Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home from Homeschool Convention

I attended the MassHope Christian homeschool convention this weekend, by myself. I usually go with a friend but this is the second time I've gone alone.

I have given advice to others to go to a homeschool conference with a plan in mind. I'm quite distracted about our life in the fall, due to uncertainty about where we'll be in the fall (we may be moving). So, more general family life matters are occupying my thoughts lately and planning out the next academic year seems less important. Now, I logically know that starting my oldest child's high school year is certainly NOT unimportant but I just am not obsessing over it or worrying about it or anything.

Since Dianne Craft was speaking I decided to attend the conference. I heard her talk the  last time she was at MassHope and I wasn't sure if I needed to hear any of her talks again but didn't know if new material was there.

Regarding academics a main worry of mine right now is how to teach literary analysis and what list of books should be read in grade nine. I was also confused about how much writing my son should do and how much should be about literary analysis.

Well I'm happy to report I left the convention feeling confident and capable. I spoke to Adam Andrews and his wife at their booth Center for Literary Education and wound up buying their curriculum Teaching the Classics which has a manual and a DVD for the parent-teacher to watch to train them how to discuss literature and how to do literary analysis. In a nutshell it teaches the parent to be the facilitator of the 'class' and they do not advise discussing every single book read, to only discuss the books the parent has also read themselves. They also advise to choose common books for a reading list but to tailor the list to the student and underscored that there is not enough time to read every great book out there so we have to pick and choose what is do-able. I later heard Andrews speak and then really felt confident. I also bought another of his lectures on audio CD to listen to at home since I'd missed that session.

I also heard Jim Stobaugh of For Such a Time as This speak about writing composition and about SAT prep topics. I bought his Concept Builders for Literary Analysis program which can be used as young as grade 7 but is still good for high school. I was surprised at his recommendation for a writing load, 45 minutes a day and a two page essay per week and also one speech per week.

Both of those speakers seemed confident that homeschooled kids are readers and that they are getting a fine education. They both advocate reading whole books (which I wholeheartedly agree with). They both are supportive of the classical method of homeschooling. They are both serious about academics but somehow made me feel capable not incompetent and that homeschooling high school is nothing to be afraid of. They also both want students to read closely and to have good reading comprehension. Some things they both said reminded me of things I've read about in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. There was a general message that the education and learning is important, what is not the focus is checking boxes or achieving high grades. In other words, the goal is to have a great foundation education and then the student can't help but get high test scores and be a desirable candidate in the college admissions process.

As for Dianne Craft's lectures I heard three of them. Mostly this was the same stuff I'd heard in previous years. There was a bit of new research there and some newer brands of supplements available (i.e. what cod liver oil tastes best). I bought the CDs for the sessions I missed.

I also really enjoyed being in the hotel alone because it was one of the best rests I've had in years. I had no cat walking on my body in the night, no snoring from my husband, no having to bark at my kids to be quiet and go to bed already (they are still sharing a bedroom and keep talking into the night), and I had no skylight that lit up my room in the morning.

I'm glad to be home. I feel energized and happy about homeschooling. I don't feel worried about gaps or incompetent as I face starting homeschool high school. I can't wait to start making some of our own plans and my own book lists and making the swirling ideas in my head into real plans written out on paper in ink.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Son Won a Gold Medal at Connecticut's Science Olympiad 2011

My homeschooled eighth grade son and his partner won a gold medal for their performance in the middle school division Science Olympiad 2011 competition for optics - physics. In Connecticut we have just one tier of competition. This event is a written test with open binder (created by the students) about optics, light, and color, and the second component is a hands on laser shoot with mirrors optics.

Connecticut's competition had (all) 23 events (the same events held at nationals) in six hours time, performed by a 15 member maximum team. Team members divide up in order to cover the events, since they overlap. It is no small task to prepare the team to do such a wide variety of events and to cram them into one day, with rushing from room to room for different types of tests.


This is not a bragging post. This is not just about winning. This post is about learning. It is also about homeschooling and the role of a parent-teacher in the learning process.

I am proud of my son for what he accomplished with the optics event, because he put in hours and hours of work to prepare. This physics material is subject matter usually not taught until grade eleven or twelve. Even conceptual physics is not usually taught in grades 6-8 (the grades this division covers).

To achieve this performance level, I, the homeschooling parent, had to take some extraordinary measures beyond the team's original plan to prepare for the event. My son expressed a desire to learn and do well at the event so I stepped up to the plate, mostly in the last few weeks before the event when I realized just how little my son actually knew despite having attended classes taught by a high school physics teacher to a group of homeschooled kids (last fall).

As the homeschool parent-teacher, I worked to find other textbooks to teach with when the first one textbook was not resulting in real learning. (To my horror) I had to teach myself physics concepts (which I never learned in college or high school) and I had to refresh my memory on algebra and trigonometry in order to teach my son (as he is not doing math at those levels yet). We went by the rules, so thought that would be on the test, in the end, that higher level math was absent from the test.

At one point I didn't really understand what he knew and what he didn't know so I hired an expert. I hired a tutor (just for two hours) who assessed what my son knew, what he thought he knew but was wrong about, and what his outright gaps in content were. My son had gone through classroom learning and but some went over his head and some of it confused him. I saw firsthand that although a good teacher can teach a class it doesn't mean (all of) the learners actually learn the material (or learned it accurately, some kids think they know something when they are incorrect about their knowledge level).

As my son struggled as we learned together, I had to stretch even more than expected, and use internet resources to flesh out our understanding. When one high school textbook didn't work, I found another text. When one website was confusing, I sought more information from other sources. We compared and contrasted the information until it made sense in our minds. I would not stop (nor did he want to stop). I kept revising how and what he was taught with until the subject was actually understood.

I then researched other ways to study as the old-fashioned methods I learned in school do not work for my son. Writing out notes, looking at paper flashcards and such don't help my son, they just confuse him. To access this information I bought and skimmed a couple of books about study tactics. I then taught these to my son. Mind mapping worked especially well for him; he is a very visual-spatial learner. I got that idea from the book Study Smarter, Not Harder.

Though this, I learned some lessons about tenacity and perseverance. Despite friends urging me to encourage my son to son quit rather than to put forth such a concerted effort, we stuck with it. Why? The answer is simple: because my son wanted to learn it, he wanted to compete and he wanted to be prepared. However,  he was floundering. As his homeschool parent-teacher I accepted the responsibility to facilitate his home education, so helping him learn this for the Science Olympiad competition was just one part of "doing my job". What I had to do in order to faciliate such learning pushed me to new heights of effort in our homeschooling journey. (It got so hard I wanted to give up at some points.)

I realized if we were able to get that content mastered with effort and information then anything my son needs to learn in homeschool high school could be achieved. (It need not matter what happened at the event, jsut that he felt prepared and that he could demonstrate he'd learned the material, which we both felt was achieved as he walked in to take the tests.)

What it takes to prepare well for an academic competition is knowing what must be learned and following the rules. Then, finding the best materials or finding supplemental materials when the original stuff is not working is important in order to learn the concepts. In order to learn anything, for a competition or not, it takes time, energy, courage, patience, and perseverance. It requires tenacity to push through the tough parts and effort to hurdle over the blockades.

I care far more for the life lessons we both learned by doing this learning endeavor than for the physics concepts, and I care even less about his actually winning a gold medal. Still, it's nice to have some validation that having that medal brings -- to know he performed higher than kids in gifted and talented school programs and some kids in magnet schools focusing on science.


My son competed in two other events as well. One he prepared a decent amount for but it's a chancy event (Write it - Do it) and the other was a very last minute thing thrown at him, a hands on thing he did all by himself at home (Towers). He didn't win medals in those events.

In Towers he misread a poorly written measurement and lost points for that. That failure was okay, because he learned that following directions is critical. Badly written directions may be to blame (adults who later read the rules agreed they were confusing) but in real life what matters is not who is at fault but that you have to do it correctly, period. He also had only 14 days to prepare for that and did it without any teacher or coach direction or oversight, so I think he did pretty well considering the circumstances.

What he learned most of all is what you really try to do, you can achieve. He didn't put enough preparation into the other two events and thus he didn't win a medal in them. Not winning at something that he didn't fully prepare for at is just as good a reinforcement about how to learn and how to achieve something, as trying hard and actually winning.

This year we were the only homeschool team in Connecticut. It is the team's third year in the competition and we ranked 8th overall in the state. It was the first time we'd had a full team and the first time the students competed in all 23 events. I'm proud of the team. I am grateful that my son was able to participate with the team as it has taught both of us important lessons about education and learning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thoughts on Banning Chocolate Milk in Schools

The latest feeble attempt to make school lunches healthier is apparently to ban chocolate milk. I find this ridiculous given the fact that far worse foods are still on the menu. I honestly can't figure out why banning chocolate milk is thought to be a good idea if crap like french fries, tater tots, (that mess they call) pizza, and pastries and cookies are left on the menu.

As Jen  Singer says in her op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, banning chocolate milk "is like running around blowing out candles while your house is on fire". I agree.

Article: The Unwise War Against Chocolate Milk

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trying a New Geography Activity

The other day I listened to a lecture on CD recorded at a homeschooling conference by Jay Wile about homeschooling high school. There is one idea he shared about how his family "taught" geography that I am starting today with both of my kids (grade 8 and 5). Here is what Jay Wile shared.

Look through the daily newspaper each day, starting on Monday. Find a country mentioned in an article. If a country is found in Monday's paper the looking can stop at that point. If nothing is found Monday, continue each day of the week until a country is found.

Pick a country that has not been "done" by the student yet. I am going to cut the article my son chooses.

Research that country using various reference materials. I will have my kids use a couple of geography reference books that we own and the World Book encyclopedia (paper version) and lastly, the Internet. They will use the Internet to find color photos of the places so they can have a visual connection. Wile had his daughter find certain points of information (which ones I don't recall). I am going to make up my own list of facts that I want them to find.

I will have my kids assemble this data neatly into a two page spread that will be put into a three ring binder to make a geography notebook. I may have them select a couple of color images from the Internet to print and add to the page.

They will also find the country on our globe.

If we're feeling adventurous and have the time we'll make a food item from that country. Since we cook and bake from scratch so often this won't be too hard for us to do.

I can imagine that when this first begins it will be easy to find countries but the more countries that are researched the pickings may become slim.

I also want them to read that article and to connect current events to the place. The article will be included in the notebook (perhaps folded and inserted into a little envelope on the page).

My kids will be using The Wall Street Journal as that's the newspaper we subscribe to.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Thoughts on Homeschooling My Younger Son

I am shifting around our homeschooling activities for my younger son. To be completely honest I have always focused more on my older son because he's the oldest and it's the first time I'm home educating a kid in that grade.

My sons coming inside after the first water gun fight of the year, 4/14/11.

However the older son has given me various challenges health-wise (multiple Lyme Disease occurrences and mono in 2009) and he's had some learning disabilities diagnosed. All those things have negatively impacted that son's education, making it harder to administer and shifting the priorities. When a kid is really sick with high fever no schooling is getting done. When the kid has brain fog from mono no matter what is done that day, little will be learned. At times, the highest priority was on therapies for the LDs and also doing accommodations with a goal to have a traditional education without any accommodations. The energy I have put to that son is more than I ever knew a parent could dedicate to raising a child. It's exhausting.

For years it was easy to homeschool my younger son to just do the same lesson as I didn’t with my older, and I had the younger son listen in. I could read aloud from higher level material and whatever good thing he learned was better than what I've had taught a child at that younger age if he was my only pupil.

A few years ago I noticed a radical difference in my kid's learning styles despite a test I gave them showing the same result. To make a long story short my younger son (grade 5 now) is very left brained and my older is very right brained. Thus if I present my younger with right brained methods that his brother favors my younger will learn it too but he doesn't 'need it' presented that way. If I present material in the traditional left brained way it instantly is learned and absorbed.

For a long time I didn't have many expectations of my younger son and he just learned in a more natural way which amazed me. He learned more than I'd have expected so I never had to work to have a high bar achieved nor did I ever set the bar that unnaturally high. It wasn't until more recently when I have put harder material in front of him and taught him, that I saw that he easily learned it that I was amazed at what he could produce when I intentionally wanted him to learn it (some of you would call that coerced learning). The question then became how much to 'force' him to learn at a young age, what is appropriate and how to do it in a good way versus burning him out by forcing too much on him?

My younger finds learning easy and my older struggles more. With my younger I can correct him once on something in math and it's cemented in his memory forever. My younger is a natural speller and the rare times he makes an error I tell him once what it is and it's instantly memorized.

My older son 'taps out' of energy at a certain point in the day, something typical with kids with an LD and with processing issues. I didn't know what was normal. Before I knew my son had an LD I thought the way he was normal and fine. Now that I'm "demanding" more of my younger son I am amazed at his endurance and capacity for handling learning. My younger son does not 'tap out' of energy by three in the afternoon. He is more like an Energizer Bunny. He can keep on going and going and going. He also does his work quickly and well with little effort.

Last week my kids were doing some writing composition. This is my current "hot topic" to push for learning. I noticed a few things.

First, the two kids are doing Institute for Excellence in Writing using the student DVDs together and my younger son gets the work done and then it takes my older son 2/3 more time to do it. They sit side by side so this difference is obvious.

Second, my younger son did a rough draft of a three paragraph telling of an emergency that happened to him. It was nearly perfect which amazed me (he hadn't started IEW yet so this was just 'off the top of his head' writing). I pointed out a few changes to make and he made them quickly and without complaint. On the next assignment everything I'd taught him was internalized and was used automatically so that rough draft needed just a few grammar corrections. The formatting with the introduction and all that stuff was being used without any reminder.

My younger son thrives when he knows what work is expected of him. He likes to be told what to do as he likes to know what I want from him. He gets a thrill from checking stuff off the list and doing the work. He loves the feeling of having finished. He has been begging for grades on papers and when I don't do it, he does it himself. (He learned of grading from reading Calvin and Hobbes when he was six years old and saw the teacher's papers with the grades. He also begs for the minus or plus on the letter grade, a numerical grade with a percent 24/25 is not acceptable he wants it also written as 96% with the letter grade. I roll my eyes at this but give him what he asks for.

At first I was annoyed that my son wanted lists as I felt life should flow more organically and I wanted them to think that learning is never 'finished' since they are homeschooling. However I then remembered that many adults, me included, feel better about themselves when they know what's expected and they like to feel a sense of completion and that they are "done for the day" and can relax. So why would I not like that my child feels that way? Remember kids are just younger people; they often have the same core feelings and drives as adults. You may say "he's homeschooled so he shouldn't crave grades as that's a school thing" but says who? Wanting to feel "finished" so he can allow himself to relax and have fun is something that has nothing to do with school or homeschooling; it's something that some adults not in school at present feel every day.

With my younger son I am having trouble finding a good balance. I want to give him challenging work but not so much that he burns out. I want him to enjoy being a kid. Then again I don't want to give him little mental stimulation so that he is unchallenged and bored intellectually. Some days he says he wants to be a doctor to find a cure for Cancer and other days he says he wants to be a dentist like his grandfather was. If these are going to be options he really prepares for he is going to have to do hard work in grades 8-12. That's just two years away, not so far away, so I could start filling gaps now rather than waiting until the last minute.

Then again, the thing that has most interested him since he was really young is the military. He knows little about the military but says he wants to be an Air Force pilot, he thinks. When I'd asked about being a commercial airlines pilot instead, he showed little interest. He seems drawn to the military. My greatest fear is of course, that he'd enroll and lose his life while serving our country. Therefore I have asked my husband to stop encouraging him about that path. My husband suggested attending a military academy. If that is the path then a rigorous college prep program is still called for.

In seeking balance in my son's life, I need to consider the socialization, since he's such an extrovert. I make sure that my son sees friends and neighbors to play with enough. He plays a spring travel sport and this year we supported that with extra practice the entire fall and winter. He just finished Cub Scouts and is now a Boy Scout so he sees friends there and now goes camping for weekends without a parent chaperone so he's enjoying some freedom away from my husband and me.

I see myself in this son of mine which is a bit scary. I say that because he has some of the traits that I've been trying to temper or reform for years. It's not easy to change the way one's mind works! He's Mr. Cynic and Mr. Realist and even a bit more critical than I like to see in others (or myself). I see myself in his personality, in his ease with school work, and in his social life. If possible he'd be with friends 24/7. He's one of those people who would prefer to never be alone, to have a pal with him all the time. All the kids around here are so over-scheduled (even the schooled kids) that it is hard to find kids who have time to just play.

I remember how when I was his age: I had a full weekend sleepover every single weekend. My best friend and I alternated weekends but more often we were at my house as I didn't live with an evil stepmother like she did who she was happy to get away from (our imperfect family was like The Waltons compared to hers). The two of us also slept at other friend's houses with larger groups. This pattern continued with my best friend for four years, until she moved out of town and we went our separate directions. I loved that independence as well has having a very best friend that was glued to my hip as well as a small group of best girlfriends who had fun and had no friend-drama between us. Who the friends were shifted between middle school and high school but I always had a very close group of friends.

One of the reasons I tolerate the inconvenience of sleepovers about once every 2-4 weeks is that I remember the fun it was for me. I want both of my kids to be able to see their friends. With everyone so busy with school and homework or with homeschooling and homeschool co-op and that homework and with extra-curriculars it is hard for kids to see enough of each other without a sleepover. So here we are hosting sleepovers frequently.

My younger son also has been asking to start a business for almost two years. I had a talk with him yesterday about his idea for a t-shirt business. He wants to design his own designs to put onto shirts. I told him about Cafe Press and if he designs something it can easily be given to Cafe Press and they will handle all the order taking and producing the items and the shipping. He was thrilled at the whole production, payment and shipping part being handled by someone else.

I told my son that my father craved being in the real world and working when he was a teen so badly, and how he felt school was irrelevant to his life so he dropped out of high school. I told my son I don't want him feeling that academics are worthless. (Another challenge with that son is he is uninterested in academics. No matter how good the documentary or museum visit or the book or whatever it is we do he says he really doesn't care about learning about that topic. He does the work asked of him but never really enjoys it or is curious to learn more.)

I told my son that he is smart and good at school work and if he were to enter school he'd do just fine. I told him that there is no reason to wait until adulthood to start a business. As long as he can keep up with his schoolwork I will let him start a business right now. He was so excited he got to work immediately making some designs using computer software.

I thought that by homeschooling the eldest child that I'd have learned all I needed to know to homeschool the second one. However I know kids are different and they are individuals. I don't do "one size fits all" homeschooling, I customize my kid's education. Thus I feel I'm still learning as I go along with my younger son.

I don't have it all figured out but I'm sure trying my hardest to make it up as we go along.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate it.

I went to church with my sons while my husband took his mother to Catholic mass. We had a peaceful and quiet Easter dinner at my mother-in-law's with my husband having done all the cooking.

The slowfood menu was:

bread (bakery)
dandelion soup
penne with Napolitano brown sauce
baked ham with a sweet glaze
baby potatoes
Italian grain pie (baked by an aunt)

I hope you enjoyed your day as much as we enjoyed ours.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poke the Box Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Poke the Box:

Author: Seth Godin

Publication: The Domino Project, 2011
My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: A Rant to Inspire You to Go Start Something

This small format, 83 page book is a rant and a manifesto, in the words of author Seth Godin. Written in colloquial language it is an inspiring fast read, but it can be slowly read and re-read to extract more out of it. I read it slowly over three weeks time including stopping to jot down notes and pausing to think about Godin’s ideas. Nuggets of wisdom with words of inspiration are non-stop in this book which sometimes reads like a series of engaging (short) blog posts on a common theme collected and printed in a book binding.

The reason I think its small size and short page count is good is because it is not intimidating to those who are not usually book readers or those who have no desire to read 200 pages or so on a topic. The goal of this book is to put a few certain ideas into the reader’s head in order to inspire a paradigm shift and to inspire the person to make something happen. The book’s purpose is not to be an in-depth, broad based, long-winded traditional non-fiction business book. There are plenty of those already on the market, aren’t there? This book is therefore, something non-conformist in the business book publishing world. Read it, get inspired, and then pass the book on to someone else.

This book is about starting things, which Godin feels is something that is not done often enough in (the business) world. Much of a company’s focus is continuing on with doing what a company does well and sticking with what they know. Beginning in school, American children are taught to comply and to follow the rules. Later, as employees they are told to follow rules and do the job as dictated to them and to do it well, with successful outcomes. In both situations doing what they are told well results in praise (grades or raises or promotions or bonuses) but also failure is something that is punished (by low grades or maybe even with being fired). We know already with inventing new products that many failures occur before a success but when an employee is working for a company there is usually no freedom granted to try to start something new and there is little tolerance for failure. Failing is too risky. Thus people avoid even thinking about doing something new as they fear failure as it will usually be punished; it’s too risky to even try.

Godin’s first task in the book is to shift our thinking to both allow people to have the freedom to try new things and fail in the quest to find something that works, and to also inspire the people themselves to be the ones to initiate change (not waiting for innovation to come from the top down). This idea is explored on the big picture level, about how corporations and even society in general does actions which try to ostracize those who try to innovate and break out of the cookie cutter mold of conformity. People who are “starters” are often seen as troublemakers, questioners and innovators and he says society is “not kind those who don’t fit in”. The Australians even have a derogatory term for those who try to stand tall above the shoulders of the masses of conformists.

The second major concept discussed in the book is the topic of fear and its influence on each individual person, looking at the situation from the micromanagement level. Personality traits of individuals are examined, and how that can influence what the person does. Godin discusses creative people, curious minds and the difference between them and “initiators”. He discusses idealists and realists and how former innovators can morph into “disenheartened realists” who give up and stop trying to make change, even when they had past success. He examines risk vs. reward. I found the discussion of how of 100 people, 1 has too many ideas and doesn’t make them happen while the other 99 are just people who never do things or who don’t do enough (he calls that shipping) and how fear is to blame for problems at both ends of that spectrum. This part of the book reads a bit more like a self-help book. Here we are prodded and poked to shift our own mindset and get up the courage to take action to bring our ideas to the world and to try to affect change.

I found the book engaging and interesting. I can relate to this because I myself am a starter and a problem-solver as well as a non-conformist. I enjoyed the book although Godin was preaching to the choir with me.

Godin encourages readers of POKE THE BOX to share their copy with others to spread his ideas around to as many people as possible. Since I was inspired by the book I loved the idea of spreading these ideas to people who I think need to hear this stuff. If one copy of a book that is shared among a dozen people inspires just one person to step outside their safety zone to become an initiator and starter it would be a great thing. I can’t even imagine how great it would be if a significant number of conformists who fear change shifted to at least get out of the way and stop being roadblocks to change and projects that others try to start, let alone if some of the present road blockers become change makers. I don’t know if Americans will let that happen as much as some of us would like to see but we shouldn’t let our fear of failure stop us from trying to make change, we need to keep poking the box.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Vine program. I am under no obligation to review the book favorably nor was I paid to write it for Amazon or to publish it on my blog. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 277 Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 277 was published at Small World.

This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

I enter these Carnivals and encourage you to as well.

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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Friday, April 22, 2011

First Batch of Mugwort Ale in Process

In the vein of making lemonade from lemons, I decided to make our first batch of Mugwort Ale from wild mugwort, Artemesia vulgaris. It is usually referred to as a weed but actually it's a medicinal herb, and it grew in my gardens last year. After pulling the plants by hand I dried the herb and saved it for future use.

I didn't know at the time that something such as homebrewed ale could be made with it. I learned about that by reading the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I used the recipe on page 379.

My husband homebrews beer, so we owned all the equipment and I had his expertise and help with this project. All this cost me was the price of the yeast and using the sweetners I already had on hand. My husband remains skeptical. Neither of us has ever tasted Mugwort Ale so we don't know what it should taste like or what ours will taste like. I'll report in on it again after we sample the finished ale. I love the scent of the fresh plant and it's scent dried, so am hopeful that this will have an interesting and pleasing taste as an ale.

Notes on the Ingredients

The recipe calls for molasses. Something I have learned from experience baking and cooking with molasses is that there is a wide variety of taste differences with different brands and grades of molasses. Even the same brand may offer multiple different grades with varying flavors. Some molasses brands are much too strong for my taste. Which molasses a person uses would affect the flavor of the ale greatly. I used a mild molasses I had on hand in the necessary quantity: Crosby's. Crosby's is a Canadian product which is popular in northern Maine where my grandmother lived. I bought mine there since it is unavailable in Connecticut and I like its taste the best. It is pretty mild and not "rank" as my grandmother would say.

I used light brown sugar as that's what I had on hand in the quantity necessary. The recipe did not specify light or dark brown sugar. Which is selected will affect the taste.

The recipe does not state which kind of yeast to use. My husband knew the type of yeast used would affect the flavor of the ale and he suggested I take Buhner's book with me in hand and ask the shop which would be appropriate. I shopped for our yeast at Maltose Express, a local homebrew store. The owners of the store are also book authors of cookbooks for homebrewing beer: Tess and Mark Szamatulski. One of their books is Clone Brews.

The store clerk phoned Tess Szamatulski to ask her opinion about the yeast. The reply was: an Irish yeast would bring out the flavor of the molasses (and dominate it), an English yeast would bring out the brown sugar flavor (and dominate it) and an American Ale yeast would be mellow and would allow the flavor of the mugwort to dominate.

I selected the American Ale yeast (Wyeast brand) because the point of my making this ale was to use mugwort and to have the taste of mugwort. I didn't want the mugwort flavor to be secondary or concealed.

Here is the ale 12 hours into the process. It is already fermenting as evidenced by the bubbles seen on the surface.

Here are some photos of the ale making process as it unfolded.

light brown sugar

Crosby's molasses

Water with light brown sugar and molasses, dissolved then brought to a boil.

dried mugwort leaves from my garden (Artemesia vulgaris)

Then I stirred the mugwort, boiling in the sweet solution, for a half hour.

My husband warned to keep stirring this so the leaves didn't settle down and burn onto the bottom of the pot and ruin the batch.

I am not outlining all the basic homebrewing processes and methods within this post. We used all the basic procedures for homebrewing including safety measures for disinfecting.

It will ferment for about a week, then it will be bottled with a secondary ferment. It will be ready to drink about ten days after bottling. I'll give a progress report then.

Books mentioned in this post:

Disclosure: I was not paid to mention these books or this store. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

PSAT Premier 2011 by Kaplan Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: PSAT / NMSQT Premier 2011
By: Kaplan

Publication: Simon & Schuster, 2010

My Star Rating: 4 Stars out of 4 = I Like It

Summary Statement: Helpful Tips and Test Strategies for a Low Price

First and foremost this PSAT test prep book explains what the PSAT is and what the benefits of taking the test are.

The book explains what the test is and all the directions so the student can be familiar with those and not hear them for the first time when the test is administered.

The best things about the book, though, are the test strategies that Kaplan recommends which they spell out clearly and concisely. Just knowing and using those strategies must put students at an advantage. Secondly, the book comes with a serial number which allows the book owner to gain access to the Kaplan website where they can take sample tests online to help them determine a studying strategy. (There are sample tests in this nearly 500 page paper book also.)

A complaint I have is that the quick start guide (the yellow pages on pages 2-5) are inaccurate for how to login to the online account to take the online test (recommended as the foundation for the student’s study strategy). The process to login is pretty confusing. To make matters more complicated, when having trouble accessing the online test for owners of the book, we have to share a website mostly geared toward students enrolled in Kaplan courses. (The website users who are “just” book owners are treated like second class customers, because the website is not really geared toward making book customers satisfied; it seems to mostly be for class-takers.)

Regarding Kaplan’s customer service: I followed directions to get online live chat help with the procedure but after a few minutes of interaction was informed that the live chat help service is for class-takers only and they couldn't help me. I was referred to submit an email with my question which was responded to after a few days (not fast enough) and what I was told to do did not address the problem!

While impatiently waiting for a reply (back on day one) I figured out the crazy process myself, here it is: you have to create an account on the website in general (including picking a login name and password) then you have to find a link buried on their site for “free quiz bank” (language not referred to in the book) then follow steps to do an account set up. That quiz bank account set up is identical to what I’d just done so this looks like I must be doing something wrong (you have to make up yet another login and another password).

I liked the detailed analysis of the online test results. Once you get the account working, it’s a smooth process.

Also important to know is that buying this book and cramming with it are not enough to help students get high scores despite the claim on the front cover “Everything you need to score higher!” Right in the book’s introduction it states that only so much can be done to game this test using “guile”, that the student needs to have years of reading high quality material in order to build a vocabulary necessary to score well on the PSAT and SAT. They state students using Kaplan’s tutors have “a general lack of reading skills and familiarity with good writing” and say that they need to have “read enough quality material in her odd 16-years of existence, achieving upper-level scores can be extremely difficult”. Wow. How’s that for admitting that last minute cramming with test prep books won’t cut the mustard? In any event, the cover also indicates “higher score guaranteed or your money back, conditions apply”.

Additionally it is strongly recommended that the student create a study group of 3-5 teens to meet in the student’s homes for regular study test prep, not just to use the book at home alone. That should be done over time not at the last minute.

Another con: the book advertises that owning the book will allow the student access to free online classes the “live online event”. These “live events” only take place in the months of September and October. That may be considered by some to be a bit of false advertising. The 2011 book was published in June 2010 and the inside pages of the book state the classes are for September and October 2010 only. So if you buy the book after October 2010 does that mean you can't take the fall 2011 classes? I don't know!

An impression I got from being on Kaplan’s website to access the free features in the book is that it would be superior to take Kaplan’s classes. Their marketing team surely has done a good job making this parent feel tempted to ditch the book and pay for expensive classes just to try to give my kids their best chance to do well on the test.

Back to the tips and strategies, in addition to the general recommendations given there are tips inside the sample tests in the book. If you read the answers to the sample test questions there is good information about the question which will help the student learn the tricks and games that the test writers did which may confuse the test taker. So to be thorough, I recommend reading all the introductory material as well as everything in the sample test answer key and also the sidebar notes and bullet point summaries at the start of the chapters.

To conclude, I have issues with the book and the website. On the other hand, for the price of a take out pizza, you can buy this book and access the website and the book to do a lot to practice. At least the book is not being sold for a ridiculous high price. The book is valuable for the student because it guides the student to find their weak areas so they can independently study or to go on to form a small study group. A student can learn a lot using just this book. So how hard can a parent really be when rating a nearly 500 page book that is such a low cost which can help the student a lot *if they actually use the book and do study*? I can’t be that hard on the book, therefore I’ll rate this 4 stars = I Like It.

I recommend that you buy this book, use it fully and see what you get out of it. If you feel you are floundering studying alone or with a small study group that you created, then consider enrolling in classes such as Kaplan's, if you can afford it.

Disclosure statement: I was given a review copy of this book by the Vine program. I was under no obligation to review it favorably nor was I obligated to blog this review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Absinthe Cocktails Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Absinthe Cocktails
Author: Kate Simon

Publication: Chronicle Books, 2010

My Star Rating: 5 Stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Gorgeous Book with Gourmet Recipes and History of this Mysterious Spirit

Absinthe Cocktails is a niche book written by an author who writes as an expert on the subject. This book covers the history of absinthe including what it is and its colorful history, having been illegal for a number of years. The liquor is now more widely available and people like me want to know how to make the best use of this expensive product. Simon clarifies some safety issues which I appreciated because after having bought an expensive bottle last year I went in search of some recipes on the Internet and wound up finding all kinds of scary information such as claims that it will cause hallucinations and saying just one drink will give you a horrible hangover. I was so afraid after reading all that I was scared to even open my bottle! Simon dispels those myths.

This book contains over 50 recipes. Due to the variation in taste of the different brands of absinthe the author explains that the recipes were made with just that brand in mind and any substitution will require recipe adjustment for maximum flavor. Additionally the flavor of the liquor is so powerful that sometimes only a few drops is necessary in a cocktail.

Recipes are provided for traditional cocktails as well as some brand new cocktails created by bartenders. These are fancy cocktails that often require ingredients I don’t have lying around the house such as using specific brands of bitters that I’ve never heard of. Homemade simple syrup is used in some recipes as is a recipe for a homemade grenadine, so you’ll have to do a bit of work (not just opening your wallet at the liquor store) to make some of these cocktails. Thus this book reminds me of a gourmet food cookbook which requires specific ingredients or requires ‘from scratch’ parts to the recipe.

Despite the author saying that you could make all 50 cocktails in the book with just one bottle of absinthe which is stretching the cocktail dollar, the reality is I’d have to buy a lot of extra ingredients just to try some of these drinks. To clarify my point, you would need to not just buy juices or bitters or fresh citrus fruit for fresh rind garnish but also you’d need access to a full bar including multiple different specific brands of tequila and different brands of gins, brandy, ginger liqueur, and Calvados, and so forth. I think at about 40 bottles my home bar is stocked better than most people’s but to try most of these I’ll need to go shopping at the liquor store!

So, this is a serious book, a niche book about a niche spirit for people who seek this serious information. (I am not faulting it for being what it is; I’m praising the book and explaining what it is so you can see if the book is what you are looking for.) Imagine this to be the cocktail counterpart to a gourmet food cookbook.

Graphically and artistically the book is gorgeous. It is full of high quality photographs. The pages have a black background which is lovely and gives the book an air of elegance and mystery.

If you are serious about cocktails and want to know more about absinthe and want a variety of recipes to try absinthe with, I think you will love this book.

Disclosure I received a review copy of this book from the Vine program. I was under no obligation to review it favorably nor to publish it on my blog. For my blog’s full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bananagrams Everyday

We aim to play Bananagrams every day, five or six days a week is what we've been doing.
I feel it will help my son who does not normally see letters in his head start to see them as moveable objects. My older son is a visual thinker who sees pictoral images of items. When I hear a word, I see it spelled out with floating letters, spelled correctly, since I'm one of those "natural spellers".

While playing the game a person is forced to constantly think of new ways to arrange letters to make new and different words in order to use up all the letter tiles in their possession. In creating the words the player must think of right ways to spell the letters and in our family we also help each other by clarifiying how to correctly spell the words as we play the game (instead of waiting until the end to reveal they made a mistake and getting penalized and having to rework the whole thing).

My son with dyslexia symptoms finds this a difficult exercise which is still at a frustration point. He has been improving, moving from mostly three and four letter words breaking through to make larger words. He has a long way to go but he is on the right track.

One of the biggest challenges for me is letting go of already formed words to scrap it completely in order to make new larger words. I tend to want to hold onto the already finished words but I'm then left with reject letters that just can't be easily added on to the existing words to use them up. That's a strategy for failure.

A homeschool mom friend has been playing Bananagrams every day with her family for about four months, and it has helped her visual spatial learner child learn to spell. We'll see how it goes for my struggling speller.

As you can see from the below grid, my son is indeed moving away from three and four letter words. But, I didn't have the heart to tell him there is a "u" in ratatouille....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Techno Brain Drain

Study about constantly checking smart phones and other such distractors may be bad for our brains.

Food for thought.

About me: I do not live the "crackberry" lifestyle. I got my first smart phone 12 months ago but don't use it like "crackberry addicts" use theirs. Honestly I only got it due to my son's travel lacrosse team who would cancel a game while I was already out doing something else and was going to travel directly there. Now I check that email before I head to it

When waiting someplace, I bring a book, a regular old paper book, or a paper magazine. Only occasionally do I sit and read email on my phone because honestly, it's hard to reply when I need to do that. I also hate wasting time by double-reading and double-deleting. It's easier to read email at home and delete it then. Or I knit.

I don't use a digital book reader device because I own too many paper books that I still have not read, not all the books I want to read are available digitally, they are more expensive digitally than when I get them  free or used for cheap, I can't resell digital books or give them away which bothers me, and I'm too cheap to buy a digital book reader. (Whew, how's that for a run-on sentence?) I also hate how just when I buy something technological in nature a new improved and more expensive one comes out that I then want. I say no to digital book readers.

My latest tactic in the last six months is to check email once a day only, only more than once if I'm really bored. I also often go one or two days a week not looking at email at all, so I can be busy doing other things in my life away from the screen. If someone needs me urgently they can phone me. If I am waiting for something urgent I will peek at email quickly and then exit.

For blogging I have been writing ahead of time when I have extra time and when my muse is with me. I set the posts to blog by themselves in the future. In the last month blogger has given me some technical glitches so sometimes those don't publish and I have no post for the day. Oh well.

I have unsubscribed from some discussion lists (email) and I rarely check online bulletin boards. I just don't have time and I often wind up more aggravated than helped from those communications. I also notice some people ask questions and say they want help but then they are closed-minded and don't want to hear the answers. So what is their point? They are wasting people's time, mine included.

I have no text messaging service with my phone because:

1. It costs $30 a month for the family plan and that's too much money in my opinion. We're paying enough for the phone service and the internet access.

2. I don't want to be pestered all the time.

3. I don't want my kids to have it.


My thirteen year old has a bare bones mobile phone that he often forgets to take with him when he really needs it. The battery is usually dead and thus it is unusable most of the time.

My ten year old has no need for a phone and doesn't own one.

When my kids are out and about playing in the neighborhood they are truly not attached to the apron strings which is the same freedom I enjoyed when I was a kid. I don't want them tethered to me by mobiel phone. I want them to be independent and self-sufficient.

As a parent I have concerns that constantly getting text messages distracts kids from doing other worthwhile things. When they are doing schoolwork or homework they should focus on that. When they are at a Scout meeting they should be focusing on the Scout meeting and having face to face discussions. (Despite them being banned at meetings I see kids sneaking them and some sit in the bathroom doing texting.)

I am hearing horror stories of text messaging social messes from both schooled kids and homeschooled kids locally, from good families. I don't need my kids enmeshed with that crap. My husband and I "just say no" to text messaging for our kids.

I think sexting with sex talk and with porn photo images is disgusting for both adults and kids. Actually, when minors circulate nude photos it's illegal. It's called child porn. I don't want my kids mixed up with that garbage.

If my kids want to talk to their friends they may pick up the landline phone and dial it. There is no need to type short sentences into a device. How about just talking orally, the old fashioned way to communicate?

I have priorities for my kids and lots of screen time is not in the mix. Moderation is the key. They have enough screen time with TV and computers and video games on the TV they don't need to stare at micro screens playing more games or reading texts.


As an adult I have some free time and if I choose to spend it on Twitter or Facebook or blogging that's my perogative. What is best for my kids may not be what I do in my life because I've already got my high school diploma and college degree, I put my time in already to earn those formal education degrees. I also spend a considerable amount of time on autodidact pursuits now, not toward another college degree, but just because I want to learn things.

According to the statistics, I read a lot more books than the average adult American. I feel I deserve some time on the computer and TV. I don't feel I necessarily need to apply the same rules to my kids as me. So I can tweet, but my kids can't. I can have a smart phone and use it in moderation, but they don't need a smart phone.

If my kids don't like our rules I'll say what I heard from my parents when I was a kid:

"When you grow up you can do what you want but right now you're a kid and I'm your parent and you'll do as I say."


"When you are grown up and go to work and earn your own money you may spend it any way you want but you'll not tell me how to spend the family's money."

Actually I'm a lot softer than that as a parent, but that's my bottom line if I'm pushed to reveal it.

And now that there's a study about it I have even more of a reason to stick to my guns!

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Sleep Challenge

We are having a bit of a struggle with sleep and our kids lately. Last night my husband came up with a challenge to test the situation. Here's what's going on.

Five days a week my kids have nothing to do in the morning except homeschooling. One day is homeschool co-op and the other we have church. We are enjoying the freedom of not HAVING to rise to an alarm and run out the door in a rush. However this has led to some not so great sleep situations.

Another important thing that factors into this situation is that at present due to water damage from ice dams this winter my older son's bed has moved into my younger son's room and the two are sharing a room. They have nighttime disagreements over when to shut the light off. Both kids like to read before bed but how late to stay up is the issue. Depending on the excitement of the book they are reading they have in the last six weeks both stayed up until up to two in the morning glued to the books, especially in order to finish off the books. (Older son was glued to The Hunger Games series and The Roar and The Maze Runner and younger son has been reading the Harry Potter series.)

When the kids stay up late they can't get up in the morning. If I let them sleep late (nine or ten or eleven) they can't go to sleep before ten or eleven or midnight. It is a vicious cycle. Oh, and in between if they are tired in the day they are cranky and have a horrid attitude that I have to deal with while trying to administer homeschooling lessons. It's a much different thing to have a tired kid you have to be around all day than one you wake up early and shove out the door to catch the schoolbus.

The next challege is my older son's puberty and that teenage sleeping thing. He was always a nine hour sleeper, from the day he was born. Now he seems to need 10.5 to 12 hours of sleep a night. He wakes up groggy and stumbling. He is more alert at night but he swears the alertness is not to such a good degree that evening or night can be used for academic studies.

My younger son has always been a 10.5 hour sleeper, again from the time he was born. He is still that way today. He is tough to wake up in the morning and he needs that sleep so no matter how late he goes to bed he has to have the full amount. He can also sleep through anything including noisy sounds in the house.

This weekend I hit a burnout point where I feel that I am never "off duty" due to homeschooling. I am up and ready to go in the early morning but my kids are still asleep. I am not interested in doing homeschool lessons at four or five in the evening and definately don't want to be on duty at seven or eight at night teaching my kids. I am drawing some boundaries and limits.

I decided from now on even though we have nowhere to be my kids will set an alarm and wake up at eight. Then at night they'll be tired and maybe won't fight when we tell them to go to bed at ten.

Last night at 9:30pm I explained this new policy to my kids. They instantly protested and said they were not tired and said they'd not go to sleep. They didn't want to go to the bedroom either. My husband got this idea at that moment and wanted to test it out so he said the new policy was although there are no video games on weekdays that tomorrow we'd try something. If they got up early they were allowed to play video games until 7:30. The game would go off at 7:30 and then they could shower and get dressed and homeschooling would begin. They both jumped up and ran to bed declaring they would go right to sleep so they could get up in the morning. The ten year old went right to sleep with the light on without reading and the thirteen year old read a bit then went to bed before ten.

I had asked them to set the alarm for eight o'clock. However my ten year old set the alarm for 6:10 and he woke up immediately on his own, ate breakfast and began playing video games. That son of mine is the master manipulator and this is yet another example of it. The teen slept through the alarm and continued sleeping until I forced him to get up at eight. That gives him 10.5 hours of sleep which will have to be enough.

My husband said the test showed that our younger son is full of baloney about his inability to go to sleep at an earlier time at night and about his inability to wake up in the morning. The test also shows that our teen does need a bit more sleep and that even a tempting thing like playing video games on a no-video games day is not enough to rouse him.

The cycle is going to have to shift backwards to an earlier bedtime and an earlier rising time so I can be fresh and awake when I oversee their homeschool lessons. It will also help with getting them up on time for the two morning appointments we have a week.

If you ask me rising at eight in the morning to do school is still pretty wonderful. In my town the high schoolers must catch a 6:30 bus and the elementary kids are picked up at eight. My kids may think rising at eight is an example of my husband and I being "mean" but others would say they've got it really good!

Update: I'd written the post before talking to my kids. After they were both up my husand and I spoke to them and told them it was a test. My kids didn't like that test, they wanted it to be a way of life.

Furthermore I found out that last night my kids talked with each other about what they wanted. My ten year old wanted to play a single player game and my older son gave in. They made a deal that on Monday my younger son would wake up early and play alone. So he went to bed with the lights on and my older son read until late in the night. Then the deal was that on Tuesday my older son would rise early and play a single player game.

Now they are angry that my husband is shutting down the plan as it was a one day test. They are mad at me but I have nothing to do with the plan unless I rally on behalf of my kids and extend this one day so that it can be fair to my older son to have his one morrning early.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jooeh Kebab: A Delicious Grilled Chicken Recipe

My husband grilled up a new-to-us recipe: Jooeh Kebab or Grilled Chicken with Saffron, an Iranian dish. This recipe is from The Barbeque Bible. It is marinated first then barbequed with a flavored butter basting.

My husband had cut up two whole chickens and cooked the parts, per the recipe. The exterior of the chicken was crispy due to the basting. The chicken was tender and had a great flavor due to the marinade which is a yogurt base. However, as I ate the thicker chicken breasts I noted no flavor went to the thick pieces and I told my husband ideally, I thought this recipe should either be for pieces like legs and wings and thighs or else cut up large pieces of white meat into kebabs. He then told me the original recipe called for kebabs but this author changed it to parts. (I didn’t know the name of the recipe at the time I said that.)

We own just a couple of cookbooks for grilling; this is one of the keepers.

Recipe adapted by me from The Barbeque Bible: Jooeh Kebab

Chicken and Marinade:

½ tsp saffron threads

1 Tbsp warm water

1.5 cups plain yogurt

1 large onion diced fine

½ cup lemon juice

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 chickens (3-4 lbs. each), cut into pieces OR white meat cut into kebab chunks

Basting mixture:

¼ tsp saffron threads

1 Tbsp lemon juice

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

To make marinade:

1. Crush saffron in a mortar and pestle then put it in a bowl. Add the warm water and stir, let stand 5 minutes. Stir in everything else for the marinade.

2. After rinsing chicken and preparing pieces, add the chicken into the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and let marinate 24 hours in the refrigerator.

When ready to cook, preheat grill.

Then, make basting mixture:

1. Crush saffron in a mortar and pestle, and then put in a small bowl.

2. Stir in lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Melt butter and add to the basting mixture.

Put chicken on the grill, skin side down (if using whole pieces) and baste it. Turn when ready, and baste. Keep basting the chicken as it cook thoroughly. Grill using standard chicken grilling techniques. Be sure to cook the chicken thoroughly. If you are cooking parts remember the small pieces will be finished before the thick ones, use an internal thermometer to check if you feel uncomfortable knowing when the breasts are thoroughly cooked.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reading, Ideas, and the SAT

"One of the hardest things PSAT/SAT teachers and tutors have to deal with when prepping students for standardized tests is a general lack of reading skills and familiarity with good writing. The PSAT and SAT can be gamed only so much with strategy and guile, but if a test taker simply has not read enough quality material in her sixteen-odd years of existence, achieving upper-level scores can be extremely difficult."

"The important thing is that your child is exposed to new ideas, arguments, and words....and enjoys dealing with them."

page xvii, Kaplan PSAT/NMSQT Premier 2011



Hear, hear!

The Exposure Field Guide Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Exposure Field Guide
Author: Michael Freeman

My Star Rating: 3 stars out of 5: It's Okay

Summary Statement: Teeny Tiny Font Not Working For Me – It's a 190 Page Mini Book -- Not a Quick Reference Field Guide

I ordered this book via the Internet from Amazon without knowing its dimensions and having never seen it in real life. When it arrived I was surprised to find a little 4x6 inch book. At 190 pages and filled with really small font, imagine a regular photography book but shrunk down in size to make it portable to take with you in the field or to keep in your camera bag.

I find the very small font hard to read, and I’m not quite at the stage of life where I need reading glasses. This reads like a regular book which means I’m sitting at home reading it as if it were a regular book and wondering if I should find a magnifying glass. The smallest font is one millimeter tall!

So it is meant to be carried with you in the field – the truth is, I cannot imagine taking this book around with me when I’m shooting and reading it in the field, because it is not a quick reference cheat sheet type of product. It’s 190 pages for goodness sake; it’s just a real book in miniature!

As for the writing, this is the first Michael Freeman book I’ve read and I really like his writing style. I can understand it, it is very clear. Some problems I’ve been trying to teach myself to handle by myself on the fly are laid out in the book with solutions so I am excited to now know this information. Freeman’s photographs are amazing and the book engages me.

What I would like though, is a product that is a true field guide that is short (not 200 pages long) and small but has larger font. I want a quick reference guide to thumb through and find solutions to while I’m in the field. I wonder if any such thing is available on the market?

Since the writing and photography of the photographer/author Freeman are high quality but since the format designed by the publisher is not working for me I am torn about how to rate the book. The writing, directions, and photography are a 5 star rating but the format of the book and the general concept gets a 1 star. I’ll rate it 3 stars, the average of the two. With that said I now highly recommend books by Michael Freeman. If these miniature books with tiny font appeal to you, check out this and other field guides published by Focal Press. If you don’t like a mini book layout check out Michael Freeman’s traditional sized books, he has a large variety of books in print.

Disclosure Statement: I received a review copy of this book from's Vine program. I was under no obligation to review it favorably on their site nor was I paid to write the review or to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling Multiple Weeks Published

My apologies for being behind in publicizing the Carnival of Homeschooling.

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 273 was published at The HSBA Post.

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 274 was published at Consent of the Governed.

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 275 was published at Under the Golden Apple Tree.

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 276 was published at Homegrown Mommy.

This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

I enter these Carnivals and encourage you to as well.

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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The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide
By Roy Cohen

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Ideally You Need to Read This Before You Lose Your Job – A Very Helpful Book

What I’d really like the potential reader to know is to read this book before you think you might need it.
Everyone on Wall Street knows things are different today than they were ten years ago. The instability and changes combined with attitudes and policy being put forth by our federal government leave employees feeling apprehensive and unsteady about their careers. (At the time I’m writing this the federal government is unable to agree on a new budget, we have large deficits and raising taxes on individuals is back on the table.)

Why you need to read this before you think you may need it is because Cohen suggests a strategy for how to react the moment the bad news is given and how to negotiate and what to ask for in the severance package (if you are unable to persuade them to change their minds). If the tactic works, this could benefit you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in severance pay and more if they agree to add some months of medical insurance coverage to your severance package. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the book until that part of the process had already happened to my husband. Wall Street people are often already working hard and long hours actually doing the job to read a book about a topic they HOPE they won’t need to know about. My message to you is: READ IT NOW.

Onto the job search…a major take-away is developing your story and how you should market and package yourself. The book also guides the reader through self evaluation to help figure out what positions in which type of companies they would be a best fit for. There are exercises to help you determine your strengths and your interests in an attempt to guide you to look for positions in the most ideal area (versus perhaps just doing the same position you did at your last job).

The tone of the writing is uplifting (which is appreciated because the actual job search can be daunting and is exhausting). There is a lot of useful information here for the price. Depending on what you already know some of this could be old news and some will be new and useful. Consults with resume writers and interview skills coaches and similar consultant services can run hundreds of dollars per hour, so you really can’t lose much by investing in this comparatively low-cost book. If you learn just one or two good things from this reading this book, your money will have been well spent.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from's Vine program. I was under no obligation to grant it a favorable review nor was I paid to write it or to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.