Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Back To Rat Race Land

Today we made it driving 500 miles south to get home.

I did survive seven full days without touching a computer or using the Internet. I did it!!!

My husband published some draft blog entries of mine in my absence so that is why if you have read my blog it didn't look like I was not on the net.

After living in a rural town for a week and enjoying the simple life I will now try to figure out how to not rejoin the rat race even though I am back living surrounded by rat races.

I wonder how long it will take to get through the 1336 emails in my inbox (that doesn't count spam in the spam folder).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A List of New England Homeschooling Conferences Spring and Summer 2007

Here is a list of homeschooling conferences that I compiled last week, based on my Internet research for New England for the spring and summer of 2007.

Not all of the information online was comprehensive, but this is what I was able to find.

I compiled this list to answer a friend’s request to know when the soonest homeschooling conference is going to be held. She specifically asked about shopping in a vendor hall.

I believe the first in this area is MassHope’s conference, held in Worcester MA on April 27-28.
My comments: Their vendor hall is gigantic and they have vendor seminars (where the company explains what their product is) as well as regular lectures. This is a Christian conference. I have attended this conference twice and feel it is worth going for the shopping alone! Since so many vendors sell “living books” and also games, toys, and activities and experiments, even unschoolers will find a lot of things to buy. I believe they have about 2500 attendees each year.

CHN (Connecticut Homeschool Network) is planning one, I don’t know the date, they used to do it in May or June, traditionally. They didn’t have one in 2006. They are looking for volunteers to put one on in 2007.
My comments: They don’t have a lot of curriculum to look at, though, it is a small conference, too. I would guess that there are not 500 people in attendance. This is an “all-inclusive” conference.

TEACH (The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers) in CT (Christian) is having theirs on June 7-8, 2007 in Bloomfield, CT.
My comments: I have never been to this conference. My friends tell me it is smaller than MassHope's conference.

ENOCH in New Jersey is June 1-2 (Christian) (I know that is not New England but it is close to Connecticut.)

There is one in Boxboro MA (all-inclusive)
New England Homeschool and Family Learning Conference
My comments: The last one was July 2006, I can’t find a date for 2007but I believe they are usually always held in July. Unschoolers I know enjoy this conference. I believe Pat Farenga has spoken there in the past.

My general complaint: there is never one place for all the homeschooling confernees to be listed. It seems to me that when I find a list they are either all Christian conferences on one site, then another list may be only the “all inclusive” groups. Why can’t we have just one list someplace but list what kind of conference it is in case someone wants that information?

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Few Thoughts on the Ranking of Blogs

Most blog ranking sites use the incoming links as an indicator of the success of a blog. I think this is wrong thinking.

If blogging was still just short snippets mentioning this article or that article then this would make sense. However more and more blogs are more like websites and have longer articles.

For example a blog such as Instapundit just mentions an article with one sentence about what the linked article/site/blog is talking about. That type of blogging is not about writing or sharing opinions.

My blog is more about writing and sharing my thoughts.

Therefore I reject the ranking numbers that are given to me based on the number of incoming links. Well I may just have some of those type of ranking services on my blog but I don't get excited about them or offended by them.

Another issue is the topics and the visitors. If I were to blog about popular topics like reality shows I'd get more visitors to my blog. I may not have regular readers and people may not actually read much of what I say. Also if I just mention something quickly it has the same weight as someone who puts one line of text down on a topic. Does that seem like apples to apples? It doesn't to me.

Blogging on a niche subject like homeschooling is not a way to have a blog with tons of hits. If my goal was lots of readers and a high number of hits I could be really wild with my opinions and blog about the hottest topics such as what so and so celebrity is doing in their life (no matter how stupid or shallow the topic may be).

Some think that the success of a blog is based on the number of comments that it gets. I find with certain types of homeschoolers, they don't like to share their opinions as they don't want to be criticized. On any given email chat list for homeschoolers only about 10% of the members/readers of the emails are regular contributors. Even smaller numbers actually post opinions. I have friends tell me they refuse to share opinions as they don't want to debate it, they are set in their ways and don't want any criticism from others about it (i.e. their choice to unschool, or the fact that their child doesn't know how to read at some age).

I also see on some blogs that the comments are completely stupid or not even interesting to read. Other comments are sometimes full of spam posts. Some of the comments are quite rude to boot.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Great Homeschooling Bumper Sticker

I saw a great bumper sticker on a car parked in a parking lot last week. I may get the exact wording wrong but this is what I remember:

With Homeschooling No Child Is Ever Left Behind

Fantastic!

If anyone knows who is selling these bumper stickers please let me know! I would love to put one on my car. (So far my husband has not agreed to put any bumper stickers on our vehicles.)

(It is a little slam on education in general, though, isn’t it?)

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Library Used Book Sale Report (May 2006)

From the unpublished archives, originally written in May 2006...

I apologize that this photo is sideways!

All these books for 50 cents each---what a bargain!


For those of you who like to hear about books and library sales here is a report for you. If you don’t know it already we homeschool our children and we use real books for most of the content. We call very good books “living books” and it is those books which I most want to read and own and use to homeschool our children (vs. curriculum or textbooks). I would prefer to pay 50 cents to $1 for a book and own it rather than searching the book out at a library to borrow (and pay late fines on if we are not finished with it or if we get so busy that I forget to return it or to renew it).

I can’t afford to buy all of these books new, so bookhunting at library sales is something I enjoy doing.

My main focus at library book sales is on books for my children and secondarily books for my husband and I (only because I have little time to read and so many unread books here that I don't want to tempt myself by extensive browsing for myself). I am a big reader and hope that my children will also love to read.

I had a very busy and stressful week. I had seen signs around town announcing my town’s library sale was going to be held Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t give it much thought due to more pressing issues going on in my life, and knowing I already own probably way too many books (over 4200). (Note, as of February 2007 my inventory spreadsheet reports over 6100 books and not all that we own are catalogued!)

However I was sitting at the computer at 6:55pm on this certain Friday night in May, and I was thinking about the library sale, and I realized that in the past they had always had a preview sale on Friday nights, but that the preview was not advertised on the signs I had seen.

I went online to check my library’s website for details but there was nothing on the site about the book sale. So then I went to www.booksalefinder.com and indeed that reported that there was a preview sale from 7pm to 9pm that night.

Then, dinner was ready (my husband made a big salad with grilled chicken on top). It took only a few minutes to eat. We discussed the sale over dinner, and it was decided that I’d go. I left the kids at home with my husband and went on my merry way.

I was not in a rush because I didn’t want the first fast rush of the book dealers which I find so annoying. My town’s library sale is small and the room is small and I hate being crammed in there with the dealers.

I arrived at 7:20pm to an almost full parking lot. Some dealers were loading in multiple boxes into their cars, and getting ready to leave (already!). When I walked in there were perhaps only twenty adults and three or four children. It was very calm and peaceful, to my amazement.

Every book was 50 cents. The main focus for adults books was on paperbacks and it was advertised as a “paperback book sale”. However the children’s section had hardbacks as well.

I headed right to the art section as I wanted to see if they had any fine art history books or books on collage. There were no art books there at all. However a dealer was in that spot culling his selections and was dumping business books in the art section. Groan.

So I went to the children’s section. I was surprised to see more children’s books than I had ever seen before, at this library sale. They had hundreds of toddler books and lots of regular picture books. I saw Five in a Row titles and classics and popular good books by great authors. I saw many of my favorites there which we already own so I left them there. They also had loads of the Dr. Seuss type books. There were also American Girl books there. There were tons of animal books, dinosaurs, lizards, etc. I left so much there as we already own enough of that stuff so I don't even look at them any more lest I be temped to buy them, ha ha.

All the books were donated from private people and many of the children’s books were in like new condition or are barely used.

They had lots and lots of beginning readers and I was impressed with the quality such as nonfiction science and nonfiction history leveled readers (level 1, Level 2, etc.). They had a ton of Boxcar Children books and Magic Tree House and lots of the other popular series books. There was a stack of Nancy Drew and also Hardy Boys. There were still many history and science books. There were maze books and activity puzzle books. I saw lots of classics as well (Mark Twain, etc.) and lots of teen fiction too (all the summer reading book list books are there). Of course there were hundreds of twaddle selections including Baby Sitters Club and Goosebumps.

The biography section (adult) did have books for children/teens also.

The children at the sale were looking for Juney B. Jones books and two boys were looking for Animorph books. Another boy came and wanted only Goosebumps books. A girl was looking for quite some time but was not finding anything she wanted to read.

I was saddened to hear a mother tell her son (about age 7) that he picked out too many books and that he’d have to put some back. You cannot tell me that the family could not afford to buy the small number of books that he wanted. I think every child should have every book they want unless it is twaddle or inappropriate content (especially when the price is just 50 cents).

I overheard a funny conversation between a mother and her son right before I left. He was about 9 or 10 years old and was picking out some real twaddle. He picked one Animorph book out and she asked him to find just one “good fiction” book which she defined as something not like Goosebumps or Animorphs. He was coming up empty handed. There was not much there but I suggested the Redwall books which I saw (but had since been purchased by someone). She had never heard of the Redwall series. I also suggested “Lord of the Rings” and handed that to him but he said “yuck”. It was too bad there really was not anything there that was good for a boy of that age left for me to guide them to. Most of the chapter books left at that point were teen-girl oriented. There were not even any historical fiction books that were any good left. This is a common dilemma in the book world, finding chapter books for boys of that age which are not pure garbage yet are not the older classics (which there were none of left either).

I made sure to check the other ‘adult’ sections as well such as biography (which had ‘juvenile’ biography), classics, literature, history, science, nature, and health.

They had probably 300 VHS videos all for 50 cents, loads of Thomas the Tank Engine and other preschool type videos. Tons of Disney VHS and other G rated movies. I didn’t see any videos that I wanted to buy.

There were a few boxes of adult audio books as well. I found a set of four dramaticized radio shows based on classic literature books.

One funny thing was I put a box of books down at the cashier’s desk and went back to get the other box. When I went to pay I saw a book on top of my box which I didn’t pick out to purchase. I said, “This isn’t my book.” Then I realized that maybe it would be a good book. It was fiction novel, one of the Oprah Book Club books that I had never heard of. I wondered if there was some reason that someone would have put this in my box and maybe there was something in it that I should read (was that God’s way of telling me I am meant to read it or something?). The cashier said it was a very good story so I bought it.

I found more books than I had anticipated. I chose 126 books for a cost of $63. I am a sucker for a bargain. It is just so tempting for me to buy a book because it is 50 cents so I end up buying a lot. To justify this I make the comparison that if I had purchased four new hardback picture books it would have cost me about $80. So to spend $63 on 126 books is not too bad. And after all, it is a fundraiser for the library. And if I don’t like them I can donate them back to the library and could get a tax write-off for the donation (if we made any income and were paying income taxes).

The books filled four small boxes. When I got home I brought them right into the house. I sat in the family library and sorted them by category onto the coffee table. My sons were thrilled to see some of the books I found and they immediately picked some to start reading. This is the first time that they have done this and it made my heart sing! This is what I have always wanted for my children.

That night both of my sons stayed up reading after we tucked them into bed. My older son ended up staying up until 1:30am reading. (I was fast asleep and didn’t know that was going on.) We know this because at 1:30am he woke up my husband to complain he was still awake and lonely and didn’t like being the last one in the house who was awake, so he wanted to come into our bed to sleep with us. (I was so tired I didn’t even hear him and I didn’t even know that indeed he was in our bed until I woke up in the morning.)

Today I am sorting the books. I will put them into my Excel spreadsheet and then will sort them and put some on shelves and will put others away, the ones which are to read when they are older. Once they are in the spreadsheet it is easy to copy the data to share with you on my blog.

Here is the list of books that I purchased at this sale. There may be a few missing because my children took some to read and ran off with them before I could catalogue them.

code: pb=papberback book; hb=hardback book


Activities

Cat's Cradle, Jacob's Ladder, Eiffel Tower, Cup & Saucer, Witch's Broom A book of string figures Anne Akers Johnson activities pb spiral
Metropolitan Museum of Art art songbook pb


Biography/Autobiography

The Autobiography of Mark Twain Charles Neider autobiography pb

Fiction Chapter Books/Juvenile Fiction

A Rat's Tale Tor Seidler chapter book fiction pb
Danger on Midnight River Gary Paulsen chapter book fiction pb
Harris and Me Gary Paulsen chapter book fiction pb
Junior Great Books Series 7 The Great Books Foundation chapter book fiction pb
Jurassic Park the Junior Novelization Gail Herman chapter book fiction pb
Magic Tree House #6: Afternoon on the Amazon Mary Pope Osborne chapter book fiction pb
Magic Tree House #7 Sunset of the Sabertooth Mary Pope Osborne chapter book fiction pb
Misty of Chincoteague Marguerite Henry chapter book fiction pb
Redwall with full color illustrations Brian Jacques chapter book fiction pb
Shiloh Phyllis Reynolds Naylor chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Journal Hero For Hire Han Solo chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #10 Showdown in Mos Eisley Ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #11 Bounty Hunters vs. Battle Droids ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #12 The Vactooine Disaster Ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #13 Ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #14 Ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Missions #6 The Search for Grubba the Hutt Ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb Star Wars Missions #7 Ithorian Invasion ryder Windham chapter book fiction pb
Star Wars Queen of the Empire Paul Davids chapter book fiction pb
Taggerung (Redwall series) Brian Jacques chapter book fiction pb
The Bellmaker (Redwall series) Brian Jacques chapter book fiction pb
The Dragons of Blueland Ruth Stiles Gannett chapter book fiction pb
Dinotopia River Quest John Vornholt chapter book ficton pb
Magic School Bus Chapter book #3 The Wild Whale Watch Eva Moore chapter book science pb

Classics/Fiction

Heidi Johanna Spyri classic chapter book pb
Shane Jack Schaefer classic chapter book pb
Ethan Frome Edith Wharton classic fiction pb
Radiobooks: David Copperfield Tape 4 Radiobooks classic fiction cassette
Radiobooks: Lost Horizon Radiobooks classic fiction cassette
Radiobooks: The Pit and the Pendulum & The Tell Tale Heart Radiobooks classic fiction cassette Radiobooks: Treasure Island Radiobooks classic fiction cassette
The Mysterious Adventures of Shirlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic fiction pb
The Power and the Glory Graham Greene classic fiction pb
To Have and to Have Not Ernest Hemingway classic fiction pb

Education//Education Reform

Teaching as a Subversive Activity
Other People's Children Cultural Conflict in the Classroom Lisa Delpit education teaching pb

Books for me


Fall on Your Knees Ann-Marie MacDonald fiction adult pb

Art Appreciation or Art History


Joseph Koudelka (famous photographer’s works)
Horse Paintings 30 full color postcards to keep or send (fine art paintings)
Mainstreams of Modern Art second edition John Canaday fine art pb

Foreign Language Books

Annotated Chinese Proverbs Foreign Language Press foreign language Chinese pb
The Cat in the Hat Dictionary in French Beginner Book Dr. Seuss foreign language French hb
Langenscheidt's German English Dictionary Langenscheidt foreign language german pb
See It and Say it in Italian Margarita Madrigal foreign language Italian pb
Japanese picture book foreign language Japanese board
Spanish Stories

Geography


Angel Flores foreign language Spanish pb
Amazing Facts about Australia Discover and Learn Volume 8 Steve Parish geography Australia pb

Health/Medical

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book Susan M. Love M.D. health medical pb
Let's be safe Benjamin Darling health safety hb

Historical Fiction Chapter Books

Dear America: The Great Railroad Race The Diary of Libby West Utah Territory, 1868 Kristiana Gregory historical fiction US History hb
Early Thunder Jean Fritz historical fiction US History pb

Humor

The Valley of the Far Side Gary Larson humor comic pb

Language Arts

Mensa Publications presents world puzzles for language geniuses 200 mind-numbing & bewitching brain teasers Mensa Publications Language Arts puzzles pb
Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg Language Arts writing composition pb
Cricket magazine Feb 1993 literature magazine pb

Memoir

Red Scarf Girl A Memoir of the cultural revolution Ju-Li Jiang memoir history pb
The Road from Coorain Jill Ker Conway memoir pb
Under the Tuscan Sun Frances Mayes


Music

Go In and Out the Window an illustrated songbook for young people
Jimmy Buffett Live by the Bay (concert VHS) Jimmy Buffett music VHS

Non-fiction, adult

All my patients are under the bed Dr. Louis J. Camuti nonfiction cat pb
At Home in the Woods Vena & Bradford Angier nonfiction nature pb
We Like it Wild nonfiction nature pb

Picture Books, Children
Arthur's Chicken Pox Marc Brown picture book fiction pb
Arthur's Thanksgiving Marc Brown picture book fiction pb
Arthur's Tooth Marc Brown picture book fiction pb
Better Not Get Wet, Jesse Bear Nancy White Carlstrom picture book fiction pb
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile Tomie dePaola picture book fiction pb
Charlie Needs a Cloak Tomie dePaola picture book fiction pb
Dick Whittington and His Cat Marcia Brown picture book fiction pb
Dinotopia Pop-up Book James Gurney picture book fiction pb
Goggles! Ezra Jack Keats picture book fiction pb
Hildilid's Night Cheli Duran Ryan picture book fiction pb
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? Nancy White Carlstrom picture book fiction pb
Maggie and the Pirate Ezra Jack Keats picture book fiction pb
Mr. Gumpy's Outing John Burningham picture book fiction pb
Old Black Fly Jim Ayelsworth picture book fiction pb
One Fine Day Nonny Hogrogian picture book fiction pb
The Berenstain Bears and too much Junk Food Stan & Jan Berenstain picture book fiction pb
The Boats on the River Marjorie Flack picture book fiction pb
The Missing Piece Shel Silverstein picture book fiction hb
The Remarkable Farkle McBride John Lithgow picture book fiction pb
The Sky Dog Brinton Turkle picture book fiction pb
Whistle for Willie Ezra Jack Keats picture book fiction pb

Non-fiction, children , other
Guiness World Records 2003

Science
Guiness World Records picture book nonfiction hb
The Great Kapok Tree: a tale of the amazon rain forest Lynne Cherry picture book rainforest pb

Psychology

Photoanalysis psychology photography pb

Puzzle Books
Usborne Superpuzzles advanced level map & maze puzzles Sarah Dixon consumable pb

Religion
Fun with Scripture lectionary word searches and bible crossword puzzles Jim & Audrey religion, puzzles pb

Science

Mammal: Eyewitness books Steve Parker science animal hb
Butterflies: A First Discovery Book Gallimard Jeunesse science butterflies hb
Welcome to the Sea of Sand Jane Yolen science desert pb
T-Rex The Ultimate Guide Discovery Channel science dinosaurs VHS
Elecrticity Eyewitness Science Book Steve Parker science electricity hb
Fawcett Columbine science horses postcards
Living Anatomy a photographic atlas of muscles in action and surface contours R.D. Lockhart science human body pb
The Kids' Book of Kaleidoscopes Carolyn Bennett science kaleidoscopes pb
Mickey's Magnet Franklyn M Branley science magnet pb
The Reason for a flower Ruth Heller science plants pb
Pond Life: A Golden Guide George K. Reid science pond pb
The Shaman's Apprentice: a tale of the amazon rain forest Lynne Cherry science rainforest pb
The Magic School Bus Hello Out There a sticker book about the solar system Scholastic science solar system pb
Disaster Science klutz science weather pb spiral
My Favorite Football Stories Red Grange sports pb
Star Wars Episode I Incredible Cross Sections DK Publishing Star Wars movies hb
Star Wars Episode I The Visual Dictionary DK Publishing Star Wars movies hb

US History or US Geography

Alaska a travel survival kit Lonely Planet travel Alaska pb
The Wild West Mike Stotter US History 1800s hb
The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells An Intimate Portrait of the Activist as a young woman Miriam Decosta-Willis US History civil rights pb
Paper Soldiers of the Civil War Volume 1: soldiers of 1861 Alan Archambault US History civil war pb
Yes & Know Civil War 1861-1865 Book 2 Clarie B. Lenkoff US History civil war pb
Mount Vernon Virginia an illustrated handbook Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union US History Mount Vernon pb
Portraits of Native Americans: Library of Congress a book of postcards Edward S. Curtis US History Native American postcards
New Orleans facts and legends Raymond J. Martinez

Woodworking

How to work with tools and wood Robert Campbells woodworking

World History

Hammond Historical Atlas of the World newly revised edition Hammond world history atlas pb
The World's Great Circus Merrimack Publishing world history circus pb
Lost Country Life How English country folk lived, worked, threshed, thatched, rolled fleece, milled corn, brewe mead… Dorothy Hartley world history England pb
Castles Rupert Matthews world history Medieval pb
Cut & Assemble a Medieval Castle a full-color model of Caernarvon Castle in Wales A.G. Smith world history Medieval pb
The Middle Ages A History of Britain Tim Wood world history Medieval pb
Scottish Battles Georgeana Phillips world history Scotland pb
The Titanic: The Extraordinary story of the "unsinkable" ship Geoff Tibballs world history Titanic pb
The Third Millennium a history of the world: AD 2000-3000

Other Notes
Some of the chapter books, specifically the Star Wars series books and the Jurassic Park book may be considered twaddle. However, my sons are huge Star Wars fans so I am pleased to have discovered these books for them.

My younger son (aged 5.5) is reading chapter books with ease. He no longer wants to read picture books. I am trying to figure out a way to encourage him to read more picture books, or perhaps that may only be done as read-aloud’s from me. My younger son’s reading ability and decoding is surpassing my 8.5 year old son’s decoding ability. Both children are actually on a roll with reading Calvin and Hobbes books. My older son has trouble decoding some of the very big words which I consider high school level words, some with Latin roots and irregular phonics patterns (i.e. psychology). However my younger son doesn’t always understand the meaning of a word but keeps reading on and doesn’t say he doesn’t understand a word (unless I ask because the word is so mature that I would be surprised if he knew the meaning).

The foreign language adult level books are very old and the paper is foxed and fragile. I plan to use these to make art projects with.

I was pleased to find Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book as I didn’t own it previously and it was the book which was most highly recommended to me by doctors during my mother’s Breast Cancer treatment. Since I am now at an increased risk for getting Breast Cancer I need to increase my own awareness and knowledge about breast health (beyond breastfeeding and lactation information).

I was happy to find two books by Bradford Angier as he is a favorite author of my 95.5 year old grandmother and I had not read his books. The two Angier books I bought were in the nature section and are about leaving city life to live in the wilderness in a self-sufficient way. I love reading books about that.

I was happy to find a full color illustrated version of Redwall (which we haven’t read yet) and also two of the sequels which we don’t yet own. I am trying to collect the full series.

The book count in my Excel spreadsheet now is at 4354.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Question Answered From a Fretting, Potential Homeschooler

From the unpublished archives, dated January 2006...I think it was from a question posted on a chat list for those who are thinking about homeschooling but are not yet committed to it. The forum is a place where they can ask questions and connect with experienced homeschoolers. The child was preschool aged and was not yet enrolled in elementary school.

Question: I feel overwhelmed by all the choices for homeschooling curriculum. I am afraid that I will pick the wrong materials. I am getting worreid that I am incapable of homeschooling my child.

Answer: At some point you just have to jump in and get started.

Sometimes a certain curriculum (example: phonics) may seem perfect but your child may not do well with it. Then you change.

Sometimes what you think is not good ends up being perfect for your child. Or what your friend said stinks is wonderful for your child. You just don't know until you try. You can ask people for advice on this program or that and you will hear a range from "liked it" to "didn't like it" then you may LOVE it or hate it, you just never know.

I have spent hours analyzing and pondering and driving myself crazy. I don't wish that on anyone.

So just make a plan and pick a method and jump in and get started. If you are all happy then it is a success and if something needs tweaking, address that one thing.


What I did was used the easy book "Discover your child's learning style" to get a gist for my child's learning style then tried to pick programs and methods that work with that child. I have also found out that sometimes I can't do thinks MY favorite way as that is not the way my children learn best or are the happiest. That book also suggests that the parent take the easy learning style test to see what the parents are so that you can see where you are similar or you differ.


I guess we are eclectic, blending recommendations in "The Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, and leaning way more toward the Charlotte Mason method. Here is one example: history done chronologically with "Story of the World" (SOTW) and the SOTW activity book. However we do longer narrations than Susan Wise Bauer recommends (we do more the Charlotte Mason method on narration) and we ignore the 'comprehension questions' that are in the SOTW curriculum and activity book. My kids don't like a lot of hands on projects so we skip the craft projects most of the time.



Another example: penmanship workbooks work best for us right now but in the past we did copywork a la Charlotte Mason. We go back and forth between plain old workbooks and then copywork.



We also don't do foreign language right now (grades Kindergarten and grade 3) even though both Charlotte Mason and The Well Trained Mind recommend it. Oh well! It is what is right and best for my family at this moment in time.

I share that to give an idea of how I have blended different ideas and methods from Charlotte Mason and The Well Trained Mind and what works for my kids. However what you do with your family is none of my business! You have the freedom to do what you want! Hooray for freedom!

Good luck! I hope you stop stressing soon. Just jump in and do something and use some program. Really, trust me, sometimes a 'wonderful' curriculum or book (as deemed by others) may not measure up to what you want. You just don't know until you try it out.

Breathe (as others also said). Pray. Ponder. Don't fret!

Hope this helps.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Question Answered About Six Year Old Homeschooler and Socialization Opportunities

From the unpublished draft files, dated 12/31/05....

Question: A parent of a 6 year old girl says the girl is asking for time with peers. The mother asks if she should enroll her child in school so the girl can be with other children. She also asked about Girl Scouts and if a homeschooler could do Girl Scouts.

My answer:
I would put her in Girl Scouts. They meet weekly. If she meets nice girls there then invite them for private playdates.

Also is she going to other classes with other homeschoolers or with schooled kids?

Does she go to library events/classes? Take art classes? Participate in a sport? Do chess club? 4H? Swimming lessons? Swim team?

A bunch of my homeschooling friends started a HS 4H club and it is going great! I am a Cub Scout Leader and my homeschooleded boys are both Cub Scouts.

I don’t know what it is like where you live but around here there is a crazy amount of classes for kids once they turn six, which results in much over-scheduling in the homeschooling community as well as with schooled kids. A lot of six year old’s I know have a better transcript of activities and clubs then I ever did!!

Sometimes within the homeschooling community I find I have to start something in order to have it exist, rather than wait for others to start it or complain that X doesn’t exist. I have started a “science of toys” class, an art/craft class for six year old’s and their younger siblings who tag along followed by a playdate.

Are their homeschooling support groups in your area? I was shocked recently when I met three women who had no clue that there were any homeschoolers outside of their church homeschool Group. They didn’t’ know that ‘the rest of us’ existed right under their noses (in "all inclusive" homeschooling circles). They were keeping just to their fellow church-homeschooling-friends and they said felt very isolated (which was very sad to me as they were miserable).

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Blogging and Connecticut Bloggers Article in Readings

While in the library I saw copies of Readings, a quarterly publication of the Connecticut Center For The Book. When I saw the cover story “the blog”, I had to take a copy. This issue is dated Fall 2006 but it was in two different libraries this week so either not many people are picking them up or it was recently published.

The front cover looks like one of those blog clouds but instead of just one word there are phrases and snippets from blogs.

Loved the phrase right under the word blog which is “spend my days homeschooling our two children”.

I just love that homeschooling made the cover.

The article talks about blogging in general and a bit about Connecticut bloggers. It is titled “blogs: the new front in the democratization of the press” by Kurt Opprecht.

The article was positive overall. Here is one quote that is true, so how can I complain?

“Democratizing is one way to look at it. The other side of that coin has the words “Lowest Common Denominator” inscribed upon it. Take the editor and the owner of the press out of the picture, and society’s filters are nearly completely gone. A stroll down any random path in the blogosphere yields as much trash as any other on the internet.”


Another quote:

“Your humble Readings writer can attest to the ultimately purifying influence of the blog. In my own blog postings I have found that the absence of the demand to be relevant to anything, and the absence of an editor to be mollified, has fostered some of my best writing in years.”


And lastly there is a speculation that with so many teenagers blogging, that this generation of teens may be the “first ever to communicate so much in writing”.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Book About Charlotte Mason and Habits

In an email newsletter issued by the Simply Charlotte Mason site, they announced their former e-book has now been released as a paperback book.

The focus of the book is on Charlotte Mason’s theories on teaching children habits. The title is “Laying Down the Rails”.

I don’t own this book and haven’t read it yet, but I'd like to own it and to read it.

If you are interested in the very important topic of habits and children and the Charlotte Mason method this book sounds good! You can read more about it, here.

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The Thinking Mother in Color



A few explanations. First I am pinked up as it was cold outside, right about 50 and quite windy and I'd been standing outside without a coat for 45 minutes by the time this was taken. The wind actually ruined a lot of the photos that were taken.

This was taken on a day when we had someone take some photos of our family. At the end the photographer asked to take some of me alone, so this is one of them.

After seeing this photo, I now realize that white shirts and the noontime sun make one's teeth look worse than they really are (more yellow, ugh). No, I don't bleach my teeth, but after seeing this, maybe I should?

Lastly, my makeup looks a little too dark. On a normal day, the "real me" is completely makeup free. And to confess, I only wear lipstick 2-3 times a YEAR.

I am posting this as part of the requirement to get my photo loaded into my profile.

I am still trying to fix up my blog's new template even though I should be packing right now!

Going on an Internet and Computer Fast—Heading North

Tomorrow I will begin a seven day Internet and computer fast. This of course means no email, not using the computer to write, no blogging, and no surfing the net for information or enlightenment.

This is not being done as a planned thing, it is not for some kind of intentional sabbatical or for an experiment or to give myself something to write about!

It is being forced upon me as tomorrow I leave for northern Maine to a little town that my husband says is like stepping back in time, to the 1950s at least, in a poverty stricken area in the middle of the Maine woods. I am going to be visiting my grandmother not just for a vacation-visit but to help out as she needs since her caregiver will be out of state for eight days.

My grandmother was a strong, hard-working busy woman all her life. Now she is 96 years old and frail, but still living alone. She has none of the common ailments that adults and elderly people usually get, but she is tired and needs assistance. She happens to be the oldest person alive in that town. She is the current holder of the Boston Post Cane (sometimes called the "Golden Cane"). However it is not on display in her home as she does not want it, saying, “The holder of the cane always dies so I don’t want it”. In any even the town did present it to her in a formal ceremony in 2006 and she promptly returned it to them for storage at the town hall.

The kids, the kittens and I are taking the trip while my husband remains at home.

Right now I need to go pack and get ready. I am not sure if I’ll have time today to blog another entry. If I have time, I might even stack up some blog entries in draft form for my husband to post while I am gone. It would be good to post some of my already-written drafts rather than let them gather virtual dust in my hard drive.

I am sure I am going to miss the Internet very much.

I made trips today to two libraries to get some books for my children to read (current obsession: Tintin). Older son asked for Harry Potter #5 on audiobook and I picked up Redwall on audiobook (hoping to listen to that instead of HP#5 again). We'll listen to the recorded books while on the 500 mile (each way) trip.

While in Maine, one consolation is that the public library in that little town is what I called the “time warp” library. Due to lack of funds they have not expanded their children’s titles in many years. What is on the children’s. shelf is a lot of books from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s when the town was wealthier than it is today. Many of those books are out of print and some are sought after by homeschoolers. I am sure I will be in the library borrowing books and browsing the stacks.

I wonder if I can survive a whole week without a computer, email and the Internet. We’ll see.

More Information on the Boston Post Cane

Wikipedia entry (not so informative)

Better information and a photo, here

Another article

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 60 Has Been Published

Homeschool Hacks has published the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 60 today.

There are over 35 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

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 weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Editing My Blog Template

Today with much trepidation and fear, I switched over to the new Blogger template. It is supposed to be easier to use and requires less HTML knowledge to operate. After testing the new functions with my other blog and my test blog, I was confident that I knew what I was doing.

I also decided to change my blog template/the overall look or "skin" of my blog. That is the first step in the process. After two years with the old design I feel the blog needed an updated look.

Then, I had to add in a bunch of sidebar links to basically re-install what used to appear on my old blog template. There is some problem going on where the blog template shows certain data installed and it should be viewable but I don't see it appearing on my blog. It is a bit like a magician's disappearing act. One of the things which the system says does appear but I don't see is my archive list. That is not good. Also not appearing is my Amazon box which earns me commissions on sales, so that is not good.

Perhaps this was not such a good idea after all?

I then had to spend some time on Blogger's help area looking to see if this is a known problem. As usual it is not easy to find the help I need. It looks like if I want an answer to my question I'll have to join a chat forum and spend a bunch of time searching old discussion posts to see if others have this problem or if Blogger knows that this problem exists.

Sigh.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thoughts About Children’s Book Lists

This is a general post about children’s book lists. This is information I’ve learned over the years. I am not an expert in this field; I am sharing what I know.

It seems to me that there are two main types of book lists.

1. The first is a list of books that someone thinks are worthwhile to read. There are two general subsets of that kind of list:

A. Lists that make good read aloud’s; those books are not matched to the child’s independent reading ability, the adult reads the book to the child and the child can comprehend and enjoy books many years above the “independent reading level”.

B. The other type is used by adults to match content to a child, such as finding books that reinforce certain morals or character traits, finding books about horses, finding books on a science or history topic for the child’s personal interest OR to teach the child that topic in a school or homeschool situation (usually).

These lists can have many different categories. For example there may be lists recommended for Christian children, Catholic children, books with a message to uplift the self-esteem of girls, books that show black people in a positive light, books that address certain lifestyle issues (divorced parents), books on non-fiction topics, and so on and so forth.

2. The other kind of list is a list of books with ratings by independent reading level of a child. Those lists are desired by teachers mainly, by homeschooling parents and by parents as well (if the parent is doing their own research rather than just using a book that the school recommends). Those lists are for both fiction and non-fiction. They can be used to help a child learn to read and they can also be used to find books that a child can read to themselves to teach themselves about a topic (rather than being read aloud to).

In the past, those lists have usually been compiled by teachers, librarians or homeschooling parents. However, I recently found out about one that is written by a book publisher and is used to match that publisher’s books to public school students---which is basically a marketing tool first and foremost if you ask me. The problem with this is that readers are not necessarily being matched to books that interest them or to excellent books which that company does not publish; the school children are being forced to pick from a certain list of books and some parents are being pressured to buy a certain number of books from that publisher for that child for that grade level/school year. (Perhaps I will blog about that topic in a separate post lest I get off on a tangent that will become a rant.)

Some Book Lists Are In Books
There are books that tell of the value of reading aloud to children.

There are books that tell parents of babies and very young children what they can do to help “raise readers” and children who love books and learning. Those inevitably end up also being book list books.

There are book lists books that tell what books fit certain character traits.

There are books that list books by topics, such as a book telling the titles American History books available for grades K-6.

There are many kinds of book list books!

Non-Book Format Book Lists
There are websites with some of this information.

People chat about these topics online in discussion groups, you can join one or more of those lists.

Some people, teachers, and librarians compile their own personal lists and publish them on the Internet on websites and blogs. Some sites are owned by the person, some by the school, and some by the library.

Homeschooling parents talk about these books with one another in person, at homeschool support group meetings, on email discussion groups and on Internet based bulletin board style sites.

Homeschooling catalogs serve as book lists of sorts.

Amazon.com is also is useful if you follow the information about “customers who bought this book also bought X book”.

Know the Bias of the List Maker
Regarding the book list books about the topics (versus independent reading level) what is important is to know the bias or the goal of the writer/list maker so you can understand where they are coming from and if your own goals and desires for finding books match.

For example if you are looking for science books you should know if the list maker considered or cared if the content of the books supports evolution or creationism, if that is important to you.

If you are of the population that doesn’t care what their children read so long as they are reading, then the books in the Jim Trealease books are for you (as he states that he feels that so long as a child is reading it doesn’t matter what they are reading in his book). I am not of this mindset and that is why certain twaddle books are not read in our family.

If you are looking for books which are not gloomy and depressing or that don’t glamorize sinful acts then a Christian or a Catholic or some other religious centered book list may be useful to you (even if you are not Christian or Catholic).

If you read the list that a public school teacher or a librarian compiles you may see influences based on the curriculum of a certain grade requires or the inclusion of books to teach a required holiday or a certain historical time period in that grade leveled student. Other examples are to include books about children from all walks of life/ethnicities and all life’s challenges (divorce, alcoholism, handicapped children, etc.). I was reading a reading list of a Los Angeles based teacher and saw books with positive messages about Mexico and Mexicans since the students in her class were Mexican. Sometimes a book is on the list as it covers a topic even when the book is inferior in quality, perhaps because there are few books on that topic in print at present.

Another example is that Jim Trealease keeps revising his books to keep ONLY in-print books in his book lists. This is a problem as the books go in and out of print quickly sometimes. Also it is not helpful if a person is using his book lists at the library where currently out of print titles may be in circulation. Those of us who buy used books also may not be made aware of a good title due to it not being included in his list.

Finding the Best Fit for Your Children
The bias of the list maker or the purpose that the list maker had in mind when making their list may not be the same as you desire. If you are picky about what types of books you want or what content the only thing I can recommend is that you are aware of what you want and what you don’t want and to evaluate each title to see if it is right for your family.

Me and Book Lists
The term that many of us use for the great books that are engaging and uplifting is “living books”. We call the garbage books or the inferior quality books “twaddle”.

In the past my main concern was to find the best quality books, the best and most interesting fiction stories. There are so many books on the market in print and there are a lot out of print. I don’t want to waste our time on twaddle; I want to spend our time reading the best of the best. So far most of my concern has been to find out about those books and to search them out to buy or borrow from a library.

I have also used non-fiction book lists and recommendations of friends as well as my personal selections after browsing a book, to find non-twaddle non-fiction books for my children to use for both homeschooling content as well as pleasure reading. In our homeschool I only use textbooks to teach math. I use living books to make up the curriculum for my children. Therefore I need to have some guidance about what books are out there as well as which are living books and to try to avoid the twaddle.

Mature Themes
I will quickly add that I do think that all parents should know their child and their tolerance for mature topics. Sensitive children as well as those who are young deserve to be protected by their parents and guided toward more appropriate books.

What I am trying to say is that if you are told that your second grader is reading at a sixth grade reading level don't just grab a book that is on some sixth-grade level reading list. Not all books on that list will be age-appropriate for a seven or eight year old! You can find age-appropriate books that are still on a higher reading level. You need not corrupt or scare your child just so you can give them a book with a higher grade level to challenge them (or so you can brag about it as some parents do). I, for one, am not impressed when I see a young child being robbed of their innocence. As well, when picking read-aloud's you can find stimulating and interesting stories that your child is not yet able to read themselves yet are not too mature for their age.

Readers who are reading above grade level need to be protected from themes which are too mature for their age. For example should not a book containing rape, incest, and ethnic cleansing be avoided by a precocious six year old? I think so.

Future Topics I’ll Blog About
In upcoming blog posts I will share my favorite book lists books and why I like them.

I will share some websites with free information about the levels of books that you can access.

I will share my current project of finding books that are matched to my children’s independent reading level for reading practice for homeschooling lessons.

I think I’ve written a very long post here, so I will just end here and leave those other topics for later.

Update: On 3/01/07 I blogged about a great website I found to help me find independent reading levels of children's books. I also talk about making a plan for my children for their homeschooling reading lesssons. You can read it here.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books Has Been Published Today

Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books 2/17/07 edition has been published.

Check it out.

Consider submitting an entry.

Enjoy!

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Another Great Writing Book: The ABCs of Writing for Children

A few days ago I began reading “The ABCs of Writing for Children: 114 Children’s Authors and Illustrators Talk About the Art, the Business, the Craft, & the Life of Writing Children’s Literature” compiled by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

I first saw this book in the Writer’s Digest book catalog and later ordered it from Amazon with the credit earned from the commission earned from my blog readers buying books through my blog (thank you!).



This book is what I’ve been looking for as it is the advice from experienced, published authors. Yes, this book is specific to children’s books (all genres) but much of the basic advice is true for all book writing. So far I’ve learned a few things that I should have known about the industry but didn’t yet know but more importantly I am getting inspired and enthusiastic that perhaps, yes, I can really do this.

The book is over 300 pages and has 46 chapters divided by subject. The entire book is comprised of quotes from authors and illustrators. Most of the quotes are quite short and to the point. There are also some in-depth interviews with certain authors.

I really like this book because it is not one author writing their opinion of the “one right way” which may or may not be accurate or inspiring to me.

I am really enjoying this book and can’t put it down. I like reading things like how long it took a great author to get published, how they persevered, how they fit in time to write or illustrate, where their ideas came from, and other such things. By reading what these authors and illustrators went through I am getting a better picture of what it takes to become a children’s book author and am getting closer to figuring out if it is do-able for me. The more I read the more I think, yes, I can do this if I put my heart, mind and soul into it.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I began writing my first book when I was ten years old. I used an out of date hardback diary/calendar which someone gave to my father. I named the characters and defined who they were and wrote 1.5 pages then quit as I was stuck without a story and developed the fear of the blank page. Writing in a hardback bound blank book is not a good idea, I now know, it leaves no room for ripping out pages and second drafts.

In 1990 or 1991, I read “Wishcraft: How To Get What You Really Want” and one exercise was to write out what a perfect day was. It included me being married and waking up to eat breakfast and a little of the newspaper before going off to write in a home office. While I loved that book I will admit to not following the advice or plan to get what I wanted. I take that back. My ideal plan was to be a self-employed writer and I did not follow that path. But my reality plan was to move forward with my career in a money-earning 9-5 day job and I did create a plan for that and I did fulfill that wish. That included going back to college at night and on weekends to earn a bachelor's degree and also changing jobs to a corporate job and then climbing that corporate ladder. Then I left to be a stay at home mother who homeschools her children, and here I am today.



Later when I began dating my now-husband I told him I wanted to write a book and could do it if only I had a computer (writing on long hand annoyed me since I was used to typing quickly at work). He surprised me by giving me one (but I didn’t go on to write anything as I was busy with a corporate job and getting a bachelor’s degree at night).

When in that corporate job, once when in an interview for a promotion in 1996, the interviewer asked me if I woke up tomorrow in my dream job, what would it be. The question threw me for a loop as if I told the truth it would not be anything like the corporate job I held nor did it describe the position I was applying for. I worred that the true answer may not be good for getting the job. I told the truth and said I wanted to be a self-employed non-fiction book writer as I love to write and I love to research and to learn about a subject in depth plus I liked to work with autonomy and to be my own boss. I didn’t get the promotion.

I have had a couple of magazine articles published and some book reviews published, and for two years I was the editor of a column for a magazine. I have written hundreds of book reviews on Amazon. And anyway here I am approaching my 40th birthday still not a published book author. I also have two years of steady blogging under my belt and also am writing something daily and yet still hesistate to call myself a writer.

One good thing going for me is that a bunch of the advice for children’s writer wanna-be’s is stuff I am already doing or have done. Those would be: read a lot of children’s books, as a reader are able to identify what works and what doesn’t work, which is great writing or illustrating vs. not, when sometimes the art is great but the writing is poor. To know what is out there and if there is a gap or a need for a book that I may be interested in writing about. Also to read to children to see their reactions to books, to know what children are like and what they like and don’t like, to be a teacher and to use books to teach children is helpful. Lastly the advice to write every single day to put your “butt in chair” (BIC) and to just write and flex the writing muscle. Well I am doing all of that, so perhaps I have a bunch of the prep work done already!

Lastly if you are not interested in writing a children’s book but love to know about the craft and the industry, and want to hear some quotes from some authors and illustrators whose books you’ve read, you might find this an interesting read.



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Friday, February 16, 2007

Some Background Information On The German Teenager Story

I found this article which gives more background information than I had heard anywhere. It also shows photos of the teenager and her family. Don’t they look normal and happy?

This is the story that so many homeschoolers are talking about.

Note that while the girl was in school and failing math and Latin the family was tutoring her at home to help her learn. It was that which made the authorities angry. Apparently they want all the teaching to come from the school even when the teaching is not effective to achieve the stated goal (the child learning the content). Since when is helping a child catch up by doing work at home illegal? Also note they describe the issues in the class such as cancelled classes and also noisy classrooms.

(Actually my friend was told by the Principal of the elementary school in our town that they don't want the parents helping the child with homework or explaining concepts. The Principal said to mark the paper to say "doesn't understand this" so that the teacher can track the child's status and to address it in the classroom. Can you imagine that?)

Hat Tip for the link: This Article

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A Couple of New Household Rules About Toys

In my ongoing attempt to make life easier and more pleasant for everyone in the house I am trying to have more structure in our lives. Additionally I am laying out some new rules and giving my children more chores.

So far the schedule has not worked out. I am temporarily giving up on having a written schedule for our day. I just give up!

One thing that is working out is instilling a couple of new rules per week.

The new rules this week are about the living room and children's toys.

1. There is a toy box and it is allowed to have toys in it and the lid must close.

2. The area behind the couch is the LEGO area. I don’t care what it looks like back there, they can be all over the floor for all I care, but the LEGOs must stay back there. This is an area perhaps 6x20 so they have room to move, believe me.

3. There are to be no other toys in the room at all. The rest of the toys must be in the playroom or in their bedroom (sorry). (However in reality they are also in the hallway, on bathroom counters, in the kitchen, dining room and library. For now I am letting that ride.)

In case you are wondering about the living room, there are a few board games on the coffee table and on the card table and puzzles are in a cabinet. Books are on the end tables, coffee table and the sofa table. And there is a television set behind the closed doors of a cabinet and a stereo system. We don't watch much TV in there as that is not where the TiVo unit is and we hate watching live television. Lastly there is a hockey table game and a foosball game. The main use of the room is for playing LEGOs, playing board games, playing the sports games and reading while sitting on the couches, and sitting by the fire when we have one going in the fireplace.

A few weeks ago I banned toys from my bedroom. I need one room that is not full of toys and LEGOs. Please. They can play with them in there but the toys must leave the room when they leave the room.

Earlier this week the living room looked like a bomb went off. I made the kids (aged 6.5 and 9.5) declutter it. They removed toys whose homes are in other rooms and put them where they belong. I suggested we consider giving some toys away. My older son, on his own, fetched two laundry baskets and put signs on them “keep” and “give away”. They picked out toys to give away and asked if we can donate them to a children’s hospital. I commended him on his thoughtfulness but explained that they don’t take used toys.

After we/they were done my 9.5 year old son remarked that it went quite quickly and was easy to do. I briefly said that if everything has a place where it belongs it is then easy to put the thing in the spot where it belongs. Both kids agreed.

These are baby steps toward the direction of teaching my children organization, to not be packrats (as I am and my relatives are). I also want my children to be more responsible for themselves and to see all the work that goes into maintaining a house. I also want them to learn that there is no need to own a huge amount of stuff if we/they can’t manage it. If there are too many toys to put away, there are too many toys owned, period. Lastly I want them to realize that toys all over the floor can actually cause injuries and they can be a safety hazard (they do realize this already).

I am happy with this little progress this week.

The next step is getting them to tidy up on a daily basis, of the things they play with that day. This then won’t force us to have long marathon decluttering days.

And now I have about a dozen toys to give away.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 59 Has Been Published

Nerd Family published the Carnival of Homeschooling Week 59 on February 13, 2007.

There are about 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

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 weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts On Dr. Phil’s “Man Camp”

Yesterday while folding laundry I began watching the TiVo-recorded episodes of Dr. Phil’s “Dr. Phil House: Man Camp” which had been stacking up in my “Now Playing” list.

This is another short series of shows in which people are moved inside of Dr. Phil’s “Big Brother”-like house and watched and eavesdropped upon while receiving therapy.

Sometimes when I watch these shows I begin to feel badly as I get that thought of “I can’t believe people live this way”. Then I feel guilty for thinking that and begin to wonder how many people (including me) sometimes watch these shows (of bad marriages, etc.) in order to feel better about their/our own problems and to make ourselves realize that what we are going through is nothing compared to THOSE people. Then I don’t like the fact that I feel that way and tell myself perhaps I should be just deleting the show and not watching it.

Lately I have not been watching many Dr. Phil shows. I’ve been reading more and hey, American Idol is on now! How much TV can I watch in one day?

“Man Camp” features three married couples whose marriages are all on the rocks. It seems to me they are all in abusive relationships, verbal abuse and some also admit to physically abusing each other (not just the man to the woman). I can’t believe that people live in such abusive conditions. On the outside based on their looks and clothing and what their houses looked like, I’d never think that they had a bad marriage and were such a mess.

In the first episode one woman made a comment that all husbands call their wives bitches. Dr. Phil said in all his years of marriage he has never called his wife a bitch. The guest on the show was shocked at that notion. Later on she admitted that she was completely taken aback that a marriage could exist without the man calling the woman a bitch. Well I will chime in also, I have never, ever been called a bitch by my husband.

I almost deleted these shows before watching them. But one man threw such a tantrum over refusing to clean up a mess in the house that he didn’t make that it really got interesting as he tried to quit the whole show. I couldn’t believe the temper on that husband. He was so angry that I thought a couple of times that if the camera wasn’t right on him he would have belted his wife, he was that angry and physically agitated.

Another thing that bothered me to the point where I had tears in my eyes was with one family about their children. The couple had been together only two months when the woman realized she was pregnant, and they married. They now have two children. The man keeps saying he wishes his children had been aborted instead of being born. That made me sick. But later I did cry when it came out that the four year old boy is beginning to stutter. Dr. Phil was very blunt and said that the boy is afraid to talk in the home due to fear of making anyone angry. Dr. Phil said in an attempt to avoid upsetting anyone he has to think of what to say, filter it through to see if he thinks it will anger anyone, then try to say it, filter it, think of what to say, repeat, repeat, and the constant fear and filtering causes him to stutter. It broke my heart to think of what that boy must be feeling.

So I am 1.5 episodes into this little mini-series. I wonder how it will turn out in the end.

Anyway despite my imperfect life after watching these couples I am feeling that I have an absolute fantastic marriage and that I am treated like a queen compared to these women. I am going to try to focus on the positive rather than the imperfections of our lives.

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Is This A Bad Mom Confession? About Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I am making a confession. I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with my children. I have never taught my children about it as part of our homeschooling.

Is that bad? Does that make me a “bad mom”?

Today one friend of mine said it does make me a bad mom. Oh well!

I have always considered Valentine’s Day for adults and to be about romantic love. It is a day when a couple can feel romantic, or shall I say, feel pressured by our culture to do something with money in order to celebrate and to be romantic? I am speaking of the usual stuff like buy a Hallmark card (the good ones are often $5 now which seems like a lot of money), buy red roses, buy chocolates, or go out for a fancy expensive restaurant dinner.

One of my favorite memories was in the early 1990s, getting a Vermont Teddy Bear delivered to me while at work, from my then-boyfriend (now-husband). It was a real surprise. Back then I collected teddy bears. That was when the company was just starting out with their mail order bears for gifts. The next year he did it again, this time buying me the pregnant-female bear, as I was pregnant at the time, it was SO sweet!

Roses…I do not like the fact, though, that the price of roses skyrockets on Valentine’s Day. And I don’t like expensive roses that die within days. That is a pathetic waste of money. I’d prefer cheaper roses a week later that last for a week or two weeks!

Cards...we switched to writing our own Valentine's cards to each other using a blank card. I much prefer original words to a Hallmark staffer's sentiments. It is cheaper, too.

And having worked in the restaurant business I can tell you that you will get worse service and maybe inferior food, on Valentine’s Day due to crowds and overworked staff. So I have never pushed or desired to go out to eat right on Valentine’s Day.

When my kids arrived on the scene Valentine’s Day was changed for us as a married couple. That first Valentine’s Day after my oldest son was born was still a time when I was nursing him, waking up ever two hours at night for nursing, and other typical baby caring stuff that drains ones energy. On that day I felt pressured by society to “do something” for Valentine’s Day. And so we did do something, at home, alone, after our son was fast asleep. It was something that humans have been doing since the beginning of time and something that Hallmark has nothing to do with!

When my oldest was being homeschooled for Kindergarten I realized, whoops, I didn’t do a unit study on Valentine’s Day. I had failed as well to ever mention the ‘holiday’ to him. Oops.

For first grade also I didn’t teach him about the holiday. Whoops again! I was more focused on daily living and still thinking only about Valentine’s Day as a thing for my husband and I to enjoy together.

For a couple of years I received my favorite chocolates for a Valentine’s Day gift. Since my husband worked in New York City he’d hoof it over to La Maison du Chocolat to buy me a big box of assorted chocolates and truffles, and then he’d buy some roses from a street vendor. It was fantastic! What more could I ask for? Great chocolate, yippee! (If you are a chocoholic and have never tried these chocolates, you simply must! They do mail order now, I believe, check the site.)

Now that we are on a budget things have changed a little. I was very happy and not offended when my husband came home from Costco last night with a big box of Costco brand (Kirkland) gourmet chocolates and a dozen red roses. The Kirkand Belgian chocolates are actually delicious, better than Godiva if you ask me (I am not a big Godiva fan, sorry.) And today I found out that my husband is making my favorite dinner for me: Fetuccine Carbonara.

No, we don’t leave the kids with a babysitter and go out for the evening. The original reason for this is/was our attachment parenting philosophy and the fact that our older child was “non-separating” for years. Then the issue was that we were happy to be home with our kids, all of us together. Now the issue is one of the budget. I am at a point now where I would be happy going out alone with my husband for a romantic dinner, and Valentine’s Day could be a good excuse for that. Perhaps I’ll take a gift certificate we received as a gift (two years ago) and use it soon with my husband as a delayed Valentine’s Day celebration.

But anyway back to the kids.

This year my younger son (aged 6.5) proclaimed that Valentine’s Day is for love for parents, and for girls. He said he feels no need to celebrate it as he doesn’t like girls and doesn’t want to get married, ever, well except, to me, he says. He also made a comment that the only ones that can celebrate are already-married couples which I found funny, apparently he doesn’t yet know about dating (I certainly have never discussed it with him).

My older son just informed me that Valentine’s Day is “dumb and boring”. I tried explaining the Valentine’s cards that children exchange in school and he made a weird face and that it makes no sense to him to give a friend a Valentine as he is not in love with them. I wish I could share a picture of what his face looked like, it was hilarious.

So anyway, no today we are NOT doing a unit study on the history of St. Valentine’s Day. We are not making heart shaped cookies or sending cards to anyone, or to each other. Valentine’s Day is something for my husband and me to celebrate. Perhaps tonight we’ll pop open a bottle of champagne (left over from Christmas Eve dinner) and eat some chocolate and enjoy each other’s company….now that is a good Valentine’s Day if you ask me.

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Harsh and Narrow Opinion of Bloggers and Their Blogs

A couple of my thoughts on this article:

Article Title: Calgary author says bloggers a lonely bunch unlikely to change the world
by Bill Graveland, Canadian Press
Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Published in: The Gazette (Montreal, Canada)

1. In my case I can attest I am not a lonely blogger. Believe me.

2. I don’t think that the journalist doesn’t “get” how all readers use blogs. Not everyone uses blogs in the same way (the readers or the bloggers themselves).

I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing my blog reader’s patters but what I am finding is that I have a lot of blog visitors who are looking for a specific piece of information which they find on my blog. I am guessing they will never visit my blog again. That is fine with me as I want to talk about various things on my mind and I am fully aware that people use the Internet to find answers (doesn’t everyone know that)?

Interestingly I get a good number of hits on topics not central to my blog’s theme such as looking for a recipe that I blogged about making, looking for a product review or a summary of a TV show that I watched. A good example is people want summaries of Dr. Phil episodes that they didn’t get to watch or heard about only after it has aired. If someone is helped or informed or entertained by just one of my blog posts that is fine with me.

3. There are many blogs which tell a lot of personal information on a person such as what their mood is today, what they ate for their last meal and other such details. Perhaps that is what the journalist was referring to when he spoke of bloggers being lonely people?

4. Writers write and talkers talk. I have many friends who love to talk and chit-chat. Some of my friends like to spend time talking on the phone, especially those without children.

Only a writer who is writing from an internal drive and desire knows that it is actually painful for a writer to not write. It is like being thirsty and having that desire to take a drink of water, but of course with writing it is an outpouring of thoughts, ideas, and/or emotions rather than an intake process. Another example could be when you are in a quiet place like listening to a lecture and you have a tickle in your throat but you try to surpress clearing your throat or coughing as you want to keep quiet--it is SO hard to do.

Writing is like that for me. I can't stop myself from doing it. While listening to lectures I take notes. I write my thoughts. I doodle. I will write on any available scrap of paper if a computer is not handy. It is not a compulsion or some weird drive, it is just the way a writer is, it is a hard-wired thing.

My non-writer friends tell me they cannot relate or understand this feeling and some say they hate to write and find it a terribly painful process, even writing a paragraph to respond to an email asking them a question which they know the answer to is difficult. Example: Why do they like the math curriculum they use in homeschooling their childrn? Is that not an easy question to answer in a writen format? They tell me: no.

Some writers find it fun to play with words, to use fancy words or beautiful language; it is fun for them to work with words in that way. I imagine that is how poets are.

Others (like me) have a desire to communicate information (even if the risk is that no one cares or wants to read it).

Prior to blogging I spent at least an hour per day and sometimes two hours a day on Internet chat discussion groups, reading emailed messages on topics of my interest and responding back sometimes. I enjoy “talking” in a written format over the computer. Perhaps if I had access to people knowledgeable in the niche areas that I am interested in I’d do more phone chatting with them. But then again, probably not.

As I have explained to some non-Internet using friends, the beauty of email is that we can communicate what we want when it is convenient for us. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to have to tell someone something or to respond to their question but I can’t call them as it is late or early in the day or I phone them and they are not home. Also I like email because I can start it and then if I am interrupted I can stop. I can go back to it when I have time. I can re-read it and edit it. I don’t always do as well when speaking on the phone; I may not be able to make my point well and sometimes can’t get a word in edgewise if the other person rambles when talking.

Anyway I am doing much less email group discussion since I began blogging. I also have been getting more information and support from other bloggers than I did from email discussion groups. As for friendships, with eight years of Internet email discussion groups (Yahoo Groups! and similar forums) I have made only one actual friend. We email privately now and have spoken on the phone a couple of times.

My point is that I can’t stop writing. But now instead of just writing on email format I am blogging.

5. I don’t think that blogs necessarily compete with print media. I know that websites in general combined with blogs may contribute to a reduction of the readership of newspapers, though. Back when newspapers were the only source of printed news, there were probably more subscribers.

My friend K. told me about this story dated 2/7/07 in which the owner of The New York Times envisions an Internet-only based publication of their newspaper.

Our family doesn’t pay for a town or nearby city newspaper as we can read the news on the Internet for free. Back when we did subscribe we either didn’t have enough time to read the stories, or read them late after we already heard them somewhere else (including from the Internet). We also were often left feeling that the articles were biased or too short to give the story justice. We much prefer to get our news from the Internet as we can quickly find several articles to read to compare (and find bias). We also can use the Internet afterward to search out more information on a related topic from non-newspaper sources.

Presently I am enjoying our subscription to The Wall Street Journal. I like that I can read it in places away from my computer desk. I like reading off of paper not just 100% from a computer monitor. I find the quality of the writing in the WSJ top notch, and they cover topics before other media outlets are talking about them in some cases.

There will probably always be a market for printed newspapers so in a way I don’t think that just bloggers are a huge threat to the newspaper industry. If you combine websites, other newspapers websites and bloggers all together perhaps then there is an increased threat to lose regular readers of print newspapers to free online reading of similar content.

6. I personally feel that perhaps some journalists are threatened by SOME bloggers and perhaps this is what fueled this news story which seems to me to serve to insult bloggers.

Bloggers have more freedom than journalists who work for newspapers and magazines. We bloggers are free agents, answering only to ourselves regarding the content we publish. We can choose to be as controversial and opinionated as we desire (without an editor monitoring our writing). We have more freedom to write what we want rather than espousing the overall opinion or bias of the publication. We can blog quickly, blogging about a timely news piece and getting the information on the Internet way before a printed newspaper can. I bet most journalists envy the freedom that a blogger has.

7. I was speaking to my friend K. on the phone today about this article about blogging and this is the gist of what she said:

In American history, a certain core of people (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine for example) were basically acting in the same role as bloggers. They wrote their own opinions in small paper pamphlets and sold them, they were like bloggers. They self-published their opinions on topics of their own interest, and they did find a readership. Despite the high level of writing, even farmers and common people were reading them. The general population was a literate and informed population. Both the writers and the readers were informed and interested in reading strong opinions such as criticizing and questioning the politicians, for example.

It is 2007 now. Blogging is just a different medium.

Blogging is free, so more people are doing it—self-publishing their own opinions and information. But today the readers can read it free of charge. As well the writer is removed from the financial issue of the cost of publication, since blogging is free, and the reader is removed from financial burden as the reading of the blog is free.

Blogging is like a renaissance of independent thinking and independent thought in America. While the Internet medium is new the general notion is the same. For quite some time the press was controlled by a few people and the information was watered down. The mainstream print media is opposed to blogging as they feel competitive with it. They don’t like that it is the most freedom of speech. The media cannot control what the bloggers are saying and that bothers them.

For example a person can now read a book review of Bill O’Reilly’s book on a blog while readers are not able to read that author’s book in the New York Times book review section, as they refuse to review O’Reilly’s book. It probably angers someone at the New York Times to know that others are out there publishing book reviews of books they don’t wish to be associated with. It may bother them that the bloggers book reviews may help the book’s sales, either!

Blogging is a great example of the freedom of speech in action.

Conclusion
There are many different kinds of blogs for readers to read. Some may make their owners wealthy while most will not earn a single penny. I feel that people read blogs for different reasons, for information or for entertainment. Some blogs have dedicated regular readers while others may not. Some blogs have high traffic while others do not.

I have no clue how many regular blog readers I have. So if you are a regular reader of my blog how about leaving a comment to let me know you exist?

Despite what this journalist says, I am not a lonely blogger. My life is very full.

I plan to keep blogging as long as it is fun for me and serves some purpose in my life. For now it is a way for me to write, to practice writing, and to share information and my ideas. I hope you enjoy or are helped by something you read on my blog, if not, I won’t be offended or upset. I am who I am, my blog is what it is, and you can take it or leave it--it is your prerogative.

Hat tip: Fuse Number 8

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Here is the PBS Segment About Homeschooling

Today someone searched on Google and was directed to my blog looking for information on a PBS homeschooling segment. I didn’t know there was one. But my Google search found this.

There is a story dated January 10, 2007. This page on the PBS site has not only the full typed transcript with some photos but also the ability to watch the video segment in full (free).

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German Homeschool Girl Disappears

It seems everyone is talking about this family and this teenaged German girl who is homeschooled (but me, since I've not been blogging much).

However I must chime in now with this news story that the girl has been secretly transported to a secret location by the German government.

This story's headline reads:

Homeschool student disappears from psych ward
Authorities don't let parents, lawyer know her new location

Are you kidding me?

This is insane.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Connecticut Homeschool Co-Op Article in The New York Times

Yesterday The New York Times published this article about homeschool co-op’s in Connecticut.

I laughed out loud, literally when the superintendent said he wants to make sure parents are not running daycares in their homes---who ever heard of someone paying a parent to raise their own children at home (be an ‘at home’ mom)?

Also there is yet again another error about filing paperwork for homeschoolers. The law in Connecticut does not require that homeschoolers file paperwork with the town or the superintendent or the school board. It is a suggested procedure outlined in the C-14 Guidelines; it is not a part of the LAW.

The statistic for the number of homeschoolers in Connecticut is lower than reality. I don’t know anyone who files the Notice of Intent paperwork so they are all homeschooling in real life, and the state doesn’t know about them.

Otherwise it is a good article with a positive tone.

Information about the Connecticut homeschooling law can be found here.

Update 2/13/07: Judy Aron blogged about this here. She includes the full text of the article as well as more information about misquotes and mistakes about what the CT homeschooling law is. I tell you with the misquotes in the media and the time I myself have been misquoted I wonder about all the pieces I read--how accurate are they?

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