Friday, February 29, 2008

Some Books For Our Home Library Purchased This Week

I am happy to have so many exciting books come into my hands this week that I thought I'd share about them.

Thank you for purchasing things on Amazon through my blog. Commissions earned through my blog paid for most of the Amazon purchases. Yippee!

To inform me about health, wellness and disease prevention:

1. The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis PhD MPH.
I just watched a BookTV presentation by the author Devra Davis. I needed to know more. I heard there is an NPR interview that can be heard on the web. This is sure to enrage and scare me.
Purchased new at for a discounted price.

2. Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan
Found this while ordering the above Devra Davis book. I am partially using natural and/or organic and/or homemade products. I feel I should know more to possibly pursuade me to use even more natural and/or organic and/or homemade products.
Purchased new at for a discounted price.

3. Menopause, Naturally: Preparing for the Second Half of Life by Sadja Greenwood M.D.
After hearing some scary stories from a friend I feel I need to get prepared for what it is in store. I'm not so worried as to buy a new book, but when I stumbled upon this at the library's used book shelf for 50 cents the other day so I picked it up. If this is not useful I'll put it on my PaperBackSwap bookshelf for swapping.

4. In the education realm---
Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Add by Charles J. Sykes.
I heard of another book this author wrote over on the Why Homeschool blog and I put that other one on my Amazon Wish List. This one popped up as one that their artificial intelligence program thought I would be interested in. I feel that I need to know a little more about what is wrong with the American public education systen RIGHT NOW (not about what was wrong in the 1960s or 1970s). I also need this as a reminder that homeschooling should be continued in our family. We're have a bit of a rough patch and the other side of the fence is looking tempting to all of us.
Purchased new at for a discounted price.

To deflect the stress and seriousness in my life and in what I read, I bought two artsy books.

5. Living the Creative Life: ideas and inspiration from working artists by Rice Freeman-Zachery.
I love reading about art process, the intention behind certain artworks and how and why people do what they do. I think this book is what that is about. I have read it praised by others who share the art circles I travel in.
Purchased new at for a discounted price.

6. Art Making, Collections & Obsession: An Intimate Exploration of the Mixed-Media Work and Collections of 35 Artists by Lynne Perrella.
More of the same from #4, in a large format, hardcover book. I have heard good things about this book too.
Purchased new at for a discounted price.

7. The current issue of the new magazine: Artful Blogging by Stampington & Co. Purchased at Joanne's Fabric & Craft store with a 50% off coupon.

8. Current issue of the magazine Somerset Studio by Stampington & Co. Purchased at Joanne's Fabric and Craft store. I probably should just subscribe to this and stop buying it by the issue. I've been reading this for over two years now.

9. Galileo Astronomer and Physicist, Great Minds of Science Series by Paul Hightower.
An educational book for use in our homeschool. Local classical method homeschoolers I know praise this series of biographies for use in the middle school grades. Normally these sell for over $25, as they are only published in the School and Library Binding. This one I snapped up used on Amazon Marketplace for the bargain price of $7 plus shipping. If I could afford it I'd buy the whole series. Too bad these are not in our local public libraries.

10. The Big Burn by Jeanette Ingold.
Historical Fiction "juvenile literature" featuring teenagers in Montana and Idaho in 1910 while wildfires blaze.
Purchased this because I stumbled upon a like new copy at my library's ongoing book sale shelf where everything is 50 cents. It sounds very good. I can't go wrong with a 50 cent purchase, can I?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jury Duty Déjà vu No It’s Reality

I am angry that I have been called to Jury Duty yet again. It just frustrates me that the process is so broken.

In the last 32 months I’ve been called six times. You may think that is not too much, averaging about one summons per six months. Well I am not even counting the ones that I was called for before that.

May 2005, I was excused for childcare hardship due to being a stay at home mother (no daycare for the children).

June 2006, excused for childcare hardship due to being a stay at home mother (no daycare for the children).

August 2006, just after getting the letter for the above hardship, called again, which made no sense to me—did they not know they had just excused me weeks earlier? This one was also excused for hardship due to being a stay at home mother (no daycare for the children).

February 2007, I sent in a letter of hardship. What I received back was a postponement for an August 2007 date. I had no recourse at that time to ask again for the hardship. I gave up and said I’d do the Jury Duty, planning to try get out of it in person with the (very real) childcare hardship if and when I was called to be interviewed to be on a Jury.

May 2007, called again with a July 2007 date, now that is two open dates for the future. I wrote to explain I had an August 2007 appearance date plus gave the hardship for childcare. I was excused for hardship due to being a stay at home mother (no daycare for the children), but I was not excused for "already being assigned to Jury Duty in the future".

In August 2007, I did serve, did have to go to the building, did sit there all day, was picked for a Jury, was interviewed and at 4:35pm was excused on a hardship for childcare. Note all the other jurors’ day ended at 4:30pm. I was put through the whole drill with the group briefing and then the individual briefing. Having served this date legally exempts me from being called until after 8/31/2010.

February 2008, I’ve been called again, despite me being exempt until 8/31/2010. Today I am spending time filling out paperwork, copying the old forms and sending this proof in.

I don’t know what is going on with the records of the government here. It is a mess.

The ones that keep duplicating each other are all in the same name and address. Some of the older ones had typo’s on my name or were using my maiden name, which the government says can trick their system and cause people to be called numerous times.

I am also annoyed as in this state there is no exemption given for homeschooling parents. I am with my kids all day. I have no daycare. I am their teacher, their educator. If I were to not be here it would not just be that they’d be missing a ‘babysitter’ but they would not be educated, a larger problem if you ask me. Even the attorney who interviewed me said he could not give me a hardship for homeschooling, but that he could give me a hardship for childcare reasons. Whatever. I give up on the logic. It is the government I was dealing with.

Oh and shall I mention also for that case, I had conflicts of interest with the case, with a person I personally know being named in a malpractice lawsuit and also it being for a medical condition that is controversial due to ethical reasons? And that I’ve worked in the medical field and for a medical insurance company and have an opinion and a bias regarding the medical procedure performed. Religious issues were also involved and if I held certain religious views it could have swayed my decision as a juror, against the plaintiff. However they didn’t take any of that as the reason to exempt me, they used the ‘childcare hardship’.

The homeschooling is also why other than that one day, I don’t want to rely on other relatives to care for my children if I were picked on a Jury. I can’t imagine my mother or my mother-in-law being able to care for my kids all day long let alone administering their homeschooling lessons. Actually they would not be able to physically get them to their various paid classes and events, it would be impossible. My mother has a big fear of driving to places that she hadn’t yet been to, and my disabled mother-in-law’s driving is very limited. The Jury I was last interviewed for was estimated to be a three week long case. Jury Duty for a homeschooling mother just doesn’t work, it is more of a hardship than a regular ‘child care’ issue if you ask me.

Seeing how the government handles Jury Duty scares me to think that some politicians in this country are trying to change over to socialized medicine run by the government. If that ever happens we will really have a problem, just like some of the other countries with socialized medicine are having now.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. Passed Away

This came as a surprise.

William F. Buckley had passed away, WNBC is reporting the source is his assistant.

From the Journal Times Online
NEW YORK (AP) _ Author and conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. has died at age 82.

His assistant Linda Bridges says Buckley died Wednesday morning at his home in Stamford, Conn. She says he had been ill with emphysema and was found dead by his cook.

He was a supporter of high education standards, and to that end called for various ways to improve public schooling. He urged parents to play an active role in their schooled child's lives. I have been helped in the past by reading books he has co-authored, such as "The Educated Child". Although in that book he was not pro-homeschooling, he later went on to work with K-12, a charter school, and later said positive things about homeschooling.

Buckley is known for many other things, such as being a conservative columnist and founding the National Review. It is his work regarding education that I was most concerned with.

William F. Buckley Dies at

William F. Buckley Is Dead at 82 at New York

William F. Buckley Jr. Dies, article at The Journal Times Online

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Re-learning Embroidery with “Doodle Stitching” Book

While shopping on Amazon recently for art and craft books I clicked on Amazon’s Gold Box. I don’t do that often. Gold Box is where you are given larger discounts than normal on books that the system thinks you would be tempted to buy, or books that are already on your Wish List.

One that was there was “Doodle Stitching”. I looked at the book and loved the fun design on the cover. I read through all the customer reviews. Re-learning embroidery is something I’ve wanted to do, just to put a bit on little stuffed creatures or to use it on artist trading cards. (I used to embroider as a child and preteen but had long since forgotten how to do it.)

When I read the customer review that said that the book had very good illustrations to teach each step, and that the book was really great for beginners, I realized it was a book I had to have. Due to the Gold Box price I was able to get it for under $10.

When it arrived, I began reading it that night before bed. I got excited. The book does explain the stitches in easy to understand words and it does have good illustrations.

The following night before bed I ran to my sewing supplies and was thrilled to find a whole box of embroidery needles. I have a wooden hoop from my childhood. I took some flannel fabric left over from a doll clothes sewing project and cut a piece off. I went through my supplies and found about 25 different embroidery thread skeins. That was all I needed.

I decided to just start off learning some stitches and ‘doodling’ right on the fabric, that is, sewing without a pre-planned design on the fabric. Random stitches became shapes which became items. That first night, while sitting in bed listening to the television, I stitched a designed Easter egg and an Easter basket.

The next night I tried different stitches. One ended up looking like a bare tree’s branches.

On day three my boys noticed it on the nightstand and asked what it was. Remember they have never seen embroidery before. They knew nothing of it and they were amazed. So that night, you guessed it, when I tried to do the embroidery they both begged to do it. They each took turns doing it. They were teaching themselves the stitches. When asked I explained what the satin stitch is, used to fill in large spaces to make them solid.

The boys have been embroidering for three nights now. Last night they asked me if I have any more hoops and the answer is no. There is a needlecraft sale going on at Joanne’s this week. That is on the way to the orthodontist, who we have an appointment with today. I also would like to stop over at a thrift shop which sometimes has fantastic art, craft, and sewing supplies at ridiculously low prices. I’m going to get each boy their own embroidery hoop, and I’ll buy myself a larger one as well, as mine is quite small.

Last night after the kids went to bed I started and finished the design for an ATC which is for the February Creative Mom Podcast ATC exchange. The theme this month is wings. I have embroidered a bird standing on the ground. I then circled the design twice around with stitches. Today I am contemplating how to finish this off. I think I will put a piece of cardboard under it, fold the edges over and stitch the fabric to the card, so the ATC will have some stiffness. I was thinking also of adding a layer of thin batting and then sewing up the “card” but that would be very soft. I’ll have to think about it more. I have just two days to finish this ATC and get it into the mail on the 29th so it can be considered “on time”.

Anyhow I am really enjoying the inspiration in “Doodle Stitching”. I had read some experienced embroiderers thought the book was too simplistic for a veteran. Some others complained of the lack of patterns, there are designs there to copy and enlarge and so I don’t understand what they are complaining about. I see the book as a good one for beginners as it teaches the stitches well and in general it inspires you to think about different ways to use embroidery rather than just making a design that someone else came up with then framing that on the wall (like my older relatives did a lot in the 1970s).

This book would be perfect for children, preteens and teens also.

I don’t know where this embroidering will lead me. Right now it is a great thing to do at the very end of my day, while sitting in bed with the television on. This is something that is fun and light, something to rid myself of stress. Sometimes I feel like so many very serious things are happening in my life that I need to deflect or offset that with something that is just plain playful and fun.

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Fun With Mirrors (Photo of the Day)

My two boys looking into a distorted mirror at the Boston Museum of Science. We were there on a 'camp in' with Cub Scouts, we slept overnight in the museum. My boys were aged 5.5 and 8.5 at the time.

Photo taken in April 2006 by ChristineMM in Boston, Massachusetts.

Some Primitive Skills Links

For anyone interested in primitive skills and “primitive technology” here is great site.

Society of Primitive Technology

Society of Primitive Technology is a non-profit organization dedicated to the research, practice, and teaching of primitive technology. More about the SPT can be read here.

They have a newsletter. You can read some articles from the newsletter here.

Compilations of past aritlces have been made into books.

Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills
book contents list

Some Primitive Living Skills page, with more free articles to read
on Hollowtop's site.

Even more free online articles from Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive Skill’s site.

I found lots of links all over these sites. One page leads to another that leads to another. You could spend hours reading these free articles.

Nature as Wallpaper article, from the book "Participating in Nature".

More books...

Primitive Technology

Primitive Technology II

(As I was looking for a label for this post I began asking myself if this content is 'history' or 'science' or 'nature study' or what? I don't have an answer.)

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Educational Toilet Humor (Photo of the Day)

We are not big on toilet humor in our house but this one deserved laughter.

This framed display was in the women's bathroom at the Children's Museum in Boston. It depicts the feces of different animals.

My younger son (then aged 4.5) is cracking up so hard, he could not stop laughing. The situation was so funny I just had to take a photo.

(He had just had a drink from the drinking fountain and made a mess all over his shirt, in case you’re wondering why he is all wet!)

Photo taken in April 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 113 Has Been Published

The Canival of Homeschooling Week 113 was published today at The Daily Planet.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It providess a lot of homeschool-related reading (and its 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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Suddenly Seeing the Big Picture of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting

Cub Scouting has been a big part of our family’s life in the last five years. Today I was thinking how I really don’t blog about it much. Today I’m surprised at myself for having writing so little about it and I feel moved to write today about what is on my mind. I feel that suddenly I am seeing the big picture of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting.

Right now both my husband and I volunteer with Cub Scouts. Sometimes the experience has been very stressful to be honest. We used to be with one Pack and we left due to various problems that were not being resolved. I think what had happened in the first three years is that we were so snarled in the trees that we didn’t see the forest. There were problems that consumed our time and were so stressful that it blocked my ability to see the larger picture. The fourth year we changed to a new Pack and it was a year of decompressing from one situation while adjusting to another. This fifth year has been so easy and much more enjoyable.

We did keep going along through the very imperfect situation in the old Pack, doing many things and having fun (amidst the stress) but that blocked us from seeing the bigger picture of Cub Scouting. Sometimes Cub Scouting seemed ‘so big’ and ‘so important’ because it was taking up so much of my time and my husband’s time, and because we seemed to be reacting to problems all the time. Now that we’re nearing the end and a bigger venture of Boy Scouting looms on the horizon, Cub Scouting suddenly seems much smaller. I don’t mean that Cub Scouting is unimportant and insignificant, I mean that it seems to be like ‘baby steps’ which lead to something bigger, better, and more important.

This year my older son is in the highest rank of Cub Scouting. This is his last year. He will be crossing over to Boy Scouting in four weeks! We started thinking about what Troop he would cross over to last summer, lightly. It started by me finding out which adults that volunteered with me at Day Camp were involved in Boy Scouting. I noted how they interacted with the boys. I thought about which I’d like my son to be around, which would be good role models and which I’d like to avoid at all costs. I watched the Boy Scout volunteers at Day Camp, to see how they acted and how they interacted with the younger Cub Scouts. I felt this was an indication of how they acted within their Troop. When I attended Cub Scout Resident Camp with my son, I noticed the Boy Scouts at camp and how they interacted with each other and with the younger Cubs and I could only hope my sons will turn out that well by the time they are that age.

I thought about what we would like in a Troop and what we’d want to avoid. In the fall, my husband and son camped with one Troop. We attended a Thanksgiving dinner with another Troop as a whole family. We have attended two Troop meetings. This week we will attend two more. We have not made a final decision yet about which Troop our son will go to but both my husband and I have a good idea which one it will be. Last night one parent who volunteers with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts also told me that if in this first half-year of Boy Scouting our sons don’t click well with their Troop they can change to another Troop in the fall to find a better fit in lieu of losing interest or dropping out entirely from Scouting. I had not even thought about that good option.

Three other Cub Scout families in my son’s current Cub Scout Den would like to be with us and have the boys cross over to the same Troop together. However we all realize that we will pick a Troop that is best for us even if it means splitting up. I need to do what is right and best for my son and our entire family and if we split away from some of the nice families and boys, so be it.

The decision as to what Troop we go to rests largely with me and my husband, not my son. (Not all families I know operate in this way, some just let their son pick a Troop with one or two kids he likes in it and they go there.) I feel we need a Troop that works for the whole family and I know my son is in no position to make the best decision for our whole family because he has no way of knowing about some of the things to look for or to avoid. For example my son would never know what Troop is a disorganized mess or which has a well organized infrastructure. I also am looking for certain role modeling components which my son, being a ten year old child, has no skills to judge.

These five years of being in Cub Scouting have been fun for my son but as I said before, sometimes it has been very stressful for me and my husband. I have put in many hours of volunteer work to make sure a program exists for my sons. To save my sanity I just cannot go to a Troop where I know I will have continual stress. I am willing to volunteer and help the Troop but I cannot join a Troop where a large burden will fall upon my inexperienced shoulders.

I have other ideas for what I want and don’t want from a Troop and I am observing and talking to the parents in the Troops to find a good match. Our family wants a Troop which focuses on the boys developing their leadership skills. We want a “boy led” Troop which is the traditional Boy Scouting way. To the contrary, in keeping with the trend of hyper-parenting and helicopter parenting, some Troops are now largely planned, controlled, and executed by the adults. I have seen teenaged Boy Scouts being treated in a patronizing manner, treating them like wimpy, incompetent young children at an adult-led Troop. I want a Troop that helps boys grow into young men, not a Troop that treats teens like incompetent boys, or barks out orders drill sergeant fashion. I want the boys to lead themselves and to be independent and competent, not to be compliant, dependent followers. I feel the ‘adult led’ model is more of a Cub Scouting model as it should be because Cub Scouting is for young boys aged 6-10 who do need continual adult supervision and guidance. I see Boy Scouting as a bridge from boyhood to manhood. I do not see Boy Scouting as just a continuation of Cub Scouting.

I see Boy Scouting as quite different than Cub Scouting. I want my son to have more of a responsible role in the Troop and to learn leadership skills, become more independent, in short, to become a young man over these years. I want the other Scouts to be in more of a mentoring role to the younger scouts. To this end I would like a Troop whose Patrols are of mixed ages, which is the old-fashioned way. I am told many Troops now put boys all of one age in a Patrol. This is just like school, by grouping children of the exact age together. There is no mentoring there; it is the blind leading the blind. Not only do I suspect that, the parents who experienced both models within their Troop said this was what happened and that it was not good. That model of grouping in same ages promotes cliques and then the interactions with older Scouts in other Troop activities is more artificial and forced, and more shallow.

I want a Troop with a good number of active Scouts who really want to be there. I understand that with any Troop there may be a number who are not truly interested in being there, or some who are not active, but I would like still a good number who are active and happy in Scouting. I want the Troop to have enthusiasm for Scouting. I do not want a Troop with clear signs of apathy or boredom.

I want a Troop with active adult volunteers, where many hands make light work. I want a Troop with a structure that is organized. I want a Troop with a history of the parents getting along and having an infrastructure. I will avoid Troops that I know have ongoing strife. I want a Troop whose Scoutmaster is not on the way out with no replacements in sight. I want a Troop with good finances and a plan for the fundraising, where all the Scouts are mandated to do fundraising, not just to have the parents pay their way or that allows some Scouts to do nothing while other Scouts do more than their share to make up the difference.

I need a Troop with a Troop meeting night that jives with our family’s schedule. I need a Troop whose camping schedule is not a problem for our family, not conflicting with church attendance on Sunday, for example.

The last Troop meeting we went to was a night planned to welcome Webelos who are considering going to that Troop. I was very impressed on many levels.

I watched the teenaged Boy Scouts interacting with each other and with the visiting Cub Scouts. I saw an entirely different thing, I saw more mature young men showing leadership skills. I saw Boy Scouts with good interpersonal skills, leading groups and speaking to the larger group. I saw them treating others with respect and dignity. I saw Boy Scouts with confidence and self-assurance.

While the boys were busy learning some cooking and camping skills the parents had a meeting. Different volunteer parents explained the entire Boy Scouting model and then they explained how the Troop works.

On that night, for the first time I got a glimpse of the bigger picture of Boy Scouting and how if all goes well, it could really help a boy become a man. I suddenly saw the bigger picture of Cub Scouting for the first time that night also, realizing that the Cub Scouting journey led to this, it led to something bigger and more important. All my son had done in the last five years in Cub Scouting had led up to this point. Cub Scouting was fun and through it our boys and our family did many activities and tried some new things. Some friends and acquaintances were made. I feel now that my son is on the cusp of something much larger though. Where Cub Scouting was about having fun and building some character and camaraderie, Boy Scouting is about growing boys into men and it is about raising boys up to be independent, responsible leaders.

I heard the parents speak about their sons and their experiences with Boy Scouting. Some have young men who are now in college. Some have boys who made it to be an Eagle Scout and who still have younger sons in Scouting now. I heard about how the boys grow into young men in these years and how the parents thought Scouting was a good influence on their sons through the tumultuous teen years. I think I’m a good parent and I know I’ve put a lot of hard work into parenting my boys, but as I looked at and listened to these parents of teenagers and college aged boys, I suddenly felt like my son was still so young, and I was so inexperienced. I don’t have a teenager yet, I know that. I cannot begin to imagine what parenting a teenager will be like. I felt reassured and happy though, to be around these parents because I suddenly myself felt like I had some mentors! I haven’t experienced that with Cub Scouting so that must be why I didn’t expect to have that with Boy Scouting. I had not even thought about the fact that if we aligned with the right Troop that I myself may gain some wisdom and guidance from the other parents. I would be thrilled if that happened!

As I looked at the Boy Scouts, I tried to imagine my sons someday being their age. I saw tall teens, with broad shoulders and deep voices. It is hard to imagine my sons going from where they are now to that. Yes, I know that in this last year my older son shot upward so that now the top of his head is over my shoulder, but still he is a little boy. I saw teens acting like young men, not acting like immature boys. I am ready for that journey to begin for my older son.

I can think of no better way for my sons to go through their teen years than with Boy Scouting as a part of their life. I am sure that Boy Scouting is not perfect and it will have its challenges. Yet spending time having “good clean fun” while learning leadership skills is something I think can only have positive influences on my son’s life.

It feels great to end my older son’s Cub Scout year on a high note. I am happy that my son enjoyed Cub Scouting so much that he can’t wait to cross over into Boy Scouting. I feel ready to move on to this other, more challenging experience. I am so excited. In all these years of Cub Scouting, I have never been so excited. I can’t wait!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Haiku Monday 2/25/08

Just wrote this for the Creative Mom Podcast Circle's Haiku Monday challenge.

Just am too frazzled
To write any haiku now
Or so I had thought.

Doing a Meal Planning Project

I am doing a project regarding planning meals, dinner to be exact. My husband is working at his new job and the family schedule and routine has changed as a result. Formerly my husband, who loves to cook, was making dinner for the family. Now it is back to being my responsibility. At the end of a full day with my children, doing the homeschooling, running around here and there, the last thing I want to do is plan a meal at the last minute and prepare it.

We hardly buy any processed and prepared foods. We do not eat prepared foods like prepared frozen chicken or fish meals, pre-sauced and pre-seasoned or fully prepared. We hardly use any boxed, processed food kits (i.e. rice mixes, coatings for meats and such). About the most processed we get is dried pasta or frozen cheese ravioli, or Luna bars or pretzels for a snack. Our veggies are made from fresh veggies or they are frozen organic, raw vegetables which we then steam or cook. We eat salads from fresh ingredients. We do not normally keep desserts on hand. My children do NOT eat desserts after lunch and seldom after dinner either. The snacks we eat are ‘normal food’ with the exception of sometimes air-popped organic popcorn or the pretzels or a healthy type granola bar (Clif, Luna). This is why meal planning for me is not as simple as taking a frozen chunk of something from the freezer and reheating it, or mixing up ingredients from a box on the stove top.

I hate making dinner. I hate planning dinner at the end of the day. Well I guess the problem is that I don’t plan it and then it nears dinner time, I don’t know what we will eat and everything is frozen or raw, as our stomachs are growling. I procrastinate about dinner meal planning as I just don’t like it and I feel I have other better things I’d rather be doing with my time. I know it sounds illogical to think that me spending time blogging this is more important than thinking about dinner but I am being honest.

The best ever time for me and dinner preparation was when my second son was born. We were given a free membership to get groceries delivered to the house. I’d order over the Internet by a certain date and time and then they’d be delivered. Voila. It was fantastic. I was forced to think ahead to what all the meals would be. I actually made a menu plan each week including breakfast, lunch and snack too. I then ordered everything I needed for those meals. I then had everything on hand and pulled out my menu each day and made the meal. The whole planning of meals and Internet grocery ordering took about two hours of my time.

It is not as simple right now as we don’t use a grocery delivery system. We could do that, but the reality is we buy most of our groceries not from the regular grocery store. A major source of our food is Costco (bulk foods at discount prices) and Trader Joe’s (a discount health food store with tons of organic foods not available at Costco or at the local grocery store). Right now we’re doing a once per week Costco run, going to Trader Joe’s about every 3-4 weeks and going to the grocery store once about every 4 weeks, sometimes it is longer.

We cook in bulk sometimes, usually homemade pasta sauces and soups. The meat purchased in bulk gets frozen. When I make homemade bread in bulk I freeze it. Other healthy breads with short shelf lives are purchased in bulk and frozen. Where do we put our food? We have an extra refrigerator and a full freezer in the basement. The dry goods are stored in our pantry or in an extra shelf in the basement stairwell.

Since we cook from scratch so often, keeping the base ingredients on hand is not hard. We have the basics that we use in numerous recipes.

Right now I am in the process of making a list of the dinner meals we eat. I am also compiling the ingredients listing for each recipe. I am getting reading to plot out our dinner meals on a calendar. I am starting by planning the meals that can use up the foods I already have on hand, such as the frozen soups already in the freezer. I then will get us into the shopping habit of having on hand what we need to make those meals which are plotted on the calendar.

If I found this more fun the task would have been done already. I expect that I’ll finish up this planning process today or tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I am actually able to keep in place the schedule that I have planned. I am really more of a spontaneous person who rebels against rigid schedules so this goes against my grain. However I am sick of having a rumbling stomach at six in the evening and being forced to eat pasta with butter on it for the second or third time that week as everything else is frozen! (And my husband is sick of it too.)

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Postsecret From a Teacher to the Volunteer Moms

Wow that Postsecret was harsh.

I love the response that one mother emailed to the site.

Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2008 10:52 AM
Subject: To the teacher

Our children are our lives and we're in your classroom because we know how little some of you really care about them and about us. Our little secret? We don't trust you with our children unless we're keeping an eye on you.

I recognize that paper, it is Innisbrook brand gift wrap which is sold as a fundraiser, often by public schools. I own some of that which I bought for a La Leche League fundraiser!

Source: PostSecret entries uploaded 2/24/08 (visible through midnight 3/01/08)

Warning: Some secrets may contain sensitive topics or mature themes or images. New secrets are uploaded each Sunday. Old PostSecrets are NOT archived.

Note: If you want more information about what PostSecret is, I blogged about it in January 2006 and you can read that post here.

Nanny Cam News Story

This was stressful to watch. A mother installed a Nanny Cam to check on the Nanny she hired to take care of her twins which were born prematurely. I would be beside myself if this happened to my children. The story says this Nanny had six glowing recommendations.

Nanny Busted by Nanny Cam report by News4
report date: 2/24/08

Are Homeschool Moms Out of Balance?

Six months ago I was with a homeschooling mom friend of mine. She said something that really got me thinking and I have been thinking of this on and off since then.

She said that in spring 2007 she went to a homeschool support group meeting and met a mother who had just pulled her child out of school to homeschool the child. The mom was looking for homeschool support and to find a network of new friends in the homeschooling community. Later my friend ran into this person again somewhere else.

(For the record I have never met this person.)

Anyhow my friend bumped into her again in the late summer, and the mom said she was putting her child back into school in the fall. The reason she said was that she had met a bunch of homeschool moms and felt she did not want to be like them. She felt all the moms were overly involved in their children’s lives to a point of obsession, that it was unhealthy. She felt the moms were very unbalanced (out of balance with their own selves) and were self-sacrificing in a bad way and that she felt it was unhealthy. She wanted no part of that kind of life for herself. She felt the family lifestyles of the families she met were suffering and were negative in some ways due to this imbalance. I am not speaking of overly busy families, the criticism was made about individual women, the homeschooling mothers and their own lives and personas.

My friend and I spoke about our own lives and if we felt we were unbalanced. I shared that at times I have felt over-scheduled and overly busy and that I didn’t like that kind of pace of life. However I feel that I am not obsessed with my children. I also have many areas of interest and so not all of my energy goes to homeschooling. I have friends and extended family on both sides who we see regularly and who compete for our family’s time and energy.

I thought for a moment and we talked about how we pay for lessons and activities for our kids which are way above and beyond what we ourselves experienced in our childhood. Back at that time I was considering martial arts lessons for my younger son as he was asking for them. That friend of mine also wanted them for one of her son’s and the boy expressed that he wanted to be in a class with a friend. So we were looking for a karate class they could take together.

Later on after investigation local options I realized the place with a schedule that worked for me was $210 per month (2 group classes per week and a choice to take a third optional group class). The one she liked was $240 per month which covered 2 group classes per week and a Saturday private lesson. I decided for our family that it was too much money compared to our budget. I also compared it to the fact that I wanted to join a health club but was not due to the expense yet the cost of my own gym membership was a fraction of that martial arts cost for ONE child. Yet how many parents would pay for the martial arts class while they are themselves overweight and not in shape and their own bodies needed some physical exercise? So there is an example of how I do not put my child’s desires above my own sometimes. Instead the family budget was an issue and the family budget won. When the budget is increased the first thing that is happening is I am buying myself a gym membership.

I wonder if what the mother was trying to adjust to was the “homeschooling lifestyle” being so different than what she had experienced as the mother of a schooled child. I have no idea.

I still think about this idea from time to time and have been wondering what other people think of the life of the homeschooling mother and if it is unbalanced ? Is it common to obsess over the children in the family to the expense of the mother’s health and/or happiness? Do people take what I consider to be a family-centered lifestyle as abnormal, unnatural or unhealthy, is that the issue?

I think sometimes I’m using this as a self-check of sorts when I am thinking about balance in life and making plans and schedules. I ask myself if I am putting the child above the family as a whole. I ask myself if I can commit to one more thing when I’m already feeling stressed about something else not getting done. I figure out if I need to do something for my own self instead of adding on one more task or long-term commitment for one of the children.

Note: To clear up confusion, I edited the title to 'out of balance' instead of 'unbalanced'. I am sorry that some think that unbalanced is a synonym for insanity or mental illness, that was never my intention.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Battered Lobster Pot (Photo of the Day)

A battered lobster pot washed up onto the shore is now embedded into the beach's sand dune.

Photo taken by ChristineMM on Race Point Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore, Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA on February 17, 2008.

Buying Children’s Books for Gifts

One of my favorite things to do when our family is buying a gift for a child is to buy the child books. I love to match up a book to the child’s interests. If the child is young and the parents don’t know a lot about children’s books and if they don’t own many, I love to put wonderful books into the hands of the child and the parent.

Whenever I pick books for children that the parent must read aloud I try very hard to select books that I know the parent will like also. I know from my own parenting journey that if I like the book I will never refuse to read it aloud. However there is nothing worse than when I disliked a book and my child begged for me to read it, and it was even worse when they wanted it read two or three times in a row.

Also if the parent likes a certain topic I feel that if the parent reads a book about it aloud to the child it will help with bonding. I hope the book opens some conversation with the child and parent or that the child feels they are part of the parents’ world a bit more by reading together about the topic their parent enjoys so much.

Yes, I know some families who do not ever read books aloud to their children. I usually learn this long after I’ve been giving the very young children books. I wish all children were being raised in homes where books were read and used and appreciated.

In these cases where the children are not being read aloud to I then address the situation by giving books to the child that they can read to themselves.

One relative of mine was struggling to learn to read in first grade and was being tested for learning disabilities. Her mother has dyslexia and talks all the time about it and she puts down reading and books as unimportant. When the girl was six, that Christmas I found easy reader books with very narrow topics that were of particular interest to her. I wanted her to own books not just use the easy readers they have at school. I hoped that the match of the content with her interests would give her an internal spark to want to read and to like to read.

I like to give children who are already reading fluenty, books that they can read to themselves. I do this especially when I know the parents are not buying books for their children. I do this most passionately when I know the only reading a child is doing is what is required or forced upon them at school.

I want every child to discover the joy of escape that reading a great book of fiction can give.

I want children who don’t like to read to learn to love reading when they find a book that is worth their time and energy to read it. Sometimes the books they’ve been forced to read are boring or are a poor match for the child.

I want children to realize that books exist about subjects that they are interested in. Perhaps they don’t even realize there are books about some narrow topics, whether it be about robots, spiders, whales, or whatever else strikes their fancy. It’s not that the child needs to know all those details, what I want them to realize is that books can hold a lot of information, interesting information on anything the child may be interested in knowing more about.

Lastly I hope children will discover that books contain knowledge and wisdom that can open many doors for them, doors which may not be open through other channels in their lives.

The only time I stop buying books for children is when their parents ask us to stop. This has happened now with three families (eight children in total). It breaks my heart but I comply and most times end up asking what they want and give them what they ask for. This usually ends up being gift cards for clothing stores. Sigh.

When I buy these books I put thought into it. I take time to think about what the child likes and match it to excellent books. I enjoy purchasing thoughtful gifts, that’s just the way I am.

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My Word of the Year Mug for 2008

Here is the mug I made in January (at one of the paint your own pottery places) with my word of the year for 2008 on it.

CONTENT is the word. I learned about the word of the year concept by listening to the Creative Mom Podcast and the idea to put it on a mug was shared by a Creative Mom on the CMP Circle Yahoo Group.

CMP: Have Mug, Will Remember episode 83

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts On Middle School Learning

Here is an interesting post from Guilt-Free Homeschooling about middle school. It addresses hormones, the fact that schools often repeat stuff already taught in elementary school and how the home environment with homeschooling middle school can be more conducive to learning.

I love the the Guilt-Free Homeschooling site.

Teaching Reading Comprehension on My Mind

One thing that has been on my mind since January is the topic of teaching reading comprehension to my children. What brought this topic to light was that I had volunteered my older son to help a college student by taking standardized tests about reading comprehension. In some areas of the ‘reading comprehension’ categories my son did not perform as well as I had thought he would.

Up to this point I have been following the teaching methodologies of Charlotte Mason regarding ‘testing’ reading comprehension. With that method the child gives oral narrations of what they heard read aloud or what they read to themselves. At about fourth grade if a family so chooses these narrations can become longer and can be done in writing instead of always using oral narration. In the earlier years as well other methods of narration can be used such as dramatizing or drawing pictures. My older son has been doing excellently with giving long, detailed oral narrations. When I prompt him to summarize more and to not be as wordy, he does. I thought he was on a great track.

I have always thought the basic reading comprehension exercises as are usually used in schools can be patronizing, boring and sometimes even pointless. For example after reading a more complex passage the student is asked “what color was the object”. In other words sometimes these exercises are shallow and ask for details that are, to me, less important than the more deep things such as did the child understand in general what was read?

Of course I want my child to be able to read and decode and to understand what is read. I also don’t just want literal understanding of clear facts or statements but I want my children to be able to ‘read between the lines’ or see inconsistencies. I want them to be able to show evidence for a statement. This is called ‘inferencing’.

I was surprised on one of my son’s tests that he scored not so wonderfully on the ‘inferencing’ section. This is what laypeople call “reading between the lines”. Some quick examples would be if the passage stated the man kicked a tire or if a girl was not making eye contact, what did that indicate to the reader? They should be able to know that kicking a tire means a person is mad or that not making eye contact might mean a person was shy (or something else based on whatever else the story may have told).

I do have some issues with the testing my son did, such as different tests yielded different results, so which do I believe? I had decided that at the very least I was faced with a situation to deal with. If I know my son scored below what I would have liked to have seen on a test now what do I do as the homeschooling mother? I could choose to ignore this and stand by my Charlotte Mason method and keep on with what we were doing (even if that didn’t specifically address inferencing skills). I could say, “standardized testing is not always accurate” or “my son had Lyme Disease and was fatigued during the testing” (a true fact). I could say, “My son was processing the death of his grandfather at the time of the testing” (which was true). But after saying those things a bit, I chose to analyze, think, research, and make new plans.

What I have been doing is pondering different ways to teach reading comprehension. I did already own a book which I had heard recommended by other homeschoolers called “Reading Detective”. My copy was for grades 5-6. I had it on hand already. I picked it up used and partially written in for $2 which is more than 90% off the full retail, last summer. I had not yet begun using it. I decided to start using it and see what unfolded. So I sat down with an eraser and white-out and erased the already-done lessons. And then we were ready to begin.

I began using Reading Detective A1 with my older son (age 10, grade 5) in January. Now this is where the real experience begins. It is one thing to try to judge or review a workbook without having used it but it is another thing altogether to use it and see what unfolds, that is a truer test of how good the book is or if it helps or hinders that unique child.

First I had to teach my son how to do multiple choice questions. I realized he was being lazy sometimes and just picking the first right answer not the ‘best answer’, which it seems is never at the top, by the way.

Some of the questions are open-ended which I really like because I see a big difference in the ability to pick the right answer from a list versus being able to come up with the whole answer himself. (I noted as well this same thing with the homeschoolers National Geographic Bee, all students in grades 4-8 had the same problem—they all did great on the multiple choice or true/false but all didn’t do as well with the open-ended questions.)

I discovered that my son doesn’t like writing in complete sentences (I remember being that way too when I was his age). However I am forcing him to learn to write in complete sentences. A good communicator needs to be able to write in complete sentences. Period.

One thing that this book has which I like very much is that they don’t just ask for an answer (which could be guessed at by the way), they then want the student to tell what sentence or paragraph number proved their answer was right. This additional level of analysis may seem silly or ‘busy work’ at first glance, but I now know it is a very good thing. This is because while an answer may be guessed at out of laziness, the other question cannot be guessed at without it being obvious. Also even if my son gets the first part of the answer correct, I have realized that he ‘knew’ the answer from the reading but is sometimes unable to specifically say why. This amazes and bothers me at the same time. How could it be that he could not pinpoint what sentence proves that the two missing objects were buried in the backyard by the dog? The ‘supporting sentence’ was in plain sight!

I have had to work with my older son on the skill of carefully reading and re-reading in order to pick the best proof that a certain sentence tells a certain thing, or infers a certain thing. In order to pick the correct answer he must sometimes weigh weaker sentences against stronger sentences and use his judgment to pick the best one. This is a good exercise.

Also I should add in that my working with my son in this manner builds character—in me. My patience is being tested here. Doing this work with my son is a trial. I actually have to take deep breaths to maintain my composure when things get frustrating. I have to hold my tongue from saying what I’d really like to say some days. I keep reminding myself of some of our family’s philosophies about being respectful to our children and how we choose to talk to each other. No, doing all of this work is not ‘fun’. It is necessary though, as I want my children to be good readers and to comprehend and think about what they are reading.

If my son were whipping through all of this with ease and getting them all right I would think doing these ‘reading comprehension’ workbook based lessons are “a waste of time”. However in his case he is actually struggling with some of this. I am again, shocked and disappointed and unhappy about this. Sometimes I recognize he is being lazy and just rushing through the work to get it done, while other times it is very clear to me that the correct answer is not so easily accessible to him and that he guessed. Other times he just admits that he can’t figure it out and asks for help before he feels defeated or frustrated with himself.

I feel a bit let down that something I didn’t do in our homeschooling led him to not develop this reading skill. I really am. Rather than beating myself up about this though I am forging ahead with a positive attitude. The boy is ten years old, he is still young. It is not too late to teach these reading comprehension skills. We are working through this program and the work is causing me to teach him certain things which I realize I’d never done, such as what a simile is and what a metaphor is. We are moving forward and toward a goal and that is a good thing.

I also make my son go over all the incorrect answers to fix them. Sometimes we do the work together, with me immediately telling him of an error and asking him to find a more detailed sentence then letting him do it over immediately. Other times I have him do the work all alone then I check it and he has to come back to fix anything he missed while I sit and supervise and guide him to discover the correct answer on his own. I explain why the wrong answer was not the best answer. I want him to learn from his mistakes not just to be a passive recipient of the answer that I give him so he can ‘get it over with’.

This working together through these exercises which some may dub as ‘busy work’ or ‘stupid lessons’ or ‘very school-ish work’ are serving a purpose. Because I am working so closely with my son I can see his areas of weakness as well as his strengths. As we go on through the book I am finding his skills at reading carefully and inferencing are already improving. Whatever remains needing work after this consumable workbook is finished I will find a way to address, whether it is with some other company’s reading comprehension books or whatever it takes.

I also want to commit to taking the time to read through a book I already own called “Critical Conditioning” by Kathryn Stout. I feel this book will help me develop the ability to use thinking skills with any reading material they may be reading. This is not a workbook and it is not a ‘reading comprehension’ student text.

The biggest lesson I have learned here is that when and if we have our homeschooled children tested we have to figure out what to do with those results. If the child is being tested on materials they’ve never learned don’t be surprised if they don’t get high scores. We hear that homeschoolers are smart and test well on standardized tests but if the child didn’t focus on learning a certain skill then we should not be surprised if they don’t test well in that area.

If a gap is noted in the student’s abilities after testing is done, then what will you do? I feel that when a gap is found and if the issue is agreed to be a worthwhile thing to remedy, that the child should be able to do or that they should know the only responsible thing to do is to address that gap by filling it. That is my opinion. That is what I am doing with my children.

After working with my older son for a few weeks, I decided perhaps these reading comprehension skills like these are better to learn earlier than fifth grade. So I went and bought a copy of Reading Detective Beginner which is for grades 3-4 (the easiest level they sell in this series). I then immediately began using that with my second grader last month as well. He began reading fluently at age four, and he is reading above grade level so he is able to do this work, it is not pushing him too hard or torturing him with work that is too far ‘above his level’, believe me.

I’ll add as well that I don’t think that all reading comprehension books are equal. It is true that some are stupid and a waste of time. However so far I do like these Reading Detective books. They are not perfect, but so far they are good. (As an example of not perfect some of the passages taken from long stories of close or more than 200 pages are so short that I am even having a hard time understanding the gist of what is happening, as more general knowledge of what the story is about would be more helpful to understanding the passage’s details.)

I hope that in the future the discussions of reading comprehension will occur more around books that my children are reading rather than being about reading short snippets of text and being grilled on the contents. If I were to use real books I would need to have a thorough understanding of each story that I am discussing with my children which can get hard. It is hard to pre-read every single book that two children are reading then to come up with my own discussion questions. I guess this is an example of why some homeschooling mothers use literature unit studies that are sold to the homeschool or school market as teacher’s guides.

A constant challenge with homeschooling is that when we homeschooling parents see an area that needs adaptation and improvement or changing we feel the need to address it right here and now. Most of us don’t feel good about continuing with whatever we are doing through June then making a change at the start of the next school year. (Remember in school if a child is not responding well to their curriculum they have no choice but to keep using it. Why must we do this with homeschooling when we don’t have to?)

I am confident that both of my children are on a good path here, even if we are no longer doing a more pure Charlotte Mason method of teaching reading comprehension right now. I need to do right by my children first and foremost rather than being loyal to a homeschooling method that I personally favor. If the method that was liked is not giving the expected result, well, it needs tweaking, I think.

This reading comprehension change in our homeschooling goals and method of teaching is one example of what I’ve been thinking about and changing since the beginning of January. This is a good example of the way a homeschooling mother spends her time and energy in addition to doing all the homeschooling lessons, parenting the kids, and doing everything else that needs doing in a household, in a family, and for her own self.

Books I Use

Critical Conditioning by Kathryn Stout
Design a Study home page (Stout’s website), for more info or to buy directly

Reading Detective Beginner (grades 3-4), consumable workbook

Reading Detective A1 (grades 5-6), consumable workbook

Reading Detective A1 (grades 5-6), CD-ROM format (use instead of the workbook if you so desire)

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Boys and I Were (Quiet) Activists at the Capitol This Week

On February 19th, my sons and I were at the public hearing regarding Senate Bill 162. It was my third time in this building as a quiet, physical presence supporting homeschooling freedoms and/or parental rights issues in Connecticut. This was the first time that my children were with me and it was a learning experience for them.

Younger son is being a bit silly in the above photo so I'll share a better one of him below.

The evening before, and on the long ride to Hartford I discussed drafting bills and how bills become law. I explained how at certain points the public is allowed to make comments and to share their opinion with the lawmakers. My boys seemed to understand what I was saying. I tried to simplify the information without dumbing it down too much.

I explained how they were to act and look. I put them in a button-down shirt, nice pants and shoes rather than their more casual and more comfortable clothes. I explained that they were giving the lawmakers and everyone else in attendance an impression of homeschooled children with both their appearance and the way they behaved.

We then discussed the Senate Bill 162 which was raised. I explained the general idea of parental rights and the parents’ right to decide how their children should be educated, and where (home or in a school). My boys both said they feel the right of where to attend public school or whether to homeschool should lie with the family not with some school employee or government worker. I explained how in some states the school staff must approve of the homeschooling family’s learning materials or they may dictate what is studied. They seemed surprised that laws and people outside the family could dictate that a family do something that the family may not think is in their best interest such as refuse to let the child disenroll from public school or to say what could or could not be used for materials to teach a child during the home education process.

In light of these issues, I explained that I felt it was important for the three of us to go to Hartford to this hearing. I said I knew that they would rather be doing something else, such as sleeping until their normal time instead of getting up two hours earlier and rushing to get ready and out the door, and being at home doing their typical routine rather than being in a meeting room for a long meeting that day.

My children agreed to go but said they didn’t want to be bored. I told them we’d all have to just ‘deal with it’ because this is the way the government works and we were taking an active part in our state’s governmental process on this day. I told them the meeting may be long (it was nearly three hours long with no breaks). I asked them to be patient and quiet. They brought along some fun books to read and their Yu-Gi-Oh! decks and played the game and whispered, and sat with homeschooled children that they know from another town, who we met through local homeschooling activities and classes. I promised them lunch at the cafeteria afterwards, as a treat, which they were thrilled with.

When we got to the room where the public hearing was being held, my older son made a funny comment at one point, he looked at the legislators and said, “These are the people that make the laws?” as if he thought they should look different or something. They are just regular people that look like any person walking down the street. I thought his comment was kind of funny. Yes, here in America the ‘real people’ make the laws, and anyone can run for government office.

I decided to not speak to give testimony. I do support Senate Bill 162 with its original language. Although I do blog and speak out in that forum I was not ready to speak out on video and on the public government record. I have never had problems with DCF or with school system in the towns I’ve resided in, so far. I do fear that if I speak out too much especially by stating in the written and video format public record, the town I reside in and full name, or the names and ages of my children, that it would be ‘too much information’ and ‘too public’. I’m just not comfortable with that right now.

Additionally my husband stands firm on he and I not submitting letters to the editor to the local newspaper in reaction to various issues going on in our town. He doesn’t want me complaining about the skyrocketing education budget or anything like that. He feels that we could be the target of harassment by school officials if we stir the pot too much. We also don’t write letters on these subjects to our town officials nor do we attend town meetings to voice complaints or opposition to various things for this reason. I have heard stories from parents with children in the public schools here of their fear of getting on the bad side of school administrators or even the PTA officers! That is a sampling of what happens in this town. But I digress.

My summary of the public hearing on Senate Bill 162 is this. Language in the raised bill was altered over the weekend, from which it was at the time the children’s committee voted to raise the bill with a vote of 9-0. Once it was made clear by Representative O’Neill that the topic of discussion was the original wording and that he intended to use the original language, I was pleased.

The revised wording that popped up over the weekend had several loopholes that could cause problems for the parents. The largest issue was that the new/different wording left the decision of whether the school would accept a disenrollment at the discretion of the school staff NOT be solely the decision of the parent. The whole point of this bill was to reinforce that the parent can decide whether to disenroll a child from public school in order to home educate them, if the parent just did certain things to officially notify the school of the disenrollment (filling out certain forms, saying certain things and mailing it to the school via certified return receipt U.S. Postal Service mail).

Within the homeschooling community, we do not hear much protestation from parents who seek to disenroll children from public school to enter private school so I am not sure how much that is an issue in this state or not.

NHELD compiled a list of the towns which have had problems with schools ‘allowing’ students to disenroll in order to homeschool. You can view this graphic on Judy Aron’s blog here. The map shows the problem towns colored in orange. At the end of the meeting one of the legislators said that a concern is that the reps in the towns that are ‘not a problem’ may think this bill is ‘not necessary’ and they may not feel this bill needs attention and may let it die in committee (which it did in the last session). To prevent this from happening, they recommended that citizens contact their legislators to ask them to support this bill even if a problem is not known to have occurred in their district or in the citizen’s home town.

According to my notes:

There were eight legislators who took the microphone to state support of this bill plus the other members of the legislature who were sitting on the other side, listening to the testimony, who were in support of Senate Bill 162.

There were 16 members of the public who testified in support of this bill who are homeschooling parents or whose children are now grown, who were formerly homeschooled.

There was one college student, presently serving as a legislative aide at the State Capitol, who formerly was homeschooled, who spoke in support of the bill

There was one parent who has never homeschooled her children but who had problems with disenrolling her child in order to place him in a private school.

No one from the Department of Education or DCF spoke on this bill. A representative said she did see employees of these departments in the room earlier but they left before the hearing ended, listening to the testimony.

No one representing public schools in Connecticut spoke either.

Not one single person spoke in opposition to this bill.

Homeschooling friends leaving the Legislative Office Building together.

Learn more at these sites:

Watch and listen to the hearing here. It is 2.5 hours long.

Read lots more at Judy Aron's blog, Consent of the Governed, here is a listing of many blog posts on this topic.

NHELD Connecticut page with lots of information

For more of my blog posts on this subject click on my label (below) “Connecticut DCF Investigating Homeschoolers Issues”

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse Watching Tonight

Here is a good explanation of tonight’s lunar eclipse.

I just checked and we have just some thin clouds. So far we can even see the full moon behind the thin clouds. Other parts of the sky are clear.

This is our family’s science lesson today, it is a form of nature study.

Positive Article From Connecticut Post on Parental Rights Hearing Held on 2/19/08

Article Title: School policies decried in Hartford
Published in: Connecticut Post (newspaper)
Publication date: 2/20/08

This is a good article about the public hearing held in Hartford yesterday about parental rights, specifically that a parent should be able to disenroll their child from public school if they so desire.

This media report discusses two families who suffered at the hands of DCF and schools.

One family is from Trumbull and concerns the Preusch family. I have heard their testimony twice now, they also testified at the June 2007 hearing held before the new DCF commissioner was sworn in. This is perhaps the worst story I’ve ever heard. This story doesn’t tell the whole story but it is enough to realize the horror that some children and families go through. Can you imagine school staff telling the parents that instead of using a home bound program or homeschooling that the mother should sit in their family car in the school parking lot in the cold month of February while the mother oversees the completion of school work? I mean, who would even dream up such an arrangement?

The story of the Jackson family, from Milford, is also mentioned. The mother shared that her son was diagnosed with autism and in her testimony, the mother stated the school refused to comply with the recommendations given by autism experts about the special services her son needed, while in school. She said after the school refused also, to grant a homebound program she removed him to homeschool him using private tutors and specialists so she could give the program recommended by the autism experts. Instead of accepting the disenrollment of the parents the child was deemed truant by the school staff. This report states the family is in litigation with the school system.

My heart goes out to both of these families and to all families who have had problems disenrolling their children from public school!

For more of my blog posts on this subject click on my label “Connecticut DCF Investigating Homeschoolers Issues”.

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Positive Article From Hartford Courant on Parental Rights Hearing on 2/19/08

Here is a positive article about the public hearing in Hartford on 2/19/08 about Senate Bill 162 “An Act Concerning the Withdrawal of Children from Enrollment in a Public School”.

Article Title: Home-School Support: Parents Advocate Bill On Leaving Public School
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer
Published on: 2/20/08
Published in: The Hartford Courant (newspaper)

This article features an intereview with homeschooling mother Anita Formicella of Redding, Connecticut about problems she had when she attempted to withdraw her son from public school. Formichella noted in her testimony that prior to this she was an active member of the PTA, raised funds for a big school project, volunteered in the classroom and was known by the school staff and had what would be described as an excellent working relationship with the school. Despite that she was turned in by the school staff for ‘educational neglect’ upon disenrolling her child from public school in order to begin homeschooling him.

I have no complaints about this article. It is a good one!

Unfortunately the comments left by readers about this article contain some of the same old ridiculous opinions from people completely ignorant about homeschooling. One commenter labeled all homeschooling parents as being part of the ‘lunatic fringe’. To the contrary some of us are quite normal and are contributing members to our society.

For more of my thoughts and links about this general topic of DCF harassment of homeschooling families and attempts to remedy the situation, click on the label below “Connecticut DCF Investigating Homeschoolers Issues".

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City Leaves Seven Year Old Behind on Ski Field Trip

Dual income families face a conundrum when it is school vacation time. If they are not going away on vacation that week together, or if the parent is not taking time off to stay at home with the child, and if they don’t have a nanny or grandparents who are willing to babysit nearby, they often will rely on some kind of paid babysitting program for child care. These are run by private entities, non-profit organizations (museums) and town government agencies.

In my area in Connecticut some towns and cities offer various programs through the parks and recreation departments. For a fee the parent can drop off the child for full day programs. They usually call this “vacation camp”. The purpose is babysitting but to get through the day and make it fun they usually focus the program around a sport skill, something recreational (art camp) or they go on a different field trip each day. Some groups frequent museums while others do things like go skiing.

Other times a museum or aquarium will run a full week program, or a private art school will run a full week art class program. Sometimes historical societies will run programs.

Here is a sad tale from New Haven Connecticut. Yesterday a city program’s field trip to go snow tubing at a ski place resulted in a seven year old named Tony, being left behind. The city workers didn’t notice he was missing as they boarded the bus, or when they got off the bus. No one realized a problem existed until the mother arrived at pick up time.

The boy was alone at the ski resort, outside in the cold, unattended for three hours. Three hours.

The WTNH story said this:

Tony says, he came down a hill on the snow-tube and everyone was gone.
"Yeah, and then I saw that the class wasn't there or the bus," Tony said.

Not knowing what to do, he sat outside in the cold for nearly three hours. "I just went to sit on the snow tube and then I was crying."

Another child finally noticed him -- alone and upset -- and he was taken to the office.

"That whole time he was there, two, three hours -- anything could've happened," Amanda said. "He could've broken his leg...or somebody could've stolen him, I didn't know.
I have volunteered at Cub Scout summer day camp three times. The thing I do often is count. I constantly count my Scouts to make sure they are all there. Last year I had 17 Scouts under my supervision and I was a lone adult leader, sometimes with the aid of a Boy Scout, but not always. I counted and counted and counted. Before moving to tne next activity, I counted, while at the activity, I counted, so on and so forth. We also have a sign in and sign out policy at drop off and pick up times. While at camp, there is a buddy system and no child is to go anywhere alone. It is a pretty tight and safe system, it seems to me, and it works.

More quotes:

News Channel 8 was not able to confirm whether a head count was done or not. The city says Parks and Rec is taking this very seriously. They are investigating all this and say that this has never happened before.

Amanda says that what really bothers her is that New Haven Parks and Rec didn't even realize he was missing. And she doesn't believe a head count was done on the bus. After an awful and anxious afternoon -- she says there are just no excuses.

The supervisor says, I'm so sorry, there's nothing I can do but apologize and I can promise it'll never happen again," Amanda noted. "I said, well, it's not gonna happen with my child cause I'm not sending him back there."

I say, it sounds like a good idea, mom, to not return him to that program until they have more solid safety policies in place.

I also think the Woodbury Ski Resort needs more general supervision. A boy sitting on a tube by himself crying for three hours, unnoticed by staff seems nearly impossible to me. It is a good thing that a mother saw him and took him to the ski resort’s office to notify them of the situation. Again, “it takes a village to raise a child” and in that case I mean the nice mother who helped the boy, not the City of New Haven’s paid staff for this school vacation babysitting program.

Article Title: Young Boy Left Behind on Ski Trip
By News Channel 8's Annie Rourke
Published in:
Posted Feb. 19, 2008 10:15 PM

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