Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 83 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 83 was published today at Mom Is Teaching.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

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

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.


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“Animal School” Now Being Sold In Mural Format

Can you imagine this mural on the wall of a school hallway? It is seventeen feet long. This is based on the Internet-video by the same name.

Would a school really want this on their walls? I am not so sure.

If you have not yet viewed the Animal School video please do go watch it now, if you have a few minutes and some facial tissues handy.

After you have seen the video you can see a large size scan of the mural on this webpage. (Just scroll to the right to keep viewing each panel.)

See information about purchasing the mural here.

Note: I receive no commission from sales of this mural. I just thought maybe someone may be interested in knowing about this.

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Animal School Video Revised And Expanded

Republishing this blog entry which originally appeared in December 2006.

The Animal School video has been revised and expanded. Please take a moment to watch this free online video at the Raising Small Souls website.

It is a story about children and learning and their experiences in a school setting. It uses animals as characters in the story to represent certain types of learners and/or learning challenges. It is very respectful of children and the use of animals in the story is not negative at all (if you were wondering).

I am not ashamed to say that tears ran down my face as I watched this.

I have memories from when I was a child of what other kids went through at school and how they suffered. I know children today are living through these same experiences.

This was yet another moment when I said to myself, “I am so glad my children are not in school”. Homeschooling one’s own children allows those children to be spared some or all of these experiences.

This video applies to the field of education, public schooling, learning disabilities, other issues like autism, to learning, learning styles, alternative education, and in an indirect way, supports homeschooling if only to have a child avoid these problems.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

What Is A Living Book?

I was asked to explain in detail what a living book is. So here is what I’ve come up with for an answer to that question.

A living book is a “real book”. So first to explain what a living book is, I can say it is NOT a textbook. A living book is a real book, it is a regular book.

A living book can be for adults or children. Mostly what I am concerned with when I blog and when I refer to living books are children’s books and I am speaking about homeschooling my children using living books. However every child (even a schooled child) would benefit from reading a living book to themselves or being read aloud to by a parent or someone else, with a living book.

A living book is usually written by just one author. The author writes of the topic as it is their passion. The writer is not part of a committee (like textbook writers). Imagine the difference between someone hiring a writer and giving them an assignment to write a book on X topic versus a writer being passionate about a topic and then writing a book about that topic. Or a writer could decide to write on a topic but they did so much research that they became emotionally engaged in the process and by the time the book was finished they were passionate about that topic.

I am sure at times you’ve read a book on a subject and while the writing was good and the data was addressed there just was no passion there. Or have you read a book and found your mind wandering—those are not living books.

Sometimes writer chooses to write of the topic because they like the subject matter first and foremost, rather than looking to write about something. Sometimes the author is not even a writer by trade, they may be a specialist in that field then they write a book on it to summarize what they know or to help ignite a spark of curiosity or seeking to make a reader passionate about the topic. One example would be Jacques Cousteau. Imagine the difference if a person’s life passion and work is all about one topic then they wrote a book about it, and wrote it well, that makes a fantastic living book.

Good storytellers who write works of fiction can write living books. Yes, living books can be fictional content; too, they are not just non-fiction topics.

A living book is interesting. A living book draws the reader in and compels us to sit and read it. When reading a living book we are happy to be reading and we are not bored. We are engaged and our mind does not drift. The book captivates us and as we read we make connections, emotional or factual and/or we are entertained. Depending on the topic and type of book we may feel emotionally connected to the characters or the topic. As we read we begin to care about the character or the subject. If the book contains non-fiction facts or other references such as geographical or cultural information, we are so engaged in the book that we instantly absorb that information, and we retain it after we finish the book.

The experience of reading a living book is very different from reading a book that obviously was written to fill our heads with facts or to try to force the reader to learn or memorize facts A, B, and C. It is very different still from writing that you have to force your eyes to move from one word to another and to force yourself to complete that paragraph or that page. With living books we don’t want to stop reading, we just flow and read and sometimes we even lose track of time, or are so absorbed in the book that we feel we are inside the story and we forget about the real world right around us. Also children often beg parents to keep reading a book, to not stop just because the chapter ended or because it is now beyond the normal bedtime. Children who read independently may push off other plans in favor of staying glued to that book to read on and on for longer than originally intended.

When finished reading a living book, we are often sad to see the book end. We may want to re-read the book. We may want to keep the book rather than resell it or give it away. If it is a library book, we may love it so much we want to buy our own copy. And some of us may think, “I should save this book for my grandchildren to read”.

A living book feels like a friend.

We want others to read the living book, too, and we tell our friends about the book. Sometimes we fell compelled to discuss the book, and wish we knew someone who read it so that we could discuss it (which to me is the point of what book clubs are but sometimes the book clubs fail to use books that fall short and we are strained to finish the book and discussing it feels forced).

Sometimes we feel sad that some people may never read that book and may never have that wonderful experience, or they may not ever know about that topic, or feel a passion for that topic. We may feel that others are really missing out on something great by not ever reading that living book which we’ve just read.

Also, the book usually has made us curious to learn more about that topic. We are interested in the topic enough to want to read more on the topic, or to travel to that place to see it ourselves, or to do that thing that was done in the book.

If the work was fiction, we hope a sequel was written, and if so, we worry if the sequel will let us down, and wonder if, although we wanted a sequel, if the story would have been better off let alone to be in just the one volume.

A living book leaves us with the feeling that a door has been opened. A living book usually makes us feel changed in some way, by having read that book and knowing that emotion or being exposed to that information, or by forming a new opinion we feel changed in a good way, we are lifted up and more enlightened.

And a living book definitely is high quality writing.

More about what a living books is NOT:

A living book does not have a patronizing tone. The writing is not “dumbed down”. With children’s books the writing should engage the child not talk down to them. The writing is not so pre-digested and regurgitated that it is insulting to the child. Sometimes when I read a book it becomes clear that the author felt the reader could handle just this little amount of information and so they spit that out and then they move on to the next topic.

A living book is emotionally engaging and is not damaging to the reader. Sometimes I have read books with powerful content that should have moved me but I didn’t feel moved. When this happens, a bit like television news snippets, we are actually emotionally dulled in the process, as we are exposed to some bad or negative thing but we are led to not engage emotionally and therefore, to accept that as a normal state of affairs or to just not think anything negative about what is a negative issue or topic. An example could be if a juvenile fiction book which includes divorce as if it has no negative emotional implications for the book’s characters, we may think divorce is normal and fine and not damaging to anyone. The same thing happens with children’s fiction for many topics, some of which are drug use, alcohol use, disrespect toward adults, stealing, bullying, promiscuity, and many other topics that SHOULD evoke a negative emotion in the reader. Perhaps sometimes the author has a personal agenda to evoke that effect in the reader that I don’t know. The best thing we can do is to figure out what the author’s bias is or what their intention is, and still read the book and have that as a talking point or we can just avoid reading the book at all and chalk the book up as “twaddle”.

The Term "Twaddle"
“Twaddle” is a nice term for what other may refer to as common slang terms for fecal matter, or maybe just as, “bad writing” or a “stupid book” or a “waste of our time”.

Then again, what books qualify as twaddle is, is subjective. What one person likes is another person’s twaddle. It all depends on the worldview, or values or feelings that a person has. A parent may, for example, not want their children reading books with teenage drug use portrayed in a positive light and so they may call that book “twaddle”, however many parents have no problem with that book series as it is on the bestseller list or is very popular with preteens and teenagers or they may say “I am just happy that they are reading SOMETHING.”
Charlotte Mason used the term twaddle and since it is a nice way of saying it is not worthy and is a nicer term than cr—some homeschoolers who are use living books and who are familiar with Miss Mason’s theories choose to use her nice term, “twaddle”.

My Four Categories of Twaddle
I feel that twaddle can also fall into three categories.

1. There is harmless twaddle which the adult may think is a waste of time to read but the child likes it. I classify most TV or movie tie-in books in this category. There seems to be a lot of picture books that are mediocre writing and also mediocre in artwork. Also, sometimes the artwork in a children’s picture book is wonderful but the story is not so great and vice-versa. To me the text is most important (a great story with sub-par illustrations is okay) but sometimes I will admit that some of the artwork is so fantastic that I’ll read and keep the book for the artwork alone.

2. Another type of twaddle is just a plain old waste of our time and energy to read, we get nothing out of it or it just doesn’t even appeal to the reader, it doesn’t enlighten us and it isn’t harmful, it is just “fluff”.

3. The last type of fiction twaddle is harmful to read. As I said before we may disagree on what is “twaddle” but most parents can agree that children should have a certain element of age-appropriate innocence so avoiding themes that are too-mature for the child’s developmental age is a good idea. Unfortunately some books on the market for certain aged readers, in my opinion, are not appropriate to be marketed to children of that age. The other type of twaddle which I referenced earlier is that which exposes the children to very negative subjects and does not handle them well enough to evoke the type of response the parent would desire the child to get from the book. For example the preteen or teenager may be inspired to try a drug or to engage in premarital sex after reading a book that portrays these issues in a positive light. If the negative content does not lead the reader to a negative emotion or to come to the conclusion that the reader should avoid doing what the books’ characters are doing then to me that book is actually harmful to a reader and should be avoided (and is “twaddle”). Or maybe in that case twaddle is too-light of a term for the book, perhaps we should just label it as “damaging” or something like that, I don’t know.

4. An example of non-fiction twaddle could be the newest books on children’s non-fiction topics which are snippets of information. I refer to the books which are dense with high-quality color photographs but give only one sentence or two on the topic (example: the DK/Eyewitness books and the copy-cats). If you try to read that type of book cover to cover it is like reading a series of facts. I find that the topic jumps from one thing to another often with large gaps, being an incomplete coverage of the topic. There is usually no emotional connection to the material. While some children and adults love the visuals and appreciate the fine photography, the facts don’t necessarily engage all readers and some readers may find that it is boring to read through the book cover to cover. (A living book often appeals to all readers of all learning styles.) The style of that type of factual/visually dense book is usually incomplete in the presentation of information.

With that said I do realize that some people really love to read those types of books. I have found that children who love non-fiction content or seem to like trivia or factual tidbits do enjoy reading those books cover to cover, sometimes multiple times, and they often will remember those facts. However not every person, perhaps due to their learning style, enjoys reading those books and not every reader will retain all those facts. Our family owns many of the DK/Eyewitness books and one of my children loves to read and re-read them while the other doesn’t like them at all. I have tried reading aloud from the books and that is when I found that the data jumps around and often is full of gaps. For example some of the history topic books have content applicable to the visuals that are available to us rather than covering topics that flow better or are more complete.

Older Books vs. Newer Books and Illustration Rich vs. Low Number of Illustrations
Some of the best living books are older and out of print. Due to the technology that was available (was not available) back when some of the books were published, the older books often have great text but inferior or no illustrations.

The newer books on the market seem to be much more dumbed-down or may be of a lower writing quality. The newer books often have less information, as if the children of today are too stupid to handle more information, or as if they lack the curiosity about the subject for the author to bother to go into more detail.

The actual reading level or difficulty of the reading for the child seems to have declined over the years. Therefore a book about bees written in the 1950s or 1960s for a child of age ten may be a much higher level of writing and contain a lot more information than a book published today about bees for a child of that same age. This is another way that books can be “dumbed down” and some of us label these as “twaddle”. We seek then, to find the best books on a topic, even if we end up reading an old, battered copy of an out of print living book rather than what is being sold at the big name bookstore today.

Some would argue that children should see the best visuals about a non-fiction topic. I agree. However I will not sacrifice good information or the engaging writing to completely rely on currently in-print books. Some of the most popular living books are old but are currently still in publication in reprint editions. I try to use a living book on a topic for the text, to read it. If the illustrations are inferior I will often use another more modern book with high quality illustrations as well. Sometimes the writing is so poor in the new books that we will just browse through the books’ illustrations and will ignore the text. I get those twaddle books from the public library or I find them for under $1 at library fundraiser book sales, and after we use those, we often get rid of them.

Additionally we also sometimes watch documentaries on television or borrowed from the public library. There is no comparison to seeing coral reefs in full color on a video recording; a book just can’t do that justice. But we can both read a book and then see the video footage.

Higher Level of Material in Living Books and Reading Aloud To Children
With preschool and elementary grade children there is a wide variance in children’s ability to read independently. I found that both of my children were interested in pretty big topics starting at age one and two! I read aloud a lot of books, some of which were stated by the publisher to be for ages 9-12. By the time my oldest was five I was reading aloud some books which are intended for readers with a reading ability of a teenager or an adult.

The issue is that children’s minds and their curiosity and intelligence level is above what their independent reading level is. It would be a shame to “keep a child stupid” by only reading aloud to them from books which were written to be read independently by a child of that age. However, many parents make that mistake.

For example I owned some books about habitats which were intended for first graders to read independently. Each page had one sentence on it. If I was only having my first grader exposed to that sparse content they would be bored and also not very enlightened, they’d be “kept stupid”. At the same point in time if I read a book aloud with more difficult language and longer text which was a living book the child would be engaged and interested in hearing that book read to them, and if they retain the information and are newly curious about learning more, then that is fantastic.

Unfortunately, some American children are not exposed to the more information rich books, they only get to read the ones they can read themselves or they may read what the schools force them to read from the schools mandatory reading list.

In the near future I hope to share more about living books and children’s books and the importance of reading and books in children’s lives.

Homeschooling and Living Books
Some homeschoolers choose to use living books instead of textbooks. Some homeschoolers may use a textbook as a spine for a topic but will supplement and spend the majority of their time reading and learning from living books. Most topics other than math operations and learning to read can be taught strictly from living books.

There are many books on the market for adults which are living books. Many if not all of those can be used as homeschooling materials for high school aged students. In other words you may not find living books published specifically for teenagers but in reality the adult books are often fine and well for homeschooled high schoolers to read.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nauset Light, Cape Cod (Photo of the Day)

I took these photos in July 2007, at dusk at Nauset Light Beach, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is located in Eastham, Massachusetts.

One side note is that the lighthouse is not in its original location. Due to erosion, to save the lighthouse, it was moved a bit inland from its original location.

These are a bit blurry as I was using existing light without a tripod.

Grrr, My Book Reviews Used On eBay

I just stumbled upon something that bothers me. An eBay seller is copying my book reviews from Amazon and using them inside of their eBay auctions for selling their used books.

This is highly annoying to me.

Yes, this is a copyright violation. But to whom? As an unpaid Amazon customer reviewer, you may find it interesting that when any customer reviewer submits a review that content then is owned by Amazon and Amazon hold the copyright.

So the one who truly has the copyright violation is Amazon not me. But still this bugs me.

I just had to share that.

Well I guess it can be considered flattering that this eBay seller thought my book review was good enough to help sell her book...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Home From Trip To Maine

I just arrived home from a six-day trip to Maine to visit my grandmother.

Home again, home again, jiggidy-jig.

We had a relaxing time up in the very quiet northern Maine town. I hope to share some photos soon...

I need to catch up on emails and on current events. Perhaps then I can blog about current happenings.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rae Pica’s Blog (About Children, Exercise and Play)

Rae Pica has a new blog. She is a book author and speaker. Her passions are educating people on the importance of movement in childrnen’s lives. She is against team sports before age eight.

I had never heard of Rae Pica before but what I’ve read about what she says, so far, is fantastic. Her philosophies are “right up my alley”.

She has a website also, called Moving and Learning, which has been online for much longer than her new blog.

You can read more about Rae Pica here.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finished Reading Harry Potter #7


I stayed up late to finish "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" last night. I carved out a large part of yesterday to read it during the day. After a zillion interruptions due to normal life with children I was l onging forthe "good old days" when I could just sit uniterrupted and read in peace. The book was at a fast pace to a point where going to bed with the story unfinished was futile.

So at 11:58 p.m. I read the very last page of the book. I didn't want the story to end so I read all the end notes (about the font design etc.), before lifting my eyes.

I was right about three predictions that I had. I had no ideas about the overall plot though so I can't say I predicted the general storyline. My older son was partially right about one very odd prediction he made which I thought was from left field when I first heard it.

The story got so much better and more complicated in this book which made it more exciting for me to read. I doubt if younger children like my seven year-old will be able to understand the complicated plot line (without an adults explanation). I loved how the elements from past books which seemed back then to be "isolated incidents" were interwoven to link them even more closely together to "make sense" in a much "bigger picture" sense.

I left the book wanting to go back and re-read every single book all in a row. The only other time I've experienced that is with the Chronicles of Narnia series.

In light of my recent viewing of the movie version of book #5 which I blogged about already, I did keep thinking, as I was reading, of how this would translate to a movie version. First, to do it justice they had better make it a long movie--we true fans won't mind a three hour epic, believe me, if that is what it takes to do right by the story. My non-spoiler thoughts are that this movie, if done closely to the book, would look like a true horror movie with all the bloodshed and suspense and fear, and with being so surrounded by death and murderous killings.

My older son has slowed down on his reading of the book and is at about page 425 (I now realize that is at a slow point in the story so I don't blame him). My younger son finally took it upon himself to start reading the book to himself yesterday but has only read one chapter so far.

I have copies of the audio book on hold at two public libraries. I can't wait to hear the wonderful narration of Jim Dale tell this story as soon as the copies become available.

The story was also so complex that another reading done right now would be a good idea. I'm not quite ready to let the story go so perhaps listening to the audio book as a family or another independent reading is in order.

If you are a Harry Potter fan I hope you enjoyed or are presently enjoying the book!

A Trip To The Mark Twain House

In May 2006 my children and I toured the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. Another homeschooling mother had arranged for a "school group trip". They give homeschooler-groups the same generous discount that they give school group trips.

I had not realized that Mark Twain's children were homeschooled (tutored at home) and part of the tour included a trip to their 'school room'. I liked that my children saw that homeschooling is not a modern "thing". In reality children learning at home has been the norm for more years than institutional schooling has in Connecticut. Connecticut has been a state for over 350 years and public schooling was first put into use in this country in Massachusetts in the year 1850. And yet after public schooling existed in Connecticut some families still chose to perform their "duty" (a term I have taken directly from the Connecticut law)and home educated their children for a number of years.

The house was lovely and was fully restored. They did not allow visitors to take photographs inside the house, so I have none to share with you. If visitors want to take home images they'd have to buy the images in postcard or in one of the books that the gift shop sells.

(The house is situated backwards on the lot. These two views from the street shows what is the back of the house. The niceer looking front of the house is viewable from what we normally would call a "back yard". Twain wanted the living quarters to look out over the rolling hills of the countryside which were in the back of the house--and he put the kitchen and working quarters at the house's back--on the street side. We were told this caused quite a stir as this idea of Twains' was so unconventional and strange.)

On the trip we got an overall impression of what it was like to live as a wealthy family, of course. The self-guided portion of the museum included an exploration of Twain's investments and of things that he invested in--failed inventions that sucked up his money and that in the lend left him in financial ruin. That display told of how Twain lost everything (financially) and how he ended up in debt and had to sell off the contents of the house (many were re-purchased for the museum), and that he did finally have to sell the house and stop living in an affluent manner. I mention this because the visit to his home did not leave us with only the impression of what living in wealth was like, it was a more broad view of his entire experience while we see the lovliness of such an extravagant and unique house from his wealthy period.

The view of the front of the house.

There was also a "kitchen tour" which we did not take. I'd like to do that on another trip. (It is a separate fee.)

I will say that my own children had the most FUN rolling down the steep hill outside. How typical is that for boys aged, at the time, 5 and 8.

This is the view from the "side yard" at the bottom of the steep hill.

If you are a fan of Mark Twain or live nearby the the Mark Twain House, this trip is a great way to make history come alive for both you and your children.

Again it will have the most meaning if you have read some of Twain's books (and like them), know a little about his life before you go and if you already know something of history at that time.

I am ashamed to admit that it took me 39 years of living less than an hour away from this historical site to finally visit it. How ridiculuous is that?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Be Wary of FreeCreditReport.com

A number of months ago I saw a TV commercial for FreeCreditReport.com who said you get a free credit report from them by going online and providing them with your information. I began filling out the information online to get a free credit report.

Then before I got the "free credit report" there was a ton of fine print and things they wanted me to agree to, including a fee schedule. I became suspicious. I read the fine print that I'd be charged money for some things, some services I didn't even want that they had rolled into the agreement that I'd get if they gave me the free credit report. In other words in order to get the "free" report I'd have to agree to pay for other services. If I refused to agree to their terms for the services which they charged for I'd not be able to get the "free" report.

I immediately stopped filling out the forms. But some of my data had been already provided to them by me.

Then my email inbox began being flooded with various emails which have my name plus my maiden name which I had to provide to them. I usually never tell my maiden name to anyone online. I am also now getting solicitations with my street address and my maiden name, inside of the emails. These usually are related to offers for mortgages, home equity loans and for services relating to my credit file and credit scores. This is a newer email address for me and I don't use it for many things. All my old online accounts with my home residence address are linked to a different email account.

I highly suspect that FreeCreditReport.com has sold my personal data to solicitors. If that is true there is nothing I can do about it.

It is very annoying to say the least.

Oh and I believe I blogged about it in the past, but I'll say again that we are entitled to a free credit report once per year in my state (Connecticut). However the agency that gives it is not this "FreeCreditReport.com" who keeps running television advertisements.

Also I had read personal testimonies online that people who did complete the application through "FreeCreditReport.com" ended up being billed for services and were being forced to pay money for services which they had not realized they had signed up for (they didn't read the fine print).

I'll file this post under "identity theft" as that is where I've blogged in the past about my identity theft and issues relating to credit reports in general.

Note that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating FreeCreditReport.com.

If you think about it logically why would a company run televison ads to tell us to use their service to get a free credit report which we are entitled to by law, what is in it for them? This company FreeCreditReport.com is making money off of other services they provide to consumers. Just know that if your state allows you to have one free credit report per year (or more) you do not have to go through a company who is going to charge you for other services that you may not necessarily want.

Here are some online articles about FreeCreditReport.com

Article on ConsumerAffairs.com with lots of testimony from consumers

FreeCreditReport.com Has Received My Lawsuit

MSNBC Red Tape Chronicles Article

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 82 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 82, titled "State Flower Edition” was published today at Tami’s Blog.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

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

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.


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What The Under 40 Crowd Wants In Entertainment

In this June 23, 2007 column by Terry Teachout What Young Audiences Want published in The Wall Street Journal he provides research about what the under-40 crowd wants for entertainment content and access.

I found this interesting as I just turned 40 this year and I wanted to see what was said about my demographic.

I cracked up when I read this part.

"Use TiVos and other digital video recorders to view TV programs at a time of their own choosing."

I laughed when I read that because for over five years now we’ve been living with our TiVo and it has completely changed the way we view television, the duration we watch as well as the content that we watch. TiVo gives us more freedom to do what we want when we want to do it, and whenever it is that we find free time we then sit and watch the programs that we have decided are worthy of our time. Is this not an effective use of our time? Well that is what you get after being raised in a work culture of multi-tasking and being efficient with our time. We were raised to think we need to do the most things as possible in the shortest amount of time. We are to Do It All and to still find time somehow for a little R&R. We were told to “Work Hard and Play Hard”.

The idea of the TiVo way of watching TV is a perfect fit for those my age as well as everyone down to babyhood, if you ask me. Yes, I said babyhood. With TiVo a parent can choose the best program for their children to watch, one that is in line with their values. Parents can quickly teach a young child to fast forward through any commercials. Television viewing has been revolutionized by TiVo.

While other DVR systems exist such as those through cable systems, those I've seen are inferior because they are not as easy to use, take longer to program, and some which my relatives use, record lots of shows even if the family hates the program and doesn't want it recorded. TiVo has advantages and benefits that cable-system DVRs lack.

Another interesting thing is part of the piece:

"Trust Web site user reviews far more than print-media reviews by "major local columnists." According to Goldstar, "More than 30% of respondents said negative user reviews on a Web site would 'strongly discourage' them from seeing a show. This is about 15 times more respondents than would be discouraged by a bad columnist's review."

Wow, that is pretty powerful and interesting!

In Steve Weber’s book “Plug Your Book” he goes into detail about how consumers use the Amazon.com site to read customer reviews and how useful and popular that is for consumers, even those who don’t end up buying the products from Amazon. Conversely, the customer reviews along with Amazon’s other systems which are based on collection of other consumer data such as knowing what other products that other customers purchased, often lead customers to find new products that they end up being interested in.

Teachout's essay is an interesting piece.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sales Figures For First Day of Sales of Seventh Harry Potter Book

Bloomberg is reporting that 8.3 million "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" sold in the first day after its release. This breaks all former records for first day book sales in history!

The former record holder was the sixth Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" with 6.9 million books sold in the first 24 hours.

In the same article, Bloomberg reportsBorders reports selling 1.2 million copies of the latest book. I bet this is due in part to the fact that they ran big parties with activities and games for children. Our original plan was to go to that party at a nearby Borders and to buy our books there. We changed our plans at the last minute when a staff member said they worried about crowds and speculated that if too many children showed up that the games and such would not be managable or fun. Parking was also said to be a problem as they planned on blocking off the parking lot as a 'party space'.

Another Bloomberg article discusses Scholastic's handling of the Harry Potter business (not making enough money off of the success of Harry Potter) and it talks about a recommendation that Scholastic sell itself. It is an interesting article to read and to think about Harry Potter as a business not just thinking about the books' story, the book series or the movies as 'just a story'.

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Are Kids Smarter Than Adults?

Why Homeschool has a post Top of the classthat made me think a minute (and inspired me to take a quiz) about whether kids are smarter than adults.

They linked to the DK (book publisher) site which has a quiz for parents to take I got 8 out of 10. I choked on the questions about who was Henry VII”s wife and how many bones are in the human body (I over-estimated, whoops).

Here is what I left as a comment on their blog which sums up my thoughts.

I think that children's minds can grasp trivia and other facts. It is known that as we age “we lose what we don't use". Actually in America the schooled kids end up cramming trivia and facts and so that is why they know that type of information. The schooled kids usually lack "connections", I know you know what I'm talking about.

I think this gets back to the fact that American schools teach stuff that most of us don't use in our real adult lives. That is why we forget it.

The only reason I knew some of those answers was that I homeschool my own kids, including the questions about world history.

The answer with Simon Cowell was from current American pop culture (television) which is something I'm not so proud of knowing the answer to.

Lastly we adults have a lot more wisdom and life experience, people skills and "social skills", things that are very important in life that the children are just developing. The debate over who is smarter is then, a bit of a silly question.

Plus we could make a different kind of test about smarts, like about managing finances, investing our money, pension funds, mortgages, and how to maintain a house and all kinds of stuff like that and the kids would fail.

With that said the TV game show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" does show some adults really are lacking in even the most basic "school-y trivia". That show is a bit scary to watch. (And I bet nervousness about being on television and pressure also adds to the people’s ability to not think clearly and to goof up on the answers.)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

An Explanation About Buying From Amazon Through My Blog

I get a lot of questions about buying things through my blog from Amazon from people so I decided to blog about how it actually works.

Amazon has made it very simple for the buyer but people don’t seem to believe that it is as easy as they have made it, and some have told me they have not used the links as they didn’t trust that they were “doing it right”.

I will share it in a blog post in writing here on my blog so it will be here for future reference for anyone who wants this information.

If you click through my blog using EITHER the sidebar rectangle shaped Amazon box OR if you link through from a specific product that I put a link to inside of a log post or in my sidebar, you will be brought to the Amazon site. Once you go to Amazon anything and everything that you place in your ‘shopping cart’ at that point forward, and pay for it with in 24 hours will give me a small percentage commission.

If you go through my blog, put an item in your cart BUT pay for it after 24 hours has elapsed I’d earn NOTHING.

Yes, anything and everything you buy from Amazon will pay me a small commission so long as you link through from my blog just that ONE TIME and then make your purchase within 24 hours.

It is true that you do NOT have to keep going backwards to my blog to re-link through for each and every item you want to buy that day. That would be a waste of your time and energy and I am glad Amazon realized that and is not making customers do that.

Also if at a later date you want to buy something from Amazon, rather than going directly to the site, if you want me to get a small commission you can visit my blog first and link through from that sidebar Amazon box and I’ll earn that commission.

It is not necessary for me to mention the thing you are buying on my blog for me to earn a commission from it.

Or if I mentioned a book in an old blog post and you remember that, you don’t have to scroll through my old posts to find that exact link to click through. You can just use the rectangle shaped box in my sidebar, put in the title, then link through and buy it.

If I mention a book and you link through and you buy a used copy from an Amazon Marketplace seller I still get a commission from it.

After the purchase is shipped, Amazon is given a list of the items purchased and the price paid only. I do not know what person bought one thing as that is confidential information between you and Amazon. So you may make your purchases with total confidentiality. I won’t know what you are buying. By the same token I can’t then thank my blog readers personally for making their purchase because I don’t know who is buying what.

(And if you return an item to Amazon they take back my commission. That's only fair.)

Again this applies to any product, basically anything and everything that is sold through the Amazon site. That includes used books or other used stuff sold through third party vendors through the “Amazon Marketplace”. It applies also to magazine subscriptions, groceries, books, vitamins, shoes, clothing, telescopes and vacuum cleaners, toothbrushes, espresso machines, or whatever it is that you are buying from Amazon.

What I am is called an “Amazon Associate”. If you want more information on the program or how you or even your non-profit organization can sign up, go to the Amazon site and click through to “Associates” which presently is in the left sidebar, very low down on the list.

As an Associate I can’t buy my own stuff through my own blog as it is against the rules. When I am the Amazon customer, I always link through from blogs or websites so that the bloggers or website owners earn a little commission from my sale. I rotate who I buy from a few favorite sites and blogs, depending on which I am most appreciative at the moment for its existence and its contribution to my personal enrichment or who has given me some much-appreciated entertainment.

I hope this explains it for you.

If you are a regular blog reader of mine and make purchases of anything from Amazon and you appreciate my blog please consider making your future Amazon purchases through my Amazon link, it really is simple for the buyer and it is most definitely appreciated by me.

Thank you for purchasing your Amazon items through my blog!

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter Pre-Sales Numbers For Amazon and Pricing Speculation

This Forbes article reports that worldwide pre-order sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was 1.6 million. That tops their previous all time high record for pre-order sales, which was also held by Amazon which for 1.5 million pre-orders which happened to be for the sixth Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince).

Amazon guaranteed their customers would be charged the lowest price that was offered. I am not sure if that is an International guarantee or if in America they are going to price the pre-orders by the lowest price the book was sold for in America. I read in two articles, that one store in England was selling the book for 4.99 pounds (about $10 US Dollars). Here is one article on Boston.com that discusses the lowest price that the Harry Potter book sold for.

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Our Family and the Release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It is 4:26 p.m. at my house right now.

UPS drove by this morning to make a delivery at a neighbor’s house, and they did not stop to delivery my Amazon order of the seventh Harry Potter book.

FedEx blasted through this morning. Ditto.

The mailman (USPS) is late.

But Amazon says that the order is being shipped by UPS. I am a bit miffed at this point. Why is it not here?

UPS’s tracking system says that yesterday morning my package was in a town that is about 20 minutes from my house. There is not a notation that the package is “en route”, which is not typical.

I had hoped our pre-order for the last Harry Potter book would arrive today. In any event Amazon has a pre-order guarantee that if it does not arrive today, I get the book free.

But I just want the book here, that is all. This anticipation is killing me. I just want it in my hands.

This will actually be our second copy. My children got one copy from an independent bookseller at midnight when the book was released. My children were lucky to be invited to a multi-family, multi-age, multi-gender Harry Potter party at a homeschooling friend’s house. First they played together at their home. They then went as a group to a little book store and attended the party the store was having. They picked up their books at midnight, then went back to the family’s house. The idea was that they’d read a bit then go to sleep.

However nearly all the kids stayed up all night long! One boy who is huge fan, aged ten, finished the book. The rest began the book and are quite deep into it, but they didn’t finish it yet. Apparently my seven year old fell asleep much earlier than the rest of the kids (which I knew would happen and that is the reason I didn’t buy two copies last night at much closer to full retail). My older son made it almost to page 350 and right now he is napping. When I went to pick the kids up this morning, they were in a deep sleep and I had trouble waking them up. They had a blast and I am happy they have that great memory of this special day of the release of the last Harry Potter book.

But now I want the other copy of our book so that more than one family member can read it at the same time!

Update: 5:03pm. The USPS delivered the mail. Amazon had shipped the Harry Potter book to my local USPS office then they delivered it to me. I don't understand why the Amazon account says that UPS was the shipper and why the UPS has a tracking number. I wonder if Amazon shipped it to UPS who then shipped it to the USPS for final delivery and that in fact is what the tracking number was recording. Hmmm. Odd. Well it is here and that is what is important!

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Harold Bloom Is Inspiring Me

Time: A Sunday night in late June, after the kids were asleep.

Place: My bedroom, sitting in bed.

With my trusty TiVo remote in hand I turned on the TV and clicked to see what TiVo had in its lineup on the “Now Playing” list. I had given BookTV a three thumbs-up rating and so when there is disk space TiVo will record some of the BookTV programs for me automatically.

The show was BookNotes and this episode’s title was “How to Read and Why” caught my eye and although I’d never heard of Harold Bloom, I hit the play button. The show was a re-run of an interview which originally aired on June 28, 2000. The interview was an hour long, and it was part of a promotion for Bloom’s book “How to Read and Why” which was released in 2000. You can read a transcript of the entire interview here.

As the interview began I nearly fell over; I would have if I was standing up. I loved everything I was hearing Professor Bloom say about the importance of reading and the importance of reading great literature. I kept pausing the show and nudging my husband to stop reading his book and to please listen to what Bloom was saying. My husband liked what he was hearing. I love most of all that he has opinions and he voices them even though he goes against the grain of what his fellow-professors think.

As I watched the show I was reassured that homeschooling with the classical method was the right and best thing to do, for one reason, because I have a goal in our homeschool to surround ourselves with books and to read many books. I want my children to have minimal exposure to dry textbooks, and instead, to get in touch with the author’s minds directly by reading books written by one author. I have always wanted my young children to read and hear the best books for young children. A goal I have for their teenage years is to read the classics, the best literature that I had never read.

Harold Bloom is my hero! And I had never heard of him. How could it be that I was unaware of Bloom’s existence? When I learned he lives in New Haven is a professor at Yale since 1950 I was dumbstruck, as I grew up and still live quite close to him, who knew? The icing on the cake is when I found out his wife worked for years in my hometown in the public school system (where I attended public school). How bizarre is that?

We live in a big world but also a small world. First, how could a book lover like me never have known about Harold Bloom, who is a literary critic? (After researching him on the Internet I realized that he is a very well known person in the book world, the literature world and the college academia world. So why was I so clueless, probably because I am busy reading books not reading books about reading books, for one thing.) Another reason is that I’ve not read a ton of what the academics call “literature” and my education didn’t contains the classics that Bloom writes about.

As Professor Bloom began telling his story about having grown up in a family of non-readers (like me) I became more and more curious about him. I was awed by the fact that he taught himself to read Yiddish at age three (he lived in a Yiddish speaking household). He taught himself to read Hebrew at age four and English at age five. He later described himself as a book addict and obsessive about books. I found this fascinating to hear.

Bloom was 70 years old at the time of the interview and I got worried and wondered if he was still alive. He made it clear in the interview that he hates computers, doesn’t use them and sticks to pen and paper and reads paper books and is basically against technology. However thanks to my computer and the Internet, the next day, I learned that he is indeed still alive (thank goodness).

My jaw was hanging as he said he has over 50,000 books in his New Haven home, another 30,000 in his two Yale offices combined and another 15,000 in his New York City apartment. So my 6000+ books is a drop in the bucket. This is further proof that although I am indeed a book addict and obsessed by books at least there is someone else out there who owns more books than me and thinks there is nothing wrong with it.

As I said, the entire transcript of that interview is online, in case you want to read it.

Some of my favorite parts:

When asked how fast one should read…after saying it doesn’t matter how fast he said:

"But time is limited, you know. There is only so much time. And there
is so much to read that would really enhance your life. It is as I
argue in this book not only one of the most intense of all pleasures,
but I think it is the most healing of all pleasures. I think it is
more profoundly therapeutic than most of what is urged upon us as
therapy. I mean, one does not quarrel, of course, with antidepressant
drugs or anti-schizophrenic drugs. They are essential. But when it
comes to the various modes of talking therapy or even of spiritual
therapy, I would urge a deep course of solitary reading of the books
that most matter instead."

When asked “Where should (a person) read?” he replied in part:

“Wherever you are, wherever you can read. Whether
you're alone or with others, it's a very good thing to read aloud,
whether to yourself or to others, if they will countenance it. Read
where you can and whenever you can."

When asked what should a non-reader read, he replied:

"To start? One hopes, of course, that they will start
as children, but if they haven't started as children, if they haven't
read Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear or "The Wind in the Willows" by
Kenneth Grahame, that beautiful book, I guess a wonderful place to
start would be with a book that I fell madly in love with when I was
11 or 12 and must have read a hundred times since, "The Pickwick
Papers" of Charles Dickens, an immensely readable and loveable book
and open. Open, humorous, charming, simple to read. Immensely
rewarding. And, of course, with the earlier plays of Shakespeare,
with "Romeo and Juliet" until, you know, one can go on to "Hamlet,"
until one can go on to the two parts of "Henry IV" and my great hero
Sir John Fulstaff, with Jane Austen, with the simpler novels like
"Sense and Sensibility" to begin with, but to go on to "Pride and
Prejudice" and "Emma" and "Persuasion," which are books of almost
Shakespearean quality and intensity."

One thing that I related to was the stories of how Bloom fell in love with reading during his extensive use of the public library system. In December 2005 I blogged about the library in my hometown and its influence on helping me become who I am. Here is the opening paragraph:

I believe that my positive experience with my hometown library was a big influence on who I became as a person. I feel the public library helped me become a bookworm and encouraged my curiosity. I grew up with the idea that anything could be researched and learned about and a great place that everyone can do that for free is in a library. You can read my entire blog entry here.

One thing I admired about Professor Bloom is that he is an original thinker and he is not afraid to express his opinions. I am not a person to like or not like a person based on various parts of their personality or their character or certain views. Although from what Bloom said I know I have different political opinions and voting records and a different religion I do respect him very much and can’t wait to learn more about him and his views. A main reason is that I agree with so many of his opinions and sometimes I feel so isolated in this crazy world that it is reassuring and exciting to hear someone else saying some of the very things that I think. If that is not proof that I am not nuts then at least it shows I am not alone in this world with some of my ideas and some things that I am disgusted about.

So in any event I now want to read “How To Read And Why” and I’d love to find some of his old speech transcripts and anything else he has to say about books, literature, the importance of reading, the role of real books on education and how a person can be self-educated by doing solitary reading.

And here is my closing paragraph from that old blog post about my childhood library. I think Professor Bloom would approve of and agree with what I said.

What I Want My Children to Know
The most important thing that I want my children to know is that books contain knowledge and ideas and entertainment. Books and other written materials like magazines and newspapers are a window into someone else’s mind and soul. If a person is willing to read and research there are worlds of knowledge and information available to them. A library is a great place to get this information for free, when a person can’t afford to buy every single book that they want. It also lets a person see a variety of what is out there, so they can choose what it is they want to read. The key is to know how to use the library and to feel comfortable going there, and then to actually use it. This is one of the goals for me to teach my children.

Harold Bloom’s Books
Using the credits I earned through the purchases that my blog readers made on Amazon (THANK YOU) I purchased two of Bloom's books: “How to Read and Why” and “The Western Canon”. I actually ordered those before leaving on vacation last month, and my favorite little brown truck delivered them to me while on vacation in Cape Cod. I was able to skim through them and I am very excited about reading some of these books which were never introduced to me in my formal education at public school or college.

Now I'm Getting Educated
My focus for nearly ten years now has been on parenting my children well and on homeschooling them. I feel that now is the time that I start doing more to educate my own self. I am going to make time for reading on a regular basis.

I feel like I am turning a new corner. As my children begin reading to themselves more and more I am reading aloud to them less and less. Although I never want to stop reading aloud to them to be honest I’ve slacked off on that lately. It is not intentional. But I am happy that now when my children want to read something they just pick it up and read it themselves. That is the biggest thing I wanted them to do. So I now have more time to read books to myself.

I have also begun to read “The Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had” by Susan Wise Bauer. Between Bauer’s book and reading Bloom’s recommendations of fantastic works of literature that no person should miss reading I am feeling quite inspired to tackle not just light summer pulp fiction reading but to read some serious works of literature.

Thank you Harold Bloom and Susan Wise Bauer!

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Friday, July 20, 2007

WNPR Piece on Homeschooling in Connecticut (Listen or Read Online)

Here is a link to the WNPR Connecticut broadcast about homeschooling that aired on July 19, 2007.

WNPR interviewed NHELD’s Attorney Deborah Stevenson (who homeschooled her two children), and they interviewed a homeschool support group leader in Connecticut. They also interviewed a representative from the Department of Education and someone form Massachusetts that runs a program for teens transitioning out of school to be homeschooled.

Using the Internet, you can read the written transcript or listen to the podcast of the NPR "Where We Live" show.

I was going to tell you to enjoy this piece. However I just listened to it and it is not all positive so I’m not sure if one can say that the piece can be “enjoyed”. Or perhaps the reason I can’t say I enjoyed this is because I am too close to the controversies or that I know too much about some of the families who are being investigated by DCF for educational neglect who were reported to DCF by the schools their children were exiting from.

The piece includes yet more discussion of the Connecticut homeschooling law, the statute (10-184) versus the “suggested procedure” (C-14 Guidelines). I am unsure if listeners will leave the program more confused or clearer about what the law vs. the “suggested procedure” in the C-14 guideline is. Because I know these issues through and through I was able to follow the debate. I don’t know if others could follow it.

I feel that the Department of Education staff member who was on the show gave some misrepresentations. It was said that if a family does fill out the Notice of Intent (to homeschool) with the school system then they will not be reported to DCF. However I know for a fact that this is not true as right now some families who I have met in person did file the NOI and within days were reported to DCF for “educational neglect”. As I have said before if a family has only been homeschooling for a few days how could anyone make an accusation that quickly that the child is being educationally neglected? There cannot be enough evidence in a matter of days or even a couple of weeks that a child is being ‘educationally neglected’.

Also I laughed when I read that the DOE staffer said the he felt that every homeschooler in the state files the NOI with the school staff. He later said that “an isolated few” who disagree with the idea of it might not be filing the NOI. The reality is that I only know a few people who fill out the NOI. Nearly every family that I know who has been homeschooling for YEARS does not file the NOI and therefore are flying “under the radar” and with our interpretation of the law vs. the “suggested procedure” they are not breaking any laws.

He then reports the statistics for homeschoolers in Connecticut which are based on these NOI’s, I assume. He says that point two or point three percent of students in Connecticut are being homeschooled which he says is far less than in other states. (Other states report anywhere from 1 to 2 to 3 percent of students in the state as being homeschooled.) Then he says that homeschooling is actually ‘eroding” in the state. That was the first time I’ve heard that because it seems to me that every day more and more families are starting to homeschool, especially those whose children were in the schools and are leaving them due to issues or the parents unhappiness with the schools.

Lastly he says that what is most common is for a child to exit the public school system for a time, then to homeschool, then later to reenter the school system. In my experience many families start off from birth homeschooling. Others start at birth then continue for many years and may end up enrolling their children into middle school or high school. I have a feeling the DOE thinks most people are homeschooling in that manner because those are the families who they have NOI’s for and who have filed the forms to withdrawal the children from school (as required by law).

There were also three negative callers from the public who don’t homeschool their children. So I didn’t think those came across in a good light although the responses from Attorney Stevenson were good.

The show did start off on a positive note with a discussion about why would a family consider homeschooling. That part of the show was positive.

Overall the hour long show was a mix of positive and negative, of clear information and unclear information, and of clashing perceptions of the laws.

I am not sure how members of the public or even how other homeschoolers will perceive this show.

One thing that came across to me was evidence of Attorney Deborah Stevenson’s professionalism. Although I sensed that she was annoyed at one point with things that were said by the DOE staffer, she did keep her composure. I am not sure I’d have been that calm and collected.

Take a listen to the show and let me know what you think.

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The Second Step For New Homeschooling Parents Is…

The first step to homeschooling, I think, is making the decision that the child will begin homeschooling. Usually before that decision is made some research about homeschooling is done by the parents. After the question of “is it legal” is answered (a quick and easy one to answer) then the question most parents ask is “how to do it” or “do I feel I have what it takes to do it”. Once a parent has figured those things out, they usually have made a decision. So if the decision is to begin homeschooling they often ask, “What should I do next?”

Although some people perceive the second step is buying curriculum, I have a different answer. I think the second step to take is to begin networking, especially in the family’s own geographical area.

Internet sources for inspiration, support and encouragement are fine and well. However there is nothing like the different and important type of information and support that others right in your own backyard can give you.

I advise all new homeschoolers to begin reaching out to their local homeschooling community as soon as possible. On Internet forums, strangers often ask what to do next. While I am only a stranger on the Internet to them, I encourage them to reach out locally.

Judy Aron blogged a great piece about networking with homeschoolers that I’d like you to read.

To explain my own reasons for feeling that local networking is vital, I’ll list them out:

1. Local homeschoolers can tell you what classes; co-op’s, community events and cultural events are available right in your backyard. If you try to find out about these by yourself you simply won’t know the full range of choices that you actually have available to you. Word-of-mouth is the most common form of advertising for services for homeschoolers.

2. Having a friend who is also a homeschooling mother, someone you have a face to face relationship with is special and unique, better than even the most helpful and respected “Internet friend”.

3. Just being around other homeschoolers can be more comforting and reassuring than even a full inbox of email chat from strangers. Seeing other homeschooling parents and children in person can help a homeschooling mother feel that our alternative lifestyle is perhaps not so weird after all, if all those people are homeschooling too.

4. Local homeschoolers can share experiences with various towns in the state, such as telling which towns are homeschooler-friendly vs. homeschooler-hostile.

5. Local homeschoolers often will let you look at their homeschooling materials so you can see books or curriculum rather than relying only on catalogue descriptions for information. This can help you make a more informed decision.

6. Local homeschoolers often will re-sell their used books and curriculum to other homeschoolers at bargain prices.

7. Your children can make friends with other homeschooled children, so they don’t feel that they are the only children homeschooling. This is especially important if a child was formerly in school. The last thing we want is for our children to think they are “different”, “odd”, or “isolated”.

8. You will be linked in with others to hear about local legislation regarding homeschooling. A key to keeping homeschooling legal is being able to quickly find out about pending legislation. Time is of the essence. I like to rely on local sources of information rather than waiting for the trickle-down from national sources.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Question Answered: New Homeschooling Parent Looking For a Book

(Asked by a homeschooling mother) Someone I know is going to start homeschooling. She wants ONE book that tells the different methods of homeschooling and what curriculums are available to help her decide which to do and which things to buy. Is there one book that tells this information? I thought there was one but can’t recall the title.

My Background Thoughts:
It is hard to get all of that information in just one book. There are many books on homeschooling in general, or on specific methods, or comparing methods. It is harder to find a book that talks about the various different methods then also discusses the curriculum choices and then that also tells enough to help a newbie form opinions or to help guide them to decision making.

I also was not told if the person is Christian or if they have a preference for Chrsitian viewpoints or if they want a secular book.

My Answer:
Are you thinking of “Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling”? This book tells the different philosophies and then gets into curriculums. Mary Pride is Christian and pretty much “school at home-ish “ in my opinion. She is very opinionated and doesn’t hide that in her writing. Her biases and views are loud and clear.

I have not read this newer book but own and have read her older books, one older one I’ve read and base my opinions on is called “The Big Book of Home Learning 4th Edition Volume 1: Getting Started”. Pride updates her books periodically since they discuss actual curriculums and since the market is always changing she publishes updated versions of her books quite frequently.

Also she owns the magazine Practical Homeschooling. Mary Pride’s website is Homeschool World.

Or are you thinking of Cathy Duffy’s “Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum”? I have not read her book. She is Christian but I don’t know how that comes across in the book. Info on what is in that book can be found on Cathy Duffy's website or check Amazon’s customer reviews for more information about what readers thought of the book.

“Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp is a secular book. Besides listing lots of real children’s books to use she also has some curriculum information, i.e. suggesting Saxon math, Miquon etc. But I am looking at that now and frankly to compare a curriculum to another curriculum it is not that great as it gives only 1-2 sentences per item, not enough to make a decision about which curriculum to buy, if you ask me. She’d have to start there then do more research on the Internet or using the company’s own published information about their products to make a decision about which curriculum to buy.

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Photo of the Day: My Homemade Bread

There is nothing like homemade bread.

You can use your own fresh ingredients. You can eat bread without chemicals and preservatives if you make your own bread.

You can even use organic ingredients if you want.

Or you can go further than I ever have and even grind your own wheat.

With my stand-up mixer (Kitchen Aid) I don't even have to do kneading by hand. Making break from scratch is a cinch with a stand-up mixer, so long as you are going to be home for about four hours in total to let it rise, punch it down, and so on.

Go for it and make some homemade bread. Life is too short to only eat the store bought stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

“For One More Day” Movie Filming in Fairfield County Today

While doing errands today I found myself surprised to be stuck in traffic on the Rt. 25 South Expressway. Three lanes were closed, with all traffic crammed into one lane. At the end of it all, the culprit was clearly visible, a movie was being filmed.

One scene was a string of cars lined up bumper to bumper right at the beginning of an exit’s off-ramp (Daniel’s Farm Road exit). Another scene was in a different section where cars, trucks and police cars were parked.

Highway signs were posted today and had today’s date and stated that certain parts of the road would be closed.

Now that I’m home I checked online and read this Connecticut Post article written by Tony Spinelli which talks about the movie “For One More Day” as going to be filmed at night on Thursday and Friday. However today is Wednesday and filming was being shot in the morning and afternoon, so there is a bit of a discrepancy. The made for teleivison film is based on the book by Mitch Albom. The article states a main character in the movie is Michael Imperioli who played Christopher Moltisanti in “The Soprano’s”.

I also found this article which describes the plot and tells that this is one of the movies in the "Oprah Winfrey Presents" series.

This morning had heavy rainstorms with lightning and thunder. Now the rain is tapering off and it looks like the sun is going to come out. I have no clue how filmmakers can plan and work on tight schedules around the quickly changing New England weather.

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Resources For Homeschoolers In Need (Book Samaritan)

Reading the information on the Book Samaritan website blew me away. This is a group of Christian homeschoolers gives away homeschool curriculum and educational books to families in need. All the details of what they offer and how to apply can be found on their website.

I am just speechless at the generosity of these families who are willing to help strangers in need and to help them continue to homeschool despite having a financial hardship. Then again, this is just one way these families have put into action what the Bible tells us.

One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
-Proverbs 11:24-25 [NIV]

Hat tip: a poster at the Well Trained Mind Message Board

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Photo of the Day: Dad Helps With Homeschooling

My son (age 9) was basically teaching himself electronics using an online course as the teacher. All I did was sign him up. I know nothing about electronics nor do I want to.

When help was needed I recruited my husband. Femnists don't be offended. I have enough on my mind and I don't want to learn electronics. Women do not need to do everything, even we homeschool moms don't have to do everything. Those in power delegate. And I delegated the task of help with the electronics to be done by my husband. I am not ashamed.

So one day my husband wrote this out to help my son. My son understood this. My husband understood this. I have no clue what this means. I graduated from public school with a high school diploma. I have a college degree from a Liberal Arts college. Whatever it says here is a mystery to me. Rather than feeling ignorant, it makes me happy to know that finally my husband is helping out with the homeschoolig a bit. And I am very happy that at age nine my son knows more than I have ever known about electronics.

(And no, I am not worried about teaching my children homeschool high school math. I will always have a great homeschool math curriculum which will teach me or will re-teach me as it teaches my children.)

If you would like your child to learn about electronics also, check out the wonderful online classes offered by homeschol dad/college professor and teacher/owner of Quick Study Labs.

Note: I do not receive payment for praising or referring you to Quick Study Labs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Photo of the Day: Snowboarding In Our Yard, March 2007

The best snowstorm of last season was in mid-March 2007. This is first time my children tried snowboarding, borrowing a neighbor's board. This is my younger son on the board and my older son is in the red jacket. I took this photo, this is in our yard.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 81 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 81, titled “Teacher In Service Edition” was published today at Principled Discovery.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 55 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

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.


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Kids In Mind Movie Review Website, A Good Resource For Parents

Today I discovered a new to me movie review website while looking for information on the movie rating system used by Hollywood. It is called “Kids-In-Mind”.

I read the review for Transformers, the new movie which I blogged about here.

I found this review on Kids-In-Mind much more detailed compared to the Plugged-In Online. Plugged-In Online is a Christian movie review website which has free movie reviews which are detailed. I have been using Christian movie review websites for years as at one time they were the only ones that gave detailed information about the problematic areas in movies that Hollywood creates for children. Again I am surprised that Kids-In-Mind is actually more detailed than Plugged-In Online (a Focus on the Family division).

I advise all parents to fully research movies before showing them to your children. Don’t just check one source but compare a couple of sources. You may be surprised to see that some of the popular movie review sites actually don't critique the movie or point out any problem areas, they seem to serve as nothing more than sites who compliment every single movie, regardless of its actual content--I avoid those sites. I would also recommend that Christians check Kids-In-Mind even though it is not a Christian website, because their reviews appear to have even more details of problematic content that you’d want to know about.

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Kid Nation Premieres September 19, 2007

There seem to be a zillion different reality shows now, to the point where some seem to resort to showing adults in dumber situations where their flaws and lack of intelligence is quickly able to be highlighted for entertainment value. A new reality show premieres this fall (September 19th) on CBS which has an original and never-before-done thing: it has an all-kid cast. Forty children aged 8.5 to 15 are going to live in an abandoned ghost town in New Mexico, all alone. They will have to govern themselves as well as subsist completely on their own, using pioneer type survival skills.

CBS has a long preview online of Kid Nation for free viewing now.

Through watching this I see that although the show appears to mirror Survivor, no one will be “voted off”, an idea which Survivor created, but if a child asks to leave they will be allowed to leave. This lack of “voting off”, I think, will prevent the show from becoming “Lord of the Flies”-like (which by the way was the inspiration for the entire Survivor concept). Instead of ending each episode with elimination, at the end of every episode the children will decide who deserves a gold star, in reality that is a $20K college scholarship.

Commercials for this show have been airing on CBS since the beginning of July. When my children saw the preview they loved the idea. My 9.5 year old was very impressed and says he wished he knew about it so that he could have auditioned. He hopes the show is good and he is already asking if a second season will air so that he can audition! I can’t wait to show my boys this longer online premiere as it gives a lot more information about the show concept and it shows many video clips of the children speaking about the experience.

As to what I think of my older son being on such a show, I don’t know if he can survive without access to the foods he likes to eat, his picky eating habits won’t take him too far if he was living in an abandoned ghost town! I was also surprised that this son would be so fearless as to think about moving across the country to live with only other children in a ghost town. I mean, the kid has not even gone to sleep-away camp yet! Then again maybe he likes the idea of using pioneer survival skills, which he has been learning at a class for homeschooled children in this last year. Actually he did already say what appeals to him is to have a little society of only children living without adult supervision.

One more note, last week my older son asked if I’d send in an audition tape for Survivor. When I joked about it in the past, he would freak out and say that he didn’t want me to leave for a month or more at one clip. Well now he wants me to be on Survivor. While I think it would be fun to be on Survivor I am not in physical shape to take on such a task and don’t know if I’d want millions seeing me doing extremely hard physical exercise in a bathing suit!

Anyway I can’t wait to see Kid Nation. I am very curious how the children will interact with each other. One thing that appeals to me is that I have always felt that if allowed, children can act more mature and can be more independent than most parents (or adults in society) usually allow them.

Note: The premiere date changed to 9/19/07, so I updated my blog post.

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