Monday, December 31, 2012

Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention Book Review by ChristineMM

My Summary Statement: A Book for Professionals - See My Note to Parents

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

This "Essentials of" book series is intended mostly for professionals. In the preface it states, "For the experienced clinician, books in the series will offer a concise yet thorough way to master utilization of the continuously evolving supply of new and revised instruments, as well as a convenient method for keeping up to date on the tried-and-true measures. The novice (clinician) will find here a prioritized assembly of all the information and techniques that must be at one's fingertips to begin the complicated process of individual psychological diagnosis."

Let me underscore this is a professional book for clinicians not a book for laypeople. This book "is designed for assessment professionals, educators, and parents who are interested in understanding, assessing and helping individuals that have dyslexia". Although in that passage parents are mentioned I feel the bulk of the book is for professionals and is about the current way schools handle dyslexia.

The Appendix is over 60 pages long and the reference listing is over 30 pages long. There is a glossary and an index.

I am a parent and I understand the desire that some parents have to find the latest detailed information about their children's conditions so they can be the best advocate they can when working with school staff. I know the book's preface says the book is for parents but I disagree. There are issues that specifically relate to parents that this book does not cover and the book goes too far into detail about school-based testing and interventions, which is overkill for most parents. Parents need to focus on the evaluation, the PPT, and the IEP. For example I feel that parents would be served better by learning their legal rights in their state, learning how to navigate the PPT meetings and what input they can have in making the IEP. Parents need to know their rights regarding testing and may have to seek legal counsel to get their children the best plan. Two families I know were grossly underserved by the public school and wound up hiring an attorney to help get their children outplaced to schools who specialize in dyslexia, with the town footing the private school tuition. Those schools were in over their heads and they were not able to help those children learn to read after years of the school's own special ed plan in the IEP.

Another more basic thing that parents need is general encouragement, such as helping them realize that while dyslexia can make reading difficult there are other gifts that dyslexic people often have which give them superior abilities compared to non-dyslexics. Parents need to hear that kind of thing. See: [[ASIN:1573921556 In the Mind's Eye: Visual Thinkers, Gifted People With Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties, Computer Images and the Ironies of Creativity]]. The topic of [[ASIN:0465047688 Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice]] can also be uplifting for parents to read, even though that has not yet been proven by scientific studies to be "true". Another topic to investigate is visual spatial learners, as this can help parents find ways that their child can study at home to help master the topics such as the book by [[ASIN:1593633246 Visual-Spatial Learners]].

I mentioned in my summary statement this book is full of mainstream topics. You will not find here things which our society prefers to call "alternative" such as the issue of how lacking omega fatty acids in a child's diet can further impair learning, so supplementation with fish oil supplements is recommended by some experts (and is currently the subject of a $10 million study by the US Department of Defense). Other nutritional issues can be investigated, such as possible low serotonin, use of 5HTP supplents, and Vitamin D deficiency/supplementation, none which are mentioned in this book. I suggest parents talk to other parents of special education kids to hear of other topics they should educate themselves on.

This book does not cover other processing disorders which may exist in tangent OR which may be the real diagnosis. After testing by a teacher it was suggested that the testing indicated possible dyslexia in my then ten year old child. He never had dyslexia symptoms or reading problems in the past, but I heard her symptom list to be the same as what I'd heard termed as an "eye tracking problem". After a consult with a behavioral optometrist (schools and teachers, ophthalmologists and regular optometrists do not perform tests for those conditions) my son was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency, a visual processing disorder. He had excellent results with reading glasses with a prism lens and home therapy under the doctor's guidance. I still had no confirmation if he had dyslexia but some of the symptoms had overlapped. Four years later my son had some new symptoms such as difficulty reading for a long time and a hard time remembering what he'd read, and he had a QEEG brain map performed which showed NO dyslexia and NO ADD/ADHD but did show issues with visual processing and other things which indicated neurological damage after having Lyme Disease and high fevers from Mononucleosis. This was treated with neurofeeback therapy with success. I mention our story as an example of how a teacher suggested my son had dyslexia when in fact he never had it, but had another visual processing disorder instead -- and to illustrate the important issue for parents that this book doesn't venture into that territory. Parents need to learn somehow that learning struggles can have overlapping symptoms and that sometimes dyslexia is a misdiagnosis.

I am not equipped to judge this book from a professional level as I am not a trained professional. I did not realize that this book series was targeted to professionals when I ordered it. From what I can see this is mainstream information for schools with a lot of references to back it up. I have no reason to doubt the credibility of these cited works.

From a parent's view I would not recommend reading this clinical book for professionals. I would encourage you to read a book for a layperson about dyslexia as well as a book that celebrates the uniqueness of the dyslexic person so you are not just thinking about your child's weakness. I would encourage you to educate yourself on the laws in your state regarding your rights to services through the public school. Contact an advocate to hire to help you navigate the PPT meetings during the IEP formation process as well as for the follow-up PPT meetings. You need a plan to know if X result is not seen by X date then what, so forth and so on. As a last resort, contact legal counsel if you feel the school is not doing the right thing.

Parents should also investigate other visual processing disorders; get private consults for those, to rule out dual diagnosis or misdiagnosis. Find an expert who knows about learning disorders / disabilities and nutrition who can counsel you on nutrition and possible supplementation. Rule out possible food sensitivities or allergies which can give "brain fog", low energy, or inhibit memory - your child needs to be at the top of their game instead of being further bogged down by environmental factors.


I rate this book 4 stars = I Like It when I judge it from the perspective of a book for professionals by professionals working within the system who want mainstream current advice backed up with evidence based studies. The book is thorough and attempts to be credible and solid by not offering any theories or related topics (nutrition, dietary deficiencies, food allergies). I did not give it 5 stars because it fails to address misdiagnosis or other visual processing disorders which are sometimes misdiagnosed as dyslexia.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the site. I was not paid to write the review or to blog it, nor was I under obligation to review it favorably.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Message About Christmas for Christians

Finally someone addressed the issue. Thank you R.C. Sproul!

"Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus’ parade and assume an Olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy."


"What about putting Christ back into Christmas? It is simply not necessary. Christ has never left Christmas."


"Doesn’t Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He’s a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction — but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth."

Well the whole essay is worth reading, so please read it.

Marley and His Message to Scrooge by R.C. Sproul

Hat tip: Veritas Press Christian homeschooling enewsletter.

Frugal Natural Potpourri and Humidifying the Winter Air

I received a gift of mulling spices a few years ago. The label says consume within one year. We do not use mulling spices to make mulled cider or mulled wine. I would have thrown it out before moving it half way across the country buy my husband packed up the spice cabinet so here we have some old spices we are not using!

Today I decided to use those mulling spices in water on the stove to boil then simmer to add humidity to the dry indoor air because the heat has been running for days. It's been in the 30s outside here in Houston.

The mulling spices seemed kind of weak so I read the label. I realized that the spices in my cabinet were probably newer and fresher. One ingredient was dried orange peel. I also noticed this Williams-Sonoma brand had cinnamon oil and orange oil added, which is probably why they recommended it be used within one year.

So here is how to make your own potpourri for the stove top, which should be less expensive than buying mulling spices to use for this purpose.

As you eat oranges, mandarin oranges, clementines, or use lemons or limes, shred the peel by hand or cut it up. Lay these on a jelly roll pan to air dry. When dry put into a jar to store for future use.

If you have old powdered spices you probably should refresh, consider adding these to a batch: powdered cinnamon, powdered allspice, powdered nutmeg, and powdered cloves.

If you find yourself in a spice shop or craft shop you may find low cost cinnamon bark chips. These are great to have on hand for potpourri or stovetop potpourri.


To Use:

At the time you want to use the stovetop potpourri, add a teaspoon of whole cloves, a teaspoon of whole allspice, a cinnamon stick, some of the dried citrus peel, to a full pot of water.

(If you have the old powdered spices use those in place of whole spices.)

There are no magic quantities, I just used 1 teaspoon per three quarts of water as a general guage.

Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Leave the lid off.

Do not let the pot boil dry. Keep adding water to the pot as needed. If you let this boil for hours and hours and the spices look spent, add more to that same pot and keep simmering it.

In the winter when I am home all day I sometimes let this simmer for twelve hours!

When finished, throw the water and the spent spices into your compost bin.

The American Spirit Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values That Make Us Great
Authors: Edwin Feulner and Brian Tracy
Publication: Thomas Nelson, 2012
Genre: Nonfiction, Politics

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

Summary Statement: Intelligent, Persuasive Writing & Philosophical Musings Through the A Conservative Christian Lens

When I ordered the book I interpreted the marketing blurb to indicate this book would be a discussion of America’s history to tell what made this country great. I didn’t research the authors and assumed it would be a non-political book. Upon diving into the book I realized that Dr. Feulner was the President of The Heritage Foundation (a very conservative group). The second realization I had is this is not a book of only discussion of old history but is a discussion of challenges that faced America in the past and some situations at present and how and what the issues are when viewed through the conservative lens. Thirdly this book holds a Christian worldview (hence the reason why a Christian publisher: Thomas Nelson, published the book).

Thus this book is almost a credo for conservatives: framing a virtue or topic that is a foundation of life in America and discussing real life issues that either corrupted or supported that virtue, followed by what it will take to keep things the same or what needs to be done to get back on track. (When I re-read the marketing blurb I saw that there was nothing deceptive about it, I had just interpreted it incorrectly for some reason.)

There are twenty topics, virtues (like courage) or topics (like money and taxes or education) with each representing one chapter. After framing the character trait itself in general terms, examples from history are given. For example the history on honesty starts with an example about Clarence Thomas, leads to Richard Nixon then to the Monica Lewinsky issue with President Bill Clinton, then goes on from there with more examples. The authors use quotes and excerpts in every chapter to illustrate opinions of other people: this is not just a book of their own opinions, although the conservative viewpoint is what is represented as the one right and best way in the end. In the chapter on honesty, a former American communist, Whittaker Chambers, is said to have “come to his senses” and a long quote is shared telling how wrong he felt he was to have formerly held communist beliefs. It goes on to tell how Americans are forgiving when people, sports teams, or corporations fail to be honest and realize their error and seek forgiveness. The chapter ends by wrapping up how truth is multi-faceted and applies to personal truth, political truth, and spiritual truth “each is as important as the other and all are important threads in our country”. Each chapter follows this formula.

The twenty virtues or topics examined in this book are: patriotism, freedom, individuality, responsibility, optimism, foresight, good citizenship, honesty, something for nothing, faith, the law, tolerance and open-mindedness, idealistic realism, pragmatism, problem solving, generosity, capitalism, education, money and taxes and courage.

If you want to read intelligent and persuasive writing of philosophical musings on topics that challenge Americans today as represented through the conservative Christian lens, this is a book you would like to read. Moderates, independents, and liberals who want to hear the conservative Christian view are certainly welcome to read it, but obviously may not agree with some, much, or all of it. As a person who values hearing opposing views and who enjoys pondering complex issues I was open to reading this book and would like to think that others who like to do the same would find this book food for thought.

I was thinking that liberals could take this book’s format and its topics and rewrite it giving their own examples and reasons why doing things in a different (liberal) way would help America be a superior country. Reading that version and comparing and contrasting it with The American Spirit would be an interesting exercise!

Disclosure: I received one copy of this book from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the site. I was not paid to write the review or to blog it, nor was I under obligation to review it favorably.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Homeschooling Facts Show Homeschooling as Non-Violent, Supportive, and Positive

29 December 2012

Press Release: Homeschooling Facts Show Homeschooling as Non-Violent, Supportive, and Positive

I thought this was worthy reading especially since it cites facts.

For contact info for the writer see the right sidebar on the press release page. I am not the author of this press release.

Hat tip: momzilla54 on Twitter

A Sanctuary of Trees Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: A Sanctuary of Trees: Beechnuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions
Author: Gene Logsdon
Publication: Chelsea Green, 2012
Nonfiction, Trees – Utilization, Ecology, Folklore, Nature in Literature, Philosophy of Nature, Country Life

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

Summary Statement:
Storytelling + Philosophical Musings + Love of Nature + Trees

Logsdon is a fantastic storyteller. To describe his writing is not easy, it is storytelling mixed with facts that educate us while also infusing his thoughts and philosophical musings. Logsdon educates us on how to use trees for food and fuel, embedded in a story. Included is a lot of information for how people can utilize a woodlot to use to supply themselves with wood to burn to heat their homes, something he has done and something he wishes more people would do.

This is not a regular factual nonfiction book to teach and educate. Logsdon is a storyteller and his love for trees and nature is clearly apparent throughout.

I enjoyed reading this book slowly; there is no need to speed read to rush through it. As a tree lover who lived with two acres of my own Connecticut woods for over ten years and my grandmother in Maine owned hundreds of acres, on which were several woodlots, so I really loved this book. This is a book that I really enjoyed reading even though at present I can’t use the woodlot advice.

This is a worthy read for people who love trees and who enjoy philosophical writings about nature as well as for people looking for more practical advice about wild crafting tree food and maintaining a woodlot.

Disclosure: I received one unit of this product from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the site. I was not paid to write the review or to blog it, nor was I under obligation to review it favorably.

Friday, December 28, 2012

BUILT Twist Top Kindle Fire Case Product Review by ChristineMM

BUILT Twist Top Sleeve for Kindle Fire

Design: Several are sold, I reviewed Skeleton Army

BUILT makes a variety of different style cases, of which I own several different types, each has its pros and cons.

The "TWIST TOP SLEEVE" is a soft padded neoprene case which is lightweight. To make the top open you peel open the two corners (which I would describe as being similar to the action to the way you start to peel a banana). After sliding the Kindle FIRE into the case you twist the two corners up and then the entire top is closed, the unit cannot slide out of the top. There is no zipper, no velcro, or any other type of closure on this case.

The Twist Top is an improvement over a BUILT case I bought a year ago which is open at the top, so the eReader can technically slip out if turned upside down). I own another with a zipper which I'm fine with. A zipper vs. twist top is a personal preference thing.

The inside lining is a very soft almost plush polyester which protects the FIRE from being scratched.

The Skeleton Army design has an olive green background with gray skeletons and a lime green graphic. The inner lining is the same color lime green.

I rate this 5 stars = I Love It because it is fully functional and lives up to its marketing claims as well as being a fun graphic design.


What Are Your Personal Needs and Wants for a Case?

When choosing a case for your Kindle FIRE what you need to do is figure out your needs then find a case that suits your desire. There are all kinds of cases for all different people. Do you want some padding (neoprene padding) or do you like a hard unpadded design? Do you want a case that simply opens (like a book) or one that has a fastener you have to manually move to close it securely? Do you want a case that protects from scratches only or one that will allow the device to stand up hands-free such as is convenient for watching movies and television shows? Do you want a case for travel and carrying around and want to use the device without it being in a case or do you want to use it with the case on?

How you answer these questions will help you narrow down your choices. I hope my review helped you decide if this product matches your requirements.

Disclosure: I received one unit of this product from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the site. I was not paid to write the review or to blog it, nor was I under obligation to review it favorably.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Started Using Parental Controls to Limit Texting

Our family avoided text messaging for years. We added it to the family's plan in May of this year. Everyone used it responsibly until my older son began dating his first girlfriend in November. Their texting was out of control, they were texting once a minute or more. I am not kidding. Texting went on during dinner at home and in restaurants, and even during the homeschool day, interrupting my son's ability to concentrate on his schoolwork (no wonder it was hard to learn that chemistry formula or that algebra concept).

Also at that time, my son was going through a period of being tired and unable to wake up in the morning. Given that he is 15 and still seeming to grow taller overnight, this is not unusual. But it was not until I got suspicious and looked at the Verizon bill's texting history that I realized that even on school nights our son and his girlfriend were texting up to midnight and sometimes until one in the morning. The worse was three in the morning on a Saturday night / Sunday morning. Ah ha, that explained everything.

The mother of the girlfriend had said she wanted open communication so I contacted her. She said they had a 9 p.m. curfew (which they were not checking on) and I let her know (by emailing the text time history) that her daughter was not abiding by their family's rule. Also, I inquired about the girl texting from school, which I thought was against the school rules. I found out that as of this academic year, her public high school allows it in class after work is done, at lunch, in halls, and in study hall periods. Apparently she frequently finished her in-class work early.

My son was protective over his phone. We literally could not get it away from him, physically. We had let him always keep it in his bedroom and charge it there. (I have just learned that some families start a rule from day one to charge all phones in a kitchen or other public room and do not allow the phones to spend the night in the kid's bedrooms. I wish I'd heard that idea before.) I now wish we had that family policy in place from day one. It is easier to start off with a simple rule than to start a new rule once things have been abused and the issue is a "battleground issue".

A friend who also has Verizon told me that I could pay $5 a month for Verizon's "usage controls". This one feature lets you limit anything. At present we are only limiting texting hours, it is turned on from 3pm to 9pm on weekdays. On weekends it is open from 9am to 9pm only. They have an exception list of ten numbers you can input, in our case it is set to accept texts 24/7 from me, my husband, his brother and some emergency adult contacts.

Verizon's plan also allows any other restrictions such as shutting down phone calls. You can easily shut the whole thing off this way instead of doing the other shut down way that you pay a fee each time it goes on and off.

They also allow you to limit data, numbers of calls or other limitations.

Verizon's usage controls system is easy to navigate; you control it via the website. You do not need the phone in your hand to make usage limitations.

Personally I would rather see this feature built into the family's basic plan rather than nailing us $5 per phone to activate, but, I would rather pay this than to have a daily struggle with me demanding him to turn the phone over to me at 9pm and me handing it back at 3pm or some other arrangement. One less area to fight over is worth $5 a month to me.

By activating usage controls on the phone we have been able to help ensure our son is not tempted to misuse or abuse his phone and texting and he is able to get a decent night's sleep. (I just read that 85% of teens are not getting sufficient sleep and are clinically sleep deprived.)

Note that my son does have the ability to make actual phone calls to his girlfriend or anyone 24/7 on either the mobile phone or our landline phone. My son informs me that his generation does not talk on the phone and he would not know what to say or talk about if on a real phone call. I have been informed that only old people actually have conversations on a telephone.

If family rules are broken, one of the potential consequences is loss of mobile phone privileges. With usage controls it is easy to shut the phone down to anyone but the special people on the exception list. My son's counselor advised that we need clear family rules and clear consequences if rules are broken, so now we have a contract that he signed, so I will no longer be accused of making rules up off the top of my head or being accused of making excessive punishment consequences. (My husband is actually terrible in that regard, often giving a week's punishment for one small offense.) My husband and I are now on the same page and the contract helps ensure that out of anger neither of us will become excessive with consequences.

If you are struggling with your child or teen excessively using their mobile phone or want to ensure that they are not using it long after their bedtime I suggest seeing if your mobile phone carrier has a usage control or parental control plan.

Although my kids do not have smartphones with Internet access, if yours do, this may be even more of a reason to buy the usage control plan and shut the phone down at bedtime.

Self Reglation?

A blog reader recently asked about my sons not being allowed to learn to self-regulate if our rules are too strict and if rules even exist (when I was discussing addictive behavior on the laptop and internet). This is one example where the way we first used our mobile phone services was unlimited and it was not just misused but abused. When it became an interference to getting basic academic homeschool lessons done it was a problem. When my son's health was negatively impacted due to sleep deprivation it was a second problem. My son was unable to self-regulate. Since the girlfriend's parents were not doing anything on their end that was effective at stopping her activity we took the matter into our own hands by using usage controls with our son.

That was a long explanation of how we did actually try the self-regulation route and my son failed at being able to self-regulate. The psychologist counselor and two other of my son's health professionals agree this is a good and appropriate plan for our family. If some blog readers feel we are being too strict or too restrictive, it doesn't matter to me. We need to do what is right and best for our son and we think we are doing the right thing. As the doctors said, mobile phones for teens are a privilege not a right, and there are rules and limits that should apply, just as all things in life have limits and rules. These limits especially apply when the parent is paying for the phone and its service plan, but even when and if our son was paying for it out of his pocket. One doctor actually told us we were crazy to pay for the service and that we should make our son pay for it. How a 15 year old can do that if he is unable to legally obtain a job makes that a bit tricky.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

That's Not a Feeling (Novel) Book Review by ChristineMM

That s Not a Feeling Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: That’s Not a Feeling (a novel)
Author: Jan Josefson (his first book)
Publication: Soho, 2012
Genre: Fiction (topic: private residential psychiatric facility for teens in NY state)

Benjamin thought he was going for a tour of a private “therapeutic boarding school” (psychiatric facility for teens) in upstate New York but instead his parents dropped him off, without even a chance to say goodbye. The novel starts off with a bang and through the story we learn about the facility, the teen boys and girls who live there and about its staff and administration. Set in a rural community on what formerly was a grand estate and run by an aging and dying man adds more mystery and a haunting sense to the tale.

One element that I felt made this story so personal was that the narration changes, it is told in the first person, supposedly through Benjamin, yet the perspective is not just what he could have known. We hear the thoughts, sights of many different teens, new teachers, experienced teachers, and of the administrators as the story unfolds.

The story is fascinating and I wanted to understand the facility’s processes and procedures, something that takes nearly the entire book to explain as the story unfolded. I was equally curious about the man who founded Roaring Orchards, what motivated him, and of how the facility seemed to encompass and take over the lives of everyone who worked there. I felt that Josefson painted a thorough picture of the facility itself; I could picture it in my mind, and the environment and tone of the place as well.

I describe the story as haunting, mysterious, painful, funny, and intelligent. I enjoyed the narrative voice yet it was frustrating for me as I wanted to jump into the story and help the teens who repeatedly made mistakes that kept them from making right choices and kept them stuck in their ruts. I wanted all of the teens healed immediately and it was hard to hear that some had lived there for years and years.

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It for the excellent storytelling and engrossing nature of the novel.

Disclosure: I received one unit of this product from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on the site. I was not paid to write the review or to blog it, nor was I under obligation to review it favorably.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

It's been a stressful fall. We waited too long to buy a live tree, so we purchased our first artificial tree on the night of December 20 and finished decorating it on December 22nd. We were tired and didn't get all the ornaments on the tree. I declared it good enough. Better late than never.

Each year I try to buy at least one ornament that symbolizes something we did or something we love. Below are two that I purchased this year. They are our first Texas themed ornaments.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Monday, December 24, 2012

One More Dawn, One More Day, One Day More!

I cannot wait for the movie!

Les Miserables!

I'm prepping by refreshing my memory by re-listening to the complete Broadway recording on CD.

Here's a video of One Day More that has excellent audio.

But I may have to wait until December 26th to see it!

Movie trailer one:

Movie trailer two:

The only thing that could happen to make things better than being able to watch this as a movie is if they bring back the stage production if the movie is a hit. If it returns, I vow to see it numerous times! I've seen the live production twice and I need it to return! Pretty please?

I was a complete Les Mis nut in the 90s. I used to commute to work blasting the music and singing at the top of my lungs. It was even more fun while driving home in the dark from my college night classes.

(And you can bet I am excited to dive into Les Mis with my sons. I haven't exposed them to it yet, the movie will be a starter.)

One more fun thing, a Polish flash mob of One Day More. If you know the song you will love this even though it's not in English.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Imperfect Homeschooling and A Good College Fit

My original plan for homeschooling was to educate my kids with a top notch homeschool experience so they would be able to go where they wanted for college. I thought if I set up a great plan they may have a chance to attend an elite school. I also thought my kids would stand a chance at my husband's alma mater, now a top rated elite university with a very highly rated business school (which my husband attended).

The early years of homeschooling were great, the kids were compliant and were eager learners. I kept things light and fun yet they did great things and the things they learned were of high quality. My kids honestly don't think they know much but in casual conversation they can talk about topics which they think every kids knows but which shock adults. In my son's chemistry class this fall the teacher asked about a topic not yet discussed in class or in the text and my son answered and she was shocked and asked where he learned that. He learned it at MIT ESP Splash in an enjoyable class which he barely took notes on (and of course was never tested on and has no standardized test to prove he knows it). He remembered it more than a year later. My older son has also won some academic awards which I feel lend some credibility to the quality of his home education.

I don't blow sunshine up my kid's butts about their abilities. Honestly I don't really know how they stack up to other kids except the limited exposure I have to talking with other kids, but most kids are not even open to talking to an adult. I try to get information from some parents but most say they don't even know what their kids do in school, they just know the grades.

Sadly recently it has come to light that one son (with past LDs) thinks he is stupid (in every subject area) and the younger thinks he is just average. They also think we are living in the poverty income level, which is not true. We have kept our income level private as we don't feel it is something kids should know about, it's too personal and it's not something we want them discussing with their peers. We don't want them forming opinions about people in X income bracket are ___ and people in Y income bracket are ___. With that said I don't know how kids and teens form their perception of self and do not know why my kids don't know they have a great life compared to other kids.

It seems the college admissions criteria gets harder and harder and to be honest I don't know if either of my kids could ever get into my husband's alma mater. And I am starting to really not care.

The price of college is rising and rising and to be honest my husband and I are unsure if we are willing to pay that high a fee. Is it reasonable to spend $50K, $56K, $58K on one year's education? I don't think so. The second issue is, are we able to afford it? Having lived with no job then underemployment doesn't show up well on the financial aid forms because they don't ask those kinds of questions. The government thinks we're loaded but we can't pay for private college for one year for one kid on this income. Something is wrong with this picture. The colleges look at last year's income only and they have no clue about the last ten years and the roller coaster we've ridden financially. They don't know we lost two year's income on the sale of our house which we had to leave to move here so my husband could take this job. They don't know that the move cost $30K and how much we paid on a small rental plus the old mortgage and the property taxes in a vacant house. We don't want our kids graduating with ridiculously high student loans which equal many times their potential first year job's salary because we could not afford over $200K per child for college tuition.

Although my husband and I seemed to favor private colleges before, we are now opening our minds to state college. Dual credit is seeming better and better, especially since Texas has a generous policy that state colleges must accept all credits earned at accredited community colleges.

Suddenly "good enough" is seeming better than seeking "the best".

Most of all I want my kids in a college that is a good fit. I do not want them in a college that is too rigorous where they wind up depressed or suicidal. I want the academic load to be appropriate for their ability and a balance state of mind. If they want to do a college sport and are accepted on a team then that narrows the selection pool. If they need or want small classes we will look for that. If they want a giant state school we have options for those. If they want to go back to where it snows and rains and is cold and blustery they can do so, but to be honest they like these Texas winters where it is rarely in the 50s and is often in the 70s. Sun every day is fantastic for one's serotonin levels...

I always wanted our homeschool to prepare our kids for what they wanted to do with their career and to prepare for college if their plans required a college degree. I now want the best FIT for my kids not bragging rights or a brand name school to boost my own ego. I want my kids to thrive not just survive. I want my kids to feel they fit in, not that they are struggling and incapable.

Homeschooling is getting so hard now that I have two strong willed sons in grades 10 and 7. I no longer feel the need to be some kind of activist for homeschooling (which is why I currently hold no volunteer position in my local homeschool community). I also feel completely alone in this community because I have not been able to find like-minded homeschooling parents in my new area. Maybe this lack of support and encouragement is leading to my negativity about homeschooling. I no longer want to have my kids be poster kids for homeschooling. They are flawed as I am. I am feeling less and less capable and I am far from a perfect homeschooling mom. I am trying my best but maybe my best is not as good as I thought it could be.

Lately I have thought about quitting blogging as I worry that my blog is getting too negative or sounding to worrisome. However I am so stressed out and harried lately that I am not sure if I am confusing the negative thoughts and worries in my head with what I actually publish on the blog. Re-reading published posts is hard because I can read between my own lines to see something harsher or more negative about what I was thinking versus what readers may interpret. I have left more than a few blog posts unpublished due to them being either too negative or too personal.

I want my kids to have a decent education and I am also not sure if homeschooling is providing that. The family dynamics, the power struggles, and the battles are becoming too overwhelming. I am not sure that for my own physical and mental health that I should continue homeschooling. I am making some decisions over Christmas break, one or both may land in public school in January. If we do homeschool for the rest of this year I am very open to using school for fall of 2013 should that be the better choice for one or both of my kids.

I think I am burned out of homeschooling and life in general. I need a vacation but there is no vacation on the horizon, because all the extra money has gone to pay for out of pocket medical bills and educational supplies, tutor fees, and outsourced homeschool classes, and the move. And really both my husband and I could use new vehicles which I don't think we can afford.

Related Post from my archives: Teen Slacker Mentality and Phony Homeschool Moms

Friday, December 21, 2012

Helpful Advice for Designing Your Own High School Literature Class

The 7 Sisters blog has an encouraging post about high school literature. It contains a few v-logs, one suggests how many books, plays, poems and shoeprt stories a high schooler should read in a year for one course.

I had been confused about how much is enough versus how much is overkill.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Break To Do List

Effective December 17, 2012,  we are on a three week Christmas break. We are not traveling, this is a staycation.

Since the kids are now behind in math due to nonsense they pulled that I discovered later, they are doing one hour of math per day. Grade 10 son is reading assigned literature (just finished The Diary of Anne Frank now is reading To Kill a Mockingbird then will finish Farenheit 451). Grade 7 son is reading the Series of Unfortunate Events with his new eyeglasses which make reading possible so I am letting him get used to reading more again and focusing on pleasure fun reading not school assignments.

They have rowing practice some of these days.

Other than that the kids have free time.

As for me this is what I hope to accomplish:

Moving Related:

Finish hanging wall art which is cluttering the formal dining room (so we can eat in it on Christmas!)

Go through framed family photos to take out old ones. (These are cluttering the formal living room.)
Get rid of frames that don't match this new house's decor.
Print up new phtoos for the frames.
Buy new frames if needed.
Put the framed art on horizontal surfaces around the house.

Go through digital photos and find favorite photos of Connecticut, Cape Cod, and Maine. Print them.
Buy matching black frames and hang the photos on two walls in the game room as collections.

Husband finish putting new floor in teh unfinished attic.
I will go through boxes cluttering the garage and decide which are going to the attic.
Hire someone to move those boxes.
Decide which things I should donate to a preschool or a daycare. Then let go of it. (Sentimental toys mostly)
Park in my garage for the first time.

Get the cat pee smell out of husband's office.
Clean rugs in son's bedroom, my art studio, and hallway of old dog pee stains visible with black light.
Move furniture from garage to my art studio.
Do last tasks to set up art supplies in my new art studio.
Actually make some art in the art studio. Have fun (gasp)!

Christmas Related:

Recreate the Christmas card list since the old one has been lost
Send the Christmas cards out.
Buy a Christmas tree (live) and decorate it.
Make Christmas cookies.
Make gingerbread creations with the kids.
Host Christmas Eve party and all related prep and clean up.
Invite some friends to attend church with us for Christmas services.

Homeschool Related:

Figure out if my kids are going to homeschool in the spring or enroll them to public school.

If we continue to homeschool I need to:
Learn how to use Homeschool Tracker Online version.
Set up lesson plans and agendas on HSTO.

Get the 21 boxes of unwanted books out of my upstairs hallway.
Figure out how to resell this valuable stuff. Or at least dump it in a corner of the garage.

Medical Related

consultation for my new retina problem

counseling for older son weekly continues

get older son second consult on reading problems / vision problems

Fun Related:

Read books for pleasure
Read books for information and advice
Enjoy being in my home which hopefully will be in its most unpacked and most decorated state since moving here five months ago


So is this over-ambitious? With three weeks off from homeschooling this seems do-able to me. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Extracurriculars and Teens

Everything we do as a homeschool family is done with our children's input. They are a major navigator. We do not force them to do activities they do not want to do. Well, we have forced them to try something, and they usually found they loved it and chose to continue.

In a recent newspaper article my older son's FIRST Robotics team coach was quoted as saying that participation gives every student a chance to have hands on experience with engineering and computer sciences. He said that being on the team helps 100% of the students do work that will help them in their future college career, of which many select engineering, which leads to a career. He said many participants in high school sports do not go on to be professional athletes and some don't even play a sport in college. I understand and agree. The team offers a fantastic opportunity. While at the World Championships last year, one father said to me, "This is like a sport for the geeks and nerds. They are a real team, a circle of friends, a family. I am so grateful such a thing exists for my son since he didn't find this community or passion in sports or other school clubs."

My older son's sport practice changed this season, with our new head coach and the new team's focus on competitive rowing. The practice changed from 90 minutes last year, (his novice year) to 3+ hours long now that he is varsity. Door to door, it is often four hours. The practices also increased to five days from the previous four days, with a new Saturday practice. Rowing increased to year-round rowing on the water instead of doing weight lifting and erging on machines in the winter.

The increase in rowing time this fall was a direct conflict with the robotics team, who also increased their activity level for "off seaon" events such as doing community service by helping host qualifiers for other FIRST events for younger students. My son has not been able to do robotics this fall.

Soon it will be FIRST Robotics kick-off, usually done in the first week of January. My son was given a team leader job. I honestly do not know how my son can do both things with 100% participation. I feel that team leaders must be present, as does my son. We discussed the obligations and the responsibilties of such a position.

Yesterday my son sent an email to the team captain and the coach saying he feels he does not have time to be a team leader. This is heart-breaking to me but it was the right thing to do. We are not a family that seeks resume building positions which are not actually performed. We do not let our kids take jobs they won't actually do then let the team down with non-involvement.

To be honest, I would prefer that he have hands on experience with engineering and work more with adult engineering mentors to figure out what career path he may select when applying to college. I would like my son to do things that support his career and academics instead of a sport that is so intense. However my son uses his sport as his main social activity. Doing a year-round sport with the same 40 kids, 50 weeks a year is like being part of an extended family. Also now my son has a girlfriend on the team so they get to see each other at practice over 15 hours a week. The girlfriend factor raises things to a different emotional level.

(Most of the other kids on the varsity team do only this sport as their one extra-curricular activity. A couple are also Boy Scouts who rarely attend meetings or campouts. All the rowers are focused on academics, some go to the science magnet school, many take AP courses, and besides the Valedictorian, many are high in the school ranks. A bunch of the kids told my son they don't understand how he can do both robotics and rowing and schoolwork and also Boy Scouts. The fact is, this year he can't seem to handle all of it.)

Unlike Tiger Mom I do not feel it is right for me to dictate every single thing about my teenager's lives including every extra-curricular activity and banning social time with friends. These teen years represent a time for shifting more responsibility to the teen. I think teens have a right to choose their extra-curricular activities. This means that not every choice my son makes would be my preferred choice. I have to learn to deal with it and let go.

If the choice my son was making was to do something stupid or do something negative or to do nothing at all instead of something enriching, my husband and I would protest against it and not allow it. But to choose an intense year round sport over off-season participation in robotics was something we let our son decide.

I am unsure what will happen in the actual robotics season, we will have to see. My son is already expressing anxiety over feeling pressured to do the sport, Boy Scouts, and the robotics team. I am not pressuring him. (He has also only attended two Scout meetings since August to the overlapping schedule.) The team allows members to come as they are able but honestly his time is limited to about a half hour before sports then maybe 90 minutes after sports. He could only do a half day on Saturdays (the busiest longest day).

We'll see how this plays out. I am not pushing.

I am learning to let go and let my son take charge of his choices. It's not easy to let go.

Related Post: What I'd Like For My Older Son's High School Education (posted in 2010)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

High School Goals Revisited

From the archives September 2010:

What I'd Like for Older Son's High School Education

I'd forgotten I'd written this. I stumbled upon it via Google while looking for a different post in my archives.

I needed to read this again as I have been viewing life and homeschooling through the micro lens not the macro lens.

I think we have followed this to be honest. The only problem is my son is acting apathetic and is not taking responsibility for his learning. He is pushing back on some things like learning study skills and choosing to NOT study for tests. The problems we are having with our homeschool this fall are issues that reside within my son not things caused by me or outside teachers. My son is at a pivotal point where if he doesn't right himself and get on the right track he jeopardizes graduating from homeschool high school with four years of study, he may need five. Worse, he may wind up not prepared with the pre-requisites for engineering, a career choice he still claims to have as his goal.

Yesterday began our Christmas break. In this time I have some projects to do, one of which is to try to step back and look at things with the big picture view and make final plans for the spring semester. Since we began homeschooling in August we are pretty much done with the first semester of this homeschool year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Male Cat Spraying in Husband's Office Situation

It took a while to find out because believe me, there was no strong odor at first. I thought I had smelled something but my husband didn't smell it and I didn't see anything, and I didn't want to believe it was happening. Then one day I was talking to my husband in his home office, a room he is thrilled to have, when we heard my male cat scratching, as they do in the litter box. We immediately smelled that smell. He was in a small spot in the corner, behind an easy chair.

Before I go on I should share that I am the cat person and my husband is anti-pet-of-every-kind. As a condition of our engagement to be married I required that when we married and began sharing a home that I would have a pet cat. Of all the places and things to damage, this is the second time that my male cat has picked my husband's stuff to wreck. This is a problem because each time something happens my husband threatens that the cats should go, even though the female has always been the innocent one.

Investigating the hidden corner behind the wing back chair, I found numerous spots and sprays, confirmed by sticking my nose right down on the spots. REVOLTING! This happened in October, a few weeks after the time that we discovered that cat had cystitis so he was already having toileting challenges and had developed an aversion to the litter box. Luckily the office actually has doors (most of our new home is open floor plan with no doors) so we shut the room and I began working to try to clean it.

In the process of cleaning the floor I found the source of the problem. The room has wall-to-wall carpet and two dogs had lived in this house. We had moved in about six weeks prior. Moving can be a stressful event for cats, although they didn't suffer when we moved from Connecticut to the rental house in Texas which had brand new wall to wall carpeting.

In this new house, a house where two dogs resided, we purchased the large desk from the previous owner. It is so massive that it would take three and maybe four men to lift it, so it has not been moved. We also purchased a credenza. When we hired the carpet steam cleaning service they cleaned all the rugs but did not move these pieces of furniture. When I put my face right up to the edge where the furniture met the rug I saw dog hair of two different colors. Using a black light I detected spots of dog urine from old accidents. The previous owner also left us many bottles of spot and stain remover and pet urine odor removal products. Now I know why. The male cat, being territorial, had begun spraying in that room.

Once the door was shut 24/7 the cat took to laying outside the door as if to guard it. He also meowed wanting to get into the office whenever anyone was in that room. Last week he snuck in when we accidentially left the door ajar and he sprayed once again.

I wanted to get the dog hair out and set about to vacuumming which did not work. I had to use a cleanser and an old toothbrush to scrub at the edges. That didn't really work either. I am going to have to get some men over here to move the heavy desk and to use the regular vaccuum cleaner on the area. Someday. Soon, hopefully.

At first with the door shut there was no odor but when the weather changed and it got more humid the odor arose. Houston homes are built on a slab with an inch or two layer of sand under the home and then solid clay below. The surface of the ground shifts often in Houston so cracks in foundations and walls occur. Humid and wet conditions under the house, as well as drought's ultra-dry conditions, can cause further damage in the homes. If pets urinate on carpeted floors with unsealed slabs, the urine can enter the foundation and can cause odors to return later! So when heavy rains occured this fall, the wetness and humidity rose and caused the cat and dog urine in the slab to come up through the padding and carpet. GROSS!

I spent six weeks trying to figure out the best way to handle this problem. I tested out the best way to handle this without ripping the carpet out, putting an expensive sealant on the foundation then laying hardwood down.

I began by unpacking all the last boxes looking for my black light which detects pet urine spots that are invisible to the naked eye in daylight or in the dark. I couldn't find it in the end. I then spoke to my brother who verified I gave it to him because I was worried the delicate flourescent bulb may break in the 1800 mile move. It took almost two weeks to travel to all the area pet shops only to find that none had this black light in stock so I finally used for buy one ($15), then waited for delivery.

I then spot washed with a non-ammonia solution, Citra-Solv, ($14) by hand and let it dry. (Cats mistake ammonia for cat urine and if you use it in the home they may spray.) That didn't work. I use the concentrate for mopping ceramic tile, marble tile, and wooden floors as well as to make all purpose surface spray, with success.

I then purchased a special Bissell carpet cleaning machine for pet accidents ($150 on 25% discount) and the Bissel special cleanser for pet accidents ($13 at discount). First I traveled to various local stores but they either didn't carry it or did not have it in stock. I then ordered that from and waited for delivery. That cleaned it well, in the spots where the machine could fit, so I had to hand wash in some areas. Unfortunately, there was still an odor after it was dry.

I then spot cleaned with Resolve ($7) but then there was a mix of horrible chemical fragrance mixed with cat urine. It was so strong I couldn't bear to be in the room, even a week later.

Two days ago, I soaked the cleaned areas with Nature's Miracle ($25 a gallon). You dump a ton of it on the carpet and it works down into the padding. The enzymes break down the pet urine and "eat it" so it is removed. Once gone, there is no urine stink left since the urine is literally gone. I am happy to report that now there is no urine odor. Thank God. The chemical fragrance from the Resolve was also gone.

The next step is to see if we can keep the doors open and trust the male cat to not return to spraying the office. My hope is that the Nature's Miracle will have eradicated the odor enough for the cat to not detect it so that he will not feel he must mark the territory with his urine.

The male cat's cystitis is resolving. He chooses to go outside less and is using the litter boxes more now. He also has resumed drinking water from the drinking bowl (during the cystitis he refused to drink much). He is urinating more so it is not that terrible concentrated urine odor. Changes to our homeschooling have reduced the stress in the home and we have all been working at being more calm and have been successful at hardly ever yelling (something that increased at the time of the move and at the start of the homeschool year). I believe the cats were stressed out from the increased stress in the household.

My two cats are getting along better now, they are friends 99% of the time. I'll tell more about that process at another time in case it can help someone someday.


I used the black light in other areas of the house and found more spots in two bedrooms and the upstairs hallway that never smelled in the room itself. I suspect these are dog urine from the previous owner. When I smell the carpet up close there is an odor so now these have to be taken care of.

I was told by the Kirby rep that the steam cleaning company we used ($400) does not clean pet accidents well at all. I already own a Kirby vacuum cleaner which also does carpet shampooing. I purchased the pet accident carpet shampoo ($36) to use on the area. The Kirby was not working right and on another day schlepped back up to the Kirby store to buy replacement for the broken part ($15).

The project with the bedrooms and hallway is a project I will tackle this week. I will shampoo it with the Kirby. If that doesn't remove the odor I will wash it by hand (with which cleanser I have not decicded, probably the stinky chemical fragrance Resolve). Then I will use the Nature's Miracle on the spots after it dries completely.

This has been a time consuming, trial-and-error, and expensive project which has taken up much too much of my time and energy. Who knew that cleaning up cat pee could be such a challenge?

Disclosure: See my blog's sidebar link. I was not paid to write about any of these products and purchased everything for our family's use.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Some SAT Prep Tips from Stobaugh

While unpacking last week I listened to a cassette recording of a homeschool lecture that I purchased used. The lecture was given by James Stobaugh. It was undated but I believe it was from the 1990s, based on a date mentioned as being the latest edition of a book. Also this was before the College Board added the essay, so the lecture addressed the math and English section only.

Stobaugh said he doesn't believe in gaming the system by learning tips and tricks.

The best way to prepare for the vocabulary section is to read high quality literature and the classics in an unabridged form. He said to write down the vocabulary words you encounter that you don't know onto a flashcard and study them casually yet often to memorize them.

Stobaugh also said to take practice tests by using old tests that the College Board publishes.

The lecture was not fear inducing. Stobaugh said homeschoolers have always scored higher than schooled kids on the SAT so homeschoolers are all doing something right. He wanted homeschoolers to focus on academic learning and that high test scores would naturally follow.

On the other hand since I don't have literature loving kids, and since both of my kids have now been diagnosed with reading learning disabilities, heavy reading of unabridged classics has not been the primary reading material in our home. I found the lecture encouraging yet it still left me wondering how in the world my sons will score on the SAT. I am sick of thinking about that and all the hoops that have to be jumped through, to be frank.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy in Newtown

Hearing of any killing spree on the television news is scary but when it happens in a place that you know and to people with one degree of separation it's another thing entirely.

We moved from Connecticut last year. Where I used to live was next door to Newtown. Newtown is where I grocery shopped. Newtown is where one of our homeschool co-ops is. Newtown is where some of my friends live.

The alleged murderer killed his mother in the house next door to a family we know who we got to know through homeschooling. Twice a week for months we were next door while my husband co-coached a homeschool First Lego League team. We often don't know what goes on behind closed doors. The street where the alleged murderer lived was a lovely quiet neighborhood of newer large homes, not unlike the street I used to live on. Just as with my own street, one just like that one, rarely are people seen out in their yard. I never saw those people when I was at my friend's house. People are either indoors or they are out away from home, people don't hang out in their front yards much in Fairfield County, due to busy-ness, the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes, the deer ticks, or the cold winter weather.

It has been reported in the media that the alleged murderer was removed from public school in grade ten and was homeschooled. I was an active part of that local homeschool community and had never met them; their name was not on any family directory lists for multiple groups I was a member of (I checked!).

One of the victims is the child of our friend's teacher. I don't know the family but the one degree of separation feels too close to home. And I can't help but wonder how my friend and her son feel about someone they know losing a child today, especially since they saw the mother and the child just the night before.

What they are saying on the news is correct when they say that Newtown is a quiet town filled with trees and rolling hills. Sandy Hook is a section of Newtown that is a blend of older homes with middle class people and where some woods and former farmland has been developed into neighborhoods of larger homes where upper middle class and wealthy people live. Many households are dual income families with college educated parents working white collar jobs. Like our family the families value education and enrich their children's lives with many extra-curricular activities. When a child has a medical problem or Autism or Asperger's the parents spend a lot of money and energy trying to get their children the best and correct treatment.

The problem here is not gun control, the problem is the challenge of living in a society with people who suffer from mental illness and other conditions such as Autism spectrum disorders. Our present system of having everyone living among society while being managed by prescription medications and maybe some talk therapy on a regular basis puts everyone at risk for various negative experiences (the family of the person included). The former system of institutionalization was "deinstutionalized" in the 1960s and 1970s. Our present system puts a strain on families whose lives sometimes revolve around caring for the person who fifty years ago would have been institutionalized for life.

Just down the road right in Newtown was a huge state mental institution (Fairfield Hills) which is now vacant. Some of the buildings are being razed and replaced with sports fields, since the town of Newtown purchased the campus after its closure. I am not saying that the old system of institutionalizing mental health patients for life was perfect or ideal but at some point our society needs to dialogue about this new system where everyone is to live integrated is working or failing.

Our mental healthcare system is in sad shape and it seems that no one wants to talk about it. The topic barely gets discussed after tragedies such as this and the recent Batman premiere night movie theatre murders. Instead all that politicians and the media's talking heads want to talk about is gun control.

Why can't people talk about the core issue?


My heart goes out to all the victims and their suffering families. This is a crying shame.

UPDATE 12/15/12: Read this article which tells about the alleged shooter and of his diagnoses. As I said before the main topic of discussion should be mental illness and DMDD.

Related topic: The APA recently voted to include a new psychiatric diagnosis into the next version of the DSM 5: DMDD. This is getting a lot of slams in the media, saying that DMDD is no more than a temper tantrum. Although this op ed piece in Psychology Today is against the DMDD diagnosis and worries of over-medication, it is more credible than other articles I could find on the topic.

Updated 12/31/12 with more facts.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Younger Son's Reading Problem Solved!

It has a name!

He has a diagnosis!

He is not crazy! I am not crazy! This is not his imagination, or mine!

The problem is solved!

In August 2012 when we began the homeschool year my younger son age 12, suddenly had trouble reading. He did not like what he was asked to read for the class we paid to enroll him into so at first I mistook his complaints for exaggeration and complaining about the work load.

His complaints were of "eyes tired", "I can't read that long", "I read and can't remember anything", "getting dizzy", "distracted", "hard to pay attention", and feeling tired, fatigued, and headache. After a few long car trips on weekdays when he tried to do schoolwork in the car he complained of carsickness for the first time. The first two times I thought it was what he ate for lunch but on the third time I realized that it was the reading, and the other two times it must have been the reading also. This was confirmed on a fourth episode when nothing was eaten and he felt nauseated after reading in the car. In the past he never got nausea or headaches while reading in the car. Also he would get so tired even in the morning, after reading, that he would fall asleep with the book in his hand.

So at first I attacked the issue as one of laziness or apathy for the new homeschool co-op we had joined. I thought my son was rebelling against the new program which he disliked and felt was too rigorous. I thought this was a character issue. That did not seem to work.

The next thing I did was put in a system of consequences for schoolwork not getting done. That didn't seem to work much.

Next up I took away some temptations such as taking away the Kindle Fire which he ONLY used for video games.

Meanwhile I was doing accommodations with him by me reading aloud to him so he could keep up with his schoolwork. He also listened to some audio books.

Since none of that was fixing the issue, I sought expert advice.

The first thing I did with an expert was take him to a regular optometrist where I paid $175 for a full exam. He read exactly six upper case letters at near range and was deemed 20/20 and didn't need glasses. His distance vision was a bit off but not enough to justify wearing glasses for nearsightedness. I demanded that it simply could not be since by that point he was unable to read for more than 20 minutes in a day without feeling sick.

The optometrist referred us to what they call a pediatric optometrist. I have not been able to find a behavioral optometrist in this new area where we moved.

The diagnosis after the exam is ACCOMMODATIVE DYSFUNCTION. The optometrist explained that my son was born with the ability to focus well on distances mid and long range but close reading takes his brain much too much strain to focus. The overstraining causes the headache, dizziness, nausea, and tiredness.

The treatment is to give prescription eyeglasses to magnify (I am not sure how these differ from cheap drugstore cheaters to be honest but they are over $400 full retail).

As soon as my son got the glasses he was able to read. He said the text is magnified and is easy to read. He began reading a lot immediately. On day two he sat and read a book for 90 minutes without stopping. He is able to get through all his close work in books, workbooks, and on the computer without a single complaint of being tired, getting a headache, or dizzy.

My son is back to loving reading and learning and comprehending what he reads.

(Now I will have my older son tested by this doctor since he has fewer complaints and used to wear prescription reading glasses until he said they caused him headaches.)

The optometrist said this is the way some people are born. I say this is further proof that not all humans were intended to read up close. If evolution is true humans have had millions of years requiring distance and mid-range vision but were not required to read intensely from a young age or at any age until the last 500 years or so. Five hundred years, or even two or one hundred years is not long on the evolutionary timeline. My point is that not all humans seem to have brains that can naturally do up close reading of small text for nearly all of their waking hours.

Lastly I need to underscore that reading challenges involve a brain process with visual processing. The issues are not just a biological eyeball issue. Typical testing for vision i.e. 20/20, 20/30 results do not test for challenges with reading. Specialized testing is required to figure out visual processing challenges such as the one my younger son has.

Click on the label on this post "eye tracking" to read about my older son's past challenes with CONVERGENCE INSUFFICIENCY aka an EYE TRACKING problem.

Confession: I honestly hate these projects and figuring out problems. I want my kids to be healthy and happy. I do not go looking for problems. However with all I know about older son's challenges and how they were improved I cannot believe I did not seek expert care sooner for my younger son. I have to say that it was surprising to me to find how quickly this problem appeared. He taught himself to read at age 3 and we started and finished phonics at age 4. He has always loved reading.

Medical History:
The only change in his medical history is he turned 12 in May then got Lyme Disease and Strep Throat in June while in Connecticut and Massachusetts on a long summer vacation trip. His reading problems began in August. He barely read anything in June and July since we were busy on vacations, camping, and spending active time outdoors. It is quite possible that my son's issues are neurologically based and a direct result of the new case of Lyme Disease. He also had a terrible case of Lyme and Erlychiosis in June 2006 but had no symptoms of chronic disease or learning struggles from 2006 to 2012.

Further Reading:

Article at American Optometrist Association: Care of the Patient with Accommodative and Vergence Dysfunction

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook Book Review by ChristineMM

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

My Summary Statement: Finally a Decent Make Ahead Cookbook – Tons of Freezing Tips

I ordered this with high hopes and was not disappointed. I had read two cookbooks of this type in the past which were filled with disgusting (mostly casserole) dishes that our family never ate. Fisher's cookbook is more in line with the way my family eats.

There are two main reasons you would want to cook in this manner. The first is to be frugal, by purchasing meats or main ingredients in bulk when they are on sale, or to purchase in large quantities from a warehouse club store. The second reason is to just have fast meals ready to go at dinner time.

For the buy in bulk shopper, Fisher has provided useful lists of multiple recipes to make with just beef, for example. The list includes the entire shopping list! Then she tells you what to do to prep all the dishes. This is brilliant and worth the price of the book.

As I alluded to, this is not a book of just casseroles. I love the chicken dishes that you make a marinade and add it to a zip top freezer bag and freeze it that way. Then you defrost 1-2 days in the fridge where it marinates, and then you grill it. This sounds simple but believe me it is easier to make up a bunch of these marinades on one day with chicken bought at sale prices then just take it out of the freezer a day ahead to have tomorrow's dinner ready to grill. Add a salad and a vegetable and starch and you are done. That is the way my family eats and I appreciate these recipes.

There are recipes for pasta sauces and soups. There are mix recipes such as to make mixes yourself from scratch. Other baked goods are baked then frozen. There is a chapter on desserts. There is a chapter on meatless dishes.

The book is filled with tips about proper wrapping so the foods are preserved well in the freezer and many cooking, grilling, and baking tips that apply to these recipes and in general.

I am so grateful for a book of make ahead and freeze recipes that our family will actually eat.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

First Girlfriend

As I said the other day this blog is supposed to be about me and my parenting and homeschooling journey, not just a report on my kid's lives or social lives.

But any telling of this parenting journey would be incomplete if I didn't say it happened: my older son is dating. I am not bragging. It's a new chapter, that's all. New things for me to ponder over and to worry about.

I can't recall if it was the spring or summer that my son said, after seeing how his friends' time is completely taken over by their girlfriends. He said, "I don't have time for a girlfriend. I'm busy doing things I want to do. I have no desire for a girlfriend."

Well, as of two weeks ago, it's official. It started with talking at sport practice. Then it was Homecoming as friends only. Then there were a few group get-togethers. Then last week, the first alone date.

Much to my son's horror, and as a condition to agreeing that he could go on this first date, my husband and I did a review of the birds and the bees and included a values talk about our family's views on respecting females, respecting boundaries, so forth and so on. With this son, it was something like a scene in a movie with the eye roll, the sighs, the smirk, the response that "I know all this already, geez". Then we ended by telling him if she's his girlfriend he has to pay for her movie ticket and any food or drink they eat together.

I need to keep things private so I shouldn't say more.

This is yet another new chapter in this journey of parenting.

I will say that it's weird to have a fifteen year old dating where Mom and Dad have to do the drop off and pick up's. I would by lying if I said I resent my Saturday nights having to revolve around being available for pick up time.

Also my son had better find a way to earn some money since Christmas is coming and you know that all good boyfriends must buy their girl a gift...

Jarrow Methyl B-12 5000 mcg Supplement Product Review by ChristineMM

Jarrow Formulas Methylcobalamin (Methyl B12), 5000mcg, 60 Lozenges

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

Summary Statement: Use One Lozenge a Day, Is Said to Be a Superior Form of B-12, Tastes Fine

One lozenge delivers 5000 mcg of Vitamin B12. As with all lozenges it has a flavor, the ingredients list “cherry flavor” and as with all B vitamin lozenges (or lozenges) we taste some “bite” from the actual vitamin. This was palatable to me, its fine.

With this formula Jarrow has created a product free of wheat, gluten, soybeans, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts.

The label states this is suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Jarrow states on the label that Methyl B-12 is better absorbed than other types of B12 on the market e.g. cyanocobalamin and is retained better.

At one lozenge per day and 60 in the bottle this product supplies two month’s worth of supplements for one person.

I rate this product 5 stars = I Love It.

Disclosure: I received one bottle of this supplement for the purpose of doing a review on the website. I did not receive payment for this and was under no obligation to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When Kids Ask About Sex Terms

My twelve year old has been asking questions about the meaning of words and phrases he is hearing other kids say. I cringe when I hear some of these and wish I did not have to have these discussions. However the kid has a right to know the true meaning, even if he loses innocence bit by bit through this "enlightenment". I have pondered over fibbing or avoiding the quesion but to what end? So he can repeat them when he doesn't get the meaning? So kids can laugh when he is ignorant of the meaning while they snicker and use that talk around him?

Sometimes the answers lead to in-depth sexual education questions. I answer those truthfully too. I can't believe some of the questions, but they are things he is honestly curious about and has a right to know the accurate answer to.

I can't recall if I ever blogged this but last year after hearing some horrifying information said by a twelve year old I told my son to please always come to me with the questions because I want him to know the real information. He said that he knows he can, and he knows that I tell the truth, and he knows that a lot of what kids talk about is just plain wrong incorrect (is what he meant).

Here are two recent words that I'm not too embarrassed to share, just to give some insight: tranny and orgasm.

and some new slang term I'd never heard of that (when I looked it up on Google) referenced a specific type of action that some men performs while masturbating

One more thing.

My younger son frequently asks these questions in public places such as in an elevator or in the grocery store aisle. Since he doesn't know the word meaning he has no way to know that it's a topic not usually discussed in mixed company in public places. My older son has never wanted to talk about sex. It's a personality thing, I think.

Parenting is a verb and it's not always easy. These talks are spur of the moment and I have to think on my feet sometimes. I am happy that we have been able to keep the lines of communication open.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best to Seek Expert Advice for Our Children

I want to encourage parents to seek an expert for consult, advice, or testing if you feel in your gut that something bigger may be happening, combined with tangible facts and observations you see.

(This also applies to yourself and adults in your life but my main concern
is for children who have no choice but to rely on their parents for care.)

It can only hurt the pocketbook sometimes to make such a consult. There are usually no worse negative consequences, especially if you find out the problem is not the worst that it could have been. Yet the positive benefits from finding that help or a full resolution to struggles or challenges is worth that financial gamble if some diagnosis is made.

Sometimes people do not want to accept that maybe there is a real problem. They do not want to be the parent of a child with a learning disability. Or a mental illness. or that teen angst is actually clinical depression. Or that a food allergy is causing a mood or behavior problem, because the idea that cutting out wheat is too overwhelming. So they avoid validation and instead live with daily struggles. How nonsensical!

Maybe the parent is ignorant about the various diagnoses? I'd like to think that is he case but sadly sometimes ego is the real issue!

The thing is once a diagnosis is that it can open a door to treatments or strategies that relieve the situation or fix it.

So is it not best to seek a consult for advice?

I think the first step to helping our kids is admitting we don't know everything and that we are not experts in everything. Others have special training and expertise.

Homeschooling parents are used to DIY and self-education but we must keep, our egos in check and admit we don't know it all.

To be a responsible parent and to not (unintentionally) neglect the kids we love so much we should seriously consider seeking an expert's opinion to discover or rule out the diagnosis.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Verso Prologue Case Cover for Kindle Fire Product Review by ChristineMM

Verso Prologue Case Cover for Kindle Fire, Tan

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

Summary Statement: Hard Case with Beautiful Design, Doesn’t Lay Flat, Doesn’t Prop Up

This VERSO PROLOGUE cover for Kindle Fire and “most 7 inch tablets” is made of “Italian fabric” that seems like a vinyl product to me. It is hand-distressed, textured, and tan so it looks like an antique leather case (but it is not leather). It is embossed with gold as some fancy leather bound books are made.

The best thing about this case is its classy elegant look.

My biggest complaint is that it does not lie flat when the cover is closed. The binding edge of the case is not thick enough to allow it to lie flat. The corners are at perhaps a 20 degree angle (without anything in the pocket) and it can catch on corners when moving it around, placing it in a tote bag or pocketbook. This then opens the case and puts the screen at risk to get scratched. If you want a case to keep the device closed firmly to protect it while moving it around, look for a different product to purchase.

There is a slim pocket on the left side of the cover. If you use this, the cover pops up even higher.

The inside of the cover is micro suede and it is soft so nothing scratches the screen.

The device attaches with four thin strips of strong elasticized cloth. I worried that it looked flimsy but it is a strong hold.

This case is not designed to stand up to read or view in a hands-free mode.

If all you want is a gorgeous looking case that looks like an antique book, you may be happy with this.

I rate these product 3 stars = It’s Okay because it does not lie flat when closed which puts the device at risk for getting scratched. Although it’s a lovely design, since it is not fully protective I can’t rate it higher than a 3.

What Are Your Needs?

When choosing a case for your Kindle FIRE what you need to do is figure out your needs then find a case that suits your desire. There are all kinds of cases for all different people. Do you want some padding (neoprene padding) or do you like a hard unpadded design? Do you want a case that simply opens (like a book) or one that has a fastener you have to manually move to close it securely? Do you want a case that protects from scratches only or one that will allow the device to stand up hands-free such as is convenient for watching movies and television shows? Do you want a case for travel and carrying around and want to use the device without it being in a case or do you want to use it with the case on?

I received one unit of this product for the purpose of writing a review for's website. I did not get paid to write this nor was I under any obligation to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

BUILT Kindle FIRE Slim Folio Case Product Review by ChristineMM

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

My Summary Statement:
Whimsical Design, Neoprene Padding, Stands in Horizontal Position on a Hard Surface

General Info:

This Kindle Fire case by BUILT is padded neoprene which is kept in the closed position with a fabric elastic band. Cloth elasticized tabs at each corner securely and safely fasten the Kindle Fire to this cover, it’s a tight fit. For people who like a padded neoprene cover this is great.

The edge of the cover has “anti-slip” pads made of silicone. This allows you to stand the Fire up on a table surface for hands-free viewing in the HORIZONTAL position only. This does not stand up well on fabric surfaces such as on your lap or while sitting in bed using a blanketed surface, it’s not too stable for that use.

Design: Robot Uprising

Robot Uprising is an edgy cartoon rendering of smiling robots. The background is white and the design is in black, lime green, orange and turquoise blue. I found the design whimsical. My fifteen year old son rejected this as uncool (I guess he is growing up as he’s a robotics teen) but my twelve year son old loved it. I think it’s fun, I’m a mother of sons who loved robots and who liked hand drawn art and whimsy.

This product is offered in many different graphic design patterns.

What Are Your Needs?

When choosing a case for your Kindle FIRE what you need to do is figure out your needs then find a case that suits your desire. There are all kinds of cases for all different people. Do you want some padding (neoprene padding) or do you like a hard unpadded design? Do you want a case that simply opens (like a book) or one that has a fastener you have to manually move to close it securely? Do you want a case that protects from scratches only or one that will allow the device to stand up hands-free such as is convenient for watching movies and television shows? Do you want a case for travel and carrying around and want to use the device without it being in a case or do you want to use it with the case on?

You decide what you need, then look for the case that fits the bill. I hope this review will clearly indicate what this product offers and does not supply.

I rate this product 5 stars = I Love It because it is well constructed and performs well for the uses that the manufacturer marketed it to provide.

I received one unit of this product for the purpose of writing a review for's website. I did not get paid to write this nor was I under any obligation to blog it. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Tips for Selecting an eReader Cover

What Are Your Needs?

When choosing a case for your Kindle FIRE or iPad or any tablet device, what you need to do is figure out your needs then find a case that suits your desire.

There are all kinds of cases for all different people.

Do you want some padding (neoprene padding) or do you like a hard unpadded design? Do you want a case that simply opens (like a book) or one that has a fastener you have to manually move to close it securely?

Do you want a case that protects from scratches only or one that will allow the device to stand up hands-free such as is convenient for watching movies and television shows?

Do you want a case for travel and carrying around and want to use the device without it being in a case or do you want to use it with the case on?

If using an iPad do you want a magnetized cover that will automatically put the device on sleep mode when you close the cover? Those are more expensive and are usually around $50. I purchased an inexpensive generic cover new on eBay but the magnet doesn't work well. Sometimes you do have to spend a fair amount or risk having to buy a cheap one that doesn't work the first time then resort to buying a better cover in the end anyway.

You decide what you need, then look for the case that fits the bill.

There are so many on the market, it can be hard to pick which you want. I advise to read customer reviews on to see if the product delivers on their marketing promises or if it is nonfunctional.