of stuff, but from the sales rank of Levine's book (today it is ranked #4833 in sales), people want to hear that kind of thing, at least Levine's version of it, when the non-spending is done more as a project than as a life necessity? What I mean is perhaps it is entertaining and fun to read a book about someone who chooses not to shop for a year as a project but perhaps it is not fun to read of real people struggling with life problems that force them to not shop for a year (or more), do you see the difference? The fact that the uncomfortable act is intentional and optional makes reading about it entertaining but if we were to read, for example, about the real life struggles of Hurricane Katrina victims who spent the last year not shopping, then that would not be entertaining or fun, would it?

This got me to thinking about the whole idea of "hey, I should do something that normal American's can't fathom doing that is uncomfortable or odd and then document it and write a memoir about it". Another book in this vein is the one about the woman who lives alone for a year, separated from her family, to try to find herself after her children have left the nest. Wasn't there also a book about a person who chose to not speak for a year or something like that--to just listen and to not communicate with others? And how about those who do things like climb Mt. Everest (a life threatening event) and brush with death and then write about it as a life changing experience?

I used to read books about people who left normal society to move to an isolated place to live off the land, such as in the Brooks Mountain Range in Alaska or in the woods of Maine. Those books were very interesting to me. I enjoyed reading how people could not just survive but they could thrive in remote wilderness areas. I was also curious about what they hated of typical American society such to drive them out and away from it to such an extreme. Finding satisfaction and fulfillment while living in conditions which are absent of the usual 'creature comforts' that suburban Americans have as well as doing very physically demanding work (splitting wood, hunting and preparing game to eat) left me awestruck. I respect people who do that and enjoy it and can write eloquently about it.

I don't think I'll have the same feeling while reading about Judith Levine's experience, but I'll give it a chance.

Meanwhile I need to brainstorm what I can write about that actually sell!

Perhaps I should buy this book: "Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? How Ordinary People Are Raking in $100,000 or More Writing Nonfiction Books and How You Can Too!" to get me started with some practical advice and some ideas?

“The Homeschoolers Looked So Normal!” And Other Conversations With Non-Homeschoolers

After our state’s homeschooling fair, this was my favorite comment/feedback: “The homeschoolers looked so normal!” The father who said it has a preschool aged child and a toddler, and officially their family was “considering homeschooling”. (After the fair they changed to being a “homeschooling family”.) The father who said it was in my session about how to homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten, so I guess I passed the test also.

The other (typical) comment is: “the children were so well behaved”. Of course there were a couple of typical toddler tantrums, but this was not met with judgment by the rest of the attendees as we had all “been there, done that”.

I am not sure what non-homeschoolers think that homeschooling families look like, but they always seem surprised to learn that we homeschool. It seems they are thinking “you homeschool, you don’t look like you homeschool”. Another family who I’ve seen at Cub Scout pack meetings monthly for the last two years just found out last week, that we homeschool. We were having a conversation and the conversation turned, as it always seems to, to “who is your son’s teacher at (our town’s public school)?” When I said we homeschooled, her eyebrows shot up. She asked what grade my son was in, which was the same grade as her son, and they shot up further. When I said we homeschool, she turned toward the Scouts to scan the crowd. I knew she was trying to pick out which child was homeschooled. When she was unable to pick him out based on just his age and his schooling status, she then asked which one was my son, and I pointed him out. Believe me, he looks very normal. (And since he was representing homeschoolers everywhere at that moment I was grateful that he was behaving!)

I am well aware that people base opinions on even the tiniest bit of information. For example they may base their opinion of homeschoolers on what they know of just one child or just one family. If a homeschoolers they know seems too relaxed for their own comfort, they assume all homeschoolers are very relaxed or worse, that all homeschoolers are learning less than their public school counterparts (read: incompetent). I can’t control what others think about me and my family, but what I can control is my own interactions with people. When discussing homeschooling with strangers I don’t tell them their choice to use school is inferior. I don’t tell them that there are problems with institutional schooling. What I do is answer their questions, in one sentence answers. Although my ‘sound byte’ responses may seem ridiculously summarized or lacking in detail, it is what they usually want to hear. Once in a long while a person asks a lot of questions and it is clear they want detailed answers and a real discussion. At that point when I am sure that a person really wants to hear what I have to say, I give longer replies. The thing that I do most though, is listen to what they are saying and give responses that answer their questions. Although I may not like it I do realize that in many cases I am the only homeschooling parent they’ve ever spoken to, and therefore I represent all homeschoolers. I don’t want to represent everyone as we homeschoolers are so varied but I try to not bring other homeschoolers down with my words and actions. I try my best to keep the interaction positive and to not to degrade the other person (even if they are speaking negatively about homeschooling).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Great Free Online Video "Animal School"

Thanks to L.O. who shared this with our local homeschooling email discussion group.

“Animal School” is an online video that anyone can watch for free. I recommend that you view this right now!

Watching this video is especially good for those who have a hard time accepting the reality of what goes on in school with real (human) children. This is a parable about a school for animals, using very real situations that occur in American public schools.

This reinforced for me the uniqueness of each child, that each child has unique talents, and the problems that occur when someone intentionally tries to homogenize everyone to be the same, to be taught all the same things and to excel at every single one (by getting an "A" grade), which is really what the American public school system is all about.

I signed up for the free email updates from this site. The one that I received last week pondered the question, what type of animal does a school create? The answer was a sheep, a passive follower.

Please go watch this video!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back From Cub Scout Camp

I'm back from sleep away Cub Scout Camp and am trying to catch up with real life. They require a parent go with the Scout so my older son and I did camp together. It was a three day/two night camp for boys entering 4th and 5th grades.



I was in the role of parent, being the only ones from our (new) Pack, so I was not a Leader to other boys there. I was also not a volunteer in any other capacity. To underscore this I even chose to NOT bring my class A uniform which is required for the boys, for the dinner meal. Leaders were supposed to wear theirs as well. I usually follow Scout rules to a T, but this time I did not. I didn't want to be a Leader of some Scouts who I don't know, I didn't want some parent thinking that because I am a Den Leader that I should be stepping in to parent their children---they are right there---they should be doing it. I just wanted to be the parent to my own boy, so all the strangers there did not know I was masquerading as a non-Leader! They assumed I was just a Mom to my boy and that was fine and well with me.

This was the first time that I went away with just one of my children for 'alone time'. I had fun having 'quality time' with my older son.

I was computer-less and TV-less for the trip. I brought one book ("Under the Tuscan Sun"). I used the cell phone only to do one or two check-in's per day with my husband and younger son and left it in the car for nearly the entire time. This was the first time I was away from my younger son for two nights and three days. My younger son missed me and his older brother. He is not used to being like an only child.

I was able to completely decompress and to detach from real life. I was not stressed out in any way, shape or manner. I didn't think about any problems or anything that was going on at home (other than feeling guilty that my younger son was feeling abandoned). I didn't even think about the kittens nor did I think of any of our relatives and various things that could have distracted me.

I had fun being a Mom at camp and not a volunteer worker and not being in a role of a Den Leader. I had fun talking with the mothers and a father of the Pack we were formerly with. The odd thing is that I got to know two of the mothers better on that trip than I had ever before, even though I was the Den Leader to their boys for the last two years.

So much went on in those three days that I could write a book about it if I had the time. I have some pretty interesting stories that I could tell (but won't). I also saw my older son acting in a more mature manner and realize he is growing up. I saw some new things about my son that I didn't know. Yet again I got to see how he interacts with a group of boys that he doesn't know, and how he interacts with the boys that he does know. I got to yet again compare the social skills of my son to other boys.

I hope to post a few photos, if Blogger's photo uploading system works. I will continue to not show the faces of my children here on the blog. I also am going to pick photos that don't show other children's faces as I don't have permission (a photo release) to publish their photos.


The view out of our tent as I relaxed one afternoon on the cot.

So that is what I was up to last week on the days that my blog didn't have any entries published.

Since getting home I have had a relapse of Lyme Disesase symptoms, which is not fun and is scary. My doctor warned me that if I get stressed, over-exert myself physically, or don't get enough sleep at night, that I could have short relapses of Lyme Disease. I've been exhausted since the minute I got home from camp. I've been sleeping 10-12 hours at night before being forced to wake up by my husband (so I can care for our children) and I've been taking 2-3 hour long naps on the days when my husband was available to supervise our children. I am so tired I am walking around like a zombie. The headaches and dizzy spells are back. Groan.

Blondie Comic on Homeschooling

On August 25, 2006 the Blondie comic strip featured homeschooling. I can't find the comic online to link to it.

Here is the summary: A man is being interviewed for a job and states he was at the top of his graduating class. When asked what school he attended he replies that he was homeschooled.

I don't subscribe to newspapers with comics and so I don't usually read comics. My mother-in-law was reading her newspaper and read it and showed it to me.

At first and all through today I thought it was a little funny joke that was harmless.

However after reading and pondering the Marmaduke cartoon I now am rethinking the Blondie comic. Now I think the meaning may be that if a person is homeschooled they are not ranked and rated as the schooled children are. On one hand a homeschool graduate could go around thinking they are far superior to others who attened schools. On the other hand, no matter how good or bad the homeschooled person's home education was the person could go around touting they were the best in their class (as it was true). The real problem there could be trying to state that inadequate students would escape the ranking that would then help members of society (i.e. potential employers) figure out their intelligence level as they have escaped the typical ranking and rating system that public schools use.

Maybe I am overthinking it at this point, I don't know.

Marmaduke Comic on Homeschooling

It is back to school time but instead of newspaper comics about school being a joke, there are some slams against homeschooling.

SpunkyHomeschool blogged and linked to a Marmaduke cartoon which had homeschooling as the subject.

Here are my thoughts about what the point of the Marmaduke cartoon is, which I left as a comment on Spunky’s blog.

Like parent, like child or pet, I guess.

Lazy human master didn't teach the dog any tricks, too lazy to teach anything different than what the human does himself?

Monkey see, monkey do? A homeschooling parent can only teach their children to do exactly what they themselves do and not go above the parent's expectations for their own selves?

Another message: only the experts can teach 'the good stuff' or 'the important stuff'.

Or, a dog is supposed to do tricks for humans but this dog doesn't do them as the lazy master was in charge rather than 'the paid expert' so the dog is not living up to society's expectations that dogs should be entertainment for humans?

I don't think it is funny, by the way.

I'm ready for more jokes about children who don't know much and linking it to No Child Left Behind and schools failing to meet those NCLB standards.

The last idea about what the Marmaduke cartoon is about just hit me as I was blogging about it:

Regular people (‘non teachers’) who teach their offspring (or pets) are incompetent to teach what society expects. Yes, I think that is it. And it is a bold statement not a joke.

The Tables Are Turned: NCLB Results Are Out

This morning I saw the headline in the "New Haven Register" announcing that 290 schools in Connecticut have failed the No Child Left Behind standards based on the Connecticut Mastery Test scores. That paper listed results for New Haven county. I then rushed online to see the results for Fairfield County, to check the schools in my own town.

To the mother of a friend with over 30 years experience teaching in one elementary school who chided me about homeschooling being bad and ineffective and who stated outright that a parent untrained by college degree in education could never be competent to teach her own children...I see your school has failed in math and reading.

To my sister-in-law middle school math teacher, who has given me flack about homeschooling as never being able to measure up to the superior job that teachers in public schools can do....I see your school has failed in MATH and reading.

I am happy to see my hometown has passed. I am not sure how good the schools were back then but at least now they are passing.

I see the town in which I lived and paid property taxes in for 6 years has passed.

The town in which I presently live and pay property taxes to support and pay for the schools, has passed. Phew. That is good for two reasons, perhaps it will help our property value not be reduced in value and if my children ever do go there, at least they won't be entering failing schools.

The middle school in my husband's hometown has failed. That means that the middle school that my six nieces and nephews will attend is a now-failing school. Many, many relatives in my husband's family live in that town, pay taxes, and have questioned homeschooling's effectiveness, while touting how good they feel the schools in that town are. The same sister in law who works at a failing school in another town lives in this town with a failing school.

I read a bit about NCLB and how it is administered. I find it confusing and now see why in the past some school staff has complained that to figure out the rules and procedures, much staff time is used. There are certain categories which I don't understand such as "safe harbor" and "needs improvement". Each designation means a different thing will happen to that school.

One thing that I see is that the passing grades started low and increase each year. The passing test scores seem so low to me.

Passing Scores for 2006:
68% Reading
74% Math
70% Writing

Also 95% of students must take the test or the school automatically fails.

There is a quote by a principal in the New Haven Register that he feels that as the test standards get higher and higher that eventually 100% of schools will fail. Wow, how is that for a negative outlook?

I was surprised to see that in year one and two of failing, that a student has the right to change to a different school or to receive tutoring services. Private tutoring for every child can be costly ($75-80 per hour here). Suddenly having students changing schools can throw a monkey wrench into things such as space, teacher to student ratio, etc. Just thinking about it makes my head hurt.

I am trying not to be prideful but hearing that 290 schools in my state have failed to meet standards makes me happy that I am homeschooling, and happy that my children are performing above grade level in reading and math. If I am not careful the NCLB scores could make me want to push my children even harder, to achieve more, for their sake and to prove that homeschooling works. But that is not what homeschooling is about for me, it is NOT about me as the parent trying to be better than someone else (the school teacher).

Many people including every school teacher I know has had no problem stating that homeschoolers (including our family) should be accountable for their children's academic progress. Every teacher I know as a friend, relative or acquaintence has stated directly and plainly that they feel that MY homeschooled children should be tested with standardized tests and evaluated by the public school staff for my competency as a teacher and for my children's academic progress for the sake of the child, and if they "fail" they should be forced to go to public school.

I have also been practically accused by the public school teachers that I know of possibly doing my children harm by homeschooling them, that I would do best by them if I were to turn them over to the public schools. However these same teachers have complained to me about NCLB and stated that testing THEIR public schooled students is not right or fair, and that they don't feel it is right to be held accountable for their students performance.

I am trying very hard not to gloat or to revel in the failure of the schools, especially the ones that my friends and relatives work at, so I'll vent my feelings here on my blog rather than to them directly as I feel that would not be polite. Note that the teachers I know are outspoken with me on their negative opinions of me but I hold my tongue when I get a chance to say negative things to them (even when they are based on facts such as the NCLB standards and on test scores). But it is so hard!!

Friday, August 25, 2006

About Valerie’s Living Books: Book Seller & Helpful Website

Valerie Jacobsen is a homeschooling mother of ten children who operates a bookselling business. Here is the introduction from the Valerie’s Living Books website:

"Welcome to our family book store! We have new and used books, living books, rare books, and collectible books! Our homeschooling treasures are chosen with extra special care for highest quality content. Our book store also offers a variety of unique items for the discerning book collector. If you've been looking for a particular collectible or living book, just let me know! I am happy to make your wanted list my special project!"


I have ordered from Valerie’s Living Books in the past am a happy customer. Valerie’s Living Books sells new overstocks, here.

Used books are listed here.

Also the site has very helpful information about out of print books and books series, here.

Valerie’s site was recently reorganized and navigating between the three different sections of the site is very easy.

Valerie has an interesting article about book lists, here.

Bookmark this site as it is a unique reference for information about living books as well as a great source of used and new living books.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Idobooks Adds 175 Books to Inventory

I have ordered living books to use in our homeschooling from Idobooks in the past. Idobooks is a used book seller, a home-based business, and the owner is a homeschooling mother. The focus is on living books and out of print books. Here is a message that I received from Idobooks:

I have just updated the website at
www.idobooks.net with about 175 additional books. This is my August
update a little early. I will be gone the first week of September and
wanted to get the "rush" out of the way before leaving. I will not be
accessing email that first week of September.

There are additions in Biography, Younger (only 2), Christian, Classics, Fiction, paperback History and Piper, Living Science, Hillyer & Huey complete set, and Vintage.

Have fun browsing!
Diane
www.idobooks.net


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Keller Books 25% Off Sale

I received this message on an email chat list about living books. The site also has the same information, so this is not a private sale.

With great appreciation for your past purchases, we are offering our largest Sale ever due to our move with 25% off all items!

We specialize in Vintage Children's and Catholic Books for Homeschooling and Family Enrichment.

We carry Dick and Jane and other Readers, Landmarks, We Were There, Signature, Childhood of Famous Americans, North Star, Cornerstones of Freedom, Step-Ups, Beany Malone series, Happy Hollisters series, Trixie Belden series, Cherry Ames series,
Bobbsey Twins series, Three Investigators series, First and True Books and many, many more!

We carry TAN Books, Neumann Press, Ignatius Press, Bethlehem Books, Loreto Publications, Lepanto Press,
and Little Flowers Family Apostolates. We also have any Faith and Freedom Readers, Cathedral Readers, Vision Books, Dujarie Press, CREDO Books, American Background, Banner Books, Catholic Coloring Books, and other Catholic Textbooks.

You may find our website at:
http://www.kellerbooks.com

Again, we thank you for your past and future purchases
from our family business.

The Kellers

Please check out our website for the best in Vintage Children's Books!


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

A Few Thoughts on Blogs and Bloggers

I don’t take a lot of time to read other blogs. I have a hard time finding blogs that I want to visit regularly. I have a few favorites which inspire me and inform me.

Some of the (amateur) bloggers are quite good (or excellent) writers. As I read my local town newspaper and the city newspaper (while vesting relatives), I am struck at how poor the quality of writing is in the newspapers. I find spelling errors, poor grammar or just plain shallow or boring stories. I know of many bloggers who are better writers. Some bloggers go into more depth than newspaper reporters, acting more like investigative reporters than the professional journalists. I understand that journalists are not supposed to write their opinion but some of their writing is flat and boring, compared to bloggers who can write with more emotion and passion. Journalists are supposed to be non-biased but we all know that is not true. At least with bloggers we know their bias and can read their writings knowing exactly where they are coming from. I appreciate knowing the perspective and beliefs of a blogger, their biases are up front rather than hidden agendas which some (?all) journalists (or their employers) have.

I listened with interest today as yet again bloggers are uncovering problems with the media’s accuracy of reporting stories. Just a couple of weeks ago bloggers uncovered the fact that some photos were doctored by a journalist. Today on the news I heard of this story, about media's coverage of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon, about “the Red Cross Ambulance Incident”. After discussing this with my husband he said that Michelle Malkin blogged about it (here)and I read this in-depth story by Zombie “The Red Cross Ambulance Incident”.

It seems to me the bloggers are doing a better job than the professionals. Or in some cases some people are blogging independently and writing about important things.

I do realize that Michelle Malkin is a professional journalist. However, many amateur bloggers seem to be doing a great job.

In the homeschooling arena, there are homeschool parent bloggers whose writing is more interesting and helpful than some of the books published on the same subject. Some of the blogs are better than or equal to (print) homeschooling magazines which are only available by subscription. One barrier to publishing magazines is the cost of printing and paper which is offset by advertising costs. Blogging costs nothing but time and energy of the writer, and blogs are free to read.

Then again there are a lot of garbage blogs out there, drivel, boring writing filled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, for example.

I wonder how much more the blogosphere will continue to change or challenge, correct or clarify what is reported in the professional media outlets?

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

New Free Online Homeschooling Magazine and a Tween Magazine, Too.

I received this message via email from Teresa Lilly about her new, free online homeschooling magazine. I scanned the site briefly. You may submit articles, you may read the publication online for free, or you may pay to advertise in the magazine. Check it out if you are curious.

"I have been a homeschooler for 13 years. I am a certified teacher and a free lance writer. It has been a dream to offer homeschoolers a free magazine in which we can share ideas about fun activities, unit studies, products we like or don't like, and other issues that homeschoolers are interested in.

I am currently working on the first issue of The Highlights of Homeschooling.
Could you please pass the information on to your support group, coop or homeschool email list.

Again, the magazine will be free, and I will only send out one email a month to let the subscribers know that the new issue is ready. You can view without subscribing, but I can't contact you will the newest info without you signing up. I never sell list names.

I am also looking for articles for future issues, and we offer 1/4 page ads for homeschool businesses for $10.

The homeschooling magazine is called HS Highlights

We also write one for tweens called Tween Mag.
I appreciate your help in getting this information out to your group.

Thank you.

Teresa Lilly"


Technorati Tags: , , , .

Carlos Mencia Chimes In On Dumbing Down American Public Schools

This summer while watching a cable news channel I saw Carlos Mencia being interviewed. Some of you may laugh but I had no idea who he was when I first saw him. I learned he is a current popular/famous stand up comedian who has his own show on the Comedy Central cable TV channel. I don’t usually watch that channel and I had not been following the stand up comedy scene (since it was hot back when I was in my early 20s). I was then curious about the show.

Carlos Mencia’s TV show is called “Mind of Mencia”. I started watching it this summer. Thanks to TiVo I can easily watch the repeats of the past shows. While in Blockbuster I also saw that he has released some of his shows on DVD. The show is rated TV-14. Just in case you are wondering my children definitely don’t watch the show with me. I have the shows locked on the TiVo with a password so my children can’t watch them. This show has me yet again questioning the TV rating system but I will hold off on that discussion for now. I will just say that the show itself has a lot of sexually detailed content which I think would rank it as an M/MA rating. The fact that certain words of profanity are bleeped out doesn’t make the rest of the show appropriate for 14 year olds, in my opinion. I am not yet 40 but I can say that what is on TV now, such as this show, is of the type that was not even airing on HBO back when I was a teenager. Teens today, if they watch shows like this, will enter the world knowing a lot of ‘mature content’. (Let’s not mention if children younger than 14 end up watching the shows.)

Back to Dee Dee Dee’s…
One of Mencia’s main complaints is that Americans are getting more and more stupid. Those segments are my favorite. I cannot argue with this fact as I witness things almost daily that deserve a place on the ‘stupid’ list. Mencia calls stupid people “Dee Dee Dee’s” (I can’t do the inflection here but there is a special way to say it). When Mencia speaks of these “Dee Dee Dee’s” he is not speaking of mentally retarded people (his wording) nor is he speaking of any type of biologically ‘challenged’ person. Mencia refers to and makes jokes about people who are stupid either by their life experiences (public schools being dumbed down), having stupid parents who do things to teach their children to be stupid or shall I say not doing things to raise their children up from stupidity, people who learn by example and whose examples are doing stupid things or those who intentionally choose to do stupid acts which may further hinder their quality of life. Mencia also is on to the ‘victim mentality’ and attacks that as well.

On one of the recent Mind of Mencia shows he revealed a new theme song for “Dee Dee Dee’s” in a music video format. I was surprised at the number of references to American society’s lowering of standards to then influence or cause a person to be stupid, especially those that apply to public education. You can watch the video of the Dee Dee Dee Theme Song on the You Tube site, here. Note the background singers are student-aged children and that some scenes are shot in a school building, further reinforcing Mencia’s blaming of American schools. I did laugh at some of the references which I see in real life, such as the line about the kid who is no good at sports "so you give them all trophies" (in my town every child who participates in Little League gets a trophy).

Some say that Mencia can make everyone angry or offended, as at least one thing he says will tick someone off. The above video contains one or more references that you may not agree with, from the pro-spanking reference to the anti-Bush and Cheney references to the racial references. I will share that in his interview Mencia stated he doesn’t feel he is racist as he makes jokes about every race, as well as making fun of every religion and basically everyone out there.

I think Mencia can be brutal and harsh at times and at others he seems right on the money! I obviously don't agree with everything he says.

I also watch the show to get an idea of what mainstream America thinks is great entertainment. As you can see I don’t live in a complete bubble. I think it is a good idea to know a bit about what the popular culture is watching and doing.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Clean Films Movie Sale

Clean Films has over 1000 DVD movies for sale, some for $5.99, through August 31, 2006 The company goes out of business at midnight on August 31, 2006, so if you want to buy some movies from them, do it before they are out of business.

To see what movies are left in their inventory, go here.

Happy Shopping.

Clean Films Is Closing

I received this announcement on July 26, 2006. Now that I feel better I feel well enough to take the time to blog about it.

I used to be a member of Clean Films. My husband and I did wonder about the legality of the enterprise even though the company explained how and why they felt they were operating within the letter of the law. Clean Films offered a few different services, which I’ll tell you about in case you don’t know what or who they are.

Clean Films was an Internet based DVD renting company. Their main thing was to edit out certain content of movies so that some families would choose to watch it, in the edited format (similar to the movies shown on airplane flights). For example they may take out a flash or glimpse of nudity or they may remove a word of profanity. There are some films that are overall alright but contain a few things here and there that some parents take offense to. Clean Films would lend out copies of those edited movies.

Clean Films also sold edited versions of the movies.

Clean Films also rented out and sold G or PG rated movies which were not edited/were kept in their original format.

Here is the copy of the letter I received:

"Dear Customer:
It is with great regret that we write to inform you that Clean Films is going out of business soon. As you may have heard or read, after three long years of legal struggles, a judge in Colorado has ruled that we cannot sell or rent edited DVDs anymore. While we thought very strongly about appealing the decision, the potential costs and risks to the company, its customers and shareholders was just too great. Accordingly, we have agreed to close our doors after a brief winding-up period.
Under this agreement, we will only be able to honor our rental agreements with you through August 31, 2006. We will also be able to sell you edited DVDs during this time period. In other words, it will be pretty much business as usual during this time frame, with the exception that we cannot edit any new releases or burn any new edited DVDs, so we are limited to our existing inventory.

As we will continue renting edited DVDs only through August 31, 2006, you will be required to return any and all rented DVDs in your possession to us, postmarked for return no later than September 7, 2006. You can of course keep any edited DVDs you purchased from our company before the end of August 2006; however, you should be aware that in light of the judge’s decision, you could be potentially liable for copyright infringement if you duplicate, or sell your copies of these DVDs .

We want to offer our sincerest apologies for not being able to provide you with edited DVDs after August 31. We appreciate your support of our efforts to provide high-quality, family-friendly movies, and we will try to make this difficult process of closing our operations as painless as we can for all our loyal customers.
Warmest Regards,

Ken Roberts, CEO
CleanFilms, Inc."


Well I guess that my husband and I were right about doubting the legality of their enterprise.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Book Review: Homes Schooling From Scratch

Title: Home Schooling From Scratch: Simple Living - Simple Learning
Author: Mary Pottter Kenyon
Publisher: Gazelle Publications
Publication Date: 1996
ISBN: 0930192354
Retail price: $10.00


I first heard of Mary Potter Kenyon when I bought a “lot” of books from her on eBay, about how to homeschool children, way back in 1999. When the books arrived, there was a mention of her family’s used book store on some papers with the books.

Later, I recognized her name as the author of some magazine articles in Home Education magazine. I read that she had written a book “Home Schooling From Scratch” and I was curious about it and wanted to read it. I had not come across a copy though, until this month, when I saw it listed on PaperBackSwap, and so I ordered it.



When”Home Schooling From Scratch” arrived this week, I decided to read it right away. It is a slim volume and an easy read, and I finished it in one sitting.

Published in 1996, this short book outlines many ways that families can save money and obtain materials for homeschooling. It includes general tips for frugal living as well. Due to the year of publication this book is lacking many of the wonderful Internet based services which actually surpass the depth and breadth of information in this book. Here are some examples of ways that the Internet can help you:

Kenyon speaks of the homeschooling parent getting a pen pal for homeschooling support, now it would be Internet Discussion Groups or Website Based Chat or Bulletin Boards for most people, rather than snail mail pen pals.

Kenyon mentions book of the month clubs for discount books, now we have PaperBackSwap, eBay, Half.com, and the big name online book discounters.

Home based businesses are discussed but that could now be expanded to keeping a homeschooling website or blog and using the many different advertising programs or affiliate programs for generating income from those sites.

Kenyon mentions opening what seemed to be a brick and mortar used book store. Today this could be an Internet based bookstore, an eBay store, running eBay auctions, or using Internet chat lists to sell books.

The best suggestion I can give that this book lacks is Freecycle.org--rather than picking the trash as she mentions briefly, one can get (and give away) many things from local Freecyclers.

There is a chapter on low-cost educational activities. One example is to play games that reinforce certain skills, such as playing Scrabble. By this point in time, many more ideas have been documented and are free for reading on websites, or are compiled in books such as The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas by Linda Dobson. Internet chat lists also are places to ask a question that you need an answer to right now, and to get immediate ideas from many homeschooling parents.

There is a short chapter on where to get support which is quite negative about local support groups. The page on Internet based support is very out of date and is no longer applicable. This section is greatly lacking ideas of where free Internet support can be found, and of the different methods. I will list them: bulletin boards which you visit to read when you want to, email discussion groups where all the emails come to your email inbox (some allow you to read each message on the web instead), reading blogs and websites loaded with information and support, written by homeschooling parents, published authors of homeschooling books and sites of homeschool support groups.

A chapter on homeschooling books is obviously out of date, now listing the older titles, some of which are now classics and others which have been replaced by better or more up to date books.

Since this book was published more books on frugal living in general have been published which give much more information on that general topic.

I enjoyed reading this book. However, since I have already read some of the other books on the market and especially since I have been active in homeschool support groups, have networked locally and via the Internet with many homeschoolers, I have heard all of this information before. I also note that free Internet sites and free Internet discussion groups are far more detailed and comprehensive than this book is on each topic. For example one could join an email discussion group about how using real books (living books) and how to find good living books at good prices. One can read sites about how to save money on groceries and other general topics. One can use the Internet to find homeschooling books, curriculum, activity kids, science experiment kits, supplies and materials, etc. either new and discounted or used and at bargain prices.

The most enjoyable part of reading this book was that it was clear that it was written by a person who loves her family and loves homeschooling, and that the way she writes makes it clear that she is a happy, warm, and sincere person. The book is easy to read, is written well, and flows well from one topic to the next.

If you are new to homeschooling this book may be a perfect place to start. If you enjoy reading about frugal living and frugal homeschooling then you will enjoy this book.

I would love it if Kenyon would update this book with more current information about the Internet and if she would expand each chapter to be more comprehensive.

This is a reader not a keeper for me and I have listed it on PaperBackSwap and already it has been ordered, so today I will be shipping it out to the next person who will benefit from reading it!



Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Friday, August 18, 2006

Listened to Great Homeschool Conference Lecture by Bob Farewell

I listened to a great homeschool conference lecture on tape. I purchased this used at the MassHope Used Curriculum sale in 2006. The tape was recorded in 1998 by Conference Taping Inc. The title of the session was “How to RE-CHARGE Your Home School” and the speaker was Bob Farewell.

I had never heard Bob Farewell speak before and I didn’t know who he was. On the tape he said he had a business selling books to homeschoolers. I had to Google his name to find out he is the owner of Lifetime Books, a company I have heard of and whose catalog I have received once in the past. Here is a link to read more about their family if you are curious about them.

The lecture was about how using regular homeschooling curriculum made their own homeschool boring and tedious. Their homeschool was recharged by infusing real, living books into their studies. He spoke of how their family started off very school-ish with him as Principal and with their children at little antique desks and everything. Things changed when his wife began reading the Little House series to their children and he overheard the read aloud and he was hooked on the power of living books, of how exciting they are and of how much can be learned just by hearing a story read aloud. Farewell also then joined in as a reader of books to the family, and loved it. (Note living books don’t just teach facts and information but they also teach about people and about character (non-academic important stuff like that). Through hearing the experiences of others we can extract wonderful things.

The major lesson of this lecture was to use real, living books in our homeschools.

There was also a story of how attending a Civil War Reenactment brought history to life for Bob. Eventually the whole family got involved in reenactments.

I enjoyed the lecture very much and it reinforced that using living books rather than textbooks or teacher lecture style curriculum is seen as a great thing by other, more experienced homeschoolers than me! I love using living books and can’t get enough of hearing how much other families learn and appreciate them.

And I laughed out loud when Farewell stated that the one piece of equipment one needs to homeschool is a couch for sitting in to listen to books being read aloud!

I believe the Farewell family has been doing the homeschool conference circuit for years. If you get a chance to hear them speak, take it.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Interesting Article About How A Person Can Learn To Be An Expert

I found this interesting six page article published on the Scientific American site about what scientists learned from studying chess masters and their learning process. That information informs us about learning in general (and teaching, and of the debate of inborn talent versus learned skill).

Online article
Article Title The Expert Mind

Publication: Scientific American

Publication Date: July 24, 2006

Article Author: Philip E. Ross

This is a long article about learning and the brain, and about in-born talent vs. learned skill. This article may be of interest to scientists, doctors, teachers, homeschooling parents, day care workers, day care owners, grandparents and parents.

This article discusses what was learned in a study about chess experts and learning.

Here are some passages that I found very interesting.

"Another reason why cognitive scientists chose chess as their model--and not billiards, say, or bridge--is the game's reputation as, in German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's words, "the touchstone of the intellect." The feats of chess masters have long been ascribed to nearly magical mental powers. This magic shines brightest in the so-called blindfold games in which the players are not allowed to see the board."


"Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence."


Regarding the above: I remember at a local Classical method homeschool support group meeting (in February 2003, I believe), the support group leader (D.) was telling me of the importance of children being taught and challenged and being repeatedly challenged to do a difficult task as important to experience, vs. the notion to ‘not challenge’ children to learn something that doesn’t come easily. Specifically, I was stating that my older son, then aged 5.5 was not finding learning to read easy. I was debating yet again shelving the phonics curriculum. I was being urged to continue, with very short lessons, perhaps 5-10 minutes in duration, to do these short lessons daily, to plug along and make slow but sure progress.

What that leader was saying is that it is important that a child keep trying, even to get frustrated a bit, then to finally learn it and master that thing. She thought that it is good for a child to experience the ongoing challenge, metered out bit by bit. When the task is mastered, they can be proud of their accomplishment when they realize that it did take hard work but it paid off in the end when the big goal is attained (reading, playing guitar, etc.).

That goes along with the notion that some people hold, some homschoolers also, that learning should always being made to be fun and games--- the point is that ‘fun and games’ may not always a good idea. At the time I thought perhaps it was cruel to force a child to do something that was hard and I was torn about my feelings with how to proceed. I decided to keep plugging away at teaching reading, just 5-10 minutes a day, which I reasoned could not be considered torturous for my child, especially since the entire rest of his day was free play time fun and games.

In the end I found myself agreeing with D., back then, and now it is over three years later and I still agree with what D. said. And so it seems some scientists are on the same wavelength. Bravo, D., it seems you were right! (There are many things in life and in my children’s day that are fun and games but some of their homeschooling lessons may be challenging or not fun, but it is not busywork, it is meaningful work with a real purpose.) And note that D.’s maternal instinct about children and learning and about how to homeschool them is now being supported by scientists!

And homeschooling is mentioned (which was a surprise to me) with an important point

"Although nobody has yet been able to predict who will become a great expert in any field, a notable experiment has shown the possibility of deliberately creating one. László Polgár, an educator in Hungary, homeschooled his three daughters in chess, assigning as much as six hours of work a day, producing one international master and two grandmasters--the strongest chess-playing siblings in history. The youngest Polgár, 30-year-old Judit, is now ranked 14th in the world.

The Polgár experiment proved two things: that grandmasters can be reared and that women can be grandmasters. It is no coincidence that the incidence of chess prodigies multiplied after László Polgár published a book on chess education. The number of musical prodigies underwent a similar increase after Mozart's father did the equivalent two centuries earlier.

Furthermore, success builds on success, because each accomplishment can strengthen a child's motivation"


That last quote furter underscores what the wise homeschool support group leader told me in 2003.

"Teachers in sports, music and other fields tend to believe that talent matters and that they know it when they see it. In fact, they appear to be confusing ability with precocity. There is usually no way to tell, from a recital alone, whether a young violinist's extraordinary performance stems from innate ability or from years of Suzuki-style training."


And the last paragraph sums it up well.

"The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born. What is more, the demonstrated ability to turn a child q uickly into an expert--in chess, music and a host of other subjects--sets a clear challenge before the schools. Can educators find ways to encourage students to engage in the kind of effortful study that will improve their reading and math skills? Roland G. Fryer, Jr., an economist at Harvard University, has experimented with offering monetary rewards to motivate students in underperforming schools in New York City and Dallas. In one ongoing program in New York, for example, teachers test the students every three weeks and award small amounts--on the order of $10 or $20--to those who score well. The early results have been promising. Instead of perpetually pondering the question, "Why can't Johnny read?" perhaps educators should ask, "Why should there be anything in the world he can't learn to do?" "


To those who wonder how children can know so much so as to complete in a spelling bee or a geography bee, they study and they learn little by little, with persistance, over time.

I recall a Dr. Phil show where a mother of a two year old proclaimed her son was gifted becuase he knew the names of the 50 United States. Come to find out, she had practiced with him, using a wooden jigsaw puzzle for young children, showing the shape of the state and telling the name, over and over and over, helping him put the puzzle together. I felt immediately that the child had memorized the names and shapes of the states, by sight, repeating the name, and by touching the state's shape, hey, that hits the three learning methods (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic!). The mother was convinced her child was gifted. I thought the child was just succeeding at learning what she had taught him. After all, the two year old probably has no concept of the Earth, geography, what a country is, what the United States is, and what the definition of a 'state' is, intellectually, let alone grasping that he is a person, just one person on this planet who lives in a certain place that has a name--that to me indicates a higher intelligence level for a two year old. Dr. Phil's response was to back off and that some children just learn some things earlier than others. The reality is that all two year old's are capable of learning things, they learn what they are exposed to, and if you repeatedly show and tell them the names of the 50 states they will memorize their names, while Johnny and Jane that live down the street memorize the names of all the cartoon characters they sees on TV.

I am happy to read the message of this article. It underscores what I already believe about learning. Children can and do learn, if they are given both the opporunity and the challenge. I also learned something new, that talent is not necessarily just inborn or 'in the genes'.

Children learn what they see and experience, they easily learn what they are exposed to and will rise to a challenge if given the opportunity and gentle support to continue working and learning even if it is challenging for them at times.

Perhaps that is the secret to why homeschooling works---we homeschoooling parents set goals, create an atmosphere rich in learning experiences, we get excited about learning, we immerse ourselves in what we are doing, and we teach our children to persevere when the going gets tough, to not give up, to keep trying, and we have mastery as our goal (we keep working at things until they are mastered rather than stopping the lesson at a certin time or date and moving on to the next assignment).

Does anyone else find this article interesting?

I found this article on my first visit to Reddit.com.
(Hat tip to Why Homeschool for enlightening me about Reddit.com in
this blog post "Promoting Your Blog".

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , .

My Thoughts and Some Information About Junior First LEGO League

In the United States, this year (fall 2006) there is a Junior First LEGO League (JFLL). This competition is open to children aged 6-9. Registration is open now and closes on September 29, 2006. The official announcement of what the challenge is will be made on September 15, 2006. This year’s competition is called Nano Quest.

Each team for the JFLL can have a maximum of 6 team members guided by one adult mentor.

The project is a scaled down model of the challenge that is being done this same year by the "First LEGO League" (which is for ages 9-14). The below quotes are from this page of the JFLL site.

"Using an open-ended LEGO building set, they will design a model depicting an
aspect of this year’s "Nano Quest" Challenge. Children will spend approximately
one month exploring, investigating, designing and building a model made with
LEGO bricks. In conjunction, teams create a "Show Me" poster that depicts the
teams’ experience during this process, through drawings and words."


Teams will show their project in various ways, either to friends, at local events or at an official JFLL Expo.

"JFLL introduces children to the concepts of teamwork and basic design skills, creating an initial interest and hands-on approach to science and technology through the familiarity and fun of LEGO building. The goal: provide an experience that will begin to transform youngsters and open their eyes to the possibilities of improving the world around them through acknowledgement, thought, planning and technology."

The team requires the use of certain LEGO components. The base kit is $90. There are optional additional LEGOs sold at a discount price which can be purchased if desired ($22 and $10). If your team attends an official JFLL Expo there is an additional participation fee that must be paid.

Anyone can do this, any child, schooled or homeschooled, as long as they are 6-9 years old.

After much discussion with other parents, and input from families who participated in the team for the older children aged 9-14 last year, I have decided for this year to have my 9 year old participate in the younger group (JFLL) for this one year then to move to the more complicated, more difficult and more competitive team next year, if he is interested. I am not interested in pushing my children too early into program such as this for competition’s sake.

One important factor for me to consider is age-appropriateness. I have heard that the regular LEGO League for ages 9-14 can be challenging for a 9 year old, and the age span of 9-14 is pretty wide, in my opinion, with very different maturity levels, different cognitive abilities, various mathematical ranges and communication skills varying quite widely in those six years!

As well I am not discounting the issue of scheduling; it will be much easier on all of us if both boys are on one team rather than having two boys on two different teams with two meetings at two different times. Our JFLL team will be comprised of homeschooled children.

What is JFLL? webpage

JFLL Expo Dates

JFLL Registration Page

Material Kits for JFLL

In case you are interested in learning about the more complicated competition for children aged 9-14 which is called the First LEGO League, go here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Busy Booking Our Fall Homeschooling Schedule

This week with a clear head and a well-feeling body I am able to think about homeschooling plans for the fall. My number one priority this week is making decisions about which paid classes, sports, and homeschooling co-op’s we will participate in.

I keep repeating to myself to keep it simple, keep it light. However, it is amazing how quickly the schedule is filling up. I am trying to keep my priorities in mind while making these commitments. The priority list includes socialization/play time with friends.

I am waiting to hear from the Audubon Center about what the age range for the homeschooling nature class will be this fall. I am unsure if this year it will include 6 year old’s or not. The class will definitely include 9 year old’s, so my older son will definitely be participating. This is the class that we take with our favorite teacher, which is 95% field based. The class explores various habitats and does hands on exploration and observation of nature. This Audubon Center is blessed with these habitats: hardwood forest, river, stream, vernal pool, lawn with gardens, and meadow. This will be our third year in this program.

A Chess Strategy class for homeschoolers which both of my children took last year might be re-offered again this year. The class is taught by a 14 year old homeschooled boy who is very good at chess. Last year it was held at a community center and was followed by an open play time for homeschoolers in this old school’s gymnasium and there are two classrooms filled with tables for playing board games or just sitting and talking. At this point I don’t have that booked into the schedule.

For the first time this year my older son will take an all day wilderness class at a 900 acre wilderness area. The program is directed by a man who was homeschooled all his life. This is a six hour long class and is on a weekday, and is designed for homeschoolers. I have coordinated with two other families who we are friends with. One of my main goals is just to have my older son have a full day of social time with these four other friends. I am waiting to hear if one other boy will join us; it would be great if he did. Due to the commute time of one hour each direction I have coordinated a carpool with one of the families. This will take up one entire day, we’ll probably have to leave at 7:30am and my son will arrive back home at about 4:30pm. There is a class for younger children that my younger son could take but it is on a different day, which would mean that our schedule for two days each week would be dictated by that class, and since we don’t know anyone there he is leery of being left alone for an all day class with strangers. I don’t think it is necessary for him. I have decided and after discussion he has agreed that the one day a week that my older son is in that class, I will have special ‘alone time’ with my younger son. This will be good for our relationship in general, I think, and it will give me time to also give him some individualized homeschooling lessons that are age-appropriate. Too often my younger son is tagged along on lessons for his older brother (by his choice).

As I have shared in the past, our family has changed Cub Scout Packs. I will be a Tiger Den Leader. My husband will be a Webelos I Den Leader. This week we are both making connections with our co-leaders, who we do not know. We have begun reading the handbooks for these ranks and we are both thinking about how we will organize the meetings and what we will work on each time. I am thrilled to be with a Pack that has a standing schedule of a once per week meeting, with all Dens meeting at the same time and place every single week.

A friend is organizing a First LEGO League team and has invited us to participate. I have been talking with different families since May about whether their children will participate and if so, on which league. This year LEGO is offering two levels, one for ages 6-9 and the other for children aged 9-14. The big debate is whether our 9 year old’s should go with a younger team this year or start off with the older team. Trying to find a team which is not too far a distance to drive as well as working with others that we get along with (and who our children get along with) is another challenge. I have not finished discussions about this yet.

Another homeschooling family has asked us if we will participate in a non-competitive LEGO activity, exploring the use of LEGO for educational or beginner robotics operations one or two evenings a month in their home, with the fathers running the sessions. I have spent time this week reading the LEGO Educator’s catalog, emailing and speaking to a LEGO representative to help me decipher this massive catalog and to find the best materials for our goals. Perhaps I’ll blog about my findings on another day.

I penciled in the weekly park day for homeschoolers which is less than a ten minute drive from our house. This park day has been an important source of socialization for my children as they are playing with 10-20 or more other children all at the same time. I do acknowledge the different and unique aspects of socializing in a group, with a group dynamic and being child-led, and this forum satisfies that. Last year went very well with the boys organizing detailed team games that included light sabre play. Girls are invited to play if they wish but some decline. I appreciate that time as well, as it allows me 2-4 hours of social time for me to talk with other mothers; not only are friendships made and sustained but homeschooling support and information is shared. With an average of 3 hours a week of this type of support, many of us don’t feel the need to attend a night adults-only homeschool support group meeting.

I am also trying to pick a new night to hold my Charlotte Mason Study Group meeting, it is a once a month night meeting for adults only. I am taking a poll of the attendees about which night is best; so far it is 50/50 between two nights. I’ve been sending and reading emails about that.

There are more things on the horizon (swimming lessons, pottery class, museum trips with other homeschoolers) but so far that is what I am seriously considering or have committed to. It is getting to the point now that I probably should cut it off and stop looking around. Each day new emails come in announcing new, tempting things to do but I think it is time to ‘close the books’ on finding new things to do.

Next up in the planning process is:


1. Making academic goals for both children for the school year.


2. Looking over the various book and curriculum I have and deciding what we will start the year off with and which things we will leave on the shelf.

In the middle of this I continue to log recently purchased used books into my book database in Excel (I’m at 5535 now). I continue to swap books on PaperBackSwap.com. I continue to comb my shelves to find books to get rid of by various channels. I continue to sort my books and put them away, and to haul out of closets, books that we’ll use this year. I continue to declutter toys and other children’s items and to list them on Freecycle (a package sits at my front door as I write this, with someone expect to arrive momentarily).

So that is what I am doing this week.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 33 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 33 was published on August 15, 2006, at The Common Room, here.

I have an entry in the Carnival this week.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 32 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 32 was published on August 8, 2006 by Sprittibee.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Our Family’s Lyme Disease Update

Some of you have asked how our family is doing with our battle with Lyme Disease and another tick borne illness, Ehrlichiosis.

My two sons both tested positive for Lyme Disease and one had Ehrlichiosis as well. I tested negative for Lyme but did have many symptoms, more than my sons did, actually, and I was the last to be treated (as I was in denial about it in the beginning when I was busy getting them treated and diagnosed). We all had fevers within eight days and the doctors feel that is the indication that our Lyme Disease was in the very early stage. (The specialist says I definitely did have Lyme Disease and my test was a false-negative due to the early date that my blood was drawn.)

My children were treated with the CDC recommended treatment for Lyme by their Pediatrician. I was treated at a walk-in center with the CDC recommended protocol.

I read one book, many websites, magazine articles, joined a couple of Lyme Internet Discussion Groups, and learned of the various controversies with Lyme. I purchased two more books (which were unavailable in libraries), but I am holding off on reading them for the sake of my sanity, for now.

All three of us have finished our medication.

My sons seem completely back to normal now.

I had a relapse after my medications finished. I am worried that I didn’t get enough medication or that the infection is still active.

Earlier this week we sought the treatment of a “Lyme literate Medical Doctor” who holds an important position on a hospital staff, and is an Infectious Disease specialist. This doctor feels that we all got the right treatment and that no more treatment is indicated at this time, and that we caught the infections very early.

I have been told over and over that it is very important to catch Lyme Disease early, as early as possible, and some are surprised that I was so astute about the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease. The truth is that if it were not for me having worked in the medical field here in Connecticut back when Lyme was first hitting the media and public awareness campaign was first happening, I may not know as much as I do. Also, however, in the years since then, my own self-education about health matters and wellness furthered my knowledge base about Lyme. I encourage every person to become more aware of Lyme symptoms now so that you can be prepare when/if you or someone you know begins showing signs.

So right now I am feeling back to my normal self. I am so grateful for feeling well. I hope this continues. I am trying to get my life back to normal yet am trying to be mindful of not overtaxing myself. I am trying to remain positive in my attitude that I am healed from this Lyme Disease, but I am still a bit wary in the back of my mind, I guess I have heard too many real life horror stories about what has happened to some people as a result of not getting a proper diagnosis or not getting the treatment that was needed.

The specialist has warned me that if I don’t get enough sleep, or if I am stressed out or physically overtaxed, that I will relapse with Lyme symptoms. I am not happy to hear that.

For now I am choosing to believe what this specialist is saying rather than scheduling appointments with some of the other doctors in my area who are doing much more aggressive treatment with antibiotics (2, 3, 4, or more months of oral antibiotics or using all i.v. antibiotics for many months or years). I just hope we are doing the right thing.

And by the way it was made very clear to me that if we had not caught the Lyme Disease very early we definitely would have needed many months of antibiotic treatment and our symptoms could have been worse and perhaps longer lasting/chronic.

My heart goes out to those who are suffering with chronic Lyme Disease symptoms, those who didn’t get early treatment and those who are suffering with permanent disability (either due to their own ignorance or due to their doctor not being “Lyme literate”). I feel badly for those whose lives have been altered and very negatively affected by Lyme Disease. I hope that the research continues, that more health care professionals become informed about Lyme, and that all people take some time to educate themselves about Lyme Disease so you can identify it early.

Lyme Disease is being found across the country, not just in Connecticut or in the Northeast. I have read that pets on airplane flights can spread infected deer ticks. I have heard that people living in bird migration flight areas are becoming infected. Lyme seems to be on the move and is not just in America, but in Europe also (and probably other places). So don’t think you are immune just by virtue of living in some other area of the United States than Connecticut (which is where Lyme Disease was first discovered).

Thank you to all my relatives, friends and blog readers who have prayed for our health.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Boys and Hand Holding

My husband came to me the other day and asked to have a discussion with me.

I had no idea what this could be about as he seemed so serious.

I laughed when he told me his concern; I couldn’t help it because I was bracing myself for something more serious or problematic. With all the very serious things happening in our lives, to have a discussion about this paled in comparison in the ‘serious’ department.

My husband explained that earlier that day, when they arrived at a big Cub Scout event, upon exiting his car, my older son grasped my husband’s hand as they walked through the parking lot.

We have always had a family rule that in parking lots, children must hold hands with the parent. However when my older son was eight years old, I began slacking off from this so long as he was right beside me or right behind me. One of my hands is already being used with my younger son, and frankly it is easier to walk two abreast then three, especially as my children grow larger. I now trust my older son to be alert enough to walk without holding my hand through parking lots (when I am close by). My main issue with parking lot safety is not my children’s incompetence but the incompetence of adult drivers (or the issues with the cars they drive.)

Here are my main issues with parking lot safety are this:
1. Some drivers often don’t even look when backing their cars out of parking spots.
2. Drivers of minivans and SUVs often can’t see short children even if they do look behind them while backing out.
3. My children are sometimes looking at other things or staring at the ground while walking and not paying attention to what drivers of cars are supposed to be doing. Sometimes they daydream while walking.
4. Some drivers exceed 15, 20 or 25 miles per hour in parking lots (if you can believe it)!

So my husband said that while they were walking at the Cub Scout Camp, there was a large group of older boys standing together looking at them. My husband then got worried that our son, who just turned nine years old, may be made fun of by others for holding his fathers hand (being babyish). My husband asked if we should have a discussion with our son and tell him he is too old to hold our hands any longer.

Note that with this son, he could care less if anyone laughs at him; he really cares little what others think of him.

The second thing was that my husband said that during the day my son and his best friend were holding hands a lot while they walked around the Scout Camp. My son questioned if they would be made fun of by the other boys for showing affection toward another boy.

My husband was visably worried and he said he just didn’t know what to do about it!

I was not worried at all.

My response was first that in the Day Camp that we attended earlier this month I noted that many different Cub Scout boys were holding hands with their assigned buddies, new friends, or already-established friends. I saw this across various ages of boys. I feel this is about friendship and has nothing to do with homosexuality!

The following day we were in a parking lot. I was walking beside my older son while my husband was walking with our older son. I was not holding my older son’s hand but he reached for it to hold it. I simply said to him that he is big enough now to walk in a parking lot without holding my hand. He grabbed my hand and said that he likes to hold my hand.

My children are raised with the attachment parenting style. I have been affectionate and verbally emotionally expressive with my children all of their lives, much more so than what I experienced in my family when I was growing up.

I do not know if this closeness and comfort with cuddling and hugging, for example, has anything to do with homeschooling. I do know that his friends have not had discussions that it is babyish to hold hands with a parent, for example. I do suspect that talk of that sort does go on with schooled children, especially perhaps on the school bus, especially now when the parent is mandated to be present for pick up and drop off of the elementary and middle school aged students (according to school rules in our town).

I remember one homeschooling friend of mine saying that her son said she should not display affection (hugging, kissing, holding hands or saying “I love you” in public, and that started when he turned eight.

Some ways that my older son is affectionate around others, such as family, friends, around his friends and also in public is that he sometimes approaches me or my husband to give us a big hug and tell us that he loves us. He sometimes still asks to sit on our lap and he holds our hands (again, at his initiation).

I don’t know what the norm is but I have a boy on my hands who isn’t yet ready to not show affection in front of others and I have decided to not push him away. I figure that some day on his own he will decide that he no longer wants to do certain things like that in front of others and that will be fine with me and my husband.

I probably should go check to see what the parenting experts have to say about this topic, just for comparison and to satisfy my curiosity!

I’d love to hear what other parents have to say on this topic. I wonder if there is a difference here with homeschooled vs. schooled children, or with attachment parented children and non-attachment parented children.

Technorati Tags: , , , .