Monday, June 30, 2008

Older Son’s Reading Speeding Along

Since my older son (age 10.5) got his prescription eyeglasses and starting treatment for his eye tracking problem he has been reading for hours and hours each day (on his own). This is what I always wanted for my kids. When things are quiet I look around and find him quietly reading in bed, or curled up on the couch reading a book.

More and more my son is spending time reading real books not just reading comics and magazines and catalogs. Hooray!

Often when I wake up in the morning I find him already awake and still laying in bed reading a book. Hooray!

Today alone my son has read for over two hours all on his own and all for his reading pleasure. Hooray!

In the last fourteen days my son has read and really enjoyed these three books by Max Elliot Anderson: Legend of the White Wolf, Mountain Cabin Mystery and Secret of Abbott’s Cave. When he finished those I ordered “Big Rig Rustlers”, by the same author.

I confirmed through emails with the author Max Elliot Anderson that his layout of the pages in his books was intentionally done for ease of reading with children having eye tracking problems. The wider margins, the plenty of white space on the page, the size of the font (slightly larger than typical) and the wider line spacing (it looks like it is spaced at 1.5 spaces) was all intentional.

I was disappointed to see two titles by Max Elliot Anderson are not available on Amazon.

I am in need of more books whose page layout is more friendly for children with eye tracking problems. For now I guess I’ll go through the books we own and not judge them just for their reading level but also for the look of their page layout.

I blogged recently about the books by Max Elliot Anderson and his books published by Tweener Press:

North Woods Poachers Book Review by ChristineMM

Max Elliot Anderson books available today on Amazon (new books not used books selling for higher than full retail by Amazon Marketplace sellers):

Big Rig Rustlers

Mountain Cabin Mystery

Secret of Abbott’s Cave

North Woods Poachers

Other Titles by Max Elliot Anderson, appear to be out of print today:

Newspaper Caper

Terror at Wolf Lake


Max Elliot Anderson, author’s blog: Books for Boys

An article about Max Elliot Anderson’s books, although I dislike that this is about ‘low level’ reading ability books especially when the article writer never defined what level is ‘low level’. It seems to me these books are written on a fourth or fifth grade reading level. There are no Lexile scores for these books by Max Elliot Anderson.

Artilce: North Woods Poachers - A Hi Lo Reading Level Book by Max Elliot Anderson: High Interest, Low Reading Level Books Encourage Readers By Ann Logsdon

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

I love dirt! Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: I love dirt! 52 activities to help you & your kids discover the wonders of nature
Author: Jennifer Ward
Publication: Trumpeter Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publictions Inc., May 2008
Format: Paperback Book

My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Summary: Meets a Need for SOME People, Not All

How I Came To Read This Book: I received an abridged sample copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. The sample book I was given has 15 chapters instead of the full 52, so in this review I can't comment on the overall scope of the book or all of its contents. (I had never heard of publishers providing abridged samples of non-fiction books to book reviewers before.)

Book Review

The book is organized around the seasons. It is designed to provide one nature experience per week of the year, that is, a focused, narrow-topic nature activity is laid out for the family to do.

In my opinion this is for use with children under ten years old. The reason why is it not good for children over ten is that some of the activities are too babyish for older kids (go play in a puddle etc.). The shallow/introductory information is suitable for preschoolers and elementary grade kids. Kids aged possibly nine and ten may ask more questions than this book supplies.

The book basically gives activities to do with young children outside. If the adult knows not much about nature, this book provides talking points and ideas of what to do. Encourage the child to touch the water, swish in the water and see what happens and so forth. There are suggestions to have children do things and then to discuss what happens. Factual information is provided that is good if the adult doesn't know a lot about nature.

The educational talking point claims to fulfill a learning objective. Each objective is at the end of each chapter, such as "stimulates awareness of one's surroundings" and "stimulates caring and stewardship for all living things". I'm not quite sure why the author felt that the parents needed those learning objectives spelled out. Perhaps she intended that public school teachers would use this book and would need that information so they could fit it into their curriculum or into the No Child Left Behind's objectives?

Conversely if the parent or grandparent already knows this basic information then the book's information could be too simplistic and not very useful; it could be considered dumbed down and unnecessary for some adults.

Some of these things end up feeling staged to me. For example if the parent intends to discuss where animals go during the day, but the child doesn't take that bait and run with that topic, you are out of luck with your plans (and this book is all about planning). I sure hope the parent doesn't come down hard on the child for 'not following the plans'. Also if the parent prepares to do X with the child but they want to spontaneously explore other things (which is good in my opinion) the adult may feel frustrated that they prepared or ill-equipped to answer questions about Y.

The people who are more spontaneous in general may feel this book is too limiting, but those people may not feel the need to buy a book of ideas! For me, this book is too limiting and unnecessary, but everyone is different, so perhaps this book is just what you desire.

This is a unique book. If this helps some parents get outdoors with their kids and have the children spend more time in nature then this book will have done its job (even ithe parent doesn't fully use the book as intended or if they don't get to do everything outlined in the book).

It is a very good idea to get kids outside more and outside exploring nature with their children. Hooray for that!! I applaud the author for writing this book which seems to be trying hard to give parents some tools and ideas about how to explore nature with their children (and throw in some education in the process).

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 41

Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 41: June 15-21, 2008

Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 8 and in 2nd grade.

We ended up in quarantine due to chicken pox (full story follows).

Sunday I woke up with a couple of itchy bumps. I didn’t know if they were mosquito bites from being outdoors all day yesterday or at the late afternoon/evening Cub Scout BBQ which did have insects biting us. Younger son was sleeping late so I let him sleep and we didn’t go to church. Older son was up early and wanted to go to Catholic Mass with my husband, so he did.

We stayed at home and unpacked from the aborted camping trip. I did laundry. We did usual stuff that you have to do around the house.

In the afternoon we visited my mother-in-law. I was not sure if we had the chicken pox or not and my husband really wanted us to go, so off we went.

While my husband prepared dinner for all of us I was clearing out the attic. It had been neglected for 2.5 years while my father-in-law was sick with Cancer than remained untouched after he passed away. I threw out junk and reorganized what was there. We selected some things to donate to a charity thrift shop. We were looking for some things in particular which we didn’t find. My mother-in-law can’t do that work as she is disabled and has other health issues.

I also planted some herbs and tomato plants for my mother-in-law. I also took a run to Barnes & Noble and spent a gift card that a Cub Scout gave me for a present to thank me for being his volunteer Den Leader.

After we got home my younger son was getting ready for bed. I found a mass of new red bumps and they were not mosquito bites. He does have chicken pox. I had new itchy things in my scalp which were crusting over. So I guess I had chicken pox too. Oh and I checked his temp and he did have a two degree higher than normal fever. I researched homeopathic remedies for chicken pox and began administering them to my son and myself.

Monday as soon as I woke up I contacted the mother who organized a day camp this week that my kids were supposed to begin the next day. I notified her one son had chicken pox and couldn’t go. I was negotiating to see if I could get my $300 back. Younger son had fever on and off but was feeling pretty good, just itchy. The day was spent doing housework and cleaning.

I caved in on the usual TV watching policy and let them watch a “Young Indiana Jones” movie.

I also renegotiated the car pool for the day camp for my older son. This took emails and phone calls back and forth.

Tuesday Older son woke up with chicken pox. Now all three of us were in quarantine.

When some homeschooling family friends heard we had the chicken pox they asked to come over as they wanted their kids to get infected with chicken pox. Some had been vaccinate and some had not. Some had the original vaccine but not the booster. We had fun talking to each other about many different topics while the kids played.

So in the afternoon three families visited with a total of eight children playing here for about three hours. My kids were happy to have friends over to play. By the time they left my older son was red in the face. I took his temp and it was a full three degrees higher.

The kids took to bed and watched TV in bed, more “Young Indiana Jones” movies. The three of us were breaking out in pocks and itching.

Also my younger son saved up his money and spent it on an Xbox360 video game “LEGO Indiana Jones”. The kids played that for their one hour limit.

Wednesday Still in chicken pox quarantine. I did housework. In the evening another friend came over with her two children because she wants them to get chicken pox. We had a nice visit and discussed right-brained learners.

The kids played their one hour of video games and also watched another of the “Young Indiana Jones” movies. (How many are there anyway??)

Thursday Still in quarantine. I am sick of being in the house. Still doing housework.

Today we had a baking marathon. We baked two batches of homemade bread (four loaves). We made one batch of brownies from scratch. I made a batch of pizza dough. My husband made homemade pizza for dinner. We used oregano and basil from our container garden. That is the first time we used stuff we are growing ourselves, this season. Everything was delicious.

Friday Still in chicken pox quarantine. Today we had a visitor. She was a coordinator for an exchange student program, came to interview us. She didn’t care that we had chicken pox. We discussed us being a host family. I will blog more on that in another post.

The rest of the time was the same old, same old: staying home, making meals, cleaning them up, doing laundry, cleaning the house, reading email and books.

Of note the kids are doing more reading on their own, chapter books and also comics. Out of boredom since I’ve limited TV watching and since video game watching remains very limited, they are turning to reading more.

They also have been back to dueling Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game. They had stopped dueling each other for a while as they got sick of playing each other with their same old decks.

I had to get out of the house. I decided why not go for a ride, even with gas at $4.09 a gallon, I have to get out. We went to a dairy farm in Newtown, Connecticut that makes homemade ice cream that is out of this world. It is called Ferris Acres Farms and it is on Rt. 302. My husband stood in line for the ice cream since the rest of us were contagious. The pox is really winding down though.

Saturday We thought we were done with the pox. We were all crusted over and no new pox on us. We went to the last event for the Great Park Pursuit No Child Left Inside program. I decided we’d do the final competition since we made the semi-finals then we’d leave. Just in case we were still active with pox, we’d stay apart from everyone. We knew too that we’d get a small prize for making the semi-finals and we wanted to pick it up.

We did the competition which was different than in the past and a lot of fun. There originally were 900 families and 170 made it to the semi-finals. My kids ran off to the woods with some other homeschool friends they know to play Yu-Gi-Oh!

A woman approached me and said she recognized my face from my blog. She said I look just like my picture. Well since I took it myself and was not even wearing makeup let alone airbrushing the photo, I am who I am, what can I say? She was a person who I know from a chat list about homeschooling but we had never met face to face. It was cool to meet her. Although it is creepy when people keep saying that to me.

We were very surprised to hear we’d made it to the finals with 32 other families. That was amazing and surprising as I didn’t think we did good enough on the competition’s testing. We had thirty minutes to construct a boat out of a half of a buoy, duct tape, tongue depressors, straws, a piece of cotton sheet and tissue paper, with dull preschoolers scissors and one plastic knife for a tool. We then raced our boats down the river. The last I saw ours, it was in seventh place. It was lost down the river so we couldn’t take it home. I guess it ended up out to sea in Long Island Sound! Oops! As a prize for making it to the finals we received a really nice day backpack and some supplies, worth $140. Wow!

I hadn't blogged much about the 2008 No Child Left Inside competition. It was fun and I'm glad we did it. We plan to participate next year. They also announced a new Connecticut Farm pursuit that I think is rolling out this summer but I may have mis-heard that.

It was humid and over 80 degrees. On the way home we tried a different ice cream shop that some friends were raving about, it is called Rich Farm on Rt. 67 in Oxford. Our family is torn about which farm we like better. We’ll have to do more taste tests to come to a more firm conclusion.

On this day I began reading “Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World” by Jeffrey Freed. I am trying to learn more about right brained learners so I can adjust plans for my older son for the upcoming academic year. I am going to try out some strategies over this summer although we are not doing a lot of homeschooling lessons this summer.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Blog to Book and Thoughts on What We Choose to Blog

I found my way to th blog Magnificent Octopus from a link on Mental Multivitamin.

I enjoyed this post about a blogger who edited her blog posts into a book called Petite Allure. Magnificent Octopus shared thoughts on what we choose to blog and how we are selective on what we share on our blogs. This is a topic I’ve touched upon before.

I left a comment on her blog. Here is a copy of my comment.

I'm possibly too honest and open at times on my blog. Then again it is true that my blog shows just a slice of my life, what I choose to share. Personal friends who I'm close to often say they are surprised I didn't discuss A, B, and C on my blog as it was a big thing happening in my life last week or whatever.

For me sometimes things that I need to talk about with them or vent about or am upset about or that take up my emotional energy never make it to my blog. It can be too hard, too raw sometimes to write and blog stuff like that. So my blog readers may think perhaps I analyze and blog about X topic but really they have no clue that I am not obsessing on X topic but it is 'safe' to blog about while I'm dealing with heavier stuff (Y).

A couple of weeks ago I found out my grandmother was dying and her decline was swift. After spending about 12 hours sitting vigil with her (sans computer), I drove home, crying while driving sometimes. I stopped the car in my driveway and
pulled out pen and paper, needing to write and vent. I wrote a poem (not something I do often). It was raw and emotional. I thought that I could blog that and my readers would 'get' what I was going through. At about one a.m. I got a call that she had passed away. The whole thing was so sudden that I have not looked at that poem again let alone blogged it. To be more complete in the telling of that episode in my life the poem really should be on the blog. But I just don't feel like revisiting it.

There are also a lot of examples from real life and stories I could tell to illustrate general principles and opinions I have and why. However I can't tell all on the blog lest I alienate friends and family.

A friend told me something little recently. It was 'no big deal' and not even a topic I planned on blogging on. Yet she phoned me in a panic the next day begging me to not blog the example from her relative.

I think a couple of my friends are censoring themselves from me for fear of me revealing stuff on my blog.

Others have joked "you won't blog this, will you?" but I know there is some seriousness behind it.

Another thought on blogging sometimes I'm all revved up on a topic and write a long blog post draft. Yet I don't take the energy later to edit it and polish it into something publish-able. In that way probably some poignant writings never see the light of day. Oh well.

Oh, and I read that a woman was being brought to court by her insurance company regarding the fact that she had not blogged a serious illness of her child yet was claiming he was impaired. I also don't talk about the various health issues we go through here (just some of them) partially for that reason. The argument in court was if the kid was really sick for a long time it would have made it to the mother's blog.

Anyhow, what we reveal on our blogs is an interesting topic.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Decision Made, and Room Was Cleaned

Well I decided what to do, we did it, and so it is done.

Yesterday I blogged that something had to change with regard to state of affairs with my older son’s bedroom in Befuddled Over Older Son’s Bedroom Messiness.

I have decided to start my older son’s bedroom off with a clean slate. He is incapable of coming up with his own organizational systems so I had to help out. I started with a talk with my older son about his bedroom. We discussed the need to have the place not be a safety or health hazard. He disagrees with my definition of that, but did admit to tripping on a small bin of Gears! Gears! Gears! Which broke the box in the process (no bodily harm was done). He also admitted that stubbing toes or stepping on LEGOs does hurt. We discussed the purpose for the room and what should be housed there. He asked that his manga and comics be in the room. He realized he needed a better place to store his many items for his Boy Scout uniform.

I went to Wal Mart and for less than $20 got a seven drawer, plastic, connected shelving unit that fits inside of the antique armoire.

He has plenty of book shelf space available so no more containers or book shelving need be purchased.

I'll share also that I was in a very happy mood when I tackled this. I was feeling like there were a number of ways I could spend my day, some more fun than others. This did not top the list for desirable things to do. However I just forced myself to deal with it. In the end being in a happy mood that day was helpful. I didn't get angry or feel resentful while doing this project with my son. Instead I felt optimistic and happy that things were going to change.

We picked up all the unused LEGOs from the floor. We then moved the big command center thing and all the vehicles out of the room so we could clean the room. We used an air spray thing to dust off the LEGOs as they are hard to dust. We put away the toys that belong in other places in the house. We threw away random bits of paper trash, Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card wrappers and such. Dirty clothes went to the hamper and then down to be washed. Clean clothes went into their drawers.

I went over all the display shelves and reduced the stuff on display. Some was thrown out, some was put away into drawers for safe keeping. It does not all have to be displayed!

We then did a deep cleaning. Everything including top of the ceiling fan paddles and top of the armoire was dusted. I moved almost all of the furniture including the huge armoire and we vacuumed the rug and even the edges along the wall. We vacuumed the area rug, rolled it up, vacuumed the rug liner, rolled it up, and then vacuumed underneath that. All the edges of the wall to wall carpet were vacuumed with the special attachment that gets into nooks and crannies. I vacuumed the windowsills. The bed’s mattress was vacuumed and rotated/flipped. Clean bedding was put on, with summer blankets.

The area rug was placed back in place; some of the LEGOs were put back onto the floor. I wish I had some other solution for where those should be kept, but I don’t. All the books, comics, and magazines are on the shelves. The desk actually has open space on the surface.

Loving It

I will say that my older son is loving the room all cleaned up like this. He is amazed at how nice it is to walk through the room with ease. Being able to open the drawers for clothes and to open the closet doors without obstruction from clutter is wonderful, he thinks. The other three of us in the family also agree! We actually hung out in his bedroom last night together. Younger son sat on his desk chair and read a book (that is a first).

New Inspection Policy

I hate this but I feel it is necessary. The new policy is that the bedroom will be inspected before bedtime. If the new rules are broken then my son cannot watch television with us for our evening family television watching time.

New Rules for Daily Inspection

The bed is to be made.

Dirty clothes are to be inside the clothes hamper.

Clean clothes are to be folded and stored inside of closed drawers.

Boy Scout Uniform is to be kept neatly folded inside of the special drawers.

Books, comics and magazines are to be stored on the book shelves.

Trash is to be in the trash bin.

Younger Son

My younger son was born a neat freak. Completely on his own he has imposed order and tidiness in his life. He is actually more neat and tidy than I consider necessary.

To be fair my younger son will be held to these same rules and standards. He will also have to do the nightly inspection and if he fails he will not be rewarded with watching television with the family in the evening. I do not expect this to be hard for this son to handle. Recently, he actually asked that I give him a long chore list and that he receive money for doing the chores. That shows me that he is ready and willing to take on more personal responsibility for chores/work and that he wants to be rewarded for what he accomplishes.

I’ll let you know how this all pans out. I realize that this is also work and effort for me, this is not just effort for my children.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My 200,000th Blog Visitor

On June 24, 2008 I had my 200,000th blog visitor. They used a Dutch Internet search engine called SweetIM with keyphrase (no spaces) ““mothervsboy” which led them to a blog post I did in 2007 titled “Boys vs. Girls and Math”. My post was a link to a YouTube video that was from The Simpsons TV show. Unfortunately that video has been pulled down from YouTube due to its being there breaking copyright. I recall it was a funny piece about how the girls fit well with the new, new math versus boys who fit better with the old-fashioned way of doing math operations.

The blog visitor was from Noord-Holland, Amsterday and visited at 5:34:00 pm EST.

Befuddled Over Older Son’s Bedroom Messiness

I am truly stumped. I don’t know what to do about my older son’s bedroom. Things have severely deteriorated in the last six months and signs of worsening conditions have been present for about a year now.

I am told this is typical for the age, for adolescents to start doing this at age ten and lasting up to about age fourteen. Wise parents tell me that even diligent work toward guiding and monitoring the state of the bedroom, it can take years of consistent application of the chosen parenting methods for the tween to be more self-sufficient and able to maintain an accepted compromise state of affairs. I am told if the situation is not addressed that the child/teen will continue this way of living right up to the day they leave the house.

Our family does not use physical pain infliction methods of parenting. We do not use fear tactics or shaming techniques to get what the parents want. We have always leaned more toward compromise and being middle of the road with our requirements or preferences. We have spoken with our kids in respectful ways and things have been agreed upon and fairly smoothly, compliance was achieved. I know some of you may think that is wimpy parenting but hey when you can just have a discussion and then it is fixed and it is working that seems perfect to me. For years this type of parenting has worked out well, but with this bedroom situation it is not working well right now with this one son.

When I last blogged about lamenting if this was tied to the age and stage I received confirmation that this is typical of this age. Yet if the parents wish for something other than what the tween has decided is what THEY want then it takes concerted effort to change the tween’s ways.

I am truly stumped as to what to do with my son. I am not kidding or exaggerating. What I am stumped on I guess is that, dare I say I have been too lazy or unwilling to make a new family rule and be more strict such as setting a punishment or a reward attached onto performance or lack of. Such review of the situation would have to entail some kind of monitoring on a regular basis of the bedroom’s status. I hate that kind of thing and I am resisting it. However I really am thinking we have no choice here as past hopes and wishes (on my part) for my son to keep his room tidy have not been enough to make it happen.

I had a discussion with my husband about his childhood, his room and his parents. He said his father was overbearing and strict. He was to keep his room clean. Period. The room was seen daily by his father (not a formal inspection per se) and if even one single thing lay on the other bed (there were two twin beds in the room) then he was verbally shamed for it. His room was expected to be kept in pristine condition and there were no negotiations. My husband has no fond memories of having to keep his room clean or the way he was treated about it. For this reason he is not very tidy himself, to this day, and he has not said or done anything to set rules for my older son to keep his room tidier. He does hate the way our son’s room looks though and thinks it is ridiculous. I guess he is passively leaving the issue to me, the mom, to deal with. Great.

We discussed my bedroom when I was growing up. My room looked like a bomb went off in it. It was full of clutter and I owned too many clothes. The clothes did not fit in the drawers and the closet. I saved clothes that I didn’t even like anymore. I would spend my earned money on clothing and shopping for clothes was one thing I did for fun. I want to be clear that my parents did not shop for me and they would only spent $100 toward new school clothes in the fall (which I picked out, budgeted for and spent). I felt I never had enough clothes compared to the other girls in my school. Also to save myself from teasing and being labeled as a total loser I chose to wear the latest fashions and the right brands of clothes. This meant I had to work and save my money to spend on my own clothes. My parents said this was a waste of money and was stupid to judge people on their clothing. Back to the room, it was a disaster and my parents asked that I keep the door closed as they didn’t want to look at the pig sty. It was really just clutter and some dust probably. It was not dirty. Sometimes the clothes and stuff was all over the floor and there was just a pathway from the door to my bed (mainly). I am not proud of this. I mention this because it seems that my older son, if left to his own devices, is this same way.

My son’s room is cluttered. There is too much stuff on the shelves to make dusting easy. Due to the very cool season we’re having we have had the windows open for months. Much pollen and other dust from the outdoors has entered the rooms and has made it hard to keep things dust-free.

My son has been growing a lot and his clothes are larger now. His bedroom set was ‘child sized’ (not baby sized) but this means that the drawers are small and don’t fit his long pants or jeans well. He needs more storage space for his clothing. The odd seasons here mean that we can’t truly pack away the winter clothes for half the year and only have summer clothes out in the other part of the year. So we are forced to have all the clothes available nearly year round. He also now has more special clothing for certain events like multiple special uniform pieces for Boy Scouts, special clothes for hiking and other clothing items for wilderness school.

Recently, my son has resisted my attempt to remove the decorative items from his room which I installed when we moved here, back when he was three years old. I have already gotten rid of some of his displayed things. Some stuff was moved out to a display cabinet elsewhere in the house. Yet still I feel like his room is exploding with stuff.

My son likes to display things. I think we’ll have to curtail this and limit what gets displayed versus what gets saved in drawers or other places versus what gets thrown out.

My son’s gigantic LEGO creation fills the floor. This is intricate and is very hard to move as it is fragile. It also has collected dust since it sits on the floor where the dust naturally settles. It is impossible to vacuum the floor to be honest. For that reason I am strict about no food being in the room. Also he doesn’t like wearing shoes so it is helpful that he never wears shoes into his room so dirt is not tracked onto the floor. My son feels this LEGO creation must reside in his room to protect it from visiting friends and relatives who seek to destroy, for pleasure, large projects like that. I will admit it is convenient to just shut and lock his bedroom door while the guests are here then to use the screwdriver to unlock the door after they leave (to protect the LEGO creations). If I ban this LEGO command center thing from his room I don’t know where we can put it and have it remain protected.

I have removed some board games from his closet to make more shelf space available for the books and comics that he reads. Yet he has not complied with keeping them on the shelves, leaving them all over the floor, covers up. At a recent lecture on right brained learners (which this son is) I couldn’t believe it when the speaker (DianneCraft) said that right brained people like to organize horizontally, filling all flat surfaces with stuff instead of filing books onto shelves or papers into vertically hanging folders. This is so true for my son. So perhaps his habits are due to the way his brain is wired. However it is unacceptable to keep living this way so we have to make some changes even if they are not in line with his brain’s preferences. Sorry, brain, but we’re making changes around here.

I am truly thinking the only possible way to handle this child and his room is to wipe the slate clean and to have nightly inspections. Punishments or rewards will have to be tied to these inspections. I have resisted chore charts, reward earning or punishment giving based on daily inspections so far in our parenting journey. I really am up against a wall here and feel there may be no other way. Yet I cringe at the idea of doing that, it is so against my nature.

The room is so cluttered up that it is a danger to walk in. Books, magazines, comics, LEGOs, toys and clean folded clothing as well as dirty clothing is all over the floor. The dirty clothes hamper sits empty as do the book shelves.

One other thing we need to do is get more shelving units for clothing to install inside of the wasted space inside of an antique armoire that he has in his room. That space should be able to hold clothing. I have been looking around in stores for the right containers but found nothing that was affordable at Linens N Things, I guess it is back to Wal Mart I go.

I had planned to do this project when my son was out of the house away at an educational day camp. However the unplanned chicken pox meant we had to cancel that camp and instead I was stuck at home in quarantine with the kids. So it didn’t get done last week as planned.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by this project. I just had to share.

At times like this the idea of hiring a professional organizer is very tempting. Too bad there is no money in the budget for that…

One Last Thought

The bedroom is a safety hazard. This is one main reason that I am putting my foot down. In order for me to enter the room to tuck him in at night, which he asks that my husband and I still do, we are putting ourselves in danger. I have stepped on tiny LEGOs and hurt my feet. I have tripped twice. I have to hop around the room sometimes just to get to his bed (the path is not always even clear to the bed). Recently when trying to close his windows when a 2 a.m. big wind with heavy rain hit I practically killed myself trying to navigate to the windows while half asleep. So really this has crossed over from just a bit of clutter and an unsightly mess to a problem. I often read that when being a packrat or messy crosses a line to hindering one's use of a space or becoming a safety hazard that is crossing into a hoarding state and is unhealhty.

I guess the bigger issue here is me wrapping my own mind around a new parenting duty and strategy and imposing discpline on myself to follow-through on rules that I am making for my son.


Article on preteens and messy bedrooms

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monroe Connecticut Book Sale: June-July 2008

Mark your calendars for the Monroe Connecticut summer 2008 book sale.

Saturday June 28, PREVIEW 9am-10am, $10 admission (regular prices)
Saturday June 28, regular sale, 10am – 6pm (regular prices), (free admission)
Sunday June 29 , 10am – 6pm (regular prices), (free admission)
Monday June 30, 10am – 6pm (reduced prices), (free admission)
Tuesday July 1, 10am – 6pm (reduced prices), (free admission)
Wednesday July 2, 10am – 1pm, (all books free), (free admission)

Website states over 25,000 books will be for sale and ‘not picked over’.

Sale to benefit: Friends of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, Inc. (the town's library)

Location of sale: Masuk High School, 1014 Monroe Tpke., (Rte 111), Monroe, CT.

My Notes:
I have not been to this sale in a number of years. They used to have good deals on children’s books. I also used to find great out of print children’s books which were the library’s discards or discards from the town’s public schools.

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 130 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 130 was published today at Dewey’s Treehouse.

There are a lot of entries in this blog carnival. It provides a lot of homeschool-related reading (and its free, too).

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

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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A Right-Brained Learning Site

A homeschooling mom friend of mine, after reading my blog post about spelling strategies for right-brained learners, said she spent time reading about the topic last summer.

My friend suggested this webpage: Visual-Spatial Learners at the Gifted Developmenter site. That page contains a long article by Linda Kreger Silverman PhD which is a thorough introduction to visual-spatial learners including how they compare and contrast to left-brained learners (auditory sequential learners).

(Right-brained learners are sometimes referred to as visual-spatial learners.)

I thought I'd pass that resource on to anyone who may be interested in learning more.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Tried a Right-Brained Learning Strategy for Spelling

I have recently heard the team and am subsequently teaching myself about right brained learners. The more I learn the more I realize that my older son is very right brained. I am looking for new teaching techniques and learning strategies as doing things the way I have in the past for some subjects is not always resulting in learning being achieved. Some things we’ve been doing that come ‘highly recommended’ have outright bombed and have also contributed to negative self-esteem issues and anything but a joyous learning journey in our homeschooling, especially in this last year (for my older son).

Yesterday I tried a new spelling learning technique I learned from hearing a lecture on right brained learners given by Dianne Craft. I was going by my memory. Then last night I was reading more of the book “Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World” by Jeffrey Freed and in that I learned a bit of a different way to teach spelling.

I am combining this technique with the Spelling Power spelling curriculum that we’ve been using for two full years now. What I do is after the program’s five minute pretest, I assembled the errors for my son to study. Yesterday I had put the errors on 3x5 index cards showing the error part of the word in red ink and the rest in black ink. Today when I tested him on those words he did it perfectly on the errors he made yesterday which had to do with using endings in which the plural word had the y changed to an I and then with –es or –er at the end. So it seems that worked. However on some of them he now was inserting a new mistake: making an error on the vowel near the middle of the word. Today using Freed’s technique, I used an 8.5 x 11 inch white paper. I wrote the word in large print. I put the mistake in a color (today, purple) and the right parts of the word in black. I then took a bright color to make a box around the whole word (something that Dianne Craft had mentioned in her lecture that I just had not done yesterday).

Today my son was frustrated by the spelling. We discussed it. He is feeling low because the spelling is not coming easily to him. I gave him some reassurance. With new information I learned from Dianne Craft and Jeffrey Freed, for the first time I asked him what he sees in his head when he thinks of the word. I had learned that often right-brained learners see in pictures not in words, even when the work they are doing is learning the spelling of a word, which is something that before now was just incomprehensible to me. I mean, to me if you are learning to spell a word it would only make sense that the things seen in your head when trying to spell out the word would be letters in the order that the word is spelled, letters going in the proper order from left to right.

So I asked him, when I ask you to spell “easily”, close your eyes. What do you see in the way the word is spelled. He told me that he sees no word. He had a weird look on his face as if I was crazy to suggest he would see letters spelled out in his head. He says he sees nothing, no image of anything with that word. Frankly I could not imagine what object would be visualized for the abstract word “easily”. I asked what he sees when he does today’s word “groceries” and “bakery” and sure enough, he said he saw a picture of bags of groceries and the other was bread lined up in a bakery case. He said the words that are not nouns present a problem for him as there is no word for it (those are the more abstract words).

I tried explaining to him that my mind is different and I happen to see the word written out in my brain, and especially more clear if I close my eyes. I told him I sometimes see a picture too, for the nouns, but when I make myself see the word such as to be able to visualize how it is spelled, it is right there floating in the air. He had a hard time believing this was possible. I then explained that one thing that he is supposed to have been doing per the Spelling Power recommendations, (which I have told him to do over and over) is to visualize that word in the air. He admitted he never did it even though I had told him to. I asked him to try it out.

I have spent hours this last weekend reading this book and trying to figure out new ways to teach my now identified right-brained learner.

In future blog posts I will share more about this book by Jeffrey Freed and hope to do a full book review. For now I feel the need to clarify the subtitle of the book “Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World”, the subtitle is “unlocking the potential of your ADD child”. What you need to know is that not all right-brained dominant learners have ADD. Freed says that nearly all if not all ADD labeled children are right-brained learners though. Freed also feels that a good number of right-brained learners who attend public school in America are mis-labeled as having ADD when in reality they just are right-brained learners shoved into classrooms taught by left-brained teachers with left-brained methods and they are either not learning or display negative behaviors out of frustration. So my point is that this book is about the general topic of right-brained learners. It also deals with how to help children learn, which can be modified to use with homeschooled kids or can be used in a tutoring way with parents of schooled children. The book also covers for parents, how to deal with the poor self-esteemed schooled children who have been made to feel stupid by their negative experience in the school system for struggling to learn (with the left-brained methods). If the child happens to definitely have ADD and is right-brained then this book applies to them as well.

One last note I want to make is that earlier this year this son was having an especially hard time with spelling. His diagnosis of having an eye tracking problem and getting prisms in eyeglasses plus having light therapy AND getting prescription eye glasses since he has a new diagnosis of being far sighted had a sudden huge improvement in his spelling ability. I was surprised and thrilled with that! However now that I know this son is also a right-brained learner and since he still not working above grade level on his spelling I am also trying these new teaching and learning strategies for right brained learners.


"Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World" by Jeffrey Freed

Jeffrey Freed's website

Dianne Craft's webstie (she discusses right-brained learners)

Spelling Power, the spelling curriculum I use which I'm further adapting with right-brained learner strategies

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Pequot Library, Southport Connecticut Book Sale: July 2008

Mark your calendars for the Southport Connecticut summer 2008 book sale.

Friday July 25, 9am-8pm (double the marked price)
Saturday July 26, 9am-5:30pm (priced as marked)
Sunday July 27, 9am-5:30pm (priced as marked)
Monday July 28 9am-8pm (half price day)
Tuesday July 29 9am-2pm ($5 per bag day)

Location: Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Avenue, Southport, CT
More information: Pequot Library website

Free Admission on all days.

VISA and Mastercard , Discover & American Express accepted.

This is the biggest library book sale I’ve ever seen. It usually has over 120,000 items. It is held mostly outdoors under tents with thousands of books indoors in the air conditioning, in the large auditorium.

There is a special event on Sunday July 27 “Young Readers’ Day”. Thousands of ‘like new’ books, family concernt with the Hall Family Singers. Children wear a pirate or princess costume and get a free children’s book from the main tent.

My notes: Since the books are priced as marked and are already ‘not cheap’ it can be considered not worthwhile for people on tight budgets to go on double price day. Suddenly a book is not such a bargain when it is double-priced. It still takes a long time to sort through the books and see if there is anything you want. It is not feasible for a non-book dealer to go on double price day to shop just for books they fear may not be there on regular price day, then go back to re-sort through to find the ones worthwhile on ‘regular price day’.

When I have gone, I went first thing in the morning on the first priced as marked day (Saturday). If you do not go just before opening time on Saturday you may have to park quite far away. This can be a very hot (temperature) and humid sale since so many books are outdoors under tents, due to the time of the year. Numerous times I recall being soaked with sweat with sweat running off my face onto the books while trying to browse them. They have a lot of children’s books and many are great for homeschooling. There are so many books that it takes patience and lots of stack browsing to look through the books. In the children’s section, often there are two rows in boxes on the ground under the table and two or three rows on top of the table. The tables have been so close together that two people cannot stand back to back. This is a horrible place for children as the aisles are too small and children clog the area, making it hard for adults to look for books. There is absolutely no room for strollers, which does not stop mothers from using them even with their children aged two and over.

One complaint I have is that a number of times I have found pre-sorted books from Friday hidden away in wrong places for people to pick up on Saturday at regular price. This must be people spending time sorting on double price day and stashing them for pick up on regular price day. For example once I could not find a single Hardy Boys book in the children’s section which seemed odd since it was the first morning of regular price day. Later while in the science section I found a whole box of Hardy Boys books crammed at the back on the floor, hidden by someone. I reported it to a volunteer who said the book dealers often do this and it is very frustrating.

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Westport Connecticut Book Sale: July 2008

Mark your calendars for the Westport Connecticut summer 2008 book sale.

July 19, 2008 9am-6pm (priced as marked)
July 20, 2008 9am-6pm (priced as marked)
July 21 9am-7pm (half price day)
July 22 9am-1pm (free book day, donations welcome)

Location: Westport Library, 20 Jessup Road, Westport, CT
More information: Westport Library website

Free Admission on all days.

VISA and Mastercard accepted.

This is a huge book sale with over 70,000 items. It is held mostly outdoors under tents with a small amount of books indoors in the air conditioning.

Postcard states over 400 art books in pristine condition from the collection of Hy Zaret, large quantity of theater art books, large audio book collection, 78 records for collectors, many titles on navigation, weather, racing and sail-setting, paperweight and ceramic art books from individual collectors.

My notes: Parking can be very difficult and time consuming especially on the first day if you don’t go earlier than the sale starts to get good parking. You may end up walking a number of blocks with your books which can be difficult. This sale takes patience due to the crowds and book dealers; it can be hard to even ‘get at’ the books to look at them. The lines to pay can be long. Art books can be on the expensive side. Even moldy smelling books may have higher prices, so give them a sniff, I have a feeling they mark prices by the look of the book and don’t check for odor. I would not bring children to this book sale due to safety issues with crowds and people and book dealers lugging heavy boxes of books who accidentally bump into short children. Children are often bored and very unhappy at this sale: crying and sometimes screaming, begging to leave. If you can handle all of that you may find some great books. I have found very good books to use with our homeschooling at this sale. I just don’t have the patience to go to this sale on a regular basis.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mama Fish is Holding

There is never a dull moment around here.

We've been battling what I think is a floating algae problem in our fish aquarium. That means I've been doing lots of water changes and cleaning the stones at the bottom of the tank regularly.

To help cut down on the bullying the Cichlids do, I have been rearranging the tank stuff more than usual, each time I change the filter or do a water change. This movement of the stuff in the tank usually leads to a mating dance thing happening. How far that ends up going varies and usually does not end up with procreation.

We have Lake Malawi African Cichlids. These are freshwater fish that have brilliant colors and are often assumed to be saltwater fish. These fish have very distinct personalities and some interesting actions that make them entertaining to have, if you can believe it.

Today Mama Fish (a Red Tiger Cichlid) is holding. This species are mouth brooders. She has the eggs in her mouth which means she cannot eat. Each time I feed the fish she is tempted to eat the food. She basically starves herself until the fry are large enough to enter the tank and fend for themselves. I read this can take two weeks. Sometimes by then the Mama Fish is in poor health from being in a starvation state. To save the fish from temptation of eating, some people put up a tank divider and then they don't put food into the side where the Mama Fish is. You see sometimes they get so hungry they do eat and eat the eggs or fry in their mouth along with it, by accident.

I tried doing the tank divider once and it was not easy to deal with. I can't handle dealing with it again.

I do feel badly though when putting the food flakes in the tank that she has to just watch them float and not eat them.

Cichlids like caves so our tank has lot of differnt rocks and things for the fish to hide in. One day a couple of years ago, my older son said, "I see a tiny fish!" He was right. There was a baby fish about one eighth of an inch long in the tank. I went to read about it and found out that the male fish often will eat the fry. I bought a little fry tank thing to hang in the corner of the tank. When I went to scoop out that one fry, I discovered twelve of them! They were mostly hiding inside of a plastic cave thing, in the inside of the cave, in the hollow part I mean, the part where the fish are NOT supposed to go. We had no clue that the fish had mated. We didn't know the female had held the eggs and fry in her mouth. We were clueless!

Of that batch of twelve, we did have a die off and three did live. Right now we are down to one.

So we have the bully Mama Fish that we've owned for 3.5 years exactly, she is nearly six inches long at this point and she looks like a regular old goldfish with a brilliant orange color. We have the Daddy Fish that we've owned for 2.5 years I think and he is about three inches long and is a gorgeous blue color. Then we have their one female baby in the tank, which they both pick on, that one is a striped brown color (not too fantastic looking but that may in part be from being under stress from being picked on).

Our algae eater, a pleco, has grown to 9.5 inches! The thing is gigantic! We are thinking of seeing if someone wants to take this one off of our hands and in return they could give us a one or two inch pleco. I feel badly for this giant thing as the tank is not that large and it can't move much (it is a 20 gallon tank filled with rocks and caves).

That is the biggest news happening in our house today.

The various fish happenings are things our kids talk about with me nearly every day.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Federal Homeschooling Legislation Proposed (S. 3076)

NHELD has released a bulletin (#62) regarding Senate bill 3076: Home School Opportunites Make Educaiton Sound Act of 2008. NHELD says this is unconstitutional. Read what else NHELD has to say here.

Bulletin #62 S. 3076: Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound Act of 2008 06/18/08

You can read the original bill here. In part it says

"To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax deduction for itemizers and nonitemizers for expenses relating to home schooling."

The short opinion I'll share right now is that I don't want the government meddling in my homeschooling so therefore I am not asking for any tax rebates (from the state or the federal government). Our family pays our taxes, income, sales and property. We choose to homeschool. We don't want any government oversight. We don't want financial breaks from the government if they invite the government to have a larger part in evaluating and judging our 'home school'.

To the government I say: "Take my tax money but leave me alone. Thank you. Goodbye."

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Was Worried About Chimney Swifts

Post updated 6/21/08 with good news.

When we bought this house we met with the previous owners. They were offering to sell us some of the furniture, including some antiques, that they didn't need in their new home. One thing we discussed was the Chimney Swifts. Our home has three uncapped chimneys and I was told that each year the Chimney Swifts came to roost and nest in the chimneys. The woman of the home explained she loved the Swifts and was fine with them being there so had not capped the chimneys. She said she had contemplated it and gave me a brochure of a company who did it. She stressed to me that if we choose to do this we must wait until the summer is over and until their nesting is over and they are gone. I agreed. I knew not a single thing about the Chimney Swifts but I did love wild birds and did feed them and provide nesting boxes for them at my former home.

I soon became acquainted with the Chimney Swifts. They make a unique, loud noise, kind of a big whooshing sound, as they enter and exit the chimney. They were nesting in the chimney in the sitting room which is next to my bedroom. The Swifts would come and go at all hours of the night, sometimes waking me at two in the morning with their loud whooshing. This went on until some time in August. They were roosting only in one of my chimneys.

Also while I was outdoors I'd hear the loud twittering of the Chimney Swifts. They practically dance in flight, flying quickly and weaving in and out and around each other while flying together. I have never seen them land, instead they fly and fly. They would pass overhead and loop around and then disappear into other parts of the neighborhood. Then they'd come back. All this time they would be singing.

I recall reading about their behavior as I didn't know anything about them back then. I learned they eat in flight and that they eat insects. I had read that usually they would roost all night and stay quiet but in areas with street lights or where yards were landscaped with all night lighting for show, they would exit the chimneys to eat the insects that congregate around lights at night. I reasoned this must be the case in my neighborhood as some neighbors have outdoor lighting that they keep on all night, illuminating the entire fronts of their houses for show (not for protection).

My husband wanted to cap the chimneys but didn't like the look of the caps. And the next May, the second year we were in the house, they came back and were nesting so they were there for another year. I learned then about babies. Wow, are they noisy. When the adult bird comes to the nest with food, the baby birds chirp and peep loudly. This went on day and night. As the baby birds got larger they got louder and louder and often would wake me up at night. I didn't mind. Then in August when they'd leave it would be silent and I'd not realize for a few days that I hadn't heard them at all. Then I'd miss them.

In 2006 I was inside a neighbor's house in June. I heard the Chimney Swifts in her chimney and commented. She thanked me for explaining what that was and said for years she thought it was raccoons nesting in her chimney and had twice called the chimney cleaners to come. No one ever said a raccoon was in there or that they found a Chimney Swift nest. She said that the room always had a terrible smell and that bothered her. So after that summer she installed caps on all of her chimneys.

I had read that the Chimney Swifts go to the same chimneys each year. So the next year her Swifts had no where to go. I then noticed that now two of my chimneys were being used for roosting.

One time I opened my flue and looked up my chimney with a flashlight. I found one nest. I was surprised as there were five Swifts flying around and it seemed there were so many coming in and out of the chimney all the time.

In the summer of 2007 by August I had seven Chimney Swifts flying together around my yard and some would enter my chimney.

In May 2008 the Chimney Swifts returned. This year I saw three of them together. This year they have been much quieter, not entering or leaving the chimney much. I don't wake in the middle of the night and hear them. I have hardly heard them at all as a matter of fact. In the first week of June I was doing a lot of outside yard work and also cleaning the garage and just spending time outside. I just realized I've not heard or seen the Chimney Swifts outside in at least ten days. You see usually you can hear them all day long and definitely at dusk they are flying all around and twittering. I now can't remember the last time I saw or heard them but I know they were here in May.

Update June 21: I heard and saw the Chimney Swifts today, there were five of them flying outside. I am wondering if one reason I'd not heard much of them inside my chimneys is maybe this year they didn't lay eggs in the nest this year and therefore are making less trips in and out of the chimney than when they have young to feed?

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I'm An Educational Anarchist

Did you hear that the California chapter of the National Education Association has said that "allowing parents to homeschool their children without requiring a teaching credential will result in "educational anarchy." "

That makes me an Educational Anarchist!

Isn't that statement hilarious?

I love it!

ImPerceptibility has created the above graphic for anyone who would like to use it. You can see it and read her permission in her blog post "Personally I Take it as a Compliment".

I am so happy to display this label in my blog's sidebar now.

Hat Tip: Principled Discovery

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Book "The Edison Trait" Republished with New Title

"The Edison Trait" by Lucy Jo Palladino PhD has been republished under a new title: "Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: how to thelp the child who is bright, bored and having problems in school".

I first heard of this book on the website for Quick Study Labs. I thought it sounded like my older son. I put off buying the book as I was trying to save money. Then I went to buy it recently and saw it was out of print. I was so disappointed that I'd missed buying it for a decent price. The used copies on Amazon back then were far more expensive than the cover price of the new book. I wondered if the book was being revised and expanded.

I was thrilled to find it accidentially while on Amazon looking at another title. While shopping for a book on right brained learners this title came up as a suggested book to buy along with the other book.

My new copy of "Dreamers..." just arrived and it says on the cover "formerly titled "The Edison Trait" ". I see the copyright date is 1999. Therefore I am assuming this is the same content as "The Edison Trait", no where does it say it was revised and expanded or updated.

You can read an article by the author of the book on the Quick Study Lab site if you are curious what the book is about. Go to this page then click on "The Edison Trait" in the left sidebar to navigate to the article.

Quick Study Labs is an online electronics course that students including homeschoolers can take. The course is designed by a college professor whose own children are homeschooled.

I have not read the book yet so I can't give you my impressions of the book. I have no clue also how this relates to right brained learners either.

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For The Record I'm Sick of Quarantine

I have had enough of this quarantine.

I have been quarantined since Saturday at bedtime when I realized that I had chicken pox as did my younger son.

One thing I have not done is RELAXED. However having realized that today the whole idea of not relaxing while sick and in quarantine seems ludicrious. What is wrong with me for not taking the opportunity to relax?

Well before the quarantine, I had been running around being too busy. So when I was stuck home I figured it was time to do all that needed doing. Unpacking the cooler, putting away the camping supplies and emptying all the tote bags from the outings. Next up was doing laundry. Then how about finally finishing the big playroom reorganization and decluttering. Next up how about tackling my older son's bedroom? How about clearing the science experiments, craft projects and art supplies off the dining room table? Then do a whole house general cleaning. Add in some weeding and tending to the little veggie and herb garden. Pepper in with all of that, staying on top of email, blogging and phoning friends to complain that we have chicken pox and itch. Wow how time flies.

Oh throw in that we are eating all three meals here and snacks, all that work and clean up has to be done. And add in kids in the house all day and night and keeping on top of taking out and putting away and cleaning up after everything they do all that time. Phew, it is exhausting.

This is day six of the quarantine. I have had enough.

I want to relax.

I want to veg in front of the TV and watch dumb shows or movies. Read books and magazines. Just veg out and rest and relax. It is not going to happen.

The still undone projects nag at me. With all this 'spare time' on hand I keep telling myself, "Take advantage of this time! Do the things you have been putting off or did want to do but didn't have time to do!"

The perfectionist in me is rearing her head. She can't sit and watch a movie with clutter around as the clutter is distracting and she makes me feel guilty for wanting to relax when stuff should get done.

Yes I feel tortured today.

Oh and I got a sunburn on my shoulders and arms last Saturday. Bad. Then on Wednesday I got chicken pocks on top of the sore sunburn. Itching and scratching on top of the sunburn--ouch. Now today those pocks are scabbed over but my skin is all blistered up and it is starting to peel and have that other kind of itch. Ugh.

I need to find some gratitude today or I will be put into a really bad mood!

I found three new itchy pocks on me today so that means quarantine for me must continue today. When will this be over???

The kids are not suffering too badly, that's why this post is not full of how they feel and instead is all about me. The kids are sick of me having them help clean and declutter and me being on top of them about picking up their bedrooms.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Me and My Boys

Photo taken May 31, 2008 at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport Connecticut.

Newtown Connecticut Book Sale: July 2008

Mark your calendars for the Newtown Connecticut book sale.

July 12 & 13, 2008 9am-5pm
July 14 9am-7pm (half price day)
July 15 9am-7pm ($5 per bag day)
July 16 9am-1pm (free book day)

Location: Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane, Newtown CT

This is a gigantic book sale and is held indoors with air conditioning. The books are separated by topic. Note that some older books popular with homeschoolers may be found in the 'collectibles' section and may be pretty high priced considering they are truly not collector's items (i.e. Landmarks, Signagures, We Were There...). Usually the paperback children's books are 25 cents for a staple bound book and 50 cents for a glued binding, $1 for a hardcover book. Note that they put some of the chapter books for kids aged 9-12 in with 'young adult' which are priced in the higher price range of the adult book, with some paperback books like "Hoot" going for $2 (why I do not know).

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Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places

How sad is this?

I’ve selected quotes from the TIME article:

"As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. "


"School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head."


"In Gloucester, perched on scenic Cape Ann, the economy has always depended on a strong fishing industry. But in recent years, such jobs have all but disappeared overseas, and with them much of the community's wherewithal. "Families are broken," says school superintendent Christopher Farmer. "Many of our young people are growing up directionless." "

Amanda Ireland, 18, just graduated from Gloucester High. She says she had a baby when she was a freshman and girls have been telling her how lucky she is to have someone to give her unconditional love. This high school provides on site daycare and sometimes strollers, babies and student moms mix with the other students...

Article Title: Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High
By: Kathleen Kingsbury
Published: 6/18/08
Published in: TIME magazine

If you’d like some deep ideas about today’s teens feeling directionless and lost, looking for love and feeling undernurtured, read Anne Pierce’s new book “Ships Without a Shore”. I know I keep mentioning this book but trust me, it is a book that NEEDS to be read and its ideas pondered.

This story was sent to me by my husband.

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Facebook Allowing Homeschoolers Now

Those of you who didn’t like the fact that Facebook did not let homeschooled students join will applaud the fact that now Facebook is allowing homeschoolers to join.

Those of you who don’t want your teens on Facebook I bet will continue to go on not caring what Facebook’s policies are with regard to homeschoolers.

Hat Tip: This article which came through the Google News Alert for keyword “homeschooling”

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Thoughts on “The Kindergarchy”

I was referred to the essay “The Kindergarchy: Every Child a Dauphin” written by Joseph Epstein, after reading this post at Mental Multivitamin "Dreary Boring Sadly Misguided". This nine page essay was better for me to print off and read in a quiet place and to ponder it rather than a quick skimming at the computer monitor. It is a great piece if you just take your time and read it. Then maybe read it again on another day with a fresh mind. I'll quote here and there from "The Kindergarchy" throughout this post.

As I began reading the piece my mind immediately went back to a memory: on the patio of my homeschool mom friend’s house where she, I and another homeschool mom sat talking. It was August 2007, and I had brought up the discussion of homeschooling, outside classes, over-scheduling, the pace of childhood today, the different ways that children are being raised today and the different role of the stay at home mother today compared to what the three of us experienced in our childhoods. I was looking for answers about why our society today is doing what is happening. One mom tried to say our experience was unique to Fairfield County and partially due to the wealth level of the residents here. I begged to differ and said I felt a shift had happened even with lower middle class families and that I had a feeling it was going on all over the country. This includes also the lives of the children and families who go to school and also in families with a mother who works outside the home for pay.

I talked about what I had been reading in “The Over-Scheduled Child” by Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise, a book I love that I’ve blogged about before.

I left that discussion not feeling settled with the matter. I was not relating to what my friends were saying. Their basic outlook was that today’s children have more opportunities for development (music, sports, intellect) and that we have the disposable income to spend on enriching our children with these classes and events. Saying no to some of it just because the family is frantic or even because the sports are interfering with the family eating a healthy meal at home together is viewed as then being negligent to the child, because the choice to not further enrich the child’s body or mind with that activity would be depriving their optimal development.

They also felt that if a family could not afford the activities it would stop the whole thing from happening and that we are all victims of our own wealth, especially here in Fairfield County. I disagreed because I had a suspicion that many families were living above their means, relying on credit cards to finance their lifestyles and that this was happening across the country not just in this state or in this county. Also at issue was that some of these things for kids including lots of toys, expensive sports equipment, expensive vacation sand even big homes was often funded by the working mothers that say they need to work because ‘they need the money’ when really they just want a higher standard of living.

I had and still have a concern that all this doing of stuff by the children is actually bordering on if not solidly over-indulging our children. (An interesting opinion that flies in the face of many parents’ ideas is that Dr. Phil says that over-indulgence is a form of child abuse.) I had a suspicion that sometimes having so many material things leads children to not appreciate what they have and that doing all the activities leads them to not appreciate what they are doing. They are so busy that they don’t’ get to wind down from one activity before they are gearing up to drive to the next one. An example from my own life is that I take photos of things we do yet often don’t have time to even glance at the photos I took let alone think back on all the things to enjoy the memory of them. I know for a fact that some children in these circumstances turn out to be spoiled brats. I also question if all the enriching is truly helping them if their lifestyles are completely hectic, rushing from one thing to another all the time. I am reminded of the family that I went to the beach with on a hot August day last year who could not talk in the car with my son because they had to finish reading a fiction book for a boy’s book club discussion class that would be held that night. I worry about kids who never are bored because they have all their spare time filled with activities all about them. I worry that parents put their own lives on the back burner in order to make room for and to provide their children with all the classes and stuff.

I am always trying to strike a balance between what is good for my kids and what is too much. I want my kids to be enriched and to do great things that I never go to do. Yet I don’t want my kids to be robots moving from one activity to another like some kind of programmed clone whose life is being controlled by some master programmer. To be honest, I question the actual learning that goes on with some of the classes we’ve taken and realize some of it has been a waste of time and money. I have big questions about the value of gymnastics for preschoolers and for Little League baseball in kids under nine or ten years old. Do all these things really improve the child in the big picture? Will the children even remember all the scheduled and ‘outside classes’ they did when they were very young?

"With its full-court-press attention on children, the Kindergarchy is a radical departure from the ways parents and children viewed one another in earlier days."

I keep thinking of my own simple childhood and how boring and how un-enriching it was. I grew up in freedom with little parental oversight of what went on in my time at home, roaming the neighborhood with the neighbor kids. My summers were hot and lacked air conditioning. I rode my bike, went swimming in friend’s pools or the new indoor pool when that was built. I walked to stores to buy candy and soda and collectible trading cards with my allowance. My grandparents and parents took me and my brother out for ice cream, sometimes every night. I recall afternoons laying on a blanket on the lawn in the shade of a tree reading. I recall the cool basement children’s library and roaming the stacks of books to find ones to borrow. I recall the dark used book shop in the next town that I swapped books in and out of. I recall reading all the Bobbsey Twins and all the Nancy Drew books.

"Born into the middle class in the Middle West, growing up I did not know any married woman who worked."

I didn’t know any mothers who worked either. Well, actually when I was ten I met a girl whose mother worked the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift as a hospital nurse which was a grueling schedule and she did love her job but it was physically hard to pull it off, because she was an at-home mom all day long and was present in the children’s lives. Although I always wanted to be a stay at home mom so I could have a loving parent raise me in my own home like I had, I did have trouble leaving my career behind. After working in my field for eleven years, having moved up the ladder, and after getting a college degree to help me move up the corporate ladder even higher, I felt I was leaving a piece of me behind when I decided to stay at home for good. It was a hard adjustment at first. I no longer feel badly about that choice and mothering has been very rewarding for me. I do still feel judged by society and by the feminists for being an at home mom.

"Parents generally didn't feel under any obligation to put heavy pressure on their children. Nor, except in odd, neurotic cases, did they feel any need to micromanage their lives."

Most definitely my childhood was not micromanaged. I wonder if I would be so self-sufficient and independent minded if my mother and/or father had micromanaged my life! I severely doubt it and that would be a bad thing.

I wonder sometimes if today’s stay at home mother’s fill up their child’s lives and try to make their children super kids because to not try to give them everything would be seen as being negligent. Some brave friends of mine admit ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is one definite reason that they have their ids doing so much. In my generation shooting for and intentionally choosing second best is not seen as something to strive for. Some would even consider it child neglect or maybe even child abuse to not provide our children with everything financially possible. You see we were raised with self-help books all around us. We have been led to believe by American media and culture that we are all what we make of ourselves. And caring parents would only choose the best for their children’s welfare and development. No parent wants to be responsible for their child being unhappy or an emotional mess, for them being stupid common-sense or academically, un-physically fit or obese in childhood, nor do we want to see them living in poverty in their adult lives. We want our children to have an equal chance to succeed in life both financially, intellectually, emotionally and to be physically well.

"No other generations of kids have been so curried and cultivated, so pampered and primed, though primed for what exactly is a bit unclear."

"Where once childrearing was an activity conducted largely by instinct and common sense, today it takes its lead from self-appointed experts whose thinking is informed by pop psychology."

At times when I’m trying to do what I think is right and best I keep coming up against my friends and acquaintances who are doing more with and for their children. They make me feel inadequate or that I’m not being a good mom. It is not always that they say something but just by comparison. And some friends, when I vent about being too busy they just retort with their own schedules to show how much more busy THEY are than me. Or those who have more than two kids then get into the whole “I have three or four kids and look at what we do and how much busier we are”. I’m not impressed. It is at those times when I long to be around different people who get what I am trying to say.

"Under the Kindergarchy, all arrangements are centered on children: their schooling, their lessons, their predilections, their care and feeding and general high maintenance--children are the name of the game."

Sometimes I wonder if homeschooling is the ultimate expression of what Dr. Rosenfeld calls “hyper-parenting”. If that is true then one could view my life as having ‘sacrificed’ my career not just to be an at-home mom to raise my children but to take on the larger role of home education to further control my children’s experience and to possibly also homeschool to provide a better academic experience just because the public school system or the private schools are ‘not good enough’. Some may wiggle out of this by saying they will admit they would not use a public school for their child but being an at-home mother with no second income does not allow for multiple private school tuitions.

"In a rich country, a fair amount of this kind of sad vulgarity figures to go on. But what I have in mind is something more endemic--a phenomenon that affects large stretches of the middle class: the phenomenon, heightened under Kindergarchy, of simply paying more attention to the upbringing of children than can possibly be good for them."

Epstein talks a bit of preschool and I will not comment on that as I have too much to say that I won’t mix into this post. I have a lot of opinions on preschool in general, enough to write a book! I agree that too much emphasis is being placed on formal education in preschool and also there is an over-valuing of early education in the larger picture of a child’s life.

Epstein also talks about pressure on the kids to get into good colleges. I agree this is a problem.

"Every high school now has its battery of counselors: guidance, psychological, college. A larger and larger segment of the student population seems to bring its own psychological tics and jiggeroos to school with them: ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, various degrees of depression requiring regimens of pills and therapy sessions. Some of these defects and disabilities are the result of parents' having their children at a later age. Might others be that the children are so intensely watched over and tested that more and more defects and disabilities show up, some among them possibly imaginary?"

Too bad Epstein doesn’t know of his error in the above paragraph. Yes, high schools have those counselors. But in my town so do the middle schools and the elementary schools. The preschool programs based in elementary schools have them at their disposal too. So really children have these counselors pushed on them from age 3 and up.

I have blogged in the past about Generation Y, the 20-something’s who are now in the workplace and having a hard time with it. I had linked to a Wall Street Journal article about how the workplace having to change to meet the demands and expectations of this new generation who was raised on a lot of praise, even when they don’t deserve it.

I give my children a lot of love. I talk about my emotions. I give them lots of hugs and kisses. This is all different than how I myself was raised. I don’t do a lot of praise with my kids as to me most of the time it is fake or undeserved. When my kids do a good job at something it is evident to them and I sometimes will make a positive comment. When they do something poorly they know it and I don’t praise them when it is not due (unlike other parents I know).

I am trying to raise well-behaved kids with manners and humbleness. I don’t want a braggy kid, or a child who thinks they are better than they really are. I don’t want a little Mozart just to prove that I can turn out a product that is superior to someone else’s kid. I don’t brag to my friends about various things that happen. My kids do a lot of things and even have won awards that I have never even mentioned on this blog let alone told some of my friends about!
What interested me most about “The Kindergarchy” is that the perspective is that of a now-retired college professor who sees the outcome of this much praised generation who has huge egos and high self-esteem. He notes that the students think they know more academically than they do. He notes that they cannot write well. They do not know the academic content that other students in past years knew. They also seem unable to accept that they lack information or writing ability. They seem to think it is ‘all about them’.

Please refer to the end of the essay where Epstein talks about the college students and their parent’s involvement in their children’s education. I have no experience with any of this yet as my kids are only eight and ten years old right now. However we should all heed his warnings about what the long term effects of The Kindergarchy are. This paragraph made me laugh out loud:

"So often in my literature classes students told me what they "felt" about a novel, or a particular character in a novel. I tried, ever so gently, to tell them that no one cared what they felt; the trick was to discover not one's feelings but what the author had put into the book, its moral weight and its resultant power. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to--but did not--write: "D-, Too much love in the home." I knew where they came by their sense of their own deep significance and that this sense was utterly false to any conceivable reality. Despite what their parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement. Besides, one of the first things that people who really are significant seem to know is that, in the grander scheme, they are themselves really quite insignificant."

I laughed because I have seen this behavior in classes and events that I have witnessed with other children. I see some of this in Cub Scouting, even, and with children in elementary grades.

"Growing up with only minimal attention sharpened this sense of one's insignificance."

I had never put two and two together but the above statement reflects my own childhood experience too. I felt insignificant then and I still feel pretty insignificant now. I worry that so many children and young people today seem to think they are so great when really they are nothing special and in fact are in need of a lot of fixing. The sometimes wrong-placed sense of entitlement that some young people have is staggering and sometimes is based on wrong facts. Last month our family was driving slowly down the center of a town’s Main Street after the street light turned green. Two women about 20 years old suddenly walked right out into traffic and went right in front of our car. My husband jammed the brake to avoid hitting them. They immediately screamed at us “It is the law to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk! ” as they have us The Finger. While that is true about the law, the issue at hand was they were not in a crosswalk, they were in a middle of a block and were walking diagonally across moving lanes of traffic. The arrogance and entitlement of those two was just amazing! My husband couldn’t resist shouting back “Yeah, but you are not IN a crosswalk!”

I don’t know where we’re headed as a society. I’m just trying to do right by my kids and to not wreck our family’s lives in the process. After reading Epstein’s article I felt that I am not on the wrong track. It is right to question ‘doing it all’. It is good to think that the pace of the whole family should not be entirely centered around doing everything for the kids and nothing for the adults. The children’s activities also should not obstruct interaction with extended relatives. I should not feel badly about passing up Little League so that we may eat a home cooked meal together as a family at a normal dinnertime. I should not feel guilty for missing certain classes or events because we’re spending time with grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles. Take a look at the sidelines of the kids’ sports activities and you will see a lot of overweight and unhappy looking parents. That should tell you something. In my house I’ve been kicking the kids outside to play and ride bikes while I do what has to be done inside. And I will not let myself feel guilty for going to the gym to exercise whose monthly cost is ¼ the price of one child’s Tae Kwon Do month’s lessons. If my children’s lack of martial arts training hinders my children in the long term, they’d better start getting over it now.

One more book which I read very recently was “Ships Without a Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children” in this book Anne Pierce PhD also discusses what she feels drives today’s parents to have their children doing so much. You can read my book review of that here. The book covers a lot of topics that I could not address all of them in my review. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

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