Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Halloween Mishaps

Well things are not so smooth over in our household regarding Halloween prep.

Last night I decided to do a cake for a party we are going to instead of leaving it until Halloween Day to make. I know that cooks always say don't try a new recipe for company but I always have and never had an issue. Well last night I did.

It is a new recipe in a cookbook I've never used before. I checked our pantry and made a short list of items I needed. I went shopping yesterday but forgot the list at home. When I got home I began making the cake. I then realized a key ingredient was missing. I phoned my husband who was leaving work shortly and asked him to get the ingredient on the way home.

As I started to make the cake I realized that the cookbook has an odd layout. For example it called for slivered almonds, oven toasted then pureed into a powder. However it didn't tell how to toast the almonds, for how long and at what temperature. I winged it and they almonds were fine.

I needed orange zest and there was none at the grocery store. So we made handmade zest. The zester thing kept slipping and I cut my hand and scraped it in other places. Husband took over out of pity.

The text in the cookbook is very block-y. The paragraphs are not divided nicely, the text is small and jammed in. It said, "add all dry ingredients". I forgot to add the almonds as I was thinking of the typical flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

After I put the cake in the oven I realized I never put in the chocolate pieces. I removed the cake (6 minutes into baking it) and stirred them in. About ten minutes later I discovered I never put the toasted almonds in. Oops.

The cake was in a bundt pan. I added some homemade orange syrup to the cake in the pan when hot as directed. I waited ten minutes as directed then tried to remove it from the decorated Bundt pan. It was greased and floured as directed. The bottom half of the cake flopped out. I told myself if I could get it to look halfway decent I'd coat the whole thing in confectioner's sugar to hide the breaks and still bring it to the party. I tried to loosen up the cake from the pan but it was not easy due to the fancy fluting decoration. The rest of the cake came out in chunks. Maybe it was due to it being different due to it lacking some nut powder/dry ingredient. Who knows. Entire chunks were out and the thing looked horrible. No amount of confectioner's sugar could make the cake look better.

I decided to bring the cake to a family event this weekend as family won't mind eating a delicious cake from scratch even if it looks ridiculous. The cake is a Grand Mariner cake.

So first thing this morning I set out to make a cake I have made many times, a Boston Cream Pie. It has three different things to make and assemble, the two layers of cake, the pastry custard and the chocolate sauce. It came off well. Thank goodness.

Next up was pumpkin carving. I have three, one for each of my kids and one for me. We picked out our designs. I had to steer the kids away from too complicated designs such as a Death Star from Star Wars that the tutorial said would take ten hours. Ten hours! Next older son picked an eye of a dragon from Eragon but it said it takes 4-10 hours. I also realized I didn't have metal clay tools which it called for. I have regular plastic and metal pumpkin carving tools and kitchen knives.

Older son is old enough to do this himself but he barfs at the smell of pumpkin. So I am still doing all the work for him. Younger son helped me by poking the holes to transfer the pattern to the pumpkin.

I carved younger son's pumpkin. It was harder and more tedious than I thought. My hands ached.

I carved older son's pumpkin. The lettering was tedious and it almost broke in the fragile places. Almost. My hands were throbbing and I considered not doing my own pumplin today. Older son insisted on putting it outside immediately, even before I took a photo. While on the front porch he dropped it and the front smashed out partially. It then rolled off the porch onto the ground and fully smashed. He broke out in tears.

I tried to console him by saying he could have my pumpkin and I'd re-do it. However my hands were killing me so he would have to do the pattern transfer part. He is doing that right now and by some miracle he is not barfing. This is proof to me that his ability to barf on command and to claim that smells make him barf is now at least partially psychosomatic and part of his stubbornness. So I caught him! Whether it was intentional or fully psychsomatic I don't know but he is dealing with the pumpkin and not even gagging or complaining.

I had the thought today that celebrating holidays with traditions is important. However I'm feeling the extent to which our family sometimes goes ends up taxing me and heavily relying on me to do the bulk if not all of the work. I'm starting to resent it and that is not good. I can't complain too much as next up is Thanksgiving and my husband loves to do all the planning, shopping and cooking. Then for Christmas he does the same thing with the food and meal and even sets the dining room table. It is all the other holidays including children's birthdays that fall to my shoulders and is definately exhausting.

Still on the 'to do' list for today is sweeping the front porch, doing two small sewing projects to fix a wardrobe malfunction with my older son's costume and finishing up that third jack o'lantern.

Voting Open for Alasandra’s 2008 Homeschool Blog Awards

Voting is open for the Alasandra’s 2008 Homeschool Blog Awards. Voting ends December 31, 2008.

The Thinking Mother was nominated for “favorite adult blog”.

Read announcement and vote for your favorite adult blog here.

Other blog categories can be read by reading the blog's main page, here and vote in the left sidebar.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Yard in October

Here are some photos from our yard on what I feel was the peak fall foliage day in my area.

This year the foliage has been long lasting, due to the fact that we had many rain-less days and hardly any wind. We've had moderate, sunny calm days and cold nights . That is a recipe for long-lasting bright fall foliage. The burnt oranges, browns and purples came out after the nights dropped close to freezing.

All photos taken by ChristineMM on October 12, 2008 in Fairfield Couny, Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama on Homeschooling

Homeschoolers have been asking if Obama and McCain support homeschooling. I had tried to find the answer for Obama and could not find it. The closest I got to McCain's stance is that he supports parental choice in education including wanting to start a voucher system so parents can have more choices and financial assistance if they choose options other than their own area's public schools.

Spunky has been trying to get a clear answer from Obama's campaign about whether he supports homeschooling or not. Go here to read what Spunky was told about Obama's view on homeschooling.

My reaction to that statement is: respecting parent's decision is not the same as supporting it.

However as I've told some homeschoolers, the President's take on homeschooling is largely irrelevant since education is a state issue and laws for homeschooling are handled by each state's government.

HEY--this is the first time I've mentioned the upcoming election! I was trying to not blog anything about it...

Knitted a Green Hat for Me

Hat started October 20, finished October 25, 2008.

For more info about me knitting this hat, see this blog post on my other blog.

"Schoolhouses Are Made Wrong"

While decluttering my basement I went through a box of antique books that my paternal grandmother gave me. One book was falling apart, its leather cover completly off. I was going to just toss it, out of feeling I have too much stored stuff. But I decided to read a bit and I randomly opened to page 404 of "Laddie a True Blue Story". (I didn't find out until later when I sought Google's help that the author is Gene Stratton-Porter and this was published in 1913. My copy is missing the page that was to inform the reader of said facts.

When I read this I of course was thinking, "Homeschooling is this! Homeschooling is this!".

"Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so the birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the bank. You should do your arithmetic sitting under tress adding hickorynuts, subtracting walnuts, multiplying butternuts, and dividing hazelnuts. You could use apples for fractions, and tin cups for liquid measure. You could spell everything in sight and this would teach you the words that are really used in the world. Every single one of us could spell incompatibility, but I never heard father, or the judge, or even the Bishop, put it in a speech."

I loved that!

I first heard of the author Gene Stratton-Porter on a chat list mainly comprised of Christian homeschoolers who favored using living books as the main staple of their children's home education. Many used also, the Charlotte Mason method of home education. I first saw the books by this author sold at a Christian homeschooling conference.

This book, "Laddie a True Blue Story" has an expired copyright from what I can summise from my Internet research. It has been reprinted by different publishers. You can read the full copy of the book on Google Books, at this URL.

The above passage begins on page 404 and there is more about Laddie's view of school learning, teachers who are strict and who switch the students for punishment and so forth.

I'm feeling rejuvinated to do more family read-aloud's, I've slipped on that lately.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 148 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling #148 was published today at Why Homeschool.

I have an entry in this blog carnival. This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

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.


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A Hat for a Friend (or I May Keep It If She Remains Too Busy To Connect With Me!)

Here I am wearing a hat I knit for my friend's birthday.

If you want to read more about the hat, see more photos and hear about the process, check out this entry on my other blog.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 Published

The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #86 was published on October 21 at Heaven’s Homemaking Haven. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing or A Trojan Horse?; First Thoughts on Bible Illuminated: The Book New Testament

Title: Bible Illuminated: The Book New Testament
Creators: Illuminated World, Dag Soderberg
In partnership with: American Bible Association
Publication: Illuminated World (October 28, 2008), American release, in English
ISBN: 978-9197669443
Full Retail Price: $35.00

Summary Statement: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing or A Trojan Horse?

A publicist approached me to do a special sneak preview book review of the soon to be released book: Bible Illuminated The Book New Testament. The book was said to be the New Testament illustrated with contemporary photography. I imagined it to be a coffee table book with artistic photos representing in visual form, some of the content in the New Testament. I had hoped that artistic photos would make readers curious about The New Testament and that they would read it and discover if its words and the message of Christianity would have an impact on them in a positive way. I hoped Christians would start talking about the book and wondered if non-believers would be enlightened by what they read and saw in The New Testament.

When I viewed the book online (pre-publication, while hard copies were still being printed), I was a bit surprised by what I found. Knowing full well that photographers are artists with their own perspectives, and that illustrators interpret the text into visual forms, I was excited and wondered what types of images would appear in the book. (I can’t wait to get the hard copy of the book in my hands so I can read it properly, perhaps some of my impressions will change?)

The American Bible Association has given permission for The Good News version of The New Testament to be used in this publication, according to the credit and a two page spread that appears in the book that was written by The American Bible Association.

I was confused by many of the images selected and pondered for days what the source of my discomfort was and why I was reacting negatively to the book. I don’t feel that many of the images are not closely tied to literal interpretations of the text, but the images do one of two things. The first is just that some images just don’t seem to relate to the pages they are paired with. Even sometimes when a photo has an excerpt from the Bible I just don’t understand the matching of the image to the text, no matter how long I contemplate it. The second and more dangerous issue is that through the images and the added text a message comes across to the reader that is above and beyond the New Testament, this book seems to be calling the reader to take certain actions for social change as recommended by the United Nations (rather than focusing on issues that Christians feel are in The New Testament itself).

There are sections in the book which are new material, above and beyond the text of The New Testament, that speak of some social and cultural issues happening today across the world. There are messages in support of the United Nations initiatives, including an article “Eight Ways to Change the World” which is part of a plan created in 2000 called the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ which they hope will be realized by the year 2015. Readers are called to action by supporting initiatives of the United Nations and to donate their money (just one dollar you donate can help…) to such causes as improving medical care for pregnant women in third world countries to try to lower the maternal mortality rate, and also a call to action to get more prescription drugs for Africans with AIDS, to name just two.

A section has photographs of some people who have lived in this last century who the authors feel have done work to change the world for the better. Some include Angelina Jolie, Bono, Muhammad Ali, Al Gore, and Che Guevara. A bit unfair is the page that explains who the people are gives the least descriptions for those who seem to me to have done the most (Mother Theresa, Ghandi) and gives more praise to the celebrities. Even if we readers know who Mother Theresa and Ghandi are, they both deserve to have had a full paragraph like Angelina Jolie and Al Gore have.

The biggest message I received from previewing this book is a call to action, to act on certain highlighted issues of our times, such as global warming and some other environmental issues. The inclusion of two well-known photos, one of Al Gore in the famous photo at the podium with the Earth image from his book “An Inconvenient Truth” and another of the polar bear swimming (supposedly not having any icebergs left to stand on). This is in stark contrast to the usual intention of a Bible which is to read it and learn about what it means to be a Christian and to live a Christian life. The individuals highlighted in that one section are not just Christians, they celebrate the diversity in the world by showing Muslims and Atheists as well.

Other times I was left unsure of what I was being asked to feel or do, such as the inclusion of photographs by Ed Kashi of the Trans Amadi Slaughter that I learned after doing some research on the Internet, is a major source of pollution by the meat industry of the Niger Delta. I still do not understand how the quoted text from the Bible for one image relates to the issue of the meat industry and air and water pollution, “For the devil has come down to you and he is filled with rage, because he knows he has only a little time left”.

What message am I to get from learning of that water pollution issue? Is it that meat-eaters are bad? Is it that the Nigerian government doesn’t care about water pollution? That we have little time left to ‘save the Earth’? That polluters are the Devil? I am not sure.

An example of the problem with this book is that the issues highlighted are not necessarily connected to what is in The New Testament that still are important issues today. What is not in the book is any kind of pro-life message. There could have been controversial photos of partial birth abortions to underscore Christ’s message about not killing. There could have been images of present day genocide to show readers that those horrors are still happening in some parts of the world today. Again this is an example of not using examples from The New Testament but just overlaying issues that the United Nations has deemed are its top priorities. Am I asking too much to think that controversial issues that appear in photographs would be about issues which Christ has opinions about that are all plainly laid out in The New Testament?

As creator Dag Soderberg states in his video promotional materials, “It touches you even if you are not a believer”. I took that to mean that the creators of the book seek to touch the reader through the visuals and highlighted text rather than to encourage reading the entire New Testament and walking away with a positive image of Christians, a believer in God, a believer in Jesus Christ and/or a conversion to the Christian faith. You have to admit that publishing a New Testament Bible with a mission other than to educate about the history of Christianity and how to live a Christian life is pretty gutsy. And therein lays the controversy as I see it.

So who are the creators or illuminators as they call themselves? From the official website, we learn that creator of “Illuminated World” is Dag Soderberg who “ is a spiritual but not particularly religious individual”. The others involved are investors and business people.

Dag Soderberg states in a promotional video available for viewing on the book’s official website and on asks if the Bible can relate to modern times. He states that he wants people to read the Bible and to display it in their homes and to read it in public (on the subway) and to talk about it. Soderberg states the Bible is powerful, more powerful and older than the churches and that we should know our history. But at times after viewing the preview I was left convinced that one of the motives of the creator is to show that some people in the world are living very different lives than the Bible prescribes.

The impression I received was that the Bible is outdated and perhaps not the best advice to take. I point to the spread (seen above) of what I thought was a gruesome image of a rich white woman tearing apart a roasted bird with her bare hands (would not a well groomed woman like that use a proper carving knife and fork?). The text that puts down what we now call ‘being a vegetarian’. Will that not tick off the vegetarian social activists out there and allow them to put down The New Testament as outdated and in need of ignoring? In another section the statement that women must submit to their husbands is highlighted but text about how a husband needs to treat his wife well is not highlighted. Another recommendation that goes against what many women choose concerns their hair length. Women without long hair are not doing the right thing. Why were those sections highlighted as worthy of our attention?

I have a feeling first and foremost the purpose of publishing this book is to make money. I bet the creators hope that the many who buy Bibles in America will buy their own copy of Bible Illuminated The Book The New Testament. Secondarily I feel the mission is of social change, to incite readers to social activism and to push the agenda of The United Nations, above and beyond hoping readers come away with positive beliefs about Christianity and Jesus Christ.

Are any of the founders or business partners of Illuminated World religious?
There is no religious mission here. We believe that the success of The Book will be driven by the fact that this is not coming from within any specific faith, religion or church. We are from many faiths, backgrounds and beliefs and ultimately trying to create something for the many and not just for the few.

My suspicions on the reason this was created were confirmed today when I was reading the official website’s News section.

What is Illuminated World’s agenda? What is the goal in publishing The Book and other “Illuminated” texts?
The goal is to drive an emotional reaction and get people to think, discuss and share. It’s meant to trigger bigger moral questions. It in turn will help people to understand the common heritage between all religions through the Bible’s text. We hope people will find the images, design and layout intriguing—intriguing enough to talk about the actual stories in the Bible and what the morals and lessons mean to them and to each other. The more you know, the more you can participate in discussions about the world and understand the bigger picture.

Bible Illuminated The Book New Testament was released in Sweden in 2007 and sold over 300,000 copies. I am told the publication in English in America is ‘highly anticipated’. In fact the Press section of the official website is already filled with pre-publication, positive reviews of the English edition of this book.

And What Next?

Currently being created is The Old Testament in an illuminated version to be released in the spring of 2009. According to the news section of the official website, future plans include translations of other religious books as well. If The Koran is published I wonder how that will be produced and how Muslims will react to it.

Other Thoughts

After skimming this book I was left wondering and wishing that someone would produce a New Testament with artistic photographs that more literally interpret the text and do not add a political and social agenda. I urge Christian book publishers to seriously consider doing such a project. I would love to see what Christian photographers and Christian editors would come up with including a New Testament that is beautifully and artistically illustrated in a modern way.

I’m left asking myself the question about the challenges and possible dangers of non-Christians publishing Bibles, especially those that seek to promote more of a ‘one world unity’ and ‘no one religion is right’. If there is any book in the world that should be pro-Christianity and speak specifically to people about what Christianity is, it would be The New Testament. It is what it is, a book promoting Christianity!

For more reading:

United Nations Millenium Development Goals

The United Nations Millennial Goals can be read here.

Official Website: Illuminated World (publishers of Bible Illuminated The Book The New Testament

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A Change of Pace Planned for Week Ten

Today we are finishing up week nine in this academic year’s homeschooling. Looking back so far, I am thrilled.

I started off the year energized by the high standards of Marva Collins, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. The words of Harold Bloom were echoing in my head as well. In September I was pleasantly surprised by TiVo’s artificial intelligence by a recording of Charles Murray lecturing about his new book “Real Education”.

My older son is in sixth grade now and there is a more serious feel than we had in the more carefree and laid-back early elementary grades. I don’t feel that I can continue to say, “We’ll get around to history some day” or “writing composition is a pain so I’ll let it slide for now”. As my children get older and as the days slip by I realized that sometimes you just have to start doing the things that previously kept falling by the wayside, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Even more serious than a homeschooling parent’s desire for providing their children with a high quality home education, this was the first new academic year that I knew my older son has two learning disabilities. Now that I know he has some issues and now that I am aware of some confirmed areas of weakness in certain subject areas I feel it is my duty to take these matters seriously and to address both things. To intentionally choose to address a learning disability, I feel is my parental duty. I feel that by helping him by trying to raise up his areas of weakness, rather than just further boosting up his known strengths, I’m helping my child realize more of what his potential is. I feel that to purposefully not help a child become the most that he can be due to my choice to not take action would be nothing short of child abuse—it is not just neglect. In my opinion, one form of unintentional educational neglect would be what would happen if a well-intentioned homeschooling parent didn’t know their child had a learning disability and therefore didn’t take action to help the child overcome it. I could not live with myself if out of my own laziness or some other factor controlled by me I screwed up my children’s education. I have chosen to take on this responsibility of home educating my children and by God, I should take it seriously and do my best to get the job done right. Connecticut’s law clearly states that it is the duty of the parent to educate their children and I’m taking on that duty. I had better do my job right. If I can’t or won’t do it, then I can give up my duty and turn my child over to the public school system to handle it.

So with this tall order of mine, this year we started off disciplined. I am proud to say that here at the end of week nine I’ve done a great job and so have my children. I was worried that despite my best efforts, I’d ended up scheduling outside classes and events to take up two full weekdays this year. I was concerned that with just three days at home to do all the lessons that were supposed to be facilitated by me, that we may slack and not do it out of exhaustion from being overly busy. I worried that three days (or less) would not be enough time to do all the different learning tasks that I had chosen to take responsibility to administer here at home.

This fall I changed some of their curriculum. Older son loves having his math program teach him directly, I have been removed from the equation completely and he is thriving. Note that all attempts in the past for me to have him do more self-teaching or independent work were met with high resistance.

Younger son, who I now realize is very left-brained (concrete-sequential learner), has more work that is the type that he likes and thrives on, even though if it were up to me my children would do none of that kind of work (lots of workbook type work). I need to be honest and admit that my younger son is happier than ever! He loves to be given a set assignment to do and is joyful about finishing a task. He has taken it to another level thanks to the Calvin and Hobbes comics, in which he insists I correct his work in red pencil, score it and give it a letter grade (I shudder to even tell you that is happening in our home as that is so far from what I ever imagined our ‘home school’ would be like). Above and beyond my desire to craft our home school to be different than what I experienced in public school is my desire to have a learning environment that is custom tailored to each child’s unique nature. If that includes teaching, learning, and doing things in a way that is different than what I want, then I feel I should do it. To clarify I mean our ‘home school’ is not an expression of the perfect educational experience for ME but it should be suited to each of my children. If I have to leave behind MY preferred way of teaching or learning or experiencing life to do what each of my children needs then that is what I have to do, I need to let go of MY preconceived notions to do what is best for THEM. That means also that with two very different children like I have with my two sons, that I am facilitating two very different home educations (which gives me more work but hey, this is the task I’ve chosen to take on when I decided to home educate our children).

I changed some teaching methods this year, specifically using some different teaching techniques for right-brained learners (visual-spatial learners) with my older son. I am seeing fantastic results with that. I will say though that I am spending about three hours a week doing the homemade, custom crafted work that is required to do what I am doing. Again, this is the task I’ve committed myself to doing when I chose to be a homeschooling mother, so I’m doing it, no matter how time consuming it might be for me. The method is working, the child is thriving and excelling, so I’m not stopping it to save myself time and energy!

A real concern as well was that in those three days of cramming that we have each week, that I’d be filling the bucket instead of lighting the fire. I worried that I’d become the taskmaster and my children would become rebellious and disrespectful, pushing back against my authority. Certainly that has been my experience in the past. Where we are in reality is that inside I am starting to feel a bit like a taskmaster but I have not shown some of the negative outward expressions that homeschooling moms might display when they are feeling like a taskmaster. My children have been cooperating. My children are happy with our new routine and with their new educational plan. Their happiness is evidenced in different ways:
They have not been complaining about doing their work, well, perhaps a few comments have been made here and there but whole days go by without one single complaint.
We started off this year with a few lectures from my husband about educational excellence and work ethic and it seems to have worked.
My sons are happy to complete their work, that is, they have a sense of pride at having finished the assignment and having met an expected goal. They seem content about it.
On some days they take it upon themselves to do double the amount of work than I assign, saying they want to ‘get ahead’ and ‘do more’.
They have not been bickering and have gone over three weeks without breaking any of the various house rules (a miracle!). I credit boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation with bickering and unease so I guess they are getting enough academic work to keep them happy.
They have not just been polite to me but they are showing more signs of affection toward me than they have in over a year. I had thought they were just growing up and distancing themselves from me as sons typically do with their mothers but they are both in a reversal stage. I now suspect that our year of turmoil last year affected them more than I realized and think that they are healing and their mourning for the three deaths last year is being processed (the last death was in June 2008).

So here at the end of week nine I am feeling:
The kids are making progress in all subject areas that they have been working on.
The kids are doing some work faster than planned and are getting their work done at a faster paced rate. For example I think they will both finish two years of math work in this one academic year.
The schedule is busier than expected so I just dropped a full morning outside class to make more free time at home. That class was supposed to go from September to June.
I still am not teaching everything though. Falling off the radar is history, music history/composer study, fine art history, and reading poetry. I’d like to increase art instruction from what is currently happening. I’d like more time to do some special projects such as doing more process based art and crafts. The kids want to learn to sew with the machine and we have not done anything like full days working with polymer clay like we used to.

In reaction to the above, I have made two decisions this week:

1. The new free morning we have due to dropping out of the class is going to be used to do the lessons we were failing to get to on the other days such as fine art history, composer study and reading poetry and doing larger craft and art projects.
2. Next week we are taking a full week off of our regular studies to give a break. In its place we will remain home and doing productive work of a different nature. I envision that a day will be spent sewing. Another day I will get out a lot of our art materials and do some new art projects that are completely disconnected from what the children are doing with there homeschool art curriculum. We’ll read some poetry; we’ll listen to some classical music. I have some good books that we just have not taken the time to ever use, so think I’ll put some to use. Inspired by the conference that started yesterday that I’m attending, I think I will do some art appreciation lessons based on picture book art. We have Halloween prep as well, pumpkins to carve, a fancy dessert to bake, and one costume to sew. I would like to add a museum trip but given that one weekday is Halloween I think that is expecting too much. I plan to try to continue this cycle of work followed by one week of doing different work, timing it by the feel of when we need it versus a strict declaration of a time period (i.e. nine weeks of one way, one week off).
I am so happy about where we are right now. I feel we have a momentum going and the kids are making great progress. I also have done a good job at being disciplined and not slacking. There is a wonderful feeling of harmony in our home and it is such a great feeling. I’m letting myself bask in that feeling!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Advice

I thought of this recent post at Mental Multivitamin when I saw this old mug at a thrift shop the other day.

I had never heard this diddy sung by Burle Ives until I saw the link at the MMV blog, it was released before my time. However I could not get this song out of my head for days after hearing it just once.

This Made Me Tear Up

My heart hurts for kids whose potential will not be realized due to the fact that they attend school. A deeper pain is felt for those who will have psychological damage, some of which lasts years or a lifetime, due to attending school.

Please read this article. Do not skim it. Read it carefully and ponder it.

I wonder if as you read it, you will have the same questions raised in your mind about how hard it is to try to have effectiveness with institutional schooling, of the challenges trying to administer learning to a group of kids (you try to imagine setting up a school system if you had to start from scratch or try to imagine running a classroom).

I have come to the conclusion that schooling, that is, teaching large numbers of children as a group, and giving them an individualized education that meets the unique needs of each child and helps them become all that they truly can be is impossible. Just impossible.

I am glad that so far my children have escaped being part of the American public education system. If the day comes when my children must attend school, if I could afford it I'd send them to the best private school that matched their needs and abilities. If that was not possible I'd have to use public school (government school).

If that day ever comes, if my children enroll into a public school, despite how dedicated I have been to parenting and home educating my children I think to save my sanity I would have to disconnect myself completely from the school sytem, that is, not get on the PTA and to have minimal contact with the school teachers and school administrators. If I tried to 'stay on top of' my children's public school education I would be the staff's worst nightmare as I'd try to hold them to a higher standard than they set for themselves. I would still want individualized education but in reality I know the public schools cannot provide that so it.

Here is the article I'd like you to read:

Is it a Cheetah?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I spent eight hours today in the company of children's book lovers, bookworms, librarians, teachers, college students (art and teaching) homeschooling parents, children's authors, children's book illustrators, book publishing professionals, and parents.

I was at the eighth Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature in Westport Connecticut today.

I can't really explain what it feels like to feel completely fulfilled and mentally stimulated yet comfortable and at ease just being surrounded by over 500 people who 'get it' and feel the same way about reading, books, and quality children's literature. If we have nothing else in common, we had that shared passion.

I just wanted to share that I have a wonderful feeling right now, one that I wish would never end.

I think that part of the happiness I am feeling came directly from being surrounded by people who share a passion with me. No matter what their specific job is, no matter what their race or ethnicity or religion or wealth level is, no matter what gender they are or any of the other things that can divide us...we all had a shared passion for the utter importance of the value and necessity of reading in the lives of children (and adults). Every stranger that I spoke to was polite and excited and we connected and were able to converse about various things related to the Festival and reading and books. At no time was I ever made to feel uncomfortable or different or wrong or strange.

In many ways most of the things that make up who I am as a person are 'alternative' or 'different'. So much of the time I feel separated and apart from the majority of people around me, due to various things like my parenting style (attachment parenting), the fact that we homeschool, the fact that I no longer work outside the home for pay, the fact that ideas stimulate me and that I like to discuss ideas with others (rather than discussing the lives of celebrities, fashion trends, or granite countertops), so on and so forth.

My passion for reading and my appreciation for quality children's literature is often not shared by the people I know, not by some who are close to me, not by my relatives. Not even all homeschooling parents I know believe what I do about children and reading.

I think that one reason I'm feeling so fulfilled and happy is that just for today I was among others who 'get it'. I was not thought of as weird for attending this conference, we all wanted to be there. I was not odd for having my books autographed.

I was among peers today and it felt fantastic.

I wonder what it would feel like if every day of my life I felt this way. Life would be truly glorious. I can't imagine it.

I'm exhausted and need to get to sleep. I will pray that when I wake this lovely feeling will still be alive inside of me rather than back to 'business as usual'.

Yes Oprah's New Favorite Gadget Is...

the Amazon Kindle, a unique electronic gadget that you read books on, websites, blogs, newspapers and magazines.

I guessed, and I was right about my prediction. Oprah announced on 10/24/08 that her new favorite gadget is the Amazon Kindle. Jeff Bezos was on the show and is offering an additional $50 off the Kindle if you enter promotional code OPRAHWINFREY when finalizing your order with Amazon (on purchases made within one week of the show airing). Click through the below link to order your Kindle if you so desire. Thanks in advance if you order it after linking through my blog as I'll earn a commission.

To read more about Oprah's show that was recorded live and aired on 10/24/08, go here.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

More on Trophy Kids

In April 2007 The Wall Street Journal published a long article of the negative effects of the ‘me generation’, the ‘trophy kids’ who are now in their 20s and in the workforce. I have mentioned that article on my blog in the past.

Wall Street Journal article from April 2007: The Most-Praised Generation Goes to Work
Uber-stroked kids are reaching adulthood -- and now their bosses (and spouses) have to deal with them. Jeffrey Zaslow on 'applause notes,' celebrations assistants and ego-lifting dinnerware.

Now the generation is being termed “the millennial generation” and it is being defined as children born between 1980 and 2001. A new book has been published about the trophy kids and their lives now that they are in their 20s. It includes discussions of how they are faring in the workforce. The book is “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace" by Ron Alsop.

On October 21, 2008, The Wall Street Journal ran one of their long articles which is dubbed an adaptation from the book: article titled: "The Trophy Kids Go To Work" . There are so many quotables that I don’t know where to start. I can’t do the article justice—please go read it in its entirety!

What strikes me from reading some of the interviews with millennial generation adults in the workforce is they seen unwilling to do what it takes for businesses to run. They have enjoyed a lifestyle having access to goods and services produced by American businesses but they are nto willing to do the work it takes for that to take place. For example, the quote where it is said they want to be a CEO right now but they are unwilling to work more than 40 hours a week. Well truth be told, CEOs rarely work 40 hours a week (or less). And there are just not enough CEO jobs to go around. There seems to be a resistance to the fact in life that there actually is pecking order and there actually is a corporate ladder to climb—you don’t just take a helicopter to the top as soon as a college degree is earned!

I have heard parents criticized for letting their post-college aged working children live at home. In my area it is nearly impossible to rent and save enough money to put down a 20% deposit on a house; housing is very expensive in Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. I personally have no problem with adult children living at home, saving their money in preparation for buying a home after they get married. However this quote from the article tells a very different story. In my opinion this is a situation where the adult is not being responsible nor are they being self-sufficient. This seems to me to be a case where the parents are allowing the child’s adolescence to continue up toward age 30 (or if this keeps up, into the 30s)!

I can't resist sharing some quotes from the October 2008 Wall Street Journal adaptation:

"These workplace nomads don't see any stigma in listing three jobs in a single year on their resumes. They are quite confident about landing yet another job, even if it will take longer in this dismal economy. In the meantime, they needn't worry about their next paycheck because they have their parents to cushion them. They're comfortable in the knowledge that they can move back home while they seek another job. The weak job market may make millennials think twice about moving on, but once jobs are more plentiful, they will likely resume their job-hopping ways."

The Milennials in the article talk so confidently, as if they are capable of doing their work and as if they have a good work ethic. However this quote to me seems to illustrate quite plainly their incompetence.

Another quote:

"Millennials also want things spelled out clearly. Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules and the order that they crave. Managers will need to give step-by-step directions for handling everything from projects to voice-mail messages to client meetings. It may seem obvious that employees should show up on time, limit lunchtime to an hour and turn off cellphones during meetings. But those basics aren't necessarily apparent to many millennials."

I could go on and on sharing quotes but I highlighted nearly the entire article as one section was better than the next!

I blogged earlier this week in my rant-post "I'm Sick of Negative Effects Caused by Non-Thinkers" about my increasing frustration with wasting my time dealing with incompetent employees and stupid people. It was a total coincidence that I later read this article. I’m having that feeling again of feeling doomed, as a poor work ethic contributes to problems for businesses and for customer relations. This article (and book) provides evidence of this generation who seems to lack responsibility.

Dare I get even more cynical by saying that the hard work ethic that made this country so great is now in decline? If our businesses and service industries are unable to just keep up with what the Milennials are used to living with, then what? Will we start having a decline in the quality of life in America? What I'm speaking of is having companies filled with lazy workers, workers who think they are doing a job right but who actually can't work independently, who need their hands held and told what to do for every single step? Workers who don't even have basic etiquette such as knowing how to act professional in a business meeting? Workers who want praise for doing a sub-par job? Then if they don't like the treatment they get, they quit? I know full well how hard it is to train employees and to keep competent employees working, but I also know that a job can become routine or even boring at times. That is the way it is, period. If there is a high turnover at companies, the cost of doing business rises, and that impacts everyone by raising the cost of services and goods. This could really be disasterous, after all, what will happen when the blind are leading the blind?

After reading this article I am asking myself questions, since both of my sons are technically part of the “Milennial Generation”.

What does this mean for my children? Do I want them to function this way when they are adults in the workplace?

What kind of work ethic do I want my children to have?

If we are to blame the American public education system for any of this, well, thinking for my own children who are homeschooled, I’m asking myself, what am I doing that would contribute to my kids becoming like those young adults?

What am I doing that is different now, with my children, what is different than other parents who raised Milennial Generation children to adulthood already?

How can I raise children with good self-esteem yet who do not think they are ‘above others’ or who are deceived to think they are more capable in their careers than they actually are?

In conclusion I need to share the paragraph where the business people complaining about these terrible-worker Milennial Generation are actually the parents who raised them. There is something quite funny about that fact.

In the final analysis, the generational tension is a bit ironic. After all, the grumbling baby-boomer managers are the same indulgent parents who produced the millennial generation. Ms. Barry of Merrill Lynch sees the irony. She is teaching her teenage daughter to value her own opinions and to challenge things. Now she sees many of those challenging millennials at her company and wonders how she and other managers can expect the kids they raised to suddenly behave differently at work. "It doesn't mean we can be as indulgent as managers as we are as parents," she says. "But as parents of young people just like them, we can treat them with respect."

I'm putting this book on my "to be read" list. Library hold queue, here I come.

Related article: The Kindercracy: Every Child a Dauphin by Joseph Epstein appeared in The Weekly Standard, June 9, 2008.

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Charles Murray Left Me Speechless

Last month my TiVo surprised me by recording a BookTV lecture given by Charles Murray about education. The lecture was recorded in July 2008 at FreedomFest and was about his latest (short) book which was published in August 2008: Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality". In that lecture Murray speaks about two of his four theories about education that are covered in the book.

I didn’t know what to expect of this lecture, but after hearing this, I was left speechless and literally sitting with my mouth hanging open. In the very beginning of his lecture, here is what he said that shocked me.

American education “…well it is an emperor’s clothes situation. This is the way I put it in the introduction to the book: the problem in American education is not low test scores, or obdurate teacher’s unions or a lot of the other usual suspects, the real problem with American education is that is that it is living a lie. And the lie is that people believe that children can be just about anything he or she wants to be only if the educational system tries hard enough to teach them. Nobody really believes that. If you get people alone and put a few drinks in them, and make sure that they understand no one will repeat what they said, they will agree that some kids are actually pretty dumb and there is nothing you can really do about it and other kids are much smarter than they are. In the same way that some kids are better at basketball or better at music, and other kids can’t carry a tune, and others stumble over their own feet. Ability varies. It is something that American educational system from Kindergarten to Graduate School runs from as if it were the plague.”


He illustrates said belief by the lack of any articles saying that the reason why no articles about the failure of No Child Left Behind is that some children can’t raise their standardized test scores is that they simply aren’t smart enough, and the reason why not all students go to college is that college level material is too tough for them.

I watched the lecture twice, so far, between then and now and can’t wait to read the book.

Here are the four theories in the book as direct quotes from the lecture.

1. Ability varies. A simple truth.
2. Half of the children are below average. A simple truth.
3. Too many students are going to college
4. The future of America depends on how we educated the gifted students.

Murray is the co-author of the famous book “The Bell Curve”.

You can watch or listen to the lecture from FreedomFest 2008 on the BookTV website, here.

If listening to this lecture does not inspire thought, then I don’t know what will. I recommend this lecture to all parents, to all home educators and to all teachers. Take a listen and start thinking.

To be truthful, I feel that I was sold that bill of goods, by the American public education system. As a student in the system I was led to believe that if I only studied hard enough and played by the school rules, adhered to their system, I could be smart and educated and could be anything I wanted to be. At age seventeen the lie in that was made apparent to me when I tried to get a little part-time, after-school job that I was completely capable of doing based on the training I got in school, but access to that job was denied to me. I won’t get into that now though. That was just the first thing. I have found over and over again in life that despite doing the right things, the fact is that not all the doors in the world open up to everyone, even if they are educated and able. Until I heard this lecture by Charles Murray, I had never heard anyone criticizing that notion of the American education system before; it was both scary to consider accepting yet his ideas are somehow exciting to contemplate.

I’ve been thinking, “What does this mean for my children?” and “What does this mean for our homeschooling?” I’ve also been thinking about institutional schooling and college, the formal education system itself and the difference with self-education and continuing to learn throughout our adult lives versus the over-focus that seems to be on education from grades K-12 and up through the college years.

I also have been thinking of the trophy kids who were raised with doing all the right things in school, doing lots of extra-curricular activities, going to college and graduating, who are struggling in the workplace, quitting jobs left and right and continuing their adolescence into their 20s, relying on their parents for financial support and housing. And I am asking myself if that is a perfect example of how following the rules in the American education system from preschool through college has failed to produce the kinds of mature, thinking adults that our country needs and if it has failed the individuals themselves, if they cannot keep a steady job and support themselves as adults.

What do you think of Murray’s theories?

Charles Murray’s book: Real Education

Kindle Edition:

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I Bet Oprah’s New Favorite Gadget the Amazon Kindle!

Update 10/25/08: I was right about my prediction. Oprah announced on 10/24/08 that her new favorite gadget is the Amazon Kindle. Jeff Bezos was on the show and is offering an additional $50 off the Kindle on orders placed within one week of the show's air date---if you enter promotional code OPRAHWINFREY when finalizing your order with Amazon. Click through the below link to order your Kindle if you so desire. Thanks in advance if you order it after linking through my blog as I'll earn a commission.

I have a feeling that today’s Oprah show is going to talk about two extremes. One extreme is we will hear how to be thrifty by making inexpensive meals, to reduce basic living costs in reaction to the current financial crisis. The second story on the show is that Oprah is going to reveal her new favorite gadget. Based on the fact that Oprah’s show is being promoted on’s home page, I suspect that her favorite new gadget is the Amazon Kindle. I suspect this because Amazon has been marketing the Kindle heavily since the Kindle was released. The Kindle was originally $399 and the price dropped to $379 and is now $359. I feel the drop in price is an attempt to make more sales, to make the gadget more affordable to customers, to lure them in.

Let’s see if I’m right.

If you miss the Oprah show today, I am sure Amazon will be updating their home page to advertise what Oprah’s favorite gadget is.

I bet I’m right.

There has been some criticism of The Kindle. From what I’ve read, it is because when you buy a Kindle book from Amazon, Amazon has structured the copyright so that only the purchaser of that book can read it. You must purchase the Kindle book from Amazon. The Kindle book cannot be resold to another person. Regular books can be shared, lent, given away or resold when the original purchaser of the book desires. So some are saying this is an issue where Amazon is holding a monopoly. That issue is something to contemplate.

If Oprah’s new favorite gadget is the Kindle I wonder how the sales will go. Usually when she recommends a book, sales skyrocket. Let’s see what happens if the item is a $359 Kindle.

Hey, if you decide to buy the Kindle and you make the purchase through my blog I'd be very, very happy, since I earn a small commission from all Amazon sales made through my blog links.


Link to Oprah show promotion for October 24, 2008 show

You can find articles on the web about getting Kindle books for free for those willing to break copyright law. I won't link to them because I do adhere to copyright law and advise that you do the same, but at least one article is out there telling you how to do it. The Internet is crazy!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Secrets of (Some) Addicting Video Games

Interesting short article: Bejeweled Creator Spills Secrets of Addictive Games

A few years ago I discovered my ISP lets me play certain online video games for free. I loved Collapse and Bejeweled as well as Noah's Ark, Zuma, and a couple of others. They were addicting. They were simple. Yet something about them was fun. I knew they were mindless. For a while I got into a routine where to relax after dinner I'd play for 30 minutes or so. Then my husband started playing the same games on his computer in the other room and meanwhile the kids were playing by themselves in another room. That seemed really weird and wrong. I ditched the games and so did my husband.

When I was in my early 20's I had a Nintendo game system and I was completely addicted to Tetris. I stopped playing when I dreamed of the game for what seemed like hours and hours night after night.

By imposing limits on my children's video game playing to one hour a day on weekdays and two per day on the weekends (if they have time) I hope I am helping my kids NOT get addicted to video games. Also, the video games are what gets taken away if the kids break any household rules.

Some parents are against video games played on video game consoles but let their kids play portable gaming systems or let them play computer entertainment games or free Internet based computer entertainment games. Let’s be honest, all entertaining video-based games have the same issues, one is not more evil than another. Some are cheaper, some require more of an expense, but each has pro’s and con’s. Each type can be addicting. Each type of entertainment game should have limits, for children, just so they have enough time in their lives for other good types of play and learning and social time with friends and ‘quality time’ with family members.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sick of Negative Effects Caused by Non-Thinkers

Lately I have had at least two examples a week of problems caused by workers lack of thinking abilities and secondarily, lack of follow-through. I thought about making a list but so far have not.

When my children are witness to these things I launch into a discussion of the issues and the problems caused by non-thinking, lack of common sense, poor work ethics or sheer stupidity, depending on which applies.

Today's issue has to do with an employee claiming ignorance that what the medical office chose to do is technically insurance fraud, a felony. Then the office worker went on to tell me they are not going to do anything to fix the problem, as her only concern is patient care and neither she or the doctor know anything about medical billing, proper ways to use CPT coding, Medicare payment policy or insurance fraud laws--those are not their concern, she said, as they just know about patient care. Are you kidding me? It is the doctor's business to know how to bill for his services, to know what is fraud and what is not fraud and it is his job to make sure all staff members who are involved in the billing process are trained in these topics as well.

I am seriously worried about the future of life in America, because these problems seem to be growing in number. Someone is to blame for these lacking abilities. These things must be taught to children and teenagers throughout their young lives as a starting point foundation. As with everything else even in adulthood, learning continues and these things get sharpened over time. Also the basic values of justice, honesty, and so forth must be set in childhood and reinforced in the teenage years, it is a parent's duty to teach those things. Teens and young adults need to have those foundational principals set in place when they begin to live more indpendent lives, such as working at a job, buying a car, renting or buying a place to live in, so on and so forth.

People younger than me seem less able:

1. To think, to reason, to evaluate what they see, read, or hear.

2. They seem more vulnerable to instantly accept anything that is told to them without any independent thinking or analysis. Simple examples are to believe what a commercial states, to fall for sales gimmicks, and to believe political propaganda such as wild claims and promises made by politicians running for office.

3. They are lacking logic. Even when presented with the facts and information they seem unable to process it and make any sense of it to come to logical conclusions that are apparent to some other people.

4. Common sense seems 'not so common' anymore. Some people just don't have common sense, they seem to be unable to see what is plain and right in front of their faces, or fail to comprehend what is spelled right out for them.

5. They seem to care less about follow-through, thinking "this is not my problem" and passing the buck to someone else, making an excuse, saying "that is the other person's job". They have no desire to help the customer such as to facilitate that a problem (caused by their own office staff) gets dealt with by the proper person in the company. They are content to just walk away or hang up the phone and leave the customer in the lurch. And they care not a whit of the negative consequences caused by their co-worker (or themselves if they are to blame). This also sometimes applies to when a law is broken by said company. I am unsure if this is just a poor work ethic or something larger is the issue here.

6. The general sense of responsibility seems lacking. If a problem is seen, people don't step in to say, "Hey, this is a problem for our customer, it needs addressing, let me do my part to get the ball rollling in the right direction because addressing the harder problems that I find out about while working is also part of my job, not just doing the easiest parts of my job." I am unsure if this is linked to people not having a sense of justice or seeking to do good or what is causing that line of thinking, or if it is just simple laziness? If it is apathy, what has caused the apathy to occur?

7. The ignorance of our laws and the notion that a law can be broken and then they can just claim "I didn't know that was a law" as if that will get them out of the problem. The fact of the matter is that in the United States of America being ignorant about a law does not exempt the person from being charged with a crime or being punished and sentenced in a court of law.

8. Lying seems to be on the rise. Decency and honestly seem to be on the decline. People seem to lie and manipulate to get their way, even if it is rude, even if it causes more problems for others than how it benefits them, and even if it breaks a law.

Combine all this with what reports state about our country's youth learning less and less in schools and our country declining in the rankings of academic knowledge. I don't mean for this post to turn into an American school bashing post but they have to be partly to blame.

All this is enough to make a person downright fearful to grow older. I say that because when I'm older the younger ones will be running the country (not just being lower ranking employees in companies) and our country can get into a fine mess if all of the above is rampant. If the ones with academic smarts, thinking skills, common sense and a general sense of decency and a desire to do what is right and good are outnumbered we are really going to be in a bad situation.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 146 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling #147 was published today at Melissa’s Idea Garden.

I have an entry in this blog carnival. This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

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.


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Computer Virus Nightmare

Last night I was on the computer at night. I don't usually do that.

I credit this with giving me I a extremely realistic feeling nightmare (yes, in full color). I dreamed I turned on my computer and opened my email program. I had an email from a friend that said a terrible computer virus was just discovered and there was no fix for it yet so virus detecting software programs were not yet able to identify or prevent the computers from being damaged if infected so to be careful! The virus was so bad that one out of two people who turned on their computers that day were losing all their saved data and it could not be recovered. The virus was rampant and almost everyone who turned on their computer that day would get the virus. People were being advised to not even turn on their computers lest they possibly lose everything.

And just then while reading that email my computer got the virus and it began shutting down and all my data was lost.

I have not saved my documents to my external hard drive in about six months. I should do that today I guess...

I have various things on my hard drive, these blog posts, blog post drafts, homeschooling notes and records for our family and more. It would kill me to lose all that data.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting Excited for Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature

Yesterday I was filled up with stimulation and eye candy while attending the big New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. I "window shopped" and bought some yarn and a set of knitting needles for future projects.

Today is a new day and somewhat sadly, I can't dwell on yesterday as we had to rise early to get to a dental appointment. After that we progressed with errands and visits to my mother-in-law, my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law, then home to do homeschooling lessons. I was jolted when I realized that the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature kicks off on Thursday (can it be that time of year already?). This evening I realized that something my husband said to me this morning means also that he has a work conflict leaving me without childcare for this very clearly stated 'no children allowed' opening event-lecture. When a friend called to chat (serendipity!) I asked if she could watch my kids while my sons played with her son (their friend). I was thrilled when she said yes.

At each of the past Rabbit Hill Festivals that I attended I vowed not to overspend or even buy anything (due to a tight budget), but would just take books that I already owned written by those authors for signing, yet each year I forked out well over $100 on children's books that day due to my curiosity being piqued and to have them signed that day.

This year I am partially ashamed to admit that I am buying books ahead of time through Ouch! Sorry Westport Library!

So tonight I was online shopping for books by: Steve Jenkins, E.B. Lewis, Grace Lin, Barbara McClintock, David Wiesner and Mo Willems. I bought seven books this evening. Thanks to the fantastic customer service and fast shipping of and UPS I will surely have these seven books in hand by Saturday morning.

This year the focus of the children's festival is on children's picture books and especially focusing on illustrations. The opening lecture is being given by the President of the Eric Carle Museum Museum of Picture Book Art, H. Nichols B. Clark.

(Note to self: this museum is less than a two hour drive from my home, it is ridiculous that we have not yet visited it and we MUST get up there this fall---definately before the "Pat the Bunny" exhibit ends!).

Now that the order is placed I can get back to thinking good thoughts and feeling inspired by all that I saw yesterday at the Sheep and Wool Festival!

Other Links

Take a virtual tour of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I blogged more about this Festival in this blog post in August 2008.

Some books by Steve Jenkins:

Some books illustrated and some written by E.B. Lewis:

Some books by Grace Lin:

Some books by Barbara McClintock:

This telling of The Gingerbread Man was a favorite of both of my children!

Some books by David Wiesner:

My kids loved this book Free Fall!

My boys also loved Tuesday!

Some books by Mo Willems:

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

It’s That Time of Year Again

It is here again. The pre-Halloween time. The Halloween-bashing time.

This is when I began to be driven nuts by hearing from some Protestant Christians and some Catholics that I know about how we should not be doing the typical American secularized activities that I consider Halloween to be about. I get pressure verbally by friends, blog articles, emails, and church announcements and events that we should have some other type of party to provide fun for our children on October 31st. The purpose of having some other kind of party is NOT that there is really something else to celebrate but it is done solely in order to give the kids something fun to do and hopefully not care that they are missing out on what 99% of American children do on Halloween: dressing in a costume and knocking on neighbor’s doors to say hello and to get candy. I’m not even calling it “trick or treating” as no parent I know endorses doing a trick if the person does not give candy (if their lights are off and/or if no one is home).

The other annoying thing is that the fun ‘alternative’ party that some attend or host call it a harvest party but those celebrating the harvest 99% of the time are not farmers and a good number of them probably don’t even grow a single tomato plant or anything else they can harvest in their backyard or on a pot on their patio nor do they all support local farmers by shopping at local farmers markets. I speculate that some are so out of touch with the seasons and agriculture that they don’t even know what vegetables get harvested in the fall. This ignorance of agriculture is due to the fact that they buy the same produce year round at the grocery store and are totally unaware of what is ‘in season’ in October. A good number attending harvest parties also don’t buy organic as they feel no need to try to avoid the produce laden with chemicals (for their own health or for the Earth’s).

My opinion is if a person is going to attend or host a harvest party they should have some type of positive feeling about growing one’s own vegetables or at the very least should be supporting local farmers by buying local produce. If they can’t be bothered to buy from local farmers at a farmer’s market they could at least buy domestic produce or eat what is in season when it is in season rather than buying vegetable from all over the world that causes more problems to transport long distances. If they care about vegetables enough to have a party about harvesting them they might want to think about the impact of chemical use on the environment and on their own bodies if they choose to ingest them as well.

If one more person tells me to learn the history of Halloween and consider that in my decision making as to whether or not to allow my children to ‘do Halloween” I am going to scream. I have read and re-read the history of Halloween. Also the other day, I watched some videos produced by The History Channel on their website and they didn’t teach me anything new.

Since I am a Christian I have given this thought from a religious viewpoint. I still see no reason to not have my children dress in a costume and walk around the neighborhood at night asking neighbors for candy. I see nothing Biblically wrong with what I have just described.

Here is how our family celebrates Halloween. A bunch of neighbors who we are friendly with all get together in a group. The kids walk ahead of the parents and go knocking on our neighbor’s doors. The parents walk behind them. This all started when my oldest was three so you can understand that parental supervision is necessary. Now that my oldest is eleven I would let him go out alone except for one main problem—it is not a fear of my kids getting kidnapped but it is the real issue we have here of the streets not having street lights and the rush-hour crazy drivers driving 40 miles per hour or faster in a 25 mile per hour dark, windy side street; they give little thought to the fact that it is Halloween and don’t alter their driving patterns for this one night. We parents have watched the kids not notice when a car is coming, you see they wander into the middle of the road while walking (we have no sidewalks in this town). And do you know what? One of the kid’s favorite things of all is just being able to walk around after dark and secondly, walk around with friends talking to each other and laughing all the while. So part of the love of trick or treating is just walking outside in the dark and seeing what the world is like after dark (bats flying, unseen leaves crunching underfoot, stars sparkling and so forth).

Anyhow as we walk around and get candy from the neighbors (some of whom are our own husbands) we adults say hello to the neighbors. Sometimes this is the only time each year we see each other due the busyness of people around here. The parents enjoy each other’s company as we walk and talk.

And let’s not forget to acknowledge that the kids are happy to get candy! This is a special treat for my kids as frankly I don’t buy them candy to eat any time of the year! The only candy they get is in a birthday party goodie bag or is eaten at a friend or relative’s house. Oh, and they do eat some of the left over decorations for our homemade gingerbread house.

After the trick or treating, we go to one neighbor’s house and eat dinner. We each bring a dish that is an appetizer, salad or dessert and the host family buys pizza for everyone. The kids play with toys, games, watch a DVD movie or play video games. The kids have a blast together. The adults get to talk and catch up with each other after busy summers in which we rarely have seen each other. There is a lot of laughter. Each year when this happens I think, “What a great way to spend Halloween”.

Now if someone can tell me what the heck is wrong with what our family chooses to do or how doing what we do is somehow against Christianity, I would love to hear it.

I can also share that we do carve pumpkins, one for each kid and one for me. I don’t decorate the outside of the house other than the jack o’lantern. We don’t decorate inside either. I just feel that ‘less is more’ with regard to decorating at the holidays and also that the fun is in the doing of things not the putting on a show for others to see that is part of some holidays.

Lastly for us Halloween is not focused on the occult or on sinning acts. By that I mean, I do not dress in sexy costumes or weird women’s costumes meant to titillate (sexy nurse et cetera). We do not practice witchcraft and I don’t seek to even pretend to so there is nothing in our celebration of Halloween that shows images of witches or the occult. Yes we read Harry Potter here and other fantasy genre books with magic in them but none of that is part of Halloween. I don’t have my kids dressing up as murderers or anything like one boy I know did, when he was a zombie doctor that murders people and wore scrubs dripping in blood with a dagger knife. We do not believe in ghosts here in our family but I did allow my son to dress as a ghost last year, he looked more similar actually to the person in the famous painting “The Scream”. This year I think that son will be a ghost again with a different mask. My son dressing as a ghost does not mean we believe in ghosts as in fact no one in our family believes in them.

What gets me is the judgmental attitude of some people, some Protestants and some Catholics who look down upon or are disgusted by other families choice to continue to celebrate Halloween in the way that my parents and I did when we were young. I just read on one blog this week that a Christian mother feels that anything we do that does not “glorify God” is going against the word of God. If that person can apply trick or treating as being something that does not glorify God then what does that same mother say about celebrating a child’s birthday with a party? Is a child’s birthday party with visitors, cake, and presents something that is ‘glorifying God’?

It seems to me that celebrating Halloween by trick or treating is a purely secular thing that has been an American tradition for over 150 years, and door to door trick or treating seems to have peaked after World War II.

History is ever changing. What started off as one thing morphs into another. No matter how the holiday came to be, what it is today in America is NOT what it was when it started. It seems to me that in the last twenty years the popularity of Halloween for ADULTS has increased. A good number of single adults use the holiday as a party night, to dress up in costume and to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. The increase in the number of adult Halloween parties combined with the excess spending of Americans resulted in a lot of money being spent on the holiday, from Halloween themed serving dishes, to home decorations, to ridiculously large and expensive lawn decorations, to foods and drinks to serve at parties, to the (expensive) costumes. Part of the hype of Halloween nowadays is the marketing and advertising all around us, trying to get us to spend more and more money on Halloween themed items.

I have tolerated hearing the proselytizing of some people for too long and I think this year if someone wants to get into it with me, I’m not in the mood to sit quietly and listen, I’m going to let loose on them like they let loose on me.

Wish me luck at this week’s Community Bible Study where the lecture is going to be a promotion of alternative ways to celebrate Halloween with our children. If it is too ridiculous it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and the last nail in the coffin to seal my decision to quit the program. And if I do I will be sure to tell the leadership how I feel about that.

Update: I wrote this blog post earlier this week. I did not attend the Community Bible Study session this week partially out of the fact that I’d have to listen to a lecture about alternative ways to celebrate Halloween. I think indeed the fact that such a lecture was given did seal the deal on my decision to quit that program.

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