Friday, November 30, 2012

20/20 Hindsight 8th Grade Homeschool Year

I just finished going through homeschool papers for my older son's 8th grade year. I was decluttering files, tidying up records, and filing away what should be kept.

Looking at the year's paperwork with 20/20 hindsight I see things quite differently.

That year we did way too many outside activities with formal learning from three different homeschool co-op's. One I'd waited years to get into and it was a disappointment in reality. Another was a start-up with many close friends that I didn't want to miss out on. Another was a favorite thing with favorite people but some of the classes were fluff (fun but a waste of time academically).

A number of classes my son took were above grade level, now that I look back on it, and really there was no need for that. However being in co-op's they were not comprehensive enough to justify an entire course. Doing them as a class with little homework meant that at home the content was not being learned more in depth.

In 20/20 hindsight, if I remove emotions such as my son wanting to do classes with his friends for socialization, I would say now that we should have stayed home more and worked on two things: improving weak areas and putting enough butt in chair learning time to specific courses to get to mastery levels. However making plans solely based on ideal academic goals is unhealthy: a child is a whole person and various parts of their being need attention, such as socialization and fun extracurriculars and yes, sometimes learning things just for fun, not because they are on some list of essential things an 8th grader must learn in that exact grade.

Some things touched upon not thoroughly enough spilled over into challenges in grade 9 for mastery. I mean to say, that not covering a topic thorougly enough in grade 8 to gain mastery meant part of grade 9 was spent finally seriously studying those topics.

I see writing composition challenges that remain to this day. I wish we'd worked on them thoroughly back then so it would not be the focus in grade 10.

I see paper organization messes as I was letting my son work independently. His papers are all over and intermingled, subjects are mixed together and the nice folders are empty or barely used, while the loose paper stack is huge. He failed to learn how to do simple tasks like file completed work neatly away, to put notes in one notebook or to file loose papers in order in a three ring binder. I wish we worked on that back then. We are still working on that in grade 10 because it has not self-resolved. My an needs standards and rules imposed by me to put papers there and file in chronological order, date the papers and keep,books in an area so they can be found when needed.

There are gaps in the courses he took which remain challenging gaps today.

My son had some deep learning in certain areas that the schools do not always teach in middle school such as chemistry and physics optics. His prealgebra course wound up being weak and left him ill-prepared for Algebra I in fall of grade 9.

My son had some fluff courses such as how to do art like Leonardo da Vinci and he learned about medieval history through movies and about accurate medieval weaponry from a reenactment teacher/mom. No school would care about an 8th grader learning about medieval history by inspecting accurate weaponry and the different types, pros and cons of armor.

My son had deep learning and a fair amount of time at an observatory with an hobbyist astronomer/teacher. The group located a star that was in need of verfication with some astronomy group whose name eludes me at this moment. It was a big deal, trust me. The kids were trusted to use the expensive computers and the telescope themselves. It was amazing.

My son won, with his partners, the gold medal in Science Olympiad for the physics airplane model flying competition (Wright Stuff).

So you can see that my son had overtly strong areas of learning and also official accomplishments while also having too-light learning in some content areas. He also lacked some skills such as weak writing composition, was still struggling with spelling and needed great help in the area of pesonal organization of his school materials. Gaps! Yes, he had gaps! Quelle horreur!

Lest this sound too depressing I will share that his files were full of independently done art sketches and ideas of things that interested him. He made lists of things such as which Yu-Gi-Oh! cards would make an ideal deck and what he wanted for Christmas. He had ideas for a story he wanted to write. There was a rough draft of a fiction short story that was never finished. He made up his own secret code then wrote messages only he could decipher. He dreamed of one day building a Delorean that looked like the time machine in Back to the Future.

He also had a lot of time with close homeschooled friends and build strong relationships that continue to this day, even though we have moved 1800 miles away. He put a lot of time into Boy Scouting and had positive experiences with that Troop and made friends who he still keeps in touch with daily via text messaging. He had a lot of fun that year with friends and with family.

When all is said and done, despite the gaps and weak areas, I can only count that year as a success.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dreams Pushed Away

A couple of weeks ago I was unpacking homeschool books, my own art and craft books, and art and craft supplies from the move. These were the low priority things that were not necessary for daily life. The homeschool books we needed to use had already been found or re-purchased.

At that time we were still in a negative place regarding homeschooling and dealing with slacker mentality with my older son. I started to get really ticked off.

I unpacked books about writing, writing children's books, collage, and knitting, and some specific art techniques that I have not done in over a year. I unpacked some of my art journals and sketch books and I was impressed with what I saw. Previously I thought I had barely any skill but I was wrong and had been too harsh on myself. These activities I had packed up for 18 months were all things that I have been supressing as I was tending to the family's top priorities: the long distance move, adjusting to the move, and homeschooling.

I realized I did that thing that everyone says women/mothers do. We put everyone else first. We make priorities and handle the top stuff. There is not always time left over to do the things that are not essential to life but which feed a creative person's soul. I had become a cliche. How revolting. I swore I would never let myself become THAT woman.

In the little free time I have in a day, in the last month, I have been spending time finishing unpacking, orgazining the house, and finally decorating it by placing wall art on the empty walls. I chose to do that as I felt the stress of living in rooms lined with cardboard boxes, or cluttered hallways, was negatively impacting me and my children. Clutter from moving boxes was #1 on my older son's stress list that he wrote a few weeks ago. I wanted to remedy that.

However since focusing on the unpacking, that meant that prime time for me going to the gym was not happening. I just can't seem to find time to pull it all off. So as I unpacked my arms jiggled and my back strained to lift heavy boxes of books. I moved boxes which smashed against my soft belly. My muscles are not strong. I have not been lifting weights consistently. After hauling stuff up and down the stairs I get winded a bit, my heart is not like it was when I was doing 3-5 difficult exercises classes a week as I was in Life Before Kids.

I want everything perfect all at once but I know it is impossible. I am human and flawed. I cannot do everything. I am trying to do what is most important. This fall has been a major focus on homeschooling then later a shift on repairing relationships in the family and getting back to the good place that we used to be in. There has been little time for relaxation. I became physically sick from stress. Something has to change. I am trying to handle the moving process with balance but the fact is that the hard job of unpacking is difficult for me to do alone and that is what I have here: me doing everything by myself.

I am so imperfect that it is ridiculous. Things are so stressful that some days it feels like I can barely keep my head above water. I keep trying to tell myself that there is no rush to unpack everything but the longer I put it off the more stress I feel from the undone tasks. I can't figure out how to get a decent balance. I am taking things one day at a time and that is all I can do.

In the meantime I hope there is time in the near future to pick up some of my old stress-relieving hobbies like sketching and painting and making mixed media collages. Then maybe when my oldest goes off to college or after I enroll my kids into school I dive into some things I always wanted to do like write children's books.

And I do keep trying to feel grateful each day for the good in my life instead of thinking about what I lack or being upset that I can't do everything I want. It is hard sometimes though to keep denying the reality that I have been helping others too much and am neglecting myself and can't find a balance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No More Guitar

My younger son wanted to learn guitar. We could not afford it at first.

Finally he got his acoustic guitar and lessons. I said if he was serious and learned to read music and to play then after that he could have an electric guitar. It took a year to get fluent and he then received that electric guitar. Lessons continued and he played nearly every day for fun and to practice. I did not push him to practice, he did it on his own and loved it.

When the job was lost the lessons stopped, there was no money in the budget. My son stopped playing. Then we moved and had no teacher. My son did not resume playing.

It has been exactly two years since my son stopped playing guitar.

We have the money for lessons now but he has not asked to take them.

So, four years ago he started guitar, and two years ago he stopped.

I am sharing this story as further proof as to why my younger son would never make it as an unschooler. He thrived with the regularly scheduled lessons. He likes a deadline. He likes to know he will have to perform by a certain date. he was inspired by the live teacher who knew him as a person. Left to his own devices he does not practice to keep the learning going. Without the lessons he does not go to YouTube to find lessons he could do on his own (as some homeschooled kids we know on tight budgets do on their own).

So, my son is a failure as an unschooler. I love the idea of unschooling and mourned the loss of that educational method when we quit it. This guitar situation that is happening here and now is further and more recent proof that my younger son is just not cut out for unschooling. I am trying to be happy and grateful for the good in our lives instead of feeling negatively about things that don't work out, like unschooling.

But I do wish the kid would play guitar was nice to see him happily doing something that was "just his own" and that did not involve staring at a screen. He was building skill and having fun. Maybe I need to offer up those lessons again...

Update 11/29/12: I wrote this post about two weeks ago. Over the weekend I offered the lessons again. I explained I have a good referral from a friend of a cool and nice teacher who comes to the house, just like the former teacher did. My son said he does not care anything about playing guitar now and is "over it". At present the guitars are on display in his bedroom, all ready to use, not just for decoration. He asked if he could sell them and keep the money for himself since the stuff belonged to him. My husband (who was present) and I did not respond. Frankly after the over a thousand dollars we spent on the guitars (and we got some of it at 50% off!), the speaker, the Cry Baby, the replacemnt strings, etc. and the about three thousand dollars on lesson fees I'd like to put the money into the family's fund. I didn't want to get into a debate over it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fleshing Out Grade Nine English Course For a Do-Over

Last year my older son was in grade nine. I designed what I thought was a cool literature course based on the theme of dystopian literature. These are sometimes taught in college. I found a number of courses in the 300 level.

Given the fact that my son now thinks he might do a college sport we are hoop jumping with the NCAA. That type of out of the box creative course is not liked by the NCAA.

To remedy the situation I am adding content that is more in line with a traditional public school grade nine English course for him to do now that we will count as grade nine work. He is using a grade nine public school textbook which I blogged about here.

Then for grade ten he will use the same public school textbook for the grade ten level as his spine and for the bulk of the work. If I want to be creative it will be supplemental to the textbook's spine.

My son has been shirking writing composition and he had medical problems in grade nine. I was worn down and didn't push the issue. This year we are focusing on writing composition. The grade nine and grade ten work he does from here forward will be heavy on writing composition so that it is a legitimate and honest statement when I say he did do writing composition in all of his high school English courses.

I like that with homeschooling there is flexibility. If you get behind due to sickness or family challenges you can do double time in the future and make up the gaps. I always knew that was an option but took it for granted since we rarely actually had to do that. Now that it is our reality, and now that I've spoken to the public school and realize how un-flexible and rigid they are, my gratitude for homeschooling is renewed and has multiplied.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thoughts on Kids Hating Literary Analysis

I was talking to my brother who was asking about how my older son is doing with schoolwork. I told him he does not want to read literature and do literary analysis. My brother was an average student who wound up being a slacker. He is not a role model for public schooling and I am aware we need to be careful who we listen to for advice. He cracked up when I said my son's reaction. But at least my brother is a male and has accurate memories of his teen years, so I wanted to hear his insight.

My brother said that I should let my son read only the Cliff's Notes which is what all the school kids did in his class. "No one actually read the book!"

I confess I did sometimes also read only the Cliff's Notes. I recall not finishing Great Expectations on time so I crammed with the summaries only. I also recall being lost by Othello in college when I was in my mid-20's and reading the Cliff's Notes.

I also recall always reading the short stories as they were easy to bang out.

I was sitting here thinking about how exciting doing homeschool literary analysis with my kids will be. Thinking of my memory of me not loving it as taught in public school and in college mystified me because I was a bookworm and a huge reader. I loved books and reading. Why did I not enjoy literature in English class? Was it that I just did not always like the books my teachers were forcing me to read? Was it my annoyance with the teacher's pets and the butt kissers in the class who the teacher favored? I was burned out of school and I was sick of doing what everyone was telling me to do. (Wow that just sounded like my older son for a minute.)

So the thought occurred to me how can I expect so much of my homeschooled kids when the adult me likes literature and finds the process of literary analysis interesting (and easy) yet the teenager and young adult me hated it?

The bottom line is my kids have to do a certain amount of literature reading and analysis for education requirements for college admissions and for state homeschooling compliance.

I just wished they actually wanted to do it rather than being forced.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NCAA and Homeschoolers

If your homeschooled child might do a college sport they will have to have their homeschool plan approved by the NCAA. The problem is that the plan is for all of high school so if your student decides in their junior or senior year that indeed they want to play a college sport the look-back by the NCAA goes back to grade nine. Their approval is a look-back process but the challenge for homeschooling families is if they already finished a year's academics then find out a course was rejected it can be a problem especially if it is a core requirement!

From what friends and homeschool mom strangers have told me the NCAA favors secular curriculum that looks as much like public school as possible. They like textbooks and the same exact ones that the schools use. You will need to submit details on all the textbooks and books including the ISBN (so do not get rid of those textbooks and workbooks until after you have documented the ISBNs). Any religion course will not count and some humanities courses will not count. The more creative you get with your plan, the riskier it gets.

I do not like hoop jumping in general but I dislike even more, vague hoop jumping. I would prefer it if the NCAA was more open with a list of materials that they always approve so we could be sure to select one from the list.

It is a lot of pressure for a homeschooling mother to design a plan while trying to jump through multiple litmus test hoops. At present my older son wants to be an engineer which has strict guidelines for college prerequisites, even stricter than a liberal arts student. Now I am also trying to match what the NCAA wants. I also have some state requirements. By the time I am finished with these various restrictions I feel like there is little wiggle room left for creative out of the box homeschooling.

The NCAA requires traditional A-F grading.

For more information about the NCAA here is their website. However I will caution you that they don't tell much up front. You have to register your student with a login to gain access to most of the content.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Very Good High School Literature Text Series

A friend told me about a series of school textbooks. Since we both are trying need to align our student's studies to meet NCAA criterion we sometimes have to use a school based textbook as our core spine (and have freedom to add on supplements to keep some homeschooling creative license).

I hesitated about this for too long. At first I rejected her suggestion because I already owned some college level literature anthology texts that I figured I could use. Those collections usually have only the literature with little or no background context. I felt overwhelmed because I believe strongly in context and I was a bit frozen about the work needed to look up that data online or to use Cliff Notes. I was confused about how I would find context info on short stories. I also still had no idea how many short stories to read and which poems. I recall in college English we read just a little bit of the giant book's content. It is hard to custom create a curriculum if you don't have guidance or are not a subject matter expert. I am a reader but I am not a literature expert and I was not an English major in college.

The next thing that happened a few weeks ago was I had a chance to buy very good condition used cheap high school level literature texts that are used in local private schools at the library's fundraiser little used book shop. Forking out $1 each for a few seemed great. However the books are huge and surely they don't read it all, do they?

So I still felt confused and just bit the bullet and bought the grade nine and grade 10 literature texts my friend recommended, used for dirt cheap on Amazon through Marketplace sellers. The series is:

Prentice Hall PENGUIN EDITION Literature

teal cover is grade 9 general lit

purple cover is grade 10 general lit

Every reading selection has an introduction to introduce the reader to the context and background. There are questions in the sidebar to check reading comprhension (although they are really simple). There are questions at the end for discussion and to provoke thought.

The general lit books have fiction book excerpts, short stories, poetry, and plays. Grade 9 has the unabridged Romeo and Juliet, for example, and that play is about 120 pages long (of the 1200 or so pages of the text).

There are also links in the book to go to the publisher's website to access more learning materials and information.

I have been reading the grade 9 book. My one observation that makes this different from what homeschoolers I know do is it has more modern writings. Instead of focusing on the classics or old writing, these are more recent writings. There are writings of women and minorities not just "dead white men". Some show different ethnic experiences. One of the first stories in the book is set in the 1950s where a teen who is a giant is struggling with living with his condition. Perhaps some would criticize these selections and say in their homeschool they desire older stories and classics because they feel they are superior.

We are going to start using this series as a spine. We will supplement with other writings if I feel that is worthwhile.

Considering that I got clean page used copies of each of these texts for under $10 plus $3.99 shipping I'd say they are a low cost investment. New editions are listed at $48-$110.

I am unaware of a similar product textbook being published for the homeschool market for self-study or home use. All the homeschoolers I know either use online classes, community college classes, or make up their own curriculum based on reading whole classic books or older high quality literature, if they are not using a school in a box curriculum.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaching Literary Analysis at the High School Level

One thing I have worried about is my ability to teach literary analysis at the high school level at home. I paid for outside classes in the past, such as a high school level course my son did in grade 8, and this year tried an online class for him, which was not a good fit, so we pulled him out of the class. That left me in charge again.

A few years ago I heard Adam Andrews speak at a homeschool conference about teaching literary analysis using classic literature at home. I was inspired. His company sells a program for $89 but I didn't really understand what the program was and all I could think was that it seemed expensive. So I left the conference feeling ill equipped to teach my own kids.

The next time I went to that Massachusetts conference I heard him speak again. This time I looked the program over in my own hands and decided to make the purchase. Then life got chaotic the following month, when we had the sudden move. I never used the program last year.

So in fall of 2012 I got the program out and began watching it. I looked over the written materials with a clear mind and realized what a gem this program is and realized I was stupid to not have put this to use earlier.

I decided to have both kids watch the program along with me, so I went back to the DVD disc 1 and we have been watching it, one hour a day.

My confidence in my ability to teach literary analysis is growing. The mystery of what a decent English course should look like is fading. I am actually getting excited to teach literary analysis now.

The only books we will analyze together are books that I have read. I am re-reading the books that I previously read, not trusting my memory for much detail.

This program uses Socratic discussion. The homeschool parent discusses literature with the student. When first introducing the program we analyze a few children's picture books because they are fast reads and easy to analyze. After that the more rigorous readings begin.

I plan to have my sons write out the answers to the questions that we discuss so they create a body of written work and so they get used to writing essays about literature.

The program is called Teaching the Classics. The company is called Center for Literary Education. The program authors and company authors are husband and wife, Adam and Melissa Andrews. The DVDs are lectures of Adam Andrews teaching a class of adults. The spiral bound book that accompanies the program has the written materials for the course as well as lists of discussion questions which are the basis for the Socratic dialogue discussions. The DVD is intended for the parent-teacher to watch and to educate themselves with. It is not intended for students but I can't see a reason why they should not also watch it as the introduction to things such as theme, plot, setting, and so forth.

I wanted to share my experience with this so far because I thought perhaps other homeschoolers would like to know about this program. I think I was stupid to try to have saved money by avoiding purchasing this in the past. My avoidance of this in the past has led to a few years too many of feeling low confidence levels about teaching literary analysis.

My current project is designing a literary analysis program that has an appropriate number of novels, short stories, and poems. I am trying to figure out what the magic numbers are for a basic education vs. an excellent education. If anyone has ideas about this please leave a comment. It is possible that my sons may have to get approval through the NCAA to play college sports so their educations have to be on par with public schools. Sadly, the NCAA doesn't seem to like anything too alternative or creative, or readings that are considered below grade level. Thank you.

Note: This is not a paid ad, I purchased this program for my own use.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prayer of Thanksgiving - Could You Afford It?

I found this prayer in a Boy Scouts all faith service bulletin while decluttering my Scout files. I tried to find the author online to give credit and saw it edited to be a Thanksgiving prayer and it had a bit more religion in it. Here is that version.

Could You Afford It?

Suppose God charged us for the rain

or put a price on a songbird's sweet strain

of music, or the dawn-mist on the ground.

How much would our autumn landscapes cost,

or a window etched with winter's frost,

and the rainbow's glory so quickly lost?

Suppose that people had to pay

to see the sunset's crimson play

and the magic stars on the Milky Way.

Suppose it was twenty dollars a night

to watch the pale moon's silvery light,

or watch a gull in graceful flight.

How much I wonder, would it be worth

to smell the good, brown, fragrant earth

in spring? Or to see the miracle of birth?

How much do you think people would pay

for a baby's laugh at the close of a long day?

Suppose God charged us for them I say!

Suppose we paid to look at the hills,

for the rippling mountain rills,

or the mating song of the Whippoorwills,

or the curving breakers of the sea,

for grace, and beauty, and majesty?

How much would you be willing to pay

to have God's love enter our lives?

Or to have someone to love us here?

And to think, all of these things

and many more


May each one of us, on this Thanksgiving Day, give thanks to our God for all the things He allows us to see and hear that are free. Let us truly count our blessings!

May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends, good food and the spirit of thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Screen Time Raises Theta

I confirmed with our board-certified neurofeedback therapist (whom is also a psychologist) that screen time of any sort, whether it is video game, watching YouTube, Facebook, or even homeschool math lessons increases theta brain waves.

If theta is raised to a certain level then abnormal symptoms appear.

People with ADD / ADHD have high theta. If you guessed the abnormal symptoms of a neuro-typical person whose theta is raised due to screen time would mirror ADD you are right.

I have been told these things by my neurofeedback therapist. I am having trouble finding this data written in free articles on the Internet. Here is one source that duplicates the symptom list but I do not recommend using any machines to do neurofeedback at home which this same article talks about. This is a rapidly changing field as new technology comes on the market and as more information is gathered.

Here are some symptomsof abnormally high theta:

inability to focus

too many daydreams



lack of excitement

extreme impulsiveness


overly receptive mind

overly emotional state of mind

Elsewhere I read that listening to music increases theta. Since my son already has high theta waves I do not like that he has been sleeping with earbuds in with music on his iPod ALL NIGHT LONG.

In a conversation with our Connecticut behavioral optometrist in 2011 he told me that watching screens changes both our brain waves and our eye activity. He explained that starting at a screen changes our eye blinks and we stare rather than blink as normal. The eye staring mode changes brain waves that leads to the same symptoms that the neurofeedback therapist told me in 2012. The eye doctor also said that staring at small screens such as mobile phones or iPod Touch can hurt the eyes because the field of vision is limited and the eye muscles are not moving and scanning 180 degrees or looking at farther distances such as to scan the horizon for danger (what humans did for thousands of years). Our modern technology is shortening our eye focus and making our eye movements smaller. He especially cautioned against reading books on a mobile phone or on an iPod Touch, saying a book should be read on a normal page size. He cautioned against screen time before bed such as using eReaders and iPads or even TV. The eyes should wind down without screen time such as by reading a paper book and then going to sleep after having some non-screen viewing time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giftedness and Misdiagnosis

I am again recommending Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb et al (Great Potential Press, 2004).

Presently I am re-reading portions of this book as it pertains directly to a situation in my family.

Here is a long article with a fair amount of information to give you a sense for what this book is about.

Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children

The article opens with this introduction:

"Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being mis-diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other health care professionals. The most common mis-diagnoses are: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Disorders such as Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder. These common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.

In some situations where gifted children have received a correct diagnosis, giftedness is still a factor that must be considered in treatment, and should really generate a dual diagnosis. For example, existential depression or learning disability, when present in gifted children or adults, requires a different approach because new dimensions are added by the giftedness component. Yet the giftedness component typically is overlooked due to the lack of training and understanding by health care professionals (Webb & Kleine, 1993).

Despite prevalent myths to the contrary, gifted children and adults are at particular psychological risk due to both internal characteristics and situational factors. These internal and situational factors can lead to interpersonal and psychological difficulties for gifted children, and subsequently to mis-diagnoses and inadequate treatment."

One a few more things:

Gifted kids are often perfectionists. Perfectionists often procrastinate out of fear of failure. That often leads to missing deadlines, lack of studying and failure.

Gifted kids often have asynchronous development. Being expert in one area and struggling in another does not always yield high scores across all subjects in standardized testing. Some gifted kids are not good test takers in general. Schools often require high scores on testing to admit students to gifted programs. Some schools use the gifted testing scores as tickets to higher academic tracks and/or AP class admittance and/or extracurricular programs i.e. Science Olympiad and FIRST Robotics. Thus asynchronous gifted kids may be kept out of the very programs that they would thrive in. Also the very fact that they struggle in. Some areas makes them feel stupid and gives low self-esteem which can lead to sadness and depression or fear that builds to anxiety

Gifted people can suffer from learning disabilities. Perhaps some learning disabilities actually cause the giftedness in other areas of ability? (I will verify my source for that and will blog it in a separate post.)

PS if you are interested in this boom but have not read the first one you also should read and buy so you have it for handy reference, the other book Webb et al. The focus is on the emotional life of a gifted person and living with the intensities of the gifted.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Inspiring Interview with Mantai Te'o

Maintai Te'o is a senior at University of Notre Dame, and the quarterback for the Fighting Irish. This fall he lost his grandmother and girlfriend within a few days and the tragedy touched the hearts of many ND football fans and ND students.

This is inspiring about life, relationships, leadership, spirituality, and academics. He talks about why the Notre Dame family is so special.

We will see if he wins the Heisman this year...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Mexican Standoff - Parenting Teens Style

For years I have been picking my battles and negotiating and compromising. I have at times been more lenient than I imagined I would.

No more.

We are at full Mexican Standoff mode here.

The stakes have been raised. The problems continue mounting. The lies have multiplied. For each inch given a mile is taken.

Enough is enough.

My husband is in agreement with me. We have talked and pondered and made decisions.

The line is being drawn in the sand.

The Mexican Standoff has begun.


1. We will provide a roof over our kid's heads and clothing and healthy food to eat. We have family rules that must be followed. A couple of very easy chores must be done by each child, like taking the food out to the compost bin and rolling the trash can curbside.

2. Our children will be supplied with the opportunity for good physical and mental health. This is the top goal. To this end we are accessing not just basic care covered by insurance but are paying out of pocket for high quality care and treatments which are not covered by insurance.

3. Our children will be afforded the opportunity for a high quality education at home. If this does not work out, school will be used. Learning is not optional, it's a state law requirement. Period. Private tutors are hired when necessary to supplement home education or to supplement paid courses.

4. Priviledges and fantastic things like a $2400 trip to the 2013 Boy Scout Jamboree or the $2000+ trip to Key West for Boy Scout Sea Base are offered if the rules of the house are followed and if #1-3 are being met with success.

5. Lesser wonderful things such as not just basic clothing but the trendy fashions of their choice, iPods, laptop computers, high end mountain bikes, sports team participation, mobile phones with texting and any number of other optional fun entertaining things are available if #1-3 are done with success.

6. Driving in the teen years is not necessary but is the highest priviledge of all. Not only must #1-3 be done but responsibility and maturity must be displayed on a consistent basis. If and when this ever does happen, we will figure out who will pay for what. Insurance for teen boys is expensive, and a busy kid doing a sport and Scouts and possibly still, the robotics team, has little time for a paid part-time job. Getting the driver's permit on the 15th birthday did not happen here. Turning a certain age does not mean the kid will get to do it. Period.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

No MIT Splash This Year For Our Family

This is the first year we are not at MIT ESP Splash in Cambridge Massachusetts.

Last year after the move to Houston we flew back east to attend. Airfare was too expensive this year to justify the entire family going, or even just one parent. Hotels in Boston are pricey also, as are the restaurants. It is hard to get around without a rental car. All those things add up. We had a big expense with buying a home in Texas. Plus, the kids are too involved in their sport team and paid academic classes to take the break.

A chapter in our lives has closed. Today was a regular old Saturday for us. At about one this afternoon it struck me that today was MIT Splash and we were not there. Some of our friends who usually attend did not attend this year out of busy-ness with their regular homeschool academics and extracurriculars. I felt a pang of disappointment as I recalled the fun times my kids have had in Cambridge and Boston on MIT Splash weekends. And it is still going on without us. As I write this thousands of middle and high school students are having a blast on the MIT campus learning and having fun. But for us it's a regular Saturday in Houston.

Life happens. Circumstances change. Paths change. Chapters close and the next chapter opens. That's life.

Now My Cats Hate Each Other

Another family stressor is that my two cats hate each other and cannot live side by side. This nonsense has been going on for a month.

These two cats were adopted on the same day and they were friends then which was the reason that I chose the two of them. The crazy cat ladies (an affectionate nickname) who rescued these feral kittens from the streets of Bridgeport forced us to adopt two cats saying it was cruel to have a cat alone in a home as they get lonely. The cats have been best friends since then, and it's been seven years. The female is submissive and the male is strongly attached to me. The male considers the master bedroom his territory and once in a while he would run her out of the room by chasing but that was the worst. They ate from the same food bowls (both refused to eat from separate dishes) and they used the same litter boxes. The more boxes I added, the two would each go use each of them.

On day two of male cat with cystitis going outside I let female cat outside also. She didn't really like it and didn't want to go out when offered. On day three she was sitting on the windowsill indoors when the male cat walked by outside. She started fighting by throwing her body against the window. My husband let the male cat in and a big cat fight ensued, with sounds that are the stuff of nightmares. Although the female cat started the fight the male cat was dominating the fight. There were no injuries.

This was a weekend so I read what to do from vets on the Internet. To keep them safe I separated them, putting the female in my son's bedroom and bathroom and the game room. She was happy there. For days I tried gentle re-introduction to no avail. She fights with him.

I followed up by taking the female cat to the vet and she explained that the female cat sees the male as an intruder. She is trying to protect her territory. The vet recommended (expensive) Feliway pheromone, so I forked the cash over for that.

Keeping the door shut upstairs is messing up our heating and air conditioning system. The balance is off. Not only do those two south facing walled rooms get hot, the air conditioning cannot keep up. Then the other upstairs rooms are freezing cold.

The male cat misses the female.

This has been going on for about a month now.

The best progress that happened in the last week was that if the male is sleeping the female will go into the room and sometimes will leave him alone. The male is still not the one starting the fights.

I have been trying all kinds of processes and procedures such as rubbing a blanket with the male cat's scent and placing it near the female.

In the daytime I am leaving the doors open to the rooms and letting them intermingle. The male is outside half the time anyway so he is not a threat to her. She misses us so now she is freely walking to the other upstairs rooms to be with me or my kids but she is ever-wary that the male will enter the room at which point she growls and spits.

Cats can feel stress in a family and they can react negatively. We have had a rough fall and maybe this is just one more problem caused by that stress.

If this does not resolve I will have to find a family to adopt our female cat, a family who does not own a cat or a dog presently. I really do not want to do that but this living with closed doors and trapping a cat into rooms is getting ridiculous.

We are trying very hard to reduce stress in our lives in general, trust me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dune Path in Province Lands

I want to write of some of our family's adventures in the summer of 2012 but just feel I have not had the time to do it.

Today I took a break from homeschool teaching while my kids did work independently and looked through some photos I had never taken the time to look at. Here is one I haven't seen since I snapped it on my iPhone4 and used Instagram to alter it.

Photo by ChristineMM taken in July 2012 at Province Lands in Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Study Smarter Not Harder

Older son is back at reading the book Study Smarter Not Harder. I tried requiring him to read it as a proactive plan to learn what study techniques work for him so he would not waste his time or fail at his academic work twice in the last two years. He did not comply. I was worn down. I let it go.

Now that he is struggling with the difficult chemistry course and is not getting what I call decent grades on the quizzes and tests he has concrete proof that he needs help learning different study strategies than he already knows. I mentioned grades but the fact is the larger issue is learning. Learning needs to happen. Period.

Actually my son needs to "learn how to learn". If he is to go to college any time he must learn "the school way" and that requires reading through lots of written material, studying and memorizing for quizzes and tests. He needs to know how to summarize and to skim through the fluff. He needs to be able to do careful reading in order to extract the essential knowledge from written text.

So this month he has started reading Study Smarter, Not Harder again. I am forcing it.

The book has ideas that are not in my own head, so the book is superior to me teaching this information.

The goal is for my son to be open minded, look for ideas to try out, and to have freedom to reject ideas that do not work or that he just doesn't feel like trying right now. Hopefully over time as he finds what works and what does not work he will re-open his mind to the weirder ideas and give them a try.

In a conversation between my husband and I and our son today he said he does not want to learn from someone else such as this book or me or my husband, he wants the learning to come from his own mind. Yet he admits he does not know other study and learning strategies so he can't teach himself. I would like to tell you what fallacy he is committing with his illogical argument but I have a splitting headache from stress and am completely worn out from lack of sleep so that term is unable to be retrieved from my brain at the moment. I know one of the fallacies is this exact thing...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Relaxed on Vacation

Here I am in Cape Cod in July 2012, at Cape Cod Light in Truro. The sun was setting. It was windy.

I was happy and relaxed.

This is before the worst season of our homeschool journey began.

I need to get back to this state of mind. Family harmony is in the process of being restored. I will share decisions we have made in the upcoming days.

Photos by ChristineMM with iPhone4 and Instagram.

Blocking Websites at Router Failed

We tried blocking website access at the router but it made the Internet impossible to use in the house. For example, if one person watched a video such as for Thinkwell homeschool math, no one else in the house could look at any website at that moment. The same thing happened for YouTube. We have been using YouTube for educational history video watching. When I prep the videos to watch the kids could not do their math or any of their work such as reading to get communications to and from their teachers at the homeschool co-ops.

We did not realize what the problem was until a Comcast employee suggested this to me via Twitter. (The best way to get expert advice on Comcast issues is to tweet the Comcast reps directly. They follow up via direct message - DM.)

Now that we know we cannot block sites at the router or control time of day usage of the computer we are back to using KidWatch with younger son. He says he likes this because he no longer feels tempted to sneak and do things online that prevent him from getting his work done.

Older son has no parental controls on his computer because he hacks them. We are working out a plan of action and goals with mediation with the counselor. I can't believe we have to pay a psychologist to handle my son's inability to self-regulate and self-monitor. And I can't believe that my husband and I can't handle this on our own.

The basic issue, if you have not been reading my past posts, is that my son was staying up late into the night on the Internet and then was unable to function the next day and he was not getting his schoolwork done either. Some of the internet activity was video games which are web-based. Some of the video games are free so it does not involve money from parents. The older son is also playing Fantasy Football now so that is the newest distractor. The good news is he has quit Minecraft, which he decided on his own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Library?

Homeschooling in the same building where all the fun and games are housed can be too tempting for some kids. I am thinking about packing up our supplies and heading to the public library to "do homeschooling".

The library has rules of conduct that are stricter than those in place in my own home and the best part is I don't have to be both the loving mom, the homeschool teacher, and the basic rules creator and the rules enforcer. Being the taskmaster and the heavy has made my kids think I'm a meanie. They don't know how easy they have it compared to schooled kids.

Sadly my kids don't see me or my husband as being on their team helping them toward their goals. The kids have a slacker mindset right now which is derailing them from their OWN GOALS but when they see the logic laid out they dismiss it since their personal preferences do not lead them to do what they feel like doing.

About the library, I am unsure how much talking I can do to help my kids and not bother the other patrons. I am going to scope out different libraries in my town and see what the different areas for working have to offer. Once in the children's section I overheard a paid tutor of sorts helping a homeschooled child who had recently exited the school system. The child had Asperger's Syndrome and was having major social issues at school and had been bullied and taunted for years. The boy was still dealing with negative self-esteem from that. It was so sad that I teared up while in the stacks looking for books to use for homeschool history. If they can have that kind of therapy at the library in that spot then I think I can find a similar spot to homeschool my kids.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prefers Video Games

A blog reader who has since become an "in real life" friend left a comment on my blog post about video games and unmotivated teen boys. She suggested reading the book "Boys Adrift" by Leonard Sax (2007). I have not read this book but I purchased it yesterday.

Book description by publisher from

"Something scary is happening to boys today. From kindergarten to college, American boys are, on average, less resilient and less ambitious than they were a mere twenty years ago. The gender gap in college attendance and graduation rates has widened dramatically. While Emily is working hard at school and getting A’s, her brother Justin is goofing off. He’s more concerned about getting to the next level in his videogame than about finishing his homework. Now, Dr. Leonard Sax delves into the scientific literature and draws on more than twenty years of clinical experience to explain why boys and young men are failing in school and disengaged at home. He shows how social, cultural, and biological factors have created an environment that is literally toxic to boys. He also presents practical solutions, sharing strategies which educators have found effective in re-engaging these boys at school, as well as handy tips for parents about everything from homework, to videogames, to medication."

Here is one comment left on a positive customer review of the book on by "Shinigami".

I'm a guy, in the 20's. It's interesting that so many people feign interest in this subject, but once we're in the real world, it's an entirely different case.

Yes, I play video games. Yes, I have no direction in life. Yes, I'm not "on the ball" when it comes to college. Truth is, none of you bother about the "plight" of men in today's society. I don't really care, though. Personally, at times, I do think about how I don't really want to have anything to do with this society. So yeah, I'll be getting back to my video games, now. (How'd you know I was playing video games at this moment?! !!!!)

I'll keep the common suggestion that I should be a productive member of society filed away, I'll certainly refer to it someday, maybe.

In my opinion video games provide an escape from reality albeit temporary. The leveling up, achievement of goals, and the figuring out of the game strategy is psychologically fulfilling on a certain level. A problem is the good feelings don't last long or overflow into one's entire life, they disappear when the game is shut off. Extending good feelings of mastery and knowledge by discussing video games on chat forums or becoming an administrator of communication sites or various game (i.e. Minecraft) or running one's own Minecraft server can extend the game play but chatting online to strangers about strategy is not the same as conversing with a real life friend face to face.

Some people can easily get addicted to video games and may start to prefer the fake world of video games and living "inside their head" to interacting with real humans face to face in one's real life. Things like challenging learning, or simple tasks like putting one's clean laundry into the bureau drawer, or even brushing one's teeth or flushing the toilet after it is used can be perceived as tasks too large and difficult to complete. Real life, the good and things like taking five minutes to make a decent sandwich to eat a real meal (versus eating a bag of chips with one hand while playing the game with the other) or taking the trash out seem too un-entertaining and too drudge-work like so they are avoided like The Plague.

Video gaming in moderation is fine, but when it starts to be the end all and be all and when schoolwork suffers and a person is not taking the time to eat right or to bathe or avoids real human contact favoring online stranger friends who can discuss only the game itself, there is a problem.

Being a productive member of American society is not all fun and games. At our paying jobs and in our community volunteer work there are things that are not easy to do and there are nitty gritty un-fun tasks that simply must get done. That's a fact of life. If spending too much time inside one's own head and living in the imaginary world of a video game prevents a person from living a full active regular life then there is a problem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One of My Cats Has Cystitis

The chaos from the move caused family stress and apparently it affected my cats.

The first part of the cat stress was a new cystitis in my male cat. I was so helped by this video that I decided to blog it.

On Labor Day weekend I was unpacking from the move and working in the walk-in closet. It has two parts then there is an 8x8 storage room off of it. When I left the room at dinnertime I shut the door. I did not realize the male cat was trapped in there. The cat was so stressed and wanted to get out that he was flinging his body against the door which finally woke my son up at three in the morning and my son let him out.

The following day the cat was howling in pain and hiding under the bed and growling. This was unusual. When I tried to pick him up my hand touched his abdomen and he screeched. I also guided him to the litter box and saw him straining and he could not void. This was before bedtime on day two.

The next morning the situation was no better so I spent Labor Day in the pet ER. When they gave him the tranquilizer to do the x-ray he voided a lot and was diagnosed with cystitis.

It took me a day to realize the cat developed a new habit after treatment: he refused to use the litter box as he associated it with pain. I got a new box of a different style and put it in the same room as the first one. My cat was voiding in various places on the tile floors and leaving smelly puddles behind. One favorite place was in the guest powder room which has a tile floor. I wound up having to buy a third litter box and placing it in that area for him to use. My goal is to wean him off that so the guests don't have to see or smell a litter box when they use the powder room.

The transition was still not great. We visited our new vet. She said that keeping cats indoors actually makes some cats filled with anxiety. I know this male cat has always loved sitting in the screened window or sitting on a screened in porch (which we don't have now). We seldom have open window days in Houston. However the new house has a half acre backyard with a six foot high solid fence. The cat is declawed. I decided to let him out in the daytime. This worked well on two accounts. First, he is happier hunting and exploring around. He has a territory in the yard and goes on patrols all day, going in circles protecting his turf. Second he has started using the great outdoors as his litter box. We keep him in at night and he uses the box if he needs to at night or if we are not home and left him indoors.

I also used Feliway cat pheromone per the vet's suggestion. I doubt this helped but you never know. We use the room diffuser method. When it runs out I am going to not replace it and see what happens (since it is expensive especially when purchased full price).

We have been dealing with this and trying to get him to stop peeing around the house for nine weeks now. This is a process. We had even more stress during this as my husband threatened to get rid of the cat if he didn't quit peeing around the house.

Antoher cat problem happened with our female cat that we have been dealing with for about a month. That is a story for another day.

Feline cystitis is complicated and is stress related. It is not a simple bladder infection. If this video is not enough information for you, google for articles, there are some good ones available.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Confiscated the Kindle Fire

My older son owns two Kindles, the second one, the cheapest most basic model, was won in a raffle.

I took away the Kindle Fire since it was being used to play video game apps before bed (instead of reading a book for pleasure) and it was being snuck to read in the middle of the school day. My son was also using it for the Internet although we shut that off at the router. The first time he hacked it and the second time he let it stand, but he could still play the apps that already were downloaded.

I blogged about these challenges in detail here.

Well now I took the Kindle Fire away from him. He can read ebooks on the more basic Kindle.

I am probably going to purchase the cheap-o Kindle Fire for my younger son also just so he can have an eReader that does not allow playing video game apps.

Since my kids cannot self-regulate and since they were not getting their academic work done, I have to resort to putting limitations and restrictions on them.


Update 11/11/12: Recently I have been blogging details of our family's struggles to get basic academic work completed. If you have been reading along then this blog post will make more sense. See comments for more commentary.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Younger Son Learning to Write a Research Paper

The major project this week for my younger son is writing a research paper with a thesis.

Because he is taking part two of the course, he missed the gentle introduction that his classmates had last year.

The poor kid is learning to read more than four sources for material and not all of them pan out so now we are at six resources.

He has to find at least three facts from a source. He needs at least two sources per topic.

It is a three body paragraph paper with an introduction and conclusion paragraph. He needs to create his own thesis statement. Last week he did not even know what a thesis statement was.

He is learning MLA formatting for the first time.

He is learning about not plagarizing, paraphrasing and doing quotes.

Plus he is using all the IEW writing techniques such as using a who/which clause and how many adverbs and quality verbs and quality adjectives and yada yada yada.

I am exhausted to say the least. He claims exhaustion also.

He needs to learn this some time so now is as good a time as any.

Even if we quit the program he will have learned this for future use. Even if he winds up in public school at least he will have been taught how to write a research paper.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Younger Son Dropped Latin Class

Not enough students enrolled into Introductory Latin to justify a class for it. Instead the "not a homeschool co-op" combined the Intro and Intermediate Latin kids. They dropped the Intro text and changed to Wheelock's Latin (a high school program).

Just one hour of instruction a week with a paid teacher with a combined skills class did not work out. My son was lost after about six weeks. The kid is in grade 7 not high school. I am guessing that ideally a student would do more than one hour of instruction a week with a foreign language teacher but perhaps I am wrong?

I decided this was not a good fit and pulled him out of the class.

Monetary loss: $500 for the course and about $100 in textbooks.

Add this to the list of this homeschool year's grand plans that failed miserably. Add it to the list of reasons why this is the worst year ever of our homeschool.

We are batting a thousand over here.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Teaching My Kids How to Take Notes

The original title for this post was "Forcing My Kids To Take Notes". But that sounds too negative. But it is the truth. Whatever. I changed the title anyway.

The "not a homeschool co-op" requires that my 7th grader take notes on everything he reads, even fiction reading. This is new territory for us. Most of the time he takes notes on the word processor on the computer since he types about 50 words per minute and since there is so much writing with this program that his hand aches in pain every single day already.

To begin teaching him I would read aloud then stop and ask him what the main points were. Shockingly he had trouble with that so I was spoon feeding him the main points then we'd talk to make sure he got to see what I was doing to pick out the main ideas. I have learned to not let him go more than one chapter without taking the notes. He interchangeably takes notes during the reading and other times waits until the end of the reading then jots them down.

This is a pain-staking process that reminds me of how much patience I had to muster to teach my kids to read using a phonics and sound it out method.





My 10th grade son is resisting Every. Single. Thing. About. Everything. He actually meets all the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (in my opinion) at this moment in time. Despite facing negative consequences from not taking notes in chemistry and in math he was still refusing to take notes.

This week he is trying to be compliant and has negotiated with me to orally narrate notes to me while I type them into the computer. We have not done oral narration in a few years. We used to do it as part of the Charlotte Mason method. He is still able to narrate beautifully and to summarize well when doing narration. I was surprised.

I honestly don't know what the resistance to typing them in or to writing them by hand is. I am trying to resist the temptation to blame it on a learning disability, even though he has many symptoms of dysgraphia. I am sick of learning disabilities and labels and just want my kids to do what has to be done, suck it up and just do it.

I did not used to be this harsh but my kids and general life's stresses have worn me down. This is our roughest season of homeschooling. I am still miffed as to why this fall is the time when my kids seem to be showing the largest signs of stress from the move since the initial move was 15 months ago. Why would they not be stressed more when we first moved and were in a small rental house temporarily waiting for the old house to sell? Why is having that old house gone and moving into a nice new house and having all our worldly material possessions at our fingertips instead of stashed in a storage unit more stressful? I'm not a psychologist and I do not know. All I know is I am worn out and tired and most of it is directly due to my son's resistance and their opposition.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Now Zoning Out During Read Alouds

I shared previously that my younger son now gets carsick when reading in the car to himself.

I shared that he says he can't remember what he reads when he reads silently to himself.

I do not always have access to audiobooks. Since these hard books are being assigned by a 200 student homeschool co-op the library copies are hard or impossible to obtain.

Last week we had a trip to Austin for a regatta planned so I knew we would have at least six hours of car driving. I arranged the homeschool lessons so that I could do read alouds in the car. I started reading the book at chapter one. My husband was glad he could listen from the start. I loved the book and really enjoyed reading Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter. We were stuck in horrible traffic so the 2.5 hour trip took almost 5 hours.

At the end of chapter four I discovered that my son had zoned out and the last thing he could remember was what happened on page two. I had read for hours and hours. I was so angry I could spit. My husband was nearly having a heart attack since he now clearly could see the angst and resistance I have been up against with both of our sons this fall.

I decided he has to read the books to himself at least for now.

A friend told me I should stop every page or so and discuss what happened to make sure he is paying attention. I hate interrupting the story like that and I resent that my son is not complying with the simple request to listen during a read aloud. I am annoyed that he begged me to help him by reading aloud to him, since he claims to not remember when he reads it to himself and since he gets carsick, then he did not listen.

This has been a rotten fall, the worst ever time our family has had with homeschooling. Just when I think things are bad, it gets even worse. I am so close to giving up on the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Reading Pushback From Younger Son

I am shocked that this fall my younger son (age 12) is giving me major pushback on reading independently.

He is reading slowly.

He is not remembering what he reads.

He says it goes in one ear and out the other.

He is unable to discuss it.

So, I started reading aloud. I did this only for the readings that are above his grade/age level. These are readings assigned by the "not a homeschool co-op".

I can't believe the number of hours I am reading aloud from two books per week.

I am having a hard time doing 40 hours of homework with him and then also homeschooling my 10th grader.

(This year it seems like everything is going wrong or is an uphill battle with our homeschooling.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

How Homeschooling High School is Flexible

Since my older son dropped three online classes I am making up new curriculum and revising his plans. My son asked to see a list to see the big picture. I figured a transcript listing would suffice. He can cross off each course as it is completed this year, and of course, cross off what he did last year.

This is a combination of Texas state graduation requirements, engineering degree prerequisites and personal choices.

I shared it on Facebook. I only have real life friends and family on my Facebook account. I don't share a lot of details about homeschooling on Facebook.

In a discussion with acquaintences there I was surprised at some negative feedback and what I perceived as rigidity shown by two homeschool moms. One's oldest is in grade nine. The other recently enrolled her children in school for grade 6 and 9. One reaction was that my son's transcript looks like any public high school kid's transcript. I took this to mean that homeschooling is no different than school. However maybe I misread it and she meant something else I didn't get at all.

Here is my reply:

Just because the summary transcript list looks like school kid's transcripts does not mean that what is done is not sometimes out of the box, different, more creative, or flexible in various ways.

Like doubling up on math.

Like picking a curriculum that works for the kid rather than being handed one option.

Like making up lost time due to illness by working double time.

Or by getting healthy by taking some time off or taking some subjects more slowly when sick.

All those are still ways that homeschooling is not at all a carbon copy of public school. But in the end colleges force us to create paperwork reports that makes the homeschoolers look just like the school kids.

It is the colleges who usually want the standard transcript format, who want to see a quick summary, and who want the same courseload done as public schooled kids. We homeschoolers have to conform to society's requirements if we choose apply to do traditional things like apply to college. Not all colleges want to see some creative type of transcript. Most colleges will not let a student do extreme alternative activities in lieu of things like taking four years of English, being able to do a certain level of math, or skipping history, so forth and so on.

If a person wants to carve their own path in life, to be an entrepreneur or something, they can shirk the traditional high school path, they can choose some alternative homeschool plan, and they can choose to skip the college path.

Examples of people who went to school but skipped college and found great success are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. However most Americans do not do those things, and people like Jobs and Gates are few and far between; their uniqueness and their success are rare in the grand scheme of things. And many others who try to become an entrepreneur, to invent something, or even to run a small business (such as a restaurant) actually fail.

If your student's goal is to do a job that requires a certain college degree, then they have no choice but to step in line and go the traditional route for college. And to get into college you need to do certain prerequisites. Period. If you choose to homeschool high school, a large part of the courseload will be standard fare, but how you get there, and the process that you use still allows some flexibility.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

New Rule: No Phone During Homeschool Hours

School kids are texting my older son during the school day, Especially a certain girl. This interrupts his concentration. He stops his video math lesson, for example, to read it as he feels texts need an immediate response and he is curious. The mind needs to concentrate to learn. I doubt much can be learned with constant interruption. This is not unlike business people whose productivity at work is decreased since the advent of email. We used to complain that too many meetings did not allow us to actually do the work we talked about doing in the meetings. After email got so common that was even worse. Not only did bosses and co-workers expect you to read their thoughts to jeep up to date, they wanted immediate responses to what was this priority.

To be productive and meet one's own goals one must set their priorities then set limits. The limits allow time to be spent on what you want or need to get done to accomplish your goals. It is perfectly reasonable to decide that certain hours are for learning academic material and in that time there will be no personal phone calls, emails, and texts. Also in that time, there will be no consuming of entertaining television, music, YouTube videos or video games. When the work is done for the day the student is free to do with their time what they please such as to participate in an extra-curricular activity, listen to music, surf the the net or stare at a tiny screen and send texts.

I hear the local public schools have a new rule that phones are allowed and can be using during passing time in the halls as well as during lunch and study hall and in class after the work is finished.


Last week we decided that my older son will start handing over his phone to me during the schoolday. Younger son will too but he does not gets texts like his older brother. No girls are chasing the 12 year old!

He will also hand it over at bedtime.

(For $5 a month our carrier has a parental control that allows you to have the phone turn on and off at certain times. We hate paying fees for services we feel should be free of charge. When one sells a family plan knowing minors are the users they should sweeten the pot by giving safety and "healthy use" features as part of the plan. That may actually encourage parents to buy mobile phones for their kids at younger ages.)

Texting arrived in our family in May, so it has been just five months. This is a learning curve. The girl thing is new and has changed things. It feels like we have had texting forever and it feels like an invasion.


We are not doing this to control our kids for no good reason. We are doing this as the constant interruptions are hindering learning. This has become a hurdle or stumbling block to academic success.

(I honestly don't know if I would have been able to learn anything if I was texted nonstop while doing homework. Instead I pumped out the homework quickly then talked on the landline phone to my friends afterward.)

The fact is the schoolwork must get done. Period.

I knew at some point the interest in girls thing would happen and it did. I knew the next step of having a mutual attraction would happen and I think it is happening. This is another whole ball game so it is time to revise the family rules.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Positive Magazine Article About Homeschooling in Connecticut

Connecticut Magazine has published a positive homeschooling article.

Great job, homeschoolers! And a virtual wave to those of you interviewed whom I personally know.

Article: No Place Like Home
by Beth Levine
Published: August 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012


I am pretty sure that my younger son gets carsick when he reads in the car. This is a terrible state of affairs. He's the only one in our immediate family who has this problem.


So far this means he can't do schoolwork while driving. That is one more reason why he needs to be efficient at doing his home-school-work when he is at home.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Journal Fodder 365: Daily Doses of Inspiration for the Art Addict

Title: Journal Fodder 365: Daily Doses of Inspiration for the Art Addict

Authors: Eric M. Scott and David R. Modler

Genre: Nonfiction, crafts

Publication: North Light Books, August 2012

My Star Summary: 4 stars out of 5 = I Like It

My Summary Statement:
Focuses on You – Being Your Original Self – With Writing Prompts Too

When I read the title and cover I thought this book would have 365 inspirational tidbits to use, one a day for a year, but that is not the case. Instead this has twelve chapters about topics to journal about. The back cover says this book will lead you on a yearlong journey, so I assume we are to use one chapter with its one theme per month of the year.

The strength of this book is the authors push you to be yourself and to do what is right for you. So, this is not a book telling to create this image (i.e. a queen with wings) by copying the directions onto your journal page. There are no hard and fast rules here. You are told to play with lines and then make the lines YOU want and like with the art material YOU want to use and to go with the flow making this truly your own art journal.

The authors start off with simple materials asking the reader to open up and start journaling instead of focusing on buying this specific product and that craft material that wind up getting expensive. They want you to do the work of journaling (which is an internal thinking process then a writing down of ideas and art making exercise). They do not want you to focus on preparation and stockpiling expensive supplies.

About everyday bits of paper that come into our lives they write on page 55: “These everyday bits and pieces art part of your individual experience and help tell your story. They give significance to an idea, image or concept when integrated into your journal. Reconsider using the fairies, vintage photos, clocks and people with pointy hats that are commonly found in some journals, because those are not your images. Someone else developed the significance and meaning of these, so why adopt someone else’s concept when you have so much of your own to explore.”
Amen! I have felt that way for years! Make your own original art and do in your journal what you want to do! Finally someone said it!

This book is full of writing prompts, which I feel is the bulk of the book. Some topics are: accidents and imperfections, connections and relationships, facing doubts and letting go, and owning your shadow.

To help you envision how the book is laid out: each chapter has a topic with writing prompts. Art techniques are within every chapter (and of course are not married to being used just on those topic’s journal pages). The art techniques are easy and you don’t need a lot of expensive supplies. With that said, since I have been playing with art and crafting for years none of these techniques were new or innovative to me. They may be new to a beginner. Lastly, the book has advice and opinions peppered throughout, such as the quote I shared above.

This is an encouraging book that begs the artist to find themselves and to be themselves in their art journals. Discover who you are, document it in an art journal. Your ordinary life is worthwhile.

I rate this book 4 stars = I Like It. I love the attitude and the outlook and the writing prompts but as a non-newbie I didn’t find any new art techniques and I found the title a bit misleading as I thought it would have 365 art techniques or 365 writing prompts or 365 of something.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on I was not paid to write this or to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.