Friday, November 30, 2007

Discovered ‘Make it From Scratch’ Blog Carnival

Today I found a new blog carnival. This was the featured blog carnival on the Blogcarnival.com home page. It is a weekly blog carnival for making things from scratch.

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival

Lots of great stuff in this Carnival!

Tried a New Pecan Pie Recipe (Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie)

It is a family tradition that my husband and I host Thanksgiving Dinner at our home. Every single thing is made from scratch with the exception of the years that we remember to serve the canned cranberry jelly which is a holdover from my childhood.

Years ago when my husband was introduced to New Orleans cuisine and southern food (while on business travel), he developed a taste for Pecan Pie. Prior to that Pecan Pie was not eaten by either of our families. (And while I’m sharing I’ll say that our families call them pee’-cans with a giant emphasis on the word pee, which is a bit of a turn-off; the proper pronunciation is peh-kan’. If you’d like to hear it said aloud, go here.)

In our family my husband is the gourmet cook and I am the baker. And so with enjoyment if not glee, he does all the cooking on Thanksgiving. Well, the exception is that I bake the dinner rolls. He has not yet ventured into the realm of baking break from scratch (but he makes a mean pizza dough and pizzagain/Italian Ham Pie).

So a few years ago my husband added Pecan Pie to our Thanksgiving menu. Pumpkin Pie is my favorite and Apple Pie is his. Frankly I don’t have room for a third pie on my dessert plate, but he was not to hear my protestations. And his quest for the best recipe began. So far we had not found a fantastic recipe.

This year he was reading his mother’s copy of the November 2007 Gourmet magazine and spotted a recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie. He decided to make it. This is actually interesting as I’m the chocolate lover, so I’m surprised he was even interested.

I would have suggested he use our Ghirardelli brand bittersweet chocolate chips. However he was doing an errand at Bed, Bath and Beyond and saw Scharffen Berger bittersweet (artisan) chocolate on sale for about 2/3 off the regular price and bought it. We both recalled seeing Scharffen Berger on one of the food TV shows, it might have been “Unwrapped” but I am not sure. The chocolate is hand made in small batches with the finest ingredients and is Made in America. I tasted some of the chocolate bar and it was very cacao-y tasting. If you have tried eating cacao nibs or using cacao powder you know what I am talking about, it is that other and different flavor that cacao has which is so different from Hershey’s chocolate or from Nestle’s chocolate chips.

The first mistake he made while rushing through the recipe was that he tripled the sugar. So I advised rather than to throw away the batch, to triple everything and make three pies. So that is what he did. The next mistake he made was he used light corn syrup instead of dark corn syrup.

The pie is to be served warm. The strong flavor of the Scharffen Berger chocolate was a bit overwhelming and perhaps a bit ‘much’ for ‘regular’ chocolate eaters or those who think milk chocolate is fantastic. Next time we will use Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate and see how it comes out. Anyhow, while warm the chocolate is all mixed in with the pecan filling and it was so rich that it was a bit much for even me. (I usually don’t flinch while others complain that a dessert is ‘too rich’.) I thought that the recipe, due to the light corn syrup, lacked that caramel flavor. However, it was really delicious. We plan to make it again. I am curious to see how the flavor changes with using the dark corn syrup instead of the light corn syrup.

Here is the recipe we used on the epicurious site: Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie.

I will admit that we did not make the pie crust from scratch. We bought it premade and uncooked (frozen) from a local apple farmer.

Also I tried it cold as a leftover and it is not very good cold. When cold the chocolate is on the bottom like a cold chocolate bar. It really needs to be warmed. It even tasted good warmed up with a short session in the microwave.

We have shared the extra pies with three families and all said it was one of the best pies they’ve ever had.

Enjoy!

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Thoughts on Housecleaning and Tidyness

I am a packrat trying to reform my ways. I have packrats in my family, on both sides, including my sibling and going up through extended relatives. I swear this is something that is inborn. I don’t feel that it is 100% a learned behavior. The old blaming on “having lived through the Depression” is no longer accurate as those born way after the Depression and who have never lived in times of lack can still be packrats.

Packrats often will say their homes are not dirty, they are just cluttered. I used to say this too.

Since I’ve been actively trying to reduce clutter, I can attest that clutter does hide dirt. You might think a tote bag on the floor (that sits there for days or a couple of weeks) is just a tote bag on the floor. But when you pick it up you will find dust balls and maybe even dirt behind it, hiding.

Cleaning the house is more difficult and time consuming if the house and surfaces have a lot of clutter in them. To make housecleaning faster and easier, I have found that reducing the clutter helps. I find the most annoying part of cleaning to be not the actual work of the cleaning but the moving of stuff to get to the surface to make it possible to clean it. So to work daily to not let clutter build up is a goal, then the cleaning part will go quickly when the time comes to do that.

I have met many people who say that a mother should put her priorities to her children and nurturing and spending time with her children rather than having the priority be on keeping the house clean or uncluttered. I do agree with that up to a certain point. It is most important, I feel, to be very attentive and available to newborns and toddlers and even preschool aged children. However once a child is school aged and you don't need to hover over them constantly, time does open up to allow for more decluttering, tidying up and house cleaning.

When I speak of letting things slide a bit in order to be nurturing and available to one's children, I don't mean to let things get so bad as to be living in squalor. There comes a time when living with too much clutter or if the house is not getting cleaned often, that it is not good or acceptable. I am sure you know what that fine line is.

Regarding what is an 'acceptable level of clutter', there came a point for me when I look around and feel a sense of dread and disgust at my surroundings which then gives me stress. I don't think that a person is supposed to feel dread or disgust when they look at their own home---we should look around and feel happy and relaxed and glad to be here. And then of course different people have different tolerance levels for clutter, even between spouses this can be hard to agree on.

I have found that as my children get older, three things have happened. One is that I am more sensitive to a lot of noise in the house (multiple voices, loud laughter, TV blaring, et cetera). I need some silence and I crave to reduce auditory clutter. Another thing is that I am more and more bothered by the sight of cluttered spaces, especially if I know that I am to fault for that clutter being there. Lastly, I am more annoyed at time wasted searching for lost things due to disorganization or the obstruction of clutter.

So for me right now, I want to know where to put something when I am not using it and when I need it I want to know where to quickly find it. I want to see some clean counters. I want to not trip as I walk through my house. I want the drawers filled with clean clothes rather than having the hampers overflowing with dirty clothes.

An article ran in Home Education Magazine in this last year which praised living in a messy house. The article annoyed me because it was portrayed that a homeschooling family either lives in joy in a mess or they live in misery in a clean house. Why is it that a ‘middle of the road’ viewpoint is not often heard? Well I am speaking up to try to be a ‘middle of the road’ voice. As a matter of fact a letter to the editor asking the same question ran in a subsequent issue.

About a year ago I had the realization that when I’m overly busy I can often juggle the activity itself but managing ‘the stuff’ is too hard. For example I may have fun at a party but the ‘stuff’ brought home from the party may sit in the car, unpacked because I don’t have time to address that. I have gone shopping for things we need and sometimes that stuff sits in the car for days or a bag sits on the counter unpacked for a day or more. I have borrowed books from the library and then the tote bag sat untouched for weeks, until the due date was looming.

Also, we may have time for the activity but we don’t then have time to make a good dinner at home that night. We may make it to a class on time, but we may be forced to eat fast food in the car on the way to the class. That is not good in my eyes.

We may have time to go to everything that is scheduled yet we get behind on doing our laundry and cleaning the house. While rushing to an appointment a son proclaims he has no clean socks. We have time to eat lunch before leaving the house but no time to wash the dishes first, so they sit beside the sink awaiting our return.

Making time to do things such as outside classes and sport activities and attending playdates and parties is not just about availability in the schedule to fit it in but it is also about leaving yourself time to feed your family (and yourself) and to clothe yourselves in clean clothes too. You need to have time to clean and to maintain the home as well as do those activities.

As I write this my husband has a six foot high pile of mulch waiting to be moved, in the driveway; it has been there for at least two months. I’d like this moved before winter hits and the thing freezes there! It really needs to be gone before the snow arrives as that is where the snow pile is plowed. Yet despite this he keeps trying to fill up every empty spot in our family schedule with non-urgent things.

As I write this I choose to blog while I’m alone in the house yet the plants in containers outside need to be cleaned up. We had a hard frost last week and everything is dead. I need to put the dead plants in the compost bin and to move the pots to the garage for the winter (lest they crack and get ruined when they freeze this winter).

There needs to be a balance between spending quality time with our children doing ‘fun things’ or ‘educational things’ and maintaining our homes. There needs to be a balance between doing activities outside the house and being able to maintain the house and its contents.

I had a thought recently, something I’ve never thought of before. I used to think of housecleaning as drudgery that is better off being done by someone other than me if possible. My new thought is that in order to show gratitude for my home I should treat it well. The home deserves to be clean. If I really care about this house I should not let it get messed up and cluttered up which looks terrible. If my husband loves the house he should do the little maintenance jobs that need doing, replace a rotting piece of trim here, touch up the paint over there. Doing this maintenance work and cleaning the house and keeping it more on the tidy side is just a normal part of home ownership. If we are happy with our home and love living here why would we not keep it clean and tidy?

While I spend many hours homeschooling my children it is true that the homeschooling battles for time to houseclean and to do everything else we need and want to do. I won't skip the homeschooling to clean the house. I just keep trying to find a way to fit everything in. Right now the way I'm addressing it is to keep cutting out more and more outside classes and events for my children which are non-essential. We need to take care of business at home, to keep a balance, I feel.

With these new thoughts of gratitude for this home in mind, I am happy to clean the house. I am working to get my children to help out more as is age-appropriate. I am not becoming obsessive about house cleaning. I am just trying to find a balance, a balance with maintaining our home as a comfortable and clean place and a balance with the schedule that allows us to live in a more relaxed and comfortable way when we are at home.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Great Analysis for Laypeople About the Latest ADHD Study

Elisheva Hanna of Ragamuffin studies has written an analysis of a new study about ADHD and brain maturation:

It's Not Another Shot in the Ritalin Wars

If you have any interest in ADHD or even just if you are a parent who is around other children it would do you good to read this article. And of course all school teachers should read this.

First she says the media are not giving an accurate portrayal of what the study said.

"In other words, anatomy is not the whole story here.
And to be fair, it was not the authors who claimed that it was.
That would be the press and pundits and ideologues. In other words, those who either did not bother to read the study carefully or those who have an axe to grind when it comes to issues about AD/HD."


This is something I blogged about just a couple of weeks ago, the fact that often the journalists will not read a study or won’t understand it and will make errors in reporting the results to the public. You can read my blog post about that here:

Perhaps the Best College Course I Took

And just this week I blogged of a great radio talk show with Dr. Ronald Hoffman in which he analyses studies and explains them correctly to his listening (layperson) audience. You can read my blog post here

“America is Scientifically Illiterate”

Here is a bit that Elisheva wrote to summarize the study's findings which I found enlightening.

"So what did we find out from this study? We found out that part of the difference between kids with a diagnosis of ADHD and those without, is in the rate of brain maturation. Kids with AD/HD diagnoses (it was a mixed group of kids with primarily hyperactive, primarily inattentive and combined types) have brains in which the cortices mature more slowly, delayed by approximately 3 years, with a very significant p value. And we found out that in these kids, the brain development trajectory was the same for kids with and without ADHD.

But the researchers also analyzed the data for specific brain areas. And these tests showed that the trajectory of the brain development for all cortical areas was not identical. The kids with ADHD tended to have faster motor area maturation than those without. And they had slower executive function (frontal lobes!) maturation.
What does James Webb say of gifted kids? Farrari motor and dune buggy driver! It looks like the same developmental pattern is true for kids with ADHD."


Note: In case you are wondering, neither of my children have ADD or ADHD but the entire topic of it is something that interests me on several levels. One part of my interest is that I work with children in the Cub Scouting program so I interact and 'deal with' with all kinds of kids, some who present challenges to me and their peers.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Timez Attack On Sale Through 12/03/07

Today a sale began on the educational computer game for math called Timez Attack.

Go here to view and to access the promotion which ends on 12/03/07 to save $10.

Note also if you want to save $20 you can go to the site on 11/30/07 from noon to 1:00pm to save $20 for that one hour MOUNTAIN STANDARD TIME.

You can read my review of this game here.

here is the home page for Timez Attack.

A good idea might be to try the free version now and if you like it for your family and you feel you can swing the $20 sale for that one hour on 11/30/07 you can buy it then. Note in my review what I say about the challenge we had with the free version which was not an issue for the paid version.

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Timez Attack: Educational Computer Game Review by ChristineMM

My older son was not doing well with memorizing multiplication math facts. At first I didn’t care but as he doing his math curriculum (Math-U-See) and he was multiplying with three digits or more and relying on skip counting to get to the answer it was getting difficult to do the problems. He was working slowly, and was making silly errors with ‘carrying’ due to all the stopping to count, then losing his place.

I figured before he moves on to division he’d better improve his multiplication fact recall.

Previoulsly, we had tried flash cards, wrap-up’s, a Multiplication Bingo board game to no avail. This son of mine is the one who hates flash cards and finds memorizing things highly annoying. I am thrilled that he is learning so easily and quickly with this program.

I had read about the PC educational video game called Timez Attack by Big Brainz in The Old Schoolhouse magazine a number of months ago. Then I started reading on some homeschooling blogs how some kids loved the game.

So last month we tried the free downloadable version but it kept freezing up which was annoying and I worried that the paid version might be corrupt as well. A local homeschooling friend said they own the version that you pay for and it does not freeze. The two boys said they love the game, too.

So we splurged and bought the game. My kids (aged 10 and 7) love the game and both are learning their math facts (as the younger son plays too not for the main purpose of memorizing his multiplication facts but just for fun, yet in the process he is memorizing them). And for us it is true also that the paid version does not freeze up, it is working great.

After you pay you download the game immediately. You can pay an extra $5 to have a version snail mailed to you on a CD if you want.

What Goes On In The Game?
In the game the player (representing your child) that walks around looks to me to be a baby dinosaur but my sons think it is an ‘alien’. You pick up little aliens (or dinosaurs or something) that are like eggs and then you throw them at a door to begin the game. The eggs represent in one case, skip counting by five. Some of the opponents you must fight are fire-breathing dragons and robots.

The player walks and jumps around. At one point the 'enemies' have guns and shoot balls at the player. The player does not use guns. There is no killing or injury, they are just balls.

Unlike some other educational video games on the market there is no sassy or rude talking. (In a different program that we used to use, if the player makes a mistake with their math problem they are teased and called names by the game and sometimes the voice of a human child is sassy and uses a ‘bad tone of voice’ to goad the player.)

They practice certain math facts a few times in a row by inputting the answer to the operation using the number keys on the keyboard. If they make a mistake it then makes them repeat that one fact a bunch of times.

The paid version of the program also keeps track of each player’s practice and tells which math facts need more practice.

Maybe your family would this fun and useful?

Note: I receive no income from promoting this sofware program. I am sharing it with you in case it may be fun and helpful for your children.

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Quick Study Labs Registration Open

Quick Study Labs is a correspondence class for students aged 8 and up in the field of electronics. Students can be homeschooled but I bet even schooled students could take the classes.

The website has information on what classes are available for the different ages.

My older son has taken three of the courses in The Edison Project series. We accessed the weekly lessons online and read the information. My son then did the experiments using the snap circuit kit used in those classes. There was a study sheet to summarize new concepts and terms. He had to take online quizzes weekly and two tests.

Registration is open now for the next round of classes which beings in January. More information and prices are all on the website.

I highly recommend these classes as do some of my local homeschool mom friends.

I earn no income from promoting Quick Study Labs, I just want to spread the good word about this class that my son has enjoyed and learned from.

The teacher is a college professor and a homeschooling father, and a Christian, by the way, if knowing any of that is of interest to you.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How I Feel Lately


Artist Trading Card created by ChristineMM in November 2007.

Background hand painted with acrylic paints on recycled cardboard cereal box. Fruit bag used as stencil with more acrylic paint. Snippets from old magazines and used postage stamps collaged onto it. Note one postage stamp is of the Lawrie sculplture of Atlas in Rockerfeller Center titled "Wisdom". The time stamp was also carefully chosen. The square is from a children's book illustration and signifies 'reaching' or 'grasping'.

Facts + reaching/grasping + time + thinking = wisdom.

'One of the few thinking' is how I feel lately in several areas of my life which are totally unconnected to the each other.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 100 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 100 was published on November 27, 2007 at Mom Is Teaching and is titled “Centennial Edition”.

There are over 40 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too). I have an entry in this weeks carnival, 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.

Enjoy!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Overwhelming Recyclables (Photo of the Day)


I found this overwhelming to see. Note the bulldozer, it will give you a sense of scale, of the height of that mountain of recyclables.

At least it is being recycled instead of being burned up or added to a landfill. Still, it was overwhelming...

Photo taken by ChristineMM in early November 2007, at the Children's Garbage Museum at the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority in Stratford, Connecticut.

Our family recycles and it goes to this facility, and so some of this stuff came from our household!

Read information about visiting this facility and museum here. It is an educational facility, teaching the importance of recycling and a call to reduce waste by reusing things if possible. The museum part has games and activities for children, two movies to watch with propaganda, displays and a craft area to make things out of what people had wanted to throw in the trash. The part shown above is the working facility part of the plant which has an enclosed, heated catwalk for observers to see the recycling workers at work.

It is a common spot for field trips for schooled and homeschooled children as well as Scouts. Families may visit the center as well Admission is free. Check the website for hours of operation.

“America is Scientifically Illiterate”

I love what Dr. Ronald Hoffman said in his radio show on 11/24/07 on WOR710 AM in his talk radio show “Health Talk”, weekend edition. I happened to be doing an errand and in the car and sans children so I had the chance to listen to what I wanted.

I loved it when he said, “America is scientifically illiterate” and then criticized the American media for helping to contribute to that status by dumbing down the study data and sometimes getting the study's outcome wrong in the process.

On his show, one thing that Dr. Hoffman does is to deconstruct medical studies and analyzes them and gives his opinion on the problems with the studies, what the findings say and other insight. As he said that day, on the show he tries to tell 'the story behind the story'.

Dr. Hoffman was explaining how a study released on the effect of women taking calcium citrate and vitamin D supplements affected their bone density and if it possibly helped prevent fractures. As an example of the type of things he shares with his listeners, he said that the form of calcium they took is poorly absorbed by the body so it was not the best choice to give and then measure and that the vitamin D was very low (too low in his opinion). He said that they studyed women in their 50's for just seven years is not long enough to analyze the reduction in fractures due to osteoporosis because women in their 50s are not the ones getting those fractures, the fracture-risk category of women is much older.

I highly recommend that you listen to this program. If you are not in the tri-state area and don’t get this New York City radio station on your radio you can listen free, live, online through the station’s website. Past shows are recorded in the form of podcasts that you can listen to as well. Note that when you liven to the live show some of the local commercials and news and weather reports are replaced by easy listening music.

One thing he discussed is his “Duh Story of the Week” which revealed that after studying the content of pizza, sausage and hamburgers, they found they were high in fat content and after eating them, people gained weight.

You just have to love the fact that someone is actually thinking and analyzing these things and is breaking them down into language that a layperson can understand. Dr. Hoffman does not dumb down information he just explains it in a way that we can understand while pointing out some complex things that require a more thorough knowledge of statistics, study research details and complex medical matters such as that medical doctors know.

Dr. Hoffman discusses conventional western medicine and also wellness and prevention. Dr. Hoffman is very much for exercise and eating well. He agrees with taking supplements to help us. He is not always happy with some of the current trends in medical treatments or the use of prescription medication. For example he may think that a certain test result is resulting in over-prescribing certain medications or that a certain ‘condition’ is a non-issue and may not need a prescription drug treatment.

I am going to try to listen to his show more frequently using my computer while at home rather than waiting for chance listenings while in the car.

I also am going to write him a letter of thanks for his insight and sharing his thoughts with us.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Nominations for the 2007 Homeschool Blog Awards


Some homeschool bloggers are sharing who they nominated for the 2007 Homeschool Blog Awards, so I will join in to share the blogs of other homeschool blogs in case you wonder who I thought deserved a nomination.

Reminder: we could only nominate one blog per category.

I didn’t nominate in every category as there were some categories that I don’t even read blogs in. I also felt there were good blogs that I didn’t feel fit into the categories so I didn’t know how to handle that. For example I couldn’t figure out where “Why Homeschool” would fit even though I read and enjoy that blog.

To qualify for the 'finals' to be on the nomination list to be voted on to win the award a blogger must have had three nominations from three different people. You can read the list of nominees here. Voting begins December 3, 2007.

‘Live-What-You-Believe’ Homeschool Blog:
Ragamuffin Studies
(made it to the list)

Best Unschooling or Eclectic Homeschooling Blog:
The Lilting House, she also blogs at Here in the Bonny Glen
(Here in the Bonny Glen made it to the list)

Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog:
Consent of the Governed
(made it to the list)

Best Cyber-Buddy Blogger:
Mental Multivitamin
(not on the list in that category, but made the list in the category of "Live What You Believe")

Best SUPER-HOMESCHOOLER:
Trivium Academy
(made it to the list)

Best Variety:
The Common Room
(made it to the list)

As I announced previously, I made it to the finals in the 'Best Homeschool Mom' blog category.

Voting begins on December 3, 2007.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Way To Feel Happy About Scaling Back Christmas Gifts For Your Kids

So the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving morning was partly spent facilitating my children tidying up the playroom. You see I just wanted our relatives to be able to walk in the room without it being a true safety hazard, without it involving personal risk of injury, and of course to have clear floor space to play with some toys!

I swore I’d never tidy it up again, that I’d always make them clean up their own mess. However I joined in with the goal of evaluating the situation.

I opened a cabinet to find three baby dolls and clothes. The oldest one was purchased for my older son when I became pregnant with my second child. He was so cute then, at two years old, carrying around a baby doll sometimes and giving it love. (He didn't do it often but it was so cute when he did do it.) It was so sweet. So maybe you can see why I’ve not yet been able to part with them? Actually I kept them for girls to play with when they’re here. Since we have playdates with homeschooling families whose children are multiaged and both genders, we need to have stuff on hand. But the truth is no one plays with these dolls, not even the girls. So I decided to let them go.

I then addressed the bin of plastic dinosaurs. I don’t think they’ve been played with twice in the last year. I already had pared it down once before but it needs doing again. This time it will also be ‘bye bye’ to the plastic volcanoes, hills, rocks and palm trees.

I addressed the LEGO situation. There is nothing like seeing things for what they really are when everything is in one place (rather than scattered all over the house). I contemplated all the LEGO sets we have that never were reassembled into their original shapes. And we have way, way more than we’ll ever need for ‘free play building with from their imagination’. I also have two small bins full of LEGO instructions. I asked my kdis and they said they never reference them. Hmmm. (Voice in back of head, “Someday your kids will want those” and “They may be good for resale value someday”.) I think I'll move those to the basement for now. The packrat in me is telling me not to throw them away (to get rid of them in the paper recycling).

We have three bins full of Hot Wheels type vehicles. I am thinking that since they are rarely played with, we can pare these down. I don’t think we need to save THAT many ‘for the grandkids’.

The wooden toy kitchen and the few food toys and play dishes we have are already scaled way back from our original collection. I can’t part with that stuff yet. Nor can I put it in the basement for storage. It will stay as is.

I’ve decided to let go of a whole set of Big Jim stuff which I got at a Boy Scout fundraiser tag sale. No one is playing with it. Big Jim is like G.I. Joe but Big Jim is into physical fitness and camping and fishing.

I should let go of some of the Star Wars action figures and vehicles. But I won’t.

The huge plastic train set (battery operated) needs to be scaled back. Santa Claus brought one set to my older son when he was two years old. Later at a tag sale I added in two more sets (for $10). I wanted to get rid of all of it (as it takes up a lot of space) but my older son cried out of sentimental emotions. I compromised to narrow it down to keeping one oval and then one set of trains. The rest will be given away.

The dress-up clothes fill one large basket (larger than a laundry basket). I have another filled with only dress up hats. I feel the need to scale back this collection as they are rarely played with and even when they are, we won’t need all of this.

The other day the kids were playing with the Mega Blocks pirates sets we have. We continue to have problems with them not going together correctly due to poor construction. I decided to get rid of it all (to be handed down).

I looked over the board games and card games and decided to let go of about ten. Some day soon I plan to cull the jigsaw puzzles too (they are stored in another room).

After looking at all that stuff and being reminded of how this stuff was from past birthdays and Christmas celebrations, and how back then it seemed ‘so important’ to have all of that, yet here it sits unused, or is outgrown, or never was ever played with much, I feel very happy about scaling back the Christimas gifts for our kids even more than we’ve ever done before.

I Challenge You
So if you feel pressured to buy more or if you wish you could buy a lot of stuff but have a smaller budget than you wish you had, perhaps you can do what I did.

Sit down, take a long hard look at everything. Put your hands on all the toys. Don’t just look at it,you’re your hands on it. Organize it, tidy it up.

While doing this process, the real worth of keeping the toy will be apparent to you.

See if you feel you already have too many (I bet you will). So get rid of some.

Do you really need to replace all of it with a 1:1 ratio? If you are strong willed, you’ll not replace everything you get rid of.

Believe me if you do this you will lose some of the urge to splurge.

Go For It!


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For further reading and contemplation:

Watch reruns of “Clean Sweep” on cable television.

Read: Clutter Free! Finally and Forever by Don Aslett



Read books about simplifying your life and about downsizing your Christmas.









And ponder the real problems caused by over-indulgence of children by parents.



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Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books Has Been Published, Nobember 24, 2007 Edition

Take a look at what readers are saying about the books they are reading this week, over at Semicolon Blog's Saturday Review of Books, November 24, 2007 edition.

Consider posting a submission, too!

Gods Behaving Badly: Book Review by ChristineMM (aka The Thinking Mother)

Gods Behaving Badly: Book Review by ChristineMM (aka The Thinking Mother)

Title: Gods Behaving Badly
Author: Marie Phillips
Author’s website: Marie Phillips official website
Publication: to be published 12/10/07 in hardback in USA, already in print in the United Kingdom and in some other countries
Genre: fiction, adult



How this book came to me: I offered to read and review this book for Amazon as part of the Amazon Vine program. I read a pre-publication Advanced Reading Copy of the book. I posted my Amazon Vine review to Amazon.com (their USA site) on 11/15/07. This blog post is a slightly edited version of that review.

My rating: 1 star (out of 5 with 1 being the lowest rating)

I’m being honest, sorry the rating isn’t higher!

The concept was a great one, Greek Gods living in London in the present day and adapting themselves to modern living. I thought it would be a great, fun story to read, filled with creativity, entertaining and hopefully even funny—a good ‘escape read’. I didn’t find it to be any of those things.

I received this through the Amazon Vine program, before its publication date. I had limited information at the time I requested it and thought it sounded good so I requested a copy to read and review. I faced a challenge when I didn’t even want to finish the first chapter. I plowed through the book out of obligation. I’m sorry to write this review but it is honest (I didn’t want to lie in my review).

I didn’t like any of the characters, there was nothing to like about them. They weren’t funny, even, and I thought that the idea of Greek Gods living in the present day could have had a lot to laugh about.

All were reduced to scummy positions in society, even living in squalor in a rat-infested house. The lovely Aphrodite as a phone sex operator and doing that on a cell phone while walking around? Dionysus not just as a nightclub owner but a sleazy, dark one filled with weird acts being performed on stage? Apollo as a not talented television psychic? And due to the writing, the characters were all shallow, which didn’t make me feel emotionally interested in any of them, I didn’t care what happened to them, and that connection is something that I feel helps the reader engage in the story and want to actually finish the book (and enjoy the reading process).

As today’s news reporters do, the author also takes emotionally-charged issues and presents them so shallowly that we don’t care. A child getting bulled and beat up on a schoolyard is presented with no emotion, then videotaping said event, has no emotion. A human having been turned into a tree and later chopped down, just because while walking to work, she refused to perform a sex act on Apollo, again, no emotion. The human couple in love, even has barely any emotion.

One God has converted to Christianity although that is covered so shallowly that we don’t even care let alone understand why a Greek God would convert to Christianity! (Is that not a huge thing?) One discussion between the Gods about Jesus Christ and Christianity was especially insulting, where they say Jesus Christ was just a mortal and they take it from there, basically putting down any Christian for being so stupid to believe in Jesus Christ as anything but a regular old dead human from the past.

The book has some sex scenes, starting right off on the sixth page of the book, which were also written so as to illicit zero emotion or interest, it is just crude and uncaring and trivial and nasty. Profanity is throughout the book as well, with dullness actually, why bother using it at all then?

One thing that drove me nuts was the over-use of dialogue. I’ve never read a book so full of dialogue and so lacking in text. And the dialogue is not great either. The author does not use it in the way that a master at dialogue such as Stephen King does, in ways to reveal each character’s persona and that conveys emotion and that actually moves the story forward.

I know it is hard to write a book and I thought it was even harder to actually get published. I don’t usually write reviews with such negative content, if I don’t like a book of adult fiction I just don’t review it, chalking it up to just my taste in fiction being different than other people’s and who am I to judge? However issues like shallow characters, being a book that when I’m half way through it, that I don’t even care enough to go on to finish it, is a sign for me that the book is not just not good but is pretty poor.

The Amazon Vine program puts me in a hard position; I am forced to review the book that I didn’t know much about at the time I ordered it. I’m sorry to rate this so low but it is my honest review. I disliked it so much and I thought the writing and storytelling in and of itself was so bad that I can’t even muster up a justification for a 2 star rating.

Perhaps some would think this is a good summer beach read. It just is not my cup of tea at all, even for beach reading.

One more thing. Why would the author and publisher advertise on the back cover in the author’s biography section that she writes a certain blog which, as of today, she has set to be read only by invited guests? Since we readers are not allowed to read that blog we should not even be told about it. Instead, using Google, I found the author’s official website which is open to the public and which promotes her book.



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Friday, November 23, 2007

Right Ways of Behavior Parenting Series: Epilogue: Feeling Overwhelmed by Parenting Challenges

Right Ways of Behavior Parenting Series:

Epilogue: Feeling Overwhelmed by Parenting Challenges

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with challenges with parenting. As an active parent (not a lazy parent) I put a lot of work into addressing situations at hand. Lately I am just worn out about it.

A big thing was and is dealing with helping my children cope with the grief from the loss of their grandfather. This is the first grandparent they have lost who they have known since being older than one year old. This is a grandparent they were close to and whom they new that was close to my husband and I as well. Our holiday celebrations were all celebrated with this grandfather who was actually the patriarch of the family and the force behind all the family traditions.

Dealing with the last two years of my father-in-law’s illness combined with other family problems was stressful in and of itself. Somehow I was not prepared to lead my children through the actual death happening and the grieving that comes after the passing.

This helping children through the death of a close loved one is such a big thing I have not even tried to write or blog about it yet, perhaps sometime in the future I can write about it but now it is too fresh and raw to handle.

Additionally in this time after the passing, things went on with the four cousins that they saw daily for six days that are, for people like me, enough to give me more than a few new gray hairs. Stuff went on to strip my children of some of their innocence and (age appropriate in my opinion) naïveté.

It was overload to then deal with my own grieving, help my children with theirs and me trying to help my husband get through his emotions combined with a multi-topic review of all of our family’s values and ideal ways of behavior. I can’t think of the right word for this, it is at the tip of my tongue. A wrong word would be brainwashing but I am attempting something a bit like it. What I am faced with doing is a complete review of what we think is right and good behavior.

“The parenting experts” say children learn more from observation and experience than from words they hear from their parents. So here I am doing damage control and trying to reestablish our own family’s values and preferred behaviors after seeing a bunch of negative stuff for nearly a week.

A challenge especially for my younger son (I think this is a developmental stage-age thing) is to deal with the concept of how that family can allow that behavior to go on with the children (or even the adults) and why they accept it when in our family it is not allowed. My younger son is really having a hard time with this concept, and has been for over a year now (since turning six actually). At first it was dealing with stuff said and done on the playground by schooled and homeschooled kids in other families. That wasn’t bad as talking about one kid using ‘shut up’ once is not that big of a deal. Now it is worse and concentrated as we’re dealing with actual family members which I guess is harder to grasp. And as I said I’m dealing with many different bad behaviors in a concentrated six days and it is just too much.

I have addressed single issues as they have come up in conversation. “Why does (nine year old cousin) get to say b--- but you say we can’t?”. “Why does (seven year old cousin) say What the h--?” but you say I can’t? and so on. Another one that came up while in the presence of other homeschooled children was a ball was placed low in front of my son’s chest and he said, “Look at my saggy b—b”.

SIGH.

-ChristineMM, November 14, 2007.

----------------
Update: November 23, 2007:

I felt so overwhelmed by all of these issues back then. I didn’t know how to address everything.

I decided to define each area that is an issue, to separate the issues and to categorize them. I then thought about our family’s values and our philosophy on each issue. I thought about the ideal situation, and how I thought in our parenting journey, that we could arrive there. I thought about the difference between parenting on a set course (that was us beforehand) and about the different situation when we are taken off course and need to get back on course (the situation we're in this month).

I thought about the things I don’t like and thought about why I don’t like them.

I figured this out by writing it all out. I wrote and wrote. I separated the issues from each other. I edited and pared it down.

And I published some of that into a series “Right Ways of Behavior”. I figured after a brief introduction and addressing some of the issues in a chapter type format, I’d put here in the conclusion, the reason that it all was on my mind, to explain why I had blogged it and written it all out in the first place.

So here we are. Three weeks ago my father-in-law passed away. It was then that my kids were exposed to certain words and behaviors and informed of certain things that I thought they were too young to know. We’re addressing things a little at a time and as things come up. Some of the questions I’m getting are causing my eyebrows to raise. I’ll leave it at that except to say we’re doing alright, I think. I see this as a hill on the roller coaster that is parenting.

Note:
If you wonder what I think of spanking please read my post: My Thoughts on Spanking published 6/25/07. The short answer is: we don't spank in our children.

The Directory to this parenting blog series: Right Ways of Behavior can be found here if you want to read my other writings.

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A Recommendation For Two Small Business Toy Shops in New Haven County Connecticut

I am rerunning my December 2005 review of two indpendent toy shops, one in Orange and the other in Hamden, both are in New Haven County, Connecticut: Jesse's Toy Store and Evan's Toy Shoppe.

Just in case you want to support local small businesses instead of the big box stores.

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Black Friday Insanity in My Area

Last night at about nine o’clock, I finally had a chance to look at the paper sales flyers for Black Friday and the weekend. I was tired at that point and felt that there was not much on our Christmas shopping list that was on sale to warrant getting up at three thirty in the morning and getting to the stores at opening time.

My friend and neighbor braved it, though. As I was heading out at about 11:30 a.m. to see if anything we wanted was still in stock and on sale, I spoke to her on the phone.

She said that in Trumbull (Connecticut), at the Circuit City store, early in the morning the crowd was like a mob scene requiring the use of police force from two towns and also a fire department. She said that tasers had to be used to subdue the unruly customers. Here is the only online article I can find that is published so far, but it doesn’t talk about the use of tasers.

This friend said that she was at Toys R Us at opening time and that for the hottest toy that everyone wanted, they only had 13 in stock. To try to prevent stampeding and injuries, staff went down the line asking who wanted one and those who did were given a voucher to buy it, and all else in line knew ahead of time they’d not be getting one. She said at Staples they did the same thing with some other hot item.

The cashier at A.C. Moore craft store told me today that there was a long line at opening time for the Cricut, a die-cutting machine for scrapbookers, and that they sold out of the ones they had for the promotion. I can see it now, over-zealous scrapbookers standing on line for a paper cutting gizmo: ready, set, die cut!

My husband spoke with his brother who went to Circuit City in another town and he said at opening time it was crowded and freezing cold which contributed to the anxiety. He said he witnessed a big fist fight.

This is the insanity that is Black Friday here.

I wanted a big bargain toy from Toys R Us and chose to drive to Westport, a wealthy town, hoping that by noontime they’d still have them in stock, hoping that the wealthy town would not have had such a stampede on the sales items. I arrived shortly after twelve and another customer warned me that the sale ended at noon. I scanned it at about 12:07pm and it was still on sale. I briskly walked to the front of the store and checked out at 12:10pm and indeed got the sales prices on all the items even thought I was just minutes past noon. Phew.

I then went to another town to pick something up and found out the KB Toys in Stratford and Newtown are both closing up. The cashier said the company wants to only have their stores in the nearby malls, no longer having stores in the strip malls. The sale in the store which was closing was 30% off of everything in the store for the whole day, sales prices as advertised did not apply. Unfortunately they didn’t have the LEGOs my son asked for in stock.

I needed something in Home Depot and as usual that place was hopping. I went for a non-sale item and have no clue what kind of promotions they had going, that place is always busy with the DIY’ers.

I wanted to see if a sale item at Wal Mart was still in stock. The parking lot was such a zoo that I felt defeated and frustrated and so I left without even going in to the store!

I went to a hobby store that sells Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and found out that the cards my kids want go for $35 and up EACH if purchased singly. I left with no presents in hand.

I then was going to check some items at Costco and gas up there but the traffic was backed up for over a mile in a solid bumper to bumper mess. I turned around and got on the highway and high-tailed it home.

This is madness that is all I will say.

I need five gift cards for my nieces and nephews. I am thinking about seeing if the companies are selling gift cards online so I can avoid a trip to the mall.

(The day before Thanksgiving I tried to buy some LEGOs from an independent toy seller. I was told that he has so little stock due to spotty shipping from the new LEGO warehouse in Mexico (they used to be here in Connecticut). I was unable to buy the LEGO Advent Calendar that is a tradition in our family. I guess I’ll have to shop LEGO.com and hope I can get them.

My next plan of action is to browse for other items online which I had hoped to buy in the retail store today, to comparison shop for prices online and to consider buying it all online even if I have to pay shipping fees and still have to pay state sales tax. I just don’t want to waste my time and go through the frustration of the crowds!

I want to get the shopping over so I can sit back, relax, and do the fun family traditions for the Christmas holiday.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

The Thinking Mother Included in Book About Top 500 Blogs

I received the following communication by email dated 11/21/07:

The Thinking Mother Included in Book About Top 500 Blogs

In the early days of the internet, if you didn't know how to write code, you couldn't publish anything on the web. Well, nowadays with software such as Wordpress, Blogspot, and Myspace, anyone.. yes anyone can tell the whole world what is on their mind through blogging.

But, there really isn't a robust way to search for the best blogs on any specific topic. Sure, there's Technorati, but what else? Besides, much of the world wide web is full of splogs, spam, and made-for-adsense blogs. And how many times have you read the same exact post over and over in different blogs?

That is why a project, listing the top blogs by general categories would prove useful. The book, titled "The Top 500 Blogs" is being written by Vicky Zhou, an author and writer who reviews online
dating sites
. From topics ranging from online dating to technology, lifestyle, sports, music, health and love, the books aims to be a comprehensive list of the top 500 blogs.

The Top 500 Blogs will be available in Amazon and all bookstores by the end of 2008. The Thinking Mother will be included in the category of "Personal Blogs", so look out for that!

Vicky Zhou
Part-time Journalist, Writer, and Blogger

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanks For the Nomination!

Today the finalists for the 2007 Homeschool Blog Awards were announced.



Thank you for nominating me. I received enough nominations in the category of “Best Homeschool Mom Blog” to qualify for the finals.

You can read the list of finalists here. The voting doesn’t begin until December 3rd but if you have browsing time between now and then you can use it to investigate the long list of finalists.

2007 Homeschool Blog Award Nominees (finalists)

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Ridiculous School Teachings About Thanksgiving

My opinion: Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for good things we have in our lives (experiences, people and things). Thanksgiving in our family is a time to gather with extended relatives for a large meal filled with traditional foods, with everything made from scratch with love.

Have you heard the story of the Seattle Washington school administrator who told school teachers to teach children that Thanksgiving should be a day of mourning?

Here is the story with video as well.

Seattle schools warn staff about Thanksgiving 'mourning' on the King 5 News website.

I am all for truthful history being taught. I don't like that many children's books contain many errors about the first Thanksgiving.

However, to change the holiday from what it is to those of us who celebrate it as a time to think about what we're grateful for and a time to have a big turkey dinner with relatives and friends, to try to indoctrinate children to think of that day as a 'day of mourning' is going WAY too far. Period.

Put this down as another reason I'm glad to be homeschooling---no school is interfering with our family's holiday celebration or messing with our gratitude.

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My Thoughts On “Buy Nothing Day”

If we choose to participate in “Buy Nothing Day” by not shopping on “Black Friday”, November 23, 2007, does it accomplish anything?

Here is a blog post of mine from March 2006 which addressed boycotts.

My Thoughts on Boycotts in General

The issue here is that if we don’t shop on that one day, but instead Christmas shop and spend money on another day, before or after November 23rd, then what is the point of participating in Buy Nothing Day? If you still are spending the money and being just as much of a consumer what is the point? Is it just so that your dollars are not counted in the tallies that are done on that day, to mess with the calculations of the economists?

If you are participating to take a stand to consume less, a better plan would be to overall reduce any extraneous spending you do on Christmas. Cut back from what you currently do. Cut back overall, don’t just not shop on one day but shop on some other day.

Last week a friend mentioned the idea of not shopping on Wednesdays. As my husband said, if you need to grocery shop and choose to not do it on Wednesday, you still need to do it, so you do it on Tuesday, Thursday or some other day. So what was accomplished by pushing the shopping from Wednesday to some other day?

Can someone please explain to me why this makes sense, to move the shopping off to another day but to still shop? I see this as illogical thinking.

Here is the AdBusters site where you can read about their Buy Nothing Day. You can also view two ads they are showing on television to promote Buy Nothing Day. I find the pig ad ridiculous. For example a comparison of American consumption to that of a person from India is ridiculous and is not ‘apples to apples’ if you ask me. (Plus, Mexico is a part of North America, so they have a little error in there. If they wanted to attack Canada and the United States they should have just said 'Canada and the United States'.)

Me and Black Friday
In case you’re wondering, 2006 was the first time I ever went shopping for anything on Black Friday. I usually like to relax and just stay home and stay out of the madness that takes place. But last year I bought some items at a deep discount in the early morning and then went home to relax. These were things I was going to buy anyway but by purchasing it on that day I saved money. I had planned fully what I'd buy, had a 'plan of attack', went and got what I had on the list and then went home. I am undecided about whether to go out this year as I don’t yet know what is on sale that I had planned to purchase anyway. I have my list of what I am going to buy this season (it is short) and if any of this is on sale then I will go brave the phenonemon that is Black Friday (by going to stores when they open at 4:00 am).

Family Traditions
Our family has a lot of traditions which we enjoy, many of which cost nothing or next to nothing. One way to simplify Christmas is to spend time doing things with your children and spouse and extended family which are tradition centered rather than focusing more on buying stuff and exchanging gifts.

The Attitude
I realized that one thing that bothers me about the "Buy Nothing Day" is the attitude and the attempt to guilt and shame others. With my own family for multiple reasons from desire to necessity we have scaled back Christmas to simplify the parts that have to do with buying too much. We did this for our own reasons, we were internally motivated. I don't shame others for what they do. I didn't do any of this because outside parties were shaming me in books, magazine ads or articles, or with commercials. I don't like the attitude of these ads, especially the pig ad. I resent someone calling me a pig to be honest especially when they know nothing of my life or how much or how little I spend.

Hat Tip: A local homeschool mom posted about Buy Nothing Day on a homeschool discussion group, promoting it.

If you need some ideas for simplifying Christmas check out the book “Unplug the Christmas Machine”. Oops, if you buy it you’ll be a consumer. And now my blog post is turning into a commercial. If you’d like to save money you can see if your public library has this book in circulation.



Also books about simplifying your life by Elaine St. James can be very helpful (they were to me), she has a whole series of them.



Links
(My retort to the statement in the AdBusters pig ad):
People Think India Is a Poor Country, It is Not article in Time magazine published 3/07/05

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Two Great Real Homeschooling Posts

Honesty can be SO refreshing. When things aren’t perfect in a homeschooling family’s life we often wonder if we are the only ones experiencing the non-perfection. Read these two entries published this week, if you want proof that you are not the only one!

Here is a post which tells the not so perfect day that one family had. This is the element of ‘real life’ that sometimes is missing from some homeschoolers’ descriptions of the homeschooling lifestyle

Blakeney Academy: What a Day

This post is one of worrying about the homeschooling lessons not going as planned, an honest confession of self-doubt and worry.

Mother Crone's Homeschool: When things don't go well...take Jane's advice

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Ned Vare's New Blog

Hooray!

Ned Vare has a blog!

(I prodded him several times, I'm glad he has jumped in!)

I'd like to introduce you to Ned Vare, a Connecticut resident whose son was unschooled until his admission to college. Ned and his wife Luz Shoshie (a former school teacher) have been homeschooling advocates and they have actively been involved in the Connecticut homeschooling community as well as a support group leaders for Unschoolers Unlimited.

Ned and Luz also produce a television show for their local cable access channel in which they speak of the problems with public schooling. He also writes letters to the editor and op-ed pieces to his local newspaper regarding issues with public education and the high education budget.

I became aware of Ned and Luz before my first born was even one year old. They used to write an article in the paper newsletter published by Connecticut's state inclusive homeschooling organization (the now defunct CHEA--Connecticut Home Educators Association). I met them about seven years ago in person.

I will describe Ned as an opinionated person who is not afraid to speak his mind. He has strong opinions. He likes to discuss and debate topics. He is a realist. He is a bit fiesty. Some people who read his writing have said they are offended by his strong opinions. If you are thin skinned his strong ideas may be too much for you to want to handle. If you are not interested in hearing about issues relating to problems with schools, on par with what John Taylor Gatto and John Holt have said, then maybe his writings are not for you.

I hope Ned's new blog "School Is Hell" finds its niche in the blogosphere.

Please check it out if you are interested!

Other Links to Ned and Luz on the web:

Unschoolers Unlimited website

School Wars site (run by Luz Shoshie and Ned Vare)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What’s Love Got To Do With It: Book Review by ChristineMM (aka The Thinking Mother)

Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: What’s Love Got To Do With It? Talking with your Kids about Sex
Author: John Chirban, PhD, ThD
Genre:
Non-fiction, parenting, family & relationships, general
Format: hardcover book
ISBN: 978-1-401-0339-7
Publication Date: October 2007




I received this book from the author’s publicist, who found me through my blog. I received a free review copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review of it here on my blog.

I am happy that this book came into my hands. Although I have read many parenting books I have not read much at all about the topic of talking to kids about sex simply because the topic is absent from most general parenting books, even from books on communication with children!

I was frankly stymied about the issue of how to, in a practical way, address our family’s values as well as get the facts straight. When should I talk about sex with my kids, and how much detail is necessary? What can I do to insure that my children will feel comfortable coming to me with their questions?

Dr. Chirban is a psychologist and he holds several positions at colleges and universities. He holds a Doctorate of Theology and his perspective includes thinking about this topic as it relates to a family’s spiritual beliefs. He is chairman of Human Development at Hellenic College (a Greek Orthodox college). As a Director of a therapy practice, he has direct insight as to how a person’s exposure to sex or how the values or information they were or were not given in their childhood or teen years sometimes affected people negatively even into their adulthood.

First and foremost Dr. Chirban seeks to inform parents that not only are sexual topics and images in the media but it is everywhere. While we may think our children know nothing, they may learn a lot simply by what they see on billboards or while at the mall. Provocative advertising and innuendo is everywhere, from print magazines seen at a gas station or at the grocery store and on television ads. Television shows and movies have lots of innuendo, sometimes even shows commonly watched by children. Over and over, Dr. Chirban warns us that we know not what our children are learning when on the school bus or while at school or while on sports teams or while at summer camp. While I thought I was pretty safe from that due to the fact that my children are homeschooled I can tell you they are not, as they don’t live in a bubble and they learn from their schooled friends and cousins.

There is a large section of the book that addresses various ages and stags of physical and psychological development. We learn what is normal and what is typical. There are ideas about age-appropriate discussions for parents to have with children of each developmental stage. I found this section very helpful.

We learn about how puberty is happening at very young ages, so both girls and boys may hit puberty three or more years earlier than we ourselves did. Girls may begin puberty at age seven or eight, so we probably will have to address the topic of sex education and puberty at a younger age than we had assumed. I got the message loud and clear that for both boys and girls, it is important to lay the groundwork for the body’s changes in puberty before certain biological things happen. We hear some stories of negative self-esteem and shame that happened to some adolescents who were not informed ahead of time of how to handle certain normal situations that happen with their bodies.

In order to teach our children the right facts we must first know the right facts. The author provides information to help us learn more, as perhaps there is new or different information that we are unaware of (one rapidly changing area is that of sexually transmitted infections—they seem to be growing in number!).

We are urged to provide our children with more details than I myself was prepared to ever tell my children. Yet, we are to use our children as a gauge to help realize when they have ‘had enough’ and to only give them the information they are comfortable with. We parents are not to force a ton of information on them if they are uncomfortable with that level of detail just because they are a certain age or even because we the parent think they should know that thing.

Parents are urged to figure out our values about sex and relationships. Information in the book helps the parent solidify their opinions and values, this helps prepare the parent for discussions that will take place in the future.

It is up to the family to teach the family’s values. If you are relying on schools or a non-fiction book on sex education and puberty to teach about values, emotions and relationships in relation to sex, you are making a mistake because those sources usually focus just on facts. When the parent is part of their child’s sex education and when the parent teaches the values of the family, the child is then prepared when new information comes their way. Then they can frame that information with the values they have been taught, which will help them make the right choices.

If the family does not teach the values to go along with the facts, then the child actually has a ‘gap’ or a ‘void’ and then they are likely to adopt the values of the culture or that modeled in the media to ‘fill in the blanks’. Do you want your child adopting the values expressed in advertising or on some of the television shows or do you want your child living out the values that your family believes?

And if we want our children to get the information and values from us, their parents, we must then set the stage for open discussion. You can’t have a good discussion about sex if you don’t even have a good relationship with your child or if your child is afraid to talk to you about certain topics. In case your family does not yet have a close relationship of the type that your child is comfortable enough to have such discussions, Dr. Chirban provides information about how to grow closer to your children. It is not too late to start building stronger bonds with your child or teenager.

At this point some of you may be wondering how certain issues are handled such as what are Dr. Chirban’s views and recommendations on certain topics such as abstinence or other things. Maybe you are wondering if he is pushing an agenda that is different than what you want to teach your children. I want to make it clear that Dr. Chirban leaves the parent to decide what their own family wants to teach their own family.

Certain topics are covered that are Dr. Chirban’s opinions. They are opinions he has formed due to experience, over time and after seeing the negative effects of certain teachings. As a psychologist and therapist he wants all people to be healthy and emotionally well and to not suffer psychologically from things taught about human sexuality. I would think that if he left out his opinion on certain issues that he’d be doing a disservice to his readers.
I would recommend that you read this book and figure out what your family wants to teach your children regarding your family’s values. Don’t be afraid to read the book out of fear that you may not agree with 100% of the recommendations. Read it and then form your own plan for your family.

One thing not addressed in the book which surprised me, was a general discussion of how our culture has become what I’d consider ‘over sexed’ and the challenge with trying to preserve our children’s innocence. While Dr. Chirban references over-sexed advertising in the mall and says our kids will see it, ‘that’s just the way it is’ is all that is said about it, he doesn’t spend time condemning it (although he never says he is happy about it either). He doesn’t get into discussions of what should be taught at what age such as saying that in some public schools, X information taught in Kindergarten is ‘too much’ or ‘wrong’. He doesn’t say that to teach certain details about sex in 8th grade is over the top. He doesn’t for example, say that from the perspective of a psychologist that the sexualization of young children and a constant exposure to sexual content at young ages is damaging and bad for children.

We parents are urged instead to teach our children about it so they can have their own values about it and so they’ll have the facts correct when they hear and see things. I assume that Dr. Chirban feels that other books cover these topics. Perhaps also, Dr. Chirban doesn’t want to make certain judgments or to say that certain things are right or wrong?

I know that my friends and I all want to preserve our children’s innocence. We are worried about what to teach our children and to what level of detail. Some of us avoid discussing certain topics out of fear of making a mistake or squeamishness about addressing these topics with our children. Yet we need to face the facts that our children are learning things (right and wrong facts) and they are hearing opinions and values that may or may not be in line with our family’s values on the topics. It is better that our children learn from us what we want them to learn, then they can better handle the information the learn from other sources, now and in the future, whether it is at a class in school or from their friend on the playground.

I think this is a very good book which fills a void in the parenting book genre. There are tools in the book to help prepare parents for discussions about sex and relationships, both planned and when the child asks a question out of the blue. This book is easy to read. I would encourage all parents to read it.




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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 99 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 99 was published on November 20, 2007 at Homeschool Buzz and is titled “Thanksgiving Week”.

There are over 40 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too). I have an entry in this weeks carnival, 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.

Enjoy!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 11



Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 11: November 11-17, 2007


Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 7 and in 2nd grade.


This is the week of trying to get back to a more typical family life after the death of my father-in-law. We resumed doing all of our usual activities (both the kids and me and my husband too).

The FIRST LEGO League tournament is fast approaching. Additional classes were added onto our schedule, doubling the class from four hours a week to eight (plus an hour commute time each time we meet so that takes up time too). I have no idea if as we get closer to the tournament they will have to meet for more then eight hours per week (yikes).

So day one was back to church, the kids were back to choir practice and then religious education class.

On that day I spent the afternoon at the baby shower of a friend my same age. It was a bit strange for me as I felt so old. Here we are the same age as my friend, and she is just having her first baby. She chose the path to become a medical doctor and ended up with two specialties and also a Masters in Public Health. All that work and the residency and then working full-time to pay off the debt helped push off the starting a family process until later. I felt old, having a ten year old, and dealing with parenting things I’m dealing with and I saw her really concerned with things like the decorating of the nursery and things like making sure she had the best baby gadgets and gear. I also saw a whole slew of new baby products which are really only intended to rob the customer of their money (cloth zippered containers to carry clean pacifiers in, special disposable plastic containers to carry snacks in, and other such things).

Then later, the kids and my husband went to the four hour LEGO class.

Day two my older son did his reading test thing again (still haven’t blogged that yet). We did some of our homeschooling to ease back into it. I resumed tackling the laundry and cleaning the house yet again. I worked with him to write two papers for the reading test thing. The evening wrapped up with a Cub Scout meeting.

Day Three we did some of our homeschooling during the day. It was a low-key day. I am not pushing them to do all of our lessons as we are still having issues with grieving. We are all struggling to get back into a routine around here.

I read a bit on how children grieve and I am definitely seeing the signs. Both children have regressed a little, and it comes and goes. Both children are lashing out in anger over silly things and ‘the experts’ say this is part of how the children act when they are processing heavy emotional load of the loss of a close loved one. It is hard to deal with as I feel bad about me being my typical way of giving consequences for their negative actions when the negative actions are caused partly or wholly by adjusting to this loss.

I am also giving the kids plenty of time to play and have fun here at home. I am making sure to spend time with them so their ‘love tanks’ are full.

On the fourth day, it was grey and nasty out and so we didn’t go to homeschool park day. We read books and had fun and just enjoyed each other’s company. And cleaned the house and did the laundry…

On the fifth day my children had their last homeschool science class. They did the graduation ceremony which both my husband and I attended. Then we ran errands as a family. It was Youth Group night for my older son which I volunteer at, so we did that. It was a busy, running-around day, too hectic to be honest.

The sixth day we did homeschooling all day but not the usual lessons. I worked a lot with my son on his project for the FIRST LEGO League. He had to find out how people lived in Connecticut 250 years ago and then compare that to how we live today, specifically, the use of appliances in doing household tasks and about energy consumption and comparing that. We have not yet learned the time period of history in America of the 1700s so this was more work than it would have been otherwise. That day we had a three hour class which included a tour of a home built in 1750 and seeing for ourselves how they lived. The team did an energy audit of that home as well.

The last day of the week was Saturday. To fulfill a requirement for my younger son’s Cub Scout rank we visited the local Garbage Museum and Recycling Center. We carpooled with another homeschooling/Scout family and hung out with them. We realized what they were teaching was not necessarily reality in Connecticut and it is propaganda. I’d like to say we learned a new behavior but we didn’t as we already do all the recycling they recommend. Actually we also Freecycle and I am annoyed they don’t tell people about that (I put it in the suggestion box). While watching the workers hand sort every piece of stuff put into the recycle bins I reminded my children that they had better study hard and do well academically or else they may end up doing that job. That may sound harsh but it is reality.

The night wrapped up with a visit to a Boy Scout Troop (we are looking for a Troop to join). This Troop hosted a turkey dinner where everything was cooked by the Scouts. It was served outdoors in 38 degree weather. The Scouts had camped out the night before and were also going to camp out that night. That was a bit too much roughing it for me, I guess I’m getting old.

Thinking Skills
A big issue this week is me dealing with the notion of teaching my children to think and to think critically and to analyze. Some things are happening with other homeschooled children we know (and with some adults I know also) that lead me to believe they cannot think critically or logically.

I am very worried about this all of a sudden—worried that my kids may end up not able to think logically. Being able to be an independent thinker and to think logically has always been a top goal of mine for my children. But now I feel that this is more important than even academics. I guess I have not been thinking about it much lately, that I assumed it would just happen. I am feeling a bit nervous and want to make sure my kids can think, and suddenly the issue of not leaving gaps or academic facts seems so much less of a pressing issue. I am feeling a bit like I need a self-check to make sure that what we’re doing is going to get my children to think logically, then I need to adjust if necessary.

Parenting challenges
A bunch of stuff went on with the cousins during the time our extended family was together after the death of my father-in-law that I am trying to deprogram them. This is so hard. I put a lot of thought into parenting issues in this week and started a series of posts on my blog about the ways children behave and what is right or wrong or good or bad. That really weighed on my mind in this week.

Feeling Different Because of Homeschooling
My younger son is struggling this week with feeling different regarding the fact that he does not go to school like some of his friends and like his cousins. Now he is picking out all the things we do differently like me not allowing them to use profanity or even crude language--he wants to do those things like some other kids do (yes, use profanity). Add to the list that he is guilt-tripping my husband and I because we don’t own a video game console.

Winding Down
So the homeschool park day is over for the fall. The science class is over. Our schedule is slowing down regarding outside classes and events.

Quick Study Labs
I signed up my older son for the fourth class in the Edison Project online electronics class through Quick Study Labs. He did three classes last year. The class begins in January 2008. I highly recommend this class for kids who are interested in electronics.

Homeschool Science Class
They changed the schedule for the Late Fall science class (takes place in late November and December). My husband and I decided it is not do-able for our family to particpate in.

They also did the same thing for the Winter Class (start date January 2008).

I just can't justify a 180 mile commute each day, twice a week (one kid on one day per week, another kid on the other day). That is a lot of gas, I've estimated it would cost $35 per day in gasoline alone per day, plus four hours of my driving time, per day.

I can justify a 180 mile commute on one day for both kids to do the class on the same day. The kids are both disappointed and angry with me and my husband for not allowing them to take the Late Fall and Winter class. Sigh. I am disappointed too. They will have to wait for the Spring class I guess.

A good thing is that gives me one more full day of being able to do homeschooling lessons at home and to get whatever work done we need to get done. And we save the tuition ($50 per day of class).

(This is an example of how homeschooling parents end up working on their children's educational plans all year long. It is not finished when the school year starts in September.)

Thanksgiving
We began prepping for Thanksgiving (the adults). I decluttered the art supplies out of the dining room. I’m doing a big house cleaning in preparation for Thanksgiving. The kids are helping me with some of it as is appropriate and safe.

My Children's Self-Initiated Stuff

Here are some of the things my children do in their spare time regarding play and reading which is self-initiated.

Older Son, alone:

Re-reading various Shonen Jump magazine (manga) (he subscribes to it) *
Re-Reading Dr. Slump (manga) (multiple volumes) (from PaperBackSwap.com) *
Reading Beckett Yu-Gi-Oh! to learn about the cards and their values
Worked about eight hours to finish up a comic book writing project that he and some other homeschooled kids collaborated on.

Younger Son, alone:

Reading Yu-Gi-Oh! manga

Both children alone or together:

Played Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game with each other (a lot)
Fooz ball (tabletop soccer game), with each other, with friends or with my husband (a lot)
Playing with LEGOs (making spaceships, working on the command center, a project that is taking over a year) (a lot)
Riding Scooters in the basement
Riding bikes in the driveway

*The following week I realized some content of these I am not happy that my children are reading. Must I pre-read everything? Are not the positive recommendations of my friends enough? I guess not.

Until next week....

General Information:
Homeschool Open House’s Weekly Reporter blog post project is a concept devised by Jessica of Trivium Academy. For more information, see the Trivium Academy blog entry dated 9/04/07.

Graphics which I am using in my Homeschool Open House and Weekly Reporter were designed by Jessica and are available on her blog, again in the same blog post dated 9/04/07.

For information about how you can become a Weekly Reporter or to view a list of other Weekly Reporters, read the information at Trivium Academy in the 9/04/07 blog post or see the information in her right sidebar.


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