Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Yale Photos Part One

If you are interested in viewing some photos I took of the Yale University Campus in March 2006 which I just published on my other blog, go here to view it. This is a fun thing I am doing which is sticking my digital camera out of the car window while driving by places and taking random photos. What comes out is a surprise!

Curious about Author Barbara Bickmore’s Books

I was telling two homeschooling mothers about this today while at the homeschool park day and they were interested in the information. I figured if I was going to write it up in an email, I might as well just publish it as a blog entry. So here it is.

While at my public library recently, I picked up a free copy of the book review newspaper “Book Page”, the May 2006 edition. I was reading it today while I ate breakfast and read this interesting question about author Barbara Bickmore, whom I have never heard of, in the "Burning Questions" column.

The question was if Bickmore had published any novels since her last book was published in America in 1999.

The author responded that since 1999 two novels have been published in Europe. This line in the response from the author caught my eye:

No American publishers seem interested anymore. I'm told that I write books that are too long, are about women and their problems and achievements and don't have enough violence and action in them to interest Americans.

Well hearing what Bickmore writes about got me interested in reading her books. It appears to me after viewing the book information on that her first book, published in America “Beyond the Promise” is out of print. Too bad she does not mention the titles of the other two books published in Europe so I can seek them out online. (I am unsure if they are written in English, now that I think about it, they may not be in English!) I tried finding the titles of the books published in Europe but so far have turned up empty-handed.

My problem with fiction about women is either that it is very depressing such as victims of childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical or verbal abuse, or some other victim type of story. I can only take so much of that and frankly after reading a few books in a row like that it stops being entertaining or a ‘fun escape’ for me. I absolutely care nothing for romance novels. I also am not captivated or interested in ultra-shallow story telling. I have read some shallow stories and some books that others would call “good beach reading”. Frankly my time is too precious to spend reading most novels. A bunch of stories have failed to hold my interest and I gave up on them. However the fact that Bickmore is writing about achievements (!) and that they are long (read: delve deeply into complex personalities) appeals to me. The author’s stated lack of violence and action is also fine with me as a woman’s life should nto be filled with violence and action—drama and emotion, yes, but violence, no thank you.

So now I want to read Bickmore’s novels!

Here is the full text of the piece that ran in Book Page.


I was wondering if Barbara Bickmore has written anything in the last few years. I think she's a great writer, and would love to own more of her books.
Nancy Marland
Owner, By the Lake Books
Cazenovia, New York

It took some sleuthing to track down Barbara Bickmore, whose last book, Beyond the Promise, was released in 1999. But several heartfelt pleas like yours kept us trying, and we finally got an answer. Here's what Bickmore herself had to say about her work:
"How lovely of you to be interested enough to inquire. Yes, I've written two [more] books, one published in 2002, and another finished in September. However, you won't be able to get them. They are not published in America, but are in nearly all European countries. No American publishers seem interested anymore. I'm told that I write books that are too long, are about women and their problems and achievements and don't have enough violence and action in them to interest Americans. I guess my two books before that didn't sell terribly well. However, I do make a very nice living from Europe, and it does make me a little sad that America isn't interested anymore. I don't write romances, where there is nothing more than the man and woman getting together and then being torn apart and the rest of the book is about their getting back together. My books are too complex for romance readers. So, there's my story. I am not unhappy. Thanks for writing."

You may read portions of Book Page free, online, here.

I never know what useful tidbit of information I may learn from the free newspapers and leaflets that are given away at places such as the public library. It is worth picking some up from time to time, I never know what new thing I may learn about!

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Teaching Reading Analysis from National Council on Teacher Quality

Henry Cate of the Why Homeschool blog was contacted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). They have a blog entry about “a report that NCTQ is publishing on how well schools of education do in teaching teachers how to instruct children on reading”.

Check out the post on Why Homeschool, here. There are links to read the summary of the findings of NCTQ. Some interesting things are revealed by NCTQ's analysis.

I especially liked Henry Cate’s last sentence:
I find it a bit ironic that after the report finds that national accreditation doesn't help, that the report turns around and says the solution is to pass rules or laws.

If you don’t know, I am a huge fan of the phonics method of reading instruction, specifically, intensive systematic phonics such as is used by the Alpha Phonics curriculum.

For more information about teaching reading, phonics vs. sight reading and more, see my favorite site about teaching reading, Don Potter’s site. Potter even has free downloads of entire phonics programs that you can use to teach your children to read.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 22 Has Been Published

Today the Headmistress at The Common Room has published the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 22.

I have an entry in it.

Check out the Carnival. Good reading. Enjoy.

(Can you tell I my writing muse is not with me today? Sorry.)

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I Knew Something Was Wrong When...

I knew something was wrong when this morning I opened the fridge in the morning and hot air came out of it. And the milk was 82 degrees (we measured the temperature).

Stay tuned.

Let's hope we don't need a new refrigerator.

I will say it was a surreal experience to open the fridge door and be hit with a blast of hot air and have the food items be very warm to the touch, very surreal...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Consumer Day Today

My son received four gift cards to four different stores for his birthday so we set out today to spend them. I spent the afternoon with the boys doing shopping. This was like the old days when we had money to burn and doing that was fun. “Hey, let’s spend the day driving from store to store and buying whatever we want!” Those days stopped three years ago when unemployment hit our household.

Anyway, it was grueling to do that today in the 87 degree, humid and sunny weather. The air conditioning in the minivan is broken so we drove with the windows down, which was fun. By the end of the afternoon the kids were begging to go home and relax and play. The kids had enough of shopping and trudging around the stores.

This is what we did.

Post Office (to buy stamps)

Voted on town budget (I love taking the kids with me to vote at the elementary school’s gym during a school day, it gives the volunteers something to ponder.)

Ran one errand for my in-law’s

McDonald’s (we were starving)

A.C. Moore Craft Store

Michael’s Craft Store (return defective birthday gift that my son received)

Toys R Us (gift card used, tried to return a duplicate gift but it wasn’t bought there they tell me, oh well.)

K B Toys (gift card used, returned two duplicate gifts my son received)

Target (gift card used), got some personal care items we ran out of, also.

Costco for gasoline (the tank was empty; the price there is 23 cents less per gallon than the gas stations right by our home)

Phew. Enough is enough for errand running and money spending.

My older son got upset at the third toy store/toy department as he saw things he liked but he had no money and no holiday to justify buying something for him. My younger son felt bad for him and contributed $10 of his gift card toward one toy that my older son wanted. I contributed $5 for the rest of it. Seeing things like that happen breaks my heart.

As much as I hate materialism and a consumer driven lifestyle it sure is nice to have disposable income and to be able to blow money whenever I wanted or to spend money to indulge my children; I miss that. I can’t wait until my husband has a job so at least doing that (acting like a materialistic consumer) will at least be an OPTION for me. At this point every penny we spend is a penny we are in debt. The lack of that being an option is draining. It gets old quickly, knowing that the money for new clothes for the kids has to be spent, that my shoes are worn out after six years of wear, etc. etc. and yet I still feel guilty for spending the money.

Oh well. Right now the kids are having fun playing with their toys.

It is a steamy 80 degrees inside the house downstairs (who knows how much hotter it is upstairs). Would you believe that exactly one week ago we woke up to 38 degree weather?? A few days ago it was 58 degrees inside the house and we were not turning the heat on to try to conserve heating oil, so I was wearing two layers of fleece and having freezing cold hands all day.

Anyway I was trying to hold off on turning on the central air conditioning until June 1, to conserve electricity. It is nice with the windows open, to hear the birds, the tree frogs and peepers at night, to hear the breeze moving the leaves of the trees and to smell the fresh air and whatever fragrant flower is blooming at that given point in time…

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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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Measuring Success as Parent; Wiffle Ball Story

I am not sure how one measures success as a parent. There are many warning signs that various 'experts' tell us can help us realize that things are not going alright.

My brother-in-law and his wife have parenting the direct opposite of me from pregnancy, birth, and basically everything since their first baby was born. (They have two now.) This whole issue and comparisons have been compounded by the fact that my son was born four months before my nephew. My in-law's, the other brother-in-law and they all live in the same town, which is a 25 minute drive from where I live. I really don't care how someone else parents, but the problem with our situation is that my sister-in-law is of the 'I am right and you are wrong' club. Everything she does is right and perfect and anyone else who does something different, or has a different goal is in the wrong. Period.

I will share just this and you decide what is what. Here is a peek into my world.

(I try not to blog about family but this story is just too tempting so I am blogging about it.)

While at a family party this last weekend, a game of wiffle ball was being played. The father and sons in that family are all baseball addicts, as a spectator sport and Little League. (The father is head coach and the sons play the game.) During the game after my nephew (aged 8, not even 8.5 yet), said in a raised voice with a rude tone of voice to his FATHER, "You are a piece of sh--!". And the father laughed.

Just knowing about things like that makes me think that I am living on an another planet, because our entire outlook on life and what we feel is acceptable and what we teach our children is so very different.

Do you see what I am up against?

(Do you see why every time I am with that family I wonder what new bad thing my children will learn from my nephews? Imagine if they were in public school with similar children all day, what they would learn and be like? This family LOVES American public education; my sister-in-law is a public school teacher.)

They think I am nuts and weird. Maybe I am. In my world, profanity is not acceptable, especially around the children or when speaking TO the children. We don't call names to express ourselves, we discuss the emotion itself and why we feel that way and we deal with the source issue and resolve the source of the problem. We also live with reasonable expectations and goals. Sportsmanship is taught, it is not about playing a game and being perfect at it and always winning, at that age it is about having fun playing a game of wiffle ball and learning the rules and learning to be patient (waiting their turn), and cheering on the others on the team, and not saying rude things about the other team just because they are playing against us.

Our children are being taught to show us respect. I try hard to always be respectful of them. None of what I do is easy and neither my children nor I am perfect. Parenting is a process which takes constant work.

If I ever heard my son say that to my husband, especially at age 8, I would take it as an immediate sign of failure, with urgent reassessment needed---of what we were doing in an attempt to rescue my child and our family relationship. If my nephew does this at age 8, then what will he be doing and saying at 13, 16, and 18?

It is all about standards, the standards we set for our family, and how we parent depends on the standards we are working towards. I guess my husband and I have a very different set of standards than his brother and his wife.

I am trying very hard not to be judgmental. When things like that happen, I am just flabbergasted. Sometimes to save my own sanity I must share this with someone and so I am doing that here on the blog.

Please, if someone shares my viewpoint, post a comment to the blog or email me. I need some reassurance that I am not wrong for thinking and doing what we are doing.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Kitten-Obtaining Update

Saturday May 27th there was a big rescue animal adoption event with participation from many area rescue organizations. The nice cat rescue lady we met the night before encouraged us to go and see the other kittens that would be there. The kittens would be ready for adoption on that day.

The event started at the same time as my appointment to get my hair permed. My husband and the boys were busy building a Cubmobile (a little wooden car thing) with another family. Right after my hair appointment I rushed home and we got into the car and rushed over to the adoption event.

By the time we arrived almost all of the kittens had been adopted. There was one kitten who had tested positive for feline HIV, which we didn't want to deal with. There was a brother and sister kitten, the boy was playful and active and the girl was laid back and calm. There were two other kittens as well. We found out the other family who was at the rescue lady's home the night before were rejected by her after she read their application.

My son expressed an interest in two of the kittens which we saw the night before but were too young to be adopted right now, one has not been checked medically yet and they still need their shots. I think we will end up taking those two kittens.

I was grilled about my philosophy and intent for declawing. I was told there is a new laser procedure which is available and blood-less. I am philosophically opposed to declawing for indoor cats but I put my furnishings and house as being important. I plan to work hard to train my cat(s) to not wreck the house. I will buy toys or whatever else is needed (scratching posts, etc.) so they can get their scratching needs met. However if the cat(s) won't learn to not scratch furniture, cabinets or walls then they will be declawed.

I was told that they not only call two of my friends but that they call my vet to check up on me.

I hope I pass the inspection!!

I will keep you posted on this project.

About grieving for the loss of my cat, I am getting adjusted. I keep thinking things though, like I'll hear something and think, "Oh that is Sweetie jumping down from something" then I'll remember she is not here. I keep thinking she'll sleep on my bed at night or do all the other routine things she'd do but then I remember she is gone.

We keep checking the grave. The vet advised us to place a big flat rock on top so that coyotes and other animals won’t dig up the grave to eat her (!). My fear is that I will discover that something has dug her up. I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

Oh and I have pretty much talked my husband into getting two kittens not just one. I think it is healthier for cats to be with another companion.

I realize that getting kittens is going to be a project and work and I am willing to dedicate time and energy to it. I just hope that the kittens are friendly to my children and want to play and be cuddled and that my children develop a relationship with them. I was always saddened that Sweetie was not interested (and sometimes afraid) of my children as they really never did anything to deserve being shunned by her. Sigh.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Three Year Old Learned Numbers Above Ten by Playing Bingo

I attended an Educator Day at Borders once, in either late November or early December 2003. On the Borders Educator Day, everything in the store was 25% off, for educators (which includes homeschooling parents). I purchased a wonderful Bingo game there, with a metal (steel) cage, made by University Games. I had wanted this game for a while but had resisted as the price was $30, so I was thrilled to pay $22.50 for it at the sale price.

My boys loved the spinning of the cage and seeing what number came rolling out of the cage. I feel that the cage in and of itself inspired them to love the game of Bingo. In fact they used to fight over who would turn the cage. I dealt with that by having them take turns for each Bingo ball.

At the time this photo was taken in February 2004, my younger son was 3.5 years old and my older son was 6 years old. By playing the game my younger son learned to read numbers from left to right and he learned for the first time what the numbers 10 and above were. We always used more than one Bingo card so that the game had more searching for numbers. Usually my older son would use more Bingo cards than my younger son because he could scan the cards faster. When I'd play I would use up to six cards to keep myself busy while they took longer to scan their cards.

The biggest problem for my younger son with Bingo was learning to read the numbers from left to right and to learn the names of the numbers. I would say "three-five means thirty five" when I called out the number portion. I also had my older son say the numbers in that way when he announced the numbers. We took turns spinning the cage, with the other child being the reader. I am explaining this to make it clear that from the first time we played the game as a family that my three year old played it with us and that he was actively involved in all parts of the game playing. He most certainly was responsible for scanning his own card. (I would glance at it as well and if I spotted a number he missed I'd ask him to check once again. It didn't happen often. We all were patient with him and didn't get angry while we waited for him to finish scanning his cards.)

Before we played Bingo, he already knew the numbers 0-9 through some uknown real life experiences. I had never had taught him a 'lesson' about numbers of any denomination at that point. He was not afraid to play Bingo even though he didn't know how to read the numbers at first. He learned very quickly and without stress or pressure. His attitude was "I want to play the game and tell me how to do it and I will do it".

My purpose in having Bingo in the house was for a fun game. I did not intend to use Bingo as a homeschooling game with a lesson plan in mind or anything like that. I fully support the use of games to help learning occur but frankly we have the most success in our home when a game is played for fun and it is a great game, and learning happens as an unintended consequence. So many games which are 'educational' in nature as the goal don't capture my children's interest (or mine) and as a by-product, not much is learned and the money spent on the game 'goes to waste'.

I was very happy that my younger son learned to count so easily. It was one less thing I had to teach him. Hooray!

Most of the time my boys would play together (without me). They would decide together to play it, they'd get it out, put it away when done, etc. I would not be involved in the process at all. I had explained to them the first time we used it that it was important not to lose the little balls or else we'd not be able to play the game. They loved Bingo so they were careful with the game (to not lose the pieces, etc.).

They still love this version of Bingo and love to play it with me also. Once we played with the steel cage, other versions of Bingo paled in comparison.

This game would make a great gift for children. Every child who comes to our house and plays this Bingo game loves it (and some adults do, too).

My younger son learned to read numbers over 75 by watching and discussing the outdoor temperature which he read on the digital temperature display in our minivan, also when he was three years old (the Bingo game seemed to ignite his curiosity in numbers).

I think kids are not playing enough board games but that is something I could rant about but will hold my tongue about that for now.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Went to Look at Rescue Kittens Last Night

I decided to get a rescue cat for our next pet. I could tell you a very long story about feral cats but I am not in the mood to write about that today. I will share this, though. My last cat was a purebred British Shorthair and cost me $500. Hey, back then I was working full time, single and childless, and had lots of disposable income, so I justified the splurge. I was the first in the family to not have ‘just’ a stray cat. It ended up having ringworm when we bought it from a ‘reputable breeder’, and cost us hundreds of dollars in medical costs as well as having given me and my husband both ringworm! We struggled for nearly nine months to rid her of it and finally broke down and gave the medication to her that had lots of possible bad side effects (which worked immediately). To find out in this last month that my lovely kitty had a congenital heart defect which is passed down through the bloodline is further salt in the wound. The bottom line is that we were sold a defective cat which had a parent with a bad heart condition---that cat should not be used to breed kittens, in my opinion! So spending $500 on a cat is not proof of a healthy cat.

And anyway in the meantime I learned that they are many feral (stray, untamed) cats who have litters of kittens who need homes, and there are homes needed for feral adult cats, feral-born kittens who are socialized and are now tame, as well as many other unwanted cats who need homes. So anyway, our next cat will be a rescued cat.

I figured we’d wait for the end of the summer to get a new cat, so we could just have some time without a pet cat, and I could unwind from the care giving stress and also grieve about the loss of Sweetie. I thought that going into the fall and winter months with a new cat would be a fun project to do indoors as the weather turned cold and when we’d be indoors a lot.

However my younger son is taking the loss of Sweetie quite hard and immersing him in a new kitten project may be what is necessary now rather than later.

I already knew about so I went to the site two days ago. I connected with one rescue lady who takes the cats from the town’s animal shelter. The town does not help cats at all (they only help dogs), so she takes the cats and helps them, as a volunteer.

Last night we went to see her kittens. She had eleven kittens and four were already adopted/promised to others. While we were there another family was there and two more were adopted/promised to them. My younger son warmed right up to them. The kitten ranged in age from 5-8 weeks old and they were so tiny!

I had to fill out an application (!) which she had emailed me and give all kinds of information and even two references!! I was asked more questions than I ever was when I wanted to give birth to my human babies! I was happy to hear we were approved but on an exception basis. I had said we wanted one kitten and she said they usually have a rule to only give out two kittens together so the cats have company and playmates, but that at this point they had so many kittens on hand they’d be willing to give us just one.

I actually would prefer two for the very same reason. My husband is against it. I am working on changing his mind, though. Yesterday he hinted that it really is not his decision and that what I wanted was basically what would happen, that it was my decision. I was surprised at that. I don’t like to force things on him, I’d rather have him agree and not feel that I bullied him into getting my way, or that I did what I wanted regardless of his opinion.

Last night my younger son picked out his two most favorite kittens. I was not ready to commit to them. Those kittens are not ready to go home for about three weeks and they had not yet been checked by a vet or had their shots. Today there is a big pet adoption event where many area rescue agencies will gather to try to adopt out kittens, cats, puppies and dogs. We will attend that event, and some or all of the pets are able to be adopted and taken home on that day.

I want to make sure that the kitten we choose is active, playful, not fearful of children, happy, and healthy. I want a kitten that both loves to play and loves to receive affection.

My older son was afraid of the kittens, afraid he’d be scratched. This stems from one time when our cat Sweetie scratched him by accident while we were on a car ride and she was out of the carrier.

Our cat Sweetie was used to being in a home with just me and my husband. When our babies were born she didn’t warm up to them and she was probably jealous that nursing them and holding them for hours took precedence over them. I was disappointed that she was always skittish around my children and sad that my children didn’t have a close relationship with her. Near the end of her life she was mellowing out and my younger son got much closer with her as she allowed him to hold her, pet her and she was willing to be near him.

This morning when I woke up I heard little creature footsteps running and thought, ‘Oh that is Sweetie’ until I realized she is gone. It must have been a squirrel on the roof or some other little outdoor creature. I then realized I had a great night’s sleep last night and wondered what life with one or two kittens would be like. Will we end up with a kitten who likes to play and wake up the owner in the night? Will I have a cat who likes to sleep on my face (as my grandmother’s cat did), or on my chest (as another relative’s cat did)? Am I ready for one or two kittens right now?

If we find kittens at the adoption event today that we click with then we will adopt them. I am told there will be many kittens between now and October, so there is no rush. My main concern is that my younger son refocuses his energy on something positive rather than dwelling on Sweetie’s death and if that means we are to adopt now rather than later then so be it.

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Homeschool Mom Running for State Representative in Connecticut

Here is an announcement which was sent to me by NHELD. I am reprinting it in its entirety.

There’s some wonderful news for homeschoolers in the state of Connecticut ! NHELD Research Director, Judy Aron, is running for election as State Representative (18th District) from West Hartford on the Republican ticket in an attempt to unseat Democrat State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, the current co-chairman of the legislature’s Education Committee.

Judy is a well known author of many articles on various aspects of education at home and education in public and private schools. She has been published in various magazines, online publications, and blogs, and has been widely interviewed by the media. She currently serves as Research Director for National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) where she has been responsible for providing parents across the nation with a wide variety of important information on the dangers to individual rights by such things as universal preschool, mental health screening, the forced drugging of children, and the inability of parents to withdraw their children from public school unconditionally.

Judy is a home schooling mother of three children, one of whom graduated from Boston University and currently works in Massachusetts for the county of Barnstable at the Cape Cod Commission, another of whom is currently enrolled in college about to begin his sophomore year, and the third is successfully completing high school courses at home. Judy’s husband, Michael, also is and has been, actively involved in home schooling the children and thoroughly supports Judy’s new political aspirations.

Representative Andrew Fleischmann, on the other hand, supports universal preschool, mental health screening, and the ability of public school administrators to retain authority over parents who wish to withdraw from the public schools. In fact, Representative Fleischmann has been frustrating the efforts of NHELD and homeschoolers across this state for the past two years in their efforts to retain their freedom to homeschool and their freedom as parents to withdraw their children from school for whatever the reason. Rep. Fleischmann was instrumental in defeating a bill proposed by NHELD that would have codified the traditional right of parents to withdraw their children from public school unconditionally, at any time for any reason. Rep. Fleischmann was instrumental in killing that bill twice. Instead, he supported the state Department of Education’s new “unwritten policy” advising public school administrators that “only the public school administration has the authority to determine when a child is withdrawn from the public school”. Rep. Fleischmann, by supporting that “unwritten policy”, apparently believes that the public school administrators have the right to claim a child is truant, or that the parent is neglectful. just because the parent withdraws the child from a public school. Fleischmann, thus, supports a flagrant abuse of authority by the state Department of Education in favor of retaining improper control over parents and their ability to leave the public school system. Judy Aron is vehemently opposed to this and has worked feverishly to gain legislative support for the right of parents to withdraw their children from public school unconditionally.

If you believe that parents should retain the right to instruct their children in freedom, without governmental interference, and should be allowed to withdraw their children from public school without improper coercion, then support Judy Aron for State Representative from West Hartford.

Help her defeat Representative Andrew Fleischmann. Congratulate her for her strength in challenging Fleischmann, and volunteer to help her campaign in any way that you can.

NHELD endorses her campaign wholeheartedly. We hope you will also.

Because of state election laws, NHELD is not allowed to post this announcement on its website. NHELD is allowed only to pass this information to its members and their families. Individuals may communicate with others, however, about Judy’s decision to run for election, and individuals may assist her in her effort. We urge everyone willing to assist her to abide by all state election laws in doing so. Information about those laws are available at the state of Connecticut’s website.

If all homeschoolers in the state each donated $20.00 to Judy’s campaign, she would have a sizable fund with which to run her campaign. NHELD is urging its members to contribute to Judy’s campaign in whatever way they are able to do so. Volunteer assistance also is extremely important to her campaign.

Contact Information if you are interested in helping Judy with her campaign:
Judy Aron
40 North Quaker Lane, West Hartford 06119
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Using SUVs, Hummers vs. Mini-Vans and Cars

Michelle Malkin has a great online video vent Gulf Stream Liberals about fuel use of Al Gore and some Hollywood celebrities. While these people complain of fuel use by (other, mainstream) "Americans" they are abusing it themselves, what hypocrites! You have got to watch this video! Just click on the tiny little triangle shaped icon under the video to start the video clip. This video is suitable for children.

On Malkin's video, I especially loved the footage with GwynethPaltrow and Cameron Diaz preaching to the masses what they want them to do while they do the opposite themselves. While they may own a hybrid car they still use other Hummers and private jets, so they are not truly living what they are preaching; owning a Prius isn't good enough, unless it is the main mode of transportation!

In this video I learned that private jets are terrible gas guzzlers. I think that our tax dollars should not be spent on private jet travel for our politicians, other than Air Force One for the President and Vice President, for obvious security reasons. Let the Congressmen and Senators take commercial airline flights with the rest of us.


I still want someone to explain to me why people drive Hummers, I just don't get it. I just can't understand it. It was extra salt in the wound for me to learn that when my personal identity was stolen, I was approved to buy a Hummer! (It was to be picked up, but as the real me, I intervened and put an end to it, at the last minute!) Let me go on record as saying that I'd NEVER buy a Hummer!

During the identity theft, I was also approved to buy a $110K BMW, which again, I'd never drive in real life, as I can't imagine spending that much money on a vehicle. I am not into big names and showing off luxury car labels. I don't need a big name luxury car to define my self-worth or to make me feel important. I want utility out of my vehicles, with some comfort thrown in there. My minivan is what I need and use for my family and it is what I am very happy with! (If there was a hybrid minivan I'd consider buying it, when it is time for us to buy a new vehicle.)

While I am on this little rant I will also say that I am sick of everyone complaining about gas prices when they are driving around in SUVs or other low mileage vehicles. I'd like someone to explain to me why an SUV is needed in the first place. When I was a teen, in the 1980s, the only SUV used was a Suburban and it was rarely used and it was used by the 'hicks'. They were not in style back then, it was actually a stigma to own one, it was not cool at all! My ex-boyfriend bought a used SUV and the first thing he did with it was to go off-roading with it, which was fun, actually! I just can't understand the SUV being used only as a city vehicle only and especially for the people who use it with just one passenger (as some people I know do).

I have been a passenger in my relative's SUV and I can attest that the back seat is not comfortable (it was a brand new Tahoe, this was a few years ago) and it was not roomy, either. (My mini-van is a lot roomier, and more luxurious, I might add.) Additionally the space in the back of SUVs is not large and ultimately my relatives end up borrowing our pickup truck (or other people's pick up trucks) when they need to transport small pieces of furniture or other things that, surprisingly, don't fit inside the inside of the back of an SUV. Lastly, the SUV is worthless for transporting things such as mulch, topsoil, garbage, etc. as the interior of the vehicle is 'too nice' and will be ruined by such things.

I say, drive a car instead of an SUV or a Hummer!

A minivan is great for families who do a lot of car travel, and for those with three or more children. My minivan gets 22 miles per gallon for city driving, and more on long highway trips, that is not bad for a large minivan with a 6 cylinder engine. It is certainly better mileage than some SUVs that my relatives own and definitely better than a Hummer.

I'd really like to know why usage of regular cars is down and why sales of SUVs continue to rise (even in the face of rising gasoline prices)!

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Reprint Article by Deborah Stevenson: "Getting It Out of My System"

Here is a reprint of an article written by Ms. Deborah Stevenson, Attorney at Law, former homeschooling mother, and Director of National Home Education Legal Defense.

I find this article very interesting reading and have permisson from Ms. Stevenson to reprint her piece on my blog. Ms. Stevenson is fonder of NHELD and you may read more about NHELD and find more pieces by Ms. Stevenson on the NHELD website at

As a homeschooler in Connecticut I have had Ms. Stevenson to look up to as a local, experienced homeschooling parent, the writer of newsletter articles, and as a speaker at homeschool support group meetings, homeschooling public outreach events and at local homeschooling conferences. I have met her two children and am very impressed with 'how they turned out' after being homeschooled their entire life. Is it no wonder that I am outspoken, opinionated and stand firm in my philosophies and rights with such a strong person in my community as a role model?

Note: this article was reprinted in its entirety including the links to other sites. I have added the direct link but am leaving the text in its orginal context.



By: Attorney Deborah Stevenson, Executive Director, National Home Education Legal Defense

Nothing makes me angrier than a lie, except when a lie is repeated so often that people believe it to be truth. I’m sick of lies, distorted truth, spin, and revisionist history. Can we just get back to reality? Can we just hold people accountable for their purposeful distortions?

Can we just set the record straight?

The lie that makes me the angriest is the lie that “It’s legal to homeschool “now”.” The implication in that statement is the lie. The implication is that it wasn’t legal to homeschool before, or that homeschooling only became legal in the past 20 years or so. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

What is “homeschooling”? It is the act of parents undertaking their responsibility to instruct their own children. This is the most basic, the most natural, the most instinctive undertaking of the human race. Since the beginning of the human race, whether you accept the scientific view of that man lived as early as seven million years ago or whether you accept the religious view that God created man four or five thousand years ago, the inescapable fact is that parents have instructed their children from the moment of birth to adulthood since the inception of the human race whenever that was. It wasn’t illegal to do so in the beginning, and it’s not illegal to do so now.

What is “new” is the public school system. The first public school in America was established by Puritan settlers in Boston in 1635. It was established by the Reverend John Cotton who wanted to create a school modeled after the Free Grammar School in Boston, England, in which Latin and Greek were taught. The truth is, though, that the opening of that first public school did not automatically mean that the instruction of children by their parents somehow automatically became illegal. Quite the opposite is true.

In the early days in New England, in fact, parents were expected to instruct their children. If parents didn’t instruct their children such that the children became “unruly”, the selectmen of the town could take the child from the parent and place the child, not with government officials, but with another surrogate parent of sorts called a master. It then became the master’s responsibility to instruct the child.

Over time, small public schools were opened, many of which were operated and overseen by ecclesiastical societies. Oversight slowly gave way to oversight by towns and, later, to what we now know as boards of education. At no time during the growth of the public school system, however, did state governments declare the instruction of children by their parents to be illegal.

The popularity of the public school system increased dramatically during the nineteenth century, thanks in large part to Horace Mann. He persuaded the Massachusetts legislature, in fact, to set up a six month minimum school year and led a movement to set up teacher institutions throughout the state. Even while Mann was tending to this task, the Massachusetts legislature at no time declared the instruction of children by their parents to be illegal. It is also curious to note, however, that while persuading the legislature to increase the power of public school, Horace Mann succeeded in his own life without public school. In fact, the so-called “father of American education” was, in effect, largely “homeschooled”. Taught by his parents at first, Mann taught himself by reading at the local library. In fact, he educated himself so well without the benefit of “public school” that he was able to enter college as a sophomore in 1816.

As the public school system grew, legislatures adopted more laws about the system. The law that most people are familiar with that state legislatures adopted is the “compulsory attendance” law. This law has many permutations depending on the state in which it was adopted. Its basic thrust is to tell parents that their children “must attend” public school. Massachusetts was the first state to enact such a law in 1852.
It required children between the ages of eight and fourteen to attend school for at least three months each year.

The compulsory attendance laws, for the most part, initially were adopted during the height of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. This was a time when the growth of industry opened new sources of income for families. It was a time when parents allowed their children to work in the factories, instead of on the family farms of yesteryear. For a multitude of reasons, those in power deemed it inherently injurious to the children to work in the factories, and, instead deemed it eminently more important for them to attend public school. By 1918 all states followed suit.

It is important to note that the compulsory attendance laws were aimed at those children who were not being educated by other means. In fact, there were many exemptions to these laws. Most importantly, these laws simply did not apply to those children who were being educated by other means. In other words, the legislatures did not declare education of children by their parents, or by private schools or tutors for that matter, to be illegal.

Today, most states still have “compulsory attendance laws”. BUT THAT DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT IT WAS EVER ILLEGAL FOR PARENTS TO INSTRUCT THEIR OWN CHILDREN. THE TRUTH IS, IT WAS NEVER “ILLEGAL” FOR PARENTS TO INSTRUCT THEIR OWN CHILDREN. Can we please stop perpetuating the lie that it was illegal?

It is the development of this “new” public school system that, in part, has fueled the lie. The public school system has become so huge and so powerful that it dominates the public’s thinking. It is also the agenda of some to perpetuate the lie. The lie benefits different groups such as the established public school system or established organizations purporting to “assist” parents fearful of the public school system taking their rights away.

What is true is that many states did, and still do, impose government regulations on how and when parents instruct their children. It is unfortunate that the government imposes any regulations on parents who instruct their own children. It is my belief, however, that one of the reasons why the government has been successful in adopting regulations affecting the right of parents to instruct their children is because the lie that it was illegal for parents to homeschool in the first place has been perpetuated for so long.

From this lie flows a host of issues. For example, if you believe the lie that it was illegal for parents to instruct their children, it follows that parents would have to seek “permission” from the government in order to do so. If you believe the lie, it follows that parents would be fearful that they would not receive that “permission.” If you believe the lie, it follows that parents would be grateful when the government magnanimously grants that “permission”. If you believe the lie, it follows that parents are more apt to see “regulation” of parental instruction by the government as a matter of course. After all, if the government has the “authority” to grant “permission” to parents to instruct, certainly the government has the “authority” to impose “regulation” of parents’ ability to instruct, and it is reasonable for the government to do so.

Armed with the facts, armed with the truth, however, parents can begin to realize that, in reality, the government never did have the “authority” to declare the right of parents to instruct their children as illegal, and it’s a safe bet that the government in your state never did declare the right of parents to instruct their children as illegal.

Don’t take my word for it, however, look it up for yourself. Investigate what your state’s history really is regarding the right of parents to instruct their own children. Get copies of the laws. Trace them from the beginning of your state to the present. Then spread the word to every parent in your state. Don’t be fooled by lies. Don’t be duped by spin. Never be intimidated by anyone. There is no need to be afraid. You will know the truth, and you will be able to defend the truth whenever necessary for your sake, and for the sake of your children.

Permission is granted by the author to reprint this article in its entirety as long as no changes are made to its contents. For more information please contact: , or visit

Deborah Stevenson, mother of two grown children, Samantha and Cassandra, realized that homeschooling is what all parents do from the time children are born, and that it was a natural thing to continue to do so. So she did.

Deborah became involved in legal work as a result of homeschooling her children. She became involved in protecting her right to homeschool as a parent before she began attending law school. She homeschooled, as well as drove her children to college, where they took courses during the day, and went to law school at night. She currently practices Education law and Appellate law privately in addition to working as Executive Director of NHELD, LLC.

Ms. Stevenson formed Connecticut Citizens to Uphold the Right to Educate (C.U.R.E.) in 1989 in order to assist all parents in the state to retain their right to instruct their children at home without government interference. Because she believed in the tenth amendment's provision that all powers not specifically granted to the federal government belong to the states and to the people, C.U.R.E. remained a state organization protecting the rights of citizens in the state. It was not until 2003, when Deborah realized that there was a continuing effort by another organization to actively promote the adoption of federal regulation of homeschooling, when she decided to form National Home Education Legal Defense. A national organization was necessary in order to inform and assist parents in all states in halting federal regulation and retaining authority in the states to instruct their children in freedom.

Deborah has no background in public education. She does have an extensive background in home education, having taught both her children since birth at home.

Ms. Stevenson also has an extensive background as a public speaker. She spent ten years as a reporter interviewing all sorts of interesting people from parents to Presidents. She also hosted many radio programs on a variety of topics throughout her ten year career. As a parent and an advocate, Deborah has been the guest on many radio and television programs throughout Connecticut and the country. She has also conducted many workshops on homeschooling and the law.

You can find articles that Ms. Stevenson has published in Home Education Magazine, Family Times, and on NHELD, LLC's website, www.NHELD,, to name a few.

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Carnival of Homeschoolling Week 21 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 21 has been published at Principled Discovery.

Grab a cup or a glass of your favorite beverage and take a look at over 30 articles about homeschooling children. It is just like reading a magazine, and it is free!

The Carnival of Homeschooling is published each Tuesday. For information about submitting entries, go here. If you are a homeschooling parent, I highly recommend that you submit an entry!

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Rest In Peace: Sweetie July 10, 1995 - May 25, 2006

Our beloved cat Sweetie passed away today. Sweetie was the first pet I owned as an adult, the first (and only) pet that was "all mine" (rather than a pet my parents owned when I was a child).

It was exactly four weeks ago today that I noticed she was not acting right and realized she had stopped eating. At that time she was diagnosed with feline hypertrophic caridiomyopathy and was in acute congestive heart failure. The last month was spent providing her lots of medical care, helping hand feed her, researching the medical condition, figuring out what we could do to save her, and also getting over the shock that she was unwell and that she was in the process of dying.

Despite being glad that her suffering is over I am very sad and feeling the loss and as I write this I am getting upset all over again. My children are also upset, mostly my younger son, who was closer to her. So not only am I upset but we are dealing with the subject of death and grieving with our young children. Yet again I am experiencing the reminder that as a parent it is not just all about me, I have to rise up and handle the parenting of my children through this as well. (In my opinion this is how parenting our children forces us to not be selfish and it forces us to learn to put the needs of others above our own needs, and to do what we are responsible to do not just what we want to do or what we 'feel like' doing. We also learn to not procrastinate and avoid doing something that is unpleasant, sometimes we have just just 'do it' and 'deal with it'.)

My husband and children dug her grave this afternoon and we buried her promptly.

I have a homeschool support group meeting to lead tonight at my home. Life goes on. I should go sweep the floor and tidy up the living room now, I guess. I am torn between cancelling the meeting to be alone with my family to continue shedding tears or to welcome friendly homeschool moms into my home for fellowship, support, and laughter. I think it will be better for everyone concerned to go on with the meeting. Hopefully my spirits will be lifted and they will also get something positive from attending the meeting, so it will be a win/win situation all around.

I don't feel like writing much right now. So I will just stop now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

American Idol Prediction: The Finale

I have not started watching the show yet. Quickly posting...

I want Taylor Hicks to win the competition. I have watched all the episodes. Althought originally I thought Chris would win, I was wrong about that. I think Chris sounded like a 'real singer' and could record albums now and sell them, and he was a great stage performer also. I also had shared that Chris's music is not my style and even though I used to vote for him I'd not buy his albums, most likely. But Chris is out.

Taylor has been a favorite of mine from the beginning. What I enjoy most is his originality and lack of fear to be himself, even when he is a little goofy or silly by 'just being himself'. I enjoy Taylor's unique voice and just his fun stage presence. I had said before that I'd probably buy one of his albums.

I have never warmed up to Katharine, for what reason I don't know. She is gorgeous and has a wonderful complexion. I just don't enjoy her stage presence or her singing.

Last night after the show I began calling to vote. I used the redial button for almost a half hour and was only able to get through to Taylor's line three times. I did not vote for Katharine.

I also felt that it was unfair for Simon to say he predicts Taylor to win. I feel that sometimes when he makes statements like that, the audience follows his lead (as they did the week that Kellie Pickler was voted off). I also felt that the actions of Randy and Paula were unfair. At least on the last show I think the judges should make sincere comments but not make predictions that may lead the voters to do what they say.

So I want Taylor to win. I do not know if America prefers Katharine or Taylor. We'll find out tonight!!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Great Park Pursuit Park #1: Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill, Connecticut

The kick-off of the Great Park Pursuit was May 6, 2006. This was a guided event which meant that we had to go on that certain day between the hours of 9am and 3pm. Rain was predicted but it was sunny while we were at the event.

Busyness and scheduling conflicts began on Day One. I had a conflict for that day, an important homeschool support group leader luncheon sponsored by our state’s inclusive homeschooling organization. The only way to fit both things in was to arrive at the Park at opening time, do what we had to do, then rush off to the luncheon (and I’d still arrive late). The plans were further complicated by the fact that I had just joined the Board of Directors and they called a meeting which was to begin at 9:30am. I just can’t do everything, can I? So I missed that morning meeting. The meeting continued after the luncheon, and I stayed for that.

So we were off to the event. We had to take two vehicles to the park (about 50 minutes from our home) since I was going to the luncheon afterwards and my sons had a birthday party to attend after this event. Just as planned, we arrived at opening time.

Lots of Fun (and Educational) Things to Do
There were many activities all over the grounds which we could partake in. I was unclear if we had to do everything. The answer was ‘no’, I later found out. (We did everything that was going on at the time we were there.)

First the children made imprints of animal tracks using air-drying clay. Then, my children used high quality three dimensional animal track rubber stamps to make a book for themselves showing the tracks of animals and some birds that live in our area.

A volunteer for a zoo told us about pollution and danger to the animals and birds. He was very depressing to speak to and didn’t know many details of the things he was speaking about, he spoke in generalities. I asked some questions about pollution and he was unable to reply other than to say that “basically anything we (people) do damages the environment and harms creatures”. We moved on after that.

There was an obstacle course for the children to do which was replicating how manmade structures are like obstacle courses for birds (and get in their way).

Birds of Prey
We spoke to representatives of an Audubon Center about owls and birds of prey. We saw a live barred owl which was raised by humans as a pet and is unable to live in the wild as the result of being tamed, not afraid of humans and unable to hunt for food. We saw a live Kestrel, which also was raised by humans as a pet and is unable to live in the wild. I loved seeing these birds of prey up close as did my sons. We also saw a stuffed owl which the children were able to touch and feel the feathers.

Lots of People of All Ages Are Participating in this Contest
(No one I know is in this photo in case you are wondering if this is me or if these are my children.)

Outdoor Games
My husband, my older son and I did a sack race against each other. I won. My older son and my husband ran the three-legged race. My sons sprinted and were timed and their times were compared to the speed that birds fly (they are much slower than the birds).

Heard the Kick-Off Speech
Then it was time for the kick-off speech. The families gathered around and listened to short speeches about the event and encouragement to get outside with our kids and to explore the wonderful Connecticut State Parks. A person was dressed up at Tilly, the Eubrontes dinosaur. My younger son was freaked out by this (as he is of all people dressed up in costumes).

We did a quick tour of the Dinosaur State Park’s museum, to see the tracks. These tracks were uncovered by a construction company who was digging up the ground in order to build a building on the site. Luckily, the site was preserved. The state owns the land and it has a state park designation. There is a domed roof over the tracks to protect them from weather. What you see in this picture are the actual tracks.

We have been to this museum/park a few times already and in the past have spent a lot more time reading all the exhibits, so on this day we did a quick run-through and we were happy with doing just that.

What the experts think this region looked like 'back then'.

Then the kids stopped in the gift shop. My older son has finally learned to stop asking us to buy him things as he knows after three years of unemployment that we don’t have money to spend on loads of gifts just on a whim. My older son had saved a small amount of money and he spent a less than $3 on a gift for himself. My younger son has not yet learned patience and still will beg for toys. I had no patience for this and it was time for me to go anyway, so off I went to the luncheon. I left my husband and kids in the gift shop while the younger son treid to find something acceptable to him to buy with the $5 that he had saved. (I found out later that he couldn’t find anything acceptable and really wanted an $8 toy and my older son offered to give him $3 so he could buy it, how nice is that?).

We had a fun time. We were very impressed with the event. It is obvious that a lot of time and energy has been put into this event.

We were given the clue to the next park. Upon the first reading I already knew the answer. I had done a little prep work and had begun reading a book about Connecticut’s State Parks. I was glad that I knew the location of Park #2 and also happy that it was about 20 minutes from our home. I also found out that several clues will be posted on the Internet and the answer will be revealed the day before the event, so they are making it really easy to find where to go!

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Thoughts on a Great Raymond Moore Speech About Children, Learning, Education, Homeschooling and Genius Formation

Raymond Moore made a speech at The World Congress of Families II in 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland. The transcript of his speech appears on the website of The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.

(Some of you ask how I find stuff like this to read and to think about. A homeschooling friend emailed me this link and recommended that I read it, so that is how this fine speech transcript found its way to me.)

This speech is a wonderful summation of some very important pros of homeschooling and a summation of some serious problems with institutional schooling in general. There are also points made about the problems that Moore sees with mandating preschool for all children.

Genius Formation and Compatibility With Schooling
I loved how the opening of the speech states that three main components of the formation of genius are prevented by school attendance and how homeschooling is the environment where those three factors can occur.

In 1960, the Smithsonian Institution's journal, Horizon, published a daring three-part recipe on "The Childhood Pattern of Genius:" The first ingredient was much time with warm, responsive parents and other adults. The second was isolation from peers, and the third called for much freedom for children to explore their own interests. Finally, study director Harold McCurdy applied it to families and schools:
"...the mass education of our public school system is, in its way, vast experiment on reducing...all three factors to a minimum; accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurrence of genius." [11]
Within the body of the speech there is a list of famous people and geniuses who were homeschooled which you might want to take a look at.

Given the present situation of Universal Preschool being considered in California, this mentioning of mandatory preschool is timely and is worth considering:

Californian educators tried to legislate infants into classrooms at 2 1/2. But new children who had not started school until ages 8 to 14 enrolled when rural America enjoyed its highest literacy. Those who did go to school attended only a few hours two or three days a week, and never at planting time or harvest. School children made their way responsibly to one--or two--room schools without busses or crossing guards.

By the end of World War II, these schools were displaced by James Bryan Conant's dream of bus-fed academic parks. But Conant rued his dream as the Parks became educational ghettos.

Each time I read of the former schooling style of less days in school, less hours in the school day, and less grades attended yet higher literacy ‘back then’, I am amazed. If anyone thinks that today’s schedule of about 180 days and a full day schedule is working well, perhaps you should watch the documentary on 20/20 with John Stossel “Stupid in America” which originally aired in January 2006. Oprah also did a two-hour segment in April 2006 with Bill and Melinda Gates in which they proclaimed the American public schools are in crisis.

Thoughs on Charter Schools with more instructional hours
Some successful charter schools are schooling formerly public-schooled students who were 'behind' academically, and they credit a ten hour school day and year-round schooling. I still am curious if the increased hours of schooling at certain charter schools are necessary because some of the children enter that charter school ‘behind’? I am curious if the higher academic standards or the more rigorous academic content that the charter schools is what is causing the success. From watching documentaries and television shows about charter schools, and listening to a podcast, I hear that the success is credited to these things: dedicated teachers, enthusiastic teachers ‘who care’, administrators who have contact with the students in a positive manner, using different teaching methods to suit different learning styles, higher academic standards, longer school days, longer academic year (year-round schooling), and smaller school size. Some of the charter schools featured on these shows also love to show how they can teach more with less money and how many frills are often cut due to lack of funding yet the academic content is more rigorous and the children are doing just fine. (One school featured on “Stupid in America” had no gymnasium and they’d jog around the city block for their gym class. That same school also had no school staff to set up or break down the cafeteria—the students did it.)

How Much Schooling is Enough Schooling?
This whole issue of ‘how much is enough’ or ‘how much is necessary’ to achieve a certain amount of measurable academic success is worth pondering, for all citizens, not just parents of children in school and not just homeschoolers. I feel that all parents should consider this as the topic of year-round schooling seems to raise its’ head frequently. In my area, in last week’s newspaper the city of Fairfield, Connecticut is being faulted or having less teaching hours per school year than other area school and the article pondered if that is what was causing the lower standardized test scores in Fairfield. I met a mother two weeks ago who just pulled her second grader out of a Trumbull, Connecticut elementary school because they just lengthened the school day by one hour in order to do more ‘teaching to the test’ for the Connecticut Mastery Tests (the standardized tests that were custom created for use in Connecticut). This mother felt that the school day was too long and that too much time was being spent on test practice rather than other/better teaching content. So you can see that the issue of how long the school day is and how long the school year is, is something for everyone to consider: the taxpayer who pays for the education budget as well as the parents whose children are spending time in the school. As a homeschooler this is important for me to know about because I come up against the question of what we do and how often we teach, etc. with people worrying if my children are getting enough education. When changes to homeschooling laws come up usually the topics of learning, mastery, academic content and number of instructional hours are topics that are discussed, so homeschoolers should know about these topics in general and have an idea of what the local schools are doing.

The question of how long a school day should be to get X amount of information learned and mastered by students can make ones head spin. At this point in time I am a firm believer that homeschooled children can learn a lot more content in less time and they have more one-on-one teaching contact with the ‘teacher’ (the parent). I have been thinking about exactly what happens in homeschools to allow more to be learned in less time. This is not an easy thing to measure and each family is different not only in their teaching style, approach, but more importantly, the unique personalities and abilities of each child combined with the family dynamics between parent and child and also between the siblings (if applicable) also contributes to the mix, which is hard or perhaps even impossible to measure by testing or in a study!

Emotional Factors in the Classroom
I also feel that the lack of various negative factors that commonly occur in school classrooms is NOT happening in homeschooled children may also help the homeschooled child learn more in less time. What I am referring to specifically is things like distractibility, not being able to learn at one’s own pace, not being forced to do busy work (repeating work that is below ones ability level because the teacher must teach to ‘the middle’. In a homeschool, there is less time wasting that occurs when anyone tries to teach a group of children something in a classroom type environment. There are many other factors that happen in a classroom including emotional reactions such as fear and shame. If you are interested in reading a lot more about that, John Holt’s book “How Children Fail” focuses on what goes on in school classrooms that despite ‘good teaching’ sometimes results in children not learning.

Back to the Moore speech….
Moore cites research about how much one on one teaching time a student has in a classroom and here is what he says:

UCLA Dean John Goodlad's study of 1,016 American K-12 public schools found that classroom teachers averaged a total of seven minutes daily in personal exchanges with their students. [5]

Thoughts on boys, learning, and schooling
Moore says this:

Despite our boy’s widely-acknowledged delay in maturity, we demand his enrollment in school at the same ages as girls to perform at the same level as girls who are a year or so more mature. He is much more likely than girls to fail, become delinquent, or acutely hyperactive. There are eight boys for each girl who are emotionally impaired, and 13 boys for every girl are in remedial classes. [6] He loses self worth, male identity, and respect for women. So, Federal money spent for special education may relieve classroom teachers, but it often abuses our boys. Although labeled, "learning disabled," they are usually simply "learning delayed:" Bright, often brilliant, but immature. Dropout rates verify this. Yet like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and others, dropouts are often more fortunate than those who stay in school.

Our potentially bright, creative young males are pronounced "handicapped," marked for failure by teacher and student alike. State and federal laws or policy sentence them to peer derision at school and loss of family honor at home. If they are in fact handicapped, all the more reason for home! By the first law of child development they must somehow have family. And they find it--in gangs, alcohol, drugs, sex, violence or suicide. Witness America’s recent spate of shootings.

Over the years this subject of boys and learning has come up over and over again. The most popular items in the mainstream press are articles in Time and Newsweek that were published recently.

Thoughts on Mandating Preschool Attendance
I think there is a lot to this issue and for that reason I am especially worried about mandating preschool for all children. The problem with mandating preschool with the intent of raising academic achievement in the elementary grades is that is pushing down academic learning to younger ages. There are false assumptions that higher order thinking skills can just be applied at younger ages and that learning will occur. This is false and is discussed at length in David Elkind’s book “Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk”.

I just cannot understand why some people are pushing Universal Preschool. While the intent is good and while on the surface it seems to make sense, the research and studies on the brain and on childhood development do NOT support that teaching younger children academic content is good for children and in fact from what I have read, it can further damage the child (Reading “How Children Fail” will shed more light on this subject as the areas of fear and shame in the classroom may then begin with whatever age the child would start attending state mandated ‘universal preschool’. Wrong application of teaching and forced academics on all young children upsets me but in light of what we know about BOYS in particular, it is very upsetting to me.

When my older son was about six months old I took a trip to visit my grandmother in Maine. I took with me a stack of back issues of Growing Without Schooling magazine (the magazine that John Holt started) and back issues of Home Education Magazine, which my homeschooling friend lent me. I wanted to read a book on the topic and I visited the nearest book store (Borders, which was two hours away). The only book in Borders on that day about homeschooling was “The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. I bought it and began reading it while on that trip. (Who could resist that title? If someone could tell me when my child was just a baby how to homeschool in a stress-free way then I wanted to hear about it.) I hadn’t known anything about the Moore’s at the time I purchased the book. The Moore’s have their own philosophy of homeschooling which they outline in this book. To summarize, from what I remember from reading this book eight years ago, the focus of this book is on strong family bonds, children being at home with their parents (with a special emphasis on young children with their mothers not separated and raised by paid caregivers), elimination of television and other screens in favor of free play and listening to read aloud’s. There is a focus on community service, with the family doing volunteer work in some capacity on a regular, weekly basis. Formal schooling is not recommended to begin until about age eight. Teaching time is not long and reading is not taught until at least age eight (studies are cited about eye and brain development that both support waiting to teach reading until the body is physically able to do the task and that forcing early reading on immature eyes and brains can actually damage them). At the time I was leery of the late reading recommendation. If you are looking for back-up research an information about waiting to teach reading until an older age than is typical in America then look to the Moore’s for that information. I remember the book being very inspirational and warm in tone. I recall that after reading the book I felt empowered and confident that maybe I could really homeschool my children, that I was capable, and that homeschooled children do turn out alright! While the Moore’s are Christian I don’t remember the book being full of religious references and remember thinking that people of all faiths or even Atheists can learn something and apply these same ideas to their family’s homeschool.

You may read about the Moore Formula (their philosophy) on the Moore Foundation website.

What is so great about this speech is that it summarizes many of the the philosophies of Raymond Moore in less than 3000 words. If what you read in this speech interests you then I urge you to read more of the writings of the Moore’s. Many of their writings may be found on the Internet for free and they have several books. (Dorothy Moore passed away in 2002.)

The Moore speech provides much food for thought. I will stop pontificating and will share the last two paragraphs from the speech with you.

In conclusion, I remind you that, the best homeschools have learned lessons from history, research and common sense that have returned American literacy percentages into the 90%s and produce test scores range of 25% to 30% higher than most classrooms, and earn the admiration of our leading universities.

Some educators and parents may think such ideas outdated or dull, or like the backyard Al Hafed left. Yet, everyone likes diamonds, and using well-researched maps, that backyard can be an exciting place. Anything else may be more child abuse than education.
This World Congress website has a long list of speeches and articles to read about children, families, education and homeschooling.

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Children's Book Review: So What, Saw-Whet?

Title: So What, Saw-Whet?
Author: Rochelle Frank
Illustrator: Linda Gast
Type of Book: Children’s Picture Book, Non-fiction, Science, Birds, Owls, Saw-Whet Owl.
Format: Softcover
Price: $9.95
Publisher: Hummingbird Mountain Press, Midpines, California.
ISBN: 0-9746792-0-8

This is a non-fiction children’s picture book about the saw-whet owl. High quality photographs illustrate the pages. Most of the book has rhyming text which repeats the phrase “So what, Saw-Whet?”, which is common in picture books written for toddlers and preschool aged children or for new readers to practice beginning reading skills.

The word count is quite low, so it is a short and quick read. Despite the low word count the following topics are touched upon: the owl’s color, pattern, soft feathers, how its head rotates, the look of the eyes, the sound of its call, its size, what it eats and how and when it hunts.

There is a short fact sheet at the back of the book to round out information that is not covered in the text of the book which can help parents or teachers learn a little more about the Saw-Whet Owl.

There are not many books on the market for very young children which are non-fiction content about owls, so this book fills a need. The repeating phrases and the rhythmic and rhyming text will appear to very young children so I would say that this can and should be read to children starting when they are one year old. Children aged five and older may finish the reading of the book wanting more information about owls or wishing the book had a longer word count so that the reading didn’t zip by so quickly. Some of the photos look digitally altered and I found myself questioning if they were real photos of if they were composed entirely on the computer (the owl near the boot and the owl on the branch near the window). The photos are crisp and we do get a lot of very close views of the Saw-Whet Owl which is great.

This book would be enjoyed by any child who is interested in birds and owls (or one who is a budding naturalist and need only be exposed to information about owls to get interested). This book would be useful when learning about birds, birds of prey, and owls in a homeschoolling setting or with teachers and students in a school classroom (as young as preschool). It could also be used as a practice reader for beginning readers, as the repeating text is commonly used in sight reading practice or to encourage reading fluency.

I am happy to own this book because it is not easy to find non-fiction books about owls in a picture book format.

Disclosure Statement: The author provided me with a copy of this book for the purposes of writing a review to be published on I received no monetary compensation for writing this review. If you purchase this book from Amazon through my blog's link I will receive a commission.

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