Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reading Breakthrough #1 (and Loving Spiderwick Chronicles)

My older son, with his new prescription reading glasses with prisms also, for his newly diagnosed eye tracking problem (specifically, convergence insufficiency), is on a reading jag which I consider to be Reading Breakthrough #1. (I’m calling this number one as a few minutes ago I discovered #2 which will be a future blog post.) I am hoping this change in reading habits and self-motivated reading is a result of his new glasses not just tied to the Spiderwick Chronicles book series by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.

When we heard that a movie version of the book serial “Spiderwick Chronicles” was coming out both kids asked to see the movie. I denied this request stating they must read the books first because the book is always better than the movie (storyline wise). At that time older son protested immediately. This was before his eye tracking problem was diagnosed. He asked me to read aloud the books to him and I said no. I was trying to get him to read more. The book states it is for readers aged 7 and older. The publisher states on the Internet that the book is in the age 9-12 range. Sight unseen my older son was complaining about reading the book as then he wanted books with large font and lots of white space on the page; he assumed the books would be too hard to read (font size wise).

I tried borrowing the first book from two different libraries on five different visits (to try to save money but I did burn gasoline in those attempts mind you); unfortunately, they were not available. I also checked at the library for an audio book as older son asked for that and did not find it available at the library. If they did have it I would have borrowed it and given in and let him listen to it. He has always loved hearing me read aloud or listening to audio books and can listen and comprehend much harder books than he says he is comfortable reading (this was before his eye tracking problem was diagnosed).

The kids kept asking to see the movie, they are still asking today.

Last week we happened to be in Costco and I saw the Spiderwick books there. They were being sold as a set of the five Spiderwick Chronicle books for $29.99. They were also being sold individually for $6.89 (full retail is $10.99 and today’s Amazon price is $8.79 each if you want to compare prices) but I could not find the first book in stock. I was afraid to buy the set lest my kids not like book one and then I’d have wasted the money. However I realized once I had the book in hand these things:
1. The first four books are just 128 pages long (not long).

2. There is a good amount of white space on the page.

3. The font is not tiny.

4. They are illustrated with wonderful artwork (which is much appreciated by my kids and me).

5. The small size is perfect for the hands of a child.

6. These hard cover books are charming and enticing and beckon the reader.

So we left Costco that evening with the set of five books.

(I see Amazon is selling the five book set for just $31.49 today, not bad at all especially if you are not a Costco member or if your Costco has sold out of these sets already. Note that before the movie came out I don’t recall Costco selling them, so this is an example of movie marketing that inspires a wider audience of book marketing and increases readership.)

That first night my son stayed up late reading book one. In a nutshell he finished all five books in six days especially if you consider that within those six days he: 1) was with my family for a full day visiting them and did not read; 2) he was at an all day outdoor class where no reading was done; and 3) he spent more than 24 hours on a Boy Scout camping trip with no reading being done there either.

I was thrilled and surprised to see him doing things I had wished my kids would someday do. He was finding time in the day to read the book, quietly going off to his room or to a couch to read instead of spending all his time playing with LEGO. He did not beg to watch more TV or play more video games beyond our family limits (gasp). He was taking the book with him in the car and reading it in the car instead of just listening to music or reading comics. He stayed up late to read. He would not get out of bed in the morning because he was absorbed in reading. The books were being carried with him all around the house. He was riveted to the books and was really enjoying them. Oh and best of all that was all completely self-motivated. None of that was part of the reading that I mandate that my kids do for their homeschooling lessons.

I’m doing a happy dance!

I hope this is not just due to his loving the story of “The Spiderwick Chronicles”. I hope this is a sign of how much easier reading is for my son with his new prescription reading glasses and with the passive therapy for his eye tracking problem (prisms in the lenses).

Enjoyment of reading of fiction as a pleasure activity is a gateway, I believe, for reading for information and for self-education. Even some fiction books can help change who we are as people.

I plan to continue to put good books into his hands and I do hope this keeps up.

My seven year old has begun reading the books and is on book two right now. He was reading it to himself last night after he went to bed and did come to me saying he was scared by one part of the story.

My older son’s favorite genre is fantasy and his second favorite is realistic fiction (i.e. Andrew Clements).

I’ve not yet read The Spiderwick Chronicles so I can’t comment on the content or quality of the story.

We will watch the movie after the kids have finished reading all the books.

I also see that there is also a series: “Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles”. Book one has been published “The Nixie’s Song”.

Book two in this second series is slotted for publication in September 2008 and is titled “A Giant Problem”.

My older son is begging for the "Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You" which I will indulge him with by order it from Amazon today.

Oh and yes soon we will see the movie!

Technorati Tags: , , .

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 122 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 122 was published today at Homeschool Buzz.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It provides 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.


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Feeling Overwhelmed Today

Today is a big feeling overwhelmed day. I am trying to psych myself out of this and to tell myself that this month was so insanely busy (abnormally busy) that I have every right to be feeling this way.

In this month we have done these things which made us too busy:

Husband went on business trip and we went with him, to Washington D.C., did heavy walking, an exhausting trip physically.

Husband went on another business trip so I had some days as a ‘single mom’.

I was away for two days at a homeschooling conference, out of state, learned new things, feeling mentally overwhelmed.

We did a road trip as a family going a total of about 1800 miles in exactly 74 hours.

Older son went on his first Boy Scout camping trip with the Troop, husband went along too.

Younger son had a sleepover at my brother and his family’s house.

Attended a Christening that basically took up a whole weekend day.

Kids and I had physicals, three different visits.

Spent half a day getting older son’s new glasses (I lost pair #1 on way home from Washington D.C.).

I had two visits to an allergist to investigate whether or not I do really have a bee sting allergy (two half days used with that).

First month having a son in Boy Scouts, new double load of attending Cub Scout meetings with younger son (and me volunteering with that) and also attending Boy Scout meetings too. This is taking up a lot of time! Trying to ‘learn the ropes’ with Boy Scouting, it is so different than Cub Scouting.

Kids started a new art class, new weekday morning routine for that event, disrupts the usual homeschooling lesson plans.

Bill in Connecticut Senate which ended up lessening parental rights and increasing government regulation and monitoring of homeschoolers—spending many hours trying to defeat the new language and to restore the entirely different language of the original bill. Spent energy worrying about how this may affect our future homeschooling journey.

New session began at nature class, kids (especially younger son) adjusting to new group dynamic, and getting used to new carpool routine.

Attended a few ‘one time’ outside classes and events.

As I write this the following need to be done:

Hang Boy Scout tent to air dry (it has been pouring rain for 48 hours and rain is predicted the rest of the day. It needs to be totally dry by tomorrow).

Laundry somehow built up, about four loads of clothes need to be done.

All linens really should be replaced.

Outbreak of algae in fish tank continues. Need to do a big water change, rock cleaning and full filter cleansing.

Entire house needs light decluttering due to stuff accumulating in between all these appointments and trips.

Entire house really needs to be cleaned.

Big jobs of garage cleaning and basement decluttering and book culling really should be done and the longer I put these off the more pressing these become.

I have not yet planned younger son’s birthday party and it is coming up in less than a month.

I just needed to vent that. Thank you for listening. Now I feel better that given all that has gone on in April I have every right to feel out of sorts and overwhelmed with all on my ‘to do’ list.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More Needle Felted Creations

Here are more needle felted creations that I made in March and April 2008.

1. Easter Egg about 3 inches in length

2. Easter Egg about 1.5 inches in length.

3. Robot about 7 inches tall

4. Race Car about 7 inches long. I could not think of what to make with this hot pink roving! I especially like the racing flames on the sides.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I've Been Learning About Convergence Insufficiency (an Eye Tracking Problem)

I am sharing some information I have learned about convergence insufficiency, one of the ‘eye tracking’ diagnoses that exist. I’m sharing this in case it helps you in some way. This is not a comprehensive article or ‘everything there is to know’ on the topic as I have been learning about it for just a short while. There are other conditions related to ‘eye tracking problems’. I am speaking here about my own family’s experience and specifically about convergence insufficiency.

My older son was recently diagnosed as having convergence insufficiency.

Last fall to help out a former teacher who is attending graduate school to get a master’s degree to be a reading specialist teacher, I offered my older son as a guinea pig, she needed a student to administer tests to for a class she was taking. The student, a former fifth grade teacher, needed a child to give a whole battery of reading comprehension tests to, so that she could learn to administer and evaluate the tests. She had to compile a case study about her findings. She had to give multiple tests that tested the same thing so that she could see the different tests that are used by different school systems (in other words some tests repeated what other tests did, some were faster, some were more comprehensive and some evaluated the issue from different approaches). At the end, I was presented with her findings.

One of the things I was told was that she witnessed what she thought might be an ‘eye tracking’ problem that happened only when he was reading two or more paragraphs of text (it didn’t happen on the tests with shorter passages to read). Hearing that my son may have an ‘eye tracking’ problem came as a complete surprise to me. I had first heard of these ‘eye tracking’ problems while working in my last job at an insurance company and I know some people whose children are currently undergoing vision therapy but I didn’t know much about that condition.

She said she had witnessed my son skipping words here and there; they were usually words like “a” and “the”. She said that the problem was not evident when he was reading one sentence or a few, or even one paragraph. However when he was reading few paragraphs or when the whole page was of text, the problem happened. In those cases he sometimes stumbled in the middle of a sentence and ‘lost his place’. He rushed through reading aloud (as usual) then would stumble on the words. He also sometimes had trouble finding the next line to read, sometimes re-reading the same line, sometimes stopping to find the line, and other times skipping a line or more of text. When he did that, she felt he didn’t even know he did it, and he was missing content as a result, which was impacting his reading comprehension because he had not read some of the text. Later if he was asked a question regarding the skipped content he got the answer wrong, because he had never read that content. That brought down his test score. (Make sure to see my note later about how different tests can hide or highlight this condition.)

I was told by this student “I don’t know what to do about this observation”. I replied, “I know what to do. I am taking him to an eye doctor that specializes in evaluating and treating eye tracking problems.” This type of doctor is called a Behavioral Optometrist, they have special training to give exams and diagnose these conditions. Eye tracking is not something normally tested on what is called a ‘visual acuity’ exam which is the test where they say if you have 20/20 vision or if you are near or far sighted.

I first learned of this diagnosis with a negative label on “eye tracking” conditions. When I worked at a medical insurance company (an HMO), they had a policy to not pay for eye tracking therapy. The belief back then (in the mid 1990s) was that this was “not real” and was “snake oil medicine”. I was told that they did vision therapy that was ‘very basic and could be done at home but that many optometrists force patients to do them in the office and bill out high prices for simple exercises that the parent should be trained to do at home’. Some doctors said, “The doctors should train the parents to do the simple exercises and have them do it at home but instead some do it in their office and bill out high prices for every visit.”

In between learning that opinion and hearing that my son might have a problem, I have read a little about homeschooled students having trouble reading then being diagnosed with eye tracking problems and being helped tremendously by vision therapy. I also have a homeschooling mother friend who I knew had a child diagnosed with a tracking problem who had found a doctor they trusted. I called her immediately to get the name of their Behavioral Optometrist.

Before I tell you what happened I’ll share what I have observed as a homeschooling mother with regard to my son’s reading. I had taught him to read with Alpha Phonics, a systematic intensive phonics method of instruction. I waited for all the signs of reading readiness. After several failed attempts to start teaching it, I gave up not being able to handle my son’s protests. I finally forced the issue when he was aged 5.5 and in the second half of what was supposed to be ‘homeschool Kindergarten’. I thought his defiance was a sign of a resistance to authority which was truly the first time he ever exhibited that to me (so it was coming as a surprise). He learned to read slowly but surely, and finished the curriculum. When he read aloud to me it was smooth and he did not skip words.

For first grade and second grade he was reading easy readers and books with controlled vocabulary set at certain reading levels. He read the leveled readers as well as some old school textbooks with controlled vocabulary (similar to the Dick and Jane readers) then on to easy chapter books like Magic Tree House (second grade reading level).

By third grade he was reading the Boxcar Children series (third grade reading level) and loved them, reading many in that series. At that time in third grade he was still not reading ‘chapter books’ in his spare time. Instead he was reading nonfiction books such as the DK Eyewitness books that have snippets of text, comics such as The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes, mail order catalogs that sold things of his interest (he would study them and memorize them) and magazines. He would also pick up picture books and read those on his own. My son was not happy to read ‘chapter books’ and would only read them in the time I forced him to read them, for example, reading 20 minutes in second grade. Also at that time one time my son began complaining about blurry vision. I took him for an eye test with an ophthalmologist because when I was seven I got my first pair of glasses and there is a 50/50 chance that my children may have inherited my poor eyesight. I was told his vision was normal and he didn’t need glasses of any kind. That was exactly two years ago.

In the fourth grade year my son threw a fit when I refused to let him go on with The Boxcar Children series. Those books are set at a third grade reading level. I figured ‘enough is enough’ and it was time for him to move on to books with more difficult vocabulary and stretch the content horizons further. I chose other chapter books that were on a fourth grade level for him to read. In that grade he continued with not wanting to read any chapter books in his spare time. In his spare time he kept reading those other types of books, sometimes for up to three or four hours a day. About the books he’d read he would complain about certain books and say things like this:

“I want books with a larger font.”

“The words are too crowded, I want wider margins.”

“I prefer books with pictures in them.”

“That book is too thick.”

“I like books with short chapters.”

I was frustrated by these comments from my son. You see he was reading 45 minutes a day for his reading practice. In my eyes the length of the chapter does not matter if a person is reading a certain number of minutes per day. If the font is large enough, what does it matter what the total page count of a book is?

My son also resisted reading books to himself on topics for our homeschooling such as reading about science or history. I continued to do read aloud’s instead.

All this time my son had been listening to audio books as well. He has a very long attention span and loves to hear fiction books which are recorded. My son was unable, in the month that he turned ten, to read the whole Harry Potter book. He read half of the last book in the series the night it came out as he was at a sleepover where all the kids stayed up all night reading it. Even though he was dying to find out what happened he refused to read the rest of the book. I refused to read it aloud saying he was being lazy to not read it to himself. He waited a couple of months until we finally were able to borrow the audio book from the public library (we were on a waiting list that whole time).

In discussing these things with my homeschool mom friends, other parents and my reading specialist teacher friend, I was told things like this:

“Not all boys like to read long books at that age.”

“Boys that age love comics and magazines, that is typical.”

“Children of that age should just be playing a lot anyway.”

“When he gets a little older he will stop playing so much and may turn to reading for pleasure more.”

“Your son reads lots of other types of things so when he is older he will probably love to read a lot of fiction books, this is just a stage.”

“He knows to read when he needs to find out information and that is what reading is really for so don’t worry.”

“Not all people are big readers of fiction, you know.”

Symptoms of Convergence Insufficiency

I learned these after the diagnosis of my son was made.

Our doctor told me that often children with convergence insufficiency appear lazy. They may just not seem to like reading. They may not read regular books that are ‘on grade level’ for pleasure, books with many words on the page. They might be reading only when forced. They may prefer comics (remember they don’t have huge blocks of text on a white background). They can read but they may just seem to not like to read. They like books and like stories read to them but just don’t read the stories to themselves as we assume they would want to, especially if they have heard part of the story read aloud and are anxious to get further along in the book. They may gravitate to read books that are easier such as older children reading easy picture books. The children may complain of the length of time that they are reading, such as want to stop after ten minutes or something.

I want to add, before you read this symptom list, that some of these things may be known to your child but your child may not ever tell these to you. My son who I am close to and who communicates many things to me easily did not share some of the symptoms with me even though after his diagnosis when asked directly he affirmed that he was having those experiences. I think this is because the children assume that everyone has these things happen to them and they don’t realize they are a problem.

The Evaluation with the Behavioral Optometrist

So I made the appointment with the Behavioral Optometrist who I was told does not ‘rip you off’ and who I was told is very nice to the children and is sincere and down to earth with the parents. I ended up waiting about ten weeks for our appointment. Our old medical insurance (which usually had great coverage) did not cover this evaluation and therapy but the new insurance that just began for us does cover it (which I am not very happy with their general coverage) does cover this evaluation and treatment. So I see that not all insurance plans cover this type of service.

My son was diagnosed as having a limited field of vision. I was told it is ‘not severe’. That impacts his reading ability because he can only see one or two words at a time. I was told that usually kids of that age can see five or six words at one time. The limited ability to see larger chunks of text makes the eyes jump and jerk and the reading does not flow along in a more sweeping manner. The reading is then slower. Comprehension can be affected negatively.

I was told that my son also has “convergence insufficiency”. This is where the two eyes don’t focus on one central point. Imagine when you first try to look through binoculars and each eye sees different things, then after you adjust them the image comes into one central focus. Well right now my son’s two eyes see two different things and they struggle to come into focus. In order to see one thing, the child has to try to use information from just one eye. I was told that some children whose conditions are more severe than my sons’ end up turning their heads and others squint or close one eye while reading.

My son also is having double vision at 18 inches distance instead of at 2-3 inches which is considered the norm. So sometimes when reading my son was seeing double vision.

Lastly my son was diagnoses as needing reading glasses. As I previously explained I had him evaluated by an ophthalmologist at age eight and was told that his near and far vision was perfect. So I know this change has happened in the last two years. My son now admits that he began noticing a change in his vision while reading ‘about one year ago’. (Why he never discussed this with me is beyond my comprehension. We have discussed this at length and I have drilled it into both children’s heads that if they sense any blurriness or fogginess or anything like that to tell me as soon as possible!)

This symptom list is from this page at Convergence Note a child does not have to have all of these symptoms!

• eyestrain (especially with or after reading)
• headaches
• inability to concentrate
• short attention span
• frequent loss of place
• squinting, rubbing, closing or covering an eye
• blurred vision
• sleepiness (especially while reading)
• trouble remembering what was read
• words move, jump, swim or appear to float on the page
• problems with motion sickness and/or vertigo
• double vision
• trouble catching balls and other objects thrown through the air
• avoidance of tasks that require depth perception (games involving smaller balls, handicrafts, hand eye coordination, etc.)
• frequent mishaps due to misjudgment of distances (particularly within twenty feet), such as:
• trips and stumbles on uneven surfaces, stairs, and curbs, etc.
• frequent spilling or knocking over of objects
• bumping into doors and other objects
• sports and/or car parking accidents
• avoidance of eye contact
• poor posture
• one shoulder noticeably higher
• frequent head tilt
• problems with motion sickness and/or vertigo

My Son’s Treatment

The first step for my son’s treatment was to get prescription reading glasses for his visual acuity problem. Those glasses also have a ‘passive’ therapy for his convergence insufficiency; they have a ‘prism’ in the lens. When my son put his glasses on for the first time and read, he was amazed and surprised. He said the words were clear and ‘so big’ and ‘easy to read’. His reading speed picked up immediately, with a 25% increase in page count in the same book he was reading in the days before he got his new glasses. Within a week after getting his new glasses he began reading fiction books for pleasure. In week three, to share the change, for pleasure he began reading a book in the evening (for one hour) and read it two more hours as soon as he woke up and finished it. In the next 24 hours he read the second book in the series. In the next 24 hours he read the third book in the series. He has never read through fiction books that fast and this was 100% self-motivated and not forced upon him by me as part of his ‘homeschooling reading practice’.

The second form of vision therapy that he will receive will be light therapy (syntonic phototherapy is the technical term for it). I will rent a unit from the doctor when one becomes available. We will do that therapy at home. My cost will be $60 for three months of renting the unit. This doctor said he has had large success with only the light therapy. He saw no difference when combining ‘vision therapy exercises’ with light therapy, so he now doesn’t bother with those exercises for all of this patients. I was told that my son’s condition will improve with about two months of light therapy. I can’t wait to begin! We are on a wait list for the unit so we have not started yet.

Snake Oil Medicine?

I had a conversation with our Behavioral Optometrist about why it is that some ophthalmologists and other doctors feel that eye tracking problems are ‘not real’. He explained that like everything else with western medicine, the doctors don’t usually believe things unless many studies show proof and until it is declared to be ‘accepted’ in the medical community. He said that in the last ten years, and even in the last fifteen, that the body of research studies showing that this is real and that the therapies work has been growing. Despite this, some doctors still don’t know much about it, especially those from ‘the old school’ who had already accepted the other notion of ‘that is not real’.

Another issue is that these ‘eye tracking’ disorders are not tested or diagnosed by a ‘regular’ eye exam for visual acuity which is what the ophthalmologists do during their ‘normal exam’. This is not tested by Pediatrician’s in the physical exams done either. The eye tracking problems have to be diagnosed with other tests, one simple one being to determine at what distance the patient sees double vision. This is why a child with a suspected eye tracking problem can visit an ophthalmologist and come away without a diagnosis for the different eye tracking problems. Also some children may be told they have ‘perfect vision’ (meaning their visual acuity is fine) and don’t need glasses while others may come away with normal reading glasses but still no diagnosis or treatment for the eye tracking problem. This could be especially problematic if a teacher or reading specialist recommends that their student be tested then they go and are told they have ‘good vision’.

I agree from knowing about other medical conditions, such as Lyme Disease or even breastfeeding, how doctors can sometimes hold fast to old notions even after new information is well known. For example doctors used to think that baby formula was more healthy for babies than breast milk because it was made in a lab with special formulations. Some doctors had to wait to be shown by medical studies that human milk was better for babies than processed baby formula. Even today when the AAP and other ‘experts’ say that breastfeeding is best some doctors do not really discuss it or encourage pregnant women to breastfeed.

A Neurological Basis

Eye tracking problems are neurologically based. This is a ‘brain’ issue. This is not a ‘biology of the eyeball’ condition. I was told that if left untreated eye tracking problems can lead to eye muscle problems though, such as “lazy eye”. Sometimes then the “lazy eye” is recommended to have eye surgery.

My son’s doctor actually said that one cause of this neurological condition is Lyme Disease, which my son has had four different times since age three, his last case being last fall right in the middle of the testing period. It is well known that Lyme Disease can cause neurological problems but I’d never heard it linked to eye tracking disorders.

Reading Below Grade Level and Reading Comprehension

My son’s behavioral optometry exam also tested reading speed and tracking speed which are negatively affected if a child has convergence insufficiency and causes the child to read like they are younger. In other words a ten year old may test as reading like an eight year old speed level. This could also be a problem for children taking timed tests!

I mention this because some children may be told in school that they are ‘slow readers’ or that they are ‘reading below grade level’.

A teacher may say that their student has a problem with ‘reading comprehension’. The convergence problem also negatively affects reading comprehension due to the word skipping and line skipping. Losing the place on the line also interrupts the processing of the information and can contribute to problems with retention of information or reading comprehension. If the child constantly is thinking about where his eyes should rest and what word he should be reading it interrupts his ability to concentrate JUST on the content he is reading. Not only may he skip words and miss content but he may not be paying attention enough or may forget the content he has just read.

Do Schools Always Catch This?

It is my understanding that not all students in school will be identified as having an eye tracking problem because not every student gets screened in a way that would allow a teacher to see this. It is my understanding that only students who are sent for special reading testing due to ‘serious’ problems with reading will do the type of tests that the evaluator MIGHT CATCH.

I spoke to my reading specialist teacher friend about this and she said she had not heard of it until just a few weeks ago when she herself was at the ophthalmologists’ office and waiting for her appointment and saw an article posted in the waiting room from The New York Times which discussed eye tracking problems. When I told my friend the symptoms especially the one about children squinting to shut one eye and turning their head when reading she said she had a student right now who was with her for reading problems and she told the mother to get her general vision tested. She now said she will learn more about this because she now realizes that she needs to refer them to a Behavioral Optometrist with experience treating eye tracking problems.

Even if the student undergoes a full reading testing with the reading specialists, it might not be found. Remember that I said my son had done a battery of tests? Some of those tests were not ‘catching’ the problem. He aced some of the reading comprehension tests, the ones that had one or a few sentences of text read and tested. It was only the test that had long text and more than one paragraph that caught my son’s condition—because his eye tracking problem does not kick in until he has read more than one paragraph of text. (That is why he likes to read comics, graphic novels, magazines and books with snippets of text.) So, depending on what test the child is given in school, they may or may not ever catch the problem.

So---it is now my opinion that all parents should familiarize themselves with eye tracking problem symptoms and watch for them in their own children—before you suspect a problem. The symptoms are subtle and can easily be missed or though of as ‘normal’ or ‘a stage’. One symptom from the list is not a red flag but if you see several of these things happening plus issues with difficulty learning or doing schoolwork, the parent should seek an evaluation with a Behavioral Optometrist.

Note that all the testing and treatment for eye tracking problems is done in the private sector or at home, not in the school, so the parent must be an active partner in watching for, seeking a medical opinion of, and seeking treatment for this condition with the right kind of health care professional (a Behavioral Optometrist). It is not ‘the school’s problem’ so don’t just put the onus on the school to look for, diagnose and treat eye tracking conditions in your child.

What Our Doctor Wants Teachers to Know

Our Behavioral Optometrist asked me to tell the teacher who tested my son this information. (I had explained that the reading tester suspected tracking problems in Jay during the testing process.) In your future work with children if you spot a tracking problem it is important to refer them to a “Behavioral Optometrist” not to just a regular optometrist or an ophthalmologist because those two only check visual acuity and they do not test for the tracking issue. A child can have 20/20 vision and still have convergence insufficiency. If left uncorrected, this tracking problem, I was told, not only will result in more problems doing schoolwork and reading long passages of text but it can cause the eye(s) to turn even more outward and make the situation worse and harder to correct, the longer it is allowed to go on. If the eye turns away a lot, an eye muscle problem may occur that ophthalmologists may recommend eye muscle surgery for. The tracking problems should be addressed correctly, as soon as it is identified. Just as with other medical problems, a problem found early can be treated easier and more quickly than one that is left untreated for a longer time.

Links About Convergence Insufficiency


Syntonic Phototherapy

a New York Times article

Wikipedia entry Convergence Insufficiency

Technorati Tags: , , .

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MassHope Homeschool Convention April 25 & 26, 2008--You Can Walk In

If you live in the area and want to attend the MassHope homeschooling convention they accept walk-in registrations.

Here is the site for the convention.

Here is the link to the workshops and long descriptions of them.

I'm leaving at six tomorrow morning for the convention. I'll blog when I return. Yes, I blog but I don't 'mobile blog' or whatever it is called, not yet at least.

Need Help Finding a Croc Knock-Off

Help please.

My younger son loves his Crocs. They have nubs on the sole, he is fine with that.

My older son can't stand the nubs on the sole of the Crocs. He feels that they hurt his feet. That child has some clothing 'sensitivities'. Last year we found that Payless Shoes did a Croc imitation that looked nearly identical to the original Croc design but there were no nubs. He loved them. By the way technically those were women's shoes but since my son's were in the color black, they looked just like boys or mens shoes...

This year a Payless Shoe clerk told me that the 2008 imitation of the Croc is not the same design, they added a more feminine criss-cross design and they are 'for women'.


Does anyone know of a company or store making a shoe just like Crocs but without the nubs on the sole?

Before I go around to all the various stores who sell "knock-off's" I figured I'd ask some other moms. Maybe someone has seen these while out shopping or maybe you have a child with some clothing sensitivity issues too?

Thank you.

I'm Happy to Have Kids Who Aren't Racist

This has happened before with my kids and yesterday I saw it again with my younger son and also his friend, so I’m sharing the story today. This is about when children who are not racist don't even notice the color of people's skin.

We were at a playground with a large group of homeschooling families. My older son was off playing with a boy who had never been to the park before. I saw them from a distance and could see that the boy was black, that was the first thing that my mind registered about his appearance after the fact that he was a boy and not a girl. I saw that his mother was Caucasian and so I am guessing he may be partially African-American and partially Caucasian, then again, maybe he is adopted, I don’t know. Anyway the point is he was obviously not Caucasian and he was obviously partially African-American which usually people say is a ‘black person’. I should mention that most of the kids at the park day where Caucasian with just one family with several children there who were African American.

So the story is that I asked my younger son “What is the name of the boy that your brother is playing with?” At that point my older son was not in our line of vision. My son said, “Was he wearing a shirt with a hawk on it?” and I said, “I have no idea, I couldn’t see his shirt from that distance” He said, “Did he have short hair?” and I said, “yes”. The other boy (aged 11) also Caucasian said, “I do think that (your older son) was playing with the boy with the hawk shirt and he did have short hair too.” I was sitting there in amazement that they didn’t use the color of his skin to identify him which would have narrowed him down to just one of four kids at the park that day. I thought it was so interesting that my kids and that other child were not thinking of ethnicity or skin color as a descriptive term for a person. I mean, describing their skin color to me is pretty basic and does not mean the person is a racist. Later when I was closer to that boy indeed he was wearing a shirt with a hawk graphic on it and yes he did have short hair and yes he had dark skin and was at least partially African-American. I am always surprised when I encounter kids who seem to not notice the color of a person’s skin.

In our household we don’t really talk about race and ethnicity. When we are talking about a person such as commenting about the Presidential candidate Barack Obama we never discuss his color or his ethnicity. We just talk about the issue of whatever we are talking about such as if I want him to be President or not and why or why not. When we are driving and someone cuts us off and we might say “that was a stupid move and we nearly were hit” but we don’t add in descriptive words about their race or ethnic background—this counts for if a person is clearly Italian or some specific white culture that some people use slurs to describe, or if they are Hispanic or African-American. It just isn’t something we discuss in either a good or bad descriptive way.

We have addressed some issues of racism and a general idea of how some people don’t like others who are of a different race or ethnic background than they themselves are. My kids know about slavery in America in a watered down way that is age-appropriate. They know that slavery is a bad thing. They also know of how our country didn’t allow black people to vote for a long time (or women either). They know that some people commit crimes out of hatred for something about a person such as their race.

My children are homeschooled and some people worry that children who are homeschooled are isolated or may not get to be around people of different races, ethnic cultural backgrounds or wealth levels. We have small towns in Connecticut and with about a five minute drive I can be in six different towns—this is nothing like Houston—Houston is about the size of this entire state. The people we mix with while in the community and doing things with the homeschool community put us in touch with people of all types however to be honest the majority are Caucasian just because that is who happens to be involved with the things we do and at the places we go.

I am happy that my children are not racists. This is despite them being homeschooled and this is despite the demographics of our town.

I’ll share some statistics with you. According to U.S. Census data from 2000, the racial makeup of the residents in my town is:
95.3% Caucasian
2% Asian
1.8% Hispanic/Latino
0.5% Multiracial
0.2% Black
0.1% Other

I don’t think that racism has to do with who lives in your town. The presence or lack of presence of certain peoples in one’s home town is not the issue, what is the issue is what a child is taught about race and prejudice. I feel that ideas about racism have more to do with the thought process of the person and to what degree they are insecure or secure, cold-hearted or warm-hearted, intelligent or ignorant, educated or uneducated, and tolerant or not tolerant—or any number of a combination of those things or some other factors that I didn’t mention.

Some other evidence that children learn to be racists from their parents is that someone I know was a Kindergarten teacher for many years in a Connecticut city and by the time her career was ending she was working with almost all African American students and some other minorities. The teacher (who was Caucasian) said that children entered her classroom on day one with racist ideas and saying negative things about white people. They would tell her racist comments all the time such as “I hate all white people and white people are bad” and then she would say “Do you like me?” They would say “Yes, very much.” And she would say, “I am a white person” and she said they would just look at her with a state of confusion on their faces. It broke her heart that the children arrived on day one with ideas like that at just the age of five years old. She was trying to show them that their life experiences and their affection for real white people was different from the words they were saying about white people.

In our daily living we come across people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes. In our homeschooling community and in the other community events that my children are active with (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and church based religious education classes) my children develop more intimate connections with people. By being in the same Cub Scout den with a child of a different race, seeing them weekly over one, two, three years or longer, they get to know people for who they are as people and they do not judge them based on the color of their skin. While participating in events related to some interest they have such as a being at a LEGO event or playing in a Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game tournament they connect with people of all races in a respectful manner and talk about their shared passions.

I am so happy that my children are not racists and they are living proof that it is a myth that ‘homeschooling is a sheltered environment will not expose children to people of other races or religions and will lead to intolerance and racist views’. The people that believe that myth and spread it around are those who seem to not have much contact with homeschooled children and have no basis in reality for believing that myth—it is just something that they have set in their mind. Oddly, some people who ‘fear’ that homeschoolers will be raised to be racists actually work and participate in other systems that are filled with the very racism they don’t want to happen to homeschoolers. An example would be school teachers who work in schools where evidence of racism and classism among those students is present yet despite being able to end the racism, classism, and intolerance in their own classrooms they choose to worry about and point fingers to the general homeschool community instead.

Technorati Tags: , , .

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thoughts on Right Fighters

I love this phrase that is used by Dr. Phil McGraw: Right Fighters. It is just a perfect phrase to describe the situation when a person always thinks they are right and wants to battle everyone around him in order to convert them to their way of thinking.

I was reminded of this phrase when I phoned my midwife to schedule my annual exam. I was shocked to hear that the practice had broken up and that now my midwife was working for a large OB/GYN group owned by a certain doctor. The Right Fighter part comes into this story because of one of my sister-in-laws. Just months after I got pregnant with my first, she became pregnant with her first. We both used the GYN who we had each gone to all of our lives, for our prenatal care—we had different doctors in different practices. She always had this attitude that her practice was the best and she was so happy with them. She seemed offended that I’d go to a different practice. I really didn’t care who she got her care from. As it turned out my OB was going on vacation 11 days before my due date. The minute I heard that I knew that I’d deliver when she was on vacation. I had a prenatal visit on her last day of work, first thing in the morning. I didn’t realize it but that accidentally put me into labor because the back pain I felt while exiting the office was actually early labor pains (I know they say that in books but when it was really happening to me I thought it was ‘just’ back pain). My water broke that evening, just two hours after her workday ended and when her vacation technically began, and guess who the delivering doctor was? It was my sister-in-law’s doctor.

My OB then stopped delivering babies so for baby #2 I needed a new doctor and I wanted a natural birth with a midwife so I found a Certified Nurse Midwife that did hospital deliveries. This time that sister-in-law was pregnant with her #2 just a few months before I was pregnant. Again we had the Right Fighting going on, some kind of battle about how she loved her doctors. This time I was adamant to have a more natural pregnancy. So this also involved a battle about her wanting all the drugs and inducement of her labor and everything she could get while I sought a natural birth. For example she bragged of her ultrasounds at every single prenatal visit while I said I’d only had two the entire time (which horrified her). She seemed irritated that I was not in line with her outlook. Well so now my CNM is employed by that practice, so my CNM’s boss happens to be her favorite doctor. I was wondering now what she would think as her OB must like my midwife and her philosophies or else he would not have hired her, right?

I started out life as a Right Fighter. I first got a glimpse of this when I was about eight or nine and I was being told that I was doing ‘back talk’ and then that I ‘always wanted people to do things my way’. It really became apparent to me when I was a teenager when I was around some really annoying people who I then realized were just acting the same way as me (gasp) and I realized how my words may sound to other people (and I was horrified).

Later while working, that fact was illuminated yet again. I had to consciously work to stop myself from being a Right Fighter as it does not at all fit in with many workplaces. For one thing workplace attitude and how I got along with others was on my annual evaluation and was tied to my raise! It was important not just that my boss think I had a good attitude and got along with others but I actually did have to get along with everyone and sometimes that meant not even discussing things where my idea was different than theirs. This was when I was working in a small business, working with about six people day in and day out, and with some part-timer’s here and there. I had to get along with everyone and we were all so different and worked in different ways and had different work ethics. I was of the mind that there were the workplace rules, that we all should follow them, that we all should work hard and do all the things we were supposed to—but I learned that not everyone was like that. I’d often come in to work and find undone work from the night shift so I’d start off my day doing someone else’s work because at the end of my shift that night shift that took over would be irate if I had left THEM work. At my next job I found that this was also especially an issue in corporate environments where ‘teamwork’ is the goal and where political correctness and evidence of always optimistic attitudes are the only allowed ways to communicate.

My new outlook is that I have an opinion regarding my own business and I like to talk about ideas with others. I respect the opinions of others even if I disagree with their theories or if I think they outright believe (what they think is) a falsehood. I am the type of person who can discuss things rationally and who can agree to disagree. The older I get the less I care what other people think to be honest. I don’t have the energy to figure out what others think then to try to covert them over to my way of thinking. I don’t nix people out of my life if they don’t believe all that I do because people are so complex and we change our minds, it is impossible to find a person who believes exactly everything that another person does. As for others who believe other ideas I don’t really care what they think except if it negatively impacts me or harms other people or harms creatures or the larger world in some way.

I recently realized that my younger son is a Right Fighter. Oh no!! How will I deal with that??

I was under some impression that being a Right Fighter may be a learned behavior after having it modeled to them. This would align with the fact that my father is a Right Fighter and I grew up with that and I was the same way. (He still is a Right Fighter as he sees no reason to change his ways.) However I have not demonstrated being a Right Fighter to my son and he is one so the idea of it being learned, I am tossing out the window. I now suspect being a Right Fighter is an inborn personality trait that can be handed down to people in their genes. In order to stop being a Right Fighter (at least about every single little thing in life) a person must learn to change their thinking, so the inborn natural tendency can be actively changed by the person of their own free will (it does take a lot of effort though). Of course no one can change something they don’t acknowledge or something that they don’t want to put any effort into addressing.

I don’t advocate for stopping being a Right Fighter just to get along with others, just to be a follower. I think it is alright to hold an opinion but it is just really annoying and not conducive to good relations with other people to constantly Right Fight about every single little thing. Right Fighters should pick their battles. Right Fighters also need to learn how to communicate politely and clearly and in a way that doesn’t instantly offend everyone. This can be difficult and it can take a lot of effort. The main reason to try to stop being a Right Fighter is that it helps a person be healthier, mentally and physically.

I don’t think it is healthy to be a Right Fighter. This is the main reason that I encourage all Right Fighters to Get Over It. It is unhealthy because it leaves a person in a continual bad state of mind, with a bad attitude that can run over into all areas of life and that can spoil the ability for a person to feel happiness. We all, as humans want to be liked and accepted. The problem is that the Right Fighter often feels different than other people, they often feel not accepted—this can also be directly caused by the person due to their own communications or actions if they engage in Right Fighting with other people. So you see the Right Fighter starts the problem in the first place then they are unhappy that the situation is happening at all.

The way a Right Fighter’s mind works is that they continually notice when other people are thinking or doing something in a different way then that person things is the right way. Then they are annoyed about this and want the other person to change and do it the Right Way. Many people are resistant to change and will not just abandon their idea or action in order to please the Right Fighter. This refusal on the part of the other person to change is highly annoying to the Right Fighter. Some Right Fighters can dwell on those negative issues and some also ruminate. Ruminating is not at all a healthy thing to do.

When in the Right Fighting mode the Right Fighter feels a bit like they are doing battle, they are also feeling sometimes defensive, especially if they take the other person’s differing idea or action as a criticism that their own way is wrong or inferior. Staying in battle mode is not healthy for the mind or body. I would bet that a person’s cortisol level is higher when thinking about or doing Right Fighting.

I could never have married a Right Fighter. Two Right Fighters in a close relationship is a dangerous thing. Sometimes I wonder if some of the marriages or relationships with a lot of fighting and also with verbal abuse and/or physical abuse are situations were both are Right Fighters. My older son is not a Right Fighter and in other ways too he has inherited my husband’s personality traits. I can imagine that having a Right Fighter as a sibling would be highly annoying. I am much better now at having an idea of how I come across to others and so I can now imagine that some of the ways that I have acted in the past could have been very aggravating.

Right Fighters themselves do have to learn how to deal with other Right Fighters.

The older my kids get the more I see of their personalities. I can see more and more aspects right now that I know will continue right into adulthood because I can see that certain things are ‘just the way they are’. The challenge for me now is to work on the behaviors while they are young to get them acting well and right before they are towering over me and before they are double my size. I don’t want to just begin working on parenting when they are out of control teenagers who can use their rage to inflict bodily harm on me! But now I am taking this to a totally different discussion. My point is that right now I am trying to figure out how to best parent a Right Fighter so that I can possibly teach my son some things that will help him get along with others better now and in the future. He has a low tolerance for certain people and what is happening is that he tends to nix people out of his life and refuses to have friendships or to interact with certain other children. This is leading him to have limited opportunities for developing close friendships. For example if once a child refused to go along with my son’s idea he decided he could never be friends with that kid because he ‘doesn’t like him’. If he keeps this up he’ll end up being a loner.

Anyhow if you have a Right Fighter in your life and if you have not yet figured out how to handle them you should start learning because to not get along well with a Right Fighter, especially in a workplace setting could really make your life miserable. Perhaps some insider advice on how to get along with a Right Fighter would be a good idea for another blog posts. So many ideas, so little time…

One last thought: I have a feeling that many activists are Right Fighters. People who take up causes and believe extreme views I have a feeling are Right Fighters. To choose to live certain lifestyles such as the vegan lifestyle take a lot of persistence and dedication that I suspect only a Right Fighter has. It could be that the Right Fighter has learned to curb their personal communications with others so maybe they don’t necessarily display Right Fighting with their interpersonal relations but to life the life of a vegan takes a kind of discipline and strong will that I think is usually also present with Right Fighters. Those who cross the line from just living their life with certain views to then reach out and communicate to the world in small ways or in activist ways takes a kind of chutzpah that Right Fighters also possess .I think of the vegans that I know who are trying to convert others to become vegans and those who try to tell others how wrong they are to eat animals. An example from my life right now is that it is one thing to not like a bill that is in the Congress right now, a higher level to actually email others about it to engage in discussion, it takes more to write a letter or call a legislator about, and an even more to go to a face to face rally type of event especially if that might end up having face to face discussions with legislators. For those who believe in causes, it is one thing to have the opinion, another to donate money to that organization, and even more to actually volunteer with that organization.

Technorati Tags: , , .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 121 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 121 was published today at Principled Discovery.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It provides 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.


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 120 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 120 was published on April 15 at Nerd Family.

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.


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

My Issues with the Environmental Movement

When I turned 20 years old I had just started working full time at my career. I had a lot more disposable income than I had working my former minimum wage jobs. One thing I did with my money was subscribe to some magazines and journals on topics that interested me. Due to my work with sick and elderly medical patients I started having new, strong opinions about health and wellness. I feared aging. I wanted to remain healthy. For the first time I was grateful for my perfect health. I got addicted to exercise for two reasons: to stay in shape to be in good health and also for vanity purposes, mostly to please my then-boyfriend (who is not my current husband by the way) with my in-shape figure. I also didn’t want pollution or anything human-created on this Earth to cause me to physically get sick. I didn’t want the Earth harmed and I didn’t want to be a personal victim of various bad things done by man either.

One publication that I liked for a while was the Utne Reader. I liked that they seemed to like to question things and to point out problems that some people in society seemed to be glossing over. Through that publication I began reading about issues with the environment. All of my life I had been spending time in northern Maine where my mother was raised. I spent time in the pure, unspoiled wilderness and saw how that compared to the city streets of New Haven. You can guess which I thought was more ideal. I hated the idea of pollution, of greed causing men to ruin this world, to harm the creatures on it, and sometimes to harm other human’s health in the process.

I joined Greenpeace too. I figured I should do all that I could to Save the Earth. I bought t-shirts and wore them. I read their newsletters. I believe I was only a member for one year. I read everything they sent and I read lots of articles. I began doubting some of what I read. I was questioning some of the general statements that were being said. Then finally there was something in a newsletter of Greenpeace’s that admitted that they used things to achieve their end desire. I could not believe they even printed that. That included using portions of studies to prove a point and not sharing other parts of studies, if my memory serves me right. That included intentionally leaving out other facts. The stretching of the truth was admitted. At that moment in time Greenpeace lost all credibility with me.

A few years later I began attending college at nights and on weekends to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree. One class I took which I blogged about previously was “Science in the News” and the purpose was to figure out if news and media reports of scientific findings were truly representing the facts or did they sometimes get it all wrong? The answer was they often got it all wrong. Additionally one text for the course was a book that mostly focused on the environment but it was trying to prove how bad humans were and how we were wrecking Earth and how some articles about certain products or services were hiding that fact. When I first read the articles I got all upset again about the environment. However upon closer inspection of the facts in THOSE articles, I found errors. Some of that was only with detailed, “industry information” provided to me by my now-husband who works in the energy field. He explained to me back then that some of the articles written to try to be ‘pro environment’ contained lies or shall I say mistakes? As a person without industry-specific knowledge I had no way of knowing some of the details such as about how the oil industry works enough to know that something was untruthful in an article.

The point of the college course I was taking was to realize a few things. First, that media employees are not trained to read scientific studies or to judge them. Some of the media don’t understand what they are reading. They may not know if a study was poorly constructed or not. They may not understand the statistics to realize whether something is a true problem or not. They also lack enough knowledge and information on the topic in general to know for example, what the other alternatives are and they don’t compare apples to apples. In other words we can’t trust the media much.

I also learned that people who have an agenda to push often justify their unethical communication about certain topics as they feel the end result is better for the world. In other words some people intentionally choose to exaggerate certain facts in order to get people to believe them to achieve some goal. Some people don’t have a problem outright lying about something if they feel the end result is better for the world. They don’t want YOU to think or analyze, they want to lead you to believe their opinion without questioning them—they want to do the thinking for you. For example let’s say that someone or an organization hates plastics and they want to get rid of as many as possible. They then use certain research and write anti-plastic campaigns and they instill fear in the public. Then they may call for a ban on that type of plastic and lobby politically for laws to ban that thing. I recall this with the PVC scare that hit right after my children were done using PVC teether toys. That was a scary thing for parents of babies and toddlers to handle. Addressing a possible health scare targeted at parents of very young children is one sure way to stir up public interest and will surely get a segment of that population instantly convinced that this problem must be solved.

Today I was reminded of my disgust with Greenpeace when I read an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by Patrick Moore,” co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies”. In this piece he discusses why he left the organization—for the very reason I didn’t renew my membership. In this piece he discusses the current hot topic, one about phalates in plastic. In the last month I have been researching this topic and I now fear that I may have gotten some of my information from bad sources. I will have to figure this out for myself. In the mean time I wanted to share some quotes with you in case the article is later unable to be viewed online for free viewing.

Op-Ed Essay Title: Why I Left Greenpeace
By Patrick Moore
Published in: The Wall Street Journal
Date: 4/22/08

Quotes from the article were taken so as to stick to the barest facts and to still make the point clear. I think I did this justice without breaking copyright by copying the entire piece into my blog. If you want the full details please read the article online. The article might only be available to paid Wall Street Journal subscribers though. I have added bold text to show what I think is the most important ‘take away’ ideas that are worth pondering.


In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science.
As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas. Its antichlorination campaign failed, only to be followed by a campaign against polyvinyl chloride. (PVC)

Greenpeace now has a new target called phthalates (pronounced thal-ates).

It may be tempting to take this path of least resistance, but at what cost? None of the potential replacement chemicals have been tested and found safe to the degree that DINP has. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently cautioned, "If DINP is to be replaced in children's products . . . the potential risks of substitutes must be considered. Weaker or more brittle plastics might break and result in a choking hazard. Other plasticizers might not be as well studied as DINP."

The antiphthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda.

We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.

In Conclusion

I distrust many organizations that exist to achieve some goal. In order to not be duped I outright ignore everything that most of them say. When I have come to realize that a certain organization lacks credibility in my mind, I reject all further propaganda that the organization disseminates. If I am concerned about an issue and I see involvement with an organization I mistrust a red flag begins waving.

I am not a scientist and I don’t feel qualified to judge scientific studies. I know and remember a little about statistics and have read enough original (full text) published studies to realize how complicated they are and to realize sometimes when a study was poorly conducted. I know also to ‘follow the money’ and to see if the study organizers are pushing an agenda or using the study to prove something that will help them profit in the end (for example breastfeeding studies done by formula manufacturers and baby diaper studies done by diaper manufacturers).

I don’t trust the media to get it right either. I question everything I read.

I feel that some people so want to agree with the bad news that they never question the information that is presented. Some people like to focus on the negative. They so want to believe what is said that they don’t question things. Some people like to basically say that people are bad and imply that all people are greedy and that the greed drives them to do things that harm the environment. It seems to me that the hate-mongers are drawn to causes that put down other people. It is as if they like to slam people and to spread bad news. It is hard to explain but this is the feeling I get about some people.

I don’t have time to analyze every single thing. Life is too short to analyze everything to the max. I do the things in life that I feel I can have the most impact with. Right now my focus is on parenting and homeschooling my children and to try to enjoy life while I am here on Earth. For me too much focusing on issues can really drag me down and can put me in a very bad place, with a bad attitude and living on the edge of a depressed state, which is a sad way to live. If I knew the information was all true then I’d read it and believe it. It is not good though, to not analyze and to not think, to instantly believe everything you read especially if some of it is a lie, a lie that will bring you down and leave you in a bad state of mind. I don’t intentionally, as a consumer and as an inhabitant of this Earth, do things that I know intentionally harm the environment. I don’t however, buy into propaganda or instill unsubstantiated or unrealistic fears onto myself or my children.

One quick example is that my friend’s son once refused to use a plastic straw while at my house, drinking a frozen fruit drink as he said in 4H he learned that it takes 10,000 years to decompose that piece of plastic. The only problem is that in our town our trash goes to be burned up (and it used to produce electricity with by the way). The boy was full of guilt over this. I think it is sad to make a nine year old child feel guilty about using a straw when what he thinks will happen to that straw is not true. Now I don’t know what happens when the straw is burned (if pollution enters the air) but I feel it is wrong to mislead a child in that way, to imagine his single straw taking 10,000 years to rot.

By the way if you want to learn something about the damage to children that is caused by filling their heads with tragic, sometimes unfounded negative environmental information and if you want to learn about instilling true love of the environment and the Earth, you should read “Facts Not Fear”.

I understand the good intentions of everyone who calls themselves an environmental activist. I just don’t always agree that they really think about what they are saying and doing or when they spout opinions and especially when they put down others—especially when sometimes those people have actually researched the issues more than they have.

I have no desire to be a puppet of some propaganda spouting organization. I remain a free thinker even if it means I’m a loner and ‘not part of a group’.

I am trying to live as green as possible without falling prey to misinformation, that is all. It is not an easy task.

Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blog Visitor #170,000

Today I had my 170,000th blog visitor. I like to see a little about who they are and how they found my blog. They connected from Mount Prospect, Illinois, USA. They arrived at 8:23:35am on 4/21/08 and were using to search for this phrase “read the book City of Ember online”. I guess they wanted to read the entire text online. They found my book review of that book and read it.

Here is the link to that blog entry they read, my book review of City of Ember by Jeanne duPrau.

Back from the Midwest—What’s on My Mind Lately

If you noticed my little blog post gap, it was because I was out of town for three days and nights. We got home last night from our trip to the University of Notre Dame where our family attended the spring scrimmage football game that they call the Blue & Gold game.

We drove out, 762 miles (each way) to be exact. For the trip out we split up and stayed over in Pennsylvania. The entire trip back was done yesterday in one shot, and took us 13 hours total. We broke in the new minivan. The navigation system, which we are not used to having yet, helped us bypass a traffic jam in PA that took up about 90 minutes of our drive back from this same trip last year. In ten or fifteen minutes we took secondary roads around the highway’s construction zone and zipped back on two exits up where the road was free and clear.

We now have Sirius radio and we listened to the Papal Mass on it. So we knew that our next challenge was that we were approaching New York just as the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium ended. We took an alternate route to avoid the closed portions of the Major Deegan expressway, the George Washington Bridge and I-95, which would surely be clogged. We didn’t really hit traffic anywhere on the trip, and it was just unbelievable. (We also listened to a lot of news radio and I feel that I’ve had politics ‘up to here’.)

We are exhausted from getting up very early each of these days in order to travel. I was so happy today to be able to sleep until my body decided it was time to get up.

Now that the public school vacation is over, that means all of our regularly scheduled activities are back on track (everything pauses for that week and it affects homeschoolers too, i.e. no pottery class because they use the Center for vacation camp, no Scouts etc.). Today we head directly back to our normal routine of paid classes and Scouts and normal homeschooling plus the unpacking, the laundry, and the medical appointments (my physical for Scout camp for one) and picking up the new pair of reading glasses for my older son since I lost the last pair while on our Washington D.C. trip.

I have been reading a lot. I’m half-way through with two non-fiction books and have completed a controversial biography that is a heavy topic. I hope to review the books soon. Due to busy-ness and the upcoming huge homeschooling convention this weekend, I’ll be busy but I’ll try to blog some of the things weighing on my mind if I can squeeze it in. I have lots of photos I want to blog too and just need to find the time.

What's Been On My Mind

1. In the last week my mind has been on ‘the big picture’ of life, due to the biography I read which was the life of an abortion doctor “This Common Secret” which was an excellent book with controversial and heavy content. Life would be simpler if things were black and white always, dealing with the ‘gray areas’ is so hard.

2. I have ben thinking of the big picture of family, of parenting my children (not JUST thinking about homeschooling) because I’m reading a book (“Ships Without a Shore”) that has a lot of information about what studies show about children who are raised at home by their mothers versus those in daycare. It affects the preschool years and school years and I’m shocked to see the studies find that permanent negative effects of certain parenting choices can affect a the child’s life, even in adulthood regarding personality and brain functioning (including ability to learn and think). It is heavy stuff.

I have also seen yet more of my younger son to make me realize how very different he is from my older son. The realization that the same parenting does not produce the same exact children is becoming more and more obvious. I need to make sure that in my parenting I do things to bring out the best of both children. I think for example, that I need to do more to provide my younger son with more activities that are unique for him, which are not necessarily convenient for the family nor are they things that both children can do together—it won’t be easy but it should be done.

I so love this book that I want to share some links with you now so you can go check it out if you are intersted.

About Anne Pierce

Excerpt from the book “Ships Without a Shore”

Interview with the author Anne Pierce, online, free

3. I have been thinking about the big picture of education in a person’s life (not just thinking about the minutiae of what my kids are learning in our homeschooling). In this last week I’ve met some people with children in college now or graduated—those parents are in a different season of life than I am right now and it is interesting to hear their perspective---I have been told my children are in the ‘golden years’ and to ‘enjoy it now as it all changes when they turn 13’. I don’t quite know if this is still true within a homeschooling family—we’ll have to see.

I have been around college students and have been trying to picture my children being them someday—that age, living the ‘college life’---it is hard to imagine.

I met and had brunch with a Notre Dame football player, Rasheon McNeil #8, he was so friendly and talkative. I loved it when he said he chose Notre Dame because of the high quality education and that he was not just for there for the football as the football is incidental compared to the big picture of the role of an education in his life. He has a plan and a dream for what career he hopes to pursue and that was great to hear.

When we helped our children get autographs from the football team players I was struck by how they all looked me in the eye and spoke politely to all of us, it seemed sincere and I can only hope that my boys are that genuine and respectful in their college years.

4. I have been tending to my own health lately after scolding myself for over-focusing on my children and letting some things with me slide. One thing I finally addressed was to consult an allergist about that reaction I had to the yellow jacket sting last fall. After having my blood tested, I found myself doing that little waste of time bargaining with God before the office visit. I was praying that if God would have me not be allergic to bees that I promised I’d eat right, cut out the junk and get into physical shape. I’d be so grateful to not have an anaphylactic allergic reaction to bee stings that I’d be responsible for the part of my physical health that I had direct control of. As soon as I prayed that I told myself that it was a stupid waste of time if not insulting to God since he does not operate in that manner.

However I was elated to hear the blood test was negative and then after doing the skin testing I was still not shown to be allergic so I rejoiced. Tomorrow I have a huge physical scheduled and hope to get good news then too.

Since I gained some weight on the Disney vacation and it is still with me three months later, I need to address this. I have tried to exercise consistently but keep failing as I do continue to put other activities ahead of exercising even when in hindsight it seems stupid to have spent my time doing this or that instead of working out . I need to carve out the time, period.

5. Continuing to try to clean up our family’s health even more, I am still reading “Growing up Green!”. I actually had gone through about one third of the book but had to pause reading it as I felt overwhelmed to hear all the bad stuff about things that we and many Americans use in our lives that may be harming us. I resumed reading that this last weekend too.

One of the main things on my mind and that I’ve been doing is trying to figure out plastics and which we really should be avoiding versus which are hype with no science behind them. A major thing is bisphenol A which somehow I had not been aware of all the hulabaloo that has gone on about that in the last year or months or however long that has been a big discussion.

6. Last week there was more activity regarding the bill in Connecticut that MIGHT alter dramatically the way that homeschoolers have to deal with government oversight. I will have to spend more time on that issue this week. This is regarding Senate Bill 162 (SB162) and it now has two amendments which would get rid of the new problem language and restore the original good language.

This week I need to work on communicating with Senators to get my opinion heard that I approve of the original language of the bill which helped parents of public schooled children withdraw their children from school in order to homeschool them or send them to a private school. I am not in support of the expanded and very different language inserted by Senator Gaffey which adds in oversight of all homeschoolers on a yearly basis, even those who were never in school.

For updates on this topic, read the details on the site located under Clearing House, then the sub-category Connecticut. You can read HSLDAs very brief opinion but HSLDA is not giving detailed accounts of the status compared to what NHELD is doing. I can't quite possibly keep up on my blog, sharing the SB162 updates, so I urge you to go to the best source by reading the NHELD site yourself.

7. I also know I am very behind on doing my Homeschool Weekly Report blog posts, and keep saying I need to do those. I keep pushing them off. Those reports are good for me to look back on, to remind me of the typical pace of our homeschooling and how things are not always linear and perfect looking, things happen in bursts of activity followed by a more relaxed period. I don’t do those only for my blog readers to read.

As you can see despite my light blogging I do have a lot on my mind that was begging to be released into words and published on my blog!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is The Relay For Life Worth It?

Are you on a Relay for Life team which is the "signature activity" for the American Cancer Society? If so, why? What do you hope to gain or do by your involvement with the organization?

Here is what the Relay for Life website says is the reason for participating (on this page).

Why Relay?

One in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. The funds raised at Relay save lives by funding cutting-edge cancer research, early detection and prevention education, advocacy efforts, and life-affirming patient services. It is because of your involvement that we are able to save lives, help those battling cancer, and empower all to fight back against the disease.

After a friend of mine got Cancer and battled it, when she was well she organized a Relay for Life team and invited friends to join it. I didn't join the team at that time. Sadly she later had a recurrence of her Cancer and passed away last year.

My father-in-law passed away last year from Cancer too.

My mother is a Breast Cancer survivor as is my mother-in-law. My maternal grandmother is a survivor of a serious form of skin Cancer.

My paternal grandfather passed away of Cancer when I was 18 years old, we were very close. My paternal great-grandmother passed away of Cancer when I was 21 years old, we were close also.

This year my friend asked me to join the team walking for our deceased friend. I agreed, thinking it would be a good thing to do, to raise money for Cancer research. Later I realized I was ending up too busy to do the necessary fundraising on time. My schedule was booking up too and just going to the Relay and staying up all night to walk was not something that was a good idea for me, with juggling so much so I feared I'd crash and burn, so I backed out (about two months before the event was to happen--it was not a last minute surprise).

Then last week my brother-in-law announced that he has formed a Relay for Life team, walking in his father's memory. He asked our family to join the team (our kids too) and to also fundraise or donate money.

I explained I was on a team and backed out due to not having time to do it, do the fundraising nor the money to put to charities at this time. Also we were going to be out of town on the weekend of that Relay and could not be there. He asked us to then just donate money instead.

I also had heard something about the Relay for Life not using very much money earned toward actual Cancer research. I wanted to find out the truth about that. I recalled there is an organization (Charity Watch) that collects the data about how much of the collected monies goes toward administrative fees versus other expenditures versus actually doing what the donors THINK the money is going toward.

Here is what I unveiled from the Internet about the Relay for Life. Here is a quote from this article on the Charity Watch site: Cancer Charities Need Dose of Organizational Chemotherapy"

"The famous American Cancer Society (ACS), which reaps far more contributions ($848 million in 2005) than any other cancer charity that AIP covers, is only able to get 60% of its budget to program services not related to solicitations and receives a C+ grade from AIP."

My Thoughts

I have discussed donations to charities with my husband and we are in agreement. We want the most money going to the cause that we donate to. For example if we donate to a Cancer organization we want the money being spent on research to learn more about Cancer in order to learn more so that we can cure it, or prevent it or find better therapies. We want a good use out of our money.

About fifteen years ago I did a big walk for a certain huge nonprofit organization. I raised money and I walked all day. I got blisters and a bad sunburn. I was exhausted. I then found out that only 10% of the money I (we all) had raised went toward doing something about the medical condition. The rest was spent on things like the water bottles we were given, the t-shirts, the brochures, and staff salary that organized this event. I was very disappointed. Since that time I have been wary of donating to non-profit organizations.

Why research this at all?

So many people I know just make assumptions and believe what they hear. If they hear that an organization is raising money for Cancer they assume a lot of that is going to help cure Cancer or other good things. They don't question. They don't research.

Actually I have a feeling that some people, if they find out I've blogged this, would be angry with me. You see some people I know care more about the spirit of a thing then reality. For example they may think that for me to not participate in the Relay for Life or to not give money toward it means "I don't care about the deceased people I know who died of Cancer, or that I don't care about the survivors that I know". Well that is not true at all.

Some will be annoyed that I even wondered about this enough to actually question it and "worse" that I'd research it. They would think this is an affront.

I am not being negative. I didn't research it to be a killjoy. I don't mean to ruin someone's fun of participating in the Relay for Life. I researched it to make an INFORMED CHOICE about the way our family spends our money and our time and energy. Also I feel if I were to join a team and would ask others to donate their hard-earned money I should know WHERE the money is being spent and on WHAT, so at least I could answer the questions of those asking and also so that I would know I was not tricking them or causing them to waste their money.

In Conclusion

I am not on a Relay for Life team. Does that mean I don't care about my living and deceased loved ones? No.

I am not donating money to any Relay for Life teams. Does that make me a bad person? No.

I am sorry if this offends you. If you really care about curing Cancer or finding ways to help prevent it perhaps you would consider in the future, donating your money to an organization who spends a higher percentage on research.

Here is Charity Watch's list of organizations that received an "A" grade rating"

Cancer topic

All topics index page

Technorati Tags: , , , , .