Monday, March 31, 2008

The North Star: Book Review by ChristineMM

Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The North Star
Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Format: Hardcover book, 120 pages
ISBN: 9781891405006

How this book came to my attention: I saw this book on the Creative Mom Podcast blog. I didn’t understand enough about the book to know if I should buy it sight unseen. I borrowed it using interlibrary loan.

Peter Reynolds is a children’s book author and illustrator who also owns a bookshop, and also is an “educational media developer and publisher”. He formerly worked with special needs children at camp and worked in the classroom with children as well.

This lovely book is designed picture book style, with one or two illustrations on each two-page spread. The illustrations are in pen and watercolor paint. The story is told largely through the illustrations. The book could be read to young children but it is also a book with a message for people of all ages. The message is one that preteens and teens need to hear also, but I’m not sure if they would be willing to read through a book that is as cute as this, and looks and reads like a picture book.

The story is a fable with a pretty direct message. The message is that the world has a one right way path laid out for people, but that not all people thrive on this path and some will find great rewards by intentionally leaving that routine path to follow their own intuition, and watching for other, more subtle sign points along the way. By deliberately ignoring some direct orders, the little boy in the story makes some unique discoveries that he would not have experienced if he just stayed on the normal path. Also of benefit is changing course along the way, being flexible and open to change as the process of the journey unfolds. This book is not about pre-planning, setting routines and doing what others want you to do. It is about going with the flow, putting aside analysis and worry and just continuing forward along a not-always-predetermined path.

Not only is this message good for children to hear, but it is good for adults to remind themselves about too. In fact some young children may have the bulk of this message ‘go over their heads’. Some parents may enjoy reading this book to their special needs children. Wise adults will recognize the importance of this message and may immediately think of a few people who would benefit from hearing the message (even other adults). For that reason this book would make a good gift book.

The illustrations are cute and whimsical. If you love watercolor paint and hand drawn illustrations you may enjoy these very much and for that reason alone, you may desire to own this book.

Teachers will also appreciate the message in this book, especially those touched by students who don’t follow the cookie cutter norms, or special education teachers.

The biography of the author/illustrator says that Reynolds has his “passion to help children began at age twelve when he volunteered at a special needs camp. There he saw the profound power in truly understanding the unique gifts and abilities of every child.” Also noted in his biography is that he creates fables that will “reach ALL children”. It goes on to say “Peter’s personal mission is to help others on their journeys of self-discovery.”

I really enjoyed this book and hope to own my own copy someday. It is a keeper.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Milestone Today

Today was our Cub Scout Pack's Blue & Gold Dinner. It is over and done with as I write this.

I got sick last night after dinner and was really out of it today, and feverish too. I had left the Wolf advancement rank ceremony planning until the last minute. I found two ceremonies on the web today, mixed them together and whittled them down while in a brain fog. It came out alright.

I should have been in bed but I had to go to the dinner. How could I have spent the last five years in Scouting and volunteering and not see my older son cross over today? And not be the one who grants my Wolf Cubs their rank? Staying home was not an option. The Committee Chair did express that my dedication in that is a sign of a committed Scout Leader. I agree.

So today...

Younger son received his Wolf rank.

Older son received his last Webelos pins (he earned all of them), thus earned his Super Achiever Award, and the Arrow of Light. He has finished his Webelos II year and crossed over the bridge to his new Boy Scout Troop. So I now have a boy who is a Boy Scout.

(I just need to pause and contemplate that for a moment.)

As of tonight, my husband finished his Webelos II year and is now relieved of his Den Leadership duties. Unless he takes on a new position that will end four years of service with Cub Scouting for him.

This week it is full steam ahead with the new Boy Scout Troop's Court of Honor which happens to be a family pot luck dinner in which we have to bring an entree that represents our ethnic background and cultural heritage.

Both boys have physicals this week so they can have their Scout Camp health clearance.

This is a very busy time of the year for Scouting families!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What I’m Doing Today

Original plans for 3/29/08: Declutter and clean the house, catching up on household duties I’ve been too busy to do.

Revised plans for 3/29/08: Doing a creative project. I have joined a photography competition at the last minute. Doing this with my seven year old son as I think it will be more fun to do it with him than alone. Older son and husband are busy at a Boy Scout event.

We’re going to compete in Film Speed 2008 to be held in New Haven, Connecticut.

I am stepping outside my comfort zone by doing this project.

Thursday evening my parents phoned me to say the local TV news talked about an event happening on today in New Haven. They thought it was right up my alley and said that they imagined that I should do it with my kids.

This is photo scavenger hunt project. They didn’t even know that I’ve done photo scavenger hunts via the web, on in the past. This event is a competition in which “professional and emerging photographers” will participate. I love that “emerging photographers”—also known as amateurs or hobby photographers.

The event works like this. We will be handed a disposable camera with 27 exposures available on it. We will have a scavenger hunt list of 24 items. We are to leave the race line (at an art gallery) at noon and try to find the items on the list. We have to do this on foot or on bike. I will choose to be on foot as it is in the low 40s today and that is just too cold for biking. I also don’t think that city biking is safe for a seven year old.

Some of the items on the list for the last Film Speed event were:

A Good Leaf
To Hide
Feel Excitement

At 2pm we can meet at a local restaurant to pick up a boxed lunch. At 4pm we have to be at the gallery to hand in the camera. They will develop the film and give us the photos back, and we will submit the ones we want in each category. We will also be served Irish food and beer (and soft drinks I imagine). We can hang out there as long as we want to socialize. (I do not envision hanging out long with my seven year old nor will I be drinking beer then driving.)

At a later date a reception will be held to announce the winners and to display their artwork in the gallery.

I think this will be fun.

My main concerns are:
1. I don’t want to be cold.
2. I wonder if we can find good stuff to shoot within walking distance. I don’t know that area of New Haven very well.
3. Being on foot would prevent us from accessing some of the best spots in New Haven. I wonder if the very serious photographers will be zipping around on bikes or even skipping the lunch.
4. I hope we are not mugged while walking the streets of New Haven.
5. I hope my son does not complain of being tired while we’re out and about.

I pre-paid the $25 entry fee so we are locked in to go.

I am curious about what the scavenger hunt items are.

I need to go pack a backpack with water and snacks. I’m taking my digital camera along and will snap some other photos with that.

I consider this an artistic pursuit and plan to actively engage my son in this process.

Wish us luck.

Internet links about this event

Capturing New Haven From the Best Angle article in the Hartford Courant

Film Speed 2008 New Haven

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Vaccines and Autism News Story

Here is a news story to read.

Federal Government Concedes Autistic Child Injured by Vaccines

I had not heard before that temporary brain inflammation secondary to vaccines can cause Autism, that is stated in this piece.

We probably all should be reading the posts at Vaccine Awakening on a regular basis.

Hat Tip: Consent of the Governed

Friday, March 28, 2008

Staying Informed on Connecticut's Senate Bill 162

Presently every single homeschooler in Connecticut would be affected by the current language of SB162 if it passes into law in its current state. Yes, I said every homeschooler in Connecticut. We face a yearly reporting to our town's school system and a determination of 'equivalent instruction'. This is not good news and this limits parental rights and it imposes more government oversight onto Connecticut's homeschoolers. Additionally the parents who are trying to disenroll their children out of public school in order to homeschool are not guaranteed that they will be able to do it. In my opinion the current SB162 limits parents rights while the original language sought to force schools to accept the already-present parental right to make that choice.

If you want the most current information regarding SB162 in Connecticut, check NHELD's Connecticut Clearinghouse page daily. You never know when new updates are coming out.

If you would like to read HSLDA's position, here is their page.

At the time I'm blogging this, both NHELD and HSLDA are in agreement about this bill, that it not be passed in its current state.

The question is can we work to get language that is 'suitable'? Or should we ask that the bill be killed?

Following the status of SB162, thinking about it and worrying about it has been occupying my energy and time. It is taking away time from various other things.

I am upset about the current situation with SB162 regarding new and more extensive language inserted and written by Senator Gaffey (D) and Senator Fleischmann (D). I will leave my comments at that. The current bill is very different than the original bill which was authored by Rep. Arthur O'Neill (I was in favor of the language and intention of Rep. O'Neill's version of SB162).

I have been trying to juggle staying on top of SB162, doing our homeschooling, dealing with minor illnesses, (both mine and my kids'), and getting a new diagnosis and treatment of an eye condition that my older son has (perhaps I'll have time to blog about that soon). We are also in the midst of the busiest time of the year for Cub Scouts for both my sons and for my volunteer work as a Den Leader.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I just needed to share that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recipe: Asian Turkey Burgers with Wasabi Sauce


We are not usually a turkey burger eating family. We do like to cook from scratch for taste reasons and for health reasons.

My husband found this recipe and decided to try it. The recipe was published in AARP magazine. No we are not members and no, we don’t usually read this. My husband was at my mother-in-law’s house and her computer was not working right so he had to call a help center to get some help when he was stymied by the situation. While on hold ‘forever’ he picked up the AARP magazine which was laying on the counter and was skimming through it. The recipe caught his eye.

I suspected I’d like these because they use fresh cilantro and I am a cilantro fanatic. If I had known they had cabbage in them I probably would not have wanted to try them.

My husband made a batch of these and he froze the extra raw burgers. They were great the first time we had them (fresh). They were also great when we ate a batch that had been previously frozen.

Although as I said we normally don’t eat turkey burgers, this is a recipe that we will keep using. The burgers have a ton of interesting flavors and since we didn’t overcook the burgers they came out very moist. Because these are turkey, we wanted to make sure they were cooked enough to kill salmonella just in case it was in there (you never know). Not being able to tell when they were done enough to be safe to eat and not wanting to end up with dried out overcooked turkey burgers we relied on our food thermometer to tell us when they were done.

We rely heavily on our cooking thermometer whenever roasting meats and it never fails us. We ignore our mother’s recipes to cook meat for a certain number of minutes and instead set the thermometer to go off when the meat reaches the certain temperature that indicates it is done enough to be healthy to eat. We use a reference chart to know these temperatures and ignore whatever the recipe says as sometimes the recipes are wrong about cooking times because each oven is different.

Since it was winter when we made these, we used our toaster oven to bake these in, instead of grilling them on our outdoor Weber Grill.

This was adapted for the magazine from Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals by Sara Moulton (2005). I used to enjoy watching Sara Moulton on her shows on the FoodTV channel. I’d like to see what other recipes are in that cookbook now that I know this one is so great.

Recipe: Asian Turkey Burgers with Wasabi Sauce

adapted from: Sara Moulton's recipe

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 small napa cabbage, shredded
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 -3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted


1. Mix together turkey, scallions, bell pepper, egg white, cilantro, 2 T soy sauce, ginger, 1/2 t sesame oil, salt and pepper. Shape into 6 patties about 1/2 inch thick.

2. Grill turkey burgers on the Big Green Egg, charcoal or gas grill, until reaches 165 degrees in the center.

3. While burgers are grilling, stir together the mayo., prepared wasabi, remaining teaspoon soy sauce, and 1/2 t sesame oil.

4. Put a burger in each bun and top with about 1 T of the mayo sauce.


Asian Turkey Burgers recipe by Sara Moulton on Sara Moulton's official website

or try

Asian Turkey Burgers With Wasabi Sauce recipe
Published in: AARP magazine, March & April 2008 issue

or on Food.com

Note on the wasabi sauce: We do love wasabi but we didn’t like this sauce on the burgers. I ended up preferring my moist burger without condiments, and my husband preferred using a little plain mayonnaise.

Related article: Updating the Classics

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Note: post updated 9/15/13 to add the recipe in my own words, which does not break copyright law.

Swim with Me Book Review by ChristineMM

Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Swim With Me
Author: Sue H. Peterson
Format: Comb bound paperback with laminated pages
ISBN-10: 1883672945
Full Retail Price: $12.95


I purchased this book new from Amazon in 2002 as I wanted to help my older son learn to swim, he was four years old when I purchased the book. He was resisting taking swimming lessons. I figured I was homeschooling him for school,so why could I not also teach him to swim?

I wrote this book review back in 2002 and published it as a customer review on Amazon.

This book was helpful to me but we didn’t end up using 100% of the book. I ended up reading it at home and taking activities from it (I did not bringing it to the pool with me) We did some of these with my children in the pool. I loved the way the author combined gentle exposure to the water and how she used play and games to teach swimming skills.

The story of my ideas on how and when I wanted my children would learn to swim versus reality is another story in and of itself.

In the process of culling books, I just decided it is time to let this book go from my home library, as I no longer need it since both of my boys are swimming well now. So I’ll share this book review on my blog as the book exits my home library.

My Book Review

This is a fun book with an interesting format. The pages are thick and spiral bound. The pages are laminated so the book can be used poolside for reference by parent when teaching the child these activities. The left side of the page is a beautiful scene: photographs of children enhanced by an artist with what looks like paint. There is rhyming prose under it. The intention is to read this aloud to your child to get them interested. The writings and pictures are themed, gliding, floating, etc. and go along with activities that are on the right side of the page.

The problems I have with the book are that I didn’t realize this book doesn’t start at the beginning. That is to say, I thought it would start with ideas for getting the child used to getting their face wet at first, then going under water. Tips for getting the child used to relaxing in the water so the parent can guide them to follow the directions. This book starts right off with the first activity of the child swimming underwater, unaided, through a hoop. I think that starting off with underwater activities assumes a lot of preparation work has already been done with either parents or by taking lessons. There is also no logical order to these activities. For example the 5th activity is to hum in the water and blow water at the surface. It would seem to me that this activity should have been first. I’d prefer the activities to go logically from easy and then progressing to more difficult (or scary) activities. I also feel the safety precautions should go right up front as the first set of activities rather than being at the end as if an afterthought.

Now for what I like about the book. This is a short book; there is no fluff or filler here. I like that there are read aloud sections for the children. The way the reading is linked to fun activities is creative and unique. There is one photograph per activity. The directions are written clearly and concisely. The method is gentle and caring, which I appreciate. However, since there are no tips for getting off to this starting point such as how to first get the child to go all the way under with trust and confidence. There are some great tips I never though of such as after having the child jump in, don’t hug them but turn them back to the wall and teach to climb out. The only problem for me is that with both my kids, to get them into the pool in the first place I had to hold them in my arms (especially since the depth in shallow end is still way over a baby or toddler’s head). Therefore, children used to being carried and hugged in the water have a hard time resisting that, to follow the author’s directions.

What is covered in this book is: swimming underwater, doing things underwater (fetching toys, etc.), relaxing on back to float on surface, encouraging to go deeper underwater, jumping off side, climbing out, pushing off from bottom and going up, bobbing, proper kicking method, gliding, and safety precautions.

Overall this book has a lot of info in a concise format with beautiful visuals and with a caring and fun attitude toward these activities. Since there are limited books for parents on teaching our children how to swim, I recommend this book. I plan to use it but will have to come up with some kind of logical progression of easy to difficult.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time to Register for the MassHope Homeschooling Conference

MassHope is a statewide, Christian homeschool support group in Massachusetts. Each year they hold a huge convention with about 2500 attendees (so I was told by a conference volunteer last year), in Worcester. I believe this is the largest homeschooling conference (of any type) within a two hour drive from me. North of Worcester in New England there is no larger conference, so this draws attendees from northern Massachusetts as well as some from Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

I have attended the conference four times. The most important thing for me is the vendor hall. The vendor hall is gigantic and this conference has more vendors than, as I said, any homeschooling or unschooling conference for two hours drive all around me, to the best of my knowledge. It is very helpful for me to sometimes look at a book or product or curriculum in my own hands to determine if it is right for our family or not. No matter how wonderful I am told something is, no matter how many raving reviews it gets on the Internet or in mail order catalogs, it is helpful to hold it in my own two hands and make that decision.

Many vendors sell things at a discount. Each year Rainbow Resource Center has had a huge booth there. In the past if they did not have the item in stock there you could place an order at the booth and they’d ship it to you without a shipping fee. I love Children’s Books and The Book Peddler too.

The vendor hall has many items for unschoolers as well. The hall is filled with lots of great ‘real’ books, or “living books”. There are many fun educational games, science experiment kits as well as toys and even dress-up costumes. There are always toys for toddlers and preschoolers as well as ‘good stuff’ to learn from through play.

Yes of course the big full curriculum providers are there. They are there for you to talk to or to ignore. They are there if you want their goods or you can just walk past them and ignore them.

Other specialty vendors are usually there too, such as one or two Charlotte Mason method vendors, vendors specializing in learning history or learning geography. Last year I was surprised to see a vendor selling nothing but stop motion animation software and kits. I scooped one of those up for my children.

You do not have to sign up ahead of time to say which lectures you want to hear. You don’t have to hear any of them if you don’t want to. There is enough to look at in that vendor hall to fill an entire day if not two full days. In addition to parent speakers and homeschool book authors and such, there are vendor lectures. Vendor lectures are given by vendors and they usually specialize in how to use their product or curriculum. Those are good to attend if you have heard good things about a product but don’t understand how to use it or how it may differ from some other company’s product. They usually gear the discussion to people who know nothing about their approach. The vendor sessions vary; I recall one being about the joy of learning by reading living books instead of using textbooks.

As I said this is a Christian conference. I have been asked by a person about this. The person was under the impression that the ONLY things sold at the conference were infused with religious references. While some materials are, others have no religion in them at all. If you are curious about what vendors are going to be at this year’s MassHope conference, read their website for an update.

If you miss a lecture that you really wanted to hear, or if you loved one very much you can buy a recording on audio CD to take home with you.

If you plan to go you can bring along a rolling suitcase to store your purchases in. They also have a booth that you can check your purchases into and pick up at the end of the day, so you don’t have to run to your car every time you have a full bag in your arms.

Read the rules about babies and children in attendance, they seem to change from year to year. I personally choose to go alone so I can just concentrate on learning things and shopping for what we need. I am with my kids 24/7 usually so am glad to have one night away, sharing a hotel room with a friend. I have always carpooled up to the conference then most of the time I split from my friend(s) and then we meet up later on to share what we’ve learned or seen. The last thing I feel I need is to have to supervise my kids in that vendor hall, with them asking me to buy this or that which then competes for money in the homeschooling budget. And the most fun is after that first evening when my friend and I get to show each other what we bought. The conference can be overwhelming so it is nice to unwind with a friend in the evening.

If you are going to stay overnight I advise that you book your room as soon as possible. Two years I waited until the last minute and ended up in dive hotels which were dirty and/or hot and I got little sleep. This year by booking early I spent the same amount of money but am just two blocks away in a really nice hotel with free breakfast to boot.

You can register by mail by a certain date (read the site). After that you have to do a walk-in registration which may take more time. Simply click on the sidebar link which is the registration brochure then print it off, fill it out and put it in the snail mail along with your payment.

If you miss this conference and want to go to another huge conference, I believe there is one in upstate New York somewhere. Also in June there is a big conference in New Jersey run by ENOCH. I hear the CHOP conference in Pennsylvania is huge. And lastly, a friend told me that the gigantic conference in Virginia was fantastic. But a 90 minute drive is great for me and MassHope is where I’m going this spring. I hope to buy what I need for next fall and then not to have to think about any of it over the summer.

And my second favorite thing about going to MassHope is being around 2500 other homeschoolers. There is something very energizing and motivating about being around people who don’t think I’m odd for homeschooling.

I started my shopping list today and am getting really excited. If you go maybe I’ll bump into you there…

Link List

MassHope 2008 Convention blog with information

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 117 Has Been Published

The Canival of Homeschooling Week 117 was published today at Phat Mommy.

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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History in Graphic Book Format

When I first heard of this book I placed it on my PaperBackSwap wish list. After waiting a number of months, I am thrilled that yesterday’s mail delivered this book to me.

Graphic novels, that is, fiction books or “illustrated novels” set entirely in comic strip format are getting more and more popular among teen readers, it seems, especially. Libraries near me are expanding their collections of Young Adult graphic novels and one library even has an entire alcove dedicated to the genre.

The book that I am talking about today is actually non-fiction content: United States history to be exact. It is “The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation: Based on the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I plan to read this and later on I’ll have my sons read this too.

This brings to mind a recent article in Home Education Magazine in which the writer explained something that I’d never heard before. (If I can put my hands on my issue later I will share the article title, author and the issue number with you. ) She said that children’s brains are more geared toward visual (graphic) images and interpretation and later on make the switch to more easily relying on text only. I had never heard that before. That would explain why children love comics, especially it seems, boys aged 8-12. As I read it I also realized that when I read comics I read all the text and barely notice the images. It is hard for me, a fast and good reader of text, to slow down and force myself to look at all the images and small nuances in the comics to interpret the whole scene and ‘get it’. I tend to quickly breeze through the text only and ignore most of the imagery. After I read the article I realized that my brain has shifted to being able to easily comprehend text-only so to read comics is not enjoyable to me nor it is easy or fast to read as I have to force my eyes to stop reading and to look around at the images. It is also ‘not flowing’ for me to do that, compared to my ability to read only text quickly and with ease.

I find this a unique medium and wonder how many non-fiction books and history books have been published in graphic adaptations? Can we reach today’s teens with history content by starting to publish more graphic books (illustrated books) with real history stories and biographies?

July 2006 blog post of mine: About

(On PBS, people swap paperback, hardcover and audio books. Membership is free.)

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Participated in a Homeschool Creative Arts Fair

Last August I was at a planning meeting for a local homeschool support group when one member presented an idea, it was a twist on an existing program the group runs. The group is a classical method homeschool support group. The group has a monthly presentation event, which they call the Kids Forum. Usually at the Forum, homeschooled students stand in front of the group and make a presentation of some work that they’ve done in the course of their homeschooling studies. This ranges from playing a piece on the piano or guitar, reading a research paper aloud, reciting a poem that was memorized, or talking about a topic and showing illustrations on a presentation board. The new proposal was to have a Creative Arts Fair which would be run more like a typical Science Fair but would showcase items not as conducive to the typical Forum: poetry, handcrafts, and artwork. Each student would have half of a table to display their creations. The mother offered to plan and run the event and the decision was made to go forward with that new event.

I signed my boys up immediately. I thought it sounded like a great idea. Let me say also that we usually do not participate in the monthly Kids Forum as both of my boys resist public speaking. In the past we had issues with a conflict with nap time and we still have a conflict with it overlapping into our Cub Scout meeting time. Since both my husband and I are Den Leaders we can’t just blow off Scouts for our children that day---we have to be there. It is a real stretch to attend the Forum, get home, eat something and get out the door to get to the Scout meeting on time.

As the Creative Art Fair approached I began to dread having signed up. To be honest at that point my kids had not been making much art. They didn’t have much new to show. I have not been using the art instruction curriculum which I did purchase as it always falls off the schedule at the end of the day. So the things my kids create are just for fun. Also my boys have not taken formal art classes or attended any ‘art camps’. I then figured that some time before the Forum we’d spend some time making some stuff.

September and October were about adjusting to the new homeschooling year and worries of the health of my dying father-in-law. November was spent grieving his passing. As it is for everyone, December was a busy month with holiday prep, and there was no time for making art. January began with a trip to Maine to visit my grandmother then buckling down and getting back to homeschooling lessons. February continued to be busy and then I realized, whoops, we had not spent any time making anything to show at the Fair, and it was just days away. I did not want to do a mad dash project in the last few days, thinking that would be insane and stupid, and anyway, we had plans all weekend and were not home anyhow so it was impossible.

The week before the Forum I was getting nervous. I imagined kids showing work on par with professional artists. I knew some of them take art classes with professional artists and I figured they’d show spectacular work. I worried that my own kid’s creations would pale in comparison. I considered backing out, knowing it was full and that there was a waiting list, knowing someone else would be happy to get our two spots. But I didn’t. Since my kids don’t even like the Forum, I had not even told them about it, so if I backed out my kids would not even have known about it. I decided not to back out, and I finally broke the news to them just days before. They were not so thrilled but they didn’t complain. I told them that they would have control over what was shown. I’d not force them to show any of their work that they didn’t want shown.

I didn’t take this so seriously, after I got over worrying about my kids being judged or being embarrassed if their work was inferior compared to the other kids. I didn’t think much about what to show. It was not until the night before and the day of, that I went around the house and gathered up items that they made in the past. In fact I had planned to also bring some detailed unique LEGO creations but I forgot them. And I was disappointed that both boys refused to allow their drawings to be shown, out of embarrassment that they were not ‘good enough’. They think that all drawings should look like a photograph and be perfect; they give themselves no leeway for the fact that they are young children. And as an adult I can say that some of their drawings are just fine. In the end we had less things to display than I had planned on.

We headed out to the Forum. I didn’t have a display board, I just laid the items on the table and I did make up a few cards to explain what some of the items were. This is what they showed. (I forgot my camera so only have my friend’s photos to share.) I will also share that I didn’t make my kids dress up in fancy clothes. A part of me wanted them to look great like that but I allowed them to just wear their normal clothes that they were wearing that day. As it turned out most of the kids there were wearing casual clothes too.

Older son:
A walking stick he hand carved and stained and finished
An acrylic painting he completed for a church competition with a challenge theme
Model of Earth showing geological layers made of polymer clay (he made this on his own not forced by me as an assignment)
Small items made from polymer clay
A pottery piece (plate) he painted upon (factory made piece which he decorated)
Pinewood Derby cars from three events, designed, carved and painted by him
Comic book, story written in collaboration with another homeschooled boy, illustrated and written b the other boy and then hand colored by my son

Photo above: older son's display
(I don't have a photo of my younger son's display.)

Younger son:
A pottery piece (a mug) he painted upon (factory made piece which he decorated)
Small things made out of polymer clay, including beads
Two Pinewood Derby cars, designed, carved and painted by him
Chalk pastel drawing of a landscape

When I saw two children with LEGO creations I realized we had forgotten our LEGOs. Oh well.

The Fair was organized so that the students would rotate, at times sitting at their station and greeting visitors and being available to speak to and ask questions of. It was rotated in a way so that all the students had enough time to go around and see everything. Perhaps the best part was that each student had an envelope at their station where people could write notes and leave it for the children to take home. In that way praise could be left if the student was not at their station to hear it directly. I spent some time writing notes to children and if the child had sibling I made sure to leave a note for that child also. I didn’t want one sibling coming off as getting more praise than another. (This ended up not being done by all as my younger son got one note and my older son got seven. I could tell this was uncomfortable for my younger son.)

My whole fear of my kids stuff not being good enough was all for naught. In the end I realized that my kids had a decent range of different projects. They had some art forms that other children did not have, and the fact that they had a variety of things left me feeling that my boys are creative after all. While we have not spent time doing paid formal lessons as some of the other children have, I realized my kids have dabbled in various mediums and that they are doing ‘just fine’, great in fact.

My fear of my children’s work coming off as inferior quickly faded. The show was not either a way for me to ‘show off’ my children’s work, like bragging. Believe me if it was I would have had them do special projects just for the Fair and I would even have made a presentation board to make it look better. The reality is since most of my boys’ work was three dimensional the board would not have worked anyway. Their heavy paintings also would not have hung on the foam core display board either so there was no choice about laying those flat. My boy’s work was what it was, a true reflection of what they do for fun and creative play, dabbling in various mediums and doing what they want.

I was very impressed with the range of items shown by the other students. There were all different things around the room and it was so inspiring.

Here is a sampling of the type of things shown, a partial listing:

Victorian Valentines and poetry written by a 10 year old girl
Photographs shown on a slideshow format on a laptop, photos taken with a digital SLR and altered digitally, by a 13 year old boy
Large selection of knitting, finished projects and works in progress by a 16 year old girl
Clothing for an American Girl doll designed by a girl (about eight years old) and sewn by her mother
Matisse inspired collage including some very unique modern items like an iPod and a Mac laptop by an eleven year old boy
Watercolor paintings of flowers by a nine year old girl
Poetry by a nine year old boy
Large selection of hand drawings, paintings and chalk pastels by a ten year old girl (she watches no television and makes art for one hour every evening instead)
Paper bag masks made by a seven year old girl
Recreation of a scene from a Star Wars movie in LEGO (very detailed) by a twelve year old boy
A medieval scene in LEGO created by a nine year old boy
Model of the solar system made of colored beeswax by an eleven year old boy
Detailed pencil drawings of medieval scenes by an eight year old boy
Detailed pencil drawings and watercolor paintings by an eleven year old boy
Photos taken with a zoom lens of birds at the family’s feeder, fourteen year old boy
Watercolor paintings of birds at the feeder, nine year old boy
Paintings of a pet beta fish and of a snake, three year old boy

Other items:

Paper Mache sculpture
Hand made dolls out of cloth
Decorated plates
Miniature LEGO house made by a girl
Masks from paper Mache, decorated
Three dimensional watermelon wedge made of Paper Mache
Poetry about nature
Acrylic paintings
Lots of collage

Such Great Art!

I was so impressed by what I saw. I really enjoyed seeing how the children all had their unique perspective on things. One boy loved turtles, his mother told me, so he had several turtle paintings that I’d frame and display! The bright colors in a painting of a red, fire-breathing dragon was so excellent I’d copy that onto a transfer and put it on the front of a shirt! Seeing the collages of things like a skiing scene, made by a girl who I know loves to ski, and the unique items selected to make Matisse inspired collage were just precious. The poetry written by the children was amazing, really descriptive words were used and they were all so impressive. One girl put down her watercolor flowers, and I tried to boost her up by explaining that watercolor is tricky and takes patience and that her works were lovely. I really, really enjoyed seeing all the art that everyone made.

I was speaking to a mother, who works as a public school teacher, about her two son’s artwork. She explained this is their first year of homeschooling, after being in public schools until now (they are in 4th and 6th grade homeschool now). They finally left the schools due to unhappiness with the academic rigor of the public schools in the town. She said when they went to select work to show at the Fair she was surprised at the large quantity of work that they had done just since September. She said that less time away at school and no homework to do allowed them to have more time to create. Seeing all their stuff gathered up at home she realized for the first time how much they had actually made just in these last five months and she was surprised (and happy). On their own they had experimented in various mediums and crated a wide variety of work. She said that in the past at school they would come away with mostly canned projects, with the teacher telling the students what to make and each step and how to do it. Then they would have an art show and show one piece from each student, chosen almost at random. That school boasts of its rich art program but the parents now think it is weak compared to what the boys are doing all by themselves at home with just materials and time on their hands.

My children ended up enjoying showing what they made too. They received oral compliments and written compliments. They were not embarrassed to show what they had. They had fun seeing their friends. My boys were happy that they went to the Fair and didn’t want to leave. The time flew by and I couldn’t believe that we had been there nearly two hours.

I think the event was a success and I hope the group does it next year.

I highly encourage all homeschool groups to do a Creative Arts Fair show, it is a wonderful experience.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Hooray! Art & Life #11 Arrived

I was surpsired on Easter morning to see the envelope containing the magazine Art & Life #11 sitting on the kitchen counter. It had arrived in Saturday night’s mail and my husband hadn’t told me that I’d received stuff in the mail, let alone something as good as this. If I had known I would have spent all of Saturday night reading it. Instead, in between and after Easter celebrations I read the whole issue. Hooray!

I love this art magazine which is published quarterly by Teesha Moore. It is sold through her website. What I like the most is that we are never told WHAT to do but just to make art and do what we want to do. There is no judgment that a person’s creations are good or bad. The focus is not on trendy and being ‘in’ with making whatever is hot at the moment. The overall attitude is to do what you want and make what you want. There is more of a concern with the process of creating and the wonderful flow experience that happens. In other words the focus is on the process not the product.

The publication is so non-judgmental that I love it. There are written articles, by Teesha and other contributors, as well as in the recent issues, full-color reproductions of artwork made by Teesha, her husband Tracy and other artists.

I was so inspired to go make some paper based art that last evening I sat down and did 16 pages of collage work in a blank journal. I plan to continue embellishing these pages and then will use them to write in, in between and on top of the collaged items. My main focus in this last month has been on making fiber based creations and Art & Life inspired me to go play with paper and glue.

In Art & Life #11 Teesha shares photos of some of the handmade things she purchased or saw at Design Festa in Tokyo. She also wrote about the reproductions of her art journals which she made while in Tokyo and is selling on her site. I think I’ll have to go buy Teesha’s Tokyo journals.

Since I am teaching myself metal crafting I was curious about the book review that Teesha did on "Making Connections: a handbook of cold joins for jewelers and mixed-media artists" by Susan Lenart Kazmer. The review is glowing and dubbed a ‘must-have’. I went on Amazon to buy it today, figuring it would cost at Amazon’s price, $15-20 at most (and no tax and I get free shipping). I can’t find it on Amazon. Instead I found it on Kazmer’s website, selling there for $48 plus shipping. YIKES. That is more than I had wanted to spend, especially because I am new to metal crafting, am a beginner and not good at it, and am not sure if I want to put that much money toward a book on it at this point in time. Then again, the book’s cost is cheaper than taking a workshop, so I could look at it that way…

"Making Connections" book description on Kazmer’s site

Preview of Making Connections on Kazmer’s site

I found this book on Amazon which may be a suitable alternative for a beginner like me. It is called "Semiprecious Salvage: Creating Found Art Jewelry" by Stephanie Lee which Amazon is selling for under $16.

In my Amazon surfing I also learned that Giuseppina Cirincione is coming out with a new book this year, available with an Amazon pre-order discount, called "Bent, Bound And Stitched: Collage, Cards And Jewelry With A Twist". I already own her book "Collage Lost & Found" and I enjoyed that.

I see that Teesha reviewed “How to Make Books” by Esther K. Smith which I was interested in and blogged about, and which I purchased last month. I love the book too and plan to review it soon. I laughed when I read that Teesha plans to make the cake box book as that is in my plans too! (Imagine the cover and spine of a book beign made from a cake mix box. That is what it is. I also plan to use little jello boxes and jiffy muffin mix boxes to make miniature books.)

Another book already on my wish list is here too, "Acrylic Revolution" by Nancy Reyner.

I just wanted to share with you how much I love Art & Life magazine! I find it so inspirational.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books: March 22, 2008

Check out what bloggers are reading and saying about the books at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books 3/22/08 edition.

Sorting Books & Culling Craft and Activity Books Today

Yesterday I decided to deal with a couple of boxes of various books and some stacks on the floor in the library here where I sit writing this. These are books that came into the house in dribs and drabs from PaperBackSwap or when I’d find a couple at a used book store or something. They have built up in the last six months, and I need to get them put away to where they belong.

So I sorted the books to put them where they should be.

In the process I am feeling yet again like there are too many books around here. So that led to me culling books.

I hit the craft and activity bookcase, for one thing. These are books for things that I use and some that I have not yet used. These are for things do or things that I planned to do with my children “someday”. I am going through the shelves and thinking I need to dedicate time to doing some of these great things that we still have never done. As I find titles of books that I don’t think I need any longer I’m posting them on I have a lot of titles on my PBS wish list that I am first in line for, when they are listed into the system, so I’d like to stack up some PBS credits. Some I have slotted for the used book shop. I just listed one for resale on Amazon Marketplace.

I still have enough books on hand to do a zillion things for my children to do in lieu of watching TV or playing video games.

Here are the topics on my craft shelf. (I have not listed these into my LibraryThing account.)

Papercrafting for children
Collage for children, including an Eric Carle kit
Making fancy paper snowflakes
Making fancy paper chains
Paper Mache
Using recycled items to make into various things (sculptures etc.)
Using cardboard boxes to make stuff with
Waldorf craft books
Beginner sewing for kids
Sewing clothing (kids sewing their own)
Beginner knitting
Origami books and kits
General art and craft books for children, books with lots of activities in them
Nature crafts
Using natural materials for dyes
Nature printing (using natural items to make inked impressions with)
Card game rules
Traditional children’s game rules (outdoor play)
Cooperative games for children and adults
How to play chess (for kids)
How to play marbles
Family game book (1000 games)
How to play dominoes
Koosh book
Yo-yo book
Foxtail book
Magic Trick instruction books and a kit
How to make kaleidoscopes
Finger Plays
How to make your own books (for kids)
Making pop-up’s
Photography for kids
Salt dough recipes and crafts
Polymer clay making books
Crafts related to holidays
Run your own family summer camp book
Wire sculpture kit and book
Model ship building
Paper airplane book
Making sandcastles
Making snow sculptures
Making fancy jack o lanterns
History of holidays and crafts and projects to do
Simple carpentry for children, woodworking
Whittling and Wood Carving
Kids books on fort building
Gardening with Children
Cooking with children
Making costumes for children
Knot tying
String games
Making lanyards
The value of children playing (theory)
Books on the value of parents playing with children
Family traditions, the value of

Other Book Culling and Straightening Done

I also went over my bookshelves that contained reference books for teaching English. I reviewed the reference books for science and history. No culling was done in those two areas. I then looked over the small number of travel books we own and got rid of two of them.

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Another Clutter TV Show: Clean House

While channel surfing at the gym yesterday I came across a show I didn’t know existed. It is called Clean House.

Clean House features a team from the show who comes to help a family of packrats. They clean out the house of the unnecessary clutter, organize the home and have a tag sale to sell the stuff.

This is very much like the now-off-the-air show, Clean Sweep. In fact, the shows are nearly identical.

Watching the show made me want to go home and declutter. And in fact that is what I did! My house is nothing like the one that was on the TV show, thank goodness, but it was inspiring and I can always use some inspiration to declutter, organize and clean the house!

Article: The Psychology of It All on 'Clean House'

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Friday, March 21, 2008

A Moving Post for Good Friday

I was moved by this post at Mental Multivitamin today about a Bible reading she did, of the Passion story, at her Catholic church.

And it is food for thought too.

From the Archives: Happy Good Friday!

Amazon Beefing Up Gold Box Offers?

Yesterday I was on the Amazon site looking for a certain kind of book for the first time. I was browsing books about traveling to Washington D.C. and books about traveling with children to Washington D.C. After reading through some product information and customer reviews I placed some books on my wish list (whose titles I didn’t want to forget). I was unsure which to buy so considered checking the local bookstore to browse them in person, but planned to buy them for the discount price on Amazon (plus no sales tax and no shipping fees). I rated some books with some high star ratings.

I then glanced at some craft books and gave some high rating marks, placing some on my wish list.

I saw a Gold Box offer on a teaching history book that I already own and so I rated that book series with high stars and marked those that I owned. I then saw a science book in the Gold Box related to a gift book I recently purchased and rated that with high stars.

Today’s Amazon Gold Box discount offer contains both books about Washington D.C. travel and the exact craft books that I flagged with 5 star ratings, and the history book and exact science book that I just rated with five stars. Wow.

I have never seen the Gold Box react like that before. The Gold Box deals that I am being offered are 2% lower in price than their regular price.

I am just amazed by this. Perhaps before I plan to buy some books I should rate them high with star ratings then check back in the next 1-2 days to see if they appear in my Gold Box.

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Lawsuit for Injury at Oprah Show News Story

Another one for today from the "women acting badly, injuries occuring, and lawsuit filed" category.

Chicago Business reports that Oprah's audience members ran to get the best seats and an injury occurred. Oprah's studio is being sued for $50K.

The lawsuit says audience members were told to sit where they wanted to sit. The crowd allegedly pushed Greenberg down a flight of stairs causing "severe and permanent injuries."

Woman sues Oprah's company over injuries at show taping

Hat Tip: Drudge Report

New Connecticut Homeschool Hiking Group Formed

A new group is forming. Connecticut homeschoolers will gather to hike together and to explore Connecticut at the same time.

You can visit the group's blog for information.

Connecticut Homeschool Hikers

Line Rage Beating at Disney News Story

Woman Charged With 'Line Rage' Beating at Disney World
Published on: Friday, March 21, 2008
Published by:

The story alleges that Victoria Walker, a mother, physically attacked another mother, Aimee Krauss, accusing her of cutting her on the line for the Mad Teacup ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.

Krauss says multiple injuries were sustained including nine neurological conditions which still plague her one year later, on the FoxNews report that aired on television today. The news report stated that Walker was offered one year in jail and declined, so now she will face a possible 15 year sentence.

What is this world coming to??

Tips on College Visits

Judy Aron, a homescholing mother from Connecticut, shares tips about visiting colleges in her blog post today. Good advice and information can be found in it.

Doing College Visits

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Future Trips Inspire New Learning Plans for World History

We’re going along with our homeschooling world history plans. We’re doing history in a chronological manner and are presently at about 1100 AD. I use the Story of the World book and the Activity Guide and supplement with living books. We do geography mixed in with this also. We also study the cultures and do some literature from the various countries as we go along.

However we have two (good) bumps in the road our family was recently made aware of.

The first is a wonderful opportunity. My husband has to go on a business trip in Washington D.C. The kids and I can go along and stay in his hotel room for free. So now we suddenly have a trip there and we have not studied anything about Washington D.C. in depth. I’m considering a little unit study before we go so they have some kind of context and interest in the monuments. Other things like viewing fine artwork and visiting the Smithsonian will be more fun and general enough that I’m not going to do any special teaching on those subjects.

The second issue concerns Boy Scouts. We have selected which Boy Scout Troop my older son will be crossing over to. We just found out the Troop is doing a family campout near Gettysburg. So now we should touch upon the Civil War before we head on down there.

It would be a shame to view things up close and personal and have no context and no background information at the time. Then again sometimes going to museums sparks an interest that we then study more in depth after the fact using books and documentaries.

I am thinking of either dedicating more time to our history studies than normal and speeding through the years 1100 to 1700s, then after the Washington D.C. trip we can continue the sprint up to and including the Civil War before the camping trip (in June).

I could also pause our study of history in the medieval years and just go right to American History in the 1600s and move forward from there.

It is nice to have choices and freedom with homeschooling. I am grateful to be able to change homeschooling plans on the fly like this. I am fortunate to live in a state with little government oversight and I’m not (presently) forced to study certain topics in certain grade levels. I want my state of Connecticut to maintain this freedom. (Note, at present a bill, SB162 was edited by the Education Committee Chair in a way that would in my opinion, stifle our freedoms, but that is another story in and of itself which I’ll not delve into at this very moment.)

Homeschooling also gives us the freedom to participate in these trips. If my kids were in school they would not be able to miss days in order to do the business trip to Washington D.C. with my husband as it is not a 'school vacation week'.

In my area, public schools have been cracking down on parents who pull their children out of school in order to go on trips, fun trips or educational, it does not matter. My friend's daughter's public elementary school makes it very clear in their school handbook that absences due to family trips will be counted as unexcused absenses and that three in a row will count as a label of truancy. In this state the school can report the parents who are truant to DCF for "educational neglect". I heard two stories from two mothers about how their children were hassled by public school teachers about work that was going to be missed due to taking a trip to go skiing with their family. One teacher refused to give the assignments up front and now the student is behind. The other student missed a test and the teacher has been refusing to give the make-up test. I asked a relative who is a public school teacher about this. I got a nasty response saying "we can't take time off like that so neither should the students". Yikes.

Anyhow, I'm happy for homeschooling freedoms. Regarding what I'll do, I’ll have to ponder it more. I’m leaning toward spending a lot more time on history and going along as we were doing with Story of the World Volume Two and concentrating hard on history to move forward in time. If I do that I'll need to spend time this weekend pulling out books and organizing them for easy access when we'll need them in the coming weeks.

These are the three Story of the World Volume Two products that I own and use.

Story of the World Volume Two book

Story of the World Volume Two Audio Book narrated by Jim Weiss (a nice alternative to reading aloud or to hear the story while in the car)

Story of the World Volume Two Activity Book

Story of the World Volume Two Tests (I don't use these but perhaps you'd be interested in them?)

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Ahermitt, Homeschooling Mom Video Blogging on YouTube

While on YouTube I stumbled upon videos from a homeschooling mother whose YouTube user name is ahermitt. She answers questions about homeschooling as well as ranting. She lives in the Atlanta area and is originally from Yonkers, New York. She homeschools her two children, now aged 10 and 12 and plans to homeschool until her children begin college.

Sometimes I’m in the mood to hear some ranting and her video rants crack me up. They are different than reading rants on blogs. Actually talking on video like that is called by some people “video blogging” or “v-logging”.

This opinionated homeschooling mother can be so funny!

This video (below) is called:
Homeschooling with an Attitude: Stupid Things People Ask Homeschoolers

What started out as a fun little thing to do took a turn. Ahermitt’s little world got bigger when her phone rang and it was the CBS News with Katie Couric calling to ask her opinion on the recent California homeschooling court ruling, where a judge said homeschooling was illegal and ordered children in one family to begin going to public school. Can you imagine? With blogging I know sometimes it seems like no one is reading the blog or maybe no one cares what the content of the blog is. I guess ahermitt was feeling that way, not really knowing how many people were watching her videos, until CBS phoned. What a wake up call that is that you never know who is reading blogs and watching video blogs.

Ahermitt has more video blogs on YouTube which are not as full of attitude but as full of wisdom, common sense and good information.

Ahermitt can also be found on the web at:

ahermitt's home page on YouTube (to easily find her other videos)

From the right sidebar of you can click through to her blogs and other content of hers on the web.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bifocal: Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Bifocal
Authors: Deborah Ellis & Eric Walters
Genre: Young Adult Fiction (ages 12-16)
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Canada)

How this book came to me: This book was offered in the Amazon Vine program which I participate with. I agreed to receive a free review copy in exchange for writing a Vine review on Amazon. I didn’t know much about the book but realized the topic controversial and timely and was curious to read it.

Bifocal is written by two Canadian authors and it is set in Canada in a public secondary school (high school). The book is told in two voices with two main characters. Each author writes for one of the characters, and the chapters go back and forth between the two characters telling their experience and perception of the events and their participation in them as the story moves forward.

One main character is a Caucasian football player, who in my opinion is not living out his family’s Christian religious values. The other main character is a first generation Canadian born Afgani Muslim scholarly teen who lives his family’s Muslim faith in his everday life. His twin sister begins to adopt more extreme Muslim beliefs and makes statements to support views of the extremist Muslim terrorists (so two different views of Muslims are represented in the book).

Another high school student is arrested and accused of being a part of a huge terrorist ring that stretches across the country. In the story various students and the families react in various ways to the events as they unfold.

Regarding the writing and the story itself, I found the book to be a page turner from the beginning. The book was engaging and I was interested to see how it played out and how much of the scenarios would be resolved by the end of the book.

Also of importance is the fact that the community and school is divided by racial and ethnic backgrounds before 9/11, these divisions have older roots that 9/11 seems to have amplified.

The book touches upon ALL the hot and controversial topics regarding living in a post 9/11 world where threats of terrorist acts from Muslim extremists are a real and present danger. Having all the issues in one story makes it a little less believable. I repeat, every single debatable and problematic issue is touched upon, such as how the lives of innocent citizens are sometimes altered as well as questions of false allegations. While some of these things are tolerable to innocent citizens, other issues are portrayed as going too far. One example is Haroon’s uncle’s name appears on a ‘no fly’ list at the airport and the uncle is unable to join the family to celebrate Ramadan (it is portrayed as a mistake and a similar or same name as a suspected terrorist). A bigger topic is when police cross the line regarding breaking rules regarding their right to interrogate minors in private and when no arrest has been made.

In my opinion, the topics are not explored deeply and sometimes seem to not be essential to the STORY. It seems to me that the issues were placed in the book intentionally for the purpose of having them there to have a discussion about (primarily) and secondarily to ‘make the reader think’ (in their own mind). Sometimes the authors seem to be leading the reader to take a certain stance regarding each issue, or perhaps I am too cognizant of their own personal bias and their purpose for writing this book?
I wonder (even fear) that without further discussion faciliatated by an adult, without a person intentionally playing ‘devil’s advocate’ the reader may be led to accept a certain opinion on each issue therefore not thinking deeply about the issue and not being an independent thinker. Also at risk is using only the emotional issues in the story to form the opinion. The reader should be informed about more factual, historical information in order to come to their own opinion on each issue. For example, yes it was horrible that Haroon’s uncles name was on a ‘no fly’ list and he could not enter the country to celebrate Ramadan with his family—but does that mean that there should never be a ‘no fly’ list?

Racism, prejudice and stereotypes in general (unconnected to Muslim extremist terrorism) are addressed as a secondary issue, such as mentions of African American students. This includes all kinds of racial slurs and name calling going on between the different groups. There is a lot to discuss there as well.

Verbal attacks and physical hate crimes are present in the book as well, done by students to other students or to adults in the community. One example is that an act of vandalism is also done to a football coach who said something mean to the members of the other football team. So anger and violent crimes are also covered in the book not just related to religion or race.

I suspect this book was created to be discussed in groups such as having this mandated in a secondary/high school literature class, then having the students discuss the topics together. Also the students could be assigned to write essays with their personal thoughts on some of these matters. The book takes all the discussion topics relating to Muslim extremism and terrorism and places it in a story of fiction; it seems, as a medium to get these topics into the hands and minds of teenagers rather than trying to start a discussion based on newspaper articles (the fiction book will hook them in emotionally and will hold their interest more than short news stories will). Trying to prevent terrorist attacks and preservation of civil liberties in a post 9/11 world is a complex topic with no simple answers and it all really should be discussed (not just using this book as pleasure reading).

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I felt that a preteen or teen reading this book to themselves who does not then discuss it will be missing out. They may perhaps enjoy this engaging page-turner as a fast read to ‘see what happens next’. I worry that some of the nuances and maybe some of the issues may go over some of their heads without much thought. It would be a shame to read the book and not think about the issues more deeply. I think that through discussion facilitated by an adult, with other students, the reader’s interpretation of the events in the story will be more thoroughly processed. Alternatively, by examining the issues through writing about the topic and expressing the student’s opinion I can only imagine the reader would develop deeper opinions about the various topics. I would love for readers to become independent thinkers such as the two main characters in the book are.

The book could serve as a jumping off point as a unit study, for researching individual topics for the student to learn more facts about Muslims, Ramadan, wearing the jihab, hate crimes, the legal process of handling suspected terrorists, and more. A comparison of Christianity and Islam could be done. Lots of research could be done to flesh out the topics touched upon in this book.

I can easily see a teacher’s guide being created from this book. Many times I immediately thought of two or three discussion questions that could arise, sometimes from just one sentence. These issues are so deep that single questions are worthy of being the content for an entire essay.

Sometimes to understand more about a book we need to know something about the authors. Note that authors Ellis and Walters are well-known Canadian authors who both purposefully write books that touch upon causes and issues that they feel strongly about. Both authors also identify themselves as working toward tolerance and non-violence. Walters was a fifth grade teacher first, and later became an author of children’s books. His first books were focused toward catching the interest of reluctant readers. It seems clear to me that the authors wrote this book to put these ideas and topics into the minds of young readers so they would think about these controversial and timely topics.

A couple of last thoughts: I don’t know much about the Muslim religion (the moderate or the extremist views) in order to judge if this book is factually correct or incorrect, a topic which other reviewers are discussing. I know enough about Christianity to know that the Christian faith was not really represented in this book, certainly not equally or enough to compare and contrast it to the Muslim faith, and the “Christian” main character was not living out Christian values in his actions (not sure if the readers will even realize that). Lastly, I did resent the comment on page 48 where the media was criticized for not referring to the Oklahoma City bombings as an attack by a “Christian terrorist” because that bombing had nothing to do with religion and my research shows that McVeigh was a lapsed Catholic to boot.

I am torn about whether this is a 3 or 4 star book. Too bad I can't rate it a 3.5.

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PaperBackSwap Nears Two Million Books!

PaperBackSwap's inventory of free books is close to two million!

They are running a contest for members to try to pinpoint exactly when the two millionth book is listed.

If you are a member and want to play, go read the details of how to enter your guess!

I have been swapping books on PBS for almost two years!

If you want more information about PaperBackSwap, click on this link. After you list nine books you get one free credit, so you can immediately order a book and test out the system.

PaperBackSwap is not just for paperback books. You can swap hardcover books too. Books are swapped one credit for one book. Audiobooks cost two credits.

There is no membership fee to join PaperBackSwap.

When someone wants your book, you mail it to them and you pay the postage. When you want a book from someone else, it comes to you 'free of charge'.

There is a discussion board there with a homescholer's area. We promote the books we list and we discuss homeschooling issues there also. People do give away homeschooling curriculum on the site as well.

Check it out! If you join after clicking through my link (below or in my sidebar) after list a certain number of books they will give me one credit as a referral thank you. If you do that I thank you in advance.

Urgent Connecticut Homeschooling Legal Update 3/19/08

If you are a Connecticut homeschooler you should read this.

NHELD has new bulletins in the Connecticut Clearinghouse section of their site. Note there are two bulletins dated 3/18/08 which were posted after the 3/18/08 Education Committee meeting. There is one update dated 3/19/08.

NHELD's Connecticut Clearinghouse site

The NHELD bulletins state that Senator Gaffey (Democrat) and Senator Fleischmann (Democrat) have altered the original language of SB162 (authored by Rep. O'Neill). The original SB162 language attempted to edit the 10-220 law. The new version amends also 10-184 The Duties of Parents law and 10-220 also.

The original language in SB162 as written by Rep. O'Neill was simple. It stated that parents have a right to make the decision to disenroll their child from public school if they want. If a parent were to file certain papers and send them by certified mail then the school would have to accept that decision and allow the student to disenroll. The student could then be homeschooled or enrolled into a private school, whatever the parent had decided to do. At the SB162 public hearing on 2/19/08 we did hear testimony from one non-homeschooling mother who was hassled after disenrolling her child from public school and enrolling her child into a private school.

The revised language that was raised and approved by the Education Committee on 3/18/08 is different. In a nutshell after the parent states they want to disenroll (by filing certain papers by certified mail), if they are to homeschool, the school staff gets to make the decision of whether to allow the disenrollment or not. There is a new item added to SB162 that says that school staff to review the homeschooling plan and to decide if 'equivalent instruction' will be done. The school then can decide whether to allow the child to be homeschooled or whether to compel the child to continue to attend public school. This would be the first time in Connecticut's history that public schools have the power to determine "equivalent instruction" and to decide if the child can homeschool or not.

(The term 'school' could mean a Board of Education or some employee of the school system. I am just using the term 'school' to simplify the language in this blog post. Read the full SB162 for details of who would do what.)

Note that if the school does not disenroll the student from their student roster and the children is in fact, actively homeschooling, the school can mark them absent from school, and then after a certain time period they are considered in legal terms to be 'truant'. If the child is deemed 'truant' the school can then make a report to DCF that the child is being 'educationally neglected'. DCF then can open a case and determine, as the worst course of action, if the child should be removed from the parents and placed into foster care.

According to NHELD, in the last two years, over 40 Connecticut families have been reported to DCF or have been threatened to be reported to DCF unless the child returns to school (instead of being homeschooled). You can read more about that in this NHELD bulletin.

Now that SB162 is going to the Senate, it can be amended and discussed further. If you are against these new changes now is the time to contact your Senator to explain exactly why the new language should be rejected. If the bill is not voted upon by the Senate it will die in committee and will be 'killed'. So we are faced with changing the language to something we prefer and then voting on that or if we cannot get the language changed to something we like, letting it be killed.

It is my understanding that 10-184 was written in the year 1650. This statute is very good and makes homeschooling very easy and has no government oversight of homeschooling, compared to the way homeschooling is regulated in other states.

Connecticut's Department of Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan was hired after working in the Department of Education in Massachusetts where he worked to put new, stronger government oversight onto Massachusetts homeschoolers. We have to work hard to see that he does not make the same changes here in Connecticut. Things that he has said in interviews last year made it clear that he desires more regulation and oversight of Connecticut homeschoolers. I wonder if Commissioner McQuillan is influencing Senator Gaffey and Senator Fleischmann to give more power to the public schools to prevent some families from leaving public schools and starting to homeschool?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 116 Has Been Published

The Canival of Homeschooling Week 116 was published today on the blog of Janice Campbell.

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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Three Alleged Murder Plot Suspects (aged 13) Arrested

This is a slideshow of photos of three 13 year old’s who admit to having hatched a plan to murder schoolmates then kill themselves. Each slide has a caption under it, be sure to scroll down to read all of it. Some of the plans were stated on a MySpace account, WFTV reported in the below slideshow.

Slideshow on

Something is very wrong in our society, this is so scary and sad. What is our world coming to?

And did these parents know what their kids were talking about in IM's and doing with their MySpace pages?

Florida Middle School Lunchbox Story

The teacher is being paid her salary and is not teaching until this investigation is over. This is her first year of teaching, the story says.

Article Title: Boy Says Teacher Forced Him To Urinate In Lunchbox During Class
POSTED: 2:45 pm EDT March 17, 2008
UPDATED: 11:49 pm EDT March 17, 2008
Published by: channel 9 news

You can’t make this stuff up.

There is a video story as well as the print story.

Some teachers seek control….even over bodily functions….what an abuse of power.

One benefit of homeschooling is we allow our children to use the toilet whenever their body needs to.

Hat Tip: my husband.

Important Update on SB162 Link

Here is a link to Judy Aron's blog post which is a summary of events at the State of Connecticut Education Committee meeting held 3/17/08 at the state capitol.

Judy Aron's blog post SB162 update dated 3/18/08

Judy clearly presents the problems and the situation. As of right now no one knows what the language is that Senator Gaffey will submit at the meeting today.

If you are a Connecticut homeschooler or are a parent who wants to secure your parental rights I urge you to attend today's meeting.

Unfortunately I cannot be there due to a conflict with a long-awaited specialist doctor appointment.

If you wish to contact Senator Thomas Gaffey, Education Chair, Democrat representing the towns of Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield and Middletown here is Senator Gaffey's webpage.

I am worried about what the new language will be. I'd like to know what it is.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

I’m Not in Hartford Today: SB162 Update

I’m not in Hartford today. Right now there is an Education Committee meeting going on at the Legislative Office Building at Connecticut’s capital. People were urged to attend the meeting to show support for SB162.

Hopefully SB162 will make it to the committee’s agenda today. If that does not make the agenda today, perhaps it will happen tomorrow which is their next Education Committee meeting. If the bill is not raised it will die in committee on March 19, 2008. I hope that SB162 does not die in committee.

I support SB162 in its original language. I have emailed all the members and co-chairs of the Education Committee to ask them to support SB162 and to put it on the agenda, to raise it and vote it out of committee. Only one legislator wrote back to me, stating she supported SB162. I later found out she became a co-sponsor of the bill.

I contacted my representatives by phone to ask for their support on SB162. I wanted them to know a constituent of theirs wants this matter addressed.

I am on day 15 of a head cold. It was pretty mild but now it has moved on to another stage. I have fluid in my ears and a sore throat. I have other signs it is now a sinus infection. I had a very busy weekend of one appointment after another and did too much running around. I am resting at home today; I am in no shape to go to Hartford as an activist today. I can’t go to the meeting tomorrow either as my son has a medical appointment we waited months to get.

I hope that people other than Judy Aron and Attorney Deborah Stevenson were able to be a presence at the Education Committee meeting today, and tomorrow if necessary.

You can read Judy Aron’s post about this Education Committee meeting on her blog, here.

CT - SB162 - Education Committee To Place Withdrawal Bill On Their Agenda

NHELD issued an announcement on 3/15/08 which you can read here, about SB162.

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