Wednesday, November 30, 2005

John Holt Quotes

A friend sent me some John Holt quotes today. These are my two favorites from the ones she sent me.

On a major issue that some parents either don't know about:
"...the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don't know."
Source: How Children Learn

This is so true!"The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how to behave when we don't know what to do"
Source: How Children Fail

This is very true, especially in adulthood. Think of how you or other adults react when they don't know something. Do they teach themself, research, and seek answers? Do they not seek answers and just stay in ignorance? Do they take the easy way out by 'asking an expert' but never questioning it or getting a second opinion? Do they take some non-expert's advice?

On what drives us:
"Education... now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators, and 'fans,' driven more and more, in all parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve 'education' but to do away with it, to end the ugly and antihuman business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves."
source: How Children Fail

You may not want to belive this is true. I really do think it is true. More and more our American society is turning into mindless consumers who live their lives in reaction mode, rather than being self-sufficient, living with a goal and a purpose, and living in a proactive mode.

I never finished "Freedom and Beyond" but I did read each of John Holt's other books cover to cover. I am a huge fan of John Holt and his writings were very influential in my decision to homeschool. He opened my eyes to 'what is wrong with school' as an institution.

I also LOVED James Herndon's books about the problem of institutional schooling, especially, "The Way It's Spozed to Be".

Greetings From Barf Central

The “North Virus” hit our family yesterday. I was awakened at midnight by my older son who said he had just vomited. It was on the comforter, on a 2.5x4 foot wide section of the wall to wall carpeting in the hall, on the bathroom floor, front of the cabinet and in the sink.

I was so tired already and just wasn’t up for this. I had been asleep for less than one hour when my younger son came in and tried to get into bed with me, which I didn’t allow. Now I was awakened to clean up vomit. I didn’t wake up my husband because he had had only three hours of sleep the night before, as he was helping his ill father and he had slept at their house.

I got my son to brush his teeth and get back into a clean bed. I set up a plastic wastebasket lined with a plastic bag for him to use in the future. I then settled in to clean up the vomit. The rug was near impossible to clean by hand and I was doing a poor job. Chunks of food also were settled on the surface. The stench was just horrible. I went all around with the natural room deodorizer which is made from pure essential oils but it didn’t take care of the problem.

I was wide awake at this point but very tired. I decided to watch something on TV which would not make me upset or stressed out. I chose Oprah’s show about her favorite things to give for holiday gifts in 2005. I then felt badly as my son was sleeping alone when he usually is allowed to sleep with me when he is sick. I checked in on him and he was still awake. I then woke up my husband and had him move into my son’s bed. I made a new barf-zone for my son and he joined me in the big bed. We watched Oprah together then went to sleep.

The poor kid woke up to vomit again at 1am, 4am, and 6am.

When we both got up at 9am we were exhausted. Apparently my husband had set up our younger son to play with LEGO quietly until we woke up, which was wonderful.

I hate seeing children vomiting. I felt badly because yesterday my older son spent the day being thirsty and hungry yet afraid to drink or eat lest he vomit again. We tested it out slowly and sure enough he’d vomit up whatever he drank, even small sips of water.

At noon I put him to bed to take a nap as he had a slight fever. I wanted him to ride the fever out as I knew it was his body’s natural method of killing the germs. He woke up after 2.5 hours feeling much better and fever-free.

He was thrilled to see his father brought home Coca Cola for him to drink in the evening. He slept through the night just fine (in his own bed).

My husband volunteered to use the carpet shampoo attachment to our vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess. He ended up doing the entire upstairs hallway, the carpeted stairs and also the area rug in the foyer. The water it sucked up was disgusting, varying from murky grey to dark, dark brown. (This further proves my point that hardwood or tile floors are much cleaner than carpets! Carpets trap dust and dirt and keep it in and are difficult to clean.)

My son woke up this morning feeling great. He is eating normal now. I guess it was a 24 hour bug. Now we are back to our regular homeschooling schedule and “life as usual”. Both my husband and I had a great night's sleep and we all feel rested. Hooray!

I wonder if anyone else in the family will get it now. I am going to take some vitamin C right now while I am thinking about it. I don’t want this myself and of course I don’t want my younger son to get it. In an attempt to not infect ourselves, we have all been washing our hands so much that they are all dried out!

We declined a fun opportunity to join other homeschoolers for an afternoon of holiday craft making today because I didn’t know if he’d still be sick or if he’d still be contagious.

Now you can see why I didn’t blog yesterday.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Lesson in Critical Thinking: LEGO Magazine Comparison

Okay here is another real life thing that could be categorized into a learning experience as it really was a mental exercise.

My older son (age 8) received a subscription to LEGO Brickmaster for his 8th birthday. As part of this he receives a Lego Magazine which has more pages than the usual, free edition (which my younger son receives in the mail).

Today my older son decided to do a side by side comparison to see what was different about the Brick Master edition of the magazine and the free version. We sat and compared them and he made his observations.

Sometimes the articles were longer. Sometimes a two-page spread was edited to be a one-page spread in the free edition. Also the articles and ads were jumbled and not in order which made the comparison more difficult to do.

If he were in school or if I chose to do it, he could do worksheets with shapes and patterns and would circle which are the same or which one is different? That would be called mathematical reasoning and/or critical thinking skills. But today in our home it was a real life thing that he was interested in and it was with a LEGO magazine and not with a worksheet.

Weird things like this that he comes up with himself are things that he considers fun.

This is a perfect example of ‘interest driven learning’ and ‘unschooling’. We don’t presently unschool as our homeschooling method but since it was such a great example I wanted to share it with you! I know there are some of you out there who still don’t ‘get’ unschooling so there is one example for you.

Cub Scout Reading Contest & Badge

If your son is a Cub Scout and aged ages 8 through 11 he is eligible to participate in the Boys' Life annual reading contest.

Details are here.

In a nutshell they are to write a book report on the book which was their favorite this year, in 500 words or less. Three winners in each age category will be awarded gift certificates to the official Boy Scouts catalog.

The contest ends December 31, 2005. Every participant will receive a patch which is a temporary patch (can be worn on their uniform's right pocket), so long as you follow the directions and include a self addressed, stamped envelope.

We finally got around to doing this today. My son narrated the report to me while I typed it into the computer for him.

This is an optional thing that Cub Scouts can do if they want to.

My son chose "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" to write his report on.

Grammar Lessons with Magnetic Poetry Today

Today I woke up very early. My older son woke up next. We had about 90 minutes alone together before my younger son woke up. (It has always been that my older son sleeps 9-10 hours per night and my younger son sleeps 10.5 to 12 hours per night which I find very interesting, this has been true for 'total sleep time' from the time they were born to now.)

Anyway today my older son asked me to cuddle in with him on the couch in the library and to read him a book. We went to pick one off the shelf and he requested to do magnetic poetry instead. This is the real first time we used it.

I don't have a metal fridge so we are using cookie sheets and a special magnetic poetry tray thing that they manufacture for those of us who want to/have to use it without a refrigerator.

We opened up two kits and separated the words.

I named parts of speech and as we laid out the words onto the metal we said what they were.

This is a very 'unschooling' type of moment. I guess grammar lessons are done for the day.

An interesting thing was that when I said that a verb was an action word, I asked him to pick from run and wind, which was the verb and he said, "wind". He explained this was because it moves and moves quickly. I had to explain that wind was a noun because it was a thing. But I do see his point. Can you see our English grammar is sometimes tricky in the eyes of a child?

High School Reunion Was Fantastic

I am still collecting my thoughts about my high school reunion. It was fantastic. I had a better time than I had expected. I had some drinks but never felt a buzz so at least I was not drunk and also was not making a fool of myself or anything like that, ha ha. (I didn't see anyone drunk and making a fool of themselves, come to think of it.)

I hope to blog more about this at a later time. The way my brain works is I either have to kind of gel my thoughts in my head then write them down in a coherent manner (which is fast and easy) or else I sit and write it all out like 'emptying my mind', and then edit and tighten up what is written down (which takes a longer amount of time).

All I will say now is that I keep thinking about my kids now and their experience with homeschooling and how they are NOT a part of a school system and are NOT forced to be with all kinds of people (good and bad and indifferent) and how if we stay on this path they won't have a reunion to go to (but they will hopefully have friends from the homeschooling world) but they just won't have that collective experience of all having been through school together. Perhaps for me this is a little more sentimental than other people as I went to prek-4 in my hometown plus Kindergarten through 12th grade (13 grades total) in the same town and with many of the same people. I think if a person moved around a lot in their lives perhaps a reunion is less important but I don't know.

Before I went, I was dreading telling people I am a stay at home mom as I thought they may not respect it. I didn't know what they'd say about me homeschooling my kids. Come to find out a bunch of my peers or their wives now stay at home and it was respected. There was no stigma for not being a mom who also works for pay outside the home. Of course some of the moms did work full time plus have children.

Also if people asked "what I am doing" I said I am at home with my kids and homeschooling them. I got praise and statements of "WOW" and "that is great". I didn't get a single, common question such as, "is that legal"? Comments that I get from those in my own town were not said such as, "I could never do that" or "why would you do that" or "why not just send them to private school if you don't want to use the public school"? I didn't hear one single negative comment about homeschooling.

Most people were asking just if I had kids not asking "what I do". At the five year reunion it was about what college we went to and what our job was. At the ten year reunion it was about career and are we married and only a few people seemed to have kids. So at this twenty year reunion it was about marriage and kids (both together in one question) and then sometimes "what do you do?" and no one spoke of post-high school education. Most people had kids under the age of ten. Interesting.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

High School Reunion Coming Up

I have a lot of serious matters on my mind about serious health issues of very close relatives. One less serious thing on my mind is about my high school reunion, which is tonight.

Several adults in my generation have commented to me that they are surprised I am attending because they feel that there is no need to reconnect with friends from school. I find this very interesting because if school is so important to the social lives of children and teens when why do some people think back to that time and those friendships as completely worthless? I have heard some strong statements such as, “Who cares what those people are doing” and “I hated those people back then so why would I ever want to see them again?” I also have heard the same thing from people in my parent’s generation and even one of my own grandmothers had negative things to say.

What I find surprising also is that some of these same people have questioned homeschooling and still place public schooling as a huge important thing. Also some of these people have said strong statements to me about socialization of children in schools, that socialization in schools is necessary for a child’s development, friendship making, etc.

Anyway I am still friends with a handful of women, with my oldest friend going back to age 7, when we met in Brownies. Some of my other friends were made in fifth grade. I am still friends with a small group that I was tight with in high school. So I am treating tonight as a reason to get together with those friends. Also I will hopefully see some people who I was acquainted with and really enjoyed being friends with while in school but we drifted away from each other once school ended.

Among women my age I find it is NOT the norm to still maintain friendships from high school or earlier grades. How sad.

This again underscores that attendance in school does not always result in creating real friendships that last over time.

Another thought I have had recently about this is that I have these strong friendships that endured over time. If my children DON’T ever go to school will I be cheating them by not giving them a chance to make friendships in school? I quickly counter my own worry about that by saying they are making friends in Scouts, in other homeschoolers and also at other extra-curricular things they do. They don’t live in a bubble. It is just that they don’t have that shared long time in the classroom together or at least that time in the cafeteria, at recess, on the bus, and/or when passing in the hallways.

New Blogger Fuction: Search This Blog


Blogger has added a function that allows readers to search for keywords inside of a blog. This is not restricted to the blog entries that are showing on the screen. The search goes back through the entire blog's archives.

Again, Yippee!!

I had tried installing Google's Search Engine that allows for the search inside the blog but with the Blogger templates, the Google function doesn't work.

I am glad that I now can search inside my own blog, and of course I am glad you can search inside of my blog!

You can find this function at the very top of each Blogger blog page.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dr. Ferber and Dr. Sears Change Opinions on Baby Sleep

Here is a Wall Street Journal article dated November 15, 2005, in which Dr. Ferber (yet again) speaks of regrets of recommending his cry-self-to-sleep method for babies. Over and over in recent years Dr. Ferber has expressed that he has felt that his method has been misunderstood and misused by parents. Dr. Richard Ferber's recommendations were published in a book called "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems". I will include the link to the book here in case you want to read about the book or read the customer reviews.

Dr. William Sears has a new book out “The Baby Sleep Book” (published in October 2005) in which he softens his advice to parents about not letting babies cry before sleep.

Dr. William Sears also published a book called "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" in March 2002.

Prior to the publication of these books, ideas for dealing with infants and sleep were included in another book by Dr. William Sears: "The Baby Book". This book was originall published in the 1990s but has been revised and expanded in 2003. I found this book invaluable as a first-time mother; it was the book that I referenced the most for parenting information. I also felt that the recommendations were in line with what felt right in my heart and mind!

If a parent follows their heart rather than just what an expert says, I feel they will be better off. If a parent does what they think is right then they rarely have regrets and defiantly won’t have guilt over past experiences.

Despite what these two doctors say about sleep and babies, I am very happy about how I handled putting my babies to sleep. When they gave “their advice A”, I was happy to do what I wanted which I will call “my way”. Now that they both are changing gears and giving “their advice B”, I am unaffected. I am still happy that I did it “my way”.

This all goes along with the notion that we should not do things to please others and ignore our own instincts, ideas and feelings.

Also this is yet again proof that whenever someone puts something in writing or something is recorded that someone says, the person always has the right to change their mind, recant what was said prior, and then to say something different. I love that about free speech.

Whenever we read anything in a book or a magazine or in a newspaper, we should keep in mind that the information could have been selectively quoted or edited, and also that at any time the person may recant or change their views and may say something contrary to it in the future.

So, I hope you are following your heart and your gut and not blindly following someone’s advice.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ebay Clothing Sale Failed

For eight years I have given away my children's used clothing to others. I see lots of people reselling clothing on eBay or through consignment shops.

I hardly get any hand me downs. In eight years I have received about 40 clothing items total.

I had offered my sons Land's End down jacket to a relative and she rejected it. It is in great shape and I paid $69.50 for it. I figured this would be a perfect thing to resell on eBay. Well it didn't sell. I put the minimum price to bid at $30.00, which is 55% of the full retail cost. Mind you, this was partly done because of the high fees that eBay has for listing the auction as well as the high fees they charge, the percentage of the cost that it sells for. Frankly I think that $30 for a guaranteed-for-life, used one season, down jacket in excellent condition is a very good price. Someone missed out on a bargain.

I am disappointed that it didn't sell. I am also out $1.75 in eBay fees. Sigh. I also wasted time in listing the auction, checking on it, and just now wasted 10 minutes trying to pay eBay for the listing fee.

I guess I will go back to giving all the clothes away for free.

I thought perhaps due to our tight financial state of affairs, that reselling the gently used clothing was a way to help make ends meet. I guess not.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Report from Today’s Library Sale

My children and I arrived at the library sale at opening time, but everyone who had been waiting had already been let in. The place was busy and buzzing with that sense of excitement and/or anxiety in the air.

The signs said the adult books were $1 and the children’s books were .25-$1.00. In the past the children’s books were always 50 cents, so this was a price hike for the children’s books.

The children’s section was jammed. I sent my kids to the children’s section to browse while I made a bee line for the fine arts section. I was competing with a dealer for fine art books. I was quickly able to pick out about a dozen books with full color, large reproductions of fine works of art. I was also very happy to find a like new, great book called “Blue Dog Man” about the artwork featuring the blue dog by Cajun artist George Rodrique. (I just went online and checked the artist’s website and see that originals now start at $10,000. Boy did we miss the boat on that one.)

In the spring of 1998 when I was in New Orleans I was strolling through the French Quarter with my older son, when he was just a baby, I browsed an art gallery featuring Blue Dog artwork. I was surprised to find huge originals for sale for as low as $300. In contrast some of the prints were going for $600. I overheard the gallery owner discussing with an employee how he really needed to speak to the artist as he felt that all of the originals should be higher priced than the prints. He also was saying that the originals were really prices too low and that given that his work was becoming more collectible he was going to try and get the artist to agree to raise his prices. I remember thinking at the time that I should buy an original as an investment, but since my husband hates dogs, I knew that buying a piece of blue dog art and hanging it in our home would not be appreciated or welcomed by my husband. I wonder if this artwork has climbed in value by now?

I then headed over to the children’s section as it had quieted down, and my kids were very excited over some books they found. I weeded out about six twaddle books. They picked out about a dozen books that they really wanted. They were happy to find two boxes full of dinosaur books, large books--some are near 300 pages, and in very good condition. I don’t think we need any more dinosaur books but I wasn’t in the mood to argue and at $1 it was hard to say no. I didn’t clean them all out, we just selected certain ones to take home. I also saw some there that we already own.

It was hard to look through the children’s section as the dealers were brushing up against me and there were (other people’s) boxes of books at my feet. One man really smelled of cigarettes and it was making my stomach queasy to be near him. I quickly scanned through the children’s section, really just scanning.

Too bad no one wanted the 30 Nancy Drew books that were there! What a find. I didn’t buy them.

I found one Landmark: “The Vikings”. I don’t know if I own it but at $1 it was not too much of a risk for me to buy it.

I then headed over to the adult history section and found a few interesting books.

I checked the foreign language section for books to use in making artwork. I found one book which teaches Chinese and had both words and symbols. I found a book in German as well. I also found a lovely vintage book that teaches children French, which I bought but could never cut up for making art with. I also found a lovely coffee table book about Switzerland, with very large beautiful photos of the country, and the text is in a foreign language.

I checked the reference section for a dictionary or a thesaurus to use in making art but there were none.

I checked the self-help, parenting and health sections for books to use as bases for altered books. What I am looking for are hardcover books with a decent amount of pages in it, with good quality paper, preferably acid-free paper. I also would prefer not slender widths. A normal sized book is fine but I was thrilled to find a couple that were odd shaped, wider (but in the end I returned those, more on that later). Two books that I bought for this purpose I may actually end up keeping to read, one is a Bill Moyers book on the mind and healing and the other is a Northrup book called “The Wisdom of Menopause”.

I also checked the business section for books to alter and found these which were in like-new condition and had nice interior pages, and were free of odors:
One written by Bill Gates about Microsoft,
one about how the company Starbucks came to be, and got so successful, and
another about how the Native Americans in Connecticut got approval for what is now the largest casino in the country: Foxwoods. However once I got home these all look like good reading to me!

My kids picked out two VHS movies for $1 each and a board game from the first “Survivor” television show (for $1).

My younger son was antsy so we left. I didn’t do a thorough job by any means, not even looking at every book in the children’s section. I ended up buying more books than I have ever purchased at this library’s sale in the past. I am thrilled with some of the books that I found.

What was lacking from the sale was old and out of print living books. I only found one chapter book written before 1950 and I did find one Madeline Brandeis book which I bought, even though I already own it. Maybe I will see if I can resell it to another homeschooler who would appreciate it.

I was a bit annoyed when I went to check out as they announced that every book had to be checked to see if it was a first edition. If it was, it was then $2. What annoyed me was that this price structure was not posted anywhere (it said all books were $1) and that it was very time consuming. I feel that this should have been done ahead of time. I also think that not every book that is a first edition is worth any money and those that are worth more, are worth more than $2.

Two non-valuable dinosaur books were ‘first editions’ but I bit the bullet and bought them. One old and interesting book about the story of Easter was a first edition, but it was in fair condition only, as it was well-read and an ex-library book, so in my opinion this should have gone for $1 not $2.

To just say that all first editions are more valuable than non-first editions is silly.

When I was told that two books that I had picked out to alter were then $2, I put them back. One was a twaddle book for fathers about when their wives were pregnant; I liked the size and shape of the book for altering. The other ridiculous one was a large format hardcover from the 70s or early 80s about “Callinetics” exercises—I can tell you this is not a valuable book at all. The first editions that I chose to keep were new fairy tale picture books in ‘like new’ condition with gorgeous illustrations. I bought them to read and use and don’t have any plans on keeping them as collector’s items or reselling these for profit. And of the approximate 110 books I had selected there were only 7 first editions. It took about 15 minutes for two people to check through my books.

As usual the cashiers asked what I was going to do with these books, and asked if I was a dealer. I explained that I homeschool my children and that we use real books to learn from, and that we read a lot.

I then was told some horror stories about how rude the dealers were---and this was only 70 minutes after the sale had begun. They said one man was so rude and insisted that they were trying to double charge him for one box of books so in the end they felt he got away with one box free. I was grateful to have only gotten slammed into one time today, and it was with an empty box. I also recognized a woman buying a wagonload of books who owns a used book store about 30 minutes drive from here. I seldom frequent her store now that I know she buys a good number of books at library sales then she resells them for 50% the cover price.

I was just looking through the books we bought and I am really happy to have discovered some great books. I am grateful for having found these books at such good prices!

Going To a Library Sale Today

This morning I am going to my town's library sale. Wish me luck. This time instead of having the $5 admission/free to "Friends of the Library" preview sale on Friday night for two hours, they are having the preview for the first hour on Saturday morning.

In the past I have gone to the preview sale as I found lots of great books and I doubted I'd get them if I went on 'free admission' day. Also the prices at this sale are so low compared to other libraries that to pay the $5 fee to get in is still a bargain.

Today's sale is adult books in hardcover as the focus, for $1 each. The children's section will have all types of books and the prices for today state they will range from 25 cents to $1. In the past the children's books never went above 50 cents. Hmmm.

My goal for today is to go to the adult art section to see if there are any great color picture fine art books to use in homeschooling. If I could find any of these for $1 that would be a huge bargain. I know that category of books is one that the dealers hit first, so I will be competing with the dealers there.

The second section I will hit is reference. I want one dictionary and one thesaurus for use in making artist trading cards and altered books. I will then see if there are any books in foreign languages, also to use in making art.

I will then check the children's book section for books for my children. I don't 'need' any, I don't think, but we'll see what is there.

I will check the board book section to see if there are any good books I can turn into an altered book.

Lastly I will check the self-help section and the adult fiction section to see if there are any hardback books that are perfect for turning into altered books.

The downside to this jaunt is that I have to take my children with me. I usually DON'T take them to library sales with me as they get bored. I also usually don't take them at opening time when dealers are there as it can get dangerous. I hope the dealers that we will see today are not rude or so boisterous that my children and I are physically harmed. If it gets to that point I won't hesitate to complain to the volunteers and maybe they will get thrown out. Perhaps the fact that I am a citizen of this town will give me some pull in that request!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Excited About Harry Potter New Movie

We are excited that today the new Harry Potter movie "Goblet of Fire" was released. Two families asked us if we'd like to go with them. I was not sure whether we'd have time to go today, Saturday, or Sunday. We have various appointments on these days. I also don't want to stand on line for hours to get tickets. If we go with someone else I also want to make sure we are able to all sit together.

So those that I know who "do Harry Potter" are very excited and are going to see it. Those that I know who "don't do Harry Potter" are talking about how and why they don't do HP and how they are happy with their decision, and how their children are just fine and well without HP.

I spoke to one mother today and we arranged to go see it this afternoon. The online ticket buying site upped their fee to an extra $2 per ticket for tickets to this movie today. Another friend said yesterday the fee was only $1. Can you say "price gauging"? So my friend decided to drive down to the theatre this morning to get the tickets in person so we don't have to wait in line and so we will be guaranteed a seat. We chose a show that qualifies for the matinee price so we are saving a couple of dollars on each ticket, which is always nice.

I phoned the other mother and found out they saw the midnight showing! I was so surprised! They had a lot of fun. She filled me in on why she thought the rating was PG-13. She also said that if someone didn't read the book they may feel the movie is disjointed. We agreed that it must be hard to convert such a long book into a movie, since it is not possible to fit all that happens in the book into a 2 hour movie.

So anyway we will have fun later today when we go see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Struggling with Pefectionism About Homeschooling

One of the things I am struggling with is perfectionism and homeschooling. I am feeling let down about this year because my goals and plans are not working out as I had thought they would, this fall.

We have had a hard time doing our homeschooling lessons five days a week, for various reasons.

I am feeling pulled in different directions due to two family members having Cancer. It is emotionally and mentally draining to worry and be afraid of the health of these close family members. This pulls energy away from my other endeavors such as homeschooling. Some days I just want to sit at the computer and read emails in the morning instead of sitting down to do homeschooling lessons, for example. If I sit down to do emails then it sidetracks me from homeschooling. Some days we are then thrown off course for the rest of the day.

With lower mental energy reserves I have less tolerance for things such as the children complaining about homeschooling. Example: asking to watch television (dumb shows) instead of doing homeschooling lessons. Example: asking for a 20 minute break after doing a 10 minute penmanship lesson. It is very hard to get all the homeschooling done when the break time is equal to or greater than the time spent on the lessons. Also this drags the lessons out throughout the day.

Thinking back, I think the best year ever for homeschooling was the year my older son was in first grade. We did a strict Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling and it worked wonderfully. All of his lessons were done in 2 hours or less. We started after breakfast and finished before lunch. A lot of academics was accomplished in a little time. He learned to read fluently that year and that was a giant measurable thing to give credit for: both his ability to learn as well as my ability to teach him. That year my younger son was three years old and he was content to play at our feet or cuddle on my lap while we did our homeschooling.

It is a very different picture now with homeschooling two elementary school aged children. If you are a parent of an only child whom you homeschool, you have NO IDEA how much harder it is to homeschool two children. I am not sure if I can imagine homeschooling with three or more children in the house. Right now I think it would be very hard. However it all depends on the dynamics in the family and also what the personality of the mother is. Believe me, the decision to have another child was considered with homeschooling in mind. I have thought, seriously, in the past, that if I really want to homeschool all of my children then perhaps the best thing for us is to not have any more children, to stop at two. If I had three children it may mean that one or more gets sent to school just so I can do what I consider to be a decent job educating all of them.

At the time my husband lost his job I was trying to get pregnant and actually my period was already late on the day he found out. During this time of unemployment it has been a goal to not get pregnant. He fears financial issues. I fear more the impact of uncertainty and my worry about unemployment's effect on the developing baby! (I once read a book by a neonatologist who felt that all negative thoughts by the mother during pregnancy did have a negative effect on the developing baby's brain, and that the baby/child/person was basically scarred for life. He also felt that negative thoughts can bring on premature labor and lead to premature birth. I don't believe all he said as for one thing it was his opinion and not even something that was measurable by studies.)

Anyway I am trying to not be so hard on myself about homeschooling not going perfectly this fall. With each day that my husband remains unemployed, the picture looks gloomier and gloomier. Now we have two relatives with Cancer. Juggling all of that is difficult and some days I wonder if it is possible to get through all of this and keep sane. Some days I think things like, "Would life be better if I sent the kids to school and went back to work" or "What would life be like if I ran away from here by myself to start a new life?” Those are the times when I feel like I need to get grounded again, and I remind myself of all the good in my life and try to concentrate on being grateful for the good things rather than be negative about the bad parts.

Working on Perfectionism and Tolerance

My major struggle yesterday was with perfectionism and lack of tolerance. I was having a rough day and was busy so wasn't at the computer much. It was the kind of day when it was clear to me that God wanted me to work on these issues. I am not quite sure how to do this but I am trying.

I have been a perfectionist since I was a child. It is something I have been trying to overcome. I thought I was doing alright lately but my intolerance for the imperfection of others was pretty high yesterday.

My younger son is turning out to be a perfectionist. It is through him that I see that perfectionism can easily turn a person to have negative self-esteem. It is sad to see him doing this to himself. I take no responsibility for 'making' him a perfectionist. I can clearly see this is something that is coming from within himself. My older son is definitely not a perfectionist! I know it is not my parenting of these kids that is making them a perfectionist or making them not be a perfectionist. Instilling a sense of responsibility and teaching good work ethics is one thing but perfectionism is yet another.

One of my challenges is that when I commit to something I feel responsible to do it and to do it right. I then expect others to do the same. This was an issue back when I was working as well as now, when I am working as a volunteer. Back then the thought was more like, "they are getting paid to do this job and why aren't they doing it" and "I am being paid to do this job so I'd better follow the rules and do it right and on time".

I used to assume that people who do volunteer work would have a higher work ethic because they are asking to do the work and they are not simply doing it to earn money which they need to live and survive on. This was partly due to people telling me they are only at the job for the money, or they'd say they hate the job but just do what they have to do to get by to get the paycheck.

However some people have a poor work ethic, even if the job is a volunteer job. In different organizations and with men as well as women there are people who over-commit or feel that since a job is a volunteer job that it is a lower priority than other things in their life. "Hey, I'm doing this for free and if I am too busy to do it then you will have to accept that the job wasn't done" is the attitude. It is perhaps harder to get people to volunteer for a job and then hard to get them to follow rules and to meet deadlines, do a job well, etc. In some cases the same person would work harder if it were for money than if it was a volunteer effort.

Oh well it does me no good to think about these things. I try to just concentrate on myself. I try not to over-commit. I try to meet deadlines and follow rules. I try not to let other people down. If I am struggling I ask for help rather than just not do a thing and let people down. I also resign from volunteer jobs when I think I can't do a good job any longer for whatever reason.

It is a constant battle for me to try to not be a perfectionist and to try and not expect too much of other people. It is a battle for me to not get frustrated by others. I try to just think about myself and to try and mind my own business. I can only control my own actions.

Most times the issues are things I think about but never voice. I try very hard not to be a killjoy and not to be a complainer. I try to be diplomatic in my thoughts and communications. It is still hard though, to not have negative thoughts. I tell myself to not be critical of others, or to not be judgmental. It is hard, though, as that is how my brain works when on 'default'.

Yesterday brightened up when a friend came over with her children for a playdate. It was nice to see my friend and to be able to chat. All of my friends are so busy that often it seems they don't have time to talk on the phone or to email or to see me in person. Everyone is pulled in many directions: jobs, volunteer work, kids, spouse, extended family, etc.

Anyway so yesterday I got to vent some of my frustration to my friend. Then our family had a very good time at a Cub Scout Pack meeting. The meeting was not perfect and it was not free of problems. Even my own (older) son was upset with me and was crying. Lots of Scouts had a very fun time at the meeting so that is a success for that reason alone. Overall we had a very good time, so I went to bed with high spirits which was a good thing. I am grateful that my spirits were brightened and that my mind was taken away from thoughts such as worrying about my relatives who have Cancer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Audubon Class and Wild Birds

This week we had the last of the autumn session of Audubon classes which we take with homeschoolers. This is the second year my older son is taking classes there and it is just a wonderful place and a wonderful class. The location used to be an estate and when the owner passed away the land was left to become an Audubon Center. This Center has meadow, hardwood forest, and a river on it.

The teacher that he had is the best teacher I have ever encountered. She is friendly to the children, speaks to them with respect, she is patient and it is clear she really enjoys nature and her job. She is a wealth of information yet she admits she doesn’t know everything. Her enthusiasm for nature shows and the children all enjoy her. I actually wish I had more of these qualities because next to her I am dull and boring! I should write a letter to the Audubon Center praising her. I know in our world we often only contact companies with complaints, which is a shame.

At the last class the children made woodpecker feeders out of old cedar logs. They screwed eyelets into the top so they can hang and they hand drilled holes in the sides. When we got home we filled these holes with a suet mixture. I had some store bought wild bird food suet blocks in the freezer already so we thawed that out and used that rather than making our own homemade mixture as they recommended. This morning I went outside to hang them up. I tried using a spare wrought iron stake thing that is about five feet high and is used to hand bird feeders or hanging plants on. We had in stored the garage. I couldn’t get it pushed down enough in the yard to be stable as the ground is so rocky here. I had to remove two other bird feeders which I had hanging in trees, and hung them there instead.

The birds were going crazy outside today; they are noisily flying all over gathering food. This is supposed to indicate that a storm is coming. It is a typical New England November day. The sky is grey and the weather is damp and cold. There is fog rolling in now and we heard thunder in the distance. We could feel the dampness on our cheeks. When the boys ran down to the mailbox they yelled out that when they run they can feel the dampness in the air even more than when they are standing still.

I’d like to finish up the wild bird food I have in the garage. I haven’t been using it for a couple of years because the stray (feral) cats that live in the neighborhood were catching the birds while they were eating from our feeders. I felt badly about the fact that we were luring them here and they were losing their lives in the process, so I stopped feeding them. The kids and I used to love watching the birds. The part of town where we live has three acre zoning and all the yards have woods in them, so our neighborhood is loaded with birds.

One thing I’d really like to do is to get to know the birds by their calls. So often we hear the birds rather than see them up close. Call me a geek but I like it when I hear a bird call and know what it is. We own the Identiflyer but that is not good enough for me. I would like to be able to hear multiple calls that birds make (not just one). Also buying additional cards for the Identiflyer is costly (at $10 per card). I want them all, of course, but it just isn’t in the budget.

A goal that I have for myself and my children is to be able to identify all the common birds in our area by sight and sound. I feel strongly that being able to make connections such as this is what makes us feel closer to nature and it helps us care about the planet and want to preserve it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Thoughts About "Red Sails to Capri" by Ann Weil

When my older son was seven I read the book “Red Sails to Capri” by Ann Weil aloud to him. My then-4 year old son listened in on most of it. It is one of our family’s favorites.

I first learned of this book while reading the Sonlight catalog. I had an opportunity to get a free copy of it, so picked it up for future use. I was prompted to read it when a local homeschooler posted a note to our local homeschooling chat list telling us how much her family enjoyed the book. I felt as if I had discovered a treasure.

When I started reading the book I didn’t know what the book was about. It is about a ‘blue grotto’ on the island of Capri. I didn’t even know there was such a place in the world. The fact that this lovely place exists was not on my public school’s curriculum. What a shame.

When we finished reading the book, I decided it was one of the best stories I had ever read. This is a story whose hidden story I was able to figure out (this goes along the lines of what the authors of "Deconstructing Penguins" talk about figuring out). Come to think of it, I wish they’d add this book to their book discussion reading list.

My son begged me to find more stories like this to read to him. He really loved the story. Also when we finished the story I went to the internet in search of images of the blue grotto. He was thrilled to see them (as was I).

Tonight while having dinner with my in-laws and their close friends, a story was shared about when they had all traveled to Italy together for a trip. They said the best part of the trip was when they went to see the blue grotto. They had gone to see the blue grotto. I told about the wonderful story “Red Sails to Capri” and suggested to our friend, that she purchase this book to give to her grandson (aged 9), and/or that they read it aloud to him.

I went to the internet and from what I can see on Amazon and Barnes & the book looks like it is out of print. I ‘ran’ over to Sonlight’s site which still is selling it. I see on Amazon, that many used copies are available. I just can’t believe that such a great book may be going out of print.

The friends asked me to write down the title of the book. I sent them home with the title and author jotted down on a piece of paper, along with Sonlight’s website and Amazon’s URL.

Later my father-in-law phoned to ask if he could borrow our copy, as he wants to read it himself!

I recommend that all of you go buy this book immediately! Let’s keep this in print!

Hmmm, I just may buy copies of this for my nieces and nephews for Christmas presents...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New Pennnsylvania Law Forces Public Schools to Admit Homeschoolers for Clubs and Sports Teams

Here is an article about a new Pennsylvania state law which forces all public schools to admit homeschoolers to be eligible to participate in school clubs and sports teams. This article was written by Christina Gostomski and was published on November 11, 2005, on

The law, which took effect immediately after Rendell signed it, requires those districts to allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, musical ensembles and school plays. To participate, students must meet the same criteria as other students. When applicable, they must try out and meet the same attendance and grade requirements imposed on students enrolled in the district.

''It doesn't mean [a student] can play in the band if he plays off-key,'' Rendell said Thursday.

Rendell said it was only ''fair'' that homeschooling parents who pay

property taxes to school districts be allowed to enroll their children in extracurricular activities. Homeschooling parents have long contended that their children should be allowed to participate in district activities for that reason.

Hrycenko, who began lobbying for the legislation after his homeschooled son was banned from Allen High School's soccer team, described the law's final passage as ''a pleasant shock.''

Hrycenko's son, Nestor, now out of high school, wanted to join Allen High School's soccer team in ninth grade but was barred. The district relented in Nestor's senior year. Hrycenko estimates 5 percent of homeschooled children will enroll in extracurricular activities at public schools.

But some educators fretted Thursday about increased costs and difficulties verifying whether homeschoolers meet the same educational requirements as their public school counterparts.

Health Overhaul to Begin Today

As of today I am going to start doing a review of our family’s health and plan an overhaul. This week I learned that my mother has Breast Cancer. This is scary for me not only because I fear for her wellness, but because I now have an increased chance of getting Breast Cancer myself. How frightening! I am no longer an adult with two parents alive and well—one is very sick! Also a very recent diagnosis of Cancer in my husband’s family puts him at an increased risk of Cancer as well. We both need to get our act together or we may be in their situation some day.

I guess I am at the age now where watching what I eat or whether I exercise or not is not primarily about how I look, it is not about how fat or thin I am. I know a good amount about wellness, maintaining good health and about what we can do to avoid disease. However I will admit that I have not always practiced what I knew. When I was single I was working full time and my career was my main priority in life. Sometimes I ate poorly as I was relying on what was sold in the company cafeteria, etc. In the last five years of my working career I was attending college full-time on nights and on weekends. I worked 45 hours in the office per week, commuted 10 hours through the renowned brutal traffic of I-95 in Fairfield and New Haven Counties in Connecticut, and attended classes nights and on Saturdays. Then there was the time spent on homework. During this time I stopped exercising and gained weight. A stint on Weight Watchers got me down to my ideal weight, but I was still out of shape. Then I got married and we bought out first house. I took some time off here and there to do things such as go on our honeymoon. I put weight on during the two week honeymoon, and have been above my ideal weight for 10 years now! I then became pregnant and continued with life as usual, graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree when I was eight months pregnant.

Adjusting to life as a new mother, with breastfeeding around the clock and sleep deprivation, was not a time to focus on exercise and weight loss. I did concentrate on eating well as I knew it was imperative not only for my health and well being but to ensure that my milk was nutrient dense. For seven years I was either pregnant or breastfeeding.

Once I was done nursing my children, I slipped a bit on the nutrition. I increased sweets and decreased fruit and vegetable consumption.

I became busy with caring for my children, and with homeschooling my children. It is easy to say “my child’s education comes first” and “we’ll homeschool in the morning then I can exercise in the afternoon”, but the exercise part rarely happens. The fact that they have never been to school or in daycare means that I am with them 24/7. This used to pose a problem for exercise. I won’t bore you with long stories but suffice it to say that there used to be a non-separating stage with one child and later, my children trying to “join in” with my home exercise (making it a hazard for all of us), that for a while it was not possible to exercise. Now that my kids are 5 and 8 and I can trust them not to get hurt while I do a home exercise routine, I have no excuses. But I am not exercising regularly. Why? If I am to be truthful it is because I choose not to. I choose instead to do things such as write this blog, do housecleaning, do laundry, homeschool them, read to get information or to read for pleasure. It really has come to a point where I need to JUST DO IT. I need to just make the time and make exercise a priority. I need to schedule a time to do it and then stick to that schedule.

I am not sure why I am dragging my feet on this. When I used to exercise daily, I felt full of energy. My mood was happy and I dealt with stress much better. My moods were more even and I craved sweets and carbohydrates much less. I never did have fun with exercise, though. It was tedious and boring. I used to lift weights (that is what kept me in the best shape). I also used to do aerobics classes and also would use the various cardio equipment. Riding a bike outdoors here is like taking one’s own life in one’s hands, so that is still not happening much. I now have a home with room enough to do exercise routines while I watch exercise classes on TV.

I need to really buckle down and commit to this.

Also it is time to stop eating the Halloween candy. I think this weekend makes three weeks of eating it on a daily basis. Enough is enough. I feel like I have gotten fatter but the scale remains the same, which is odd. I’d almost feel better if the scale reflected what I feel, it would make me think I really did gain weight. But each day that I don’t gain weight is another day I say, “Oh, I can get away with eating candy again today”.

I want to do all I can to help avoid getting Cancer or other illnesses in the future. I want to get my cholesterol back down to what it used to be.

I really feel ready to be less overweight and to have that great feeling of strong muscles again.

It is time to do an overhaul!

My husband also needs an overhaul. I can’t control his actions but maybe I can influence him a bit.

I also want to get my children exercising on a daily basis; now that fall is here I notice they don’t exercise every day and they avoid going outside. I know the importance of breathing in fresh clean outdoor air and for that reason alone, they should be outside daily.

I have had it ‘up to here’ with their picky eating. I did a little research this week but still am not able to find information or resources to help deal with picky eaters when they are older than toddler-aged. I have not been able to find information about how parents can deal with this, on a behavioral level. I would like to know what some experts say about it. One friend tells me she puts food on the table and if her kids won’t eat it then they are not allowed to eat any other food in the house, they are to go hungry. Another person told me to offer a meal. If it is not eaten it is offered at the next meal. This is repeated for up to many days, with the same one/old meal being offered. In between they go hungry. I have told my children that if they won’t eat the meal then they can go make themselves a bowl of cereal—while friends tell me this is not ‘good enough’. HELP! I may become so desperate that I phone in a radio talk show, perhaps with Dr. Joy Browne--but who has time to sit on hold like that? Not me.

I am sick of making my children their own special dinners. I also worry that they are not eating well enough. They eat little vegetables and little fruit. The only protein they will eat is certain brands of chicken nuggets, certain brands of hot dogs, and certain kinds of deli ham (without edges and sliced just certain thinness).

I have also tried teaching my children about the importance of good nutrition. I have explained how some foods harm the body and how others can do more mild things like cause a headache or cause cravings for more sweets. I have explained how sweets can rot their teeth. All of this logic doesn’t have much impact, though.

My current project is a new twist on an old idea. I am going to fashion homemade cards like the old “Deal a Meal” cards that Richard Simmons used to sell for his weight loss diet. I am going to put on each card, one food serving. For example, one fruit, with a fruit image and then a short list of the portions of various foods I know they love or at least will tolerate. I will make these cards showing an ideal diet. There will be a wallet folder. Each time they want to eat they have to choose from what is available on the left side then they move the eaten food’s card to the right side. In this way they will see when their bread limit is done and when their remaining choices are proteins, fruits or vegetables. You see, if it were up to them they’d eat 14 bread servings in a day and nothing else. Or they get on a cow milk/dairy roll and eat a ton of that. Since they both can read I think this will work.

I will now go research what the ideal children’s diet is and what child-sized portions are!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Narnia Update and Thoughts on Recorded Books

In the last week I finished reading “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis aloud to my older son. He is in a homeschool book discussion group which is discussing this book. We meet weekly and they talk about only two or three chapters at a time. I think this is a good socialization opportunity. It is the first time he is in direct contact with a teacher having only academic content. It is the most ‘classroom-like’ experience he has had so far. This is being led by a father of a homeschooled child and is being offered for free. He loves participating in this discussion and he also loves the book.

We then listened to “The Horse and His Boy” on audio book while in the car, while making homemade bread together, and while making art. We finished that story.

We borrowed the cassette audio book of “Prince Caspian” from a library but it was defective and we couldn’t listen to it two days ago when we tried as the cassette was worn out. How disappointing that was! However, I borrowed a CD version from another library yesterday and we will begin that today, while driving in the car to do something to help one of our sick relatives.

We also borrowed the BBC version of the movie “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” from the library and watched half of it last night, as a family. It is fun to see it acted out but the costuming is not great. The beavers are ridiculous looking and actually it is distracting. We stopped at the beaver part of the movie.

While fast forwarding through commercials on a TiVo-recorded show, I saw the commercial for Disney’s version of “The Lion…” which comes out on December 18, 2005. The special effects and costuming and the scenery/location were gorgeous. I can’t wait to see that version.

We plan to work our way through the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. At the rate we are going we should be done in one week.

I will say that I prefer reading the book aloud because that way I am not missing things. Sometimes when we are listening to the audio book while driving I have to concentrate on driving or my mind drifts away from the story, so I miss parts. I find it hard to listen to audio books for long periods of time. I guess this is the proof that I am primarily a visual learner. I remind myself that for other people, this drifting off must occur while reading. I do drift off while reading, sometimes, but it is easy to go back and re-read the missed parts, unlike listening to audio books (when others are listening with me).

My husband asked my older son whether he prefers to read or hear audio books and my son replied he likes to listen to the stories better because he can do other things while listening. I think it is great that he can make art or make LEGO creations and listen 100% attentively. My husband wants him to read more and he suggested to me that I cut off the audio books, but I nixed that idea. The issue is not that I am avoiding reading aloud, but it is that instead of listening to nothing (while in the house playing or making art or baking together), or instead of listening to music in the car, we are all listening to the recorded book. I see this as more exposure to books and literature and I feel this is better than restricting listening to recorded books.

When we listen to recorded books, it is done as a family on a regular player and it is a shared experience. It is not done on a portable player with my son in his own little world. He also doesn’t listen to recorded books alone, it is initiated by me.

I did break down a few months ago and bought portable CD players at Target for $9.99, for my children. I figured this way my younger son could listen to music by himself while the rest of us listen to long recorded books s in the car. My younger son doesn’t have the patience to always listen to long recorded books (for example one Harry Potter we listened to was 27 hours long). My younger son has decided on his own to listen in on the stories and to complain rather than use his portable CD player.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Abercrombie T-Shirts for Teenaged Girls Controversy

On November 2, I saw this Yahoo news story about a new line of t-shirts for girls, sold by Abercrombie, which contain sexual references.

Shirts start at $24.50 and they are called 'attitude shirts'.

Here are some of the slogans which are written across the breast area of the shirts.

"Who Needs Brains When I Have These?"

"You Better Make More Than I Can Spend"

"Do I make you look fat?"

"Don't be jealous"

"I had a nightmare I was a brunette"

"Blondes are adored, brunettes are ignored"

A "girlcott" was begun and people began voicing negative opinions to Abercrombie.

After the written press covered the story, it moved to television news reports from CNN and FoxNews.

Today the news hit that Abercrombie has taken certain shirts with certain sayings on them off the market. I have not yet been able to figure out which shirts were pulled off the market. (I bet those are already collectors items and that some are for sale on eBay already.)

Here is an Op Ed piece from Anchorage Daily News dated November 9, 2005. Here is a great quote from it.
The store calls these "attitude T-shirts" and they don't come cheap: 25 bucks to demean yourself and other females while fattening Abercrombie's profits.

If adult women want to make fools of themselves and contribute to anti-woman stereotypes, that's one thing. But when the hip place to shop aims those messages at girls, it's telling them if they want to be cool, they have to play down their intelligence, play up their perfect bodies and put down other girls.

Here is another Op Ed piece from the DesMoines Register dated 11/9/05. This article reports this:

Last Friday, the company issued a statement saying it was taking the action "in recognition that these T-shirts might be found to be objectionable to many young women, who are among our best customers."

The girls are " just jumping out of their skins" with excitement, said Heather Arnet, their spokeswoman, in a phone interview. They're even more excited that representatives of the company have agreed to meet with them to brainstorm about more empowering messages to put on T-shirts, according to Arnet, who heads up the Women & Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. The girls came together during a retreat for a youth program the foundation runs in Allegheny County. They began hatching plans in August to do something about the T-shirts.

We've been talking about protest in this column lately - the issues that inspire it, the people who engage in it and the ways they get their points across. I love this story because it began with an outrage, but the girls didn't stop at feeling demeaned and discouraged. They did their homework and researched their options. They chose the "girlcott" after learning they couldn't picket at the mall because it's private property. They learned how to use the media by calling a press conference. Now they even have a national public relations firm signed on to schedule interviews with them.

Hooray for these young female consumers for voicing their opinions and winning!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Custom Photo Stamps

I heard a commercial today on television for Custom Stamps. A person can take any photo they want and turn it into a postage stamp—a real postage stamp to use in the U.S. mail system.

Here is the website.

I see that stamps are ordered in sheets of 20. The prices are discounted more and more with the more sheets that are ordered.

However it is outrageiously expensive. The cost per 37 cent stamp, if you buy one sheet, is 84.9 cents! So much for that idea.

They suggest this be used for wedding invitations, thank you notes, or holiday greeting cards.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Thoughts on Buying Shoes for Children

I purchased sneakers for my son. I have wasted a lot of time driving all over to retail stores looking for Stride Rite sneakers in wide or extra-wide widths. They are nearly impossible to find in local retail stores. This time around I saved time, energy, and gasoline by ordering them online from a large shoe store.

In the past I have had hit-or-miss success with visiting Stride Rite Factory Outlet stores. When I find wide or extra-wide sneakers or shoes I buy them in larger sizes and store them for future use. Unfortunately right now we don’t have any new shoes saved up.

Since my kids were born I have noticed their feet have grown a half-size every three months. It can be damaging to children’s feet to wear shoes that are too small. Therefore they should get new shoes every three months. I don’t know if all children’s feet grow this fast but since both of my boys feet have, I am willing to bet this is true, up to some age. All I know is up to age eight this is true for my son.

Once a shoe salesman told me when the toe front of the shoe is very worn down it means that their toes are hitting it and they are dragging it as they walk. Since hearing this I have seen lots of kids wearing shoes that are too small. He also said most kids are wearing shoes way too long and by the time they come in for replacements; they have long outgrown the shoes. I was surprised to learn that some young children are wearing their shoes for as long as 9 months. I was told that the new shoes should have a one half inch space (about the width of your thumb), empty at the front, to leave room for growing into. They should never wear shoes when their toes hit the end.

Some family members of mine and my husband have horrible foot problems such as fallen arches, hammer toes and bunions. Supposedly these can be avoided by wearing properly sized shoes and high quality shoes with proper arch support.

I would never intentionally ruin my children’s feet to save a few dollars! I cannot understand parents who do this to save money—especially when money is not at all tight—they do have the money, but they CHOOSE not to spend it on shoes for their children. (Note that some of these mothers have loads of shoes.)

Anyway the Stride Rite outlet has Stride Rite shoes for half-price. You can’t beat that. As I said it is hit-or-miss. When we go to visit relatives out of state, we drive by one of these stores. We stop in and buy shoes, when they have nice ones in the right size, or in future sizes. It is not hard to do.

Now if I could only find a Stride Rite Outlet store online!

The best I could do last week was find a vendor that sells Stride Rite shoes at a discount with free shipping, at I am happy for that!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bookhunting Report: November 5, 2005

Okay I went to (only) my 2nd library sale this year yesterday. Here are the details about the sale.

Books were marked with individual prices.

Another Extraordinary Sale offering
Over 10,000 books in very good condition!
Special Books
Signed Books
First Editions
67 Categories!
ALSO: Audio, Video, Cassette Tapes, Games, Puzzles
Preview Thursday 6pm - 9pm, Books are double the marked price
General Sale Friday 9am-8pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, Books are marked price
Sunday 9am-2pm - Half Price Sale;
Sunday 2:30-4pm - $5/Bag
I had cabin fever from having my kids sick and one in quarantine due to a very contagious virus (Coxsackie Virus). Anyway I went primarily to get out from this house and to do something alone, and I was not in the mood to hunt books (which is good when one already feels they have a lot of books). I also had never been to this sale but heard it was great and it was less than 15 minute drive from my home. I was going oat the end of the 2nd general sale day.

When I arrived, I realized I had used my last check the night before so was limited on spending by cash in hand (good thing I had just been to the ATM that morning). This prevented me from looking at everything and also I saw 2 books that I wanted to buy to resell to local HSers for same cost because I could not stand to see them sitting there unwanted and worried they’d get thrown out (gasp)—they ones I left were Van Loon’s The Arts in very good condition for $3 and Van Loon’s R.v.R. (about life of Rembrandt)—that one was actually 1950s version with color photos inside (for $2). I am not an official reseller but buy the harder to find books to sell to friends for same as I paid.

Anyway I didn’t get there until after 3pm, so I didn’t have full pick of everything but the place was calm and quiet. (Tomorrow was to be half price day so you can see how they charge higher prices today. I was told by the volunteers that it will be a crazy zoo the moment the doors open for that and I didn’t want to deal with that, plus it interferes with church time.) These are some of the finds I got for our family’s use.

Van Loon’s R.v.R. 1930 ed in very good condition
Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg $3
Buffalo Bill COFA orange cover hardback, vg condition, $2
A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis $1, new
Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren $1
The Ornament Tree by Jean Thesman $2 new (looks very good, chapter book for teen girls or me!)
Stephen King On Writing $2 hardback, new (I have a falling apart PB version and am half way through it)
The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich $2, hb, (I had just put this on my Amazon wish list a few days ago!)
Great large color book about Salvatore Dali (artist) $6 (pricey but cheap compared to buying art prints by the sheet)
A History of Science by Dampier $2 (perhaps more for reference and general info than a reading book)
The Educated child by William Bennett $2
Eyewitness Viking $2
Listening to nature how to deepen your awareness of nature by Joseph Cornell $2, new (famous naturalist)
Topsys & Turvys, new hb, $2
Wonder tales from around the world by Heather Forest (master storyteller), $2, new
Factastic book of comparisons, DK, $2
Trial by Ice a photobiography of Sir Ernest Shackleton, nat geographic society $1
Wolves by Seymour Simon .50 (a favorite author of mine)
I am not a short adult by Marilyn Burns (looks great) $1
Look again the 2nd ultimate spot the difference book $1 (great for long car rides)
Manet One Hundred Paintings series by Federico Zeri $2 (I love this series, most are OOP)
Icebergs and Glaciers by Seymour Simon .50
Adirondack Wildguide a natural history of the Adirondack Park (looks like a nature journal) $2
Easy reader The Drinking Gourd .50
Easy reader Clouds of Terror (about locusts/prairie) .50
Great Housewives of Art by Sally Swain $2 (hilarious parody of wives of artists, showing them in knockoff’s of the artists style)
The Big Show History of the Circus $1
The Towpath by Arch Merrill (about building of the Erie Canal) $1 (very much a living book)
Interesting book on history of Martha’s Vineyard written in poem format also with old songs and little drawings
Photo book: Over Cape Cod (we go there on vacation to my relative’s house)
Baloon Animals .50 (now we know what to do with the kit someone gave us)
Teachers have class (quote book some of which apply to HSing moms) $2
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep .50 (historical fiction)

They also had a few homeschooling books but I already owned them, it was nice to see them there.

For the record I didn’t get the adrenaline rush. That is okay.  Perhaps that means I am on the road to recovery from book addiction? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Thanks for Clicking on the Google Ads

Thanks to everyone who has clicked on my Google Ads. I got a surprise in the mail the other day: a paycheck from Google! Yippee and Hooray! This is our family's only source of income right now. So far, three months of having the ads on my blog pays for one trip to the grocery store. So I am not getting rich, but every penny counts. Each time that you click on an ad, I get paid. I am not allowed to tell how much I make, per the Google AdSense rules. However I can say that what I get paid varies by which ad you click on.

Also if you click on too many ads at once they think that it is me doing something fraudulent. They have already booted me out of the program once, and a friend told me she clicked on every ad in one day. She actually did buy something and learned of some new companies in the process. But this did not matter to Google, they kicked me out so fast you would not believe it. I did not know that she was doing that, she did it on her own.

So if you have ten seconds and an ad looks enticing to you please consider clicking it. I see a lot of the ads are for great homeschool suppliers, some of which I already use!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Star Wars Chapter Books for Young Readers

There is a series of Star Wars chapter books for younger readers and a different series for adults.

The series for younger children are published under the name of “Lucas Books” and are published by Scholastic. I know of the “Jedi Quest” series. To make this clear, the titles of the books go like this: Star Wars: Jedi Quest: The Master of Disguise by Jude Watson.

I don’t have a list of all of the books because I haven’t gone looking for them (yet). I don’t know what order they go in either. I found a bunch at a library sale today for 50 cents each. Here are the titles I bought today:

Star Wars: Jedi Quest: The Master of Disguise by Jude Watson
Star Wars: Jedi Quest: The Way of the Apprentice by Jude Watson
Star Wars: Jedi Quest: The Dangerous Games by Jude Watson

From what I have gathered so far the stories go back to the time when Obi Wan Kenobi was a child and he grows up.

There are also chapter books published by Scholastic with the Lucas Books logo on them, for each of the new movies. We own:

Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace by Patricia C. Wrede
Star Wars Episode III The Revenge of the Sith by Patricia C. Wrede

I see that on Amazon they classify this as a “Junior novelization”.

My children also love the DK Visual Dictionary books about Star Wars. They are loaded with great photos and lots of facts, many of which are not covered in the movies. My children (and their friends) are absorbing all this information, after reading these books, to the point where when they are together it seems they are speaking a foreign language but really they are talking about details of Star Wars!!

Here are some of their favorites:

Star Wars Visual Dictionary Episode I

Star Wars Visual Dictionary Episode II

Star Wars Visual Dictionary Episode III

Star Wars Visual Dictionary Episodes IV, V, VI

They also love the cross-sections books about Star Wars vehicles.

Incredible Cross-sections of Star Wars, Episode I - The Phantom Menace: The Definitive Guide to the Craft (Hardcover)
by David West Reynolds, Hans Jenssen (Illustrator), Richard Chasemore (Illustrator)

Incredible Cross-sections of Star Wars, Episode II - Attack of the Clones: The Definitive Guide to the Craft (Hardcover)
by Curtis J. Saxton, Hans Jenssen, Richard Chasemore

Incredible Cross-sections of Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: The Definitive Guide to Spaceships and Vehicles (Hardcover)
by DK Publishing

Incredible Cross-sections of Star Wars, Episodes IV, V, & VI: The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Vehicles and Spacecraft by David Reynolds

Actually the way it pans out is the cross-sections books are the favorite of my son who likes to build things and wants to become an inventor and an engineer and he loves the Visual Dictionary series as well. My other son who does not like to build things (as he plays), is more interested in the Visual Dictionary series. This son is asking to be a fighter pilot in the military. So one child wants to design vehicles and the other wants to fly them.

Friday, November 04, 2005

How to Figure Out if Something is in the Public Domain or Not

I am reading a book on the art of collage published in 2004, Collage Discovery Workshop by Claudine Hellmuth. Apparently there is a bit of controversy about using copyrighted images and words in new works of art/collage.

This book refers readers to read about the issue at this site: an article. I have not read it yet.

But here is the better thing. Here is a whole book about how to figure out if something is copyright free or not, checklists and directions.
The Public Domain: How to find and use copyright-free writings, music, art & More by Attorney Stephen Fishman ISBN 0873374339
$23-ish in paperback on Amazon

Anyway I see one Amazon reviewer said he is republishing books which are in the public domain and this book answered all of his questions.
Then again $23 is a very low investment in a business venture or career, isn't it?

Maybe I could use this to start some new home based career for myself… and make our family some money. Hmmm.

Tip for eBay Booksellers About Shipping

Offer shipping via media mail. Don’t use expensive Priority Mail as the default method. The amount that I bid for an eBay auction depends on the shipping. I place a value on the book including shipping, for example, I can afford or am willing to spend $10 on a book. If the seller is going to ship with media mail ($1.82) then I will bid $10, giving $8.18 to the seller for the item. If the seller is going to use Priority Mail and is billing me $4 for shipping, I will only bid $10 therefore the seller will take $6 as the price the item sells for.

I am irked as today I see some books on eBay which I have not been able to buy in stores or on the internet for a decent discount price. The seller has three books and I want them all. We are negotiating if she is willing to combine shipping. Why should I pay approximately $4 to ship each (lightweight) book via Priority Mail in three different boxes? It makes no sense. I won’t bid on the items unless she agrees to combine shipping, as I can’t afford and don’t want to waste money in that way, for shipping.

EBay sellers should know about these tips. It is not hard to throw three books into one box, as a matter of fact, it is easier than throwing three books into three different boxes and shipping all three to the same address!

Article Link: Twenty-one ways "public schools" harm your children

Here is an article titled “Twenty-one ways "public schools" harm your children” written by R. C. Hoiles in 1957. Yes, this article was written in 1957—this article is actually edited to a shorter content than it was originally. This was published in The Education Liberator, Vol. 3, No. 2, February/March 1997 and is on their website.

The last paragraph is wonderful.

This provides food for thought.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Juv Lit Book Review: Alice, I Think by Susan Juby

Alice, I Think
by Susan Juby

Written: 2/5/04
Rating: 1 star

Opening Statement: YECH!

I am a homeschooling mother of two children. I was interested in the book because the main character is a teen girl transitioning to public high school. A fellow homeschooling mother who thought it was hilarious recommended it to me. I read this book to myself and hated it. I was digusted by the negativity of the main character and could not find humor in it. Before you have your young adult child read this please note the content.

It needs to be underscored that this book does not treat homeschoolers in a positive light. In fact the author must not have known anything about homeschooling because I have never heard of a homeschooling family like this one. The other homeschoolers she briefly mentions are strange and not the norm for homeschooling families.

The girl has been raised as a homeschooler all her life (not counting a few days in 1st grade) and she has NO friends of either gender, never has and still doesn’t at age 15! How is this possible? She does not have a close relationship with her sibling (brother, younger) who goes to school. You’d think they’d be closer as she has no one to talk to, literally. Nor does she have a close relationship with her parents. In fact she hates her parents and puts them down throughout the whole book. Her mother is portrayed as a weird hippie who works in a new age bookstore, and her father as a loser, who tries to write books in his basement, who drinks too much with his buddies and makes a fool of himself. Every adult in the book is spoken about in a patronizing manner and looked down upon by the main character. There is not one single person this girl likes or looks up to.

She also seems to barely be able to read as she sets a goal for herself: to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and can barely get past the preface due to her inability to comprehend the story. I'd like to think that a homeschooler can at least read by the time they are 15! She also balks at the idea of setting goals and priorities for herself, as if she has never thought about it before (which is strange for a homeschooler who is plotting her own path in life). There is no mention to what she does know or what she does like in life, it seems her brain is an empty vacuum.

The book has many sexual references. Her fathers’ homosexual friend is portrayed in a negative light and his homosexuality is discussed. Another homosexual that she goes to see to get a new haircut is portrayed in a horrible light, drinking alcohol in the morning in the hair salon and being over an hour late for her appt. due to a hangover from last nights' partying. There are a few pages dedicated to her first Internet experience, which she chooses to cruise porn sites and there is detailed description of what she finds on the Internet. There is a lot of discussion of people putting objects into their anus for pleasure then needing emergency surgery-medical treatment. The other sexual reference is when she sets a goal to explore sexual encounters with boys. When she meets a boy for the first time she forces herself upon him. He is not happy about it and the encounter gets “to third base” before their parents find them and stop them.

I could go on and on with what I didn't like about it. Overall I hated her attitude and her anger at the world, and for what reason?

Another pathetic part is that she is bullied in a horrible way before she even enters school, and has negative experiences when she enters school with bullying-physically being beaten up. She never stands up for herself nor does she allow adults to help her from repeated victimization.

Yech, I say, to this book!

Also I see the publisher slates this as "young adult" reading. When I was a teen in the 80s the young adult books didn't contain sex and drug and alcohol references like this! Is this what is happening in the “young adult fiction” genre? If so, we are in trouble. Remember: garbage in, garbage out applies not only to programming computers but also to developing people’s minds!

Book Featuring Homeschooled Child: Alice, I Think To Become TV Show

In 2006 Canadian Television (CTV) will begin airing a new television series based on the book "Alice, I Think"which is a novel by Susan Juby. The show is planned to air in 13 episodes. The book and show features the main character, a teenaged girl who has been homeschooled since first grade. Here is an article about it which ran in the Maple Ridge News. Here is a quote from the article about the main character:

Alice, who is painfully out of tune with reality after years of her parents' sheltering, homeschooling and encouragement of creativity - which resulted in her believing, uncorrected, that she was a hobbit as a child - is about to begin public high school.

This is a juvenile fiction chapter book. I read the book in 2004 and hated it.

I had written a review for Amazon back in February 2004 but can’t find it on Amazon’s website; I was going to link to it. Hmmm. I will post it on this blog then later will resubmit it to Amazon. I gave the book a one star rating.

From One Extreme of Busyness to the Other

Yes, we ended up overscheduled this fall. Now that has come to an end. I had written about my younger son having a weird fever sickness. That has now shown itself to be Coxsackie Virus, Herpangina form . This means we are now in quarantine. Responsible parents will quarantine children who have highly contagious viral infections. So here we are quarantined.

My older son is sick as well. These symptoms are just like the beginning symptoms that my younger son had. We don’t yet know if he has Coxsackie Virus or not.

The quarantine has brought our usual lifestyle to a halt. One cannot homeschool children who are fatigued and feverish. Obviously all the appointments are cancelled: the playdates, the academic classes, the homeschool park days, etc. I am even, at this point, not going shopping or even to the library. I don’t think it is good to expose the people who work in those places to these viruses, let alone other children who may be there.

We have been resting, napping, reading books aloud, listening to audio books. We have watched some craft shows and cooking shows on television. We have watched the newly released DVD of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, as well as some of the six hours of bonus material which came with it. We finished listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (which is due back at the library today, so we were under a deadline).

Rather than feeling trapped here, I actually feel pretty free. We are free to not do schoolwork and don’t have any pressure to go anywhere or fulfill any responsibilities. My volunteer work has taken a backseat as I have to be here with the kids rather than be somewhere else at a meeting. This time of relaxation is also good for our emotions and mental health as we adjust to the fact that a very close family member has Cancer. The kid are also some having fun, even though they go through phases of feeling alright then feeling poorly.

I’ll let you know when and if we develop cabin fever. If you have the time and inclination, we’d appreciate thoughts and prayers for my children’s sicknesses and for our close family member who was just diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hooray! I Found Sara’s Prints Pajamas at a Discount!

My boys have been wearing Sara’s Prints Long Johns and Short Johns pajamas since they were one year old. These are the absolute best brand of pajamas that I have ever found. They are very long lasting and do not shrink. I have pairs that both boys wore and they are still fine and well. After many wearing's they faded a bit but they are still in the right shape and not shrunk—so we handed them down to family members.

I used to buy them from CWD, but they no longer carry them. I made an error and bought pajamas from CWD earlier this year that were CWD brand and not Sara’s Prints brand. I was rushing and didn’t notice, on the website, that I was not ordering Sara’s Prints brand. I was so angry when I got them as I ripped open the containers so fast and threw them into the wash (to remove all those nasty chemicals that are on brand new clothes). Therefore I didn’t realize until after they were washed that they were the wrong brand, too late to return them. The CWD brand pajamas are not as thick and they are also sized differently. My son was wearing a size 8 and was outgrowing them, so I bought size 10. However the size 10 CWD brand was the same size as Sara’s Prints size 8—meaning they were already too small.

In the past I have also tried Flapdoodles—which shrunk immediately. We have also received gifts of some other brands from Wal Mart and Carter’s but they all shrunk in weird ways and rather than being outgrown, they shrunk down while just a couple of months old and no longer fit. I resent having to buy new clothes because they shrink. I expect that the clothes that I buy will not shrink and will be worn until either the child grows up and out of them or until they are worn out, stained, or somehow ruined by the child during their use.

Anyway I have put off buying more Sara’s Prints pajamas due to the tight budget. They are usually $36 per pair, plus shipping. (CWD was not cheap on shipping, either.) Note that my son has worn some of these for two seasons, before then handing them down to his younger brother for one or two more seasons of wear. But an up front purchase like that when the budget is tight seems like a lot of money.

But tonight I bit the bullet and had to buy some winter pajamas to fit my older son. Because CWD no longer carries them, I didn’t know where to go to get them. So off to Google I went. I used keywords of Sara’s Prints pajamas and “discount”. The first thing to come up was Campmor, the camping supply company. I ventured over and was shocked to find them for as little as $16.97!! I ordered enough for my older son’s current size and for the next size up. He now has enough for at least the next two years. Yippee and Hooray.

So if you are in the market for Sara’s Prints pajamas (in different patterns for girls or boys), check out the bargain prices while supplies last, at Campmor. They also have on sale, robes and summer/short pajamas as well. The shipping was a bargain at a flat rate of $6.95!

To Halloween or Not To Halloween

I would have liked to have written about how and why some people don’t celebrate Halloween but I just haven’t had the time. Serious illness of close relatives, sewing of Halloween costumes, homeschooling, Halloween parties, and lastly, weird fever sickness in my younger son prevented me from writing about it. Oh well.

So to those of you who celebrate Halloween, I hope you had a fun one. To those of you who don’t celebrate, yesterday was ‘just another Monday’ and today is ‘just another Tuesday’—hope you had a good day yesterday and I hope you have a good day today.

I woke up today to my older son with signs of the weird fever sickness that my younger son had. So instead of getting back on the homeschooling track today and really hitting the books hard (to make up for time lost due to the Halloween costume sewing project) we will be snuggling under the down sleeping bag on the couch and I will be reading books aloud. I am going off to the bookshelf to pick a new chapter book to read.

Hope everyone has a good day!

New To Me Book: A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

Has anyone read the old version or bought the new version? Comments? How does this compare to these books which are narrative format world history:

“Story of the World” by Susan Wise Bauer (in four volumes)

“Child’s History of the World” by Hillyer

“Story of Mankind” by Hendrik Van Loon?

Here is the information on the book I just found out about:
"A Little History of the World" by E.H. Gombrich
ISBN: 0300108834, hard cover, 304 pages
Originally written over 70 years ago, it has been revised and published on 10/13/05 by Yale University Press.

I see that Amazon has four customer reviews with a 5 star rating average for the new version.

I had never heard of this book before, in homeschooling circles or in living book circles. I don’t see it in Jan Bloom’s book “Who Shall We Then Read?” or in “Let the Author’s Speak”.

My friend is reading this to her 3rd grader (who goes to public school). She learned of it on an interview with someone who had something to do with the book being republished, which aired on NPR recently. She likes it so far. She has not read any of the other titles I’ve mentioned, though. I don’t know of any homeschooling families who use this book as a staple in their world history curriculum.

All I know so far is it is supposedly for elementary school aged children and is a narrative format history of the world. Sounds to me like the titles I mentioned above. Wonder how it is different? Wonder if this will spark the parents to read this aloud to their elementary aged children? Will homeschoolers love this book? Is it a good book or not? I don’t know yet!