Sunday, April 30, 2006

Signs of Being Too Busy

Here are some signs that I have experienced that have told me that I am too busy. Not all of these are happening to me right now but some are. Each of these has happened to me at some point or another.

Take the time to go shopping but don’t unload the bags from the car for days, drive around with stuff in the car.

Take the time to go shopping, bring bags inside the house then don’t unpack them for a day or more.

Take newly purchased things out of the bag but leave them on the counter (where they don’t belong) for days.

Go somewhere and use a tote bag. Leave said tote bag with stuff inside of it in the car for days or weeks. Or bring said tote bag inside the house and don’t unpack it for weeks (or months).

Don’t take the time to read the book that was a ‘must have, right now’.

Don’t take the time to read the local newspaper so miss out on knowing certain events are happening in our community.

Don’t take the time to read the magazines that I paid to subscribe to.

Too busy to remember to check phone voice mail messages and when finally check, find messages that are several days old.

Feel guilty for sitting down to relax, read a book or ‘just’ watch TV (feel the need to multi-task anything and even watching TV seems like a guilty pleasure).

Unable to enjoy something that is supposed to be fun as the unfinished ‘to do’ list image is in my head.

Forgetting to go to appointments due to over-busy-ness.

Double booking appointments by mistake as can’t remember what is happening tomorrow.

Taking the time to travel but the suitcase doesn’t get unpacked for weeks.

Doing laundry but not folding it in a timely manner so the clothes are all wrinkled.

Doing laundry and folding it but not putting it away for days.

Doing laundry but forgetting that it was started and when open the washer, find mildewed clothes inside.

Kids complain of no clean clothes and find clothes in dryer and can’t remember what day that load was finished.

Acting in a reactionary manner such as finding the only projects that get done are the ones with deadlines that are held accountable to another person.

House is in need of cleaning to some point where just seeing the undone work is highly annoying. Finally take the time to do the work so the annoying feeling will go away rather than the desire to have a clean house.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Practical Tip for Bloggers

Write your blog entry in a word processing program. Save the document. Then copy it and paste it into your blogging program. Make any adjustments, add links or whatever formatting you need to do in the blogging website. Copy the contents, paste them into your word processor program, and save them. Then go back to the Internet window and publish your blog entry.

That is what I do and it works. I just went against my usual process and composed in my Blogger account and with one accidental click I deleted the whole blog entry. Poof. Gone. Grrrr.

If you use Blogger you might try to quickly hit ‘recover post’. I messed it up and didn’t do that and the whole thing is gone.

Don’t let it happen to you!

Friday, April 28, 2006

To Be Young and Carefree Again!

Can you guess who I am?

I was looking at my photo albums and came across this photo. I love this because it captues the look of pure joy and anticipation on my face.

This photo was on August 31, 1985 at the Giants Stadium, just before a Bruce Springsteen concert was to begin.

In case you are wondering we are all sober, having not drunk any alcohol nor taken any drugs nor having smoked any cigarettes. We were 'high' purely on "Bruce Juice" a Bruce fans call it. We all hated smoking cigarettes so we didn't do it, even though some of our peers thought smoking was 'cool', we thought it was gross. We were underage to drink and didn't want to drink anyway (but if it were legal we'd probably be doing it). We also were drug-free by choice. We were very happy people and didn't feel we needed any of that to help us have a good time. We were so excited for the concert to start and that is why we were so happy!

The guy in the photo is my ex-boyfriend who I was in love with at the time (he was not a big Bruce fan but went along as he feared my girlfriends and I venturing to New Jersey for this experience alone). We ended up dating for four years. The three girls were my best friends. I am still very friendly with two of them and the third has distanced herself from all of the rest of us.

Did you figure out who I am yet? I am the one in the center. Something just dawned on me. I was the planner of the trip, the girlfriend of our driver, the owner of the camera, and the one taking the photo. I was a leader even back then, I just didn't realize it. Back then I thought I was an under-achiever.

Anyway, this is when life was good and easier. Four of us are 18 and one girl is 16. I took the photo by holding the camera out in front of me, at arm's length. At this point in time, four of us had just graduated from high school and me and my two graduated girlfriends were heading to college in the fall. We had a great outlook on life, and the world was waiting for us to conquer it. We knew who we were: American teenagers who were doing what we were supposed to do: graduating from public school and heading off to college. In our non-school time, life was all about entertaining ourselves. All we needed to do to have fun was be with each other, talk and make jokes, blast some music and sing along with it. These tickets were very hard to come buy and necessitated us sleeping out on the sidewalk in New Haven in order to get them (but that is another story).

I wish I could feel this sense of joy and elation right now, especially over something as simple as seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. Nothing is that simple anymore. Now I am more worrdly and more politically savvy. Politics depresses me and the more I know the less in control I feel I am, and the more I feel that our politicians are disconnected from society. In the last couple of years, I have to hear of Springsteen's politics (he used to refrain from discussing his political beliefs) and we had to hear that he took his profits from some of his music sales to donate to the Kerry campaign. Now music is more tainted with politics and charities and causes than ever before. Discussions about Springsteen and his music, between fans, even ends up being about causes and politics and it divides people.


Ignorance is bliss.

Sometimes I wish I was a more ignorant person. It would be nice to feel such joy again!

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I Am a Victim of Blog Plagarism

I am noticing something that is happening on both of my blogs. I post a blog entry then some other person creates blog in which all they do is plagiarize/copy other people’s blog entries (such as mine) without giving credit to the original author. Those blogs appear ‘empty’ other than a bunch of advertisements on the site. When I look around on the site I can’t find evidence of a real person there, nothing original, no profiles, etc.

It appears that each time this was done the plagiarizer was using a Google blog search tool. For some reason unknown to me these show up as links. So I can track a link to my blog and when I go there it is not really someone linking to me but someone plagiarizing my blog entry.

One time the culprit was blogging on Blogger and this one is on a private website. The name of the website contained the phrase '' and I mistakenly thought the site was related to them. I emailed to complain about this and gave the URL of the plagiarized post. It took me about an hour to prepare the copyright violation using all of their legal language. They contacted me to say that it was not an account holder of theirs. Apparently the person is also abusing the '' name to try and trick people into thinking that they are linked to MySpace.

I bet there is a name for this ‘phenomenon’. If you know it, let me know. I am trying to learn more about this problem but am coming up empty handed so far.

I am ticked off about it to say the least.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Only in America: Stupid Sock Creatures

Editor's Note: On 5/30/06 I am issuing a clarification and correction about the price of the Stupid Sock Creatures made by John Murphy. The body of my blog entry now contains more specific and correct fees and more information to underscore that I am happy that John Murphy's business is a success.

I was re-reading the art zine "Art and Life", edited by Teesha Moore.

In the article I read that John Murphy began a business--get this! Only in America can a person have such a wild idea and actually make money on it! In the beginning, a person would send him a sock, at their expense, and a $15 deposit, and he’d transform it into a stuffed ‘stupid sock creature’ and (after an additional fee was paid) he'd mail it back to them. What an idea!

I thought it sounded amazing and jumped online to see if I could find any images of these creatures. (These are basically a funky twist on sock monkeys.)

Fast forward to 2006, it costs $65 for a custom sock creature to be created now! Wow! The success of the business was not mentioned in the article. I am glad that John Murphy is making a business with his Stupid Sock Creatures. There are also some already-created creatures available for sale on his website that range in price from $49 to $59.

John Murphy has been so busy he has hired an assistant to help craft the creatures, named Ian Cameron Dennis. A book has been published to help anyone who wants to make these at home.

I admire this artist who is obviously also an entrepreneur. I bet if he had ever made a business plan and pitched this as a business, I bet no white-collared business people would ever have thought this would catch on and he would have failed to get a loan or whatever he may have asked for from ‘the business community’.

I am very happy that a profit is being turned in this business venture. John Murphy has contacted me by email to discuss his pricing and my blog entry. So I am updating it to be more clear about the prices.

I am a capitalist and I feel that prices should be what the market can bear. If enough people have the money to afford Stupid Sock Creatures then good for them. (I hope to have the money again someday to spend on fun and whimsical things like this.)

After looking at the crazy sock colors used to make some of the creatures (see the gallery) I was reminded of the wall of socks available at the dollar store and think they would make affordable materials for sock creatures.

John Murphy has published a book which tells all that we need to know to make these stupid sock creatures ourselves. There is a book called "Stupid Sock Creatures". I would like to buy this book and teach myself to make Stupid Sock Creatures.

There is also a kit with supplied and the book available to buy.

If this ever catches on to the mainstream, I can see it now, outsourcing to China and sock creatures being sold for $7 or less (compatible with Beanie Baby prices). The crazy thing is that I can imagine it now, now the businessmen would like to see the company’s history of sales and the marketability of these creatures and the notion of selling them for $65 each would make little cash registers go off in their heads (ka-ching!) and they’d give that loan out and start mass producing these in China. I can just see it now.

You have to check out the gallery! The gallery shows stupid sock creatures that are in stock and ready to be sold and shipped as well as containing photos of creatures who have already been adopted. Make sure to scroll down to see the thumbnail photos. Click on any photo and a larger image will pop up—it is better to see the detail, I think. I noticed that if the thumbnail was blank but a name was there, that if I clicked on it the large image pops up.

If I had the money I’d be a customer…that is the crazy thing. My husband would think I was nuts if I ever bought one of these. (He doesn’t get any kind of outsider art or alternative art anyway, oh well.)

I showed these stupid sock creatures to my children and they thought they were hilarious. I bet children would love to make these at home. Perhaps they would make a good sewing project for a beginning sewer (child or adult!). Hey, the book or book and kit would make a great birthday gift!

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Note to Oprah and Dr. Phil: I Am Not Celebrity Obsessed

I keep hearing Oprah and Dr. Phil say that America is celebrity obsessed. I am not. I want to make that very, very clear.

Oprah and Dr. Phil are both guilty of pushing celebrities on their viewers. My TiVo is set to record both Oprah and Dr. Phil’s shows but I don’t watch all of them. I am the least interested in the topics where celebrities are being interviewed. Most of them are quite boring to hear interviewed. Frankly, I don’t care about most celebrity’s personal lives. If I want to see their movie or listen to their music, I will do that. I don’t love everything I see or hear. Just because I might enjoy their ‘work’ doesn’t mean I care anything about who they are as people or what they do in their private lives. Sorry. I have my own life to lead and I am quite busy with my own friends and family. I don’t have time nor do I want to do things such as read tabloids, read People magazine, etc.

I used to subscribe to O—Oprah magazine. My subscription has expired and I did not renew it. I got sick of the double talk. For example there could be an article about living an authentic life and being happy with our aging bodies yet the next page would have an ad for a very expensive ‘anti-aging’ crème which, by the way, has not been proven to actually work. I may read an article about living a more simple life or not being in debt, and turn the page to see an article or column telling me a ‘must have’ for this season is a $350 pair of shoes or a $700 cashmere sweater or a $30 bubble bath product. The constant contradiction and contrast between the content of the articles and the ads and columns that feature products to purchase was very annoying. Plus I hated the nasty perfume ads that stunk up my house and gave me a headache.

We are not all celebrity obsessed. Please stop saying that we are!

I am concerned with issues, big issues, and I write of them often. I have issues with the American public education system, with too-early exposure of children to mature themes and pushing children to mature before they are ready. I am worried about the disgusting lyrics in pop music. I am concerned with the degradation of the content of movies suitable for young children, and of cartoons being marketed to toddlers with a PG rating full of sexual innuendo (i.e. Shrek). I worry about children being over-scheduled. I have concerns with books being published for pre-teen girls that read to me like child pornography. That is what I am concerned with, Oprah and Dr. Phil!

Perhaps Oprah and Dr. Phil could stop doing shows on celebrities. How about excluding them entirely. Don’t they realize they are just being used anyway? They know that usually the only time that a celebrity will go on their shows is when they are promoting something, a movie or a new music album or even a book.

I am happy that in the last two weeks Oprah has had some great shows about issues that are important to me: problems in American public education, girls acting stupid and superficial rather than acting authentically, the danger of living in huge debt, the over-use of plastic surgery, the problem of celebrity worship and emulation, and the exploitation of young women as sexual objects by the music industry (as music video extras). Oprah, keep up the good work on that front, but please stop thinking that everyone is celebrity obsessed. We are NOT all celebrity obsessed. Some of us ARE living authentic lives!

(I am going to email this to both Oprah and Dr. Phil.)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

17th Carnival of Homeschooling Has Been Published

The 17th Carnival of Homeschooling has been published.

The Common Room is the host for this week. Read it here:The Common Room: 17th Carnival of Homeschooling- Better Late Than Never Edition.

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, relax, and hear what homeschoolers are talking about!

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Free Sample Coloring Pages from Dover Publications

Dover Publications publishes very detailed coloring books. Many also contain lots of text to explain what is going on in the picture. There are coloring books on many topics in history and science, for example. My children love coloring in these pages while I read aloud to them on the same subject. Mainly we use topics that are science or history oriented.

Each week, Dover posts random pages from some of the coloring books and puts them on their website. This is a good way to see what the quality of their coloring books is like. You may print the pages off to use if you want. The samples change weekly. If you are a planner and a gatherer, you can print samples each week for use in the future.

Go here to view the samples (and print them if you want).

You can also sign up to receive an email notification each week when they change the samples. If you want to do that, go here.

I have ordered from Dover in the past via their website and was very pleased with their fast service. They sometimes have a free shipping offer if you order over $50. You may also order many Dover products from Amazon (check the shipping times, though, as I have seen some with a 4 week wait).

Motorcycle Accident Kills Father

I was saddened to hear the news that the husband of an acquaintance was killed in a motor vehicle accident recently. My friend and fellow La Leche League Leader phoned me to tell me this news. Here are some links to news stories on the Internet about the accident that killed Reverend John Schettenhelm.


Amity Observer (town newspaper)

New Haven Register (city newspaper)

A 49 year old man who happens to be a minister as well as a husband, a father of twins and a volunteer in the community has lost his life, while simply trying to pull into his driveway. Apparently Reverend Schettenhelm was a veteran motorcycle rider who just was trying to get home, when he was struck from behind by another man who was driving a Volvo.

The road that they live on (where the church is), is a state road with a speed limit of 40 or 45 miles per hour. Despite that, drivers routinely drive over 50 and sometimes over 60 miles per hour. I know this because when I drive near the speed limit on that road, they tailgate me in acts of road rage (they did it when I lived there and they still do it now when I am in that town). I used to live ¼ mile from this road, and less than 1 mile away from where this family lived. Due to the dangerous road, I didn’t walk or ride my bike on it. Occasionally the police do speed traps on the road, but it is not very effective, in my opinion.

Once again the super fast lifestyle and rushing around has caused a problem, in this case, a life altering event for this family. I worry about the future of this family, specifically, where will they live now that the pastor is dead and no longer working? More specifically, they won’t have a place to live. (They lived on church property as part of the typical arrangement with pastors and their church-employers.)

I met this mother, named Rachel, when my first born was just two months old and I attended my first La Leche League meeting. It was at this meeting that I met other mothers who were breastfeeding their babies. These mothers were my only connection to other new mothers and also to mothers who were nursing their babies and dealing with all the same parenting issues that I was dealing with.

Rachel attended meetings in order to help other mothers. At the time her sons were older (and had long since weaned). I was surprised that someone with older children would attend a meeting for new mothers, but her advice and the stories she shared were inspirational to say the least and we all appreciated that she took the time to attend the meeting and to encourage us. She spoke of the premature delivery of her twin sons and how difficult it was to supply them with her own milk, and later, to nurse them at the breast. She spoke highly of breastfeeding and she encouraged us to persevere through whatever struggle we were dealing with. She was always cheerful and she was our living proof that meeting our babies needs in various ways such as breastfeeding, feeding on demand, and being in tune with them worked out in positive ways in the long run.

I was so helped by the fellowship and advice of all the other mothers that I later become a La Leche League Leader so that I could help others as well. I moved out of that town almost five years ago and have not seen Rachel since I moved, but I have never forgotten her. I don’t know if she remembers me or if she knows that her attendance at the meetings was helpful not only to me but to other mothers, such that I still remember her. I am writing her a note and sending a sympathy card to her. I don’t know quite what else I can do!

My heart goes out to Rachel and her twin sons. I can’t imagine and I don’t want to imagine experiencing the sudden death of my husband. I hope that she knows that she has touched my life. My prayers are with her and her two children.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Attention Parents: Today Bruce Springsteen Released a New Album of American Folk Songs

Today Bruce Springsteen released a new album which features American Folk Songs written by folk singer Pete Seeger, called “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions”.

I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan but am excited not only for this as a Springsteen fan who is an adult person, I am excited that this is good, clean American Folk Music that I can listen to with my children.

So, attention parents, this is a great way to expose your children to classic American folk songs.

Homeschooling parents: this would make a great addition to your curriculum as part of American history or music studies.

If you would like to watch a video of the recording of “John Henry” (or just listen to it) go to this Amazon link and press the ‘play’ button that appears under the little video screen. Listening to this gives a flavor of what the music is like overall.

My husband saw a video of one of the songs on Country Music Television last weekend. I guess this is begin marketed to country music listeners.

To find out more about this album or to hear about his concert tour, go to Springsteen’s website:

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Children’s Book Review: The Truffle Hunter

Book Review written by ChristineMM, copyright 2006.

Title: The Truffle Hunter
Author: Inga Moore
Illustrator: Inga Moore
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Age range: 4-8
Publisher: Kane/Miller Publishers
Format: soft cover
ISBN: 0-916291-92-8

This children’s picture book is set in France, where it was originally published. Lovely color drawings accompany this lovely story. The story is about a domestic farm pig that is kept by a chef of a hotel with hopes of acting as a truffle hunter, to supply the hotel chef with truffles to turn into gourmet food for the restaurant’s customers. The problem is that no one has taught this farm pig how to hunt truffles, or even what a truffle is, for that matter.

This book was published in English in America by Kane/Miller Publishers. One of their goals is to publish books which have a good story but also that have a deeper meaning. This book meets that goal. On the surface the story appears to be one thing, but parents and teachers can use this book to discuss much larger topics with children. This book reminds me of the type of books that are used in the “Five in a Row” series of literature based unit studies for elementary school aged children. For parents and teachers, the book can be used as a jumping off point to learn about character, respect, how to treat others, classism, stereotypes, and even a little about truffles and maybe even a little about French cuisine and France.

The chef is angry with his pig for she is ignorant about hunting truffles. The chef calls her names and is mean to the pig, abandoning her in the woods as punishment for not being able to find truffles on his command. Martine the Pig then meets Raoul the Wild Boar. Raoul teaches Martine what a truffle is and to enjoy eating the delicacy and how to hunt for truffles. Martine looks down upon Raoul for looking and acting as a boar in the wild rather than acting as a domestic pig kept in a sty in town.

There are many opportunities to discuss issues such as bullying, teasing, tolerance, being judgmental, judging by appearances, and respect for the differences in others. The fact that each person (or creature) has unique gifts and talents is something that can be gleaned from this book. Love, friendship and companionship are also touched upon. How the lack of communication can result from false perceptions is clearly seen (by adult readers).

When Martine the Pig reunites with the Chef, she displays pride and boasts to the chef to show how she did learn to find truffles. Cesar the Chef is happy when she finds loads of truffles. Selfishness and greed is displayed when Cesar never offers or allows Martine to eat a single truffle. As Martine looks upon the restaurant diners enjoying the truffles she worked so hard to find, she feels left out and lonely (and maybe even used and exploited). Martine’s feelings are hurt, something perhaps even a young child will notice and relate to, without and adult having to point it out. Then Martine runs away from the hotel to return to Raoul and the forest. Later we see Martine living happy and free in the forest, with piglets trailing behind her.

This story could also be viewed by adults, at least, that living a simple life can be very rewarding or more rewarding than living the ‘fast paced city life’.

References to Martine being slow to learn could be good for a child to hear, if the child is being labeled as slow or developmentally delayed or is having problems in school or trouble learning.

As the book wraps up, it states that Martine plans to teach her children to hunt for truffles when they are older and she will be gentle with them if they are slow to learn. She says she will tell them, “It doesn’t always pay to be smart” she says, and then she will tell of the day she was dumped in the woods (and of all the good that came from it).

As you can see there are many different things that can be discussed with a child after reading this story: sins, morals, values, and character traits.

When I read this book to my children they enjoyed it on a basic, superficial level as just a very good story, then we discussed the deeper themes. It seemed to me that my children understood and could relate to the important issues addressed in this book, without them being so heavy that the story itself is unable to be enjoyed.

Disclosure Statement: I received a free review copy of this book in order to write this review. I did not receive any financial payment for this. If you purchase this book through the Amazon link on this blog I will receive a small commission from Amazon.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Public Schooled Students Sexually Abused While in School

Janine Cate of Why Homeschool has a brilliant post about statistics of children having been sexually abused or harassed WHILE IN SCHOOL by school staff or teachers.

According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

You must read this article for all the information, including the important statistics about lack of staff consequences or arrests.

I was also bothered by the financial information about pay-off’s from schools to students related to sexual abuse.

Here is the comment that I left on Why Homeschool which sums up my thoughts.

Henry this is your best post ever.

I had never known such a report had to be made (related to the No Child Left Behind Act). I have never heard any statistics before about sexual misconduct while in school by school staff or teachers. I am floored.

What good detective work.

These must be some of the teachers who are in the 'rubber room' in New York City as mentioned in the John Stossel 20/20 investigation "Stupid in America"---it was mentioned that some teachers cannot be fired yet they 'don't want them around any children'. It was too bad they didn't get into explaining what they actually meant by that statement.

I would like to mention that teachers and school staff do not have background checks in order to do their job.

As a Cub Scout Leader, not only are we never supposed to be alone with any children, we are supposed to be 'two deep leadership', and there are very strict rules about overnight camping, but I was subjected to a full background check in order to volunteer for the position.

I wonder if Little League does the same for their coaches? If they do they should publicize it because as a parent of kids in Little League last year and other years, I was not ever told of that.

Then again we still have the general issue in society and also with the schools and the statistics that you mentioned that most of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct does not get reported to the police anyway.

Then another whole problem is the prosecution even when the person is found guilty...Bill O'Reilly has been doing a big expose on that with regard to child sexual abuse in particular and he has been discovering very lenient sentences handed down by judges. No matter what a person's political affiliation or feeling about O'Reilly, perhaps they should look at what he is doing in that arena as no one else in the media is advocating for children who have been sexually abused.

Later I went back and added this comment:

Whoops I guess kudos go to Janine. Great job.

Thank you for telling us what the children were asked. It is good to know the parameters.

I am blogging about your post today.

I also wanted to add that you mentioned 'good parents'. There are many 'good parents' whose children are sexually abused.

Anyone who wants more information about preventing sexual abuse or at least noticing the signs that it has already happened should read "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin De Becker.

If you want to read more about what I thought about the John Stossel 20/20 show “Stupid in America” which originally aired in January 2006, you can read it here.

If you want to read more of my thoughts about preventing childhood sexual abuse, read my blog entry from March 31, 2006, here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Proud Not to Participate in TV Turn Off Week

TV Turn Off Week is April 24 to 30th this year.

Mental Multivitamin had a great blog post about “TV Turn Off ” week on April 21, 2006.

Our family does not participate in this ‘event’. The reason is not because we are addicted to television and unable to do it, but it is because we don’t watch much television. I know some of my friends think we do watch a lot. In reality, we don’t, at least not compared to statistics of what the average American watches.

My children watch 30 minutes of non-commercial, non-violent television while I shower and get dressed. That is all they watch in a typical day, by themselves.

At night we watch one show as a family, something TiVo recorded so we fast forward through the commercials. We all watch the show together and we discuss it. Sometimes this ends up being a part of a show and other times it is an entire hour long show (44 minutes after taking out the commercials). That is all the kids watch.

Some of what we watch together ends up being reality shows. The new show “American Inventor” is of special interest to my older son who is an inventor-wanna-be and my husband and I find it humorous. We discuss the marketability of various products and why some would probably never sell.

As I have shared before we were watching “American Idol” but now that is down to just me as the other three in the family beg to not have to endure watching it any longer. We watch “Survivor” and even more fun for the children and my husband and I, “The Amazing Race” (fun and games mixed with world geography and other cultures). We also watch documentaries. Last week we watched a documentary about Blackbeard and we saw the great four hour, new “Ten Commandments” show (spread out over many nights).

After the kids go to bed my husband and I watch some television together. We have our pure entertainment shows that we watch, such as “The Soprano’s” and some HBO series shows. I have been watching “8th and Ocean” as I blogged about recently. Watching some of these shows keeps my finger dabbed into the mainstream and is eye-opening in that I see what American teenagers are like today (which is very different from 20 years ago when I was a teenager). I think that parents need to know what is going on in the world so they know what their children may encounter as they grow to be that age. I never recommend sticking one’s head in the sand. I watch some Dr. Phil and some Oprah shows at night as well, the ones that interest me or my husband. I am interested in topics such as parenting, attachment parenting (or an attack on it), mothering, conflict resolution, and education/schooling issues. If there were TV shows about homeschooling I’d be watching them. I would actually like to see a reality show that features homeschooling families, one family per episode, to see how they live and why they do what they do. This show would portray homeschooling in a positive light and would be respectful of each family’s choices and would let the audience decide if that lifestyle or their choices are right for their own family. (Like one of Nancy Lande’s books but in a TV format.)

Two years ago my son was taking a gymnastic class at the YMCA. One PTA mother was trying to stir up interest in “Turn off Your TV” week as she was the ‘contact person’ for it at their school. Apparently they had a campaign going to basically publicize and market this ‘event’ to families. She was saying how excited she was about it. I was not interested in it nor am I interested in it at all because (just as Mental Multivitamin says), I feel that our family is already well-rounded with spending time talking with each other, seeing each other a lot, having ‘quality time’, playing board games, having conversations, and eating meals together. We are not living in some TV fog problem here and we don’t need snapping out of it. If I thought we were living in some inferior or second-best way then I would stop doing that and make whatever improvements needed to be made.

I actually am bothered by the idea that a family would think it is right to lessen TV time to ‘discover’ what life could be like without it, then to go right back to it in one week. I think that is pathetic. The fact that a family would love spending time together for one week then would decide that one week is enough then to go back to what they thought was inferior is beyond my grasp. I don’t get it.

I also think that many families have issues with setting limits and having rules. How about pondering the idea of limiting television on an EVERY DAY basis? How about having a better quality of life together every single day?

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Too Many Toys? God Sends a Message

Do we still have too many toys?

Last month I got rid of three more bags of small toys! Shouldn’t that have taken care of the excess?

My younger son is approaching his sixth birthday. On his mind and mine is what presents to he wants. On my mind is where to find what he wants and when I can go on this secret mission. We have four relatives who provide me with cash before the gift giving holidays, and I buy toys or games that he wants. I then either give them to the relatives to wrap and bring to our home or else I wrap them myself and label them accordingly. Then at the family birthday party, these gifts are a surprise to my son. The relatives get to see him opening the gifts that he really wants and they see his expressions of joy.

I have had a few pity parties over the last couple of weeks, lamenting the fact that this is the third birthday that my husband is unemployed. Whilst other children in town are having birthday parties at various ‘party places’ (usually costing $17-25 per child), we will be having another easy (and inexpensive) “kid party” at our home. I am so sick of explaining that we don’t have the money to go to a gem digging place or an arcade/laser tag place, etc. I also worry about presents from us and realize that anything I buy puts us further into debt. Buying, shopping, and spending are no fun when one is unemployed, has no income, and is in debt. I felt some pity for myself about feeling like I can’t supply my son with every toy and game and whatever other material thing that he wants.

Just when this bad feeling was happening it was time to tidy up the living room because I was having my monthly Charlotte Mason Study Group meeting that night. I think God arranged this, as usual, yet again; He put something right in front of me for me to discover myself. As we tidied up the living room, which entailed putting the toys where they belong rather than scattered all over the floor. As I touched these toys I realized there are a lot of them. Actually there are a lot of teeny tiny little things that are a pain in the neck to pick up and to keep together. These are the type of toys that it is best if all the toys are in the right place and all together in order to play with them.

I got very annoyed (as I always do) when picking up these toys as I wish that my kids could and would pick up after themselves. It is not hard to do a little work often versus not doing anything, creating a huge mess then having to do a long tidying up session.

I keep telling myself that if a child has too many toys to keep track of and keep tidy, that means they have TOO MANY. Period.

So is God trying to tell me we are already living in abundance, that my son already has a lot of favorite toys and that he doesn’t need many more? I think so. This made me feel better about not spending a lot of money on my son for his birthday.

These are the toys that are kept in the living room that I had to deal with the other day:

Star Wars mini action figures with tiny accessories

Star Wars vehicles

Star Wars Light Sabres including little pieces to “build your own light sabre”

Playmobile pirate ship and all the little pieces

G.I. Joe: 4 figures and lots of accessories (including a huge cardboard base with a tent pitched upon it)

LEGOs galore

The other day we were in the toy store so that my older son could buy some toys with his own money that he has saved up (and received for Easter). I learned that Star Wars/George Lucas has put out yet even more new lines of Star Wars toys. These toys seem to be released in waves. Wave I was May 2005 when Episode III came out. Wave II was in November 2005 before the Christmas shopping rush. Wave III was January 2006 when some brand new toys came out (right after Christmas) and now it seems we are in Wave IV. None of this is official or verified, this is my observation based on shopping in toy stores and department stores, suddenly seeing new products on the shelves then seeing the older ones disappear, never to return again (except for high prices on eBay). Hey, maybe I should buy these new lines up resell them in eBay? Nah, too aggravating.

My younger son has been keeping a list of some toys that he wants. This weekend may have to be the time that I go shopping for gifts. This is what he wants:

Star Wars Force Battlers Figures

Star Wars mini action figures (the brand new line)

Star Wars Force FX Light Sabre, Mace Windu’s model--- $120!!! (I think this is more of a toy for an adult collector)

Star Wars Electronic Light Sabre Color Changer Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader

DVD The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

6-8 different sets of LEGOs

Suffice it to say that he is not getting all of that stuff. I just thought I’d share the list with you so you can see what I am up against here.

Books as Gifts
My children don’t ask for books for their birthday or Christmas because they take them for granted since we have thousands of books in our home already. They know that I will supply them with books and they are not considered special treats for them. With this said I usually give them at least one book for each holiday, something special that they really will enjoy, but that they did not know existed.

Clothing as Gifts
I also don’t believe that clothing is a present as it is a necessity of life, so in our family we don’t use clothing as gifts. My sons have never said, “Oh I want a new pair of blue chino’s for my birthday!” They just are not excited about clothing (as some young girls we know are.

Household Items as Gifts
A relative of ours once bought new bed sheets, a comforter and new curtains for their daughter’s sixth birthday. Call me a snob but bed linens and interior decoration items are not children’s presents, in my opinion. My kids want toys and things to have fun with. If the parent wants a new color scheme in the child’s bedroom that is all about the parent fulfilling what they want for the room’s decoration, it is not really ‘for the child’. Give me a break.

Perhaps before the birthday we should do yet another sweep through the house to see what we can get rid of. Last month, my younger son begged not to get rid of the Rescue Heroes, but I think it is time. We will see.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Supporting Other Homeschoolers and Homeschooling Through a Crisis

Homeschoolers Shouldn’t Go Out of Their Way to Make Other Homeschoolers Feel Bad

I wrote this rant four months ago and just polished it up to share with you today.

It would seem to me to go without saying that no one should ever intentionally do something to make another person feel bad. Remember ‘The Golden Rule’? If we all lived by it then the world would be a great place. This goes for the homeschooling community as well.

I saw something happen on a chat list and my heart went out to one mother. This mother wrote in saying she is homeschooling two children, the youngest is in Kindergarten. The older child is getting ready to have some medical procedures and there are serious health issues. I bet you can imagine it is on the mother’s mind that homeschooling through the medical treatment will be harder than usual. The mother asked a very specific question. She asked for book suggestions in a certain subject area which are heavy in graphics so the Kindergartener could read the books to herself. The child is reading at a third/fourth grade reading level, so the books were requested to be of that range. This automatically makes the information that the child will be reading above grade level when compared to public school.

I replied with book suggestions that are heavy in graphics because that is what the mother asked for. I also gave a comparison to what other children are doing in that grade in American public schools, as a way to compare that despite the family’s difficult situation; any science she gets at that grade level will be fine and well.

Others responded and boy, did I get annoyed! Why don’t people answer the question that was asked? A few people wrote in that they don’t use many books, that they prefer to do hands on activities such as experiments, etc. One mother wrote about how they do large projects such as learning about constellations by going outside and looking at the stars, etc. A snobbish attitude began to come out as more replies filtered in, that non-book learning was superior to book learning.

Why didn’t those people PAY ATTENTION? This mother is dealing with a child with medical problems. Family life is difficult enough and to be homeschooling while a child is seeking medical treatments such as this child has is very stressful. The mother asked for books the child could read to herself during this special time. Telling this mother that their family doesn’t think book learning is good enough is not helping things! Telling her she should be doing giant projects like learning all the constellations (and that the mother should be learning them as well, to have a full experience of the whole family learning together) is actually pretty harsh. Answering with replies such as those not only is not helpful, as the question that was asked was not answered, but they might actually make the mother feel badly.

I believe that when a person asks a question of us, we should answer the question. If we want to probe deeper and verify that the question being asked is really the question, that is \ alright (but usually is hard to go back and forth to verify what is being asked via email, it can be done much easier in person or if talking on the phone).

I can’t stand the snobbery that sometimes goes on in the homeschooling community. “My way is superior” thinking is wrong and it goes against logic. Every person is unique and learns in different ways. Not every learner wants to learn in YOUR favorite way or in your CHILD’S favorite way.

What matters is that each family and each child within a homeschooling family is treated like an individual who matters. This is not a game which homeschooling parent is ‘right’.

The mother asked for some book suggestions, sheesh! Why did she receive an onslaught from people basically trying to convince her to change their homeschooling method and style to something that, by the way, is NOT possible due to the unique, temporary situation in the family: a major medical problem?!

One thing that homeschooling parents should know right up front is that no two families homeschool in the same way. The family’s experience depends on not only the individual child’s personality but also on the parent’s personality. The dynamic is further affected by the presence of other siblings, if there are any. The experience will be very different if a family has a child who is a baby, a toddler or a preschooler and one or more who are in elementary grades (or older). Once there are two children “in school” then everything changes again. I am struggling with accepting the new family dynamic I have with two children in elementary grades this year. Add on top of all of that, the personalities of all of the people, competitiveness or non-competitiveness of each child and different learning preferences and learning styles, you can see how different each family’s experience is.

Add into the mix, a problem such as illness or a serious medical condition in a child, the homeschooling parent or spouse, or even a grandparent, and all heck can break loose. This goes the same for situations such as unemployment or financial problems of any kind. Families going through this need some tender loving care, not snobbery from others that the way they have to homeschool through that time is ‘not good enough’. I give the families living ‘in crisis’ credit for sticking it out rather than sticking the child in school to alleviate the work load of the parent.

With regard to what method a family uses to homeschool, that can also get more complicated. For example if a child thrives on worksheets but the mother detests them and refuses to use them then that is one situation that may not be ideal for the child. Some of the families I mentioned earlier clearly have parents who love spontaneous, project-driven, hands-on type learning, and their children do also. That is great for them. But I wish they wouldn’t snub their noses at a family who wants to use books (especially during a time of crisis). There is also nothing worse than a parent who wants to teach one way and the child wants to do another. I am glad the parents who love the big hands on projects are having fun with their children, they are lucky. I love hands on projects but so far my children have resisted them, so this is not only personally disappointing for me but it can (and sometimes has) resulted in power struggles and negativity as a result. Another example would be if a parent pushes a child to use a textbook based homeschooling program and the child is bored to tears, but the parent keeps forcing it on them.

Homeschooling parents get enough grief from others just for the choice to homeschool. Why can’t, at least, other homeschooling parents try to be as gentle and kind as possible to other homeschoolers?

If someone asks for a suggestion and you want to answer, do so. If they ask a question, answer that question. Period. I think it really stinks when other homeschoolers have superiority complexes and then try to push THEIR way onto others. It really, really stinks when a homeschooling family going through a crisis gets grief for how they homeschool during the time of crisis. Those parents deserve more credit for staying on the more difficult path. (The easier path being to just put the children in school so as to relieve the homeschooling parent of one less thing on the ‘to do’ list and to lighten their responsibility load to make the parent better able to cope through that difficult time.)

I think that perseverance is one thing that many parents who homeschool possess. We find a way to work around various situations and problems. Whether we diligently search out a book or program that is best for a certain learning style, are able to ditch one thing that isn’t working well or is not as good as we thought it would be to find something better, we persevere. We work through stressful times, most of us don’t quit at the first hurdle.

So let’s rally together and support each other rather than playing games and being arrogant.

(Clarification added 4/26/06: I was annoyed with the chat on the chat list but didn't give my reaction/rant on the chat list to what the others were saying. After I made my book suggestion I stopped taking part in the discussion. Instead I ranted privately about it on my own PC to get it out of my system. And now I am sharing it with my blog readers. I am not a big fan of ranting on chat lists. It can be more trouble than it is worth. That chat list in particular tends to have 'fights' from time to time that I stay out of. I didn't want to be the person who started a 'fight'! Perhaps I should go back into the email archives and figure out who the mother was that asked the question and email her my blog entry? I don't think that I have the time to do that.)

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nature Class Began —Hooray!

The spring session of a wonderful nature/science class has begun. Hooray! This is a wonderful class run by and at an Audubon Center. It is a special class for homeschoolers. The way the class is run is very much in alignment with Charlotte Mason's methods.

My older son is enrolled in the class and this will be his second spring. He also has been in the class for two autumn sessions. This time around the class is for children aged 7-9. There are other homeschool classes for middle school aged children and one class for high school aged homeschooled children.

We had a great first class earlier this week. This time around the class length has been increased to 90 minutes each session, and the class will be held six times in the spring (rather than four sessions as in the past).

On our first day the children did bird watching from a meadow which had been mowed. We saw a bluebird sitting on a bluebird house. Swallows flew overhead. The tree branches were still bare so we could see various birds sitting in the trees. We saw on old bird nest on a branch from last season, it was pretty beat up. We hiked by the river and through a small patch of forest. We stopped to look at a vernal pool which didn’t fill up yet. We found a plant which is on the Federal list of endangered plants (the name escapes me now). The teacher showed the children a turtle and explained all about it, then we went to let it go near the river bank. We watched birds feeding at the bird feeders.

I am sharing one photo. I selected one that does not show the children’s faces. This way no one can identify which kids are mine and also I think this way I won’t get into trouble with the other families for putting photos of their kids on the web.

This photo is of the teacher explaining some plants and funguses that live in this vernal pool. The vernal pool has not yet filled up with water as does each spring.

One thing I notice from taking this class is that my children really remember things that they have seen and experienced. The teacher we have is the best teacher that I have ever met. She is kind and really likes children. She loves nature and her enthusiasm for the natural world is evident and infectious. The children really like her. I appreciate that she is sincere and just a nice, down-to-earth person. I also appreciate that she allows my younger son to tag along with what they are doing, so long as I stick close by and help make sure that he does not cause any problems.

While the kids are taking the class, I tag along with them, to keep an eye on my younger son. I like to hang far enough back that when we moms chat we are not being too noisy to be disruptive to the class. I enjoy talking with the other homeschooling mothers and it is one way in which I get a chance to network and make friends with other homeschooling mothers.

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American Idol: Quick Comments on 4/19/06 Show

Well, my past predictions were right. Finally Bucky went as I was predicting for a couple of weeks. I also was saying how bored I was with Ace and now he is gone, too. Hooray! I didn’t comment on Mandisa’s leaving, so now I will share that I was surprised she went when she did because I assumed, based on the judge’s praise, that she had a big fan base in America.

I am starting to really wonder if the judges are out of touch with the American public.

To summarize about the past few weeks, I could not get through the phone lines after the 4/04/06 show so I didn’t vote. At that time my younger son was begging not to watch the show as he was sick of it. For the 4/11/06 show, I didn’t vote as my husband was on the phone when voting time came, then (gasp) I forgot about voting later, when he was off the phone! As you can tell my enthusiasm for the show is waning.

For the 4/18/06 show, then for the first time my older son was begging not to watch the show. This is the third season we watched and I am so surprised that at this point I am the last person in the family to care to watch it. I had to wait for the kids to go to bed to quickly watch the 4/18/06 episode, then I did vote. Boy, did I have trouble getting through to vote for Taylor. Also both kids begged not to see the results show that aired last night, so again I waited for them to go to bed then I watched it.

This is how I voted on 4/18/06. I voted for all that I liked the best, to help save them from elimination. I did not just vote on my most favorite performer.
Chris (about 4 votes)
Taylor (about 6 votes)
Paris (about 8 votes)
Kellie (perhaps 8 votes, not sure)
Katharine (2 votes only)

Although I love Taylor’s personality and style, I am really thinking he definitely won’t make it to the end.

I do need to share that for the first time ever, I enjoyed Katharine’s performance. She just didn’t ‘click’ with me in the past. My husband had the same feeling and felt she was the best on the show and he made me vote for her, twice. Despite my enjoyment of the show, the others remain my favorites.

I still really like Kellie. I was really thinking that Chris would still win the competition but seeing as how he was in the bottom three for this week, perhaps I am wrong about his fan base? I had said in the past I thought he’d win and I think he does a great job but I don’t care for his type of music and would never buy a record. I do enjoy Taylor a lot and may just consider buying one of his records. I would also seriously consider buying a country recording that Kelli may make because my husband is a huge country fan as are my two boys. I enjoy it but not as much as I did in the past. Also depending on the type of music that Paris would record, I might buy one of her albums.

I still really like Paris and think she is a powerhouse. I had to laugh when Simon said her speaking voice was like Minnie Mouse (which I agree with) and I also cringe when I hear her speak. Her singing voice is great.

My last comment is that I don’t understand next week’s pick of Andrea Boticelli for the music for them to sing. In the past Simon Cowell would keep saying that this is a POP MUSIC contest. Why the heck are they going to sing Andrea Boticelli? The only song I know is “Time to Say Goodbye” which was a duet with Sarah Brightman. Brightman crossed over from Broadway to classical to pop then recorded with Brightman. What kind of path are they seeking for the American Idols? And are they going to actually sing in Italian? How will this be received by the mainstream Americans? Are they trying to mix up the styles of music? If so I’d like to hear them sing some Broadway show tunes. Since the money in music lately is in Gansta Rap, are they going to sing that next? (I hope not. And I hope the Gansta Rap fad is fading, too.)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nature Appreciation: Magnolias in Bloom

I have learned to observe nature each moment of the day while doing other activities. Ever since I first heard of nature appreciation and nature study as something important in people’s lives, by reading the writings about homeschooling, written by Charlotte Mason, I am surprised at all that goes on around us, most of which is not noticed by people. I notice things while driving or when looking out a window.

The other day I was going out to pick up some pizza. It was raining and had been raining all day, the kids were sick and we were cooped up inside all day long. As I was backing out of the garage I noticed how beautiful the magnolia tree in front of our house looked. It was raining, and I knew that some of the blossoms would be ruined that night. I parked the car (even though the pizza was ready to be picked up), grabbed the camera out of my pocketbook, jumped out of the car, and snapped some photos right then and there. I knew that if I had waited until after I got back it would be darker and too late to take photos. I seized the moment!

(Captions apply to the photo underneath it.)

This is the first blossom I looked at. I was trying to catch the raindrops on the blossom. This is one of the early blossoms; it is already bleached out from the sunlight. Note there are not many blossoms on the ground yet, those just fell that day, while it was raining.

I was trying to capture the coloring of the blossom, how it is deeper pink/purple at the base then gradually changes to white at the tips of the petals.

Look at this mass of blossoms, all at a low level, so when I stood there I was surrounded by this beauty.

I love how this one branch extends outward.

Look at this 'wall' of flowers!

I cannot find words to express this beauty!

I am glad that spring has arrived!

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Why Do Parents Push Boys to Use Video Games? I’d Like to Know!

This is on my mind. I don’t have much to say about it but want to put this out there. Please feel free to leave a comment or to email me privately (by clicking on my profile then clicking on my email).

I would like to know why it is that mainstream American parents push their boys to use video games for entertainment. (I am not talking about computer games which are educational in nature.) Yes, I say parents push, because most of them do. I know parents of boys aged two who are buying them video games (i.e. Game Cube) and handheld devices (i.e. Game Boy). The children seem to know numerous games that are available and when they are coming out. These games are not cheap. The parents I know whose kids use them, buy loads of them. The parents create this.

I know many homeschooling families who do not allow their children to use video games. I know only one family who does not allow their children to have these games who uses school. Other than that one family, every family I know who has boys who attend preschool or elementary school lets their boys play these games.

I say boys because most of the users of these games are boys, not girls. I know one family who has boys and girls and the girls have Game Boys as to the boys. Now that I think of it, two of my nieces have Game Boys as well. However I hear from my friends that even within their family the boys play the games but the sisters usually don’t care about using them even though they have access to them.

Video game playing and too much screen time has been linked to delayed reading, I have heard. I don’t have a study to cite right here and now. If you are looking for information to support reducing screen time, read Endangered Minds by Jane Healy. Based on the delayed reading issue I decided that my children would not play entertainment video games until after they were reading well. I had no plans after that occurred. I used to state this clearly when my older son was very young. As he was learning to read we didn’t discuss it and he was not asking for the video games as he knew how much I didn’t want him to play them, so I didn’t bring up the issue. The problem with it was that if he was expecting to get a video game when he was reading well we’d have a situation on our hands as our younger son was not yet reading. Without telling my older son my husband and I made the executive decision to not allow video games into the house until after both boys were reading.

I could go on and on about why I hate video games. I am going to hold back from that right now. The main reason is that I feel that playing these games is anti-social and I resent them being played in social situations and places that are meant to be social events. For example I resent handheld devices being brought to events such as special restaurant dinner celebrations for a grandfather’s 75th birthday, brought to a playdate and used by one child instead of that child playing with the children who he traveled to see and to play with, having them brought to restaurants and used so that the family doesn’t even speak to each other over dinner and to other special events such as Christenings. It is also unfair for one child to bring one and sit there and play it and not offer to share it with another child. Playing those handheld games should be a solitary activity that the child does when alone, in my opinion.

I have been thinking about my own experiences as a preteen and a teenager with the first Atari video game for home use, of my many visits to the local arcade to play the games, and of the time I spent while single playing the Nintendo system with my boyfriends (one of whom is now my husband).

We did a little experiment here with giving my boys a Game Boy and another experiment with taking out my old Nintendo console (from about 1989). My boys were also given (without my permission), some of the Plug –n- Play games which plug into the VCR to play games on the TV. We also bought a LEGO Star Wars computer game that I later realized is also sold for Play station and frankly would be easier to use if it was on TV with a joystick. I will blog about all of that at another time. Rather than keep you in suspense I will just say that for now the old Nintendo is put away and banned, the Game Boy is banned and hidden. Some of the Plug –n- Play games are out but are never used. I set limits on the LEGO Star Wars game usage. The educational computer games are used in cycles by my children and I have never put limits on those. The kids seem to play them frequently (up to three hours on some days) then will not touch them for 3-6 months at a time (or even longer) then take them out, use them often for a few days or a week, then shelve them again.

But back to my question: why are parents shoving these games on boys?

One answer that my friends tell me that I tend to agree with is:
“to shut them up, keep them busy and out of their hair”.
Some friends say that moms they know admit this freely and I have also had one mom tell me this also. The moms complain that the boys are too active, don’t like to sit still in restaurants, don’t like long car drives, etc. so they give them the handheld game and they sit still, shut up, and basically ‘behave well’.

Do you agree?

I also think that these devices can further separate and divide a family. I think it is sad if a child goes to school and they barely see their parents and some or most of that time they could be together bonding is spent instead using video games of one type or another or using a computer or a television for yet more ‘screen time’.

I am also curious about why not all young girls seem to be drawn to the video games. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I suspect that an element may be in peer pressure. Kids at school may have the games and the children talk about them and they ask their parents for them. There could be a level of this just being about parents giving children the type of toy that they want and are asking for, to make them happy.

One last issue is that those of us who don’t use these video games much sometimes have issues with the boys that do use them because they don’t seem able to play in other ways with other children. Sometimes at the playground at social gatherings, a child will refuse to socialize with other children as they want to play their video game instead. I think this is a mistake that the parents are making. I feel that limits should be set on using these games and that the parent should realize that social time with friends is of more importance, so for those specific times that a child is with other kids they should be able to disconnect from the video game and to connect with other children. I also find that when my sons play with kids who spend lots of time with the video games the boys ask to play the games, and when we say ‘no, we don’t have those here’, they are disappointed and say they don’t want to do other things. I think this is sad. Boys are even taking Game Boys to Cub Scout campouts and refusing to do Scout activities at camp in favor of sitting alone and playing their games. Some Packs have rules against their use but not all Packs enforce it. My friend’s Pack also had an issue with some fathers who brought portable DVD/TVs to camp and let the kids watch it at camp, just some certain kids in a car, while other Scouts were left out. How sad.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Making Money from This Blog and Thinking about Changing this Blog

I am thinking about changing my blog around. I want two sidebars, one on each side. I will have to pick a new template that allows that ‘look’.

I don’t like playing around with the technical part of blogging. I think it is time to force myself to do it, though. Ugh. There are many other things I need to do and want to do with my time then configure HTML coding.

I want links to certain topics rather than just an archive list. Perhaps what I need is a website not just a blog, I don’t know. I’d like to have links in one place about where I have blogged about how to teach reading, for example.

I want to put some links to some of my favorite blogs and websites in the sidebar, also.

I wish I could make some money off of this blog. The income that I earn from it is our family’s sole income. Sadly, I made only $100 in 2005 and so far this year I have actually received nothing.

Google AdSense
Check out these pathetic statistics. Since my one Google AdSense payment which was over six months ago, the ratio of my blog entries that have been read by readers compared with the number of clicks is 10,261:90. That is it! I get paid when people click on the ads. C’mon readers, there must be some ad you see that piques your interest. Please consider clicking on it and looking at the company or product a little bit so our family can make a few pennies. Please?

Amazon Purchases
My blog readers have asked for clarification on how the process works. I make a commission off of anything that a person buys after clicking through my blog.

Amazon restructured their payment/commission earning potential as of April 1, 2006. They now pay based on quantity of sales.

This is how it works. If you link through the colored Amazon ad in my left sidebar and put something into your shopping cart and pay for it (finalize the purchase) within 24 hours I get a commission on that product. Anything you add into your Amazon shopping cart after going through my blog that one first time, I get a commission on. Yes, you can buy things I never mentioned on my blog or items not connected to homeschooling. (I have been asked this question more than once so that is why I mention that.)

For example if you click through my blog and put a math book in your cart then you put a chapter book in your cart and then you add a music CD to your cart then pay for it within 24 hours I get a commission ON EVERYTHING you purchased. If you click through a certain product link the same thing happens. You don’t have to keep going back to my blog and doing a new search.

Here is another example. If I mention a book on my blog and you click through to Amazon on that link then you decide not to buy that but you find something else to buy, I will get a commission on whatever it is that you purchase.

The restructure that Amazon did effective April 1, now gives a flat commission rate for each item. The commission goes up if my quantity of items sold in a time period goes over 20. There is a rising commission, such as 1-20 items gets a certain percentage then 21-40 items gets a little higher, and it rises like that. If you want the details you can go to Amazon Associates, join (it is free) and read the financial information on the site. I believe it is against their rules for me to disclose the information on this blog so I am not going to do that!

I get a commission for anything you buy from Amazon, including used books sold by ‘regular people’ also known as “Amazon Marketplace Sellers” and also from third party sellers, for example if you buy a pair of shoes from “Shoe Store”.

What I see is a list of the items purchased, the price paid, and the date it was purchased on. I do NOT see who bought it. Your name is confidential and I will never know who bought what.

My earning potential from Amazon is pretty darn good but I have yet to be paid a single penny as I have not yet met the minimum payment of $100.

Please, please, I am begging you….if you buy from Amazon consider linking through my blog. If you are curious about a company that appears in a Google ad, click on it and check them out.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Running a Homeschooling Information Session with Panel

For two years the leader of a local inclusive homeschool support group ran an information session about homeschooling for the public. K.W. did a great job and I thought I’d share with you how the event was structured in case your homeschool support group wants to try something like this. I attended the event which I am calling “homeschooling information session with panel” in 2003 and 2004, the two years that it was held. I was already homeschooling then but wanted to go to get support and see what was going on. However, the target audience was members of the public who were curious or interested in homeschooling their children. It was suspected that most would already have their children in school and be interested in pulling them out for various reasons. The time of year was selected to be in the spring when parents might be unhappy with school. Summer was thought to be too busy for families or they may be out of town. I believe on meeting was held in June and another year it was held in May.

A local library with a large meeting room was booked for the event. A weeknight was selected and I believe it ran from 6:30pm or 7:00pm to 9:00pm. There were constraints on when everyone had to be out of the building so they had to arrange the time around that and when the room could be finished being cleaned up.

Homeschooling supply companies were contacted in advance and cases of catalogs for products, books, and curriculum were shipped to the homeschool support group leader. These were laid out face up in stacks on long tables that ran against one long wall in the room. A few new ‘how to homeschool’ type books were donated by some homeschool suppliers and were given away as a door prize at the end of the event. Homeschooling parents were invited to bring extra catalogs or past issues of homeschooling magazines to give away, and those were lined up on tables as well.

Support group members were asked to bring drinks and desserts and a snack table was set up in the back of the room.

Chairs were lined up auditorium style and there was a long head table at the front of the room. There was a microphone for the speakers to use. There was also a podium and a microphone for the support group leader to use throughout the presentation.

Local homeschool support leaders or parents were invited to speak on different homeschooling methods. There were representatives from these categories: unschooling, unit studies, eclectic, classical and a parent who had homeschooled two children from birth through the end of high school who is also an attorney and activist for homeschoolers in our state. One year, one of her daughters was there as a panelist; another interesting thing about these sisters was that they graduated from high school at 12 and 11 and went to college immediately and they had double majors for their bachelors degrees and were both working on their masters degrees, and I think they were getting double masters degrees also. Each speaker had prepared some handouts for each participant. The support group leader had them photocopied and stuffed them into a pocket folder and distributed them to each attendee as they arrived at the event.

As attendees arrived they signed in and it was determined if they already homeschool or if they are considering it for the future. I believe this was done to see if the attendees were already homeschooling and excited to attend this event or if the event was truly reaching the non-homeschooling public.

Each panel member was given a certain amount of time to speak briefly on their method and what it is and why they do it that way. This was very brief, perhaps 10 minutes. Some had things to display, books or curriculum to show, or samples of projects or photo albums loaded with photographs. Next, the support group leader had a list of questions which she asked the panel and two or three panel members would volunteer to answer the question, each giving very different perspectives on the question. These are the basic questions that newbie’s ask such as “what about socialization”, etc.

Lastly, there was an open microphone question and answer period. This is where the event fell apart a little, in my opinion. It was at this point that one or two panelists seemed to dominate the discussion. This is the point where radical statements were made by one person at which time some of the audience members bristled. I think we need to be careful and tactful about what is said at such events. Statements such as “nothing good ever happens at school” or “a parent should never teach their children the children should teach themselves” don’t sit well with some mainstream members of the public and these statements can be offensive. Both years the audience was grappling to understand the concept of unschooling and addressing this was taking up a lot of the time. I think that it is most helpful to try to view the world through the eyes of a parent who has only known the school system and to try to help them see how it is possible and can be a great thing to homeschool their children. To use radical statements when there is not enough time to explain them is not a good thing, in my opinion. What is said at these type of events gives the public an overall impression of ALL homeschoolers and we should tread lightly and be mindful of the picture that we are painting to the public.

At the end of the event parents milled around to take catalogs, eat snacks and chat. One problem with this was that at that point no one wanted to leave and people had lots of questions. It also was unclear who was who, such as who in the audience was already homeschooling and could have been answering people’s questions vs. who was there for information. Many of the non-homeschoolers were clamoring to speak to the panelists as they knew they were already homeschooling. It was hard to get everyone out of the room and it was a shame that they basically had to be kicked out due to the library’s rules. It was also important to have volunteers helping to clean up the catalogs, etc. so we could exit the room on time.

I think that an event such as this should be done in every area, annually. Last year we had an idea that if one support group did the event each year that there would always be an event taking place somewhere in the state. It is a lot of work to put on such an event and it is hard for the same group to do it annually, unless a lot of volunteers are willing to help and the leader or a designated committee member has enough energy and time to oversee it all.

This was a very inspirational night. It was great to be around a large number of homeschoolers, to see members of the public interested in homeschooling and to hear the panelists speak. Every time I can hear a veteran homeschooler speak of homeschooling in a positive light it is so motivating and energizing to me.

So how about considering running such an event in your area? A one night event which is free to the public?

Next week I will write about a very different format event which I helped run last year.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

I hope you had a Happy Easter and enjoyed the day with your family and/or friends.

Our family had a wonderful day celebrating Easter. We were gone all day and are wiped out. Therefore, this may be my shortest blog entry to date.

Have a wonderful evening!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Had More Problems at Borders Bookstore

Every single time I visit the Borders book store near me, I have problems---every single time. I try to avoid going there. Each time I have these issues I feel gratitude for the simplicity and wonderful service and great inventory of

I hate buying new books at full retail price. There is usually no need to. I would rather buy books at a discount and own more books than buying less at full retail.

I get a lot of information by reading online customer reviews on Amazon, which is often more helpful than looking at the book in my hands. On the other hand, sometimes there is nothing like browsing through a book in a store and realizing that it is what you are looking for, or that it is not what you are looking for. Another ‘con’ is that often I visit bookstores to buy a certain book and can’t find it on the shelf (when it is in stock at Amazon). It is frustrating when I take my precious time to drive to the store (burning gasoline, too), go in and search around, only to realize the store doesn’t have what I want in stock.

Nearly every book that I buy is for educational use with my children. I own at least 4200 books (that is how many I have already catalogued in my computer, and I have more that are waiting to be catalogued). Yes, I am a bookworm!

I have been disappointed in the inventory of the children’s books at Borders, time and time again.

I find the salespeople either ignore me, or they are unfriendly. Some are downright unprofessional. Most cashiers also don’t know how to input discount codes for various Borders discount programs and require the Store Manager’s assistance (causing me to wait), for example.

Recently, the wonderful Cub Scouts in my Den presented me with a Borders gift card as a gift of appreciation for the work that I do. They hit the nail on the head when they selected a gift of a book store gift card for me. Too bad it was for Borders!

Yesterday after six days stuck in the house with sick children I just had to get out. I decided to go to Borders which is in the next town over and use the gift card for something special for myself. I also had in hand, a $5 off coupon from a past promotional thing they did where you buy 10 children’s books and then at ‘your next purchase’ you get $5 off. The only other stated rule was that it could not be combined with any other offer. It did not say the coupon could only be used on children’s books. I also had a gift card with some money left on it from a gift I received over two years ago! I wanted to use all of these things and finish them up. I also had my Borders educator discount card which is expired but could easily be renewed, as I am currently still homeschooling.

At yesterday’s visit to Borders, I could not find any books on paper arts or other books such as crafts and handwork, in the art books section. I could not find an employee to ask where those books were kept. They were not anywhere near the other art books (like where the Barnes and Noble store puts them). One employee walked by me so quickly, three times, with a headset on, that I could not stop her to ask for help. She didn’t seem aware of anyone around her, walking quickly and staring straight ahead, zipping here and there, as if she didn’t want to help any customers and had other things to do. I didn’t want to chase after her, so I read the store directory that said the category was on that floor but there was no map of the floor layout (hey, that would be a good idea). I finally found someone at the information desk (which had been absent of employees before that), and asked and found out that the books on collage and paper arts and also metal crafting, rubberstamping, knitting, and jewelry making were “in the reference section across from the dictionaries”. This was about 100 feet away from the art books. What an odd placement! Where is the logic there?

A quick note on headsets in case employees or store managers are reading this: when employees are wearing them, customers are unable to tell if they are listening to someone talking or if they are unoccupied. It is hard to catch the eye of salespeople with these headsets on and when they walk and talk at the same time because they seem unaware of their surroundings, as they are intently focusing on the conversation they are having. I am a polite person and would hate to interrupt their conversation but how exactly are we to know when they are listening to someone speak or when they are free? It was much easier when someone had to pick up a telephone receiver to talk into!

I knew some books that I had seen online at Amazon which were not discounted by Amazon, and they are on my ‘wish list’. I had seen some of those interesting books reviewed in magazines and wished I could purchase them. I was hoping that they would be at Borders so I could use the gift card to buy them.

I checked my stash before I left home, so I had my current proof of homeschooling my children, my expired Borders Educator discount card, my two gift cards and the $5 off coupon. Phew. The retail stores certainly don’t make it easy to shop anymore, do they?

I was happy to find six books that looked interesting. I sat down in a big leather chair to browse them. I decided on two books which I knew Amazon didn’t discount (so that made me feel better about paying full price for them at Borders plus paying state sales tax). Each book was $22.99. I was happy to have found one of the books that I had hoped to find which was on my ‘wish list’.

I approached the cashier to pay and handed him my $5 off coupon. The coupon had lots of rules such as ‘cannot be combined with any other discount’ so I was not asking for the educator discount (but I could have as they are art instruction books that will be used with my children). I just wanted to use that $5 coupon and the gift cards and then to get out of there. The cashier refused acceptance of the coupon saying that it was only for redemption on children’s books. That was not stated in the rules but I went with it anyway, just to get out of there. I didn’t have it in me to fight about it or to switch mid-stream to ask for the Educator Discount. He was otherwise a pleasant person.

I went to leave but realized that still having that $5 coupon in hand was going to bug me so I went back upstairs to the children’s department to find one book to buy and to use the $5 coupon on. I selected a book which I saw at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, the revised edition of “My New York” by Kathy Jakobsen.

I had resisted purchasing it at the Festival because it was full price (even though I could have had the author sign it since I met her and heard her speak twice at the Festival). I hate having to set limits on my spending but that is reality!

I stood in line to pay and a different cashier offered to help me. I presented the $5 coupon and the book and tried to pay. He was polite and friendly, asked me if I wanted to join the Borders Reward Program. I asked if that was some program whereby I pay a fee and then get a discount on books (such as Barnes and Noble and B. Dalton stores have). He said, “No, it is free and if you open an account today with it you get 30% off of all your purchases today.” I was aghast. I asked why, 10 minutes earlier, did I not get offered this when I had just spent $46 on two books (which is a sizeable amount to me!)? He replied in a professional yet slightly robotic tone, “I can speak only for my own actions, not those of my co-workers.” I then indicated it was the cashier right next to him. I could tell that the first cashier was listening, and then the guilty cashier began pretending he did not overhear what was going on. I quickly figured in my head that the $5 coupon was more than a 30% savings and I declined his offer and said I wanted to use the $5 coupon but that afterward, I wanted to return the two books I did buy and reprocess them with the 30% discount. He said something the $5 coupon is basically the same as the 30% off so would I sign up for the Borders Reward program? I politely said, “No, because I want the 30% discount to come off of these two books which total to $46.” He understood what I was saying; he was not dense, but he seemed to be on a big sales push to sign people up for the Borders Reward card. He tempted me by saying something about when I spend $50 I then get some kind of discount or something. I didn’t care about the future discount as I hope I never go there again. I just wanted the 30% discount off of the $46! He agreed that it could be done that way but that I’d have to see the store manager and go stand in another line to handle that. I was annoyed with cashier #1. Cashier #2 was friendly and professional.

So I stood in the other line and when the store manager was free, she began processing my transaction. I did not speak to her and she did not speak to me. There was no apology or explanation from her about this mix-up, or anything. The cashier had already told her what was to be done so I guess she didn’t feel the need to communicate with me. What ever happened to employees or managers apologizing for mistakes or problems their employees caused? No one seems to apologize anymore. She asked me to sign the credit card slip and I had to ask what it was for and she replied it was permission to put a credit onto my credit card. I resent any cashier or manager asking me to sign credit card slips without telling me the price of my purchase or whatever it is! I had added in a box of candy (“Harry Potter Bernie Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans” which is something they had asked me if actually existed ‘in real life’ and I had said, “I don’t know”.), as a special treat for my kids. There was no price on the box anywhere but I bought it anyway (how much could a small box of jelly beans cost anyway?) So I walked away as a Borders Reward member (still not really understanding what that is).

When I got to the car I looked at the receipt and saw she processed the first book with a 30% discount and the second book with a 25% discount and the candy had no discount and that cost $6.50! Wow! I don’t quite know what went on there. I was too disgusted to go back in and ask for the discount on the candy and also the other 5% off of the book. Since the cashier indicated “my discount was on 30% of my entire purchase that day”, I still feel that I was cheated here.

I was also turned off and annoyed to see a large display of what I consider to be child porn books which are being published and heavily marketed to pre-teen and teenaged girls. If you don’t know what I am talking about, it is the series of books such as these: Gossip Girls, The It Girl, The Clique and The A-List. I saw a girl of about 11 years old scanning through them and I was tempted to go speak to her about what trash they were and to not fill her mind with rot but really it is not my business so I kept my mouth shut. I did look around for signs of a parent nearby as I was curious if her mother or father knew what she was considering buying or at least what she was reading, but if there was a parent in the store, they were no where near her and must not care what their daughter is reading or they would be right there next to her helping make the purchase. When my back was turned she left the display and I didn’t see if she was making a purchase or not. She had been skimming the pages of the books when I saw her. I also would have loved to hear what she would say about other girls her age reading those books.

One last funny thing was in the middle of the display of the racy books, someone had placed an entire set of “Anne of Green Gables” books! What a great counterbalance! I have a feeling it was NOT a Borders employee.

I don’t ever want to go back to Borders again. I have a 7/10th finished Borders Explorers card which I may give away to a fellow homeschooler who likes to attend their educator days.

Frankly I am wondering if these book stores are losing money to online book discounters or what? It seems they offer discounts all over the place in order to lure customers in. I know these programs confuse the customers and the employees alike. I have an educator card for use on books to use in the classroom. They have educator days in which everything in the store is discounted for educators. They have the Borders Explorer punch card, buy 10 children’s books and get $5 off ‘your next purchase’. They now have this Borders Reward program. What is next? They have us all confused, the customers and the employees!

I just found some confusion with Borders employees online for all to view about their Reward Program. Here is an online discussion board of the dislike of the new Borders Reward program.

In case you are wondering what my past problems were, I will briefly state these problems:
1. Cashier challenging me as to whether I really am a homeschooler or not, even when I showed paper proof and showed a current Borders Educator card.

2. Store Manager not understanding that my homeschooling proof does not come from the state because in Connecticut the state does not issue any kind of paper proof to homeschoolers, and not wanting to renew my Educator discount card.

3. Cashier not believing those children’s books on subjects of math, history, science, and nature (birds) was really going to be used in my homeschool ‘classroom’. I got angry about that and finally got my discount. How obvious is it that non-fiction ‘school subject’ children’s books are for use in ‘the classroom’?

4. A different cashier on a different day, questioning me as to why I was buying books on multiple non-fiction children’s book subjects and how they could be used in my ‘classroom’---telling me that a classroom teacher teaches only one subject in her job. I explained I was a homeschooler and they didn’t get it. I had to spell out that I teach EVERY subject. I got dirty looks for that but the discount did go through.

5. A different cashier refusing to grant children’s picture books with fiction content as being ‘for classroom use’ as they were fiction. I fought that and got the discount.

6. I once went to buy picture books from the Five in a Row unit study booklist and had a hard time finding books which are considered ‘classics’ and books which have been in print for many years. I remember not being able to find “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Story about Ping” or any of the dog-themed Marjorie Flack books. I was hard pressed to find any of the Five in a Row books on their shelves. However they did have loads of twaddle books and television and movie tie-in’s.

7. I was once refused an Educator Discount on non-fiction children’s books that came from the ‘bargain’ section and was told that bargain books can’t be further discounted.

8. I was told once that an art instruction book and that a book about fine art history is not considered ‘educational’ and I could not use my Educator Discount on them. I explained that they are to teach art and art history and they are being used in my ‘classroom’. I got the discount in the end along with dirty looks.

The way the employees have acted in the past is as if they resent giving discounts and honoring money off coupons that their own company dreamed up.

Ugh! Just writing this makes me angry all over again!

It is so much easier to just order from Amazon, order over $25 worth of stuff and get free shipping plus no state sales tax. I have enough problems and hassles in my life and the last thing I care to deal with is battling Borders employees for legitimate discounts from programs that Borders dreamed up in the first place.

While writing this entry I got curious about what the Borders Reward program really is and found that it is really not as great as it seems. I read on the Borders site that one must spend $50 IN ONE MONTH and then they get something called a ‘personal shopping day’, at which they get 10% off the purchase made on that ‘personal shopping day’. A Borders employee stated on the chat forum that if the customer spent the $50 then went in and spent $10 on their 10% discount day they’d have saved $1 off of a total $60 purchase. Not much of a discount is it? That comes out to a 1.6% discount.

If you want to read some interesting and frustrating Borders employee chat about this program, go here. The discussion gets very interesting on pages 3 and 4 in which it is revealed that if cashiers don’t sign up a certain percentage of customers for the program they get warnings and then are ultimately fired.

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