Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Spy...

Photo taken a few weeks ago while taking down our Christmas tree.

This made me smile and I ran to get the camera to capture this.

Do you see what I see?

(Perhaps only cat lovers will appreciate this photo.)

Impressed by Abigail Thernstrom Interview on BookTV

Last weekend Abigail Thernstrom's interview reran on CSPAN's BookTV. It was recorded in 2003 and was part of a book tour for the book she co-authored with her husband Stephan Thernstrom, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Education".

Unfortunately as of today the video is not available for free viewing on the BookTV site. (See this page on BookTV to see if it will rerun in the near future if you want to watch it.)

The program ran for an hour and had many good quotes. The things said about learning, attitudes toward learning, education in general apply to people of all races and are inspiring and informative to home educators as well. As well the book and interview was about education reform and charter schools.

The book is about racial inequality in public education in America but in order to discuss the topic at all some general statements and common goals about the aim of education must be the starting point for the discussion. The authors feel that all children can gain when the same basic principals are applied (regardless of their race or ethnicity).

The book examines charter schools serving minorities in cities with limited budgets that are doing well. This book explores the idea that lots of money given to (traditional) public schools is not the main thing that is required for a high quality education and often other ways of schooling that cost less are more effective.

Near the end she says she doesn't place much stock in IQ testing and that she believes a lot of other factors can help a person become educated (i.e. quality teaching and quality schooling).

I want to share some quotes and notes I jotted down:

Progressive education, one idea is to not learn the times tables because it is rote learning or learning what you want to learn when the child is ready to learning "is an educational disaster as far as I can tell".

Discusses teacher Rafe Esquith and the Hobart Shakespeareans. These are inner city English as a second language students in fifth grade who learn English through the study of Shakespeare. He created his unique program despite other teachers saying these children could not learn Shakespeare. This is a special class within a traditional school. When asked if other teachers emulate what he does, Thernstrom said the ones she spoke to said the program was impressive but they had no desire to change their regular ways of teaching despite the kids not doing nearly as well at learning. Read the official site of Rafe Esquith's Hobart Shakespearean program here.

Since Thernstrom's book was published, Esquith has published his own book, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire" (which has been on my wish list for a long time and I really should commit to buying and reading it).

Rafe Esquith also teaches his students how to take tests and the tricks on testing and how to do well at being tested. She said he also teaches SAT prep classes to his former students. His students do well on standardized tests.

When asked why Asian Americans outperform all other races in school, she says this. "Culture matters." Thernstrom says that Asian families teach their children that hard work and self-discipline are necessary to have success in America. When Asian children are asked what their good grades are a result of they say hard work and NOT based on luck or based on who their teacher is.

Thernstrom says that TV watching is an issue for children. The more TV they watch the worse they do in school. She said there are good statistics that correlate to hours of TV watching by race and school performance. Black children watch two times as much TV as any other race of children, whites and Asians are about the same. She tells a story of how she banned TV on weekdays with her own children and they watched very little cartoons on Saturday morning. She said there was a price to pay with her kids being out of the loop with pop culture but she felt it was worth it for the education they received.

"The extraordinary thing about Asians is not that they tell their children to do their homework but that they listen to their parents. An Asian mother said that her child's (non-Asian public school) teacher told her 'you need to be a friend to your child' but the Asian mother said 'that's not my way -- we're not friends of our children we are their parents'."

Asian parents are strong and clear. They say to do well in America they have to work hard and study. Compared to the blacks (her term), the blacks are depressed about their outlook for opportunity in America. The two attitudes held by Asians and blacks in America, toward learning, working hard in school are completely opposite.

In colleges, the numbers of Asians compared to other races is much higher despite the Asian population in America being only 4% (a table was shown with statistics). "The Asians work their way into those schools" by their hard work and good grades. A mention was made that some colleges now are worried of having too many Asians and not enough of other races so there is starting to be an anti-Asian discrimination in some college admissions offices.

Abigail Thernstrom also said that some people are against her views and that some interviews and shows she has participated in when doing a show with other people, the views of she and her husband have not always been accepted or liked.

Abigail Thernstrom did other interviews as part of this book tour. Here is one I found on YouTube. This is no where as interesting as the BookTV interview.

Here is an interview introduction from The Hoover Institution and the video is below, embedded video from YouTube. If the poor resolution video bothers your eyes try just listening to it as the audio is better.

MIND THE GAP: The Racial Gap in Education
Filmed on May 03, 2004

More than fifty years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education, there is still an unacceptable gap between the academic achievements of white and black students in America. In fact, by some standards, black students today perform more poorly than they did fifteen years ago. Why? What role does culture play? Does culture explain the disparate performance of Hispanic and Asian students? And just how should we go about trying to close this gap? Peter Robinson speaks with Bernard Gifford, Abigail Thernstrom, and Stephan Thernstrom.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Two Parenting Books I Just Bought

Last week I was feeling confused about parenting my kids. I went looking for some advice on parenting tweens and teens that is in alignment with my gentle parenting style and attachment parenting. I also needed to hear about what typical behaviors happen in boys going through puberty to have an idea of what is typical to compare to my son’s behavior. I wanted this in a book format, a thorough and in-depth source of information that I could read through. I didn't want to skim for and read different websites that may have mediocre writing.

I am disappointed in the attachment parenting method’s lack of advice and books on children over age 10. Nearly everything written on the topic pertains to babies, toddlers and young children.

I even penned an email to my favorite book author, William Sears M.D. to express that it was nearly twelve years ago that I bought my first parenting book of his, which was “The Baby Book”. His book on discipline “The Discipline Book” is stated to be for up to age ten. I am surprised he has not yet authored a book about parenting kids over age ten. So now that my first born is over ten years old I’m still waiting on him for some of his sage wisdom.

I found these two books and based on Amazon customer reviews I purchased them.

Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection instead of Coercion, Through Love instead of Fear by Pam Leo


Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves Transforming Parent-Child Relationships from Reaction and Struggle to Freedom, Power and Joy by Naomi Aldort

The one requirement I have for parenting advice and books I buy is that they do not advocate that parents use physical pain infliction measures on their children in order to instill fear in them to scare them to act well or as a method of coercion into good behavior. I want my kids to know right from wrong and to internally and of their own free will to choose right and better behavior from internal motivation not out of fear of external punishment. I do admit to using time out’s in the past with varying success and I do have removal of fun activities (i.e. video game playing time) when my kids choose to break a family rule. When they were younger they seldom broke rules and seldom had to be reminded of rules, they just did the right thing. In the last year it has eroded. We still do not use methods of punishment that include physical pain or isolation techniques. Sometimes I require my kids to take a few minutes in a room away from a sibling during a quarrel is a calming down by giving space method and it’s not a punishment by isolation and definitely does not include them being locked into rooms against their will.

I am not sure if these really cover tween and teenaged kids or if they will meet my needs but I’ll let you know after I read them. I do have plenty of books in process I’m reading right now so these are competing for my reading time.

If you use attachment parenting techniques and have a book recommendation I’d love to hear it, for tweens and teens.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ted Haggard Movie Premiers Tonight on HBO

Last night I watched yesterday's Oprah show with an interview with Ted Haggard and his wife. The interview was not soft and Oprah stuck to her guns when disagreeing with Mrs. Haggard on how and when a person should accept the label of being a bisexual or homosexual versus a heterosexual. Oprah also asked Ted Haggard point blank if he felt he was living the life of a hypocrite.

My interest in this story is I find it fascinating when a person lives their life declaring certain ideals, worldviews and speaking against certain behaviors but is actually living a secret life in which they are doing the very things they spoke out against. In this case, Ted Haggard founded his own church in 1985, an evangelical Christian church, New Life.

While he was President of the National Association of Evangelicals, a story broke that he was having ongoing sexual relations with a male homosexual prostitute (escort) and also was buying and using an illegal drug (crystal meth). The church he founded ex-communicated him and shunned his entire family. His wife did not divorce him. He was forced to move out of his state (Colorado). He also signed an agreement that he would not preach anywhere else and he then struggled financially as he could not find steady income in another field.

The movie tonight is the result of a filmmaker who followed him around for 18 months during his excommunication.

New Life has since let him back into the state so he is in his former home and reunited in some ways with people he used to know, Haggard said.

The Oprah interview was interesting. I'd like to share more of what was said and what I thought when I have time.

An important topic that was discussed on the Oprah show was about redemption and God's love and Christ's forgiveness, so the very nature of Christianity was discussed on the show (not just his drug use and homosexual affair).

One sad thing I learned for the first time was that Haggard said he never thought anything traumatic happened to him in his childhood and never thought he was abused but in fact his father's employee (an adult male) enticed him into having sexual relations with him when Haggard was in second grade (reminder that is age 7 and 8). He said since it was pleasurable he never, in his mind, thought the event qualified as 'child sex abuse' or a 'trauma'. Yet after that he was wetting the bed up through sixth grade (age 11-12), that is a physical sign that an abuse or traumatic event has occurred and is affecting a child.

I'll be TiVo'ing the movie tonight and would like to watch it tonight also if possible.

I wanted to share this now in case you have HBO and this movie is of interest to you.

Link to official movie site:

The Trials of Ted Haggard

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 161 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling edition #161 was published this week at Life on the Road.

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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Two Different Ways to Educate

I wound up adding another group activity to our homeschooling plans, with short notice. An experiential nature teacher and former director of a homeschool program who my kids know and love, advertised that he was looking for extra temporary employment. A homeschool mom friend of mine set up a two hour outdoor experiential nature class to be held four times from now through the end of February. The kids are hiking in the winter weather at a nature preserve, exercising and learning stuff as they go along.

Today was the first class and I arrived at the location a little early, at 12:45 pm. The park is small and the parking lot was tiny and had a car in it, so I chose to park in the middle school parking lot across the street!

Our car faced the classroom windows and I told my older son that if he were not homeschooled he'd be in a class like that right now.

We sat there and waited, and then when the instructor arrived my kids poured out of the car, dressed head to toe in warm winter clothes. The kids gathered and talked excitedly to each other. I waved goodbye and left them with the instructor.

A few minutes later the group of bubbly homeschooling kids made their way into the down the trail.

I headed to the nearby public library, found a comfy winged back chair in a patch of sun and sat down to read for two solid hours. It was bliss.

I paused only to see if they had a couple of new books I want to read in circulation (they did not). I borrowed two nonfiction items (a video for teachers about kids with learning disabilities by Richard Lavoie and a book about kids who grew up to be scientists and what drew them to their field).

When the kids stumbled out of the woods they were rosy cheeked, warm (with jackets unzipped and some gloves off). They were tired and content. They reported they'd hiked through forest and meadow and even explored a frozen swamp.

The glaring difference in curriculum and the very different ways of learning and educating were evident to me, when juxtaposed physically like they were today. A small group of local homeschoolers on one side of the road and the public schooled middle schoolers on the other side, behind the brick and glass. We knew the kids were there even though we never saw a soul.

I wonder if some of the students saw our kids out there and wondered what they were up to? Perhaps some would prefer an education like our kids are getting?

I wonder too, if the school ever allows those kids to cross the street to spend some time in nature. I doubt it as the type of deeper learning achieved through experiential learning in real nature settings is not necessary for scoring well on the CMTs.

My Boys Love The 39 Clues

Last month, a homeschool mom friend called to ask me to give her the lowdown on The 39 Clues. Thing is, I didn’t know anything about it, other than I’d seen it on in their ads that say “customers who bought this also bought this”, but I had ignored the ads.

She explained it is a book series, with cards, and the books and cards have clues to solve a mystery. There is a website with online free games that intersects with the cards and book clues. Prizes will be awarded to some who solve missions.

That was all I needed to hear. I ordered the books as part of a Christmas present for my boys.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so since my boys have learned of the existence of this series and have begun to play, they are telling any and all of their friends, trying to tempt them and recruit them into buying the books and playing the game. (At which point rather than worry that my kids are enticing other families to spend money I am thinking that boys discussing books with other boys can only be a good thing, so I’m not discouraging it by any means!)

We had participated as a family in the difficult clue solving inside a book quest that was for the book “A Treasure’s Trove”. Through that I learned of the early 1980s picture book based treasure hunt book “Masquerade”. Yet this was the first book, and a series, written for children aged 9-12. I did a bit of research and noticed that there are different authors of the books, yet all are authors who have published books previously that appealed to ‘reluctant reader middle school grade boys’.

Each hardcover book comes with six cards, the same six cards for that volume. Card packs are sold separately and contain 16 random cards in each pack, out of a pool of 55 cards in the set. These are packaged similar to other game cards such as Pok√©mon and Yu-Gi-Oh! in that there are a large amount of cards, some are common and some are rare, and that each pack has a random assortment of cards in it. You never know what each pack will contain. The full retail on the card packs is $6.99. As of today Amazon doesn’t discount them but they are running a promotion in the buy 4 for the price of 3 category (that can be combined with any other products in that category such as books not connected to this series). Each card has mysterious things on it that must be deciphered and pondered in order to solve the clue related to that card.

Of course you can imagine how children will like to show their friends their cards and brainstorm solutions, when together face to face.

My older son has been calling his friends on the phone nearly every day to discuss 39 Clues and the missions.

So let’s turn our attention to the Internet. What happens when books and cards intersect with the Internet? Information sharing! Yes!

The cards in the packs each have an identification code on them, each card has the same code. Children (and adults) can sign up for a free account on the official 39 Clues website. Within their account they can enter the ID code of each card they own in order to use it in their online game playing. Each week missions are unlocked to perform online games to reveal more clues. In this way a child can’t get a new account and sit down to solve the entire puzzle in one day. They have to wait for new missions to be unlocked each week. The official 39 clues site does not have any live chat features so there won’t be any online discussions with strangers that would put a child’s safety at risk.

One downside that I just realized today is that if one family buys one book, the cards that come with the book have one unique identification number (same code on all cards). Each book has the same cards. Yet if more than one child in the family wants to play the full online game, they are unable to enter the same card numbers as their sibling. In other words to load the cards (that come with the book) onto the computer account, each child in a family has to buy their own copy of the book. It is a little atypical for one family to have to purchase separate copies of each book for multiple children in a family. The books are full retail $12.99 in USA and this is a ten book series so to fully play the game on independent online accounts, it would cost (full retail) $129.90 per child to play. Ouch!

Wikipedia has an entry on 39 Clues that lists all the cards that come in the 'card packs', just in case your child is wondering what is on the other cards. There are links to websites that reveal the unique ID codes on each card, so players can cheat to gain access to all the card data in order to play the game more fully without spending a lot of money on multiple $7 packs to try to collect all 55.

There are also special promotional cards such as ones received if the book was purchased at a Scholastic book fair. All those codes can be found online for free on websites not run by the publisher (Scholastic).

As a good example of how today’s tweens are embracing the Internet, here is a YouTube video done by a boy who looks to be ten or eleven years old, sharing the cards he owns and reading off the ID codes for each card! I cracked up when I saw this! My boys thought the video was fantastic (despite poor video resolution quality).

Look, I see this is a money making thing, a big marketing thing. Scholastic is the publisher and they are going to make money on this. I was okay with the idea of buying one set of books for my two boys to share and with buying some card packs as holiday gifts or to have them spend their own money on. I do resent having to buy one book for each child though.

I think one friend of mine in particular is going to try to keep this series a secret from her kids in order to not be a player in the publisher’s game (and she didn't even know about the one book per each child in the family issue). However let’s be honest. Numerous stakeholders in our society want boys to read and to like reading. Encouraging middle school aged boys to read has been a challenge that has remained constant for a number of years. So the idea to lure in the readers who like the fantasy and mystery genre, combine it with spies, secret codes and involving the reader to crack the codes, with the temptation of winning real treasure (cash)—what is a boy not to love about the idea? Mix in the authors who have written books that boys already like to read, to author the books is nothing short of a brilliant idea. The authors involved with the project are: by Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, and Patrick Carman.. Not to be sexist, but it is obvious to me the main kids who will read this will be boys, but of course as with anything, this book series may be of interest to girls too, especially those who don’t just gravitate toward uber girly-girl books about designer clothing, cliques and backstabbing friends.

Books one and two were released in the second half of 2008. Book three will be published in March 2009. Card pack series one pertains to books 1-3 and is out now. Card pack series two will pertain to future books.

Despite the money we’re spending on cards and the books, my only other complaint is the timeline. I am not sure that the series will remain interesting for a long series of books to be published over more than two years time. I realize a lot of kids have a short attention span that could be blamed but let’s be honest. Kids do grow up and out of phases and I’m not sure that all readers who start somewhere along the span of age 9-12 will still be interested by the end. Only time will tell, and I’m sure that it will vary by child. I just hope my boys find the series interesting enough to stick with through to the end.

I was thinking that public libraries might consider doing some programs to use this book series to promote reading. What could be done in a group setting as a library program, I don’t quite know, but I hope some children’s librarians are brainstorming about it. Actually Scholastic should come up with some ideas and publish them on their website for librarians to access to use!

One last thing. I have not heard media buzz about this book series. I have not heard a peep from the homeschooling community either. I find both of those things odd.

External Links:

39 Clues Products on Amazon:

Book One: The Maze of Bones

Book Two: One False Note

Book Three: The Sword Thief (available for Amazon pre-order at a guaranteed pre-order low price)

Card Pack volume 1 –silver box-- (contains 16 cards)

About The 39 Clues on official website

The 39 Clues official website home page

Wikipedia Entry for The 39 Clues

Informative blog post on 39 Clues at The Spotman and His World Blog

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on Science a la The Well Trained Mind for Grade Two and the General Plan I Devised Instead

I came across my schedule and notes for my older son's second grade year (the 2004-2005 academic year). It was August 2004 and I had made my plan and also read The Well Trained Mind's recommendations for grade two. I was trying to figure out if I should just do what TWTM said to do or if I'd make up our own plan.

I looked over all the books and the schedule for science per TWTM.

I also was taking into consideration the advice of Charlotte Mason.

I then decided to make up our own plan instead.

I found notes about what I thought about TWTM. Here they are:

Some content is the same in two different books they recommend to use (unnecessary or waste of money to buy both books)

Some book language too simplistic for kids this age. Book skims subject. Too shallow.

I want more depth per topic.

Topics covered per TWTM too jumpy, skip around and leaves gaps, is strange

(I know not every topic can be covered but it seems odd how some topics are chosen while others are left out.)

Sometimes the Eyewitness Juniors books are too mature for this age

Some books are great for the illustrations but the text is not good enough

After having those thoughts, I came up with a plan to try to do what I thought was high quality plan that would work for our family.

Our Plan

What I did with major Charlotte Mason influences was use living books with read aloud's to teach science topics to my children. I relied heavily on books with better content. I used a lot of out of print, older books whose language was not dumbed down and whose tone was not patronizing.

Those older books often had a longer word count per page and went more into detail with the topic. It seemed the older science books from the 1950s-1970s were written with an understanding that children really do want to learn and are curious, they are open to a deeper level of content than writers, publishers or teachers think they can do (in the 1990s and 2000s). The downside to the older science books is that the technology available then for illustrations, the color or style of the illustrations was different than now. Some of the great content books (text wise) have black line hand drawings or two tone colored illustrations. Some have bad black and white photographs. Today's children seem to like really good color photography illustrations (of creatures, nature, habitats, volcanoes, etc.). Even the hand drawn or painted new books are more visually appealing regarding the illustration quality.

I blended in the following way. If I came across a used newer book with good illustrations for 10 cents to 50 cents I'd buy it. I also used the public library for some books if I didn't own good illustrated examples on that topic. Then I would read aloud from the good-text-quality book. We would then use the newer books to just look at the illustrations. So for example I'd read a great book about forest creatures. Then we'd look at photos of those creatures. Then I'd read a book about the trees in that type of forest. Then we'd look at great images of the trees.

Unlike other homeschoolers I didn't use the Internet for images. I am a book person and even back in 2004 there were less photos and images on the Internet. I didn't want to spend time surfing websites for photos then showing them to my kids. Opening a book was much easier.

We also took nature walks as a family.

We did a bit of nature journaling, I planned to do a lot but we did just some.

My son took an experiential nature class.

Son’s First Experiential Nature Class

In addition to book studies at home at this time my son was taking an experiential nature class held at an Audubon Center, organized by a homeschooling mother, taught by a naturalist, and held on weekdays for just homeschooled children. A major reason this was such a great class was the teacher really loved nature and her passion came through. She was wonderful with kids, so gentle and kind; she really was a sincere person who treated all kids with respect. She was not the type of teacher who speaks in patronizing tones or talks down to kids. She seemed to actually like kids (something that not all teachers do). None of the kids had behavior issues so maybe that helped her attitude also, I’m not sure.

That preserve had hardwood forest, river, stream, vernal pool, hills, and fields. The class was taught 95% outdoors. The kids would be led through habitats while the instructor talked to them about facts. They would see things she was talking about and they'd discuss them. Also often spontaneous things would be seen (not on the lesson plan) and they would learn about that. This included also discussions of weather and its impact on what was happening at the preserve right at that time (i.e. the river had just flooded, heavy rains caused something, and so forth).

In that class the parents were allowed to walk along and hover in the background as long as we didn’t disrupt the class, so I got to hear the great content being taught. I could hear the kids asking questions and how that spurred additional learning. Also the teacher was kind enough to let my younger son (who was too young to officially enter the program as a paid participant), go right with the older kids and ‘take the class’. The rule was he had to behave and not disrupt the class. So at age four my younger son “took that class” also and he did behave excellently and received praise from the teacher. Actually I got a good amount of praise from her about my children’s behavior and their personalities being a delight to work with and how she liked to see their curiosity. My sons both took three fall sessions and three spring sessions worth of classes. We only stopped when we changed from that 90 minute class to a six hour experiential nature class. Sadly since then the price for that Audubon class tripled and the teacher moved out of state, so we lost a great teacher for a community based class for homeschoolers.

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Tying Vocabulary Words to Henty Books Being Read

I love the idea of tying learning new words (vocabulary lessons) to the literature (books) children are reading. So long as the book is not dumbed down this makes a lot of sense.

I am so impressed by this idea that I’m sharing one resource that does this with you. (I am not receiving any income from mentioning this.)

Jim Hodges has created vocabulary lists tied to books written by G.A. Henty. You can see the list at this site:

Jim Hodges Henty Vocabulary Lists

Presently they sell for $3 each (not a bad price).

Many homeschoolers like to read the Henty books. They are based on history and they were first published in the 1870s-early 1900s. The language is more difficult than today’s modern books, in keeping with the style of the writing of that time. The sentence length is longer and some words are not commonly used today, perhaps even between adults let alone between children. Some have numerous battle scenes, vividly described, so that is liked by some readers (especially some boys).

Some families I know read them aloud to their children in elementary or middle school grades. Other kids who love the books read them to themselves.

These books are often recommended by Christian homeschoolers and sold by Christian homeschool providers. They are also read by homeschoolers who are not Christians.

These books are in the public domain and a number of publishers have reissued them for sale. You can also read them for free online or at least skim them to see if these books would be of interest to your children, at Project Gutenberg. Some people take the e-text from this site, reformat it and print it off on their home computer to read in a hardcopy format. I don’t do that with eBooks or e-texts because my husband has calculated the per page cost of paper and toner or ink for our computer printers to be eleven cents. When I calculated the cost of printing off entire books on our home printer the cost is usually higher than buying an old book used, even an antique book used, or buying an in-print reprint of the book, and I’d prefer a regular book to computer printed pages.

No, our family has not yet read any Henty books. I was given some by a local homeschooler who was finished using them. I had hoped to use these one day but just have not done so.

List of Henty titles available for free viewing at Project Gutenberg

Wikipedia entry for G.A. Henty if you want to learn more about the author of these books.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HB5761 Connecticut - New Bill Related to Homeschooling Introduced January 2009

This document dated 1/27/09 can be read online at this page of the NHELD site: I have copied the entire document in its entirety:

National Home Education Legal Defense

Tel.: (860) 354-3590

Cell: (203) 206-4282 Fax (860) 354-9360


Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
Executive Director
P.O. Box 704 , Southbury, CT 06488

Notice to Connecticut Homeschool Parents 01/27/09

As you know, in last year’s legislative session, NHELD asked Connecticut parents to assist in attempts to have the legislature adopt a proposal introduced by Rep. Arthur O’Neill that would have codified the rights of parents to withdraw their children from public school. As you also know, certain legislators, led by Senator Thomas Gaffey, attempted to change the language in that bill to impose more regulation on parents who homeschool. Fortunately, the changed bill was not adopted.

NHELD decided that this legislative session we would not ask Rep. O’Neill to propose the withdrawal bill again on the basis that the timing was not quite right just now. However, for reasons that are as yet unknown, Rep. O’Neill took it upon himself to propose the bill once again. The bill is House Bill 5761, entitled, “An Act Concerning Withdrawal from School.” The stated purpose of the bill is “To allow parents to home school their children and to require the board of education to respect their decision.” (

The text of the proposed bill is:


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
That subsection (a) of section 10-220 of the general statutes be amended to provide, when a parent or guardian of a child provides by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the principal of the school that the child attends or to the superintendent of the local or regional board of education, written notice originated by and signed by the parent or guardian of a child stating that the parent or guardian is withdrawing the child from enrollment in a public school and will provide instruction for the child as required pursuant to section 10-184 of the general statutes, the principal of the school that the child attends or the local or regional board of education shall accept such notice and shall deem the child withdrawn from enrollment in the public school immediately upon receipt of such notice.

Statement of Purpose:
To allow parents to home school their children and to require the board of education to respect their decision.

While NHELD did not request the legislature to adopt this bill this session, it does now exist as a proposed bill. It has been referred to the Education Committee for further action. A proposed bill is a first draft of a bill. As can be seen from the last legislative session, the language of proposed bills may be changed as it proceeds through the Committee process and on to the floor of the House and Senate.

Just as last session, the current chairmen of the Education Committee are: Senator Thomas Gaffey and Rep. Andrew Fleischmann. The membership of the entire committee can be found at:

It is essential to engage in communication with not only the members of the Education Committee, but also with your own local Representatives and Senators.

As we gather more information, NHELD, of course, will provide that to you.

If you have any further questions about this bill, you may contact Deborah Stevenson at or call 860-354-3590.
This document is avialable online at :

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Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #100 Has Been Published

The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #100 was published at Make It From Scratch.

Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch!

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

Recommending Homeschool Classifieds Site

Today I visited the Homeschool Classifieds site for the first time.

I might have heard the name of this site in the past on a homeschool email list but had never visited the site to see what it was about. Today I saw it mentioned on the Homeschooler's Corner discussion board on the website. If you are curious about, click on icon below if you want to peek at the site, which swaps paperback, hardcover and audio books (membership is free). - Our online book club offers free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books with other book club members for free.

Homeschool Classifieds site is a free site where homeschoolers can resell their used or never used homeschooling curriculum or books to other homeschoolers.

I have not used it yet but may in the future.

I updated my list of sites and places to buy used homeschooling stuff or to resell your own today. You can read my list here:

Sites to Find Free or to Buy Used Books for Homeschooling

Since September I have culled no less than ten boxes of homeschooling curriculum, books, and kits for resale or swapping out. I am too busy to deal with that right now so they are sitting in boxes!

Younger Son's Pre-K 4 Schedule

I found this schedule in my homeschooling records.

Younger son's prek-4 year schedule was a combination of meeting his needs and him begging to 'do homeschooling'. My preferred plan of following the advice of Charlotte Mason and the advice of unschoolers was thwarted by my son's determination and desires.

I compromised and rather than refuse to give him what he wanted, I cam up with this plan.

Younger Son's Pre-K 4 Schedule

10 minutes: phonics curriculum (Alpha Phonics)

10 minutes: math curriculum (Math-U-See)

10 minutes: workbooks, various, (due to his insistance, phonics basics, dot to dot workbooks, etc.)

10 minutes: one page of penmanship copywork (giant lines)

20 minutes: literature unit study (Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row)

Total time: 60 minutes of one on one home education instruction

Afternoon activities:

Art for fun, process not product, art making and craft making, various mediums

Free afternoons for playdates, playing outside, nature walks, etc.

Read aloud's of picture books for fun

Listening in on harder read-aloud's I do geared toward older son

A Note on How It Turned Out in Real Life

We didn't do as much Five in a Row as I would have liked.

The schedule looks one way on paper but does not reflect all that was done such as the time spent at classes for my older son that younger son had to go along with to spend time doing.

My son would not stop at ten minutes of phonics and asked to do ten lessons at a time. He often would do at least 30 minutes and sometimes regularly 40 or 50 minutes. I couldn't believe his drive and demand to do that. He finished Alpha Phonics in under four months and his reading was fantastic and fluent.

All the learning was very easy for him and he is a fast learner.

I hated workbooks and would have preferred that he never do them but he had been asking for them since he was two years old.

He always was asking to "do homeschooling" and wanted to do equivalent work as his older brother, who is three grades ahead of him.

To this day this kid loves workbooks and assignments. He works hard, likes to have an expectation and then to fulfill it. He likes 'to do' lists and to check off the assignments when completed. He likes some freedom and control over what he chooses to do when (in what order).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sweater Progress

Just have to share the sweater progress, the first sweater that will be completed and hopefully wearable in the end. (It will have a longer body and will have long sleeves.)

My Word of the Year 2009

The idea is to have a word of the year instead of making New Year's Resolutions.

My word for 2008 was "content". The gist was I was to be happy with what I had not yearning for more stuff that I didn't need. I was to use what I had and to feel appreciative of what I already had. It was about looking inward and not always thinking I needed new, more or other things. This was about physical stuff and emotions as well.

So for three weeks I've been thinking of the word for 2009. It has not been easy. I have two words. I can't find one word that describes the two major things that I am doing this year, putting energy toward or spending lots of money on.

Word One: Restore


Mourn the loss of both of my grandmothers that happened in the last six months. Heal my heart, adjust to my life without them in it.

Concerning Physical Stuff:

Inside the house:

Go through house again to de-junk the clutter. Simplify by further ridding our family of (even more) children's toys and games. Get rid of stuff related to hobbies or pursuits that our family no longer participates in. Get rid of books and educational materials that our family is done with or we'll never get around to using.

Figure out a workable house cleaning schedule that I can keep up with that doesn't stress me out completely. Keep the house clean and relatively clutter free.

House interior: buy a new dishwasher, and a new garbage compactor. May be necessary to get a new boiler (furnace). Not sure if the one problem with the washing machine in late December will warrant buying a replacement.

The Roof Over Our Heads:

Put a new roof on the house.

The Foundation Under Our Feet:

Fix the crack in the foundation.

House exterior:

Repair rotted wood trim, clapboards, and shutters. Paint exterior of the house.

Yard: After painting and roof work is done, remove roots of old bushes I cut down in fall 2008. Restore the soil with nutrients (organic). Design new foundation planting and buy and install new shrubs.

Garden: Figure out how the heck I can outwit the deer and try to have more gardens here (veggies and herbs primarily). Seriously consider fencing in a portion of the back yard, the best thing for the least amount of money is the challenge.

Word Two: Refocus

Do mid-year homeschooling check. Make necessary adjustments to curriculum used. Evaluate teaching methods. Do what is best for my children even if it means doing things differently than some expert educators thinks is best (they all have different ideas and they all think theirs is the one right way). Do what is best for us not what my local homeschool mom friends would like me to do "so we can all be doing the same thing".

Continue learning about the learning disabilities my older son has. Continue treatment and making a unique plan of home education to meet his needs.

Figure out if my younger son needs speech therapy or not. Seek treatment for the first time if necessary.

To make room to do all that we want and need to do at home, reduce outside committments for children's extracurricular activities to only the most worthwhile that are also low maintenance and the least hassle.

In January contemplate a major change. I am seriously considering starting work on a Master's Degree by distance learning that will allow me to continue homeschooling my kids at the same time. Decision must be made by early spring for application deadlines for the fall start date.

Reevaluate current parenting method and consider making a change. Make a decison regarding starting a regular allowance for the kids, negotiate with husband on that. Ponder adding more chores to boy's responsibilities. Ponder overall family harmony and how some blips can be smoothed out. Learn more about typical behavior of tween aged boys entering puberty so I can figure out if "it's just my kid acting ___ or doing ___" and how I should respond.

Figure out if how I'm spending my free time is energizing me or is being wasted. Find time to do fun pursuits and pleasure reading instead of wasting that time. Probably will mean dropping even more of my last few Yahoo Groups! online discussion groups, and dropping from some homeschool support groups whose emails and/or websites tempt me to spend time reading them. Will probably mean reducing time watching some reality TV.

See more of my old friends face to face, because I miss having them in my life on a regular basis.

Figure out which friends and acquaintences add negativity to my life and drop them. Ponder if it's possible that the same can be done with certain family members.

Try to implement a family fitness plan of some sort since my children are not currently participating in an organized sport and are pretty inactive in the winter months. Decide if I will start using my gym membership, if not, let the membership lapse in February when the contract expires.


Those are not really New Year's Resolutions to me. Those are all things that need to be focused upon and implemented throughout the entire year, at different points in time.

Flashback: Teaching Calendar Lesson 2004

I have been going through our homeschooling records today. I'm trying to put my hands on completed Math-U-See workbooks to show a local homeschooling mom so she can get a gist for what the program is like. She said the demo DVD was not helping her enough. She is going to come to my home to look at them. I will explain the program to her while she looks over the materials.

I came across this calendar.

In January 2004 I decided to review the calendar with my older son, then he was six years old and in first grade. I had these stickers with weather graphics on them. Learning the calendar I guess can be grouped into the math subject. Or maybe I started this in conjunction with a science unit study on weather. I can't remember. I do know in the Kindergarten grade we used a calendar daily with son crossing off each day with an 'x' and telling me what day of the week it was, the month and date.

I came up with this idea on my own after seeing weather stickers. I am pretty sure I bought them from Rainbow Resource Center. Using a freebie calendar that I received with junk mail, we did this Monday-Friday. I would take the calendar out and he'd tell me the day of the week and the date. He would look outside and whatever the weather was at that moment, he would record. On Monday we'd back fill for Saturday and Sunday.

My older son loved doing this. When the stickers began to run out, he drew in the information. He did not want to stop doing this so it went on until the second week of June which apparently was when we stopped doing formal homeschooling lessons to begin summer break that year.

I note that for months he put smiley faces on the suns and in May it stopped. I credit this with him growing up a bit and getting more serious about a sun being a plain old sun not as indication of his state of mind.

Anyhow I thought these were cute and fun to look back on.

You know, you've heard it before, but it really is true. They do grow up so quickly.

Please make the time to really enjoy your little ones when they are little, no matter what phase they are in. The little things that you notice and love to see young children do slowly fade away and are replaced with more adult behavior little by little and then all that is left are the memories of their 'former selves'.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

That State Worker Wasn't Tech Savvy

I recall hearing that state Department of Motor Vehicles would deny requests for vanity license plates if they thought the abbreviated word or phrase on the application was obscene, profane, or whatever else might offend someone.

In Connecticut our standard license plates have three numbers, a space, then three letters. That started in the 1980s, and my first car's letter series began with a D.

They are near the end of the alphabet now, apparently.

Today at the gas station the car in front of me was standard issue.

It had three numbers followed by:


Whoever allowed that series of plates obviously is not familiar with Internet chat, email chat, SMS or IM lingo. They must be old school and not tech savvy.

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw that plate.

History Blitz

I am comitting to a history studying blitz.

I have not been happy with my inconsistent teaching of world history.

I'm putting the hammer down.

I give up on trying to teach all the normal homeschooling core subjects plus do history, science, art, music and poetry.

Instead of doing the core, two days a week we're doing history for two to three hours. On the core days the boys have independent reading on the topic of world history we are learning about.

I hereby declare to reach the year 1850 in our chronological study of world history (and American history) before we start our summer break.

We are starting a timeline, finally. I have put it off too long and actually felt guilty about not having done it yet. Truth be told, so far it is unexciting and I'm beginning to wonder if timelines are overrated.

The kids like this for a change of routine. They like not doing 'every subject' four days a week (they do homeschool skiing one weekday to explain how the fifth weekday is spent.)

As I was finishing up reading a chapter from Story of the World Volume Two, I looked up to see this sunset. I snapped the photo right from where I was sitting just to capture the moment. It is not composed perfectly, it is just what I saw from where I was, right in my spot under the warm blanket that was on my lap, and with one of our cats still sitting on my lap.

(The sun was a dark blazing orange, just in case it's not looking that spectacular on your computer screen. Believe me when I say it was lovely.)

We've been diligent about doing our hoemschooling lessons, quite disciplined. Yet we are taking the time to notice the beauty around us. We are doing less outside appointments; I'm trying to limit us to one appointment per day maximum, two if it can't be helped at all, but no more than two appointments a day. I'm trying to have two or three weekdays without me and the kids leaving the house during the day, sometimes that jives with an evening Scout meeting. I'm trying to not do any errands during the week. We are sleeping as late as we feel like and enjoying unstructured days. And getting a lot done in a more laid back manner.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This is All I Can Offer Today

I woke up early this morning fresh off a vivid dream. It ended on a bad note, me in an argument with a friend I've known since second grade.

The house was quiet so I decided to blog some quotes from a parenting book I'm reading that I found inspirational.

I copied the quotes into the computer's word processor. I was inspired to write so I began writing off the top of my head. Thoughts flowed and new ideas came out.

Fueled by a second cup of coffee (and still no food in me), I kept writing and writing. More and more ideas came to me and thing gelled.

I had wanted to write about this topic for over a year but just never sat down to do it. The topic was too huge and it had intimidated me.

Well today I was doing fantastic. I started editing the piece and paring my words down. I rearranged paragraphs for better flow. I found duplications and cleaned it up.

The document was too long. I figured it made sense to split it into three pieces. I opened another document and took took one third to the new document. I worked more on that one piece. I was torn about leaving the book quotes with the essay or whether to do a third blog post with just the book quotes. I left the quotes and essay together. It was 2300 words the last time I noticed.

Again ideas flowing, more tweaking.

All of this was unplanned, spontaneous. It was great.

But the time was approaching that I'd have to shut off the computer to eat some breakfast food, shower and leave for an appointment.

Husband was calling me, "The eggs and toast are ready!"

"Wait! I'm almost done! Really I'm coming but I have to get this thought down!"

I was thrilled. I hadn't had that kind of a writing blitz in a long time, one that went from unpolished draft to something that I'd actually share with others. I have so many blog drafts that need serious polishing that I'm ignorning. This one was going to be published today, that was the plan, to publish it when I got home from the appointment.

It was a great piece. Not a rant. Not a complaint. It was honest and maybe a bit too revealing about my own flaws but I decided I wanted to bare my soul about that topic. As I was finishing it I thought to myself that this is the exact kind of writing about parenting, an honest telling of a situation that I look for in parenting blog posts but seldom find. That is what I meant about wanting honest talk about parenting (not dirty laundry, not making fun of one's children). I was happy to have been able to finally write about this topic that is so near and dear to my heart.

Husband called again.

I said, "I need to save it!"

I had the two documents open and needed to save them. Rushing, I hit save, and hit the wrong key. I said 'yes' to replace the existing file.

And in that moment I realized what I did. The good document, the one I worked for two hours on was gone.

Replaced. The smaller less important, nothing special piece replaced the good one.

Just like that.


I had no notes in writing, nothing to look back on to spark my memory about what I wrote.

The rushed way I wrote meant thoughts popped into my head, went through my fingers to the keyboard and then were gone out of my mind, on to the next thought.

I don't think I can recreate it. I don't recall all the content or the exact arrangement. It made sense.

I do know it was good, very good.

And I lost the book quotes too. I'll have to research those again and try to recreate them.

So instead of book quotes and a parenting essay from my heart you get this post today.

The crazy thing is trying to recreate that piece will be harder than writing it the first time. At least I still remember the main point I arrived at which I am going to put into practice in my real life instead of just thinking about it or blogging it. I should focus on that part, I guess.

(I raced to my husband and said, "Isn't there a way to rescue it from the cache or something? Something? Certainly there must be a way to recover it? He is trying a rescue software and we'll see what happens. The outlook is grim.)

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books is Up

The January 24, 2009 edition of the Saturday Review of Books is up at Semicolon.

How about joining us by submitting a link to a blog post you wrote about something you read this week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not Posed

My eight year old enjoying his two main passions of the moment: the new Nerf gun he used his own money to buy and re-reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the third time.

He had free time to read due to the family rules restricting TV viewing, video game playing and all other forms of 'screen watching' time.

Related post: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Third Book in Series Was Released Today

Deer Tracks - Dragging Feet

Of all the deer tracks I've seen in snow or mud, I've never seen one dragging its feet. Besides the visual appeal of this interesting pattern my curiosity is piqued.

The snow was shallow. Photos taken last week by me in my driveway (in Fairfield County Connecticut), but the same tracks with dragging appeared in the grass.

If you know anything about deer tracks and if this dragging behavior is common, or if it might be due this deer possibly being ill (possibly with Chronic Wasting Disease), please leave a comment on this post. Since every step had this dragging I didn't think it was due to a leg injury.

Made Chewy Chocolate Cookies with a New Recipe

These Chewy Chocolate Cookies featured in the January 2009 edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine (on newstands now) are unbelievably delicious.

The recipe is available online only for paid subscribers, or those using a free trial period, here. (Sorry but sharing the recipe here would be a copyright infringement and plagarism so I can't do it.) I'll hint that the recipe uses white sugar, dark brown sugar and dark corn syrup as well as cocoa powder and chocolate pieces (or chips).

One flaw is they are pretty flat. The ones I made that were about 1 inch dough balls were rounder and more normal looking. The larger ones that were 1.5 inches in diameter spread way out, too far, lost their circle shape and ran into the other cookies on the pan. Some of those were spread out so much they left gaps (open spots on the pan). (See update below dated 1/25/09.)

The flavor and texture makes up for the flatness. These are chewy inside with crispy exteriors. The chocolate flavor is intense through the dough and there are chocolate pieces throughout.

Notes about my ingredients are instead of Dutch Process Cocoa powder I used Dagoba Chocolate Organic Cacao powder (not sweetened). I also used for the chocolate pieces, Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (60% cacao). I used a high quality vanilla extract.

Chocolate lovers will find this recipe To Die For.

Update 1/25/09: I made these again today. This time instead of using the cocoa powder by measurement cup I weighed it. I did everything else the same. This time the cookies did not flatten out like last time. They were more 'normal'.


These are the chocolate chips I used. Surprisingly Amazon's price for a pack of 12 bags is lower than my local grocery store's price. I pay $2.99 at my grocery store and they rarely go on sale.

Cook's Illustrated Magazine:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Element Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Authors: Ken Robinson PhD with Lou Aronica
Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology (self-actualization), Creativity
Publication: Viking, January 2009
Format: Hardcover book
ISBN: 978-0670020478
Full Retail Price: $25.95

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Summary Statement: Inspiring, Enlightening, Informative—Read It and Then Put the Advice Into Action!

I first learned of Sir Ken Robinson through watching his lecture “Do Schools Kill Creativity” free on the Internet last year (his talks have been viewed millions of times by people across the world). In that talk he mentions he was in the process of writing a book -- THE ELEMENT: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything -- is that book. I was thrilled to be able to attend a lecture, one of the first stops on the book tour to promote this book and was so inspired I bought the book immediately.

This book’s audience is every person in the world, every single one of us could benefit from reading and applying the information in this book. In addition to being about changes that a person can make in their own life during adulthood, the book also speaks to teachers and other adults who are involved in educating children. People interested in learning styles, learning disabilities, alternative education and education reform may be interested in this book. All types of artists and creative people may like to read THE ELEMENT.

The books starts off discussing children, how all children are unique, have certain interests and natural talents; have an inborn curiosity and a capacity to learn. Sadly, school is sometimes a place where some children are stifled and changed for the worse. Despite best intentions by society for children ‘to become educated’, the issues with designing a ‘one size fits all’ curriculum for mass institutional schools creates its own set of problems. In an effort to raise everyone’s educational level up, some fall through the cracks, or their square pegs don’t fit in the round holes. The way modern schooling is conducted damages some children. Attempts to educate all children to one standard plan does not allow all children with varying natural talents to shine. The very method of institutional schooling with its standard teaching and standardized testing not to mention the effects in American public schools of No Child Left Behind (when teachers are spending lots of class time teaching to the test or perfecting test taking skills) trains children to think there is only one right answer, therefore killing the creativity that was present within the child before they stepped foot in school. The book is a call for education reformation (transformation) but the author stops short before actionable suggestions are made (I suspect because the issue has been discussed ad nauseum by others over many years time, and still the system is still far from ideal). But, the ideas in the book may plant seeds of change within the minds of school teachers, administrators and parents, and perhaps others can come up with creative ideas on how to affect real change. If not, the individual can always use the advice in this book on themselves when they are teenagers or adults.

Discussed is the fact that children who were labeled with conditions such as ADD/ADHD or who are deemed learning disabled were made to feel they are broken, different (in a bad way), or stupid. We hear stories of some people who found passion in other areas of life that were not the focus in traditional schools (especially the arts) but wound up not just fulfilled but successful at their job, wealthy and with celebrity status, sometimes with their area of strength being directly from their ‘disability’. Somehow, the book manages to come off pro-teacher though, in no way is this book an attack on the teaching profession in general.

The book then shifts to a discussion of creativity and of the flow state (citing the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ) and encourages everyone to find their creative selves. It is never too late. Adults can find their passion, in spite of any past negative experiences. We can use our passions to do creative work of our choosing, even in the spare time left over after our main work is completed (such as a full-time job to earn a paycheck) while provides a feeling of fulfillment that impacts their entire life in a positive way. Sir Ken Robinson seems to hope that all people would find their passion in life (including in mid-life or in one’s twilight years) and to not just focus on getting through life with a more basic survival mentality, bored and feeling empty inside but making ends meet (or living with large paychecks but still unhappy). Some people wind up finding a way to pursue their passion full time and can make a living from it too. These ideas are matched with many real life stories, many from personal interviews.

Advice on how to find one’s passion, how to quiet the voices of the naysayers, and how to find new support by finding one’s tribe is discussed. Attitude is very important as is seeking opportunities, not just relying on luck. Robinson outlines his steps to put these ideas into practical application. A thorough discussion of what creativity is and how to take practical steps to use creativity and make things happen is not just inspirational but makes it clear that all people can begin living a creative life at any time they choose to open their minds to the notion and commit to taking active steps to make it happen.

I absolutely loved the book!

The book was a fast and easy read. Research studies are cited to back up some of the information and statistics, so it is not just a book of opinion and personal theories. References are made to ideas contained in books written by others and my interest was piqued enough to go on to read those next.

I have a few criticisms about the book.

1. About two-third’s into the book I became bored of so many personal stories about celebrities or those who achieved personal wealth through pursuit of their passion (i.e. CEOs and others at the ‘top of the status chart’). It was a bit too much like “celebrity worship” or “rich people worship”, something I don’t do. He doesn’t just discuss happy musicians but tells the story of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Elvis—some of the biggest names in music history!

2. Some evidence for the over-emphasis on the rich and famous is that despite an entire chapter being about how ‘regular people’ can pursue their passion in one’s ‘spare time’ and feel fulfilled but never get rich or famous from what they do, there are not enough stories about that type of experience. I’m impressed and inspired by all kinds of success stories and I am sure that others are too.

3. There is a great discussion of "professional amateurs" (aka Pro-Am's) which is about some people being experts on a subject despite not getting paid to do learn or do that kind of work for pay, but the weird thing is that only two stories in the chapter feature happy people pursuing their passion that didn't wind up winning an award or becoming famous or transforming it into a full-time job/paid career!

A comment I'd like to make about Pro-Am's is that a perfect example are the Generation X mothers today (like me), who are college educated and had good careers, but left their careers to raise children then wound up using their extra time and energy to find their creativity and to pursue their passion. I can also say that of the past generations of women who society labeled as being 'just housewives' (assuming their lives were boring and unfulfilling), some actually had discovered their passion and were living it (like my mother and my grandmothers did).

A comment (not a complaint) I will share is that some of the advice is self-help advice common in a number of other, older books about self-actualization on the market. THE ELEMENT does have a different spin and twist—this was fine with me (because I feel that hearing good advice numerous times and from different sources is useful) but some readers who’ve read other books about self-help, attitude or self-actualization who want completely new and fresh ideas may be a little disappointed.

As a home educating parent who chose this path for my children for an ‘alternative education’ experience reason primarily, I will share that the book never discusses home education as a viable option for children who are suffering or not thriving in school, those with learning disabilities or whose natural talent for the arts are not being nurtured in mainstream public schools. Homeschooling parents will probably enjoy this book as the good messages contained in it can be applied in the homeschooling journey down the alternative education path.

The book is fantastic and inspirational. Read it and use the good advice it contains!

Related blog posts of mine:

Heard Sir Ken Robinson Lecture Last Night

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Tried King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

This started off as sharing a story and a photo but it has morphed into what sounds more like a product review.

My husband bought a five pound bag of King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour from the store a few weeks ago, it was a spontaneous purchase. I recall hearing about this, I swear, on Oprah a year or more ago. My memory was that this was supposed to bake like a white flour and taste more like a white flour while retaining the lower glycemic index and higher nutritional content of a whole wheat flour.

I just verified the basic nutrition and product information on the King Arthur site. They say it is intended to be used instead of whole wheat flour and is said to give a finer grain and lighter color and lighter flavor.

What I did was make the King Arthur flour bread recipe for Arthur Sand's Basic White Bread but used this White Whole Wheat flour instead of 100% Unbleached (white) flour. This recipe is in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary cookbook (one of my favorite cookbooks) but is also available free online.

The result was a bread with fine grain. It didn't rise as much because the yeast in the recipe was for white flour bread, I think, and I recall from other recipes, when I used a white flour recipe and substituted partial whole wheat flour it never seems to rise enough or the same. (There must be a kitchen science reason behind this.) This bread with the white whole wheat flour did have a lighter color than if I had used 100% whole wheat bread but it certainly was not white in color. There was still a taste of the nuttiness of the whole wheat but just not very strong like bread made with 100% whole wheat flour.

Since my kids still lean toward preferring white breads I may use partial white (unbleached) flour and partial this flour. The thinking mother in me wants my kids to only eat the best nutrition and I'd love it if they would eat all whole wheat products, but, that is not reality in our home.

I don't care for recipes with nearly all whole wheat flour because they are too bitter for my taste.

If you want the nutritional quality of whole wheat flour but want something lighter in flavor give this King Arthur White Wheat Flour a try, or experiment with using partial white flour and partial white whole wheat flour in your home baking.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where to Find Used Books to Use for Homeschooling

Homeschoolers Selling Used Books Online as a Home-Based Business

1. Idobooks. Many living books nicely separated by genre and many biographies. Section of easier living books and listing of $1 books too.

2. Keller's Books (specializing in vintage children's books and Catholic materials)

3. Homeschool Library Builder

4. Valerie's Living Books

5. Wholesome Books

Websites for Homeschoolers to Resell or Buy Used (or Never Used) Curriculum or Books from Other Homeschoolers (not running reselling businesses of their own)

1. Homeschool Free.

2. Sale Board at The Well Trained Mind site (present policy: must have posted at least 50 chat forum messages). Free.

Buying Used Books in Your Local Community (in the U.S.A.)

1. Book Sale Finder: Find Library Book Sales In Your Area. Can look up sales on the site or sign up for weekly email alerts with parameters you set. Remember to check for book sales when you go out of state on vacation!

Swapping Books Online

1. (click graphic below to link through) is a book swapping site for paperback books, HARDCOVER books and AUDIO books. You mail your books to members and other people mail you the books you want. A good site with an easy system. Get rid of your old fiction, cookbooks, hobby books, old curriculum, outgrown children's books and get new books and curriculum to use in the future.

There is also a discussion group on the site "Homeschoolers Corner". - Our online book club offers free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books with other book club members for free.

Free Books

1. Book Samaritan: Free Homeschooling Materials for Families in Need

List last updated 1/27/09

Gothic Lolita A Mystical Thriller Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Gothic Lolita A Mystical Thriller
Author: Dakota Lane
Genre: Young Adult Ficton
Publication: Ginee Seo Books (November 25, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1416913962
Full Retail Price:

My Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5 = I like it

Summary Statement: Good Escape Read, Has an Uncommon Interesting Writing Style, Liked It Despite Some Flaws

I enjoy reading young adult fiction and am interested in the current publishing trends in this genre compared to books published in this market in the 1980s when I was a ‘young adult’. I also have an interest in Japanese culture in general and have read about the ‘street fashion’ of Tokyo and the youth’s costume play (Cosplay, Gothic Lolita, Classic Lolita) at the Harajuku Bridge. Lastly as a blogger I was interested in this plot that was based on two teenaged girls who knew each other only through reading each other’s blogs (not ever communicating even by leaving comments).

I’ll be honest, this was an escape read, a pleasure read for fun. If I try to analyze the book thoroughly my review would be a laundry list of issues. I chose to not let the flaws turn me against the book entirely, even though I did predict the ending correctly. I am rating it 4 stars = I Like It.

I found the book hard to follow at first because the story is told in two voices, one the American teenaged girl and the other the Japanese teenaged girl. Unlike some other publishers choose to do, this book does not have the character’s name at the top or bottom of each page. I felt each character did not have enough of a unique voice so for the first half of the book I kept forgetting who that chapter was about and had to keep going back to the first page of the chapter to check. It wasn’t until I was half way through the book that I fully understood what was going on. Lastly the book never really discussed much of the years of the girls reading each other’s blogs (which began when they were eleven years old) which seemed to me to be important for we readers to understand what the relationship or just what interest each had in the other. It just wasn’t clear how much or why they even liked each other let alone cared for each other so deeply.

As to the title and its relevance to the book. The characters found each other’s blogs due to a shared interest in Gothic Lolita dress and Cosplay because they had listed that on their blog. However the Japanese girl is not really participating in cosplay activity in Tokyo so readers looking for a story truly set with a character doing cosplay will be disappointed. The American girl dresses in American Gothic style which has little to do with the Tokyo Street Fashion scene. The author didn’t do a thorough job in explaining the street fashion scene in Japan so if a reader doesn’t know much about it, they may not get it. I also didn’t think the book was mystical nor was it a thriller of any kind. It really was more like realistic fiction but told in a dreamy type of language, confused further by the back and forth telling of the story between two voices and the content constantly shifting from present time to events that happened in the past. Another odd thing that my mind and eyes had to get used to was reading the book entirely in lower case letters. Although this is said to be how bloggers blog honestly it is not true. Text messaging - SMS, yes that is often in lower case but not all blogs.

I read the book in a few hours when what I needed was a good escape read. Since I had the time I became engrossed in the book and read it straight through to the end, curious to see what happened, but as I already said, I guessed the finale correctly (and I wonder how many others will too).

Lastly the inclusion of the black and white photographs that tell some of the story was a creative part of the storytelling that added another level of uniqueness to the book which I enjoyed.

There are elements in a typical teenaged ‘problem novel’, imperfect and dysfunctional families,. It has a depressed parent and a suicide, another death, teenagers feeling let down, unhappy and confused and so forth. Also the little brother has some type of developmental delay issue, possibly Autism if not mental retardation.

I liked the book but didn’t love it as I felt distracted by the writing style and found it hard to put together past events to explain what was happening in the present time. I am wondering if reading the book a second time now that I understand more of the back story and know the characters more would result in me enjoying it even more, especially the dreamy writing style more thoroughly.

I predict that teenaged girls looking for a different type of writing and those interested in Japanese youth culture would enjoy this book. Since the American girl chose to leave her former school clique and chose to change to be ‘an outsider’ and a loner at school and expresses herself through interesting creative clothing (that found in trash bins or handmade) and in the Goth style, any teenaged girls who can identify or appreciate that character (the opposite of “Gossip Girl” basically) may enjoy the book.

If you are interested in a book showing current fashion trends of Tokyo (all ages and types) you may be interested in THE TOKYO LOOK BOOK. For more background information on Tokyo Street Fashion, image searches on Google and YouTube can provide details.

Related Content

Read my book review of "The Tokyo Look Book" (photographs and cultural explanations of Tokyo Street Fashion)

Here is one video from YouTube:

Japanese Street Fashion (some of this is Gothic Lolita but other styles are featured here too)

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review for the Amazon Vine program.

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Well Trained Mind Conference May 2009

Well this is tempting. A homeschooling conference for the tenth anniversary of The Well Trained Mind, with lectures by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer plus storytime with Jim Weiss!

Very tempting...not just for me to go but to take my husband and kids along and combine it with an educational trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

For more information, read the info on TWTM site.

I stumbled across this today while shopping on TWTM site.