Friday, August 31, 2007

Threats Made to Bloggers, Lawsuit Threats, Freedom of Speech and Blogging

Today I received a comment on my blog on this post which was published in October 2006, from someone with a Blogger profile name “bbil714.” The comment included a statement that he forwared an old blog post I wrote about a year ago to an attorney in hopes the attorney adds me to the list of those being sued in a civil suit.

I don't think that putting links to news articles which are published on the web is violating any law or anyone's rights. In fact, I wonder if bbil714 is at all familiar with the first ammendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Certainly news topics that are covered by professional journalists working for media outlets (newspapers, websites, etc.) report their information to the public, that is their job. How my blogging on the topic and linking through to the news stories, and sometimes including verbatim quotes from those articles, and making it clear that I am quoting X article is not a violation of any American law that I know of.

My own opinion on broad topics is my own opinion and I have the freedom of speech to protect me.

I can write on my blog on my opinions on general topics such as child abuse, education, homeschooling, parenting methods, et cetera. Blogging on general topics is not a violation of any American law that I know of.

Here is a copy of the comment that was left on my blog today by

bbil714 said...

"I have forwarded your "blog" to the Jameses attorney.
Hopefully you will be added to their civil suit for your continued UNFOUNDED lies about an INNOCENT man who was murdered. Good luck."

Hits To My Blog Are Up Today On Topic Of Jonathon Edington And I Wondered Why

The last time I blogged about the Jonathon Edington news story was in October 2006. The story was of interest to me because it took place in the same county that I live in and also because it involved an allegation of child sexual abuse.

Today after receiving what I perceive to be a threatening comment which someone left on my blog, to an October 2006 blog post that I published, I noticed that hits to the old blog posts I did nearly a year ago are up today, out of the blue, and I wondered why.

A quick check on Google News revealed to me that today Jonathon Edington was in court to receive his sentencing.

If you want to read the news stories just go to Google News and a lot of stories will come up, the most recent stories will appear there for you to browse.

Note to Internet users, you will get more access to professional news stories by using the Google News search not the general Google Internet search. If you seek to read professional media reports, again, I will point you to use Google News. If you want to read amateur’s blog posts, you will find those on Google’s regular Internet search engine.

I think that because my October 2006 post title was “Update on Jonathon Edington Case”, people are reading that—when in reality---as the date states---that is an old blog post from October 2006 and it won’t be of much use to you if you want the most current update on the case including the sentencing information. I just updated the title of that old blog post to add the date so hopefully anyone looking for the latest news will not waste their time.

Also I just realized that in some of my old blog posts I had misspelled the first name of Edington. Perhaps other people who misspell his name on Internet searches were finding my blog posts instead of the many other online references to this news story. Note his first name is spelled Jonathon not Jonathan (Edington).

Here is a link to a news story which was published three hours ago, by the Associated Press, an article written by Dave Collins, titled “Lawyer Gets 12 Years for Killing Suspect” if you want more information this is a good starting place.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g9mNudIwfNtxNZp5SGEKfKtMG1PQ

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Getting Ready To Start Using A New Writing Curriculum

One thing I am doing today is making final preparations to begin using “Institute for Excellence in Writing” (IEW) curriculum. This is a writing composition curriculum written for homeschooling parents to use.

The company has a basic theory of how to teach writing. They then sell different packages of student materials, one for elementary grades, one for middle school, and one for high school. In other words the overall program and theory is the same thing but how fast the students work through the materials and what base reading materials they use to do their writing composition from will change depending on the student’s age/grade and ability. The other exception is that the high school students learn a couple of more writing skills than elementary grade students do which are age/grade appropriate.

I am planning to begin using IEW with both of my children in September when we resume our homeschooling lessons.

The parent has two options for how to teach this. One is to buy the teacher materials and then to teach the student the lessons, the teacher is teaching the student. The other method is, in addition to buying the teachers manuals, to also buy the optional student DVD lessons which are video recordings of Andrew Pudewa where he is literally the teacher, teaching a class of students. I did buy this set of DVDs. The child can watch the lessons alone and work alone or the parent/teacher can watch the lessons with the child and help the child along in their writing work.

I will admit that I am a bit nervous about beginning this, just because I haven’t started using it yet. This morning I didn’t quite get the gist of how to use their student DVD lessons compared with my own teacher’s materials. So this afternoon I have begun watching the student lessons on DVD. So now I not as nervous as I was this morning.

I really think this different way of teaching writing composition to children will work very well for my children. Specifically, I think it will appeal to my older son’s learning style and the way he thinks.

Since I am going to be teaching my older son with this curriculum, I think I will also teach it to my younger son and see how he does with it. I don’t expect my three-years-younger son to work along at the same level but I figure since he likes to be a part of what else is going on at the moment, he can join in. If he learns from this, then that is great. If he struggles, I’ll not push him as my goals for his writing composition for second grade are not the same as for his fifth-grade older brother.

One of my blog readers once posted that there is a Yahoo Group! for homeschooling parents who use IEW and want to chat or ask questions of other IEW users. I have not joined that group but I wanted to mention this in case you are thinking of using IEW or if you already use IEW and want to discuss using IEW with others.

A friend of mine (K.) suggested I look into this program. She also said that this curriculum is recommended in “The Well Trained Mind” which I had failed to recall. Before buying this I attended a vendor workshop lecture at a homeschooling convention to learn more about the program.

IEW has a 100% money-back guarantee. At any point in the future if I decide this is not right for our family I can get a full refund. The offer was too good to resist and so I bought it.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Think Who We Are Is What We Do and Think, Not What We Consume

Of course companies who make products want to sell us things so they can earn a profit. I know that and understand that.

Although I try to ignore advertising, sometimes it catches my eye, and sometimes I find advertising interesting, sometimes when they are so blatant with their effort to try to tell me “I am what I consume”.

Here is an ad which came with my Harry Potter book order from Amazon, back in July on the first day of publication. The ad caught my eye due to the cool art which shows a manipulated photograph of a guy completely enveloped by transparent items, documents, papers and such, which apparently are things he deals with all day. But it was the long text part of the ad which caught my eye.

“Certain things define who we are. The movies, music, books, work, art, and people we love. These passions make our identity and when we are without them, we are without ourselves.”

How sad is that?

Is that not pathetic?

If you are confused, the issue they were addressing was if we leave our home and leave our PC behind we won't have access to our emails or our favorite Internet sites until we return back home. The ad goes on to explain all the other things, like being away from home while traveling we may not see our favorite movie, or have access to our favorite music (if we own CDs and don't take them all with us), and so on.

How wrong is that, to say that if we are without the stuff we like and use and consume that we are 'without ourselves'? It is very wrong and not applicable to me and my life. Sorry, Seagate Technologies.

Anyway the concept of their product which they were advertising, called FreeAgent, is very interesting. It is a technology which lets you take your documents with you wherever you go. So if you are out doing an errand you can access your email or computer documents or whatever else you feel you’d like to access which beforehand, had been tied up with your home PC or with your laptop.

To view the ad that caught my eye, to see the ad that bugged me, or to learn more about the product, go here. (I get no payment for blogging on this, by the way!)

My Viewpoint On Who We Are
I am more interested in the general idea of how we define ourselves. I think I am more about what I DO rather than about what entertainment I consume. I am more about the work I create, the way I treat people, the love I give to my family, the good things that happen from the volunteer work I do and other things like that.

You may know me only through my blog but believe me I am so much more as a person than even the slice you know of me through my blogging.

At the core, most of the most important things in life have nothing to do with me accessing computer documents while away from my home computer, and they are not at all about me accessing movies and books of my choice while away from the technologies which are housed inside my home.

If Americans, the real people (not just the ad writers) really think they are what they consume, then I must have a very different perception of my own reality than they have of theirs. If many Americans put themselves into the category of defining who they are based on what they are consumed, then this is one of those moments, I guess, where I perceive like I'm living in a different dimension, living out a different perception of life, and it would be a reminder that I am happy to not be part of the mainstream.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finishing Reading “The Over-Scheduled Child” This Week

The other night I was with some homeschooling families. While alone with one mother, a conversation began which started off with whether or not our children would begin taking a martial arts class together. This is something her son asked her about starting doing and it is something that my younger son has been asking to do for about a year. Also our Pediatrician said that my older son should be doing martial arts for regular exercise. Her son was asking if he could start taking a class along with a friend (or two) so she asked if my kids were interested in starting martial arts classes. So, I am researching prices and comparing schedules of the various martial arts studios in our area. We are both still trying to figure out if the classes fit into our schedules and budgets.

I am concerned with what I consider to be a high price for these classes. I worry too, that adding these new classes to our family’s schedule will make our lives miserable and over-scheduled. I have the homeschooling schedule and extra-curricular activity schedule set up now and it is nice and open, it is presently not over-scheduled at all. This is typical, to have things nailed down in a good arrangement then the closer that fall comes, more and more opportunities come up and it is hard to say no. (Another thing that presented itself last week was an invitation for my younger son to join a monthly boy’s book discussion group.)

I told my friend that I think it is interesting and bothersome at the same time, that I quit my gym membership which was $70 per month, then later, I joined and then quit a different gym that was (just) $15 per month in order to save money, yet I am contemplating starting martial arts which will cost $140 per month for two classes per week, for each child. I asked why it is that I would hesitate to spend a fraction of that amount to give myself opportunities to exercise for ‘good health’ yet I would consider spending so much more for a total of 90 minutes of classes for my children (each)? When Having walked past that martial arts studio many times before, I have seen it literally jammed with students, which means that so many parents are shelling out $140 per month for eight 45 minute martial arts classes per month for their children, some of whom are just three and four years old!

Another homeschooling mother joined the conversation at some point. We had a long discussion of many topics about how children in our area spend their time, about over-scheduling and about how our own childhoods were so different than our own. I won’t get into all of that right now but I’ll share that the conversation was so interesting I could make several blog entries about my thoughts on the topics we discussed.

I vowed that night that since I have still-unanswered questions on these topics, and since I don’t understand how my children’s generation is being raised so differently than my generation, that I wanted to resume reading “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” (formerly published under a different title “Hyper Parenting”) by Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise. I believe it was the summer of 2005 in which I read the first half of the book and then I lost interest and shelved it. I will admit too that I worried that the authors would think that homeschooling was the ultimate thing that a hyper-parent would do.



So Monday I picked the book off my shelf and resumed reading it. I backtracked a bit to the beginning of Chapter Five. With a fresh mind and with renewed interest in the topic I am tearing through the book. I am underlining passages, marking paragraphs and taking notes. The book is blowing me away as it is so applicable to my life and to that of my friends in my local area. The examples cited in the book are very realistic to what I see going on around here.

I really feel like I need some perspective and some wisdom from someone else who is not a parent of young children right now. I was also going to say I want some perspective from parents who don’t live in high-pressure Fairfield County, however, both authors of this book are from Fairfield County. I feel like I need a dose of wisdom from someone who is not right in the fray yet someone who ‘gets’ what is going on. I say this because so many times when I try to discuss this with my friends or acquaintances, they don’t agree with me, they are living the over-scheduled life and they keep telling me that it is good and right to be that way. Yet I don’t agree, for some reasons that I can’t quite pinpoint. I feel that the authors really have a grasp of what is going on in reality and I hope they can help me with their insight and experience.

Hyper-Parenting website (official website of the book and the authors)

Note there are some speech transcripts and articles on the site that you can read for free. One good article is a summary about how to avoid the hyper-parenting trap.

Update 9/01/07: We drove home from our last summer trip today and I did finish the book on the way home. The book is excellent and the last couple of chapters were the most of what I needed to hear. If I can find the time I'll blog more of my thoughts about this book and how these issues apply to my own family's life.



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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why I Can’t Garden On This Property


These two adult deer and the fawn were in my yard the other day. I ran to get the camera to take a photo to illustrate why I can’t garden here. They ran to my neighbor’s yard. So here they are in my neighbor’s yard. It was dusk and overcast, and it had recently rained, so the photo is a bit dark.

Last night I was driving on the road that leads to my street. There in a field were these same two adult deer and the fawn. In the past I would have oooh’ed and aaah’ed at the beauty of nature. However to be very honest with five cases of Lyme Disease between the four members in my family here and with one other tick-borne illness, I no longer love the deer. To be blunt, I am also really missing gardening and just would love to get back to organic flower and vegetable gardening. However these creatures ruin it for us. They eat the plants and they carry diseased ticks. Sorry to say I hate deer now.

(I know right now one of my friends who is reading this is cringing at my negativity. Sorry. But I know you have your lovely flowers and heirloom homegrown tomatoes and I don’t have that same opportunity, so please try to feel some pity for me.)

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 87 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 87 was published today at The Common Room.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 50 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

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

Enjoy!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Thoughts on Preteens and Teenagers and Online Socialization

As I continue to sort books I am listening to podcasts on the Connecticut NPR station (WNPR) from the archives of “Where We Live”.

I just finished listening to a podcast called “Schools and Online Socialization” about online socialization and children and teenagers. The show was supposed to be mainly about high school students and the use of online social networking on sites such as MySpace and FaceBook. There were discussions of online “friends” versus real life friends and about chatting with IM versus face to face discussions or telephone discussions.

‘Schools’ was in the title but not much was said about it, other than a discussion of whether or not a person’s online persona helped get them out of the clique they are in at school. For example, students who are not popular can make their own online profile to show who they feel they really are and perhaps other students may read that information and get to know the person for who they truly are. Also a teacher who was on the show said she reads her students profiles and she learns more about them than she’d have known otherwise.

There was some talk about privacy issues. There was not much talk about dangers of online social networking and certainly nothing was said about online predators.

Later in the show when they were taking questions from callers, a mother stated that although the sites require that users be at least 13 years old, that her daughter felt left out as all the friends were using it when they were years younger than 13, and this mother was following the rules. The discussion was long and included one person saying that some children as young as 7 and 8 are actively using the social networking sites by lying and saying they are aged 13 or over. In the end I was disappointed when someone on the show recommended to the mother that she lie to the site, break the rules, and say that the girl is old enough so long as the mother is actively monitoring the chat that is happening.

There was also a section of the show where several teenaged girls were interviewed. They seemed quite responsible as they said the only people they let be their “friends” were people they knew in real life already. Hearing them talk it made the whole worry about whether online socialization was bad seem overblown and a figment of paranoid parents’ imaginations.

One teen was on the show saying he did not have a FaceBook and he actively refused to participate with online networking, saying that he preferred face to face friends; however, later he called himself “unsocialized” which I felt was not good to say (and an odd thing to admit).

The outlook portrayed was that this online social networking is what is happening now and that it will continue to grow in the future. The gist was that the teens might as well get into it now as it is unavoidable. One last comment made was that the President was going to have one so in order to stay in tune with society basically everyone had better get into the game.

Overall the show was quite tame, I felt, and was actually encouraging teenagers (and younger aged children) to get online and do social networking, that nothing was wrong with it, basically. It was mentioned that other shows they did were about cyber-bullying but that was not really discussed on this show.

While I don’t yet have teenagers I do have children aged 7 and 10 who are feeling pressure from friends to join social networking sites geared for that younger set. I don’t allow my kids to be on those sites. I feel my kids are not really even ready for steady phone communications, so they should not be communicating in shallow conversations over IM and through Internet sites. For the time being I insist that my children socialize with other children face to face.

To listen to this podcast about online social networking for preteens and teenagers, go here.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

It Was a Great Year For Wild Blackberries!


This summer's weather was perfect for making lots of lucious wild blackberries.

I snapped this photo in my yard. The wild blackberries grow at the edges of our woods.

Weeding Out Picture Books

I really should get rid of some books that we have around here.

I don’t have enough bookshelves for the books we own, so there are three closets that hold cardboard boxes that old some of our books. The main problem is that the bookshelves in the house are being used on the books that we’ve owned for a while, they’ve been there since they were more in use, while the other ones that used to be slated for “the future” are actually good for right now and they should be down here on the shelves where we can access them.

So the first thing is that I need to clear out of here, some of these picture books, I think.

The other day I took about an hour to go through some. It was stressful to even contemplate getting rid of them.

I have a bunch of older out of print books and it bothers me to know that if I let these go it won’t be so easy to get my hands on them again to read them again.

In the process of sorting books these were some categories I could group them into. Whether these books are keepers or not is debatable. Maybe making a list of the categories will help me detach from certain categories so I can let go of them.

Sentimental--
1. Books my kids loved that I also loved to read to them.
2. Books my kids loved that I didn’t like very much but I read them anyway and I’m not sure if I should keep those for them or not.
3. Books that I specifically remember reading and that I loved when I was a child.
4. Books which depict by-gone America (life in the 1800s, 1950s, books with milkmen, mothers at home raising children, kids with newspaper routes, etc.)
5. Books which illustrate what life was like when I was a child, when life moved more slowly.
6. Books depicting farm life and living in the country
7. Books featuring cats or kittens
8. Books about favorite places of mine (favorite states, places we took vacations, or places our ancestors came from)

Educational—
1. Fiction books that feature a specific country that happen to educate us about that culture as we read it.
2. Folk tales from other countries or America.
3. Non-fiction books which are perfect for unit studies, even if we have no unit studies on those subjects planned.
4. Books depicting certain topics of our favorite interest.
5. Books depicting content that is not common in children’s books, the topic is rare.

Books With Visual Appeal—
1. Old books that have a charm in the illustration or book design that have a feeling of nostalgia. “Books don’t look like that anymore.” They are visually appealing to me.
2. Books with fantastic illustrations (newer books). Books in which the artwork blows me away but the story is “so-so”.
3. Books with my favorite types of artwork (woodcuts, engravings, lino cuts)

My/Our Favorite Authors--
1. Owning different books by my favorite authors even if I don’t so much like all of the books. For example not wanting to get rid of anything written and illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
2. If some of the titles are out of print and I own them, maybe I should keep them as a little collection of books by that author, even though the most popular title is still in print.
3. I don’t want to get rid of any books written by a favorite author or illustrator! Period!
4. The favorite author category probably applies more to MY favorite authors not necessary my children’s favorite authors. They are sometimes two different things.

I know what is important is to remember the good memories I had of reading these books to my children, not necessarily keeping the book as a reminder.

My inner packrat is rebelling against this attempt to let go of some of our picture books.

Wish me luck.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Great Podcast on Children and Play

Here is a great show on Connecticut’s NPR radio show “Where We Live” which broadcasted earlier this week about the nature of play of children, the importance of group children’s play, playgrounds, and playgrounds for children with disabilities, a plea for school recess for children of all ages, and more topics are covered.

It is a very good show. I agree everything they talked about!

The first part is here.

I think that the issue of children and play is a vital part of childhood development. This is a topic that parents should know about, this issue of play being vital to the development of a child’s emotions and personality-wise. Sadly, as was mentioned in this radio show, some parents think of outdoor play or the games or activities that require physical exertion now as either ‘obesity prevention’ or a ‘method to weight loss’. Children’s play, gross motor type play goes way beyond exercise for calorie burning or for maintenance of a healthy heart. There is much more to the nature of children’s play than just moving one’s body in order to raise the heart rate or to exercise the muscles. Sadly some parents think of a child’s mind as requiring academic content to build the intellect and they think of play with physical activity as way to stay thin or to lose weight. Children need to play for many more reasons, for emotional growth and socialization purposes.

In this piece they also mentioned children using electronics and living in a 'blackberry age' where their lives are very scheduled and where most if not everything they do is organized and planned by adults and overseen by adults.

Regarding homeschooling I will say that we homeschooling parents need to make time for children to play and to socialize. We should all be making an effort to allow our children to play in large groups not just playing with one, two or three other children, and not just having them play only with their own siblings. I also feel that the homeschooled children should be allowed to direct their own play not be ordered around by the supervising parents as they are for the rest of their entire childhood. While at the playground with a large group of homeschoolers I let my children decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, along with the other children. I don't see the need to control their play at the playground!

It is importatnt that children play with other children in an unstructured way. It is important that children play in groups not just playing at an organized game such as soccer or baseball with a coach or parent directing everything. Old-fashioned games like tag and Capture the Flag serve a purpose and all children, schooled and homeschooled, should have opportunities to play those games.

Please consider taking some time to listen to this interesting show.

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New Homeschooling Magazine: Secular Homeschooling

The publisher of a new magazine called “Secular Homeschooling: contacted me by email after reading my blog and my opinions of Home Education magazine (HEM).

She wanted to let me know she is starting a new magazine Secular Homeschooling. The first issue will be published in October 2007. The magazine’s website gives this description:
Secular Homeschooling is a non-religious magazine that reflects the diversity of the homeschooling community. Its readers and writers are committed to the idea that religious belief is a personal matter rather than a prerequisite of homeschooling.
This magazine is for any homeschooler, religious or not, who is interested in good solid writing about homeschooling and homeschoolers.


I was also told that is not an unschooling-only magazine. It will feature topics like “teaching history” etc. (If you want a magazine that is basically ‘all unschooling’ check out “Life Learning”. If you want a magazine that has more of an overall unschooling flair and definitely not ‘school at home’ content check out “Home Education magazine” (HEM).

Here is the site of the new magazine Secular Homeschooling if you want more information about this new publication.

They are also accepting submissions for articles for publication.

I have not seen a copy or read a copy of this new homeschooling magazine yet. I am curious to see what it is like.

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Kid Nation and Allegations of Child Abuse?

I blogged last month about "Kid Nation" and said that I was really curious and interested in viewing the new reality show "kid Nation" which is set to premiere in September 2007. CBS has been advertising it with commercials since at least the first week of July.

My children also are excited to see a show where the kids run a town, and create their own society. They think the idea is fantastic and right now my older son wishes he could audition to be on the show. I’d probably never let him do it, at age 10, and knowing who he is as a person, I don’t know if it would be good for his emotional health to be ‘thrown to the wolves’ with a pack of other kids of various temperaments and personalities. Going to the extreme to live without one’s parents for 40 days and also without any other direct supervision of a trusted adult is probably not something I’d ever agree to.

Note that now the media suspects parents put their kids on this show so they’d become stars. I want to be very clear that I would never do that. A main reason is that most reality shows don’t end up churning out new stars from their cast members. I also realize that editorial tweaking can greatly alter the reality of what goes on to be more like depicting what the editors want the viewers to perceive went on.

I thought that it would be great to see children given more independence and was curious to see how they would do socially, when interacting with each other about serious issues such as preparing their own meals, negotiating on living arrangements and such. I did worry about sensitive children or wondered how some might make it, emotionally, but figured that the producers would be doing something to make sure that the children were kept safe and healthy.

In my excitement, back in July, I told a friend about this, an unschooling mother who I know is of the mindset that children and teenagers are capable of doing so much more than our American society allows them to do. I thought she’d love to see a show where children are given free reign. But much to my surprise she got upset. She said she worried that the producers would put children into positions where they possibly could be exploited for the entertainment value of viewers. She also worried about their safety and well-being, wondering if they were too vulnerable to be put into a situation such as living for over a month with no parental contact. She didn’t like the concept at all.

The other day, my husband told me he heard on the news that a parent was suing the producers for child abuse, child safety violations and also for violating child labor laws. Here is one story on the Internet that you can read.

I did wonder about accidents, and the issue of if for the purpose of this show, children are forced to do work and to work without close direct adult supervision, if they might have an accident. An accident is an accident, I know, but if an adult intentionally puts a child in a position to have to do work that might injure them and no adult is there to stop it, there is a problem.

Here is a quote from the Boston Globe article:

"Despite off-camera adult supervision, accidents occurred on the set of "Kid Nation." An 11-year-old girl suffered minor burns on her face from a cooking mishap, and several other children required medical attention after accidentally drinking bleach."


Washington Post ran an article today as well.

I will contrast this with my friend who enrolled her ten year old daughter into a summer camp whose focus was to teach cooking and baking. It was a small group of girls and the teacher, who also runs a professional business, working in a professional kitchen. Despite that close supervision and small teacher: student ratio, my friend’s child burned her arm pretty severely by accidentally getting touched with a hot cookie baking pan, with a burn over an inch long in a visible place on her arm. There is still a scar but I’m not sure if it will remain there or if it will heal over the long term.

So now people are buzzing about how far reality shows should go. Should children be involved? How much will parents consent to be done with their children for money or for the lure of possible stardom? How far should producers of television shows go in order to get good ratings and to make money? I don’t have the answers.

There sure is a lot of controversy swelling around this show before it even premieres. I don’t quite know what to think. I guess we’ll have to wait and view the show ourselves if we want to judge ourselves. Or those who oppose the show can choose to not watch it and choose not to form their own opinion.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Feeling Back To School Pressure (From Myself Not Others)

I had made a plan that after Labor Day we’d start homeschooling. And with that I imagined that when we woke up that day, we’d have a schedule laid out, plans for what we’d learn in each subject, and measurable goals set up. The books we’d read for that year would be out in the main part of the house (not in boxes in closets). The house would be clean and uncluttered, like a ‘clean slate’.

I hatched this plan back at the beginning of this summer. Back then, summer seemed very long and that it would be full of endless time for having fun and finishing projects. I made a point to do lots of fun summer outdoor activities with my children. And time raced by.

Nailing down the plans for homeschooling got pushed off farther and farther. Moving the books we’re done with out and moving the books we will use in this upcoming homeschool year needs to get done.

In my head there was a lot of open time to do these tasks. However things like meal prep, eating, and doing ongoing laundry and basic housekeeping encroached on days when we had no appointments.

I planned a couple of ‘switch off’ days with some friends of mine who have children that my children are friends with. I took her kids all day one day and she took mine another day. In my mind in that free time I’d get a ton done. I did get some stuff done but not all that I thought I would. It was hard keeping myself from taking breaks, and on the breaks I’d check email or write about something that was on my mind that I figured I’d publish later on my blog. Sometimes I got “sucked into the computer” and had a hard time getting back off my butt to get back to work.

I just realized that two tickets for admission to an amusement park that I won in a silent auction will expire in a week. And with our plans to travel and do various activities (family reunion etc.), there is no time to use these unless I clear the schedule for tomorrow and just go and do it. That means one full day of house decluttering and homeschooling planning won’t get done that day. I just can’t believe that the end of August is coming.

And once we go away then come back, it will be the time when I said we’d start homeschooling. And then I will face the fact that I didn’t accomplish all the tasks that I thought I would have.

I am being really hard on myself about this today. It is to the point where I don’t even want to go away on another trip. I just want time to be home and get these not fun tasks over so that when September arrives I will be able to just smoothly do what we have to do.

Then I realized that it is me putting these deadlines on myself. How about if I relax and just enjoy the trip next week? How about if I push our start date for homeschooling forward by a week or two? I could use the time when my kids are not involved in outside activities to finish the book moving and the homeschooling organization.

Update, written the next day: Last night I went out with a friend to hang out at a coffee shop. We talked about this and we had a good laugh and I calmed down about this. We can't do everything we want for fun activities, but what we do choose to do we should enjoy. I'll try to take time to smell the roses and if that means starting homeschooling more gradually rather than starting everything at once, or starting one week later, so be it.

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Keeping A Binder Of Reminders

A homeschooling mother shared something at one of my homeschool support group meetings. She said she keeps a three-ring binder with newspaper clippings and magazine articles relating to education and issues and problems with public schools that she comes across while reading. She said she simply tears them out and places them in the binder.

The articles she saves each reinforce to her, one or more reasons why she is happy that her children are not in the public school system. The articles could be on the over-studying to take the standardized tests instead of learning new things, or on cheating on said tests on behalf of school staff. They could be about an element in the school’s curriculum which she disagrees with teaching at that age, or a bullying story or about drugs in schools. The articles are also local, showing problems in her own town's school system. She said that in a short amount of time the binder has become quite thick.

She said that whenever she begins to doubt herself and to question if enrolling her children into public school is something she should do, she takes out this binder and reviews it. She said it works every time, as a reminder of why putting her children in school is not a good idea. That bit of reality helps her regain her confidence and to push on with homeschooling, until she gets back to that “happy to be homeschooling” attitude.

We all had a laugh out of the idea of it (for some reason when she was explaining it, it came across as really funny and even she was laughing). A couple of mothers said they planned to start such a binder.

We all have days of self-doubt and the good times and fun times far outweigh the times of self-doubt or stress. We all use various techniques to get through the self-doubting stage; we may call another homeschooling mother, attend a homeschool support group meeting or read some “homeschooling propaganda” or some things that tell the bad parts of public schools. Other times we may feel personally exhausted and the idea of just waving goodbye as our children step onto the bus seems so much easier than what we’re doing. We do what we have to do to get over that hump.

I was inspired to blog about this because I have been reading so many articles in The Wall Street Journal which are negative in tone about public schools that I thought I should begin a binder in place of leaving the torn-out articles laying around the house. I had planned to try to blog about each of these articles so I was ripping them out to reference while writing, but I just haven’t’ have the time to do it yet.

(I know one specific friend of mine who reads my blog is thinking now that we should all only concentrate on the benefits of homeschooling and not put energy into thinking about the problems with schools. However, I feel that some of the benefits of homeschooling are the avoidance of some of the negative's of the American public education system. This is similar to those who feel that people should only talk about the benefits of breastfeeding and should not talk about the real problems that can happen from using the second-best baby food: baby formula. To make informed choices about the course of our children's education we should be aware of both the pro's and con's of schooling and the pro's and con's of homeschooling, then use that to make our decision.)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature Registration Open Now

I was notified by email today that today is the first day of online registration for the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, put on by the Westport Public Library (in Connecticut). The email stated that next week the paper brochure will be mailed to those who expressed an interest in the Festival. The site stated registration is required and the lecture preferences will be given on a first come, first served basis.

Here is an announcement from the website:

Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature

October 25, 26, 27, 2007


The 2007 Festival Theme is Imagined
Worlds
and will focus on authors for students in middle school

“Fantasy is the metaphor through which we discover ourselves” says
award-winning author Susan Cooper in her collection of essays, Dreams and
Wishes.

With the recent resurgence of interest in fantasy literature and movie
adaptations of classic and current fantasy stories, this year's festival will
explore the theme of “Imagined Worlds."

On Friday, four of the authors will visit middle schools in Westport and
one will visit an elementary school in Bridgeport.

The authors will address the popularity of fantasy from many different
angles in the Saturday Symposium.

The Rabbit Hill Festival is named to honor Robert Lawson, the only
author/illustrator to win both the Caldecott
and Newbery Medals
for excellence in children's illustration and literature. He created his work in
his Westport home and studio, which was called "Rabbit Hill." Except for the
dinner and lunch, the festival is free and open to the public. Registration is
required.



Here is more information from me:

It is a free event, (donations accepted). You must register in advance and it does book up. You can register online. The website provides details about the different events, times and diffferent locations of each event.

Note it includes optional small group lectures with each author on the Saturday afternoon. When you register, you give your preferences for which authors you'd like to hear, and it is first come first served as to which lectures you will be assigned to.

If you love children’s books and/or these authors and you want to hear them speak about writing, children’s books, the industry etc. then why not consider going?

You can read info and register by visiting the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature website.

Based on my attendance in 2006, it seemed to me that most attendees are school teachers and children’s librarians, followed by homeschooling parents, other parents, children's writers and illustrators, and some not in the other categories who I'd categorize as bookworms and lovers of children’s literature.

They also sell the featured authors' books there and you can have them autographed. Or you can bring your books from home and have them autographed there as well.

I am so excited about attending this year!

If you go I’ll see you there!

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John Taylor Gatto Workshop:Sept. 21-23, 2007, in Massachusetts

Here is another education-homeschooling related conference happening in September 2007 in Massachusetts. This information is a quote from the Rowe Center website:

Conference with John Taylor Gatto
Weapons Of Mass Instruction: The Strange Institution Of Compulsive Schooling
Sept. 21-23 Rowe Conference Center, Rowe MA


We will investigate the strange institution of compulsive schooling — where it came from, what its purposes are, why it is so difficult to change, what its effects are on individuals and the economy, and what can be done about it. Learn the differences between schooling and education, the purposes of mass schooling and what it delivers to the social order, and the price you pay. There are grassroots political ways to sidestep the straitjacket of mass schooling and tangible benefits when you do.
Expect to be surprised by the things “children” are capable of doing if the cloak of schooling can be lifted. Is there even such a thing as “childhood” past the age of seven or so, or is childhood a cultural construct? We will consider what is innate in the young if the worst effects of “developmental theory” can be set aside. We will explore the (secret) history, sociology, psychology, and politics of forced schooling.

Before the workshop you will be invited to write a statement of your needs and desires, which John will use as a jumping off point to design exercises that will tap into the collective wisdom. Hopefully, we will weld those who come into a community, and our time together may be turned into a book of ideas to be mailed to you after the retreat. When you register you will learn more. If you’re undecided whether to spend a weekend in this way, please read parts of Underground History at www.johntaylorgatto.com to help you make up your mind. John wants you to know he is neither a guru nor a magician and the value of this retreat, and of your life, largely depends on you.

John Taylor Gatto taught in the New York City public schools for 30 years, concluding his service in 1991 as the official New York State Teacher of the Year. On four prior occasions, he had either been named Teacher of the Year by the Encyclopedia Brittanica or New York City Teacher of the Year by various organizations. He announced his resignation on the Op Ed Page of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he couldn’t hurt children any longer. Since then he’s written four books: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, which put the expression in the language; The Exhausted School; a Different Kind of Teacher; and the monumental Underground History of American Education. He has given lectures and workshops in every American state and ten countries and is writing his fifth book, Weapons of Mass Instruction.

I can’t seem to get a direct link to the page on the Rowe Center’s site about this conference. Once you are at the Rowe Center’s home page, link to their schedule, then scroll down to the date and you will see a link to this conference.

From that page you can link through to register or to just view the registration price. They offer a sliding scale for the seminar cost based on your family’s income. Note the additional fee of $75 is for the meals and two nights of room accommodations.

This workshop sounds very interesting!

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Charlotte Mason Seminar To Be Held 9/21/07 in Massachusetts

I was surprised to stumble upon this when visiting Penny Gardner’s site in order to make a new link to her site on my blog.

"A Charlotte Mason Approach to Home Education seminar will be presented by
Penny Gardner on Friday, September 21, 2007 from 10:00 - 4:00 in Groton, MA.

Grotonwood Camp and Conference Center is less than 5 miles off I-495. Mail your registration to: CM Seminar at Grotonwood, 167 Prescott St., Groton MA 01450 or call 978-448-5763."


I think this is a low price for an all day conference, $28 or $35 with lunch included. Note they have childcare available for a $5 fee.

You can read all the details about the 9/21/07 seminar here if you are interested in attending.

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Added Charlotte Mason Links To My Sidebar Today

This morning I took some time to add some links to sites specifically about the Charlotte Mason method.

I made one list for sites which are businesses that sell things for profit and another list for sites which contain information and articles but don't directly sell to customers.

If you know of other sites which are entirely about Charlotte Mason topics or who exclusively sell Charlotte Mason related books, let me know what they are and I'll consider adding them.

I hope you find these links useful.

Thank you!

(I am thinking about doing this for the classical style too but I worry that there are SO many that I may end up with a gigantic list.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Me In August 2007


Here is a picture I took of myself earlier this month. I figured I needed a new photo on my blog and there was a challenge on the Creative Mom Podcast to take a portrait of ourselves by holding the camera in one hand and snapping the photo.

It was a spur of the moment thing. Not much makeup, hair "as is", etc. This is the real me, summer style, with sun-bleached hair. I took it the evening of my older son's tenth birthday, on a whim when I went to grab the camera out of my car. So here I am, mother of a double-digit child, the 40 year old me.

In case you noticed a change, last month I decided my hair style was not flattering so cut off three inches. I am back to short hair after a bunch of years with longer hair.

I Love Using Natural Home Cleansers!

I have been making natural house cleaning products at home for over two years. I have replaced almost every store-bought chemical based cleanser in our home. Below is a reprint of a blog entry which I published in 2005 and then later in 2006. I think that reprinting this once a year is a good thing.

I am on a roll with making homemade cleaning supplies from scratch with natural ingredients. These products really do work. I am using the book "The Naturally Clean Home" by Karyn Siegel-Maier as my source of recipes.



Before buying this book, I was trying some free recipes from the internet. Some of them didn’t work, and others contained chemicals but said they were “natural”.

With just a handful of cleansers, I can do all of the routine house cleaning and laundry. I found this book from a link on Amazon and the raving customer reviews led me to buy this book instead of another book that I originally was considering buying. Taking the advice of one customer reviewer, I limited my original shopping list to a few items and made cleansers with those ingredients. I realized that most of the recipes in the book can be made with a low number of ingredients.

These ingredients are:

Tap water

White Vinegar

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
20 Mule Team Borax (by Dial Corporation)

Glycerine

Liquid Castile Soap, peppermint scented (I use Trader Joe's brand or Dr. Bronner's)

Liquid Castile Soap, unscented, (Dr. Bronner's brand) with addition of essential oils of your choice (the essential oils make it more expensive)

Lavender essential oil

Lemon essential oil

Peppermint essential oil

Tea Tree essential oil

I enjoy cleaning much more now that I am not feeling sick to my stomach, coughing, getting a sore throat or getting a headache from inhaling the fumes of chemical household cleansers. I also now have my children help me clean the house and they actually clamor to do the cleaning (even the toilet!). Yes, my children beg to wash mirrors, sinks, counters, and even to vacuum and mop the floor. It is true.

If you buy this book I advise you to choose one recipe for a certain task. The book has more than one recipe for certain tasks. I would start off by buying these things:

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda (in bulk at Costco, 12 lbs. for $3.80 is what I paid, or from grocery store or Amazon)

Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (grocery store laundry detergent section, look for yellow box)

Borax (grocery store laundry detergent section or Amazon, look for green box)

Glycerin, 6 oz. (from a drug store, Wal Mart or Amazon.com)

Liquid Castile Soap (Trader Joe’s brand, Peppermint scented or if not available in your area, Dr. Bronner’s brand from a health food store or internet order direct from Dr. Bronner’s or Amazon).

Tea Tree Essential oil (Trader Joe’s or Atlantic Spice Company or Amazon)

Trader Joe's--

Find a Trader Joe’s store go here.

For information about Dr. Bronner’s liquid castille soap, go here.

Again, if you use Trader Joe’s peppermint castile soap in the recipe you would not put in the other scent of essential oil as recommended in the recipe. If you use unscented castile soap you’d add the essential oil that the author recommends. I have found dirt cheap prices on all pure essential oils from Atlantic Spice Company (internet store).

Amazon is now stocking some of these items:

Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castille Soap, Pappermint Scent 16 oz



Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castille Soap, Tea Tree Scent, 1 gallon size



Arm and Hammer Baking Soda 16 oz.



Peppermint Essential Oil, pure



Lavender Essential Oil, pure



Organic Lemon Essential Oil, pure



Tea Tree Essential Oil, pure



Glycerine, vegetable, 16 oz.



Glycerine, vegetable, 4 oz.



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Rethinking the Future of My Homeschool Support Group Meeting

Right now I am making a decision about the future of my homeschool support group, whether to continue it or to discontinue it.

My group is small and it has a specific goal and a clearly defined purpose. The group has met for three solid years. The group began when two mothers approached me and urged me to start a group for those interested in the Charlotte Mason method. We were all attending a similar group but that group had moved meeting locations and was a 90 minute drive each way, which was just too far to drive. I wanted that type of content also so I began the group. Things have shifted over time. One of those original members hasn’t come to a meeting at all in two years, she says due to being over-scheduled and other times due to her husband traveling. The other original member came only a couple of times two years ago and then didn’t come last year as the meeting night changed to a night when she attends church services. So now the group is me as the leader with the other core mothers who joined in sometime after the original group began meeting.

My group has one activity: a monthly evening adult support group meeting in which we discuss a very narrow topic (the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling). My group does not provide a wide spectrum of services or events as the other local homeschool groups do, intentionally.

I am not trying to compete with the other groups nor am I trying to replace what those groups do. Right around here where we live there are other support groups for different audiences who do other things which I and my group members also are members of. We have inclusive groups, Christian groups, and a Catholic group all within a very small geographic area. We have a group for classical homeschoolers and one for unschoolers. Between those groups there is an array of various projects and services they offer. Here is an example: evening adult support group meetings, park days, ice skating rink meet-up’s, (board and card) game days, field trips to museums, community service projects, classes on specific topics (chess strategy), presentation forum, teen social activities, and indoor gym days. Additionally there are secular and Christian co-op opportunities.

After seeing all that is offered by the other groups (which I am a member of), what I do with my group is very limited and easy to run. I feel also that since all of that is being offered by the other groups, that I have no reason to duplicate what they are doing.
I am not willing to do all that it takes to have a larger group that does other activities. I am aware of the need for good leadership, the need for delegation and for having other people do some of the work as I could never do everything myself (if I had a larger group with a wider span of services). I have no time for managing other people and no time for doing more jobs all by myself.

On a related note, I have declined taking over leadership of two other local inclusive support groups who offer more services. Those leaders said they thought I could do the job well. I just don’t want that type of workload for myself nor do I want to deal with delegation and management of other volunteers doing work for the group.

I think that I’ve done well with setting limits and parameters around what I can offer to a group that I lead. Keep it simple and keep it small are two things that I have done.

Right now I am pondering the future of my little support group. I try to figure out if the core members who attend are getting something out of the group or not, and use that to help me figure out if continuing the group is worthwhile or not. So far the core group members are asking me (and some are begging me) to continue leading the group, they say they want the meetings to continue and that they get a lot out of attending them.

Perhaps I am on the fence about whether I should continue the group or not because I no longer feel that I need the meetings for my own enrichment or support. With that said I will say that last year on some days when I was rushing to tidy up my home for the meeting, I wished I had ended the group. Or when I had a number of people coming but only a third actually showed up, I felt annoyed. But when the core group arrived and we had great conversation and hearing supportive words to and from other members to each other, I then felt enthusiastic and happy that the meeting took place. I’d have trouble falling asleep afterwards because I was so excited about homeschooling and happy to hear all the positive things that were said about homeschooling at the meeting.

There are a couple of negatives about holding the meetings. First some members complain about the night the meeting is held on. So I did a poll last year. I changed the night that we met based on the requests of certain members. Yet nearly all of those requestors then did not show up for the meetings. Yet the quiet ones were the ones that were flexible and still attended the meetings. One vocal person who wanted it on that night ended up booking a conflicting appointment after I made my change, and she never came to my meetings. So much for changing my meeting night to accommodate that person!

I am rethinking having the meeting at my house for several reasons.

1. I don’t like being judged for the state of my home. Since I don’t have a housecleaner it is a lot of work to keep the house tidy (uncluttered) and clean, plus live in the house and use the house so much. Although the other mothers tell me to leave it messy, I am not comfortable with that. I want the dishwasher emptied, the clean pots in the sink to be put away, the counter recently cleaned and shining and clear of clutter. The good thing about holding the meeting is it forces me to have a deadline and to make time to do things like tackle piles of papers and to put things back where they belong. However I will confess that on meeting days sometimes I put doing the homeschooling lessons on the back burner and spend the time doing housework!
2. I don’t like advertising my home address on public Internet sites and discussion groups in the meeting announcements. I have tried work-around’s but they are not always successful and sometimes my home address is put out to the public.
3. I had an incident where it began raining during the meeting, and then two people (and a baby) slipped on black ice and fell on my front steps. None of us realized that the rain had turned to ice upon falling onto the colder ground. Then I found out the state’s homeschool organization’s insurance was not what they had said it was and that me and my homeowner’s insurance would be liable for any damages. Plus I felt horrible that the two mothers got hurt with bruises and sore muscles (the baby was completely fine thank goodness), and I was glad that no one was hurt more seriously! I was later encouraged by the state homeschool organization to hold the meetings in a public venue so I would not have the risk of personal liability.


I am considering changing the venue to a bookstore or rotating group member homes instead of holding them in my home. There are pro’s and con’s to each of those three options. One big con is that some people don’t like rotating to different locations each month. They hate driving to strange places in the dark. They may not like that some locations are a longer drive than getting to my home is. If I hold the meeting at the nearest bookstore I am not sure that all the core members would be willing to drive to that location (it is closer for some but a 20 minute drive farther for others).

I am not sure if I should poll the members to ask if I should change the night. I am not sure if I should poll the members about opinions on rotating meeting locations or holding it at that certain bookstore. I am stuck. Since September is approaching I need to make a decision and if we are to continue I need to make plans for meeting dates and locations and get the word out so that we can start in September. My plan is to have a decision made this week and to take action to announce the dissolution of the group or to advertise the meeting dates and locations.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 86 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 86 was published today at Homeschool Buzz.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 50 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

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

Enjoy!

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Americans’ Book Reading Habits, I’m In the 5% Category

My friend K. emailed me the link to this article which reveals a survey of Americans that says that 1 in 4 people did not read a single book last year. How sad is that?

"The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven."


The article also reports that book sales were ‘flat’ last year.

The article gives other statistics about who is reading what kind of book, which I found interesting. Here is just one quote about who is not reading.

"Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious."


I am in the 5% category, as my most frequent type of reading is non-fiction. Now I feel more alternative and weirder than ever. I need to remind myself that I am alternative and different in a GOOD way.

Article Title: One in four read no books last year
By: Alan Fram, AP Writer
Published by: Yahoo! News
Article Date: August 21, 2007

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What the Connecticut Department of Education’s Commissioner Thinks about Homeschooling

If you are concerned or interested in Connecticut education laws and the legal issues with homeschooling, I would like you to read Judy Aron’s blog entry dated August 21, 2007. This contains new information about (hired in 2006) the State of CT Dept of Education Commissioners’ (Mark McQuillan) views on homeschooling in general, and his views on government oversight and monitoring of homeschoolers. He was hired in 2006 and used to work in Massachusetts, a state with much more strict homeschooling regulation and government oversight than Connecticut’s. Judy’s blog post includes verbatim transcripts of an interview he did on the radio on 8/15/07 so you can read his own words and judge for yourself what you think about what he is saying.

If you are a Connecticut homeschooler I want you to know that I am sharing this for your information and knowledge. I am not trying to scare you, just to inform you, your emotional reaction is up to you!

Perhaps after knowing this information, the issue is now ‘on your radar screen’ and it is a good advance warning to not be surprised if some tighter homeschooling regulation is proposed in the future. If you read McQuillan’s words, if in the future tighter restrictions and monitoring are proposed, you won’t be able to say that it came as a surprise to you or it 'came from left field'.

Here are a few of my thoughts if you are interested.

First I am annoyed that he implies that all homeschoolers are homeschooling for religious reasons and the content of their homeschooling curriculum is religious and not in line with public school’s curriculum. It makes it seem like any homeschooler who is Christian is teaching something very different and ‘unacceptable’ as it makes even Christian homeschoolers seem ‘weird’ or at least ‘very different’ than mainstream society. It also ignores the fact that anyone would homeschool for reasons other than religion, or that some homeschoolers are not Christian at all, they have other religions or are atheists.

Second I don’t like when he says that most homeschoolers he knew from Massachusetts were military families, even though that may be true because that combined with the religious statement add to yet again the pigeon-holing that some love to do with homeschoolers, to cram us into narrow categories of ‘types’ of people who homeschool. Doing that, I feel, is an attempt to label us and to put us into a category of being very ‘alternative’ and ‘different’.

I am meeting more and more people who are pulling their kids out of school to homeschool due to various problems that happen in the school yet note that McQuillan doesn’t mention that. I know, I know, he thinks public schools are great and it would go against his propaganda to admit that some children have such problems in schools that their parents would remove them from the schools to homeschool them. Admitting that true fact would make public education look bad, so he did not mention it.

I know many homeschoolers in Connecticut who are not homeschooling for the only or main reason being their religion. Also even with homeschoolers who are Christian not all use boxed curriculums from Christian curriculum companies, some use curriculums that would be ‘just fine’ with the public schools, but of course, in addition, the families provide other instruction on the religion and worldview, of course (just as parents of public schooled children already do, teach religion at home). I perceived what McQuillan said about the curriculum that Christians are using is ‘way out there’.

I also know Christian homeschoolers who have many reasons to homeschool, most of which are negative views on various things with public schools that have nothing to do with their religion. If Christians only reason to homeschool was to have a Christian worldview, some or many would just use Christian private schools instead of homeschooling their children, right?

The best things that McQuillan said were the complimentary words of the dedication and time that a homeschooling parent gives to the endeavor. However some may perceive that as a 'negative' or a 'homeschooling con', that in order to homeschool yes, it does take a certain sacrifice and hard work and time.

Lastly I just hope that this Commissioner is busy dealing with the public schools in this state, too busy dealing with the many issues, to get into the business of forcing regulation on we homeschoolers such as he ‘enjoyed’ in Mass. I really hope we don’t end up dealing with new proposed legislation for more government oversight and regulation of homeschoolers!

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Do You Think There Gaps In Books about Homeschooling?

Yesterday a friend tried to convince me that I should write a book about homeschooling.

I replied that first if I wrote a book it would be secular and inclusive. It would not be a book with a lot of Christian content. I feel that some or many Christian homeschoolers will only read books that are written by and for Christian homeschoolers. So that locks a secular book that I may publish from being purchased by that segment of the population.

So Many Books on the Market Already!
Secondly I feel that so many topics have already been covered in homeschooling books. I have read almost every secular homeschooling book that has been published. I have read books that are now out of print and I have read books that are still in print. Some books repeat what others say. Some are targeted to specific topics and cover it well. You may think that another book on that same topic may be good while another customer or publisher may say that one or two books on that topic is already enough and it would not get published or it would not sell.

There are how-to get started books. There are general books on the topic of homeschooling. There are books on each type of homeschooling method. There are books in which the writer tells a lot of personal stories, a homeschooling journey full of details type of memoir. There are highly opinionated books. There are more general vague books. There are books that are very preach-y and advice-giving. There are books that lay out many options and let the reader pick their choices without judgment.

There are also books about the problems with education, with public education, with institutional schooling in general. There are books about past education reform movements and their failure. There are books about alternative education methods and theories.

Publishing Houses vs. Self-Publishing
I am not sure I want to deal with publishers. I don’t know how many non-authors realize that the writing of the book is one thing but it is entirely another job to work with a publisher, get the book published, then the work and author has to do to help market and sell the book after publication.

I have read that most book projects will pay an author right around $5K, unless the book is a bestseller and the writer had a fantastic contract. Is it worth it to publish a book for the purpose of making money if the pay is so little compared to the time it takes to write it and get it published?

Another friend is pushing me to self-publish a book (she has several ideas for books she thinks I’d be qualified to write). Learning about self-publishing is another whole project in and of itself.

Free Information vs. Books
My other concern or doubt is that due to the increase in free information about homeschooling, mostly due to the Internet, some homeschooling parents are not interested in paying about $10 for a book about homeschooling.

My experience with homeschooling families is that most try to save money and will find and consume free information more than running out to buy a book. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who say they really, really want more information on a certain topic and when I suggest a perfect book to answer their need, they say they are not willing to buy a book about it! Instead they want free information such as that supplied by homeschool support group leaders (by phone or email) or oral information from other homeschooling parents.

We also have so many websites and blogs that provide free information, advice, and personal stories about homeschooling that no one person could ever read it all. The weekly Carnival of Homeschooling provides what I feel is a free magazine about homeschooling.

For more of a back and forth conversation and to get answers to specific questions answered quickly, so many homeschoolers use email discussion groups (i.e. Yahoo Groups!) or other online chat boards/bulletin boards. If a person wants to know a great book for teaching history on a narrow topic for a sixth grader they can ask a group for living book loving homeschoolers. If you want to discuss classical homeschooling you can join a classical homeschooling group. If you want to talk about an issue with Math-U-See's curriculum there is the Math-U-See User Yahoo Group. The same goes for nature study with the Charlotte Mason method and for lapbooking and notebooking. There are groups for large families, for children with special needs, for gifted children and on and on. The free discussion groups about narrow topics for homeschooling seem endless.

There are certain types of book-readers and book-lovers (like me) who prefer reading books and will always buy books, but we are not the bulk of the population (according to statistics that I’ve read).

Please Tell Me What Do You Think!
I’d love to hear your opinion on if you think there is a gap in homeschooling topics in the book market.

What do you want to read about that you feel is not already covered?

Are there topics which have books already but you feel you need more?

Are there gaps in the topics of how to teach certain subjects?

Do you like homeschool memoir type books?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or you can send me a private email. You can find my email address by clicking through the right sidebar link, under my photo, to ‘view my complete profile’ then look to the left sidebar under the “contact” heading.

Thanks in advance for sharing your opinions.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Homeschool Support Group Meetings and Homeschooling Parents

Last month I blogged that I feel it is important that new homeschoolers make connections in your local homeschooling community. You can read that post here.

Eight years ago I began attending evening adult support group meetings for homeschoolers I noticed some patterns which have continued to be true over time. I don’t know if this is true everywhere but this is what it is like in the area that I live in.

I noticed that often the night adult meetings draw certain categories of people. I also noticed that the membership directory had many more people than ever came to adult support meetings or even other homeschool activities. For example in one group we had about twelve of the same core people who attended the adult meetings, but over eighty people were on the membership roster. In my own small homeschool support group, I also have a core of a small number of members yet some people keep asking to receive the monthly emails in which I provide the details of the next month’s meeting. Some have never come to one of my meetings yet they keep asking to be on the list to receive communications.

So who goes to these adult homeschool support group meetings and who does not go?

1. Usually there is of course, the leader of the group who attends the meetings. This person is one who feels that local face-to-face support and friendship with other homeschoolers is necessary for good mental health of the homeschool mom.

2. Then there are usually a core of experienced homeschooling mothers who attend for various reasons. Some really like face to face discussion with the other moms. Some use the meeting as a good excuse to get out of the house without their children. Some use the meeting as a way to boost their motivation or to help get them out of a slump. Some just want to be around others who know what they are going through and can relate to their experiences. Some have friends who are in the support group and the meeting is an easy reason to see their friends.

3. If the group allows it (all do in my area), some that attend these meetings are those seriously considering homeschooling but whose children are either still in school or they are too young for elementary school enrollment. It is good research for the homeschooling-curious to attend a support group meeting and to ask questions face to face of other homeschooling parents.

However one word of advice that I give is that if you don’t like the group, if you didn’t gel with the other parents or if the topic was off-putting to you, such as discussing a homeschooling style that doesn’t appeal to you, please find another local group and attend that meeting. Sometimes the ‘flavor’ of the meeting will vary greatly from month to month depending on the topic or the people in attendance, yet other times what you see at one meeting will be consistent with how it usually is.

Please don’t judge the entire homeschooling community based on your experience at one meeting if your experience was negative.

4. The others that attend are usually the newbie’s. Sometimes we will see a person once or twice. Sometimes a person will attend for half a year or a whole year or two then will disappear from attending the night meetings. Some will become the ‘core’ members who regularly attend the meetings, while others may stop attending the adult support group meetings altogether.

5. My friend told me she has another category, those parents who feel the need to have an excuse to go out alone in the evening. She feels that the mother may not feel comfortable going out once a month for coffee with a friend for fellowship with another homeschooling mother, but they will make and take the time to get out if it is in the name of ‘providing information to homeschool their children’ (even if what is gleaned from the meeting is more fellowship and encouragement than educational content).

6. Absent from the meetings are those who don’t feel they need face to face support or who are not comfortable attending support group meetings. They may never have attended one but they still feel it is not ‘for them’ nor is it necessary in order to be a happy homeschooling parent. Those people may join the support group and appear on the member roster but no one (including the leader) has ever met them in person! Or you may meet them while at a homeschooling class or event and you recognize their name from the member directory but you’ve never seen them at a support group meeting. One mother told me she has always felt like an outsider in social groups and that she is more comfortable keeping a few close homeschool mom friends instead of interacting with more other homeschooling parents at support group meetings.

Patterns with Meeting Attendees
Through discussions with other homeschool support group leaders, I have verified that my observations are typical and are happening across my state. I don’t know if this is what is happening across the country.

The most common thing that seems to happen is that some people, who attended support group meetings regularly, later stop attending adult support group meetings. Why, you may wonder? There are a few different reasons.

The simplest reason is that once a homeschooling parent “gets their feet wet” and gets some experience under their belt they no longer may feel the need to attend support group meetings. Once their confidence has built up and they are happily homeschooling they don’t feel they are getting anything out of attending such a meeting.

Another contributing reason may be that the family is busy already and making time to attend that meeting is just not worth it to them.

The content of the meetings may no longer be applicable to the person’s interests. If a meeting has a set topic for discussion perhaps the topic is not of interest to that member.

Some families have situations that change over time. Some husbands may begin traveling for business more frequently and the mother may not want to hire a babysitter, or may not be able to afford using a babysitter so the mother can get out alone.

Sometimes the family has reprioritized their time and wants evenings (every night of the month) to be family time.

Sometimes the children’s extra-curricular activities can clash with the meeting time, especially sports that overflow into dinner time which then require eating a late dinner afterwards. At times the family is so busy during the day rushing from one class to another event that it just is too hard to then rush out to an evening meeting for mom. Sometimes mom feels to relax in the evening is more uplifting than going out to another appointment.

A reason that I've seen which is unfortunate is when two women have a disagreement and seek to avoid seeing each other which sometimes means that one or both chooses to not go to a support group meeting if they think the other may be there.

Sometimes illness of a child or the homeschooling mother takes a family’s time and it may interfere with ‘extra’ things like attending support group meetings. A common issue here in my area is children and mothers becoming ill with Lyme Disease. I can’t tell you how many homeschooling families I know have at least one family member with Lyme Disease. Some are battling debilitating chronic Lyme Disease.

Homeschooling mothers who are members of the Sandwich Generation also may find their time and energy spent caring for elderly parents who are sick or dying. Just maintaining homeschooling can be a challenge and there is often no room for ‘fluff’ like attending a homeschool support group meeting.

Some homeschooling parents attend adult meetings to make new connections and friends with other homeschooling parents. Once those ties are formed and friendships are made, some of those people stop attending the adult meetings. In their place, these mothers begin and later, are busy maintaining longer term, closer friendships with other homeschooling mothers. They find someone they like and “click” with and they form personal friendships. They communicate via e-mail conversations and/or phone conversations.

Some homeschooling parents also see each other for playdates or other homeschooling events. Once they become active in the local homeschooling community, they get enough support from seeing and chatting with other homeschooling mothers and don’t feel the need to attend night support group meetings. They may form co-op’s with each other. They may agree to attend homeschool park days with their children then while the children play they talk with each other and get their ‘support’ in that way.

Some mothers may enjoy their friendship by going out for a light dinner or coffee for a couple of hours in the evening with one or two close homeschooling mother friends, in place of attending that local homeschool support group meeting.

Some parents attend the adult meetings to find new friends for their children. They may not be looking for support for themselves or for friendships for themselves but they want connections for activities for their children. Once those connections are formed, they may back off from attending the adult support group meetings.

Some meeting attendees may not like the ‘flavor’ of the homeschooling group so they stop attending the meetings. Maybe one core member keeps saying something that brushes them the wrong way (I have heard this complaint numerous times). Maybe after attending more than one meeting you are left with a feeling that how you are homeschooling is “not good enough”. That is not the purpose of attending a homeschool support group meeting—to leave feeling worse than when the meeting began! Some may feel that some in the group are talking too much for or against homeschooling with certain methods and that leaves you with negative feelings. Sometimes people don’t like that a meeting is absent of religious content, while others may not like another meeting because it does have certain religious content.

Some join homeschool support groups to get access to information such as what field trips or homeschool classes are going on in the area. Some want to hear about where they can get educator discounts or just to learn about good activities in the local area (museum events open to the public etc.). Some of those people have no desire to attend an adult support group meeting, so they never go to one. Those must be the people who join a group and who never show their face at group events.

There are many reasons why people attend homeschool support group meetings for adults, and why group members may never attend the meetings. Typically a support group meeting will have an experience homeschooling parent as the leader, a number of core meeting attendees who are experienced who like to attend support group meetings for their own fulfillment and to help others. There will also be some of the newer homeschoolers and maybe one or two people who are researching homeschooling who are seriously considering homeschooling. So long as a group is thriving and the members are getting something positive out of attending the meetings, I’d call the group worthwhile and a success.

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