Thursday, July 31, 2008

Great Comment on My Book Review of "Ships Without a Shore"

I received an excellent blog comment on my book review for a new book "Ships Without a Shore" by Anne Pierce PhD. I decided it deserves its own blog post. The comment writer was moleenbranden.

My original book review can be read here:

Ships Without a Shore: Book Review by ChristineMM

"I am a student and just read this book which filled me with self-reflection (although I am not yet a mother myself...) and forced me to take a good look at our society and the way we justify the choices we make for children. Your review is right-on in the various approaches and arguments Pierce makes in her text; it is filled with psychological, sociological, scientific and political connects as well as personal accounts as to the damaging effects the popular opinion has inflicted upon today's children. Dual working parents (or single-working) may find themselves in NEED for financial stability but what is more often neglected is the fulfillment of relational needs between parent and child at the expense of institutionalized care and structured activities. I do not believe that Pierce condones sports, arts or community groups, but rather is suggesting that we critically examine the amount of effort our children put into outside programs, rather than their personal and familial growth. The effects of 'over-worked' children are emotionally drained and uninterested teens who turn to destructive patterns to relieve themselves from boredom. If the mothers out there would go out and read this book, support Pierce's work, there would be a better understanding to the role of parenthood - hopefully our society will become more aware that parenting is a FULL-TIME job with the benefits being a well-rounded, loved child rather than being focused on the financial security from an income."


Methinks moleenbranden will make a fantastic mother. I can only hope she finds a worthy husband to be the father of her future children!

Schooled: Book Review by ChristineMM



Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Summary: Entertaining Escape Read, Similar to The Devil Wears Prada But About Elite Private Schools

Title: Schooled: a Novel
Author: Anisha Lakhani
Genre: fiction for adults
Publication: Hyperion Books, August 2008
Format: Hardcover book
Price: $23.95

How this book came to me: I received a pre-publication advance reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. Although I read little fiction for adults the subject intrigued me and I thought it might make light and entertaining summer escape reading.

Schooled is being marketed by the publisher as being in the tradition of The Nanny Diaries but I felt that it more closely resembled The Devil Wears Prada. I liked both of those books but felt that The Nanny Diaries was much more serious and emotional than Devil and Schooled.

This book is about a former wallflower and book mouse, who was highly pressured by her parents to attain top grades in public school. She has never worked, having the luck of having parents who paid her way through the Ivy League college she has just graduated from (after much hard work and again no social life). Her lofty goal is to change the world and open the doors of the love of learning by being a middle school teacher. Neither her family nor friends support her decision to enter the profession of teaching, for the sole reason as the job pays too small of an income. Thrilled to have received a job at one of the elite private schools in Manhattan, this eager teacher soon learns that the private school world is very different than she ever imagined.

It seemed to me the book’s title should have been Tutor or Tutored as the focus of the book’s focus is on the private tutoring that takes place with the wealthy Manhattan private schooled students. Oddly, the private school teachers in this book make 75% less than the entry pay for public school teachers and they can barely pay their rent and eat. Some of the teachers turn to tutoring and at one point the teacher in this book is pulling in $2500 by moonlighting in one day, and even earning $10K a week during Christmas vacation. Lest you worry that the tutors will not earn anything in the summer, don’t worry, they work through the summer tutoring in the Hamptons.

Note that another novel was published in 2007 titled Schooled, by Gordon Korman, in the Young Adult fiction genre. The two identical titles were surprising to me.

Schooled was indeed light reading and a fun escape read, perfect for summer pleasure reading. If done right, the book would also make an entertaining movie.

The best part of the book was that what the public thinks is happening based on surface observations of the elite private schools filled with very intelligent students who actually want to learn and become educated is revealed to be far from the truth. The students are basically slackers whose parents are willing to pay any price to get tutors to do their homework for their students so they earn very good grades and hopefully ensure their admittance to an Ivy League college. The lifestyle of the families and parents is so over the top that it is entertaining, as is the way the private school teachers and administrators play games to keep the parents happy. I know that there is truth to the fact that some or many parent’s ideas of what their children are like is far from reality—I have worked with children and parents enough to have seen that many times over, although in real life it can be a downer to see when reading about it in a novel it was funny. To what extent all of these things are true of Manhattan’s private schools, I do not know, but the book is fun reading! Per Amazon policy I can’t give spoilers so I can’t share much more.

I found the book to be a page-turner and I was dying to know how it wrapped up and what was going to happen in the end.

I’m rating the book four stars because the super low salary was just too ridiculous to believe. In real life this character could have gone an hour east to work at a Fairfield County, Connecticut public school where there are always openings, earning starting salaries of 300% more than this character was offered at that private school. After earning a master’s degree by attending night and/or summer school a public school teacher can jump their salary up quickly, and numerous teachers in my town make over $80K per year, not bad, certainly not necessary to live in a cockroach infested hole of an apartment living off eating Ramon Noodles and having to moonlight to just pay the utilities. Frankly I’m sick of hearing the old ‘teachers get paid nothing’ and ‘people don’t think teaching is a noble job’ spiels.

The author also blames the tutor ‘necessity’ on too much homework and too-little in-class teaching another common accusation made by the public of school teachers resulting in the yet more disrespect for the teaching profession. The attitude taken toward over-emphasizing learning styles and the negative portrayal of learning disabilities was bothersome if I stopped to think about what was really being said. Lastly the main character’s drastic change from being the kind of teacher she wanted to be into making wads of cash and blowing thousands on one pocketbook and other designer clothing week after week virtually overnight, was too abrupt to be believable.

If I stop to think and analyze this book as I’ve done to write this review, I start to dislike it—so I’ll stop. I enjoyed the book because it was a light escape read. If this topic and books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada were up your alley, I think you’ll love this book. I can only hope that if this is made into a movie that the director will do it justice and it will end up a funny movie.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chiggers: Book Review by ChristineMM



Title: Chiggers
Author: Hope Larson
Genre: Graphic Novel, ages 9-12, girl interest content
Publication:
Ginee Seo Books, June 2008
Retail price: $17.99 hardcover, $9.99 paperback

Rating: 2 stars of 5

How this book came to me: I received a review copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. With the growing popularity of graphic novels especially for the Young Adult genre (ages 12-16) I was curious what a graphic novel for ages 9-12 was like as well as what the content of girl-interest, realistic fiction was like, versus the more popular superhero, fantasy genres or manga that seem to be more common in this genre.

Being a graphic novel, this is a story told in comic book style and the general genre is realistic fiction. The artwork is black ink on a white page. The storyline is a girl returning to a co-ed summer camp and dealing with typical social interactions that happen in camp with teenagers who they knew previously and also with new kids they meet.

I felt the storyline was very ho-hum. The girls gossip continuously, they worry what people think about them, who is in, who is out, who is stabbing someone in the back, so on and so forth.

One girl seems to be on psychiatric medication (welcome to the 2000s) and is forced to leave camp when the management finds out she stopped taking her medication and is a risk for the camp. Another girl leaves due to chiggers in her pubic area. Most of the story is about who likes or hates who, hating the new girl and so forth. Since one hated girl is part Cherokee, one wonders if their hatred is race based, but it is not explored. All relationships are all so superficial and fake, even the girl who is the main character is not a true friend to the new girl. She says she’ll write to her friend but immediately says she doesn’t know her address, and that she used her bandana for a bookmark for a while until it disappeared. Superficial! Regarding romance, one girl gets a crush on a boy, dreams of him, fantasizes about being with him, kisses him, and at another point, another girl tries to move in on him.

I really felt that the story stunk. It also didn’t flow well as an overall story, it was choppy because of the way one topic was explored and ended, then picking up a new topic.

It was not entertaining to me and believe me, I find many good juvenile fiction and young adult books entertaining (some more so than fiction books written for adult women).

No deep lessons were learned about friendships, in fact I felt this book justified and tried to show bad social experiences are normal and fine. In other words, negative social interactions take place and are just left there to be accepted, no real negative ramifications come from mistreating people and so forth.

I see nothing of value in having a girl aged 9-12 read this story.

I’d love to see all children love reading and to find pleasure in reading books and I realize comics are typical transitional reading for many readers, girls and boys, from when I was in this age (1970s) to the children of today. I’m not hostile toward or anti-graphic novel or anti-comic, believe me. I just honestly can’t see anything redeeming about a tween-aged girl reading this book. Perhaps after reading this, they may think all books are boring and lack good stories. To me, reading a book and enjoying it should make the child want to find and read more and more books. If a book is boring, the book risks giving reading a bad rap.

Lastly I have a concern that children with various reading challenges find suitable reading material. I know some children with eye tracking problems (a learning disorder) love to read comics and graphic novels as the short sentences and different formatting are easier on their eyes. I am very open to the graphic novel format. However again this story was so lame that I don’t see anything redeeming about reading it, unless one is priming tweenage and teenaged girls only to read the likes of the Gossip Girl series.

I’m giving this 2 stars instead of 5 due to the decent artwork and the bravery of publishing a graphic novel for ages 9-12 with interest for girl readers.

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Annoyed Both by Doctor’s Oversimplification and Stupidity of Laypeople

I wanted a new ophthalmologist after having been rudely treated by the office staff of the practice I had been using for about five years. After having paid cash for my well eye visits since my good health plan didn’t cover annual well visits, I finally had an insurance that paid for that service. The practice tried to tell me they didn’t take the insurance as they didn’t like the reimbursement. After phone wrangling, I got an appointment, but was challenged in the waiting room before my visit began, to fork over cash or else leave. Since the practice had a contract with that insurance carrier to provide these services to their patients and they were bound by contract to accept the reimbursement (regardless of their satisfaction with the payment), after four back and forth exchanges with the office manager and the business department they agreed to see me that day and did bill my insurance. This was quite humiliating as it was all done over about a half hour’s time in earshot of a waiting room full of patients.

My husband recommended his own ophthalmologist, also used by his father, mother, aunt and uncle, so I decided to give him a try.

Two things bothered me about this physician. First, an assistant did my eye exam; that is, finding the prescription that I needed. I have never had an assistant do this before; it has always been the physician. This assistant took nearly 15 minutes to test one of my eyes “one or two, two or three, three or one…” but I kept telling her they were all blurry and none looked better than the other, and said all were guesses. I said this three or four times. I never got a comment. I now wonder if this prescription I have is going to be good or bad.

Second, at the end of my eye exam the doctor said goodbye then said, “Oh! I forgot to discuss contact lens issues. Due to so many eye infections with contact lenses I need to tell you a few things. And read this sheet when you get home.” He handed me a sheet with a list on it.

He then said, “Are you rubbing your contact lenses when you clean them?” I replied, “No. I don’t think I am supposed to.” I immediately began scanning my memory looking for the image of the bottle of AoSept and thinking back to when I read the directions last. I’d been using that solution for fourteen years! He said, “Oh! You must rub them! It is very important. If you don’t rub them, you can get a corneal infection which is very serious.”

Note that he never asked me what cleaning method I used on my lenses, what type of cleaner, what brand or anything. When I got home I looked at my AoSept bottle and the directions clearly say, right on the front panel “No Rub”. I am supposed to rinse them that is it. And that is what I’d been doing for years.



Then he said, “I hope you are not showering with your lenses!” I asked, “Why not?”. He said, “Because you can get an infection, from a fungus or a bacteria that lives in the water. That is, unless your water is filtered.” I was speechless over his lack of asking questions. I just left it alone.

My issue was that he completely assumed not just that I used a type of cleanser that required rubbing the lenses, but also that I had city water without a filter. If he had stopped to ask, I would have explained I have well water, not city water, and that indeed all the water in our home is indeed filtered.

I don’t plan to go back to that ophthalmologist. I have a big problem with doctors that assume things and don’t ask questions. Perhaps well water users are in the minority around here. Perhaps people with full house water filters are not the majority. But it is my reality. That doctor should have been more knowledgeable also about different contact lens cleaning products, asked me which I used, and knew which required rubbing or not rubbing. He should have asked if I had city water or well water, and if our home’s water was filtered or not, before he opened his mouth to give me treatment advice and recommendations.

The long list of contact lens do’s and don’ts contain numerous assumptions and similar mistakes. I threw it in the trash. Instead I am going by the manufacturer’s directions on how to use their product. (I did learn one thing that some stupid people have come up with, they are not dumping out yesterday’s cleaning solution and using all new solution for the next day, but instead are re-using old solution and “topping it off” with a small squirt of new solution to save money, apparently. That was on the list of things not to do and I totally agree with that.

Then the other day FoxNews was on the TV and a physician was on answering health questions. The contact lens care came up and yet more lowest common denominator and majority-use assumptions were stated. I was disgusted. What good is medical advice on TV if it is inaccurate? In his defense, he did mention the “topping off” and reusing old solution thing. So that must be a common thing that numerous stupid people are doing.

It is important for our health and welfare to know things and to get the information from the most original source as possible. Listening to wrong information and bad “one size fits all” advice from people trying to reduce directions and recommendations into quick sound bites is not helpful, in fact it can harm people. Physicians should be careful to not make shortcuts, lest they break their Hippocratic Oath to ‘first do no harm’.

For we laypeople, we need to read directions, know what products we use and what the manufacturer’s say is the right way to use them. We need to follow the directions or we may be risking our health, plain and simple. Those who choose to go through life not following directions and making up their own procedures about things they know nothing about deserve what they get and it is no fault of their eye care professionals or the contact lens cleaning product manufacturer (and most certainly is not lawsuit worthy). The stupid people need to take responsibility for their own stupid actions, plain and simple.

Clear and good communication from doctor to patient is very important. Sadly I’ve seen a steady decline in these two things since the 1980s. I really don’t want to hear that it is due to insurance reimbursements that are lower than the doctors would like. Asking just one or two questions to verify some information before giving advice and information is not time consuming. As a matter of fact, taking shortcuts by saving one sentence is risky because it may result in wrong information being given out which may result in a medical problem that could put the doctor at risk for a malpractice suit.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 135 Has Been Published



The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 135 was published today by Consent of the Governed.

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.

Enjoy!

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Seeing America Through the Eyes of a Foreigner

How could I have vowed to not blog about our foreign exchange student?? What was I thinking?

This experience is so interesting and I have so much I could share. I am considering keeping a journal at least to remember the things that are happening. So if I don’t blog my thoughts, I could at least have them for my own self. But so far we’ve been too busy for me to make notes or keep a journal.

Things are going well with our foreign exchange student. They are not just ‘well’ but fantastic actually!

One of the most fun parts is seeing this Japanese teenager’s reaction to things I take for granted, things that are so normal for us Americans. His reaction to the groceries at the grocery store, for example. The overwhelmed feeling he had when seeing the array of cheeses imported from around the world. The amazement of the live lobsters in the tank. Laughing at the prepared sushi sold in the refrigerated section. The fifteen foot wide display of so many different brands and types of rice. The ice cream cake was a new concept to grasp as were the huge, decorated birthday cakes. The self-checkout aisle at the grocery store. All these things had photos taken of them to record their existence. To sum it up, he said that Stop & Shop was “big, too many choices—confusing and freedom (to choose)”.

Costco was completely overwhelming and confusing and he didn’t like it. I will admit too that on a busy Saturday afternoon the place is a zoo of people and I usually avoid Costco myself. The huge stacks of goods (four tiers high) of goods was unbelievable to him and a photo was taken to document that.

Yesterday my older son asked if American children can go on foreign exchanges. He is asking to go to Australia or Japan. Later he asked if the programs exist for a full year, to which I said I believe so. He amazed me by asking to do that. All I could think was the boy that was attached at my hip, that wanted to be only in my arms as baby, the kid who wanted to co-sleep for years, may go off on a foreign exchange program as a teen? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Everyone in our family is enjoying our new family member. We are supposed to think of him as a family member not a guest or a tourist. If we like him this much after a couple of days I can’t imagine how we may feel at the end of one month. My husband keeps saying he thinks the boy’s parents must be beside themselves with their only child gone half way across the world for this month. I can only imagine that this experience will help this teen grow and mature and I wonder what his parents will think of the young man that returns back home in August.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

T4: Book Notes

In this month's Amazon Vine offering was a slew of books (yippee!). Of the two items I could select, one that I chose was a book of fiction which the publisher states is for ages 10-14. That age category is not the 9-12 of juvenile fiction nor the 12-16 of the young adult genre.

This book is set in Germany under Hitler's regime. The title is T4: a novel and the author is Ann Clare LeZotte.



When the book arrived I was quite surprised. There is something unique about this book that I did not realize when I ordered the book. The excellent and unique thing is that the story is told entirely in verse. The book is a collection of many different poems which progress through the plot (it is not one long poem).

The main character is a thirteen year old girl whose mother was exposed to Rubella while pregnant. She could hear until she was 16 months old but when she got a fever she suddenly became deaf. The story is about Tiergartenstrasse 4, or T4, where Hitler had orders to kill any physically disables or mentally ill person. This girl leaves her family and goes into hiding to try to escape execution.

I have only just begun reading this story. At 108 pages I am sure I will go through it quickly but I have a feeling the emotional impact will be strong.

I think the fact that this is written in a series of poems makes it a unique format that would be interesting and useful to use in the classroom in homeschools, to teach literature and world history. Perhaps this would be a good segue for students to open themselves up to reading poetry, or to at the very least, not hate it. Lastly reluctant readers should not be intimdated by the short poems and it may be one of the first books they read about the Holocaust that they are not intimidated to read, opening the topic up to them possibly for the first time.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

My Blog Visitor #210000 (approximately)

I missed who was the visitor #210000 as I was at an appointment today, so here is the info on visitor #210100. They searched in Google for keyword “mother of many plants” and found their way to my blog entry about an invasive plant, garlic mustard which I blogged May 2006.

The visitor arrived on July 25, 2008 at 1:45pm and they were from Columbia, South Carolina, USA.

Fiction Books That Arrived The Other Day

In one day’s mail this week, I received four books. That is what I call a Good Mail Day.

Just received a review copy book from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program:

A young adult genre novel (for ages 12-16) Cruel Summer by Alyson Noel. I’m curious to see more of what the teenaged girls of 2008 are reading these days. From the back cover:

“Having recently discarded her dorky image—and the best friend that went with it—Colby Cavendish is looking forward to a long hot season of parties, beach BBQs, and, hopefully, more hookups with Levi Boinham, the hottest guy in school.”

It goes on to say her parents make her spend the summer with her crazy aunt in Greece where she meets a “cute Greek local” and has something “more intense” than a summer fling.

Noel wrote Art Geeks and Prom Queens which is another young adult genre book. I enjoyed that book and found it to be not as much fluff and nonsense as other some other popular Young Adult genre books such as the Gossip Girl series. Actually “Art Geeks…” would make a fantastic movie. I never got around to writing a book review on “Art Geeks…” (I meant to but never did).



Received from a swap on PaperBackSwap, a book I criticized the storyline of when it was published in 2005, but had never read: Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. This is young adult genre fiction (ages 12-16) about public high school students (sophomores) who have oral sex parties. Now I can see what is really in this book and I’ll write a book review of it after reading it cover to cover. I was curious to read the book myself but didn’t want to spend my money to buy the book nor did I want the publisher or author to earn income from my purchase of the book. So my getting a used copy from a PBS swap is just the right thing. This book was not available at my local libraries and as a friend said, would I want to promote it by being one more person to check it out anyway? Here is a good customer review of it written by a teenager.



Just received from the Amazon Vine review program, and advance reading copy:

Adult fiction novel Schooled a novel by Anisha Lakhani. Note I do not understand why publishers are publishing books with the same exact title as other recent books. I speak specifically about another book for the young adult genre, Schooled by Gordon Korman, published in 2007. This book is about a new teacher at an elite private school in Manhattan who earns peanuts. When she discovers the high quality homework is being done by paid tutors she joins their ranks, moonlighting to the students, “earning more in an hour than she makes in a day”. This is based on real life experiences as a tutor to privately schooled Manhattanites. I figured this may be an entertaining summer read. Whatever amount is close to reality will be interesting for me to read since I’m a homeschooling mother since I am so often thinking about education and schooling in America.



By the way I had read Schooled by Gordon Korman and reviewed it in a former blog post, here. That book is about a boy raised on a hippie commune who was homeschooled and really a misfit in American culture who is suddenly forced to attend public high school.



A year ago or so I heard rave reviews somewhere for The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff. I wanted to get a copy for my boys to read. The story is set at the Tower of London in 1735. I put it on my PaperBackSwap wish list and it finally did come in and I received it as a swap. Coincidentially this is on the summer reading program for my town’s public school, for my older son’s grade (sixth). I may read this too to see how good it is. Sometimes I like to read juvenile fiction as frankly sometimes it is higher quality and more uplifting than some of the fiction published for adult women. If the book is good I will offer it to my older son to read.



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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Excited to Host a Foreign Exchange Student This Summer

In June an email was posted to a local homeschooling discussion group asking families to open their homes to a Japanese foreign exchange student for four weeks this summer. This is something I always wanted to do back since I was in high school and a number of European exchange students attended my school for a full school year, being hosted by families in my town. I had hoped that some time our family would be able to do it. We had a family meeting to discuss it. We decided to apply. After a phone and in-person interview in our home, we were approved.

As to which child will be our guest, this organization has two rules. One is that the child is the same gender as your ‘host sibling’ and the other is that they are within two or three years of age of each other. Knowing that, we were able to pick from a list with information listing the children’s personality traits and personal interests. My older son felt that all the kids would be a good fit, but it was me that narrowed it down to those who had the closest interests to my children and whose personalities I thought would make a good fit with our family (the profiles included personality traits such as shy, talkative, likes to laugh, and so on).

Later I received a phone call with a stipulation about the boy we selected that I must agree to or else would have to select a different student. I think this was the problem with getting this boy placed in a home, why he was not chosen on the first selection (we entered the process later, in phase two). He is a strict Buddhist and he does not want to see or hear prayers to Jesus Christ, such as before a mealtime. He does not want to be taken to a church or forced to attend Christian worship services. We agreed to this although it will mean that our family will have to alter our typical routine (when in reality we are supposed to take the child into our lives and live as we typically do). My older son was disappointed that he could not take him to his youth group religious education sessions at church on Sundays. I’ll have to juggle around our family’s routine, but that is okay. The organization hosting this is not meant to have these visiting students converted to the host family’s religion, I understand that. However the lack of tolerance of allowing a family to practice their own religion just in the presence of the student is a bit different for me to comprehend because here in America we are so open minded and I’m used to more tolerance. It is one thing to not want to pray but another to not even want to hear the host family praying in his presence. I’m open minded to learn more about the Buddhist lifestyle.

Not knowing much more about the student, we were curious and excited to learn more. After about a week we received a paper application in the mail which contained more information about the student as well as some photographs of him and his family. For some reason this family has not provided us with their email address so that we can communicate with them right now via email (as other families are already doing). I do wish we had that option available.

I tried buying some books about life in Japan (children’s books) but found that Amazon didn’t have many that I wanted in stock and some were obviously out of print, which was quite surprising. (I’ll take a guess. Learning about the Japanese culture is not in state’s educational plans or on the standardized test for NCLB so the books are not in demand.) I then went to two public libraries to borrow some books. I have been reading the books and my children are reading some. Our family has been learning and discussing the differences in our cultures.

My kids and I have been discussing the different things we want to explain about life in America. We have been brainstorming foods to make sure we eat for dinner and places to go, such as our favorite, farm ice cream stand and to the best pizza restaurant around here. After the boy arrives I will try to figure out his preferences and see if he has a preference about attending a baseball game, a Broadway show, seeing sights in New York City or Boston, touring Yale University’s campus, and/or museum trips. Our family does do all those things so these are all in line with our normal lives. I would prefer that we do the things he has an interest in.

Then later we received a letter from the student and his mother. They were worried as the date is fast approaching and the boy had no placement. They are relieved now. I had been told the children speak English but the letter from both his mother and the boy says that the boy speaks very little English. I got a little nervous. We wrote letters back and explained some about what we will be doing while he is here. I included photos of our family to show more of what we are like.

A few days later we received a letter from the boy’s father and two more family photos. This letter again stated the boy speaks little English and he asks me to praise his son on his English speaking abilities. Since the boy says he is shy, I take this to mean that with encouragement he will feel freer to use his English. At this point with all the mentions of his challenges with speaking English I’m getting a little worried.

At an orientation meeting one family mentioned they purchased an electronic translator gadget for about $130. I envisioned something that I could type a sentence into and it would translate. I spent about an hour on the Internet investigating options but from what I figured those devices are little more than electronic dictionaries. They do not translate sentences. Some have phrases that are common in travel, such as for an English speaking person to use to ask a waiter for food when visiting Japan. Perhaps it might say “where is the restroom” when I need it to say “do you need to use the restroom before we leave for a two hour drive”. The expensive ones talk, which is useful for the example I just gave. Some run upwards of $500 but still they don’t translate full sentences. I settled for a good print dictionary instead (about $11) and am also getting a “point and speak” dictionary with images of many things that happen in normal daily life along with the English and Japanese words for the pictured item. That book is published by a United Kingdom company and is not really available in America; the only Internet provider I could find was company in Japan, with slow yet expensive shipping times. I mentioned this to the program coordinator (it is good to say such things) and found out they sell it in a Japanese shop in Manhattan, which she happened to be visiting the next day, so she picked up copies for everyone at the meeting that wanted them.

I was impressed and a bit envious at the meeting when I saw that a small group of homeschool mom friends were all hosting an exchange student. Two people were even sisters. They all live close to each other and plan to spend lots of time together. I knew some of them a little bit through homeschooling circles, they all live over an hour away from me. Some of them did this last year and they said it worked out great as the Japanese teens could talk to each other and it helped them not get lonely. As a matter of fact this group will be doing a camping trip together. I wish I could convince a group of my friends to do this together so we could hang out as a larger group!

I am both excited to expose this child to the American lifestyle and interested to learn more about life in Japan. Of course I want this student to have a realistic and positive opinion of Americans. It feels strange to feel that our family will be a major influence in this student’s opinion of our country and of American people (a bit frightening to be honest). What I will be concentrating on is who we are as people, how we treat each other (with respect), being kind and being just ourselves. I would like to somehow convey that in America we don’t have the same class system especially including that women are NOT second class citizens as they are in Japan. I also want him to see typical American life, daily life routines and how we go about living. To that end I am keeping our schedule as normal with an orthodontist visit for one son, a mammogram for me and a visit to the barber. I am not interested in showing off material wealth or giving him a full American history education.

As to what this visitor can teach us, I expect this to be a learning experience for me, my husband and my children too.

One thing that I have been doing is looking at our entire house and thinking about our lifestyle, trying to see it through new eyes. I noticed clutter that seemed invisible before. I noticed dust on places that have eluded the last cleaning, and I even found a few (small) stray Christmas decorations that somehow never got put away. I am trying to view our home as it may look through the eyes of not just a stranger but someone who will judge the American lifestyle on what this one house looks like and how this household is run. Yikes.

To make a good impression, I have been working to finish up some projects that I’ve procrastinated on, such as ridding the house of piles of papers. I have tidied up the overflowing books on most of the bookshelves and gotten rid of yet more books. I finished the playroom reorganization, because that is where the visitor will sleep. I had to rearrange furniture to make a good spot for the bed to be set up. We got rid of lots of toys that our children outgrew or are no longer using. My older son’s bedroom was entirely reorganized and straightened up as well as deep-cleaned. I’m even working on the clutter in my own bedroom. All the bathrooms are being scrubbed from top to bottom. The last thing on the list will probably not get done by the time he is here. That is to finish moving books around for next year’s homeschooling. Right now the family library has stacks of books on the coffee table about a foot high and the two end tables are stacked. Other books are stacked in neat piles on the floor. Perhaps I can continue that project after he gets here, or perhaps that will have to wait until after he goes.

I hope the student has a good time here and is happy to be here. I would hate for the teen to have a problem and put on a false face just to be polite. From what I read and have been told in the Japanese culture it is a sign of immaturity to show emotion on one’s face or to express emotion verbally. To have a more serious face and to be very polite is more important than being truthful about how one feels. If a person is given a food that tastes terrible to them they also would eat it and would not say anything and would even say they liked it. The focus on being polite to others is more important than having a person’s emotions known to others or one’s internal happiness. This is so opposite of the way American children are and the way many American adults are! I’d like to explain at least to the boy that in America open expression of emotion or opinions is welcomed, even if he cannot do it himself. Apparently it is a sign of maturity to mask one’s feelings, facial expressions and body language.

The last thing I’m worried about is giving my kids some down time by themselves. I’m worried especially for my older son to feel over-taxed by keeping the boy company and ‘being on duty’ all day long. To that end I have prepared a separate room for this boy to use as his bedroom. I am told that sometimes the Japanese exchange students prefer to sleep in more crowded, shared quarters with their host sibling(s). However I think at the end of the day my son needs some quiet time, as he does right now, to read in bed alone and to have lights off when he is ready for it. We’ll see how that pans out.
It is interesting to hear reactions that some people have when they hear that we are going to have a foreign exchange student in our home. Some say they would never open their home or give their time in this way. I don’t have a problem with using my time in this way or sharing our life with a child, my biggest worry is the ability to communicate and if the child’s personality will be compatible with our family.

I can’t help but assume that many positive things will come from this experience. I don’t know what interests or doors this may open for my boys but you never know. Maybe it will result in them being more interested to learn a foreign language, for example, that is the type of thing I am hoping they take away from this, as well of course, as learning about another culture and realizing that people are people and we more alike than different even when living across the world from each other and even living with different cultural beliefs. I hope the core common foundation of kindness and friendship will be established between us.

We are so excited about this opportunity!

Note About Blogging This Experience

For privacy reasons I don’t plan to blog about the details of the hosting experience while it is happening, nor will I share photographs of the Japanese foreign exchange student. I do not plan to mention this hosting experience again until it is over and then MAYBE I will blog some general information or some thoughts that don’t directly relate to the student that we hosted in our home after it is over though. I plan to maintain confidentiality and privacy out of respect for the student. Depending on how it goes my blogging may also occur less often as we prepare for this experience, as well during that time.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 134 Has Been Published



The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 134 was published today by Life on the Road.

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.

Enjoy!

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 133 Has Been Published



The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 133 was published last week by Red Sea School.

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.

Enjoy!

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Parenting Was Simpler Then

Sometimes when I’m frustrated or angry I’ll jot down the issues on paper, or make lists, just to get it out of my system. If it ends up particularly nasty I’ll tear it up but usually I just toss it in the trash. For some reason, this list was kept in a box of paperwork that I just unearthed; it formerly was a paperwork pile that somehow got shoved into a box, put into a closet for later dealing with. So today I’m dealing with it (finally).

I found this so funny that I decided to share it. I am keeping the text as it was originally written other than taking out their names. Comments are added in parenthesis.

Note at the time this was written my younger son was aged 2.5 and my older son was aged 5.5.

-----

January 2003

Annoyances

1. Younger son refusing to change clothes when his are dirty.

2. Younger son insisting on wearing only certain select clothes.

3. Both kids lack of a habit, a schedule for tooth brushing. (I was trying to get them to brush their teeth on their own without my nagging and I was trying to see if my younger son could brush his own teeth as he was asking to do. Looking back, that was a ridiculous expectation.)

4. Kids refusing to eat healthy foods. Limiting themselves to eating a few things over and over, being fussy eaters.

5. Dealing with their food allergies—both dealing with problems and reactions, and trouble finding foods they can eat.

6. Younger son and the winter coat (I have no recollection of what the heck that means)

7. Both kids losing their shoes. Plus refusing to wear certain shoes that do fit.

-----

This was in with papers about homeschooling, making homeschooling plans, and pondering the ideas of habit formation with the Charlotte Mason method. Perhaps I was trying to figure out what habits the kids needed help with or what priorities I was making for my children. I don’t know.

Well reading that list made me laugh. Those complaints were the biggest issues in my life back then. I didn’t realize how great and easy life was back then. Little did I know just a few months later some serious problems would start happening that would really take a lot out of me and would put a strain on our family life. Life is more complicated now. Our family has endured some difficult times, some health scares and some serious life issues. Complaining that my kids won’t wear shoes that we provided for them seems utterly ridiculous to me at this point. The way I see it now, if we buy the shoes they say they want that did fit, and they refuse to wear them then they will have to settle for whatever one pair they insist on wearing is, that is all. I also own shoes that felt good when I tried them on in the store but made my feet sore after wearing them for a day.

Now that I am parenting boys who are now aged 8 and soon to be 11, I can say things are more complicated in the parenting realm also. I have raging testosterone in one kid who is starting puberty. The other is a perfectionist who is very hard on himself and who tends to take everything personally and is always on the defensive.

One example of an incident I had to deal with yesterday that is so different than forgetting to brush ones teeth is that I accidentally touched his leg with my foot yesterday afternoon while we sat at the table to eat lunch, and he quickly and angrily accused me of intentionally kicking him, and before I could even respond he called me a name! That came out of the blue and is the first time he’s ever treated me that way, it was quite shocking to say the least and it was addressed immediately. In this household children do not call their parents derogatory names and the kid had better learn that accidental touches are not intentional and a light touch is not a kick.

I also struggle with issues with things my kids learn from others. We had yet more issues a few days ago with profanity and rude behavior of my (schooled) nephews (their mother is a public school teacher who seems to feel these behaviors are not only acceptable and fine but that they are normal). Both parents allow their children to swear (the kids are aged 8 and 10 right now and this began when the oldest was four years old). It is amazing to me that these same people who worry of socialization of homeschoolers raise their own children to exhibit anti-social and rude behaviors. Their children are rude and swear not just to other kids and other adults but also right to their own parents.

The challenge is that my younger son is still in that developmental stage where he has a hard time understanding that what another family does or lets their children do is not automatically allowed in this family. Grasping that concept is something this kid has trouble with. At first he thought that if some kid said a word it meant that he also could say that word. That didn't work out well as my son was punished for breaking our family rules. That led to discussions of how families are different and we each can set our own rules of behavior and that we cannot control what some other family does even if we are offended by it or don't want to do that in our own family.

He seemed to finally get it that families have different standards, but the next thing that happened was that he sometimes acted like a little police officer, wanting to point out to the other kid that they are doing something wrong or rude and telling them to stop doing it. Of course that was not adhered to appreciated by the other kid and I think may have escalated further animosity between the two kids. This most often happens at public playgrounds or at children's birthday parties, and often with total strangers who we will never see again.

My son told me that when his cousins were swearing the other day he told them he thought it was rude and asked them to stop. I had formerly told him that is the only thing he could do if he felt something must be said, rather than saying "oooh, you broke a rule by saying that word, I'm going to tell on you" or something like that. (I'm not promoting tattling, primarily because trying to get a kid in trouble is not good but also because since some parents allow that behavior in their children, complaining to them about it would fall on deaf ears).

I have told both of my kids that usually what a person must usually settle for is ignoring the bad language and just keeping your mouth shut about it. This is because the one doing the thing we don't do in our family is usually not going to want to hear someone tell them what they are doing is not liked especially if their own parents let it go on or if the parents use that language freely too!

I actively parent my kids. I am not perfect. It is hard to be ‘on’ all the time and hard to have a happy enthusiastic demeanor all the time. I recall I made it a full 2.5 years before ever yelling at my older son. I felt so bad about it that I still remember the entire incident. I have since come to terms with the fact that I am human and imperfect. I do get that bad tone of voice sometimes. I do show my disappointment and frustration instead of masking it and acting like a phoney Barbie doll type of mother or acting like an ostrich and putting my head in the sand instead of dealing with something negative that my children have done. Anger is normal to experience while parenting but we adults have to try to curb our expressions of the anger to avoid acting in rude or abusive ways. I'm trying to treat my kids with respect and I expect the same of them.

I have rules and standards that I’m trying to apply in our family. It is not easy to go against the grain of what other families are doing, especially when my kids see and hear other kids and families doing other things. I try to hold my own such as that I won’t let my kids say certain crude or profane words even if their younger nephews are allowed to say them at family functions in front of adults and younger children. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. However to cave in and be a lazy parent just because it is easier would have bad outcomes for my children, I truly believe. It is not my job to do what is easiest for ME, as a parent I need to be trying to do the right and best thing for my children.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Controversial Article About Homeschooler's Abilities On My Mind

Today I’m dealing with piles of accumulated paper, trashing some and filing the worthwhile paperwork and came across these articles which I was so floored by that I had printed them off to save. I had planned to blog them back then but I don’t recall ever getting around to it, so here I go, with some thoughts about what is on my mind with regard to our family’s homeschooling added in.

The articles I’m speaking about were published in a free e-newsletter called Epistula
(back articles from Epistula can be read here for free), published by Veritas Press, a Christian classical school and supplier of materials for home education. They also run intensive workshops to train parents to become home educator tutors in the method of classical education that they believe is right and best.

Back in December 2006 the Epistula came into my email inbox and I started reading the article “How Much is Enough?” which starts of saying that many readers were angry with Veritas Press for some things said in November 2006 feature article. I had not recalled that article so I stopped reading and checked my email inbox and found I’d never read the original article, so I backtracked and re-started there.


"Musings From a Mom” by Deirdre Salmon, published in the November 2006 Epistula is one mother’s testimony about her experience with homeschooling before and after the influence of Veritas Press in her life. She explains some changes she made to put her family more in line with higher academic standards and processes and procedures as recommended by Veritas Press.

For example Salmon states that it is not possible to arrive at a certain goal by homeschooling just in the mornings, as many homeschoolers do and as she was doing. Salmon had been listening to MP3 downloaded lectures from a former Veritas Press teacher training session because she could not afford to attend the training sessions in person. Salmon reworked their family schedule and they homeschool with a more hands on tutor style, doing math for 90 minutes (!), starting the lessons at 7:30am and ending at 4:30pm, even if the lessons are not completed by that time (that seems like a very long day to me).

I also thought then that the Salmon family was choosing to do a ton of academics at home and that leaves not much time for the different and sometimes very worthy type of outside classes and events that homeschoolers can take advantage of that are taught outside the home between the hours of 7:30am and 4:30pm (i.e. special nature classes for homeschoolers, experiential science programs and the like).

Some things that Salmon said upset some readers, mostly the part where it was said that Laurie Detweiler said in one recorded lecture that many homeschooling families who seek to enroll into Veritas Press’s oversight program (I believe this is the one they reference, it is called Scholars Online) are behind in Veritas Press’s eyes, when their parents had thought their children were either on grade level or even several grades ahead! The imbalance of reality and perception was discussed. (That got me to wondering if my kids really are doing as well as I think they are in some subjects however past experience with standardized testing revealed so many flaws in the system that even good scores are hard to trust as accurate.) After Salmon’s article was published, Veritas Press received enough questions and complaints to inspire a second article.

The follow-up article is “How Much is Enough?” by Martin Detweiler and was published in the December 2006 Epistula. In this article he tries to explain that indeed some homeschoolers are behind or not performing at a level in line with their parent’s opinions and assessments. One thing made apparent is that they feel it is important that Christians raise children to be Christians and giving a Christian education is important. I think the gist of his message is it is better to try to do the right thing well and even if it fails, it is better than to not even have tried to teach to a high standard. The last paragraph sums it up:

"It is not our purpose to send you on a guilt trip. However, it is our clear and express purpose to recognize that the educational standards of today are quite slack when weighed in the balance of history and student capability. And we want you to join us in doing something about it to the glory of God."


This brings up the issue of what expectations we should have, how high should our expectations be? If we think we are homeschooling with a goal in mind, are we really getting there? Are we putting in the time and effort that it truly takes to get to that place?

I have been asking myself if I have been putting in enough time, energy and enthusiasm into home educating my children. I know that this last year was rough, very rough on a personal level, for our family. We had three deaths to mourn, a job change and some other issues including finding some learning disabilities in one son. Processing and dealing with serious matters take mental energy and can drain enthusiasm in all people and for me that also impacted our homeschooling experience Additionally, when children deal with large stressful events such as more than grandparent dying in six months time, it impacts their life too. I’m not making excuses, I am addressing reality. If I know I slacked on teaching a subject because I was worn down and processing a death in the family then I don't have much to change for next year other than to actually follow-through and do the plans that I make for our family.

What I’m trying to do, and why I’m thinking about all of this, is that I am taking stock of what is happening here, how we’ve met my homeschooling goals for the year we just wrapped up, how closely we followed our plans, and what this all means for the 2008-2009 school year. My children have not met all of my high standards, I know that already. I also wonder if some of my standards are lower than they should be.

Lastly, I am trying to be very frank with myself asking what part I personally played in contributing to my children not arriving at all the destinations I had planned for them. I want to dig in and find answers so I can make whatever changes must happen for this upcoming academic year. I can share that so far I realize I need to free up more of my time and to make sure I am disciplined with the free time and use it in the right ways. Last month, I let go of two volunteer positions, one in the homeschooling community and one at church. I am not going to volunteer to do a project that I’ve done for the last four years, for the local homeschooling community. I have quit off of some email discussion groups so that I'm spending less time at the computer having interesting conversations. I have also turned down some outside classes and events for my children that seem so wonderful! I feel like all I’ve been saying is "no", “no thank you” or "sorry, I can't" lately. These changes are being made because I feel the need to stay home more to buckle down and get done what was planned to get done here at home for homeschooling lessons as well as general house and yard upkeep.

Those are some things on my mind this month. I’d like to figure this all out and wrap it up soon so I can just relax and enjoy the rest of the summer without all of this weighing on my mind. I want to be prepared to jump in with both feet after Labor Day with the next homeschooling year all planned out ahead of us. I want to have high expectations yet attainable and reasonable goals for my children.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dr. Phil Show on Child Abductions from School

While doing a paper filing project I watched/listened to the July 11, 2008 Dr. Phil show about child abductions. The show focused entirely on young children abducted from their schools. In all cases despite the schools having policies and protocols in place regarding who can pick children up, the students on the show were abducted by strangers at school. In each case school employees chose to not follow school procedures and school rules and let the children leave the school with the adult abductor.

The worst part in my opinion was one story where a paraprofessional (aka teacher’s aide) released a child to a man without following the school’s protocol. Dr. Phil asked the school staff why she still had her job there and they said she is a good employee with 20 years of experience. The staff were praising her over and over! Whatever happened to sometimes one strike and you are out as sometimes happens when working in the private sector?

In one case the child was abducted and the school did not tell the parents until after the child was returned to the school. The police were not phoned until after. It took the parents two days to get the full story out of the school administration, the parents said. The parents said the staff was not even telling them everything and they pressed and pressed for more information.

In another story the girl was abducted and taken away in a car. She still refuses to speak about what happened in the car and cries about it. Dr. Phil offered the girl and family free counseling to help unravel this and to help heal the child. The girl had regressed in her behavior, and become fearful of all strangers and was afraid to leave her mother.

These stories broke my heart. There is no reason at all that simple safety protocols which were in place were ignored by staff and the children were taken right from school.

In one story the parents of the accused abductor shared that this man is not the son they know and said he has two mental health diagnoses and is acting totally different than he used to. That brings up ethical questions about justice and our criminal justice system that are not easy to think about or find good solutions to.

Here is a link to the episode titled “Abducted From School”. There is video footage there and some show notes also.

Dr. Phil has a webpage about how parents can help prepare their children ahead of time so they do not become victims of abduction.

I highly recommend that all parents read the book “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin de Becker. I blogged a bit about this great book in this blog post of mine from March 2006.

I’m putting this on my list of another reason I’m happy my kids are not in school.



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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back to the Real World

I have just emerged from Boy Scout resident camp where I spent seven days and six nights volunteering, helping to oversee over 35 Scouts, eight of whom were spending their first time away from home at a camp. (One even said this is the first time in his entire life he's gone seven days without watching a screen of some kind. For the record he survived.)

What happens at camp stays at camp and for confidentiality reasons I can't blog the many stories, no matter how tempting or how great they are to tell. I'll say I have enough material for at least three comedy movies or books. Boy Scout camp is a wealth of raw material for writers or screen play writers, I now know.

I am still in the bubble of living without electricity and living in the woods.

I had set some blog posts to automatically publish while I was camping so that is why my blog posts were published earlier this week.

I had time to think about some big things while away. Some decisions were made. Some shifts in priorities are being made right now. I might share those on the blog in the future.

I need to readjust to my normal life and get on with the next thing on the schedule. I'm going to be busy for the next two weeks, away from the computer for the most part, so my blogging may be spotty.

I hope all of my blog readers are having a fantastic summer so far!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Proof That Habits Are Teachable

Here is a light-hearted article about former retail clothing salespeople who were taught and forced to fold clothing a certain way and how that carries over into their personal lives, even twenty years later.

I take this as proof that habits can be taught and that they can remain for years. Skills taught which may seem silly or annoying at first (meticulously folding clothes at work) can also turn into preferences and carry over into people's personal lives.

Confession: I reshelve misplaced books at the library and remove books when I find them in wrong places at bookstores.

Article Title: Excuse Me, Do You Work Here? No, I Just Need to Fold Clothes
Thousands of Neat Freaks Picked Up The Habit as Clerks at the Gap

By JENNIFER SARANOW
Publication date: July 9, 2008; Page A1
Published in: The Wall Street Journal

One foundation of the Charlotte Mason method of home education is the formation of habits so I am filing this under those labels too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Parents Should Watch "Middle School Confessions"

I have so much to say and not enough time to say it.

If you have access to HBO Family channel and you are a parent or teacher please watch "Middle School Confessions", a documentary released in January 2002 which is re-running this month.



My heart broke for the victim-kids in this documentary as well worrying about and wondering how the kids who chose certain behaviors (sexual activity, drinking, smoking, skipping school) ended up faring in life (so far). I would like a 2008 update to hear how they are 6-7 years after they were interviewed. That would put most of the kids at age 19-22 today.

See the above link for show infomation, the schedule of air times, and a parent guide.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vampire Romances for Teen Girls

For a peek into what some teen girls are reading, here is an op-ed column is the young adult book series “The Twilight Saga”.

Title: A Virginal Cloth Girl
Author: Gail Collins
Published on: 7/12/08
Published by: The New York Times


Here is the part I liked which also speaks to what is happening in the college scene.

“Only a vampire, ladies,” said Jessica Valenti, the author of “Full Frontal Feminism.” She worries that in the real world, young men are spending so much time watching pornography on the Internet that they will never be satisfied with normal women and normal relationships.

This sure sounds like trouble to me: A generation of guys who will settle for nothing less than a porn star meets a generation of women who expect their boyfriend to crawl through their bedroom window at night and just nuzzle gently until they fall asleep.

It’s no wonder that Valenti sees today’s young women being pulled between complete chastity and utter sluttiness. Good girl or “Gossip Girl?” Courtney Martin, the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” spends a lot of time on college campuses and says students seem to be torn between anonymous sex and monogamy — “either hooking up with no expectations or you’re basically married. You stay home and watch movies.”


Oddly, the author is a Mormon mother. Racy books about vampires from a Mormon mother?

I don’t get the appeal of this. Sorry. I will confess when I was a teen my favorite author was Stephen King and I loved his horror writings. However I did not like romance books and I certainly did not like romance mixed with vampires or other horror type content.

How I heard of this: A children’s book loving, bookworm, homeschool mom friend emailed me this link after hearing it discussed on Glenn Beck’s program. She said she doesn’t get it either.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Huge Used Curriculum Sale in Massachusetts July 19, 2008

July 19, 2008 will be the date of the gigantic used homeschooling curriculum and book sale run by MassHope, held in Southbridge, Massachusetts.

For Connecticut homeschoolers take note this is just over the Connecticut/Massachusetts border.

I have been to three of these sales in the past and they have been great! Bargains abound. While at these sales I've met homeschool moms from Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and of course, Massachusetts.

There is a large area of free items too.

If you go I advise that you bring a shopping list with you, with details. For example if you need a teacher's manual, write down the edition you need (second revised edition or whatever it is).

Another tip is to prioritize your list and go look for the most important things first, before they are snapped up by someone else.

Don't forget to look at the educational games, kits and other fun things.

Note also in the pleasure reading section there are books that my family considers educational and part of our 'curriculum' (aka living books).

The volunteers work very hard to put this sale on. I am grateful for it. Unfortunately this year I cannot attend due to a scheduling conflict.

For more information check this entry on the MassHope site:

Used Curriculum Sale - July 19, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Carnival of Education Week 179 Published

On July 9, the 179th Carnival of Education was published at Scheiss Weekly. Check it out.

Fish or Cut Bait Before It's Too Late

I have been dealing with books today. Reorganizing, moving, culling, and prioritizing.

Realization: I think we own too many books.

I have been dealing with books that we were too busy to read when they were best for the ages of my children back then. It is too late for those books now. There is no sense holding on to them any longer.

I have been dealing with books that I think we own too many of on that topic. Since we haven't read all of them, or studied certain topics yet, I don't know enough to help me discern which of them I could get rid of without having read or used them to figure out which were great, good or poor. It is time to use the ones we have, decide which are extraneous and get rid of however many we'll probably never use again.

My boys seem to be growing up fast all of a sudden. I saved books for my younger son to use but my younger son does not always like reading the same books his older brother read. You see, my older son had interests that my younger son never had and my younger son has interests that my older son never had.

I'm thinking again of how homeschooling mothers often over-buy on topics they are worried about teaching. I see that I've over-bought on some topics. I will confess I was worried about not covering those topics thoroughly enough. I didn't know enough about the topic to figure out what amount of information is "good enough" for an elementary grade student. I need to stop putting off teaching those topics and just teach them, get it over with and cull the books. Period. I think that is part of my perfectionism. Out of a fear of not studying a topic deeply enough I procrastinate and risk not teaching the topic at all.

The older my kids get the more I realize that I can't keep procrastinating on homeschooling certain topics that I thought we'd have studied by now.

I have been working to map out our plan for the 2008-2009 school year. This includes adaptations and accommodations for my older son's two newly diagnosed learning disabilities. To this end I have cut down on the number of outside classes and events my children will participate in. I am cutting back on my own personal committments including reducing the volunteer work I do. I am cutting back on helping and networking with my local homeschooling community. Something has to give to provide me with more time and energy for home educating my children and those reductions are how I will attempt to remedy the situation.

I am getting that urge to buckle down, get to work, and fill some buckets. That is not in line with 'light a fire not fill a bucket' but that is the feeling I have today and I thought I'd share it.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Blogging Pause

Update: Three days of no phone and no Internet.

Wow that seemed like an eternity. I realized just how much I rely on the Internet for information and practical daily living necessities (not just blogging, not just email). This is not to mention the fact that without phone service the security alarm in our home cannot call out to the Police if necessary, or that I can't call 911 if we have an emergency. I also had to delay ordering some books, some homeschooling curriculum, and some vitamins because I had no way to place the order. The more we come to rely on the Internet the more necessary it is for the service providers to provide timely service calls and to maintain their equipment. Now would be a good time to consider providing night shifts for maintenance workers, which would jive better with many American families' work schedules (to be able to get inside their homes) AND would give more 'man hours' of available maintenance workers to fix the issues (so we don't have to wait three days for a service call).

Blogging will resume shortly.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 132 Has Been Published



The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 132 was published this week by The Daily Planet.

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.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Hooray! New Art Journal Book is Out!

I'm doing a happy dance after UPS visited with a delivery of "1000 Artist Journal Pages: personal pages and inspiration" by Dawn DeVries Sokol. This book was just published this month by Quarry Books.



If you make Amazon purchases and link through from my blog I thank you. That revenue partially paid for this book.

All I can say about this right now is that the shape is square, it is paperback with glossy pages, almost like a coffee table book. It is laid out just like "1000 Artist Trading Cards" with the scans on the page with a numerical reference and the name of the artist. No other text clutters the pages.

I can't wait to sit down and look through and study the pages of other people's art journals!

Teachers Reporting Suspected Racism in Preschoolers

This story from the United Kingdom is so bizarre that readers may doubt it is real.

The story is about a government funded program which encourages teachers of preschool students to be reported to 'the council' if they use certain words (some clearly racist, some more vague) or even saying "yuck" after eating a spicy food.

No where in the article does it say what will happen to the child (or family) based on any report that is made.

I believe this news story because this fits right in with much of the other nonsense happening in American public schools as outlined in the new book "From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth About America's Public Schools".

Read my first thoughts on "From Crayons..." here.

I'm almost finished with the book then I will do a full book review here on my blog and will submit it as a customer review to Amazon also (that is where I bought the book after all).

Article Title: Toddlers who dislike spicy food 'racist'
By Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 9:29AM BST July 8, 2008
Published at: Telegraph UK

Monday, July 07, 2008

Brothers Enjoying Each Other's Company


I was happy to capture this typical scene of my two sons talking and laughing together while eating lunch. We were having a picnic while at a state park for a family competition in Connecticut. Instead of sitting right next to my husband and I on the grass, our kids wanted to sit by the trunk of this huge tree which they thought was a cool tree.

My children aren't perfect and my they do bicker and have their differences sometimes, which I consider normal sibling behavior although rudeness and hitting are not things that our family tolerates (we address it when it happens). My boys are close friends who do get along nearly most of the time. I think that thanks to our homeschooling lifestyle with them being together more often than schooled children-siblings are forces them to be more tolerant of each other and to work more on getting along lest more of their time be spent in disharmony, and who wants that?

My kids surely get along better than I ever did with my brother!

I'm considering this proof of positive socialization experiences that homeschooled children experience. By that I mean that a good way to learn good interpersonal skills and good communication skills is to start with the family. Learning respect and how to communicate clearly is something that can and should be taught in the home and should be demonstrated to all family members. If a person can maintain family harmony and good relations with immediate family then those skills should translate over to other interpersonal relationships outside of the family--hopefully at these young ages and also later on in life.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in June 2008 at Harkness Memorial State Park in Watertown, Connecticut.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

New Parenting Related Reality Show: The Baby Borrowers

A friend phoned to say I must watch this new show: The Baby Borrowers.

Teens who think they want babies right now are hooked up with babies and later, toddlers to parent temporarily to see what parenting is like 'in real life'.

It airs Wednesday nights on NBC. I'm setting my TiVo to record it.

I am sure this will teach teens a bit of real life. One problem in our society that so much revolves around the life of each individual (child/teen) that there is not much family involvement. Many moms are busy working or have so few children that by the time a child is a teen they are not seeing babies and what real life living with small babies and children is like. Some kids so deprived of attention and love (from their parents) due to being raised in schools and in after school programs and enriching activity classes begin to crave a baby to have unconditional love in their lives. It is quite sad. That notion has been shown on shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil over and over. And look at what is happening in Gloucester. (I just noticed by doing a google search for an update on this story that I blogged it before some of the major media put their stories online. Wow!)

Socialization and Homeschooling Article

Here is a good article about socialization in schools and socialiation among homeschoolers.

Homeschooling's socialization snobs by Patrice Lewis

I found this through Google News Alert for keyword homeschooling.

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On Gratitude, Appreciation and Perfectionism

An exellent blog post, a must read:

Is it worthy? at Seth's Blog by Seth Godin

One thing that comes to mind is that perfectionism can hold us back from even trying things.

Hat Tip: Trust the Children

Children’s Books about the Civil War We’re Reading

Our Boy Scout and family trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania last week resulted in me buying more books and teaching aids.

First I’ll share a resource that a friend gave us before we left on our trip. This is a computer program that has information about Gettysburg. There is a 56 page book and a CD audio tour to use for an auto tour of Gettysburg. You play the CD in your car’s stereo system and listen to the narration of the historian and storyteller Wayne Motts while you drive around the Gettysburg site. You can stop and start the CD as needed and as directed, in order to stop and get out to explore the area by foot or to look at monuments up close. It is called “The Gettysburg Expedition Guide” (full retail $34.95) and is a production of TravelBrains and The History Channel. Our family did this auto tour and it was fantastic! Both my husband and I were blown away by the high quality of this product.



We purchased these children’s books at the Gettysburg National Military Park gift shop:

My boys are reading this to themselves:

Ghosts of the Civil War by Cheryl Harness (picture book with tons of detail). My boys love the books written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness.



These four books are graphic books (comic style) books that my sons are so drawn to. They have been bickering over who gets to read each volume first. I paid $6.99 each for these, there is no full retail price printed on the book. These are part of the "Historical Comics" series published by Marvel comics.

Epic Battles of the Civil War Volume 1: First Bull Run
ISBN 1892234009



Epic Battles of the Civil War Volume 2: Shiloh
ISBN 1892234017



Epic Battles of the Civil War Volume 3: Antietam

ISBN 1892234025



Epic Battles of the Civil War Volume 4: Gettysburg
ISBN 1892234033



This is a reference with good illustrations it is not a plain or boring timeline.

Timeline Civil War From Divided to United: Unfold five feet of facts!
ISBN 1602140226, full retail $6.95



I bought these at a nearby ‘odd lots’ discount store (called Ollie’s). The incentive to buy these was the deeply discounted prices.

The Civil War: Over 100 questions and answers to things you want to know by Jason Hook
(I paid 99 cents for this one.)
ISBN 075259155x



Poetry of the Civil War edited by John Boyes
(I paid $1.99 for this book. I figure it is a way to work poetry into my boys homeschooling.)
ISBN 9780517228777



We own additional books on the Civil War which were purchased long before planning this trip. I’ll save sharing those for another time. I saw some of those for sale at the Gettysburg gift shop too.

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