Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Having Fun with Artist Trading Cards

On our last week of summer, we are having fun and relaxing.

Last week I joined an artist trading card (ATC) swap list. I was interested in hosting a swap so I could pick the topic. However, the group rules are that a member must participate in two swaps before being the host of a swap. So I browsed the open swaps and found a lot to choose from. I signed up to participate in these swaps:

math swap: must feature a number on the ATC
train swap: must feature a locomotive or train image on the ATC
produce swap: must feature fruit or vegetable image(s) on the ATC

A few days ago, I went through my unread magazine pile and picked out a bunch of magazines to browse through. Over the last few days I have been browsing through them and removing any pages or portions of a page that interested me. Today I created the six cards required for the math swap.

My younger son joined in and created his first ATC. He started a second card, then got bored and abandoned the project.

My husband thinks that this is a weird endeavor. He thinks my ATCs are strange and he “doesn’t get it”. He also is wary of anything that uses what he calls junk. What he doesn’t know is that in the art world these paper scraps have an official term “ephemera”.

I have been cutting up food boxes as we finish eating the food that is within them, to use as my base cards. My husband feels this recycling of junk is suspicious. I also use new tag board (card stock) paper (which I bet he prefers).

I was surprised to discover that many people are selling what my husband calls junk paper over the internet. They are selling pages ripped out of vintage magazines, as well as pages ripped out of (book) atlases (maps) and other book’s pages such as pages from old dictionaries and encyclopedia’s.

On my hunch that anything and everything is sold on eBay, I went over to see, and sure enough, people are selling “ephemera” on eBay.

Some other things that are called ephemera are wrapping paper, greeting cards, junk mail, advertisements, ticket stubs, train schedules, old cancelled checks and even old handwritten letters or lists. One website was selling 50 sheets for $20.

Ephemera is used not only in ATC collage but in larger collages/works of art as well.

Lastly, some collage making artists are using 3-D objects, and these items are being sold on the internet and on eBay as well. Examples: doll body parts, bottle caps, matchbooks, buttons, lace, fabric and rick-rack.

Another odd thing I saw being sold was photocopied sheets of antique photographs. One person had purchased antique photos, classified them by type (children, women, etc.), copied them (hey, no copyright infringement to hold this person back), then is selling them. Actually the images are scanned and she is printing the sheets from her computer to her home computer printer, for $4.50 per sheet! I am amazed and wonder if anyone really is buying these. I have purchased some antique photos that interested me but never thought that I could make money off of them!

I suddenly realize that the paper and greeting cards I own, which are stored in my basement, could be resold on the internet to make money. Wow. The question is, will anyone actually buy it?

Also all the books that are given away free at the end of library sales could be taken apart and sold as ephemera (rather than being thrown in the trash).

Perhaps I should start a little cottage industry selling ephemera to try and earn some income for our family?

My Thoughts & Some Quotes from: “The Over-Scheduled Child”: Introduction & Our Fall Plans

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the eighteen page introduction to “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap” by Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise.

Our book addresses a way of life that is undermining contemporary family life, not only here in the United States, but in many other countries. Good, involved parenting has turned into a relentless to-do list. (page xvi)

YES! It seems every mother I know has a never-ending to-do list! And the family schedules are dominated by child-centered activities. Families whose children attend school revolve their life around the school calendar, primarily, and around extra-curricular activities, secondarily. Homeschooling families either center their lives around the homeschooling schedule or around the sports, classes, or whatever scheduled activities the family participates in.

The media gives a nod to the need for down time, “letting kids be kids”, but the agglomeration of all the articles and news reports we read and hear pressure us in the opposite direction. Barraged with messages from experts who tell us how to raise our children right, we well-meaning mothers and fathers end up worrying about matters big and small, striving to micro-manage every detail of our kids’ lives, sometimes starting before birth. (page xvi-xvii)


It is true that the bombardment starts with pregnancy, or possibly even with conception. Certainly those going through infertility can attest to the amount of information and rules that they already restrict their lives.

We’ve heard from many parents who tried to clear their calendars, and were made to feel selfish by families whose kid managed, somehow, to juggle several sports, flute lessons, and advanced French classes in one season. Are they better parents than us? Will their children have an advantage over ours, now and in the future? (page xvii)

This is what I am going through right now…pressure from friends to sign up for more activities, and comments that my children will somehow suffer if they don’t more than we are already doing.

This means we must ask ourselves some difficult questions. To succeed in life, does every child really need the level of intense involvement that has come to characterize family life in America today? Does unquestioning acceptance of this fast-track lifestyle indicate a bankruptcy of common sense? Are all American families so far gone in this madness that, in our blindness, we simply see no alternative? Or is there, perhaps, a better, easier, more balanced and rewarding way for families to live?

We believe there can be. By learning to recognize hyper-parenting for what it is and starting to apply the brakes to our insanely fast-moving lives, we will not only immediately improve the quality of daily life for our families, but we also will improve the odds for happiness in the future. In the meantime we can probably save time and money as well by becoming both intelligent consumers of all the kiddy stuff gypped our way and educated assessors of advice and edicts we can’t help but absorb as we move around in our media-drenched world. And our kids may get back their childhood, a gift most of them would be extremely grateful for. (pages xxxi-xxxii)


As I write this I have finalized our schedule for the fall. I think this is enough for extra-curricular activities:

1. Cub Scouts, one meeting per week, for older son, younger son attends and participates (unofficially, as BSA allows) as well and I am a volunteer Leader.

2. Book discussion class for older son, meets weekly. Younger son and I will spend time together in the library while the class takes place.

3. World History co-op, twice monthly, both children will participate, with emphasis on the older child, younger child will participate only if he wants to join in with the older children.

4. Chess Club for homeschoolers, meets once per month. Mainly a social event, to see other friends and to practice chess skills, so I guess this counts a thinking skills, mathematical type enrichment experience. Right now I believe both children will participate, but if my younger son doesn’t want to, he will join other younger children for free play socialization time in the room next door.

5. Music Appreciation Class, meets weekly, both children will participate in this paid class taught by professional music teachers. I am happy that this class is for mixed ages which just happens to be the correct ages for my two children to do this together. This is a subject I felt I have not spent adequate time teaching in our homeschooling, so it fills a gap.

As I blogged about last spring, I feel that more physical exercise is gained through bike riding than participation in Little League baseball. Bike riding also includes our whole family, rather than forcing some of us to be spectators. We already own bikes, so bike riding doesn't cost us anything. Lastly, bike riding can be done when we want, not when the team schedule dictates. I plan to have both children riding their bikes for fitness. I will either walk briskly, jog, or ride my own bike for exercise during this time as well. So neither child will participate in “fall ball” with Little League. I also am passing on soccer as my older son hates it, my younger does like it, but I want to save money and have a less clogged schedule.

I really am going to set my sights on putting academics as a high priority this year and hope we get a smooth running routine in place to make sure that is accomplished. I want a harmonious home first and foremost. I want academic goals accomplished. I am going to try very hard to see that the "extra's" don't get in the way of those two goals!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Started Reading "The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding The Hyper-Parenting Trap"

Over three years after I purchased it, I am finally reading the book, "The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding The Hyper-Parenting Trap" by Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise.

From the time my children were babies I didn't believe in over-scheduling. I bought the book for information to back up the decisions that I had already made, but had not felt a need to actually read it. For some odd reason, just owning the book and reading the title as I passed by my bookshelf gave me reassurance. Now that my children are both elementary-school aged and now that I am more involved in my local community, I see all around me, children who are over-scheduled. I have also been talking to local parents (not just like minded homeschoolers) who admit that their children are all very busy, and they complain of the ramifications to the whole family, but most are not making any changes. Some people have also made comments to me to indicate that intentionally slowing down will negatively affect the outcome of who my children will become, that I am compromising or preventing my children's success quotient in life.

So I feel I need to read this now.

Inspired by one of my blog readers, Dawne Marie, I am going to quote a few of my passages from each chapter. I am already in chapter three and am finding the book an easy, quick read. It is not boring nor is it anxiety-producing, even though I see myself in this book.

Before I start doing that, here are some quotes from The Over-Scheduled Child website. This page has a wonderful speech given by Dr. Rosenfeld.
We try so hard to be good parents, but our job is being made much more difficult because an over-scheduled child rearing style is being touted as the best to raise children. Following this over-scheduled lifestyle actually may be damaging our marriages, getting unhappy children diagnosed as learning disabled, ADD, bipolar, and depressed, and causing adolescents to be involved with drugs, alcohol, and premature sex (Luthar and Becker).

This hyperparenting program never asks what makes a person good or worthwhile; it aims to create "successful children," defined by a simple measure -- how highly ranked is the college he or she goes to. This makes the path to successful parenting simple: Enrichment activities should be started early --preferably prenatally (play Mozart to you womb) —and combined with regular practice, tenacity, and devotion. Result: Your child will be a "winner" who gets into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, U of C, Duke, UVA, Cornell, and Princeton. Any child deprived of these activities will – plainly put – be a loser, and his or her parents will have no one to blame but themselves!


Later, having children do too many sports activities is addressed. Given that in my town, parents enroll their children in paid sports at age three in my community, and in multiple sports at age four, this passage gives me reason to pause.
Hobbies are great; athletics can make important contributions to children’s health, self-protective instincts, and self-esteem. But today, everything in sports is subjected to scrutiny and judgment. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned parents about the dangers of girls competing in demanding, incredibly competitive sports. They strongly advised that children play multiple sports and specialize in one, if they must, only after puberty.

Is anyone listening? As an example, take elite gymnastics. Should we be concerned that 90% of competitive female gymnasts get their first period a year or two late? A 1996 study reported disordered eating (disorders) in 100% of elite female gymnasts and osteoporosis in more than half. Many do lifelong damage to their joints and spinal columns. Are they examples for our daughters to follow?

Although we put our children into protective head and body gear, orthopedic surgeons recently reported a worrisome increase in recreation-linked injuries among 5-14 year olds. They debated whether these kids had 2.2 million bone fractures, dislocations, and muscle injuries last year, or 3.5 million. Should we accept this as simply the price of "going for the gold?"


I know what my friends are saying as they read this, "But my child LIKES to participate in (multiple) sports! I didn't push them to it!". Well, now that you know some of the ramifications, let's remember who signed them up and who paid for them!

I found this interesting:
In my clinical experience, parents who really know who their child is and have a visceral faith that the child will eventually find a good place in life, maximize the odds of that happening. Parents who say, through actions and gestures, that they are very nervous about their children’s futures – and therefore have to improve them incessantly -- diminish the odds. They also may create a self-fulfilling prophecy: After all, the child resents the parents’ lack of faith -- and anxiety usually brings out the worst in everyone! In making parents nervous, hyper-parenting makes them more likely to scrutinize their children anxiously, thereby promoting a bad outcome.


About the ramifications to the parents on living an over-scheduled life:
Parents deserve a life too! Every kid I’ve known whose parents were pleased with their lives and marriage did far better.


On the value of play:
Many of us devalue true play, which needs no purpose beyond the pleasure of being. Or we justify it as a "child’s work," and therefore, permissible. Diminishing play’s importance damages imagination and creativity. Today’s children are so tightly scheduled that many have never invented a backyard game or had time to just hang out with friends. No one has ever rewarded the joy they found in discovering and examining. When not racing, our kids have no idea of what to do and become bored. So Mom and Dad end up acting like cruise ship activities directors; isn’t being a parent a higher calling than that?


And if our child is bored, it is not child abuse!
Boredom is not necessarily bad. It can stimulate kids to think, create, and hear the soft murmurings of their inner voice, the one that makes them write this unusual story or draw that unique picture. America’s economic success is based on people who tinkered and followed their inner passions – people like David Packard, Bill Gates, and of course, Steven Spielberg. Over-scheduling discourages that. Kids need some solitude, time to be alone, to rehearse in their minds, to relax and veg out, something that video games actually do for many boys. It may be their one "Zen" experience where they actually feel centered.


Character is very important. And look at what Dr. Rosenfeld says about the impact of over-scheduling on the child's character development:
In treating accomplishments and income as the true measure of a person, we abrogate a fundamental responsibility, teaching children character.


I hope that caught your attention!

It is like discipline, which comes from the word "disciple." Christ’s disciples followed him because they wanted to emulate the way of life he personified. Our kids emulate us in the same way. Do we give back the dollar of extra change the waitress mistakenly gave us, even if no one noticed? Do we apologize for yelling? Do we chide our own dad for hitting our misbehaving daughter, or do we ask her to forgive and forget, because right or wrong, we must respect our elders? Is life about more than money? If we had to choose between our child being a good person with a good family life, or a Yale grad, which would we choose?

If all we do is work constantly and expect everyone else to do the same, our children may conclude that we do not consider joy integral to a good life. Yet an old Jewish tradition holds that in the afterlife, we will have to answer to God for every pleasure He permitted us in which we did not partake.

As we parents race from activity to activity, are we promoting emotional health and basic decency? If there is only one right way to succeed, the Ivy way, where do cooperation, generosity, and kindness fit in? Furthermore, some grown-ups run fast so they don’t have to ponder what they are doing with their lives. Other parents look to children to give meaning to their existence. But living vicariously through kids is too heavy a load for them to bear.


The talk concludes with these wonderful statements:
To stimulate warm relationships with children – the ones we all need – parents need to be with them with no goal in mind beyond the pleasure of spending time together. On walks, shooting hoops, playing Monopoly, whatever! What our children really need is us. The greatest gift we can give themis the deep, inner conviction that they don’t have to perform for us to love and cherish them. "No need for clever conversation. I love you just the way you are." The problem is both local and national. We need to reflect on whether this overscheduled lifestyle is good for us or for our children, which is why I have established National Family Night (www.nationalfamilynight.org) and hope you will consider starting a branch here.

We desperately need to regain balance as families. Even in this age of anxiety, we wake up in safe neighborhoods, have a superb educational system, particularly here at Parker, and have food, shelter, and an opportunity for meaningful relationships and lives. So despite the current threats, or maybe because of them, we ought to start appreciating our own, and our children's, enormous good fortune.


I can't wait to read more of the book!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What I Am Up To This Week

I will be posting sporadically over the next week as I enjoy the last week of our summer break with my family.

Right now I am watching the progress of Hurricane Katrina. I am worried about New Orleans. I have visted NOLA four times with my family and love it there. We love it so much we cook cajun and creole, and I even decorate my kitchen with some NOLA decorations. Due to the very flat nature of NOLA and of its' proximity to the Mississippi River, the possibilies for destruction are horrendous. I also wonder how the aquarium creatures will ride out the storm? If the building is damaged, will the parrots fly away to live in the wild or will the Mississippi River have some new aquatic species introduced to it? I worry about the very old buildings and the possible ramifications of the destruction of these landmarks.

Also if you are enjoying my blog perhaps you will drop me a positive comment. I have received one negative email, one half good/half bad email, and one positive email in the last 10 days. I think I will share the reader's comments with you via a blog post, keeping their identity private. I may do that after Labor Day.

I hope everyone is enjoying the last of summer and has a nice Labor Day weekend.

We plan to resume homeschooling after Labor Day. And for the record I didn't plan out our homeschooling year yet. It may be a "making it up as we go along" year.

Awesome Blog: Guilt-Free Homeschooling

I love this blog, called Guilt-Free Homeschooling. It has lots of entries and you could spend hours reading it. Perhaps you will want to check this out!

A Few Thoughts on the Book: “Gossip Girl”

Well, I read book #1 of the “Gossip Girl” series by Cecily von Ziegesar. This is one of the books that I heard of from reading negative reports about books that fall into the “racy” category of juvenile literature. My mind is reeling from reading the book and I am a bit in shock. My brain will have to process this bit in order to be able to write about it enough to write a book review.

All I will say for now is that while this may fall into the category of shallow, fast summer reading for adults, I don’t think it should be used that way, although I just read a book review online which suggests that adult readers will find this series entertaining. If adults want books that include drinking alcohol, getting drunk, using illegal drugs, shallow relationships and casual sex, they can get that in adult books where the characters are adult-aged. I don’t support or feel it is a good idea for adults to get their entertainment thrills by reading about these goings-on when the characters are in 8th-11th grade ages, meaning aged 13-17. Although the characters in the book are 16 and 17 (entering 11th grade), the story fills in the background which goes back to their first time getting drunk in 8th grade and including sexual promiscuity while drinking and drunk at an adult-free party. Another scary thing about the book is the promotion of materialistic things as status symbols (i.e. designer clothing), classism, and the fact that alcohol consumption and sexual encounters by these preteens and teens is not only allowed by their parents, but is pushed.

A few other things portrayed in a positive light are cheating in school, lying, friends being intentionally mean to their (supposed) friends, and gossiping. Driving a car below the legal age is also there but compared to everything else that seems nothing to complain about, but it is just one more way the book pushes illegal activity as not only acceptable but fun and entertaining. There is a date rape. Abortion is also mentioned as a speculation, as is having a baby out of wedlock and putting it up for adoption, both guesses as to the outcome of a gossip item, an event of group sex, of a high school sophomore with several high school boys.

I felt that the story in and of itself didn’t wrap up well as a story, it is apparent that at least one sequel was planned, to continue the story.

I plan to do a more well-thought out review in the near future…

The book is twaddle, but it is harmful twaddle, in my opinion. I shudder to think of what this is teaching the preteens and teens who read it. I also worry that younger children will find this on the shelves of their local library and/or public school’s library.

I also wonder “how did we get to a place where publishing this type of book is acceptable”?

Is a solution to protect children or to inform parents, that libraries should have a section for “X” rated books—meant for adult or CHILDREN? Or for books who condone illegal activity among minors? This book covers sex below the age of consent, illegal drug use, cigarette use below the legal limit, and alcohol consumption below the legal age.

My other thoughts are that this is published by Little, Brown which is owned by Simon & Shuster. Should we be writing the publisher with our negative thoughts about this book series?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Sources of Books for Five in a Row Unit Studies

Here are some ideas for ways to buy books for the Five in a Row (FIAR) unit studies.

FIAR manuals

I have purchased most of my manuals at a discount from Rainbow Resource Center. I have never been able to find them in local bookstores, including Borders and Barnes and Noble. I see them in many homeschooling supply catalogs for full price. I also have seen them on eBay but often for just below full price (for a new book) and when shipping was added, it makes the purchase of the used book more expensive than buying new from other sources. Check to see if Amazon sells them and how your purchase can qualify for free shipping.

Picture books to use with FIAR:

New books that are in-print:

I have wasted a lot of time and energy trying to buy FIAR picture books at local bookstores, ranging from independent booksellers to Borders and Barnes and Noble. I have only been able to find a few of the very popular titles in the BFIAR book such as “Goodnight Moon” and “The Carrot Seed”. Therefore, I have turned to either the internet or local library sales as my main sources. Between driving time, gasoline, and searching the shelves at the store, it was all a waste of time. Going on the internet while at home, easily clicking to buy a book is worth the few days’ wait for it to arrive on my doorstep. I also avoid paying state sales tax this way. Some local bookstores do give a teacher discount card to homeschooling parents, but not all do, and I find that online booksellers often discount the same or more than using the educator discount cards.

If you are not in a hurry, want deep discounts, and like to shop library sales, I advise to attend library sales, Booksalefinder.com can help you locate sales in your area. Take a list of FIAR titles that you want and that you already own with you when you go. See the FIAR site for the book lists, you can “copy” and “paste” them inside of your computer’s word processing program to compile a quick list. Then, amend your list by noting which you own already. To reduce the number of pages, reduce the font size to as small as tolerable. I have found both in-print and out-of-print titles at library sales for as little as 25 cents as for as “much” as $1.00.

Check Rainbow Resource Center (RRC). I have found books at RRC which are not sold on Amazon. Oddly, RRC also discounts some of the books that Amazon does not discount.

Check The Book Peddler, a homeschool supply company. They carry many FIAR titles at a discount. I have purchased from their vendor booth at large homeschooling conferences. They also have an internet site and a paper catalog.

Check Amazon.com. I have relied on Amazon for some purchases of new books at a discount, and for some that I could not find anywhere else, such as “The Duchess Bakes a Cake”. Usually when buying over $25 worth of books, shipping is free. It only takes the purchase of a couple of hardback books to bring the purchase price above $25.

Make an Amazon wish list and see if friends and relatives will buy from that wish list, for holiday gifts for your children. Some of our relatives ask me to buy gifts for my children; they tell me the amount they want to spend. I then buy FIAR books with the money.

Used books, in print or out of print:

Check eBay, but beware. It seems that many FIAR users are using EBay as the auctions can go for quite high prices. Often sellers bundle FIAR books into “lots”, a term that means a bundle of more than one book. Buying lots may be helpful for the very new person to FIAR. But it doesn’t take long to see duplicates in the lots when compared with what you already own. It can be a hard decision to buy a lot of six books if you only really need one of the books. Who wants to end up with all those duplicates, and is it worth the price?

Some of the more rare titles are going for ridiculous prices on EBay, such as $140 for “The Giraffe that Walked to Paris”. One must seriously weigh the pros and cons of such a purchase. Before spending over the original list price for a used, out of print book, I would advise borrowing a copy of it from your local library or by using interlibrary loan. Make your own evaluation after previewing the book about whether you really need to own it. Or why not use the borrowed book for your FIAR study and be done with it? If you can't get the book through interlibrary loan perhaps you could skip that unit or find another book with similar topics.

It is also alright to skip some of the books in the FIAR manual. The author does not stress that every single book must be “rowed” (a term meaning used for a FIAR unit study).

The more studies I do with single books in the FIAR method, the more books I find that are not in the FIAR manuals which SHOULD be rowed. What I am trying to say is that once you are accustomed to the style and manner of rowing a book a la FIAR, there remains a wealth of opportunities for your family to use OTHER books for unit studies. I find some wonderful books at the library. Some are so great that I decide to purchase one. Other wonderful books are found at library sales, these are either out of print or older books, usually, or they may even be books that are newer than the FIAR manuals themselves.

I have received for free, purchased, and resold or given away FIAR books from/to local homeschoolers. There are a handful of us who are using FIAR and we are always on the lookout for FIAR books for each other. I usually intentionally buy duplicates of FIAR books, especially the more rare books, if I see them at library sales for $1 or less, and resell them to my friends, for what I paid for them. The goal is not to make money but to pick up a great bargain for a friend who needs that book. Make some connections in your local community.

I would advise checking alibris.com or bookfinder or addall to find used copies of books that you are looking for. This would be most helpful if you are looking for a rare or out of print book. Check the used book listing on Amazon and half.com.

There are a bunch of Yahoo Groups! for people/homeschoolers to use to resell books that they are finished using. Prices on the books range from dirt cheap to ridiculously high. I would advise you to find one to three of these groups to join to watch for the books you need. The faster your reply is, the more likely you are to be the lucky buyer of the book(s). I don’t know if there is a Group specifically for FIAR reselling. I do know that FIAR books commonly appear on these Groups:

Bookroom-FS
CMCurricula

There are some people, some of which are homeschoolers, who run small businesses of reselling books via the internet. Some of these sellers actually categorize their books with a FIAR category, making shopping easy for you. Check the list of book sellers on Valerie’s Living Books website for a wonderful, long list of homeschoolers who are book resellers.

Another bookseller that I can think of off the top of my head with a FIAR category is Great Lakes Books.

I hope you have some ideas of where you can track down new FIAR books at a discount, used books at deep discounts and where to find those rare, out-of-print treasures. Good luck with bookhunting!

Librarian Says Teen Magazines Inform Girls of Racy Chapter Books

While at my town’s library yesterday, I checked their catalogue to see if they had any of the racy books that I have been reading about and blogging about. The only ones I found were some of the “Gossip Girls” series. I decided to check the first book out and to read it for myself to see what it is really like.

The librarian, who knows I have two young boys and that it was not for them, asked me if I would share my opinion with her after I read it. She stated that more and more girls are asking the librarians about the racy books. They want to read them, but most are not in the library’s collection.

The librarian commented that the girls are learning of the racy books by reading magazines for teenaged girls. She said they learn of them and then come to the library looking to borrow the book.

She shared the method she uses with her children, one of whom is 13. They can only read books whose characters are the same age as her. She felt this has worked well in the past. I then shared that some of the characters in Rainbow Party were young. This makes the issue even more complicated, frustrating, and disturbing!

This librarian is concerned, as I am, of inappropriate, detailed sexual content of these books being published as juvenile literature. She is thinking about starting some kind of community rating system, which could be used as a tool by the parents. She mentioned the challenge that everyone seems to be talking to me about lately, that is how a parent is supposed to know what the content of the books is, and how previewing the book is not always possible. I am not sure what her ideas are but the general idea is appealing. I mentioned that right now, parents could read the Amazon customer reviews to see if they mention certain topics. I, however, agree that there is not always a source to pinpoint the issues. For example, it would be nice to know at a quick glance if a book contains detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if profanity is used, if drug use is portrayed, illegal alcohol consumption by minors, etc.

Now this has me wondering if it would be helpful for books to have rating system as TV shows and movies do! If this ever does come to pass, I’d like to know specifics not just an overall rating. I don’t like the current movie rating system as much of what is in PG movies, I feel is inappropriate for my children, even though many parents choose to show these movies to children as young as one year old (i.e. Shrek, Shrek 2, Madagascar).

Discovered Artist Trading Cards

Day One:
I got off my path onto a rabbit trail. Usually it is during our homeschooling journey that my children’s learning goes down rabbit trails, but this week I’m on the rabbit trail. Two contributing events came together on the same day, to lead me to create some artist trading cards.

I had been procrastinating about planning our homeschooling. I was finding small tasks to do that really did need doing, but I was feeling unproductive about the planning of the academics. I decided to do a quick decluttering job to give myself a boost of a feeling of accomplishment. One of my living room end tables has doors which conceal shelves. It is there that I store my unread magazines. The table was chock full and I was behind on my reading. I decided to sort through them and recycle or Freecycle some and select others to read on an upcoming long car drive. I ended up with a stack over two feet high, of magazines to read. There were about six inches of magazines that I didn’t care to take the time to read at all.

Then I went to check my email. On a discussion list I am on (that has nothing to do with art or artist trading cards); we recently had a discussion of blogs, what they are, why a person may want to have one and how easy it is to blog. The result was that two women began blogging. I noticed the sig line of a person on one of my chat-lists now had a blog URL so I visited it. I read of her creation of mail art and how it was artist trading cards which got her hooked. Huh? I was in the dark about what she was talking about. So off to Google I went.

I discovered this site which had a short history and easy to understand directions in an article by Matthew Murray.

Knowing that I had a whole stack of magazines that I could use for materials, to make collage artist trading cards, I was itching to get started. Before bed I took about 20 minutes to shuffle through a stack of magazines that I didn’t really want to read (they are freebies sent to us by the companies for some reason unknown to me). I began seeing possibilities for backgrounds, images small enough to include on the cards as well as interesting words or phrases that could be use. Snip, snip, I began cutting away.

Day Two:
I went to bed early, then woke up at 2:00 a.m. and was unable to sleep. After tossing and turning for 45 minutes I got up and spent 45 minutes doing more magazine scanning, snipping, and created my first artist trading card. I then went back to bed and was able to fall asleep. I woke up quite sick with a head cold and had very low energy and that foggy head feeling that makes thinking seem difficult. It was not a day to do homeschooling planning.

I decided to look on the internet for examples of other people’s artist trading cards (ATCs). In case you didn’t read the above link about what ATCs are, any person can create an ATC; you don’t have to be a professional artist. I found many examples by doing a Google search both on their “images” search engine as well as finding entire websites with many ATC images. Here is just one.

Okay, in case you didn’t read the link here is a very short summary of what an ATC is. A piece of card stock or cardboard (new or recycled from containers) is cut to 2.5 inch x 3.5 inch size. You may also recycle existing trading cards (i.e. baseball cards). On this card, a person makes art. One may use pen, pencil, chalk, paint and/or make a collage using vintage or new paper, parts of newspapers, magazines, letters, lists, envelopes, stamps, or anything you want! Some people use rubber stamps to decorate their cards, either store-bought or handmade from carved out erasers. Some people use images from the internet or words that they type in their word processor. The original ATCs were flat. Embellishments are used by some people, such as feathers, buttons, brads, shells, etc. Some people don’t like the embellishments as they want the cards flat enough to fit into the plastic trading card sleeve protectors. Another trend is to use the computer with a program such as Photoshop to make compositions to print off onto the card stock. Some people don’t like computer generated cards. Some people make all originals while others make copies of their original. Some prefer hand drawn or hand painted cards to collage.

I also discovered that children create ATCs and there are trade groups exclusively for children. Now I was really seeing some possibilities to make this a craft that I could do with my children! I would be interested in seeing the ATCs that my children would create.

The ATC is meant for trading only, not selling. Of course, as usual, there are some ATCs for sale on eBay. Trading was originally done in person at ATC trading card events. Many people are doing it via the internet, using chat lists such as those on Yahoo Groups! to find others to trade with. Trades are either done on a one-for-one basis or you may participate in a themed trade. Examples of themed trades are equine themed cards, send in 9 ATCs and get 9 ATCs back. If you participate in a themed trade, the host of the trade gets to set the rules, such as originals only, the number in the trade (some are as low as 3), etc.

Presently the cards I am creating are collages with either a paper base or a hand-painted base. My cards have themes and they are a combination of images with words, phrases, or short passages. So far the ATCs I have made are themed around the source material magazines I had on hand. As I scanned the magazines I had thoughts on various topics and the specific content of the magazines provided appropriate words and images on those topics. For example, a friend recently gave me a stack of Mothering magazines (my favorite parenting magazine). Some were duplicates for me, so I cut them up. I found lots of source material for issues about babies, mothering, fathering, breastfeeding and childbirth. When I went through Forbes, I found some colorful background or border colors, great financial images and quotes and lots of photos of men’s faces and elderly people’s faces. (Women were almost absent from the pages and ads in Forbes, which is something for me to ponder at another time.) I plan to select a couple of homeschooling magazines to cut up and make homeschooling ATCs.

I completed five ATCs on day two. I joined a Yahoo Group for ATC trading, looked up the current swaps, and signed up for three whose themes were interesting to me. Once I have two completed swaps under my belt, the Group will allow me to host a swap, and I get to choose the theme. I can’t wait to do one on learning/education of children, and another on parenting topics.

I also have some much damaged books here that I had planned to use for making crafts, (I sometimes make handmade birthday party invitations or thank you notes with them). I also want to try lapbooking again this year and was going to use some books for that. I also have access to a lot of free books at library sales, or books for 10-50 cents. I know some of you are cringing, but to me, cutting up and using a book which is damaged or whose content is out of date is better than throwing it in the trash intact (as so many people do). There is debate about whether making photocopies of books for one’s own use is a true copyright infringement. Some state that making copies for one’s own use is legal. I am unclear about this, but I am at the point where I’d rather use the original book’s illustrations from a damaged book in a craft than spending the money to make color copies. Often I can buy an entire book for what it costs to make two or three color copies on my home printer. Which is a better use of resources, both monetary resources and paper and production resources? It is more “green” to reuse an old book by cutting it up than throwing it in the trash (we don’t have a book recycling program in our area).

I needed to return an audio book to my town library and while there, borrowed two books on the art of collage. One book which featured technique was lost. I browsed one large book before bed, and read of the history of collage. The only disappointment was that all of the illustrations were in black and white. Perhaps when I am at a larger library I will find more books on technique.

I have had fun making these ATCs and am itching to make more. I am not quite sure when I will find the time to do it, but I want to make the time! As long as the subject matter is interesting to me, I am sure I will have fun with it.

Today is Day Three and I have a busy day which includes helping someone declutter their house, of papers that go back to the 1940s. Perhaps I will find some ephemera that I can use in my ATCs!

If I can figure out how to work our scanner I will scan my ATCs and will put them on my blog, or may start a separate blog with just my ATC images, in case some of you could care less about them!

Here is a closing statement from Matthew Murray’s article:
As a word in closing, one may wonder why a professional artist or designer would bother with Artist Trading Cards, such small things that disappear so quickly into someone else's album, never to emerge again? I'd say they have every reason to bother. Because they are art for the sake of art, ATCs are a precious reminder to amateurs and professional alike of what creativity is about – the pleasure of working with beauty and the excitement of being surprised by experimental techniques, as opposed as doing the work for pay or fame. They require such a small investment in equipment and time that there is no practicality headache associated, and the results can be surprisingly inspiring and useful for future professional projects. I personally think working on ATCs between larger projects has something of the freshness and simple joy we had when drawing as children. Let's not forget also the pleasure of the exchange, face to face with like-minded people!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Another article on Racy Books for Preteen and Teens

Thanks to Google's News Alert program, I was notified of this article.

Article Title: Should Raunchy be the Fourth R?
Subtitle: Parents should keep a close eye on what fiction their teens are reading.
by Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D.
Article Date: August 17, 2005
Published on website: Family News in Focus, a Web Site of Focus on the Family


This piece reacts to the MSNBC piece with correspondent Janet Shamlian from last week which I blogged about on August 17, 2005. This discusses recently published juvenile fiction books:
“Claiming Georgia Tate”
“Rainbow Party”
"Teach Me”

While I am not aware of challenges to any of these specific books, if they find their way into schools, there probably will be. Recent disputes over books in Lexington, Mass., Pleasant Valley, Iowa and Columbus, Ohio, have divided communities and led to legal action.

I read for the first time about one mother named Laurie Taylor of Fayetteville, Arkansas. This piece also informed me of a couple of more titles that I was unaware of.
Perhaps the mother of all of these disputes over school reading material is in Fayetteville, Ark. Laurie Taylor, mother of two school-age children, recently found numerous volumes of fiction that vividly described sexual acts of all sorts. "Doing It" features teacher-pupil sex, "Rainbow Boys" describes adult-teen unprotected sex, and "Choke," uncovering the world of sexaholics, was graphic enough to have portions excerpted in Playboy. Perhaps the worst find was "Push" by author Sapphire. Filled with graphic sex, perhaps the low point is the lead character's description of sex with an infant.

Taylor is formally challenging these and other fiction books with similar content. She is not asking that the school remove all of the books permanently from the shelves, she simply wants librarians to gain a parent's permission before allowing children to have them. She also wants the school to follow its own review policy while access is mediated by parents. The Fayetteville schools have a policy that requires the school to review materials parents find objectionable. For these reasonable requests, she has been pilloried in the local press as narrow-minded and bigoted. The school district has received a veiled threat of a lawsuit from national groups including the National Coalition Against Censorship.

I also loved Throckmartin’s closing statement:

If some parents want "raunchy" to join readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, they are free to buy their own children sexually explicit material for consumption at home.

Some Thoughts on Being with Kids All the Time (Due to the Homeschooling Lifestyle)

One of the hardest things about homeschooling is being around my kids all the time, but it is also one of the best things. What can be hard is not having a break. I am always on duty as a parent, such as guiding and teaching them, mediating bickerings or settling disagreements. I prefer to frame this as teaching them proper communication and negotiation skills. Many people never learn this, as evidenced by the high number of adults who can barely communicate their emotions, discuss disagreements, and those who can’t negotiate or compromise with others, even when they are consider themselves to be mature adults.

Another hard thing about homeschooling is that I am always on duty in an academic way. I am always re-evaluating. When I see that a book is not as good as I thought or the math program seems to not be working, I want to correct it and find a better way, right then and there. (Well, perhaps I don’t HAVE to figure it out right then and there. I could keep using a second-best or a not-working thing, but my perfectionist nature doesn’t want to settle for that. That is yet another reason why it would be so hard for me to put my children in school. They all get taught with the same materials, and if some children aren’t learning with that textbook, book, or curriculum, tough luck—they have no choice but to ride it out.)

My teacher friends and relatives tell me they plan out the whole year in advance, in the summer. I have tried this but it has not worked for me. Also I don’t have a lot of time dedicate to this as I am busy parenting my children in the summer months. Our family doesn’t use babysitters, nannies, or long days at summer camp to act as babysitters.

The research for new ideas or products can be both fun or taxing depending on many factors, ranging from whether a person likes to research, to being frustrating the person who is on a tight budget and already blew the money on the now-disliked thing. If a parent is busy or stressed over other issues, finding a new math program on the spot, can be a burden and seen as more of a chore.

Once I was talking with a group of homeschooling moms and one mom was saying she was upset and stressed that a very expensive math curriculum that she bought was not clicking with her children and that it required too much prep work. It was supposed to be a very fun method, a unit study method that infused math into real life things. Her kids hated it. She was wondering if she sent them to school, if the children would excel in math and if they would do better with the school’s math program. I replied that if they were in school they’d be forced to endure the same curriculum, no matter if they were bored or hated it, because that was what the class was using. Period. In other words the difference is that the parent at home may have no idea that the child in school hates their math work. But the homeschooling parent has no choice but to know and realize how the child dislikes the math program and therefore the parent reacts and wants to fix it by finding a new program. We homeschooling parents are perhaps more aware of our children’s feelings toward their learning than parents of schooled children. We also want harmony in the home and most of us want our child to enjoy learning, so we want to make the learning as least stressful as possible. Some homeschooling parents believe that learning should always be fun, so they are doing math with games or ways that are purely fun and are more of learning in disguise type method. Hey, whatever works for our families is what we should do!

Back to Parenting…
The constant being with our kids forces us to parent them. We have no choice. Period. I have no choice but to deal with the issues, work out the problems. I want my kids to be normal, nice people that I want to like being around, and that other kids and other adults will also enjoy being around them. It is hard to always be “on duty” in this manner, especially when children are young and still in the stage of needing to hear something 20 times, or 200, before it is learned. “Shut the door when you come into the house.”, for example. It does get annoying to repeat something over and over and have it not sink in. I like to think this forced vigilance with being an actively-parenting parent has had a good result in my children. They are turning out to be people I really like, so I like being with them.

Side Note: I have seen a faction of parents who like to keep their children dependent on them. These parents have very low expectations for their children, which is a shame. The children are being taught by their mothers (and sometimes also, the fathers), to be dependent and that they are not worthy of higher expectations. A few examples are keeping a child on a sippy cup as they don’t think their child is capable of drinking out of a glass or a straw; do they know they are possibly contributing to malformation of the soft palate and to delayed speech, or to formation of errors in speech? Another example is not teaching children to shut the door after they come into the house, not teaching them to put their coats in a certain place rather than throw it on the floor and leave it there, or not teaching them to bring their plate to the sink when they are done eating, or even, to not tie their own shoelaces when they are beyond age five.

Here is a common question I, and other homeschoolers, get asked:

“How can you stand being with them all day? I couldn’t stand it.”

I think the person asking this question has not taken the time to parent their children so that they are people that are likable or socialized. If a child’s own parent can’t stand to be in their company, what does that say? I think it says the parent has failed in their duty to parent, teach, guide, and socialize their children. I would like to ask these parents, if they don’t want to be around them, then what of the other adults and children that are forced to be around them because the parent is pushing the child out of the home and into the company of these people? I am talking of teachers, school mates, and children on the school bus, other children in extracurricular classes or sports, Scout leaders and other Scouts, Babysitters, Nannies, and daycare workers.

I also feel that the more that parents push their children out and away, the more problematic the situation is. This can result in one or more of these not-good things happening:

1. The child can do negative things and the parent never knows about it, and therefore it never gets corrected by the parent.

2. Things that the parent has no clue are happening can happen, and the child is not ever taught that it was wrong or bad, so they keep doing it, and the parent is in the dark about the entire situation. Another consequence is that children are teaching other children these things and then it is repeated or mimicked by other children. Examples I have seen are use of profanity, use of bathroom language, incorrect use of the words “stupid” and “dumb”, flashing one’s private parts at others, and all the various forms of bullying behaviors.

3. If a child is displaying negative behaviors or attitudes and is unpleasant to be around, the parent is likely to look forward to pushing them away just to escape having to be around them. Sometimes the parent then justifies this by saying the other thing is beneficial to the child, such as saying how great summer camp is for the child, saying that learning multiple sports at summer camp is helpful to the child, learning about fine arts is enriching to the child academically, getting tutored in math over the summer will put them ahead of their peers in the fall, etc.

4. Continued pushing away of a child with issues can lead to lazy parenting in which the problem(s) never get addressed, or are not consistently addressed, so they are never resolved, and may get worse.

One other thing I want to address is what I have heard mostly on television talk shows but also have heard people say in person. This is the opinion that mothers who are home with children are using the children as a way to have fun themselves or to fulfill some unmet need in the woman’s life. In other words, the mother says they enjoy spending time with their children and the other person says that the parent is using the child to entertain the adult and that this is a bad thing, to deprive the child of some experience (such as preschool or school) in order to give the mother a “friend” in their own child.

The worst case is when psychologists erroneously label healthy family relationships as an enmeshment. These people often are of the mindset that the best experience for the mother would be to work full-time for pay at some career, and for the child to live the (more and more) typical life of an American child such as having such a large part of their life lived separate and away from the parent as of age 5 when they would enroll in Kindergarten. These same people are the ones who accuse some mothers of having babies in order to make a new friend or to fulfill some (unhealthy) need within themselves to seek fulfillment out of their relationship of caring for a dependent child.

Parents who have more than two children get this accusation more than parents with one or two children. Some people feel that having more than two children is fulfilling something unmet need within the parent. Another similar accusation from similar minded people is that breastfeeding a baby or toddler is being done to fulfill some unmet need or desire within the mother. I don’t know if these are true for anyone but I know that these are not the case with me!

I want to make sure that it comes across that our family life is not perfect. It can be trying, and tiring. We have far more positive experiences than negative. If things were so horrible with my children, I may be tempted to push them out and away. Believe me, on some bad days, I have seriously considered putting my children into school, just to get relief from parenting. However I realized that is not a good solution. I’d be putting them in school so I could have an easier time, rather than putting them in school for what I consider to be the purpose of school: academics. I also feel that at times I have experienced burnout, and I am happy that I recovered from those times. Living the last two years with no income due to unemployment has also put a layer of stress and uncertainty on our family that has added to the challenge of having a harmonious home.

Parenting is not an easy job. I have many fun times as well as some trying times. Sometimes life seems like a roller coaster. Certain undesired behaviors surface and are worked on for a while. That is not fun. Then a time comes when it disappears, but I don’t notice it right away. Often I will suddenly realize, “younger son has not been hitting when he is angry lately”, and upon reflection, I will realize that three weeks has gone by. We have periods of calm and smoothness and periods where my children bicker. I am also facing the realization that my children’s personalities and behaviors are not under my control nor can I mold them into what I want them to be. I can guide them and try to influence them but so much of who they are depends on their own choices and their own actions. I am simply trying to fulfill my responsibility as a parent and do my parental duty in the best way I know how. For our family, to date, that has meant breastfeeding, attachment parenting, trying to maintain a connection with our children, and homeschooling.

Note: I am busy today planning our next year’s homeschooling so went to my unpublished writings to pick something out to post today! I had written this piece about seven weeks ago. Wish me luck with our planning!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Rebundling Books and Unintentionally Buying the Same Book Twice

I hate rebundling! This is when the content of a book is republished under a new title. Often there is no notation in other editions that the contents of the book were previously published under a different title.

An example is that a publisher may publish a series of history books divided by time period, and then sell a large book with the contents of all of the series inside of it. One example is the Kingfisher History of the World.

I was just looking at my math materials trying to decide if I was ready to sell some of the items that I had never used, and realized I had two books by the same publisher, with different titles. I took them out and realized that the interior content was identical. This was a case of rebundling. I had not realized this when I re-purchased the more recent book. The cover was updated, more colorful, had a color photo on it and also had a new title. To boot the older published version had one teacher’s manual and one book for the student to use. The new published version had no mention of what the book was, although it was the student book. It appears that they may have gotten rid of the teacher’s manual entirely. I compared the pages side by side and there don’t appear to be any changes, the interior pages are identical right down to the page number (except for the changed title). I feel duped!

The crazy thing is that I bought both from the same homeschool supply catalog, in different years. One I purchased in 2001 with the intent of using it during my older son’s Preschool or Kindergarten year. I ended up using Math-U-See instead, with great success. I saved the book to use with my younger son (or any subsequent children I may have).

But instead of committing to using what was on my shelf, I then was tempted by the wonderful catalog description of the item and bought it again, in 2003, intended to be used in either my younger son’s preschool-age 4 year or Kindergarten year. Because I had never opened book #1, I had not realized I was rebuying the same book, plus of course, I was duped by the new title!

This is a case of being tempted by catalogs rather than really getting to know or even trying what is already on my own shelves first. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the book/product, I’d have recognized it. I can’t believe I did this! (It is one thing to make a mistake over a 25 or 50 cent library sale purchase but another thing entirely to re-buy a $23 book.)

I guess I will try and resell the newer version as perhaps I can get more money for it than I would the older version. Wish me luck.

More Book Selling Today

Today I am researching and writing up sales notices for books and curriculum. Some of this is a friend’s and some is my used or never-used stuff. This takes a lot of time, especially when the price of the item is not on the item. I look it up online to see what the retail price was and then come up with a reasonable price to ask for it.

I am listing some new items and relisting some items that didn’t sell in July, on various places on the internet.

I just realized that a couple of books of mine were stolen during the tag sale. I had not unpacked the boxes of books that I displayed at the tag sale in July, until just now. I can’t believe that someone would steal from a person selling stuff at a tag sale. My outlook on humanity is not too good today as a result of this. I didn’t watch the people at the tag sale like a hawk because I was helping my children sell lemonade and homemade cookies. Sigh.

I have decided that if this stuff doesn’t sell after me listing it on 3-4 different websites I am going to take my own books to a local used book store and turn them in for store credit. I was hoping to turn them into (a small amount of) cash instead. Oh well. I will donate others to a new local thrift shop being run by homeschoolers. At this point I just want them out of here!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Linda’s Used Books: An Online Used Bookseller

Here is a ‘new to me’ source for buying used books online, called “Linda’s Used Books”. Their website was updated last night with many new books. Check it out!

You can sign up to receive email notification when Linda puts new items up for sale; see information on the home page (scroll down).

Linda carries many living books at quite good prices!

What is Junk? Thoughts on Packratism and Hoarding

I have packrats on both sides of my family. The four grandparents I know or did know before they passed on, were packrats, as are both of my parents, and my only sibling. I have been battling my own packratism in the last ten years, but have been a packrat since I was a child. My older son shows clear indications he has it. I seriously wonder if being a packrat is hereditary.

There is a line where simple and harmless packratism changes to be hoarding. I am not quite sure exactly when this happens but I think it is probably when basic life functions and actions are impaired or prevented due to one’s possessions and clutter being literally “in the way”. Hoarding, I think, is keeping way too many items of one type that won’t or cannot ever be used, or less severely, a lot more than a person needs to keep on hand. Example: owning 20 flashlights (how many hands does a person have to hold flashlights?). When the amount of time a person spends moving, sorting, reorganizing, and packing away their materials possessions consumes a large amount of time, perhaps that is when the condition has changed to hoarding.

I know in the mainstream media recently, there have been some stories of packrats and hoarders and who is right behind them? The medical experts (psychologists and psychiatrists) claiming it is caused by a mental illness: “obsessive compulsive disorder”. Based on my non-medical opinion I wonder if this is an overdiagnosis for most people. (I certainly don't have OCD.) I was reading online that medication for OCD does not always cure the problem. I think that a lot of packratism is rooted in thought processes and opinions, as well as laziness and a preference to do other activities than dejunking and cleaning one’s house. I also know some people who claim their packratism is due to ADD/ADHD as they have too short an attention span to clean their house or to sort through their daily mail and throw away the unwanted mail. I think there is too much labeling and blaming going on and not enough accepting of personal responsibility. Cleaning is usually not fun, but it has to be done (or at least most people think it does.)

Anyway, helping this relative has me thinking about the stuff I save (even more than I was before) and the experience is really changing me! I am being inspired to get rid of a lot more stuff!

So what is junk, anyway? I think the answer is similar to the old gardener’s definition of a weed. “A weed is a plant that is in a place that you don’t want it.” By this definition a desired and/or expensive cultivated plant whose seeds sprout new plants in an unwanted place, is a weed and should be gotten rid of. Junk is the same thing.

Here are some examples of junk which I have saved in the past:

Financial records more than three years old
Tax related papers more than seven years old
Clothes that no longer fit, or we don’t like, or aren’t appropriate for us anymore (pregnancy clothes when we know we aren’t’ having any more children, business attire not worn by an at-home mother)
Baby items when our babies are no longer babies
Toys that our children no longer play with
Books that are for a younger audience than our children are


Here are some other junk items that I actually have seen saved by others (not me):

Lists that we used and are no longer using (i.e. old grocery shopping lists)
Everyday materials used by a deceased person (old cosmetics, toiletries)
Shoes and clothing of a deceased person (which no one else is wearing)
Bills and paperwork of a deceased person (after the estate has been settled)
Empty food containers (more than the few a family reuses)
Food we no longer plant to eat (dry and frozen)
Labels and UPC codes from food items or other products unless being saved for a promotion going on right now
Expired coupons
Old newspapers (perhaps over 1 month old)
Sales flyers on sales that are over
Mail order catalogs older than 3 months old (some companies) or 1 month old (some companies)
Junk mail
Anything you used at one time but are not using any longer (map to a place, empty jar, directions to drive to a place)
Supplies for arts and crafts that you either don’t have time to do or know you will never do again
Toiletries that the person doesn’t like and refuses to use
Medications beyond their expiration date
Empty medication bottles
Medication that the person was told by a doctor to discontinue using
Clothing they hate/refuse to wear
Shoes that hurt when worn and are not worn
Paper plates and napkins that a person never intends on using
Old birthday party decorations for their children who are now in their 30s
Left over blank party invitations with no future party in sight to use them for
Way more stationary and greeting cards than will ever be used
Pens with dried up ink
Scrap paper for notes PLUS loads of factory-made scratch pad paper
Cookbooks for someone who doesn’t cook
Recipes cut out of magazines and newspapers for someone who doesn’t cook
Fancy kitchen appliances and gadgets to make food that the person doesn’t make
Old calendars
Expired green stamps
Makeup in colors that the woman doesn’t like and refuses to wear


If you would like some inspirational reading about dejunking, read Don Aslett’s books. One of my favorites is “Lose 200 lbs. this weekend: It’s time to declutter your life”. It is not only funny but inspirational.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Little More Book Shuffling

In a cross between tidying my home and getting ready for the upcoming homeschooling year I did some more book straightening. The bookshelves in our family library were untidy and over-stuffed with recent purchases. I went through 16 shelves and tidied them up. I removed three boxes worth of books which I realized were at a much higher grade level than my children are in this year. Since we won’t be using the books this year, I moved them out. I shuffled the books so that all the books are accessible. I took out the double stacked books. I rearranged some topics as well, to make the subjects better organized.

I found four books which were duplicates bought in error, and tossed them into a box to resell, when I am in the mood for that hassle.

I also found my lost copy of Kathryn Stout’s “Science Scope”. HOORAY! This had been misplaced for a year. Oddly and for no reasonable explanation, it was filed with books on mammals. Because I use living books for science, I am comforted by checking the lists in “Science Scope”. The lists show what is taught in each grade level grouping (elementary, middle school, etc.). I highly recommend all the books by Kathryn Stout. Even unschoolers can use these lists to help prepare portfolios of what was studied, as the topics are arranged in an orderly fashion and with all the “educational-ese” lingo.

The shelves are looking great. I hope to dive into these books and plan out our 2005-2006 school year tomorrow. I can’t wait. For me, this is one of the most fun parts of homeschooling!

Fantastic Salmon Recipe and Eating Salmon as a Non-Surgical Facelift

I am not a fish-eater, well, I wasn’t until the other day, when I tried a wild Alaskan Salmon recipe called “Planked Salmon with Honey-Balsalmic Glaze”, by Michael Chiarello, which my husband found on the FoodTV website.

(Yes, it was my husband who cooked it He loves to cook. Lucky for me, he is a great cook. I am a firm believer that cooking is not a feminine art. It is a skill and craft that can be performed by either gender. I am talking about men doing more than grilling!)

In the past I had tried farm-raised salmon and didn’t care for it. This was my first time eating wild Alaskan salmon. We bought it at our local Costco store. It was delicious! I was so surprised that I liked the salmon! I was shocked and amazed! This recipe gives a hint of cedar-smoke flavor and the honey gives a bit of sweetness.

The idea of trying wild Alaskan salmon came up because my husband walked into the room when I was watching a rerun of an episode of Oprah’s “After the show” episode called “Look Ten Years Younger in Ten Days”, in which Nicholas Perricone M.D. was talking about his three-day eating plan which is supposed to make the person look like they’ve had a face lift, just after three days of eating this three day diet. He was recommending its use when a person wants to attend a special event and wants to look great. He does not recommend eating farm-raised salmon, only wild Alaskan salmon. Dr. Perricone was saying that people can order it from Alaska and have it shipped to their home. But while my husband was at Costco, he saw it there (fresh) and bought it to try. We divided the piece into 4 servings and froze it.

Here are some other tips from Dr. Perricone.

Here is some information about Dr. Perricone on Oprah’s site.

Here is more biographical information about Dr. Perricone from his official website.

I had seen the original Oprah episode and had heard of this plan. Then one day when I was at my local library, I saw a like-new version of his book “The Perricone Prescription” and picked it up to look it over. Hey, for 50 cents, it was worth buying to browse through it.

The general theory is that foods that cause inflammation in our body’s tissues are what causes wrinkles and other (more temporary) skin issues such as puffiness, redness, etc. If a person eats foods that don’t cause much inflammation, they look better. Also included in the diet are foods rich in anti-oxidants which are good for the body.

I am not going on the three day plan right now. Perhaps I will before attending a special event.

If you like salmon, try that wonderful recipe! And if you don’t think you like salmon, try it also, you might like it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My Charlotte Mason Study Group

I am a homeschool support group leader for a specialized group which is studying the writings and educational theories of Charlotte Mason. We are about to begin our second year.

Last year we read chapters 1-10 of Karen Andreola’s
book, “A Charlotte Mason Companion”. These chapters focused on the general educational theory and some perspectives on more general parenting topics. We were to read the chapter at home and highlight the passages that interested us. At the meeting we went over each page, discussing the parts that we found enlightening or interesting in some way.

I allow people to come who are curious about homeschooling but are not yet homeschooling. People can also come who are not familiar with the Charlotte Mason method and may not own the book or have read the book that we are discussing.

We also took time at the start of each meeting to ask any general questions about homeschooling or to ask about the
Charlotte Mason method, or to discuss a certain living book or curriculum.

Originally I thought we could cover two chapters per evening. However, we are so chatty that we could only get through one chapter. The meetings also run long, sometimes going 3.5 hours! By 11:00pm we are tired but not quite ready to end the lively discussion.

Last week I sat down to make plans for this year. We are going to continue with the same book, and start with Chapter 12 and 13, which are related topics of books. At this point in this (wonderful) book, the subject matter turns to more practical, educational how to use the Charlotte Mason method type content.

We have a core group of about six moms who attend each meeting. A few others attend sporadically. I enjoy seeing the same women each month, and also enjoy the moms who attend just once or came to two or three meetings.

These meetings fulfill me more than any other homeschool support group meeting does. I used to attend more general group meetings where people

And There Are Also Racy Juvenile Literature for Boys (In Case You Thought it was Just For Preteen Girls)

I found this book by linking over from other Juv Lit books with racy content, on Amazon.

Notice Amazon’s SIPs for Doing It by Melvin Burgess:
shagging her
your knob
magic helpers
her bum
doing sex
fancy her

Quote from the Editorial review from Amazon written by Patty Campbell:
Melvin Burgess, author of Smack, has written what is potentially the most controversial young adult novel ever. Doing It is an honest and funny book about three teenage British boys learning about themselves and life through their sexual experiences. But here's the catch: the story is told from the point of view of the hormone-sodden young males, naughty bits and all.

Quote from the author about why he wrote the book:
"I wrote Doing It because I do believe that we have let young men down very badly in terms of the kinds of books written for them. This book is my go at trying to bring young male sexual culture into writing."


Quote from the reviewer with interesting speculation about what adults will think of this book:
Wisely, the publisher has kept the British slang terms for sexual acts and body parts, rather than using the American four-letter words, a factor that will make the book less of a hot potato for librarians and teachers, but not diminish the reading pleasure for the inevitable hordes of young male readers.


Wow, that is pretty insulting. Sex talk is sex talk, whether it is British slang or American slang, isn't it?

Amazon’s review states this is for grade 10 and up.

Here is a non-favorable review of the book as published in:
The Guardian online newspaper
Book Review section
by Sandra Smith
Published on April 22, 2003

A quote from the review which I liked:
Alternatively, you could agree with the children's laureate, Anne Fine, who argued in the Guardian that the book should be withdrawn before its publication next month, calling it "vile" and "disgusting". For good measure, repeat Fine's declamation, quoted in the Sunday Times, that "this book has no more place in any children's list than Playboy or Hustler".

Note the cover illustration as well. I wonder what young children will think of the illustration if they see this in a public library or book store in the children’s section? What was the publisher thinking?

Amazon’s SIPs for books

I was reading about a book series of juvenile literature called the “Gossip Girls (Book 1)” by Cecily Von Ziegesar. On the screen near the title, was this phrase:
“her boobs”
which definitely caught my eye. It was listed next to the heading of “SIP”.

I didn’t know what an SIP was and was curious. I found out that it is a phrase that Amazon feels is a “statistically improbable phrase”.
Amazon.com Statistically Improbable Phrases
Amazon.com's Statistically Improbable Phrases, or "SIPs", are the most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside!™ program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in the Search Inside! program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside! books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.
SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements.
Click on a SIP to view a list of books in which the phrase occurs. You can also view a list of references to the phrase in each book. Learn more about the phrase by clicking on the A9.com search link.

So even Amazon feels that a phrase such as “her boobs” is statistically improbable for juvenile literature books! I am glad this phrase is statistically improbable. But for how long, I wonder? With more and more sexually graphic books for preteens being published, perhaps there will be a new norm.

Another Article About Sex in Juvenile Literature Books

Here is another article from someone who appears to be on the same wavelength as me.

Article Title: Are your kids reading rot?
By Rebecca Hagelin
Published by: Townhall.com
Article date: 8/16/05

Lest you think the first book was put on the (American Library Association) list in error, the next recommended teen item I thumbed through was equally as nauseating. A sexual act between fourth-graders was a “highlight,” as well as graphic details of sex between teens, including a homosexual encounter. And this is the garbage that today’s educators pass off as great literature for our children? The great classics, meanwhile, are all but missing. One list I reviewed for eight-graders contained about 20 authors -- none recognizable save the lone great Mark Twain. And they call this education?


The ALA is quick to call anyone who questions its decisions a “censor.” But remember, part of our responsibility and privilege as parents is to be the ones who determine what is and is not appropriate for our own children.


Rebecca Hagelin is the author of the book: "Home Invasion!
Protecting Your Family in a Culture that’s Gone Stark Raving Mad"
. It sounds like a great book. I have not read this book yet. If you have read it, would you email me or post a comment to this blog about it?

Yet More Racy Books for Preteen Girls Being Published

I blogged in May about the book "Rainbow Party" by Paul Ruditis.

Here is an article you may be interested in:
Article Title: New trend in teen fiction: Racy reads: Parents alarmed that books are more ‘Sex and the City’ than Nancy Drew
By Janet Shamlian, Correspondent, NBC News
Dated: 8:14 p.m. ET Aug. 15, 2005

The above link also has a video clip of this segment from the Nightly News with Brian Williams that can be viewed for free.

Disturbing quote about the sales of racy books for preteen girls:
The racy reads are publishing’s fastest-growing segment and young girls are the biggest consumers. Most books for the 12-and-up age group sell fewer than 20,000 copies, but some of the edgier titles have sold close to a million.


Quote from one author:
Author Russell Nelson wrote "Teach Me" and defends teen books with mature themes. “I feel like it fills an important niche in moving the readers to a higher level of maturity,” he says.


Quote from a psychiatrist:
“They buy it, thinking they’re doing something nice for their kid, when, in fact, they have no clue what it is they’re exposing their kid to,” says adolescent psychiatrist Dr. John Sargent.


Quote from a mother who bought a racy book for her daughter:
One mom who unknowingly bought her daughter a book about a prostitute said, “I was more shocked with the fact that I allowed her to read it… that I didn’t even know she was reading it.”


Here are the books mentioned in the article and news segment:

"Claiming Georgia Tate"
By Gigi Amateau
Publication date: 5/24/05
A father has sex with his daughter

"Rainbow Party"
by Paul Ruditis
Publication date: 5/17/05
High School girls getting ready to attend an group oral sex party.

"Teach Me"
by R.A. (Russell) Nelson
Publication date: 8/25/05
Teacher has sex with student

"Gossip Girls" series
by Cecily von Ziegesar
Publication date: April 1, 2002 (book one)

Another book I stumbled upon on Amazon's site:

"The Virginity Club"
by Kate Brian
Publication date: 4/26/05
About high school girls who formed a club whose membership is based on keeping one’s virginity until high school graduation. It appears that a handful of the girls broke the rules and are keeping it a secret

Confession: When I was a teenager I read some of the racy Hollywood (adult) novels by Jackie Collins. Those books were published for adults and I was reading them on my own, my parents didn’t take any notice of the books that I was reading. I was definitely not 12 at the time, I was 16 or 17.

My Two Cents:
I think that intentionally publishing books with sexual content for girls aged 12 years old is inappropriate. Additionally if the writing stinks and is for sexual tittilation only, then shame on them! One thing that I have learned is that the media pushes things down. For example, the book meant for a 12 year old will be read by an 8 or 9 year old, which would horrible. Pushing down exposure to sexual topics to immature children or preteens is inappropriate.

There are many great books out there which are not being read by these girls and it is a shame that the wonderful books are being igonored while this sexual-twaddle content is being gobbled up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In Defense of “Cable TV Stations”

Ninety-nine percent of the educational and cultural content television shows that our family watches are on “cable TV stations”, they are not on PBS. (Frankly, I feel that PBS is not as full of educational content as they used to be. ‘Cable TV’ channels have taken over and trumped PBS’s educational programming.) I have “cable TV” stations in quotes because we don’t have cable TV; we have Direct TV’s satellite service,

(Why do we have satellite TV? Because when we moved to this town, we realized that the local cable network offered fewer channels than our previous home’s service, for more money than we were paying before we moved. We then realized that Direct TV offered more educational type channels and for overall, less money.)

I cannot understand when a family brags that they don’t have ‘cable’ stations. If that family has network TV stations and PBS: guess what, most of what you have is junk: network stations! And you have PBS. Big deal! Those families think they are saving money and cutting out junk television by not having cable channels. I think that network television is the junkiest content of all! And when homeschooling families brag that they don’t have cable, to me that shows that they are intentionally blocking their own access to wonderful documentaries. I don’t get it.

The term “cable channels” is too broad to be effectively used, in my opinion. Yes, there are some channels that are junky. Some would point to MTV as problematic. Others would point to subscription channels for adults over the age of 18. What about the religion channels—are those junk—to the people who are of that faith? The reality is that the number of quality channels far outnumbers what most families would consider pure trash/channels that should be banned entirely. There are some channels I have never watched due to non-interest, such as some sports channels. I take what I want from these channels and leave the rest, just as I do with books, radio, music, magazines, newspapers, my snail mail, the Internet and email.

In order to watch educational content shows, some families would suggest using local libraries. My own library has a two-day rental time. If I take a movie out in the evening or late afternoon, I sometimes have less than 24 hours to return it. I can’t be made a slave to driving to my own library every day or two…especially with these gasoline prices! Other libraries, located a 30-minute drive from me, have better video lending libraries. But that is yet another errand and yet more driving to do (and spending my time and using yet more money for gasoline).

Some local homeschoolers praise the use of NetFlix. This internet/mail rental service has entertainment movies as well as educational documentaries. I am not getting rid of our satellite TV so I see NetFlix as yet another expense to add to our already-too-high budget (during this time of unemployment). I will stick to just DirectTV for now.

I love living books and using books as our main educational resource. But there is nothing like seeing something in action. We did a unit study on Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, and coral reefs in general. It was interesting and the photos in some of the books were stunning. Then we watched a documentary on television. Wow! The underwater photography was just gorgeous and there is nothing like seeing the movement of the animals and plants. It was entirely different. I wished that we had started our studies by watching a video, it may have helped us to visualize better, the things we were reading about.

Another wonderful thing to see unveiled on video are treasure quests: exploring sunken ships (i.e. the Titanic) and finding treasure. To my family, this is riveting television. Usually the documentary will start out with an introduction about what is being searched for, with a bit of history. Then we go on the journey, and travel underwater with the divers to see what they find. We view them seeing a piece of treasure or some object underwater. We hear the experts give their hypothesis. Usually at the end of the show, we hear the updates with the test results and what further investigation revealed. I am not saying to not read books on these subjects, but these television shows are complimentary and not to be missed, in my opinion!

We have been enjoying documentaries about history lately. I have found that live video footage, dramatizations of past events and other elements such as moving map visuals to be a wonderful compliment to learning about world history through books. Two favorite shows that we are watching lately are “History Traveler” and “Almanac”, both from the History Channel.

In the recent past we have watched “Ancient Almanac” and “Voyages”.

I should also mention that we use a TiVo unit, and have done so for over 3.5 years! We program TiVo to record the shows that we want to watch. TiVo also automatically records shows with content that it feels we would like, based on the ratings that we give to individual shows. Our unit holds 35 hours of recorded programming. With the TiVo, we watch TV when we want, not when the show is ‘on live’. We also fast forward through commercials. So for over 3 years we hardly ever watch live television, we don’t watch commercials, and we watch what we want, when we want! Can television get any better than this?

There are only so many hours in the day to do the many things our family wants to do. I try to limit the television viewing for my children to educational content or small amounts of harmless children’s entertainment. They do watch a few reality shows with my husband and I, some of which I consider good entertainment, and some of which I consider “twaddle”. Compared to the average American family, my children watch less television than other families, and we shelter them from content which we feel is problematic. Compared to other families we know, we are stricter about what our children watch. I think we’ve found a good balance.

I feel that we use our television, it does not use us. I think that is a good way to treat television.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Living Book Review Newsletter

Living Book Reviews is a free newsletter edited by Elaine Kreig Smith, available by email by (free) subscription, or you may view archives online. Here is the archives page.

Mission Accomplished: Library Floor Visible

I vowed to finish decluttering the library last night before going to bed. I hereby report that the floor is cleared except for one box of books to input into my book inventory spreadsheet (on the computer). The box will then be put into a closet as I don’t have room for these books on the shelves.

My intent was not to rearrange books on the shelves but I did end up doing some of that.

I put two boxes of reader textbooks into a closet, I used that now-available shelf to expand our math books and manipulatives. I keep the math manipulatives on a low shelf and my children play with them on their own, when they want to. (This is above and beyond their daily math studies.)

I set up a reading practice book shelf for one son and a reading basket for the other.

The open space that was created when I got rid of some phonics materials was reshuffled; the overflowing geography and science books now have a proper spot on a shelf.

Also now all of our Five in a Row (FIAR) picture books and teacher guides are all together (and fill three shelves). I also have FIAR “go-along's” there as well, these are books to read along with FIAR studies> I also have other picture books that I thought would make a great basis for unit studies.

I love the fact that the floor is empty and we can walk around and actually get to the shelves. Never take for granted the ability to walk through a room!

"Before" Photos of Book Sort in Progress





Here are some "before" photos that I took of the book sort in process all over our library floor (before my camera was drowned).



If I had a digital camera right now I’d take an “after” photo to share with you.

What is Narration?

Here are some great articles about narration.

Narration Beats Tests
First of a series on "Beginning Homeschool How-Tos."
By Karen Andreola
Printed in PHS #4, 1993.

Narration by Catherine Levison

Narration, the Art of Storytelling by the Parker Family