Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Day To Do List

Here is my to do list for today.

8:00 Wake up

Kids eat breakfast

8:30 am: Blog, while kids take bath

Speak to relatives on phone to make sure all know that Thanksgiving dinner is happening at our house this year (trying to head off any further drama). Seek empathy from brother on our grandmother’s drama.

Eat breakfast (me)

Clean up breakfast dishes (maybe)

Shower (me)

10:00 am: Start to make a dessert for Halloween we’re attending party tonight (chocolate cloud cake, a flourless cake)

Do more sewing on quilt class before last class begins

Grab something in hand to eat for lunch while in car (Luna bar or fruit and bottled water)

12:00 pm: Leave to drive to classes; Listen to audio book while in car “Lost! On A Mountain in Maine” the story of Don Fenndler

12:45 pm: Me: attend quilt class (last class, I am not finished yet, how will I finish this on my own? It is my first quilt. All but one person in the class is no where near done.)

12: 45 pm: Kids: attend last homeschoolers chess strategy class for this session

1:45 pm: While driving home, buy pumpkins (oops, didn’t do that yet)

2:30 pm: Carve Jack-O-Lanterns (hurry, hurry)

3:20 pm: Take cat to vet for suture removal (was spayed last week)

4:45 pm: Prepare Halloween Candy for giving out tonight; Kids get dressed in costumes

5:00 pm: Start to go trick or treating with kids and neighbors in a big group

6:00 pm: Visit neighbor who provides hot drinks and gourmet desserts for Halloween, followed by more trick or treating.

8:00 pm: Have dinner at a neighbor’s home, a small party, have fun, relax. Despite urge to unwind resist temptation to drink too much champagne or wine with dinner and dessert.

10:00 pm: Come home and crash

This day is about celebrating the holiday not doing homeschooling lessons so you don’t see any lessons happening today!

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 44 Has Been Published

Why Homeschool has published the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 44.

I have an entry in this Carnival.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy!

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Holiday Drama Begins, Before Halloween Is Over

Usually the holiday drama doesn’t begin until AFTER Halloween. Holiday drama in our family is regarding the celebrations Thanksgiving and Christmas and has nothing to do with Halloween. We usually get over the Halloween hump before the challenges with celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas begin.

But last night my paternal grandmother began the holiday drama. While on the phone with me, she launched in with a statement that since no one in our family is celebrating Thanksgiving that she was considering taking up the offer of Meals on Wheels to provide her with a Thanksgiving meal and even with a volunteer person/stranger to come into her home to share the holiday with her so she’d not have to be alone on the holiday. She then went off proclaiming how wonderful that was and how happy she was to have such an opportunity since no one in our family would be celebrating Thanksgiving.

This is her way of beginning the Mind Games. Here we go again!

I had to take a deep breath before replying. You see, Thanksgiving is always celebrated at our home, with all the preparations being concocted by my husband (and a little by me). All of my own family’s relatives come here for Thanksgiving, since the day we were married. This year is no exception. The only part of the holiday celebration that fluctuates is that my in-laws rotate eating here on one year and eating at their other children’s homes on the other years. Also some years my brother goes out of state to celebrate with his wife’s family.

The invitations to Thanksgiving dinner are oral and are to be assumed, for the most part. My grandmother does require being actually invited although to me this is a standing family tradition. (She pulled this with my father’s wedding as well, stating she was never invited, so the didn’t attend. We are talking drama of the highest order here.)

I have had the usual short phone discussions with my brother, my parents and my grandmother lately, actually perhaps a little more than usual, despite our family’s ridiculously busy schedule. By next week when some of the homeschooling classes end and when some of the Scout activities taper off and when Halloween is over then we will have a more typical laid back lifestyle in my home.

So anyway last night I tried not to get my feathers ruffled up by the attempt to incite a family fight or to at least insult me or make me feel guilty for some reason, about not having already discussed Thanksgiving with my grandmother despite the fact that Halloween has not even happened yet. I simply told her that Thanksgiving is a month away and that right now my mind is on Halloween. I find that if I show my emotions and let her see that I am upset, that she gets some thrill out of me being upset and that it can escalate into a full-blown fight.

Today I should phone her to suggest that if she refuses to come out of her house such as she did earlier this month when we tried having a birthday party for her, then perhaps the best thing would be for her to stay home and to dine with the stranger/volunteer for Meals on Wheels in the comfort of her own home. We had the big drama this summer about whether she was well enough to come to celebrate both of my children’s birthdays.

The next drama that will be discussed is the celebration of my father’s birthday. This usually falls on or immediately after Thanksgiving so what we usually do is celebrate it during our Thanksgiving holiday. One year my father declared he wanted pie for his birthday food, so that is what we provided. My grandmother threw a fit saying that birthday cake was the only acceptable thing and declared we should have a different separate party on his real birthday which was the following day. I tried explaining that we did what my father wanted not what she wanted or what I wanted. Period. It falls on deaf ears.

The next year my father made the same pie request and my grandmother found out about it and threw a fit and refused to allow that to happen (even though it is what he wanted). My grandmother proclaimed cake as necessary so she brought a store bought cake and we had the traditional pies on Thanksgiving. No one wanted to eat the cake as they wanted pie instead and so the cake went largely untouched.

The crazy thing is that my own father (in his 60s) is not the one making a big deal about this, it is my grandmother. I feel the celebrations of one’s birthday should revolve around what the person whose birthday it is wants.

The reason that I am so involved with these issues is because Thanksgiving happens at my house and because we provide the traditional holiday pies to eat.

SIGH.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Wife Swap Show Looking For More Homeschoolers

Well the viewer response about seeing homeschoolers on the Wife Swap reality TV show must be good as yet again they are looking for homeschooling families to feature on the show. Below is an email I received as I am on an email distribution list for Homeschool.com.

Hey if you respond to this be sure to mention me so I get the $1000 referral fee.

You will get paid $20,000 if your family appears on the show!

EMAIL: julia.jenkins@rdfusa.com


My name is Julia Jenkins and I am a casting producer for ABC's hit reality show 'Wife Swap.'

If you are unfamiliar with the show, Wife Swap is a fascinating story of what happens when two married couples see themselves and their spouses in a whole new light. Time Magazine calls Wife Swap "a riveting examination of family values." The New York Post says, "It should be called 'Life Swap' because it's not just the wives who learn something here. It's the families."

Wife Swap is now looking for families for season three! We are looking for families that are involved in home-schooling. I think it is an amazing dynamic that we can bring to our show. Let's show America about the benefits of home-schooling.

The premise of Wife Swap is simple: for six days, two wives from two different families with very different values exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover what it's like to live a different woman's life.

Here at 'Wife Swap,' families not only learn something, but they get to teach a family something about their own lives. We look for a two-parent home with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 17 living at home fulltime.

We are currently casting for our third season, so don't miss out on this amazing experience! Families that appear on the show receive $20,000 as a thank you. And if you refer a family that appears on the show you would receive $1000.

If you have a family and you are interested in applying for the show, or if you know of any great families that you would like to refer, please EMAIL: julia.jenkins@rdfusa.com.

Thanks! I look forward to hearing from you!

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A Rant About Bad Drivers

I need to do a little rant about bad drivers.

Here are the options to explain bad drivers:

1. They are ignorant and don’t know certain driving rules.

2. They know the rules but choose to break them as they don’t like the rule/law and feel that breaking it serves their needs or desires better.

3. Make innocent mistakes sometimes, by pure accident.

Also included as an option to number 1 is that they may think they are doing the right thing and they think erroneously that the other person is wrong.

Since we’ve been more busy than usual I am spending way more time driving around including regular driving during morning and afternoon rush hour. The rush hours are the most life-threatening and dangerous times of the day. I swear these people are so anxious to get home they will do practically anything, no matter how dangerous, in order to get where they are going. I also suspect some/many are so angry about their lives or stressed from work that they use the vehicle as a weapon to bully or to threaten others with.

Here are my biggest complaints.

1. The four way intersection with stop signs.

There is a rule for how drivers are supposed to take turns at the 4 way stop intersection. I swear people don’t know the rule or maybe they don’t care.

Not allowed but frequently seen is the “attach oneself to the bumper of the car in front of them and try to pass through as one vehicle”.

Another is, I will tap the brake and keep going regardless of it being someone else’s turn, all that matters is that I did pretend to stop.

Another, I will tap the brake and go through regardless of the fact that a car is right in the middle of the intersection.

Another is the one taking a right hand turn is used to taking a right turn on red signal light so they think they can just tap and go through taking their right and to heck with everyone else at the intersection or whose turn it is to go.

2. The intersection with a stop light.

The car going straight through the light has the right of way. The one crossing traffic does not have the right of way. Just because the driver wants to take that left turn as soon as the light turns green, it does not mean that they actually do have the right of way. Those who are going straight have first dibs on going forward. Period.

3. Challenges with getting onto the highway.

If you are in the right lane on the highway you must let the people on. If no one is in the lane to the left of you, it would be nice if you moved over to let the stream of traffic trying to enter the highway onto it.

I hate it when someone is driving below the speed limit and they don’t let anyone onto the highway. Still worse is the person who speeds up or down in order to prevent someone from getting onto the highway, they speed up to keep pace with the car in the on-ramp and block the ability for that car to get on. In this case the on-ramp driver must jam the brake to slow way down to get behind the other car, and hope they are not rear-ended in the process. I’d like to say to those who block me from getting on: I promise if you let me on I will promptly get out of your way by speeding up and going faster than you (for one reason that I don’t want to be near bad drivers on the highway).

A different issue with those getting onto the highway is when the other driver doesn’t realize they must speed up and merge. Entering the highway doing 25, 30, 35 or even 40 miles per hour is downright dangerous---speed up and get on.

Another issue is when someone is entering the highway and when the end of the on-ramp is approaching they jam the brake to slow way down or (gasp) actually stop dead on the highway’s on-ramp. That is so dangerous! Speed up and get on. Period.

4. The rolling traffic jam. This is the person who hogs the left-most lane on the highway doing at or below the speed limit when they actually belong in the slower lane.

I don’t understand the logic of the person who hogs the passing lane but does not pass anyone. It is called a passing lane for a reason, buddy. Get out of the way and get into the slow lane and let us pass you in a legal manner on the left hand side of your vehicle.\

5. The too-much spacer.

This person does not pull up to the car in front of them while at a stop light. Some of these geniuses cause us to miss getting through the light due to their delay.

There is no reason to leave 1, 2 or 3 car lengths of space between you and the car in front of you while at a stop light. Pull up closer to their bumper so we can get through the intersection with the least amount of light cycles.

These people are often also slow reactors to the light’s signal change and have just a long enough pause for them to get through the light but everyone else behind them is stuck there.

Also this long spacing problem can sometimes cause gridlock behind them as the road was not laid out to have giant spaces in between the cars.

6. The Cell Phone Talker/Driver.

Despite there being a law against hand held cell phone use while driving; this still goes on in my state. There is a pattern where a person is driving while on the phone and is completely unaware of things going on around them. One example is driving in the left lane of the highway going below the speed limit but chattering away—move into the slow lane! Another issue is the drivers who miss lights, go through red lights, blow through stop signs, make illegal lane changes, or nearly run over pedestrians because they are too busy talking on the phone.

If you must talk on the phone while driving at least get a hands-free unit. Also if you are on the phone you may want to pay special attention to the driving that you are doing. If you can’t pay attention to your driving while on the cell phone then pull over to talk, or hand up.

Okay I feel better now that I have vented about bad drivers.

Thanks for listening.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thoughts on Oprah’s Interview With Madonna

The other night before bed I realized that one of the shows sitting on my TiVo was an interview with Madonna on the Oprah show.

I had heard only a snippet about Madonna having adopted an African child and some controversy about whether the father understood that the baby was being adopted or not.

I chose to watch the show to see what was going on with this story. I like to hear things right from the horse’s mouth, it is the best source.

(On Oprah’s show with Bill O’Reilly last week he slammed Americans for doing things like paying more attention to Madonna’s adoption story than to being informed about other important issues such as political issues and other current events. For the record I was not following the Madonna story until this Oprah show landed in my lap and I chose to watch it as winding-down-before-bed TV.)

I was a teenager when Madonna’s first album came out and I was a big fan of hers in the past. I am no longer a fan mostly as her music doesn’t interest me anymore. Last week I pulled out an old Madonna CD of mine and found that I didn’t really want to hear of romantic break-up’s and other issues like that which no longer apply to my life.

One thing that interests me though is how she has changed over time and especially how she has changed now that she is a parent. I find it very interesting, for example, to have heard her say on a past Oprah show that she does not want her child corrupted by what is in the media, so she does not allow her daughter to watch TV, to hear pop music, to hear Madonna’s own music, to see the movies or anything else with Madonna in them. I find it so interesting that Madonna seeks to super-shelter her own child from a culture which she has helped to create. In other words the money that Madonna makes off of her music and movies is good enough for MY child but is too corrupting for HER child, I find that amazing. I also find it interesting that an artist and performer would have a problem showing her children her own chosen career’s work and that also she would continue to create that art/work/media product even when she feels there is some inappropriate or immoral content to it.

Anyway….so I watched the Oprah/Madonna interview.

Right away both my husband and I thought, “What the heck is with Madonna’s accent?” Since Madonna now lives in London she is speaking with a strange semi-English accent. Is that something that a person just picks up without realizing it while living there or is this intentional? I find it strange to hear.

Madonna told the whole story of the adoption which I felt sounded very noble and commendable. I was bothered to hear of the horrible living conditions of the orphans that she is working with in Malawi, Africa, it broke my heart.

I also learned for the first time that Madonna has spent the last three years building orphanages in Malawi. I had no clue (there, that is proof for you that I am not up on celebrity related current events).

Madonna slammed any and all media who would take an adoption story and rearrange it into some negative news story. She said in this interview again that she does not read any newspapers, watch any TV so she has not seen any of the reports but she has been told by others that she is being slammed in the media.

Madonna did say that in Malawi they do not have clear adoption laws but that the law does require that any living relative of the child in the orphanage must be researched and asked if they give permission for the adoption. I found it shocking to say the least that it would be possible for a family to place a child in an orphanage when there are relatives to care for the child yet a possible adopter of the baby must seek their permission to adopt the child. Anyway the story she tells is that the baby did have a living biological father and that he did grant permission for the adoption, through an interpreter, and that he worked with the Malawi government officials to approve the adoption.

Madonna also said that the government made her select other children for possible adoption in case the first child she chose did not get approval.

They showed photos of Madonna holding the toddler David in a sling while she said he was sick with pneumonia. I am a fan of baby wearing. I only wonder if she will continue it while out of Malawi or was it a case of “While in Rome, do as the Romans do”. I wonder if she will care for David, or will he be raised by a Nanny? Will he ever be in a sling again or will he be strapped to various child-holders (the stroller, etc.).

So anyway, it was an interesting story to hear. The bottom line lesson that I learned is that once again the media takes something and turns it all around to something negative in order to sell a story.

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Thoughts on Oprah’s Show with Bill O’Reilly

The other night I watched the TiVo’ed show of Oprah with Bill O’Reilly doing a town hall type meeting, titled “Oprah’s Town Hall: America’s Cultural War”.

I found the show interesting. I would have liked to hear more of Oprah’s reaction but my husband reminded me that the moderator of a town hall meeting is supposed to not talk much (even if that moderator is Oprah). I guess he is right.

You can read a lot of the quotes from the show such as questions and answers, on Oprah’s site, here.
I was very happy that when discussing the ACLU that the NAMBLA situation was brought up (see this question).

I am so disgusted that the ACLU would support NAMBLA and so I disagree with the audience member who feels that the ACLU is working for good things on behalf of all Americans. The idea that an organization that helps pedophiles by teaching them how to groom and how to seduce minor aged boys can be legal in the first place is beyond me. The fact that the ACLU would give them pro bono legal assistance infuriates me. O’Reilly said on the show that the ACLU of the past is not the ACLU of today, so pointing to past great things they’ve done for Americans and minorities no longer justifies their current business operations.

O’Reilly kept talking about whether people are either Traditionalists or Secular Progressives. That is the platform and base of his latest book “Culture Warrior”. He kept saying there is a quiz on his website that we can take to see which we are. Well I took it and was disappointed that he puts the label on us based on our stand on just five issues. The quick labeling based on five issues is quite shallow if you ask me.



O’Reilly spoke on his radio show on October 25th about Proposition 85 in California which would not allow parental notification of a minor aged girl’s intent to have an abortion. From what I understand what the law is now is that the parents have to be given 48 hours notice that the girl will have an abortion so the parents can know about it, so they can discuss it as a family and also for a cooling-off period to make sure the girl really wants to have it. I shudder to think of the idea that a girl under age 18 could be given an abortion (or have any medical procedure done) without parental permission. I feel that every single invasive medical procedure or body altering procedure (i.e. ear piercing, body piercing, and tattoos) should require parental permission.

On Oprah’s show there was a very well spoken, assertive, conservative African American man (in his 20s or 30s and handsome) which blew me away. I would have assumed that if a conservative was to be outspoken on the show it would be a fat old white guy, but I was wrong. One of the most outspoken liberal audience members happened to be a white man.

At one point a female audience member was quite angry that O’Reilly was acting pretty calm during the show. She wanted him to be enraged as when he is interviewing someone on his show who he is trying to challenge. I didn’t get her gist, why does she want him to always be angry, especially at regular audience members? I don’t see why he should be incited to anger. He told her at one point that he was on the show to sell books and to state his opinions and that he was doing just that. I don’t think she understood that when HE is in the interviewer role and when he is trying to get someone to admit the truth it is far different than when the audience is asking HIM questions and to discuss his opinions about what he perceives to be a ‘cultural war’ going on in America.

My husband and I thought that O’Reilly was not doing a good job on explaining why people must make a choice and take a stand one way or the other. What we think he was trying to say is that no political candidate will agree on everything that you believe. Since many of us (if not all of us) have different views on different issues, we just can’t find a political candidate that matches up exactly with what we believe. We may have a ‘conservative’ view on one issue, a ‘liberal’ view on another and be undecided on yet another issue. We have to decide which things are most important for us then pick the candidate which we think will tow that line on that issue and other issues. If that candidate disagrees with us on the lesser issues then we just have to live with that. This is a problem especially when people refuse to vote as they don’t feel that any one candidate matches with their idea of the perfect politician. It doesn’t do any good to not vote. So we think that what O’Reilly was saying was that we have to pick whether we are mostly agree with the stands of the Traditionalists or the Secular Progressives and just go with that flow. This is similar to saying ‘pick your battles’. Pick the issues that you think are most important for right now, most important for the future, which things may have some political action taken on them in the near future, or whatever is your main issue and go with that.

Lately I feel like the candidates we vote for are those with the lesser of two evils. On the issues we have to pick the politicians who we feel agree with us on the biggest and most important issues to us.

I choose not to spend a lot of time on political matters as I feel it is unproductive and nearly pointless. If I get overly involved in the current events it can drive me crazy. I have been an elected official in the past on the town level, so I know what the political world is like. Frankly now that I have children and am busy homeschooling them I choose not to spend my time and energy on politics. It gets to a point where the world just goes on no matter how informed or how ignorant I am, no matter if I am losing sleep over the world’s problems, etc. nothing is different or is changed in any way based on my knowledge base. I feel that letters I have written to political officials fall on deaf ears. In the end most things depend on lobbying efforts not just the opinions of constituents. I bet that is the underlying reason why most Americans are even more apathetic than me about politics and even with current events. Why bother when we feel like the politicians are not listening to what we want anyway?

Perhaps I will borrow this book from the library to see what O'Reilly says specifically about how we as American citizens can be 'cultural warriors'. I didn't quite get the gist of how he feels we private citizens can do more to stand up for what we believe. I'd be specifically interested in issues regarding children and parenting.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Parents Using Shrinks For Their Babies

I thought I had heard of everything but I was wrong.

The October 24, 2006 Wall Street Journal had a long article about the increased use of psychiatrist services for BABIES. The article claims that this is an ‘expanding field of infant mental health” and that it ‘aims to head off depression and other disorders’.

Article title: Sending the Baby To a Shrink
by Elizabeth Bernstein
Wall Street Journal
October 24, 2006


What is our world coming to?

After reading the article I have come to the conclusion is that despite parents perhaps being more educated than in the past, and despite them being older when their babies were born (and one would assume, wiser), they are IGNORANT about baby care, normal baby behavior and normal development of babies that they are consulting psychiatrists to tell them if what the baby is doing is alright or a problem.

I already know this first hand from working with parents in a volunteer position for the last seven years, and by attending meetings for parents prior to that. The questions that people ask and the things they don’t know about normal baby development are very frightening. I had hoped that between the help of relatives, friends, and the information on the Internet, Internet discussion groups, and volunteer organizations, that the need was being met. However, if the information in this article is true, some people have a need for validation or information or reassurance and they are choosing to see it out via a psychiatrist consultation.

(By the way, note the cost of accessing these services must not be a problem for these parents. Does health insurance pay for such consults? Should they be? That is something to think about.)

There are many books on the market written in simple layman’s terms to explain things such as how to feed a baby, how to breastfeed, how to know the baby is hungry, that explain the crying, for example. There are books that tell how to take care of the baby, and even entire books on the need for babies to be held and comforted by their parents. The baby product industry has new parents thinking that many different devices and ‘baby holders’ are necessary to raise a baby, yet when baby cries because they want to be held by a human instead of a swing or a bouncer or a vibrating baby chair, the parents think something is wrong.

These books are free to borrow from a local public library. The books, if purchased new, often cost $15 or less, none are over $25 (full retail).

As to normal baby development, the ‘ages and stages’ of babies and toddlers, all that is available for free on the Internet or in even more books about raising babies and young children.

I continue to be surprised at the number of parents who will not take the time to read a parenting book to answer their parenting questions or to find information! Many parents ask relatives or friends for information and advice. Fine, but to see a psychiatrist? That seems just insane to me!

The only good thing that I think can come out of this is that the article stated that the shrinks are observing the parents with the babies. Perhaps if a parent is not being attentive enough, the shrink will realize it.

The whole idea that parents would seek a consultation with a mental health medical professional for what in most cases is normal parenting advice is ludicrous.

I fear that the intrusion of mental health for children has now moved down from elementary school staff therapist visits (this goes on without parental notification or prior approval)….now down to children younger than age 5, and even down to babies, this just seems crazy to me.

I also fear that increases consultations with medical doctor psychiatrists may lead to increased use of prescription drugs on young children, preschoolers, toddlers or, gasp, babies.

If you feel the need to know some information about raising babies, my favorite book is “The Baby Book” by William Sears M.D.



My favorite book on how to breastfeed which includes the issue of crying and how to tell if the baby is hungry or is getting enough to eat, is “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League.



If you are having issues with the baby waking up in the night and need to know what is normal and what is not normal, read the great book by Dr. Sears “Nighttime Parenting”.



If you need verification that human babies need to be touched and held by their parents, read “The Vital Touch” by Sharon Heller.



Note that if you purchased all four of the books that I recommended above you would have a ton of information that you can use on numerous children. The cost for the books, new, at Amazon is under $50.

Don't forget that the Pediatrician can answer some questions, too!

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Rude Encounters Yesterday, Bad Drivers, etc.

I am seeing so many examples of rude behavior that I feel like complaining about it. I am not sure I want this blog filled with those complaints but anyway I will do it anyway because I just feel like it.

Rude thing #1
I pulled into a parking spot in a parking lot. I was sitting in the car waiting for someone to meet me there for a carpool. A tractor trailer truck pulled up quite close to me, but didn’t block me in. The driver walked back and forth from his truck, past me, into the store. He said nothing to me but looked me right in the eye the four times he walked past me. Then he opened the back of his truck to unload some merchandise to deliver it. His long ramp blocked me into my spot. He stayed there for nearly 20 minutes, blocking me in the entire time.

Would you not think that he could have told me he was about to trap me in there and ask if I needed to move?

As it happened the person I was meeting was late and I didn’t need to get out until he moved the ramp away. I would have really been annoyed if I wanted to leave but was trapped there.

Rude thing #2
As I was getting ready to pull out of the parking spot, I had to wait my turn. I saw a man of about 25 years old opened the back door of his car which was parked right next to me. He began pulling out papers then picked up a fast food bag full of what I assume was trash and deliberately threw it to the ground. He then kept digging in the mess in his backseat, took out a duffle bag, then shut the door and began walking away.

I was so annoyed I opened the window and loudly called out that I think he dropped something on the ground. I did this in a polite tone of voice and smiled (this was phony but I tried to make it sound sincere). He smiled and thanked me in what was a phony nice way, then picked it up and put the trash into a trash bin right in front of where his car was parked.

I just could not resist that and let him leave his litter on the ground that like, how rude. Also, how lazy can you be when there is a trash bin right in front of your car and instead you choose to throw your garbage right on the pavement of the parking lot?

Rude thing #3
Then I went to pull out of the parking lot, which has a stop light there. I had a green light and was going straight, so I had the right of way. Instead the line of cars coming toward me and turning in front of me bullied their way in so I had to wait for a break in the line or else I’d risk my life taking what was really my right of way. When I finally could go without being smashed into, I proceeded forward, someone tried taking a right on red (without slowing down or stopping as is required by law at a red light, even if one is going to take the ‘right on red’). So I was almost hit on the passenger side by that law-breaker. Then someone also tried taking that turn and cutting me off. I chose to blast my horn the entire way through the intersection in order to call attention to the fact that I was coming through (even though I had the right of way).

Every time I leave that parking lot at rush hour it is like I am taking my life in my hands even when I have the right of way!

Perhaps I need a new carpool meetup location?

All this happened in just one errand today, going to pick my son up after he attended a class with other homeschoolers.

I can see why people around here have so much road rage. If I had these type of encounters every time I went out and if I was driving longer distances and more frequently I’d be enraged for sure! The difference is that I would not use my vehicle as a battering ram to try to knock people out of my way (when I didn’t even have the right of way).

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Over-Scheduled, Need Changes (I’m Not Bragging)

The other day I sat down and made some decisions that needed addressing.

This fall our life was taken over by attending outside events and classes. I completely feel driven in a reactionary type of way trying to do every class and event that we have committed to. It has gotten to a point where the schedule is driving us and is the boss of our family. I don’t like that.

So I am making some changes right now.

First off I will no longer have our family have at least one appointment per day. I need at least one day where we have no standing commitments. This is not to mention the fact that as time progresses ‘one time’ events get added into the mix, a child’s birthday party, a relative’s birthday party, a charity event, etc. It has ended up that on some days we have three or four appointments, all that plus trying to do homeschooling lessons at home and also errands and making meals, cleaning up from that, doing housework, and other daily living responsibilities! That is insanity.

If we are going to continue to attend church and Sunday School I want no other Sunday commitments. I need one day to feel ‘off duty’. In the last three weeks the children and I have not attended church/Sunday School as I am just too burned out (and there is another issue which I won’t get into here).

If we are going to have Sunday for church and relaxing time that means errands must be done on another day (like Saturday). However that means Saturday must be open for errands not booked with other appointments.

I need to have at least one weekday where there is no standing appointment. I would prefer to have two weekdays that are free, actually but I am not sure if that is possible.

I am burned out of the 3-4 hour long homeschool park day that happens every week. I have decided that I am not going to the remainder of the park days for the year. It is winding down due to colder weather anyway.

When Chess Strategy Session I class ends next week I am not renewing the boys into Session II.

We have spread out the Junior First LEGO League competition to twice per month not every week.

I am doing only one playdate per week with friends. I am being more picky about the classes that the kids take and am making sure that some of their friends are in the classes so that time is also ‘friend-seeing-time’ rather than having just playdates for seeing friends.

We are not doing every single optional (and fun) Cub Scouting event. We will not win any award this year for being an uber-Scouting family. We are doing just some of the events and are enjoying them, period. I am attending less of the optional Leaders meetings as I don’t want to do more than one Scouting activity per week. Some weeks there are chances to do three things per week, forget that, it is way too much.

Last week I hit the resentment wall. That is the point where I feel that I am not in control of anything in our life (when in reality as a non-working homeschooling mother I should feel fully in control of nearly everything). I am feeling resentful toward the outside classes and events as we are not getting the lessons done at home which I had wanted to do, due to running here and there. We have all gotten sick once already this fall due to being overtired. I also feel like my needs are coming last and that is not right. For example I just realized I am behind on getting my teeth cleaned, my annual GYN visit done and also am behind on getting my eyes checked and getting new contact lenses (this pair is wearing out). Funny how my kids and my pets get better health care than I give myself (that is NOT good).

I want to feel happy and grateful and healthy and have spare time and feel relaxed. I want time to read and to not feel guilty if what I do is sit on a couch and read a book just for me.

Thanks for listening to me vent about this!

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Two Roles of a Homeschooling Mother; Planning/Scheduling and Actually Doing It

The other night my friend was speaking at a homeschooling meeting, giving a lecture. She said something that surprised me. It was very plain and now seems obvious but I think in the past I got these things mixed up or intertwined.

My friend said that she pictures her role in homeschooling as having two roles and she tries to keep the two roles completely separate.

One role is the research for curriculum, books and classes, and the getting of it, the finding it, the scheduling of the use of it, the organizing of where it is in the house, the shuffling of books to use soon vs. just finished using vs. what is in storage. It is also thinking of educational theory, educational methods and processes and options.

The other role is the actual homeschooling and doing things with your child, the home atmosphere, the cuddle on the couch and read time, and things like that. This has a sub-role of chauffeur of child to and from activities and classes and socialization opportunities.

She made a comment that in her family she does these two roles. Her husband also helps with the actual doing of the homeschooling. Additionally both she and her husband drive different children to various events and classes.

She said that in her family she tries to keep the two roles separate and to give herself credit for doing these two separate roles.

I know also that she chooses to do a lot of the planning and shopping and schedule writing and organization in the spring and hopes to finish it in the early summer so that she can actually have fun and relax in the summer (both with her children and just for time for herself). She no longer likes spending the whole summer with thoughts of curriculum, planning, scheduling, and shopping for books and homeschooling stuff. For this reason she chooses spring homeschooling conferences to attend and tries to get everything purchased for the upcoming year by June at the latest.

This mother spoke of how in the past she would plan on Sunday night, what would be done in the next week, and at some other time, that she would do that about twice a month, making the plans for the next two weeks. That included also trips to several local libraries to find and borrow books to use in those upcoming two weeks. She found that she felt she was always working and was always thinking of the planning part. Doing that so frequently took away from just enjoying time with her children. That part of her role of homeschooling mother was never finished and it was taxing to feel that it was always an unfinished project.

Another thing that struck me was the idea that at times people can be so consumed by the thinking about homeschooling, the planning, the curriculum or book comparing, researching, or looking for bargains that it takes all their time and energy. Doing so much planning and work like that actually can rob time of actually spending fun time with the children on a daily basis, if not also taking time away from actually doing the homeschooling lessons or reading the books to the children that were so well researched and thrift-shopped for.

Some mothers (like me in the past) read homeschool supply catalogs before bed. Thinking about homeschooling is always on the minds of some parents. I no longer read homeschooling stuff before bed, that is ‘me time’ and I read things for my personal enjoyment or for enrichment in other areas of my life.

I don’t have a big long plan or schedule for our family. I barely have a monthly calendar that lists accurate dates of upcoming activities! (I am not a Palm Pilot person; I use a regular calendar to mark appointments on. I have also stopped using the Franklin/Covey planner as it was too corporate for me to use in this different paced lifestyle that I have been living.) For the last two years, I have been writing down what we do for homeschooling in a spiral notebook like the school kids use!

I was thinking that in my quest to not be an over-planner, perhaps dragging out this planning or not having it just all written out in a schedule is actually more stressful or more burdensome than having a schedule. I have shied away from mapping out a lot of plans such as we’ll learn X topic in science on X date by reading X book and this other X book and going to X museum and seeing X documentary. I know that if I make a schedule and don’t keep to it that I will feel like a failure. I definitely don’t want my homeschooled children to be made to feel that they are ‘behind’ or not competent just because they are not up to date on their schedule.

I worry that if I have a schedule or a detailed plan that I will lose flexibility. If I have the schedule and don’t keep to it then what is the point in having it? How will we feel if we are always behind?

One thing that I do see happening though is that I spend time learning about great books and then I find them and buy then we don’t get around to actually using them. That is a problem! If we don’t use them then I have wasted time and energy and money. I could have spent that time with my children or doing other useful things for myself or others. I could have had my feet up reading a book for pleasure or something like that! So I think I have come to the conclusion that if I were to start having a schedule and if said schedule was chock full of things to learn and books to read I may realize that we own enough and I can stop looking for more and more and more. That would give me more time, more energy, and save us money. (Today I listed a book on PaperBackSwap that I bought to use with my kids which I never did use with my kids and I think we’ll never use, so this point has been illustrated to me in real life.)

One use of the schedule or plan could be to realize that we have too many outside activities going on in order to accomplish what it is that was planned, so something has to be reduced. Another use could be to realize that the academic plans could be too rigorous or that I am asking too much.

So this week I am thinking about having a planned out list of things to do. Instead of doing Math U See and knowing that the next day we do math we’ll do 30 minutes of however many pages can be done in that time, perhaps I’ll map it out. I don’t know.

I am still trying to think about the pro’s and con’s of a detailed schedule or plan, why would a person want it, what purpose does it serve, or if we end up serving it.

One last thing I will add that when I have seen a homeschooling curriculum that maps out what to do when, I run screaming. I am too much of a rebel and an independent thinker to feel like I am being dictated to do this and that by some company or panel of people over at homeschool curriculum company X. Perhaps if I choose the materials and books and I make up the plan it would be different. I am not sure of that.

So that is what I am thinking about this week.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Buzz on Upcoming Dr. Phil Homeschooling Show About Homeschooling and Unschooling

The buzz on the Internet is growing about the upcoming Dr. Phil show on homeschooling which is said to also feature a self-labeled ‘radical unschoooling’ family. Apparently the title of the show is “Great School Debate”. The show is supposed to air on October 27, 2006 however I can’t find verification of that on Dr. Phil’s official site. (Right now it states “New Orleans Scam?” is slotted for October 27, 2006.)

The leaks about the content of the show are coming from the homeschooling families who were invited to participate in the show, were aired in their homes and also were in the audience.

Note one states the homeschooling families were told that no one under the age of 18 could be in the audience with the parents, however, there were minor aged school children in the audience.

Here are some articles.

This article on Local HS.com is very long and tells a lot of details about the upcoming show and this homeschool mother/audience member’s experience.

Spunky Homeschool

Considering Homeschooling

Why Homeschool

If you know of any more buzz feel free to leave it in my comments section!

For the record I enjoy Dr. Phil overall but have disagreed with some of his opinions on parenting very young children, breastfeeding, mothers and employment vs. mothers at home (and the lack the option of the sequencing concept) and co-sleeping. Based on these reports it seems that I will disagree with him on homeschooling.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 43 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 43 was published today by Beverly Hernandez at the About Homeschooling site.

I have an entry in this Carnival.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy!

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Thoughts on the Value of a Children’s Book

I saw this posting on Steve Weber’s bookselling blog asking about the value of a book called “Treasure In The Stream: The Story of a Gold Rush Girl” by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.



I thought my blog readers may be interested in my response, so here is a copy of the comment that I left on Weber’s blog.

You have hit upon a book which is a niche market use book.

Just by reading the title I recognized that this is the perfect type of book that so many homeschoolers look for. It is a historical fiction chapter book. Many homeschoolers use these types of books as fun and good reading that also teachers history.

After a quick google search by the title name I see that some teachers in California have put a free teacher's guide to using this book as the main book to teach the gold rush and also some history of California. In California there are mandates that schools and homeschoolers must teach California state history to their students.

Sometimes if a book is not great literature but it is a rare topic with a niche market then the book has more value.

I would be surprised at any homeschooler or a classroom teacher who would pay $200 for this book.

I suspect the seller who is asking $200 is hoping a sucker or someone desperate comes along and pays that high price.

Also remember not to just take the other asking prices for books as the value but try to find history of sales of that book.

Lastly if a book is not in 'very good' or 'fine' condition I would think unless it is a first edition of some famous or rare book that it would not be worth $200. The condition of the book is very important when comparing other books on the market. A fine condition book for $100 is not the same price as a fair condition book with the same title.

Lately I've seen some crazy books. One I found at a library sale that I thought I'd read for fun, for 50 cents, was "New Times in the Old South" by Marlyn Schwartz. When I got home I realized it is a first edition and is out of print and mine is autographed. It is hardback with dust jacket and is in like new or 'fine' condition, anad appears unread. THe price that the ONE copy on Amazon Marketplace that was there last month was a ridiculous price, I think it was $120.



I was going to give away my copy on PaperbackSwap.com but held it as I wondered if it was worth saving or reselling especially as I just realized it was autographed (at first I thought it was a gift inscription but it is the author's signature and note).

Today I checked Amazon and now there are 130 available copies and many penny copies. The collectible copy is $14.

So what is up with that?



Anyway a great ebook about selling used books to the homeschool market via eBay auctions is by Elaine Kreig Smith (link here).

I think the gold rush book should be targeted to sell to a homeschooling family.

Good luck with selling it.


One afterthought which I just though of, is that what also makes this book special is that it is not about old men in the gold rush, the main character is a girl. I have a hunch that books on the gold rush with a girl as the main character is even more rare than a historical fiction book with a boy as the main character.

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When Watching Children’s Movies Was a Special Treat

One day some months back my mother called me with what she thought was exciting news:

“The Wizard of Oz is going to be on (network) TV tonight! Tell the kids!”

My reply was a polite, “Thanks for letting us know.”

She asked if the kids would watch it.

My sad response was no, because we own the movie on VHS, having purchased it years ago. I explained my kids have seen it so many times.

She asked if they loved the movie as much as I did when I was a girl. She reminded me of how it used to be shown on network TV only once per year and on those nights she allowed my brother and me to stay up late to watch the whole movie.

I responded that I do remember that annual special event.

She asked if my kids reacted to the movie the same way and if they loved it.

I said they do enjoy the movie, but explained that the movie is so readily available to them that they don’t even feel very excited about watching it. I could tell she was disappointed. Then thinking about that made me feel disappointed, too.

Things are so different now, and it is not all for the better. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz once per year just like I remember the special tradition of watching holiday shows like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. It was a special treat and it was rare and fun. Now what today is so special and rare for children? Not much, they seem to have access to so many things and to so much entertainment.

Now we can borrow movies and shows from the library for free and watch them on our VCR or DVD player any time we want. Some of the fun has been taken out of it, the special-ness and the tradition of watching ‘holiday specials’ and old traditions like the once per year showing of “The Miracle on 34th Street” and “The Wizard of Oz”.

Sigh.

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Carnival of Kid Comedy Week 29 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Kid Comedy Week 29 was published today at Why Homeschool.

I have entered this Carnival for the first time this week.

I encourage you to submit an entry. For more information about how to enter this Carnival, read this information on the Blog Carnival website.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Few Comments On Our Junior First LEGO League Team's Progress

I thought I’d share an update of our homeschoolers Junior First LEGO League.

We feel the content is a little hard to grasp for children aged 6-9. They are also working with and researching content areas that most children of this age would not be learning about in their real life or in school.

The library has failed us for information on our topic area, as it is so focused in a certain area of science and technology and engineering that the content is not mainstream reading for adults nor is it at all a topic that most children would want to know. I say this as both the adult section and the children’s section of the library does not have information that we need.

We have had to turn to rely on the Internet for our research. We do not let our children use the Internet unassisted so the adults are helping to find the information online. The tricky thing also is that it does take digging on the Internet to find the sites which have the actual information that they need to know. The research definitely requires an adult’s help and I can’t find any way around that. For example, today I have spent over an hour reading and skimming websites to see if they have the basic information that I need to know and that the children need to know.

One challenge is that these sites are also so content-specific that they assume the reader already knows more than a layperson knows, so trying to find information boiled down into layman's (adult) terms is hard, let alone to find something that a child can read themselves. In the end what I have done is found the information then had to relay it to the children in a watered-down style, a la lecture style.

My husband tried contacting some manufacturers of the products that we need information about and no companies could help us with that.

Our goal was to find out the information then to teach the children about this technology and this product. After they know what it is and they understand it, they can then build models of it with LEGOs and they will then be able to decide how it should look, what the thing is, etc.

We were successful in finding images of the items and the children are building their own LEGO models with barely any input from the adults.

I should have also mentioned that on their own, the children came up with what item they would build a model of. Perhaps if the adults picked it we would have chosen a topic that had information more readily available. Our goal is not to tell them what to do, so we are trying to support them in their decision to make this specific thing (even if it means the research part is more difficult). This is supposed to be a team activity and in my opinion the children should be driving the decisions and they should be making the models.

As to how the team is working together there appears to be a dominant personality who wants to dictate what the team should do. There is a second lesser dominant person who happens to give in to the other as it is his friend, I bet if he was less liked this child would try to stand his ground and would try to pursuade the others to his side. There are two shy ones who don’t voice their opinion at all including when their body language indicates they are in disagreement. Then there are two that like to just side with their friends or family members as ‘followers’, they seem willing to go with whoever they feel is doing a better job at pursuading them.

Decisions were made by a majority vote, in case you are wondering.

We have decided that it is too hard to have six children doing the one thing they are working on. We divided out the work, such as one model is being done by a team of two children; one model is being done by another team of two children. The poster will be done by the other two children.

We have decided to participate in the Expo which takes place out of state. With the date of the Expo we are able to stretch out our meetings and we no longer have to rush the projects completion. All the parents are happy that we no Longer have to meet weekly and we have changed it to meeting about every two weeks. Each meeting continues to be two hours long.

We realized we needed more bricks. One mother purchased more bricks and their family will keep them when the challenge is over.

The children enjoy participating in this challenge. However I am sure they’d be just as happy if they were allowed to play with the LEGOs in any way they want, unconnected to a competition. A plus is they are having more time with their friends. I hope that in the end they have also learned something about communication skills and working with a team. If they learn a little about now it will be good, because as they learn a little this year, then more next year, and on and on, those skills will improve and accumulate over time. And they also will have learned about this item that they have chosen to replicate in a model form.

Another thing I’ll mention is the team name the children chose for themselves does not have the word homeschool in it. I share this as others in the competition will not know they are homeschoolers, so they are not being very visible to outsiders. One part of me would have preferred that the word homeschool appear there so that others can see that homeschoolers are doing cool educational things like this. But the team name was not up to me. We truly are trying to let the children direct themselves and make the decisions for their own team.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Article States Homeschooling Spreading in India

Here is an interesting article about homeschooling spreading in India which was published yesterday.

Article Title: Home Work: Comfort of Homeschooling

The overall tone is positive and I really can’t complain about anything in the article. They even discuss different kinds of homeschooling with one family describing what I consider to be unschooling.

This is a great article. I found it very interesting to read something from India on this subject. I see that some of the same issues with public education in America are also issues in schooling in India!

Here are some quotes:

"These children seem to know much more than kids their age? Their parents say it is because they don’t go to school. These are children who thrive in a world without syllabi, schedules, heavy school bags and vitriolic teachers."

"Like Jogesh Motwani and Lakshmi Rangaraj, who didn’t even consider enrolling their three-year-old, Mahuli. “I don’t send her to school for the same reason I wouldn’t put a cigarette in her mouth, it’s bad for her,” says Motwani. Instead the couple wants to bring up Mahuli with Gandhian values and a strong sense of social justice."
“On the basis of her English worksheets, the school psychologist said my 10-year-old daughter, Sana, was learning disabled. She did not meet Sana or consider her excellent results in other subjects.”

"...Rangaraj admits that parents like her need a network of home-schoolers with regular meetings and support systems, “so our kids don’t feel like freaks”."

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How The Homemade Soap Turned Out. Last Installment in the Soapmaking Project

This is Part III of my soapmaking project report. I had promised to tell you how the cold process soap which I made at home turned out.

Both batches turned out great!

Here are links so that you can read Part I and Part II about my making two batches of lye based cold-process soap from scratch. Part II has photos of the soap.

Here are some of my observations.

1. The soap has a fantastic lather. I have read that this is due to using coconut oil in the recipe. I have read that if you make soap with just olive oil or other recipes without coconut oil that there is barely any lather.


2. I had experimented in one batch with using whole grains of uncooked oatmeal. I would not do this again for three reasons. First, the oatmeal sunk to the bottom of the soap so that the bottom was dense in oatmeal but the very top had none. Second, the oatmeal grains puff up and swell while in the shower and they are a bit like gooey masses. Lastly, the grains don’t dry out completely in between use and they gave no exfoliating effect. (Note a prior batch I made with pulverized oatmeal which didn’t completely pulverize DID give an exfoliating effect.)

3. The scents are fantastic. I can’t detect the wood based oils very much (which is a shame). One of the batches used a bunch of different pure essential oils that I wanted to use up to get rid of. In the end the combination is pleasant but some strong scents such as the lavender overpower the other scents. I am going to look into finding the cheapest price I can for pure essential oils and make a batch with just one scent such as lemon or lavender.

Some Thoughts on Using Essential Oils in Soapmaking
The first batch of soap that I made in 2005 which I didn’t blog about was this same recipe but without any essential oils. That same recipe is lovely without a scent because there is a mild and sweet scent from the oatmeal itself, which smells clean and natural.

Adding essential oils for fragrance is not necessary and depending on where you purchase them it can actually be very expensive. The bars with no oils for scent cost me 33 cents per bar and yielded about 35 bars of soap in the one batch (about $11.50 to make the entire batch was my cost), with each bar lasting over a week with two people using it daily.

If you buy essential oils in small bottles at a full retail price at a health food store, to use them in your soapmaking, it could increase the cost of your soap by $80 or more, for the batch, which is a huge difference ($91.50 for the batch). I estimate this based on about a $10 cost for a half ounce bottle of essential oil. Actually depending on what type of essential oil you choose, the cost can vary greatly.

The recipe for soap that I use takes 4 ounces of fragrance. The reason that this much essential oil is recommended to be used is that if less is used it may be detectable while making it but later after it has dried and cured it is less powerful (some of the oils lose their potency during the saponification process). Also if the fragrance is not strong enough you can smell it if you sniff the bar but you won’t smell it while using it in the shower. This is very much like the cheap candles that you buy at a store that smell great but when you burn them, no scent can be detected, while other brands, like Yankee Candle have different and more oils so that the room is actually filled with the scent of the burning candle.

You could also make a project out of finding a supplier of inexpensive pure essential oils.

If you plan to make a business of soapmaking I would think that to buy from wholesalers would make the most sense.

The cheapest essential oils I have found so far are from North Atlantic Spice Company which is an Internet/mail order catalogue business with a retail store in North Truro, Massachusetts, Cape Cod.

Trying Not To Get Addicted To Soapmaking
I think that soapmaking is addicting and I am going to try to not go crazy with this. I have more than enough soap here for our own use for a year now. I don’t need to rush to make more (but it so much fun to play with)! I find it fun to research recipes, ponder using various recipes, think about what scents I’d like to try, going on the shopping hunt for the ingredients then finally making it (not as much fun to work with the dangerous lye). The best part though is seeing how it comes out when finished, seeing if it did saponify properly then finally actually trying it and seeing how the end result actually turned out.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

My Dominant Intelligence BlogThing Result

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

Playing In a Cloud

When I woke up yesterday, it was dark outside, the sky was covered in dark clouds and it was raining. The wind was blowing. We are at the peak of the fall foliage now and the leaves were falling down like large orange snowflakes. I decided to let the kids sleep late as we had no appointments until the afternoon.

Through our busy-ness I continue to try and slow down and am making a concerted effort to spend even more time with my children when we are home and not dashing about. I am letting some things go, spending less time at the computer and trying to listen more. I am trying not to cram every spare second into multitasking and am trying to slow down in between doing this or that and to just have some relaxing time with my kids. I am trying to talk with them casually more often and to look them in the eye when we speak to each other. Sometimes I realize I am trying to do so many things at once that I don’t even make eye contact with them, and that is not good.

Later, while we were having breakfast with my children, my six year old son looked out the French doors and commented about the heavy fog. He then asked what fog was.

I paused as I pondered launching into a long correct-fact filled scientific explanation. Isn’t that what good homeschooling mothers are supposed to do?

Before I could decide how to answer my nine year old son blurted out, “It is a cloud.”

My younger son laughed in a dismissive way and asked, “No really, what is fog?”

My older son repeated that indeed it was a cloud.

I explained that fog is a low cloud lying right over the land. I searched my brain for the proper terms, trying to remember the names of the fog that happens when the air is warmer than the ground or vice-versa. But before I could even ponder that, I realized that my younger sons face was all lit up.

(You must understand that this all happened very quickly. Writing it out and reading it takes longer than the entire exchange.)

I cannot describe the pure joyful expression on my sons face. He dropped his spoon into his cereal bowl and said in a loud and gleeful voice, “I want to go out and play in it! I want to go run in it and see what it feels like on my face!”

I told him that he could indeed do that but could he please wait until after he finished his cereal lest it get soggy?

He agreed and quickly ate his cereal. Then he asked me what it felt like inside of the fog cloud. I explained that sometimes as you move, you can sometimes feel tiny droplets of water on your face. He was so excited!

I just cannot explain the glee in his voice and his innocent joy over thinking about actually being inside a cloud and running through it.

That is what I want my children to have--that joy of wonder, to have those innocent desires like wanting to play inside of a cloud (fog). I want them to find joy in the simplest thing. I want them to feel free to talk about those things, with no fear of being ridiculed for such ‘silly notions’.

Immediately after the cereal was done I granted permission to don rain boots with his pajamas and run around the backyard feeling the cloud on his face. I decided not to delay his gratification and didn’t make him put on real clothes first.

But the poor thing ran on the wet wooden deck and fell, landing with his spine hitting the deck stairs. After being comforted by me and after deciding to walk on the wet deck, he returned outside and carefully walked on the wet deck then when he reached the grass he was still walking carefully and slow. I opened the door and urged him to run, that it was okay to run on the grass, it wasn’t slippery like the deck. And he ran and felt he what it was like to be inside of a cloud.

Ah, the simple gratification that a child can find!

I decided to withhold the full facts on cloud formation, different kinds of fog and all of that academic stuff for another day in the future.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Dr. Phil Show To Address Homeschooling Next Week

It is too early to confirm with the official website but Spunky Homeschool has blogged that on Friday, October 27th 2006, the Dr. Phil show will focus on homeschooling. She reports that two families in the audience say it was not a positive show, with Dr. Phil doubting ‘how homeschooled kids will turn out’.

Set your VCRs and DVRs now if you want to see it!

I assume by Monday we can verify on the site if that is the right date, as they usually announce over the weekend what is coming up in that one upcoming week.

I have always wondered what Dr. Phil would think about homeschooling.

I really agree with a lot that he has to say but based on the fact that we disagree on some issues I never can quite predict what he’ll think of a new topic. In the past I have felt that he pushes too hard for mothers of babies to be back into the workforce full time even when the mother stated she was emotionally torn apart over it and wanting to be at home with her newborn baby. In that case I thought he was too much on the bandwagon of rooting for the mother to be a SuperMom, working full time and also being a mother in her non-working hours and juggling everything in life and having that be a great American way to live.

Dr. Phil tends to be more non-attachment parenting than I would ever live in our lives. He has disappointed me with some of his views on breastfeeding and is not even in line with the length of breastfeeding as per most experts in the field. He is anti-co-sleeping as well.

I guess one could say that with regard to parenting preschool aged children or elementary aged children I like what he has to say, especially when what the family did to parent the child has resulted in a little monster and when a big change is necessary.

I think Dr. Phil is correct in his treatment of teenagers and parents having limits and earning privileges.

I am disappointed to hear that he may have produced an anti-homeschooling show.

I’ll be watching the Dr. Phil homeschooling episode with pen and paper in hand taking notes and will share my thoughts here on my blog. If my buttons are pushed enough I’ll also be blasting off an email to Dr. Phil to share my disappointment.

One thing that bothers me is that since millions of people watch the Dr. Phil show I worry that homeschooling is about to be slammed to millions of viewers, it would be a shame!

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Preschool Curriculum For Gifted Children Question Answered

Someone visited my blog yesterday asking seeking answers about a question about what preschool curriculum is for gifted preschool aged children.

I will quickly answer that if a preschool aged child is gifted, what that usually means is that they are precocious, meaning they seem to be learning things earlier than some experts say they are, you don't need a special curriculum with a label for gifted children nor does your child need something with a label of 'preschool' on it.

It is pretty simple, what you do is teach them at their level. If they want to learn to read you use the same materials that you would use to teach a regular child to read at age 5 or 6. If they are unable to learn to read, they are not ready.

I am not aware of any one program that is labeled as a product to teach gifted preschool aged children. I will give you lots of information and resources for you to custom design your own curriculum that you can match to your child’s interests and abilities which gives your child a custom developed homeschooling curriculum. I ask, what could be better than a custom designed curriculum? My answer is ‘nothing’.

Below is my long response about ideas on what and how you can homeschool your gifted preschool aged child.

Teaching Reading
I am starting with this topic as this is usually one of the first things parents want to know about and it actually is a good segue to a more broad introduction.

There are a lot of sources of information about the ways to tell if a child has ‘reading readiness’. This information is in books, on websites, and sometimes is in the reading curriculum materials that you purchase. I advise you to read these ‘reading readiness’ factors and to be aware of them. Note some lists are very short, look for the longer lists.

Please, please, please do not force your child to read at a younger than typical age if the child is unable to learn the concepts of reading as that means they are not ready (even if many or all of the ‘reading readiness’ signs are present).

Teaching Academic Material to Preschool Aged Children
Also in general I would like to plead that you not force early academics on a young child out of wanting your child to be gifted or YOU wanting them to be ahead of their peers. That is dangerous and is not good for the child. If you would like to read more information, read the mainstream secular book “Miseducation Preschoolers At Risk” by David Elkind.



Letting Children Be Children Is Important
If you need more information about letting children be children and protecting their innocence, read “Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence” by Michael Medved and Diane Medved PhD.



Grade Labels on Curriculum
If you are homeschooling your child and are teaching them math, use a math curriculum for Kindergarten aged children, and once that is finished, move up to the next level or grade.

Labeling The Child
Oh and please, I am begging you, do not tell your child they are advanced or gifted or precocious or superior to other children their age. Every child is unique and no child is what ‘the experts’ say is an ‘average child’. Every child may be more advanced in one area and behind in another or right in the middle on yet another thing. Please do not give your child a superiority complex and a horrible arrogant ego. I saw a Dr. Phil show on this topic once and it was brilliant. There was footage of a boy who was seven, I believe going around stating his superiority to his peers. He was a social misfit who had no friends as he had bragged to everyone at school about how much smarter he was than them. The parents were going through a terrible time with him and if you ask me he was socially developmentally arrested. To boot the parents were not happy with the school as they thought he was not getting a rigorous enough education there. The hilarious thing was that multiple tests administered by experts showed the boy was not gifted at all, he was just average. But the parents had it in their head that he was some kind of genius.

Back to Academics…

Reading Aloud To Your Children, Fiction, Science, History and the Unit Study Approach
There are many wonderful regular books for children which can and should be read aloud to children, both fiction and non-fiction.

By reading picture books on topics such as nature, science, world history, US History, and other topics, they will learn and absorb that information. These readings can be done in a very relaxed manner, literally just reading the books to your child. Do not make every reading into a ‘school lesson’ and do not grill them about the content. With a child of preschool age the best thing is to ask their interests and then read those topics. The other thing that works well is FIRST visiting a museum or a special place then following up with a little reading about that topic.

If your child really has an interest in that material you can take off and do an in-depth or longer time study of that topic. (My children went through a full six-month phase of reading, watching, and listening to “The Phantom of the Opera”, including analysis of the differences between different movie versions and what they heard on the full length audio recording of the Broadway show and memorizing numerous songs and dialogues from the play.)

The other approach is for you to choose to study a topic then you can study that topic (parent driven topics). I find often that if I use great books to introduce a topic my children take off with interest to learn about that topic and it turns more into a learner-driven process.

Literature Based Unit Studies
I can't recommend the "Before Five in a Row" and "Five in a Row" (FIAR) literature based unit studies highly enough. For detailed information about these, see the FIAR website, which also has free message boards for parents have discussions on.



These are manuals which take a fictional picture book and use it as a jumping off point for small unit studies. The author, Jane Lambert has broken out topics that apply to that book/story and the parent chooses which topics to discuss or do with their children. For example a book may discuss that place (Italy), a moral issue, a moment in history, the artwork used in the book, the words uses, and many more topics. Some of them also have arts, crafts and recipes to do that go along with the story. You choose which books to read to your child and you choose which things to do, it is very much up to you. Once you are familiar with this way of using a children’s picture book to do a small unit study you will feel at ease using other books that you own or find in a library to do the same thing (but you make up everything to go along with it). (There is one Before Five in a Row manual for children aged 2-4 which is very simple, and there are three volumes of “Five in a Row” for children aged 4-8, which are more in-depth. There is also a “Beyond Five in a Row” manual for children aged 8-11.)



Teaching Science
If you would like a similar unit study approach using children's picture books as the jumping off point I would recommend "Science Through Children's Literature" and the sequel to that book, “More Science Through Children’s Literature” by Carol Butzow.





Teaching History (Not “Social Studies”)
If you want to teach world history I can't recommend Susan Wise Bauer's four year world history program "Story of the World", starting with volume one, highly enough. This is a narrative (story format) telling of world history. The first volume was written with the intention of being read aloud to a first grader. The second volume is for second grade, and so on.

The story book, volume one:


Be sure to buy the "activity book" companion to go along with it and to use and do the activities and supplemental readings from that inexpensive resource. I know families who began using this with their four year old children. This is your choice, it is an option for you.

The activity book, volume one:


Read Aloud’s: Fiction
I would add in fun read aloud's of fiction and literature, chapter books and classics which are age-appropriate. My favorite book list book for preschool aged children is "Honey For A Child's Heart" by Gladys Hunt.



Poetry
You can read aloud poetry to your child. There are many volumes of poetry written just for children. I advise to use library books or to buy one large volume of children’s poetry and work your way through it. One complaint I have is when poetry is dumbed down or speaks only to supposed child-like topics. Perhaps you can read some regular poetry to your child which is appropriate for young children but is generally considered to be written for all ages or even for adults.

Making Art
Lastly be sure to keep doing lots of "it's the process not the product" type of arts and crafts projects. A great resource for theory as well as activity ideas and even lesson plans is "Young At Art" by Susan Striker.



Exploring The Real World
I would also beg you to do lots of fun things such as visit museums, play at children’s museums and to visit historical places. One of my complaints about five day per week preschool programs is that it binds stay at home mothers to a tight schedule which can prevent weekday visits to museums and other great places. I feel that visiting state parks, doing nature hikes, observing nature, going to museums et cetera is much more educational and enriching than a few hours of a preschool class. If your child is in a preschool program I plead with you to take some days off to go do those other fun things. Yes, those things are also open on weekends but they tend to be much busier and sometimes too jammed for young children to enjoy the displays or the experience. It is no fun for a child to visit an aquarium if they cannot get close enough to the tank to look at it, or if some other child is pushing them out of the way, or if you have to rush your child on to the next display so that some other child can have their turn. Visit those places on weekdays when they are much more deserted and take your time!

Have Fun With Your Child
The absolute most important thing is that you and your child have fun together. The preschool years are not a time for high pressure academics. Enjoy the unique phases of a preschooler’s life and make sure you are spending a lot of ‘quality time’ together.

Some Great Foundation Material About Teaching
I recommend to all parents and also all homeschoolers to read the little series of three booklets written by Ruth Beechick. The three pack bundle is titled “The Three R’s” and costs less than $10 on Amazon. Each booklet is 28 pages and is a quick, easy read. One booklet is on teaching reading, one on teaching language arts, and the other is about math. These books contain tons of information in a boiled-down format that explain how a child’s brain works, what type of teaching is best for children from birth through the end of third grade, what is common for their ages and stages of the learning processes. The booklets also tell how you can use the information to make up your own homemade curriculum for pennies but even if you end up choosing some other program (i.e. Math-U-See or Alpha Phonics, or Spelling Power, as I did) there is still a lot of background information that I have been unable to find in any other publication. Please read those booklets as it will be better for you and your child if you know this information.



Some Other Materials I Used Instead of Making Homemade Materials

Math U See(sold through distributors only, via Internet or at homeschooling conferences see website), start at the beginning and move forward, if you are 'ahead' it does not matter!

Alpha Phonics, easily adapted to the child's level, not a graded program


Spelling Power, they learn words they don't know, grade level/label is irrelevant


Information About Gifted Children In General
Unfortunately most books about gifted children which are on the market deal with schools and the issue of the child not fitting in at school (having social issues due to being different than the other children), or the school not providing enough of an intellectual challenge for the child and is written for the parent to act as an advocate to get the child certain programs at school. Other books are written to help parents deal with emotional scars that the child developed from negative interactions at school.

As you can see most of that stuff does not apply to homeschooled children. There are two main issues with homeschooling a gifted child, in my opinion. One is finding their strengths and weaknesses academically and teaching them at the right level and the right content regardless of their age, and ignoring the stated grade level and the label on the materials. The second issue is the issue of the emotional life of a gifted child, dealing with their sensitivities, their perfectionism and their competitiveness and things like that. I have found the regular parenting books on parenting children in general sometimes are not as helpful because gifted children can sometimes exhibit extreme emotions or they can be affected more deeply by some things than the ‘experts’ who write parent books seems to acknowledge or to address. So, one last resource is a book about homeschooling gifted children which I found helpful, “Creative Homeschooling” by Lisa Rivero.



Talking About Giftedness With Others
One last plea, please be careful about discussing the fact that you think your child is gifted. Please don’t brag to your relatives or friends. Also if you have other children don’t talk about this in front of any of the children.

You can harm family relations by bragging and boasting. You can put down other relatives by just bragging about your child’s giftedness. You can drive away your friends as well. You may turn off fellow homeschoolers with boasting. You can harm your gifted child by giving them a superiority complex or wind up teaching them to be arrogant. Lastly if you have other children you can set up a situation where your other children feel inadequate or they may feel that you are favoring the gifted child.

So please keep your mouth as closed as possible. Seek support and information as necessary but tread lightly, whether you are discussing these things with local homeschool support groups or even with Internet discussion groups. Discuss these gifted issues privately with your spouse.

Teach your child well but don’t label them. You may be surprised to learn that if a child feels they are different than other children (even in what an adult thinks is a good way) it can harm them emotionally and can give them negative self-esteem. Love your whole child not just their intellectual capacity and if you have more than one child, love all of your children unconditionally.

Custom Designed vs. Boxed Programs
I really feel that a high quality program can be planned and used with the resources that I have provided to you. I feel that taking each component and using what that expert has recommended is best. I do not know of one packaged preschool curriculum program which can meet or exceed what doing all of these things can accomplish. As I said before there is no such thing as a program on the market for ‘gifted preschoolers’ and I hope there never is, because what is important is teaching a child on their unique ability, and that will mean they may be ahead of the learning curve in one subject, behind in another, and just average on yet another topic.

In Conclusion…
I hope this has answered some of your questions.

By the way, if you did everything that I have mentioned, it would provide years and years of learning, teaching, and education, so if you think what I have proposed for a plan is light, you are mistaken!

Is A Classical Education What You Seek?
Lastly if you have concerns about the way that public schools teach and you are interested in a more vigorous or more heavy academic content then a great book for you to read would be "The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education At Home" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.



There are many websites and free online articles about homeschooling with the classical method if you are interested.

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