Monday, May 31, 2010

Another Embedded Tick Photo

Honestly this tick was too small for me to examine to see if it is a deer tick or a wood tick. Certainly it could be a nymph of either.

(Double click to enlarge, then you can see the tiny legs! It's definately not a spot of dirt!)

This was found at 5 p.m. after spending six hours in the woods in Connecticut in late May 2010. I photographed this to show the size, see the Q-Tip for scale reference. On a pale skinned person this is easy to spot if someone else is doing the tick check. This one was on my son's back in a spot he could not see. He did not feel this one (sometimes they itch soon after embedding). This was so small this was the first time the mouthpart stayed in place after I removed the body. It was hard to grasp it completely. I got it out on the third attempt with the tweezers.

A point I want to make with this size is can you see how hard it would be to do tick checks on the scalp (unless the person is bald) and also tick checks on one's own self?

Spring 2010 seems to be a bad year for ticks in Connecticut. We had a lot of early rain, with three floods before May 1.

Also on this day, at 9am my son's friend spotted a hugely engorged tiny tick behind my son's earlobe. I'd not noticed as when he woke up he put on a baseball cap and wore it until we arrived at our destination, he removed the hat and walked away from me to talk to his friends. That tick, which I did not photograph, was teeny-tiny and I could not even see the legs or the head. That body was dark black not red like deer ticks. It came off easily. That must have gotten onto him last night while at lacrosse practice because other than that, he was indoors, as it was 96 degrees outside with high humidity, and sunny. I note he took a long shower after that practice which did not get rid of the tick.

(People say to shower after going outdoors but in my experience this does not dislodge ticks nor help a person find a tiny un-engorged tick on their body. Un-engorged ticks lie flat and are not easy to feel if you touch them. Engorged ticks are easier to find by touch in and out of the shower such as if have an itch and scratch it and feel a bump or feel a bump on the scalp while shampooing.)

And on the same day, in mid-day while working in the woods, this son also had an itch on his back and asked his teacher to look at it. (Our new family policy is when we have an itch we look to see if it's a tick and if we can't see the area we ask someone to look at it for us.) Indeed it was an embedded deer tick which was removed immediately by the teacher.

(Yes he had three ticks embedded in one day.)
This poor kid also had a fully engorged deer tick on him two days ago. It was on his flank near where the waistline is, so when he felt the itch when he woke up in the morning, he was able to turn and look and saw it. That one must have been from playing outdoors on the grass the day before and it gorged on his blood overnight as he slept. It was so engorged when I attempted to remove it, it popped and spurted his blood out at me and onto his skin and the tick regurgitated fluids into my son's body. This was evident when a dark purple area like a little hematoma or blood blister appeared at the site. I had never had that happen before. I have read if that tick is infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, when that happens, it puts the bacteria right into their body. (Insert explicative here.)

It's not a good week for avoiding ticks this week and it's also not a good week for me and removing ticks with tweezers.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Newest Sir Ken Robinson TED Video

In May 2010 Sir Ken Robinson has a new TED video uploaded for free viewing. I found it worth the 17 minutes it took to watch if only for the story about the firefighter.

From the TED site:

About this video: "In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish."

Look here's the deal with what I think of this video and Sir Ken Robinson. These videos are not perfect but they serve a purpose. They are free and fast and easy to consume. They get ideas to viewers who may not otherwise be exposed to them.

The agriculture metaphor is not explained well in this video but at least Robinson addressed the linear path issue. If my memory serves me correctly this was explained better in his book The Element.

John Taylor Gatto and John Holt and others say more about education reform, and say it in a better way, but not everyone wants to take the time to read their books. So here is some watered down inspiration from Sir Ken Robinson.

I gushed over Robinson's book The Element in my book review. Looking back, I know this was not new information. I feel it was a combination of good things said by others but said in a new way all in one package that was easy to read and more accessible than some other books that are written on a higher level. It also took things I'd read or heard in multiple circles about different topics and rolled it together into one book that would appeal to a wider audience (than would normally read all those seperate books).

The new book DIY U which I am half way through reading has some good points about life not being linear and the need to stop pushing every child on one linear path marching toward a college degree.

The issue here is that most Americans and most teachers and school-workers of all sorts believe the right way to the American Dream is progressive education. That includes high school degrees for all and college degrees sought right after high school for as many as possible if not all (but they know that 100% is too lofty of a goal). They believe that only if a child has access to a decent public school system, no matter what their genes or income level of the parents or who their parents are (how educated they are or whatever else may impact their children's lives), or their ethnicity or whether they were born in another country and have English as a second language, (or something else I didn't mention), they all have an equal chance for improving themselves if only they try hard enough. If the student flounders, some blame the school system as failing the child. Some blame the politicians for not spending enough money on that school system. Some blame the citizens for not wanting to pay more in taxes or blame (fill in the blank with something I left off the list).

No one wants to say "some kids just can handle learning what it takes to get into that top college or doing what it takes to graduate with that degree". To say that would be a terrible thing, they think. This topic was discussed by Charles Murray in Real Education.

Those with that view of equal opportunity, are horrified at the idea of suggesting another path for kids for education or careers, such as that teacher who tried to discourage the boy from becoming a firefighter. People like that sometimes accuse anyone that suggests a kid not seek a liberal arts college degree as being an oppressor who is trying to keep down or push down the kids to hold bad jobs, some trapped there (they accuse) due to their ethnicity or their parent's income levels.

There has to be a better way to run the public school system. For over a hundred years education reform has been a movement in America. (I own a book dated 1905 which decries the falling quality of education and calls for reform and improvement.) The more we learn about learning styles, the way the brain works, learning disabilities and learning differences, it seems education should expand and widen to have other options for kids. I don't mean doing a zillion different things inside one classroom with one teacher and a few teacher's aides, but maybe specialized schools.

We need more magnet schools, geared toward helping each child with the most customized education by dividing them into sub-groups with the goal of making the most out of each child -- not to divide them up to push some down -- but to help them along their unique path.

I don't have the answer for educational 'transformation' as Sir Ken Robinson calls for. I think it is complex and I don't think most people including teachers, school administrators, teachers unions, and politicians want to hear options let alone put some into action. Some are afraid of the smallest of changes and they spent time and energy debating over small changes when what is probably needed is something much more out of the box and experimental.

This call for education reform was going on about the schools when I was born and went through them. In the meantime, I have birthed these two children and you can call me an elitist if you want, but I've taken charge of homeschooling them. My husband and I want to both keep them away from the worst parts of public school, things that might happen, and we want to provide them with unique opportunities that public school cannot at present provide them with. The bottom line is we began homeschooling to provide a customized education for our children with the idea that anything customized and unique is better than the 'one size fits all' option that our family's tax dollars help fund.

So here's how we work it out: we pay our taxes, the government spends the money how they choose. We spend yet more of our money home educating our children without reimbursement from anyone (no, there is no voucher system for rebates if we don't elect to use public schools). We'll also accept less income and live more modestly due to the fact that I can't work at my career while homeschooling my kids. That's what we're willing to do in order to home educate our children.

One more thing: I'm elated that Sir Ken Robinson mentioned homeschooling in this video. I believe this is the first time he's ever mentioned it. He says something like "if it's what the child wants", well most kids are too young to know enough to make that decision when the homeschool journey starts but I'd argue that most kids didn't want to leave their mother at age 2 or 3 when preschool starts for the schooled kids...

When I met Robinson at his author lecture for The Element he asked me, "What do you do?" and my response was "I homeschool my children". He asked something like, "Do you enjoy that?" and I said, "Yes, I love it!" I didn't want to hog his time as there was a long line behind me so I didn't expand on that statement. I thought later that I could have said a lot of other things about what I "do" which really make me the person that I am, including reading, writing, blogging, and the myriad of things I create (art, baking, cooking, gardening, photography), and my volunteer work or any number of other things. It's funny that my mind chose to explain my job/career to answer that question (like everybody else was).

Later when reading the book, my reply gave me pause as we were all doing what he said in the book, defining ourselves by our day job when who we are and what energizes us and makes us feel fulfilled is often the stuff we do after our day jobs are over. The fact is that only a minority of people have day jobs that fulfill them and are their 'calling' or uses their creative energy. People work for pay because they need money to survive. I'm lucky to have a husband whose income can provide for our family so I have the luxury of not working at a job. However compared to some of my neighbors we live more modestly due to my decision to not work full time in my career field.

What do you "do"? Does it fulfill you? Are you seeking higher education or self-education?

What educational path are you helping your children along?

Do you think our education system is in need of reform or transformation?

Do you think American society is ready for out-of-the-box thinking that such a transformation would require?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Quotes Differentiating Giftedness vs. Asperger's

I'm referencing "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger's, Depression and Other Disorders" by James T Webb Phd et al.

This is a fantastic book. I respect the tone and appreciate the outlook of James T. Webb PhD. His other book "A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children" is the best book on giftedness I've ever read. This second book "Misdiagnosis" is helpful to sort out whether a gifted child or adult's traits are just giftedness or are a disorder. The book lays out what giftedness looks like compared to the clinical diagnosis and how giftedness is sometimes misdiagnosed as the disorder.

When comparing the symptoms and behaviors of giftedness vs. the disorder it is very clear (even me as a layperson) can see when the situation is "just giftedness". It the author's opinion that health care professionals who are uneduated on giftedness may go straight to a diagnosis (a misdiagnosis) of a psychiatric condition or Asperger's, and the child may have treatments and therapies and sometimes prescription medications trying to fix something that is not a disorder at all, it's "just" giftedness.

A few years ago, two mothers have told me they thought my older son had Asperger's. I can state equivocally that my son does NOT have Asperger's Syndrome, backed up with information in this book "Misdiagnosis". My son has many traits of giftedness as laid out by James T. Webb PhD in this book and in the "Parent's Guide". I'm not interested in having a debate over whether other people think that son of mine is gifted or not. I am just explaining why and how I came to read this "Misdiagnosis" book. I read the "Misdiagnosis" book first but realized after reading both the ideal order would be to first read the "Parent's Guide" then "Misdiagnosis" second (if you feel you have a need to read that).

Both of these books are published by Great Potential Press whose focus is on giftedness in children and adults. If you have trouble locating copies of these excellent books check the publisher's website. They sell directly to consumers, parents, teachers and schools from their website and through a print catalog.

In relation to my last post asking about kid's behaviors and possible Asperger's Syndome, I am sharing these quotes.

You may read portions of this books for free on GoogleBooks to get a sense for the tone and content. I only realized this was on the Internet after taking the time to find and type out the quotes in this blog post. I will leave my quotes here as they speak to the parts that I felt were applicable to my general concerns and what was discussed in my last blog post. I have added italics for emphasis to show the parts that were most important to speak to my point.

"As with autism, persons with Asperger's Disorder have extreme difficulties with interpersonal relations; they lack empathy and the ability to read and interpret social cues and nuances. (footnote 2) They strongly prefer routine and structure, and they are usually fascinated with rituals, sometimes to the point of apparent obsessions or compulsions, (footnote 3) which can also affect interpersonal relationships. Their interests are often esoteric and even unappealing to most of us. For example, one child with Asperger's Disorder was obsessed with deep fat fryers. He insisted on visiting the kitchens of fast food restaurants to see which model they used. He knew the history of each manufactureer and the geographic locations of their plants. Another child was equally obsessed with washing machines. Such passions are qualitatively different from those in a bright child who is a Dungeons and Dragons "addict" or who lives for sci-fi novels or magic cards. (sic) These people are likely to find a community of like-minded friends. The child obsessed with fryers seldom finds anyone who shares his enthusiasm." (page 94)

Generalization is discussed on page 93-94. Learning can be fact memorization based but they cannot apply it in a meaningful or creative way without direct assistance. Statements are accepted in a literal sense and metaphors confuse them. The example is given "in my other life..." cannot be understood.
"Their concreteness of thought makes them appear different, and it is perhaps this component that also makes them appear to lack empathy." (page 94)

"A child's ability and capacity for empathy and consideration of others are key areas for evaluation to establish the Asperger's diagnosis, as opposed to a child who simply has poor social relationship skills. In school, the poor social awareness of children with Asperger's Disorder handicaps the development of relationships with peers, and they are often seen as odd or different." (page 96)

NOTE: The author's always address that dual diagnosis can occur so a person can be both gifted and have Asperger's Disorder. However in this section the authors are trying to differentiate between "just" a gifted child and a child with Asperger's.

Differentiating Characteristics section (starts on page 100)

"True Asperger's Disorder children lack empathy and will continue to demonstrate social ineptness with a wide range of peers. Children who incorrectly carry this diagnosis are quite socially facile with certain sets of peers and enjoy satisfying social interactions.

The second key is to examine the child's insight regarding how others see her and her behaviors. Gifted children typically have good intellectual insight into social situations and will know how others see them; children with Asperger's Disorder do not (Neihart, 2000). In general, gifted children without Asperger's Disorder are at least aware ofa nd often distressed by, their inability to fit in socially. Even an introverted gifted child who has found one friend, though content socially, will be intellectually aware that she is different from most age peers, even if it does not distress her.

Children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder tend to talk about their interests in a pedantic, monotonous voice. Such children cannot explain why they have their abiding love for deep fat fryers or washing machines, nor can they draw people into their fascination by their descriptions. In contrast, a gifted child's interests may be boring to many (or even most) adults, but they will be of interest to some subculture, such as collectors of Star Wars memorabilia. In those situations, the Asperger's diagnosis is less probably. In addition, if the child can convey to others some of the joy that he finds in his hobby and spontaneously seeks to share it with others, then there is a decreased likelihood that an Asperger's Disorder diagnosis is appropriate." (pages 100-101)
On page 101 an example is given about how a child in fourth grade with a passion for airplanes might not find other fourth graders with such a passion. A gifted child can read nonverbal cues from his same aged peers indicating boredom with the fact-telling and will move on to another topic that has a give and take conversation. A child with Asperger's cannot read the nonverbal cues and will not move on to another topic that is not just a one-sided conversation.

"When a child's lack of empathy is seen in some situations but not in others, the liklihood of Asperger's Disorder is substantially reduced. If the problem is primarily a lack of tolerance rather than a lack of empathy, the likelihood of Asperger's Disorder is also markedly lessened. A gifted child often shows remarkable empathy and understanding of others, particularly towrad those who are less fortunate or who are hurting." (page 102)

"In working with children who suffer from Asperger's Disorder, despite their often high intellectual functioning, one must break down every social behavior into smaller components. For eample, it may be necessary to physically show the child exactly how close one typically stands when having a conversaton, or to specify that it is important to look directly at the face of the person  with whom you are conversing. Instruction in social skills must be detailed and concrete, and it often must be repeated for several different types of situations due to the difficulty that chidlren with Asperger's Disorder have with generalizing. Often these children will rely on rote memory for the "rules" of social interactions. Sometimes insructions do not help because the child lacks the motivation to improve social skills (lack of insight) and finds the behaviors (such as looking someone in the eyes) very uncomfortable." (page 103)

I would guide you to read also the full page list of "incompatible or contradictory features" from page 104 which can be viewed free on GoogleBooks here. It is too long for me to type into my blog to quote from.

This chapter also discusses comparing introversion to Asperger's Disorder which may be of interest to some other parents who may be reading this post.

Perhaps one of the best things about the books authored by James T. Webb PhD is the focus on the EMOTIONAL needs of the gifted person. There are plenty of books on the market for parents of schooled kids helping them try to be a good advocate for their child to get access to academics that are challenging. These books by Webb focus on the child as a whole person and their emotional state of being and family relations and on growing a happy healthy person (not just talking about academics).

Again, if you read just one book on giftedness, consider the "Parent's Guide", it is fantastic.

If people are suggesting your child has a disorder before going right from topics of parenting a "normal" child to reading about the disorder, read about giftedness in the "Parent's Guide", then read "Misdiagnosis" next.

It kills me to think of gifted children and adults being misdiagnosed with psychiatric conditions instead of correctly being labeled as gifted.

If you harbor negative opinions of giftedness or think that also is an overused label please open your mind and read the "Parent's Guide". It makes clear the difference between non-gifted kids and gifted kids (and adults). It tells the negative or challenging aspects of giftedness, they are brought to light with ideas for how parents can help them. Being gifted is not all rosy and light, despite what some people might think. It is not "just" being smart or a fast learner. It is much more difficult to parent a gifted child than a non-gifted child due to the various sensitivities and intense emotions, it's no cakewalk, believe me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Questions About Aspies

I have been pondering some questions about Asperger's Syndrome this week. I do not have answers to these questions. I don't know what the right or best or politically correct answer is (they may not be the same thing).

This was spawned partially due to the fact that a homeschooling mother was telling me she put her (neurotypical) children in a homeschooling activity but every other kid in there seems to be an Aspie, which makes for a different experience socially and in doing the activity they are there to do as a group.

I am a neurotypical person. I don't understand what it is like to be an Aspie child or an Aspie adult. My children are neurotypical.

There are some children I know who have many if not every symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. I know for a fact some do not have a diagnosis. I sometimes wonder if the others have a diagnosis or not. I am not a doctor and I cannot diagnose but some kids I know are just that glaring that there is no way they are not on the Spectrum.

You may say whether these kids we interact with have Asperger's or not is not my business but I disagree. My kids have to deal with them and their issues and odd behaviors or strange verbal statements or their "off" attitudes. I've been trying to teach my kids good etiquette and how a good friend acts but sometimes these social things are not reciprocated. What can I tell my child other than to keep doing the right thing even when they are ignored, not reciprocated or are treated rudely in return? I tell them to just be good people and do the right thing. I also advise that they can walk away or ignore that person or try to stay as far away from them as possible.

There is certain back and forth, a dance almost, that goes on when two or more people have communication exchanges with each other. It's a strange position to be in when one party does the socially accepted thing and the other doesn't reciprocate or just seems oblivious to the social etiquette norms. I am not talking about neurotypicals who choose to be rude or cold but more overt negative behaviors done by kids who have multiple Asperger's symptoms. If the same thing was done between two neurotypicals one would be labeled a jerk or just plain rude (if not labeled with an explicative profane word).

Should we neurotypicals have a different set of standards for these kids?

What if we don't know if they have Asperger's or not?

Should my kids be giving special exceptions to accept rudeness or other negative behaviors to those with Asperger's?

Do Aspie kids get a pass on rude or negative behaviors if they have a diagnosis?

Should a parent with an Aspie child who has it confirmed by a professional tell other people? Should the parent expect others to treat their child differently (accept negative behaviors)? Examples of who might be told: other parents, volunteer Scout leaders, volunteer coaches, or teachers?

It seems to me if the parent knew the child had Asperger's that certain things could be done to help the child navigate socially. Examples are directly teaching the child about nonverbal communication cues that others use, to teach about volume of the voice, and to try to curb certain behaviors or things shared through oral communication to be easier for others to handle being around. There are some courtesy and etiquette things that seem to me need to be more bluntly taught and more effort applied to execute. I say this about parents helping teach Aspie kids as "doing nothing" or doing whatever they presently are doing is not working for all the kids who seem to possibly have Asperger's. It can get to a point when a person is not just an oddball or a social misfit (no offense intended but I'm not sure how else to describe it) but they are actively making others angry or offending people on a regular basis and seem clueless. Some of these kids and teens are on a road to being isolated if they keep up what they are doing.

Is there any benefit for a child to have an official diagnosis of Asperger's?

Does the fact that a child is homeschooled mean there is no benefit to knowing if they have Asperger's or not? (Meaning, do some people think only schooled kids need a diagnosis?)

In what way might an official diagnosis help the child or teenager?

Would a college student with Asperger's be better off knowing they have it?

Might an official diagnosis in adulthood also help the person?

In what way might a parent benefit from seeking a diagnosis with a qualified professional?

Is there any reason that a parent would not want to know their child has Asperger's Syndrome? I do not accept the answer of "living in denial and not wanting to deal with it" as acceptable.

What does a parent of an Aspie child want a neurotypical parent of a neurotypical parent to know? Do they expect a different set of rules be applied to their child, more forgiveness or more tolerance or (fill in the blank).

Tomorrow I will post some quotes from a book comparing and contrasting what real Asperger's looks like compared to the traits of a gifted child. Some traits of giftedness are the same and some are different.

I suspect some parents think their kids are just smart if not brilliant and don't suspect Asperger's, crediting the different behaviors as being due to their intellectual brilliance. They are impressed with their child's intelligence. Some seem to think everyone else should give their child a pass as the child is different due to just being intelligent.

One example is when a very smart child who only talks to adults does so as the child thinks they are superior to children their same age who they find little in common with. The parents sometimes say this to other parents in a condescending way to explain why their child is not interested in socializing with my child. The truth is, in some cases, that their child has challenges with social skills and is unable to engage kids socially or they may do things that have angered the kids so the kids all want to and try to avoid them. Instead of viewing their child as flawed and in need of assistance to learn to engage socially with peers they feel their child is superior in seeking out more mature or older people to talk to.

Adults who have no choice but to talk to the child (teachers, others who work with kids in organized activities, and relatives) are more kind and will sit and listen to the Aspie child and often will accept them with their negative traits as they are both more forgiving and because they have no choice. (An example is an uncle at a family party who sits and listens to an Aspie child go on and on talking about some obscure topic in a one-sided manner or a teacher who has that student in their classroom.)

If you have opinions and experience please share them in the comments. I feel I need to understand more and want to be educated on this.

P.S. I really want some honest answers and insight. This post is not meant to offend. I'm interested in opening up a dialogue.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ideas for Homeschool Middle School History

In response to a question left for me in my blog comments looking for history resources for middle schoolers that goes deeper than The History Channel's America The Story of US documentary miniseries released in 2010.

We used Story of the World non-fiction story book by Susan Wise Bauer as a SPINE and used regular children's books in addition to flesh out detail not in the book and to add more exciting reading (and great illustrations).

I highly recommend the ACTIVITY GUIDE for SOTW also.

SOTW is world history chronologically ordered from prehistoric to present day. It was created for grades 1-4 but in a pinch is better than nothing for middle school (there is nothing for all of world history on par with this that is non-religious and comprehensive for grades 5-8 at this moment in time). When I say "better than nothing" I mean to say a story format of nonfiction that is interesting that covers all the world and all the time periods. To have a spine like that which additional, more detailed readings can be done alongside is what I really like. What I did was use the SOTW (which seemed easy reading for a middle schooler) but then used on grade level" go-along readings. SOTW is set up to do one chapter a week that focuses on one topic or country.

You will see recommended in The Well Trained Mind for middle schoolers to use one of the Usborne books for world history, those are two-page spreads on topics with snippet texts in paragraphical format. This is different than a story format that is anything but snippet-y.



We took a break from SOTW to move on to the next series---to focus on United States History---which is what I was asked about.

Titles can be confusing!

The History Channel America Story of US that is airing right now (2010 release date) is different than the US history book I am recommending called The Story of US by Joy Hakim -- which is an 11 volume book set. That is for middle school and even light for high school or good for the early high school years, and to reiterate it is JUST US History.

A few years ago PBS aired a documentary mini-series called Freedom A History of US based and had a book of the same title by Joy Hakim written on high school and adult level about US History and a companion book in hardcover was released which as of last month was out of print.

Presently we are using the Joy Hakim 11 volume series A History of US (slower than I'd like to report). I love it and feel it offers food for thought and plenty to discuss.

A homeschool mom friend of mine told me yesterday they are reading the 11 volume series by Joy Hakim with her 8th grader right now (after hearing me praise it) and love it and they watched The History Channel Series America the Story of US and it is "skimpy and skipping parts". She didn't like the History Channel show much.

The History Channel documentary mini-series is offering free DVDs to educators and teacher's guides (see sidebar link on this page) however they are not shipping until August, she told me. I submitted my request for a copy two or three months ago and wondered where the heck it was. Now I know.

More Info

Joy Hakim was on In-Depth, a three hour long interview and discussed teaching history to kids of all ages and issues with public school's handling of history. I blogged about that here.

More of my ideas and opinions on teaching history can be found by clicking the label below called "teaching history".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brief Opinions of Homeschool Math Curriculums

Here's a short explanation for those who have been asking me.

We started teaching homeschool math with Math-U-See starting with Kindergarten level. I loved Math-U-See. Both kids learned well despite different learning styles and one being very left brained and one very right brained.

After many years of success and loving it, both kids got frustrated at learning some concepts and started to hate Math-U-See. Honestly they were just blaming the curriculum with what was their issue/challenge. Both begged to change curriculums.

My younger son did two grades of Singapore Math (grades 2-3). We found this very easy despite doing what the placement test said. I felt the units were too brief. For example spending less than 30 minutes doing math he did all the measurement lessons with high scores then the topic was never covered the rest of the entire grade. This went from his short-term memory into the black abyss. I have issues with the way Singapore clusters the lesson topics then never revisit them (ever). They do start fractions early but they are simple. I felt this encouraged mental math by giving easy problems but not necessarily had much practice with writing out all the steps in the operation, which some find a pro and some may find a con.

My older son did Teaching Textbooks 5 to start (when in grade 6). He loved the switch to learning from the computer program not from me. I liked that the computer does the grading of the work not me (which is true for TT up to their grade 7 level). However by me not teaching him I felt out of touch with what he was doing. I was not able to explain things well coming at the material cold since I'd not done all this math (especially in the grade 7 level) in years.

At the end of TT5 I assumed the next step was TT6. He started on it and complained of the review. There are about 120 lessons in each level with the first 70 lessons being REVIEW OF LAST YEAR'S MATERIAL. We were starting TT7 right after finishing TT6  (not taking a summer off) so this review was busywork and annoying. I stopped him doing TT6 and gave him the placement test for TT7 which he passed, so he went on to TT7. I note again the first 70 lessons or so are review of the same old materials (addition, subtraction and all the basics).

During use of TT7 I realized something I'd not seen because I'd not done a careful inspection of the program. TT uses a spiral approach. A new concept is taught then a few problems are practiced. Then they do a lesson that is graded, about 22 problems long. Only 2 of the problems are the new material so over 90% of the content is old review of totally unrelated stuff, measurement, easier math, division, whatever. So the student can get a low A grade and you think they are doing well but really they could have flunked the 2 new problems and may be lost on the new material. I realized my son had gone many lessons messing up all the new-to-him fraction work. This builds up over time so they may be lost for 5, 10, or more lessons and it just never clicks.

I also didn't feel enough practice was done on fractions and it moved too fast to the next concept. By the time my son got to the complicated fraction work he was all confused about when to reduce first, when to flip the second fraction, when to convert from a mixed number, and was doing all these crazy things. Is there a word for when everything is futzed up in your mind? That is what happened to him.

We are trying math right now. I don't feel this is a full curriculum. It doesn't do enough teaching. It is more for review. A friend just told me her son loved Aleks but needed more teaching on the concepts sometimes so she bought The Teaching Company's DVDs for basic math. When he needs one concept she finds it on the DVD and he watches it, gets it, and does the work on Aleks. She stated she felt weak in teaching math so didn't want to take any time or energy to teach it to him (she likes the videos). I'd not realized that TTC made videos for middle school math topics.

Right now to try to get the fraction work remediated my 7th grader is using the Key to Fractions set of workbooks (under $15 for the set).

I had always thought Saxon had too much repetition and the thick teacher manual scared me away.

I looked at Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra side by side with TT7 and TT Algebra and note the first 68 lessons in Pre-Algebra are review of everything that comes before including stuff in TT7, then the second half is the first half of the review material in TT Algebra's curriculum. It is almost word for word, and is sometimes. Some of the examples and problems are verbatim.

Two friends are trying to convert me to use Video Text Algebra, which teaches via DVD then work is done on paper. One friend's child hated this with a passion and her advice turned me off. I am going to look at the Video Text Algebra and see how my son likes it.

My plan is to move my to-be 8th grader into Algebra for fall 2010. I don't know what program we'll use. We might continue to pay for as a supplement especially since I feel like our budget can handle it. This is my very visual-spatial learner who gets math concepts in his mind but often dislikes the way the books want him to write it out. He invents his own methods for solving problems (not all of them actually work out correctly). He gets messed up on writing out the operations sometimes, silly errors in penmanship (like sloppy alignment of columns or illegible handwriting) that goof up the answer when the concepts in general were done correctly. In general he usually felt math was easy to learn, loves it, plays with numbers in his head and is not scared of it. When he has a challenge he gets annoyed but so far he doesn't hate math.

My to-be 5th grader is finishing up TT5 right now and will probably move into TT6 but he is starting to have the issue with high scores but confused on the new material so I'm feeling annoyed about TT in general. That son of mine is a fast learner who thinks math is simple. Not only is he unafraid of it, he thinks it's simple but doesn't really enjoy it either. He's more about doing the operations correctly than understanding the concept. This kid is the one who wants everything graded, likes to get high grades and wants to be perfect at everything. His reason for liking math is to try for a perfect score on a paper.

I also am wondering what if we go back to using Math-U-See? I have no complaints about MUS. In fact I felt it focused more on the new concepts so mastery could be achieved rather than the spiral approach were new material is not a focus of mastery.

We also use the FlashMaster electronic hand-held math drill game for quick recall or memorization of math facts. This has simple algebra on it too. The kids used it daily for a long time but I don't think they've touched it since Christmas break.

The plan is to do math all summer for 2010, in between camps and family vacations and other fun in the sun.

The major thing weighing on me is my older son is going to have to do pre-calculus and preferably calculus in his high school years in order to seek college admission for an engineering degree. So we can't take math lightly for him.

P.S. (added 5/26/10) I forgot to mention last month I bought Life of Fred Fractions and the Decimals/Percentages at a homeschool conference. I keep hearing how great it is. I need to figure out how/when to use this. I'd thought it would help fix any gaps with TT7 or help with general understanding of concepts versus doing math operations. But somehow I got sidetracked to try Aleks instead and Life of Fred sits here unused at this moment. I am happy to hear that some people love Life of Fred.

Update March 2011: My older son did a pre-algebra class in spring 2010 and that confused him more. He did Key to Fractions all the way through finishing up in late fall 2010. He then asked to do Key to Algebra which starts with pre-algebra concepts and is doing well. He tried Art of Problem Solving and did some but we stopped as it was not something he could guide himself through and he was asking to do Key to Algebra. We have not tried Life of Fred for him. I am going to either have to go back to Art of Problem Solving or find some other Algebra text eventually (perhaps a text commonly used in school).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fall 2010 Homeschool Planning In Progress

I feel torn in several directions for the planning of our homeschool and family life for fall 2010.

As my older will be in eighth grade I'm feeling pressure to have this as kind of the last year to do catch-up on some academic subjects that I had hoped more would have been accomplished with. I want to get certain things done and over with before his freshman year for homeschooling begins. I have to nail down what curriculums or online courses he will use for this upcoming year. I am thinking of using some K-12 online courses and am up in the air about what math program to use as nothing seems to be a good fit right now.

I need to make decisions on what work my to-be fifth grader will do for homeschool lessons to be done at home.

Outside Classes and Events

We all love the new homeschool co-op we joined that is one day a week (10 sessions in fall and 10 in spring). I am proposing to teach four different classes this fall:

1. Science Olympiad event Compute This (grades 5-8)

2. Science Olympiad event Write It, Do It (grades 5-8)

3. Beginning logic using Art of Argument (ages 10-15)

4. Current Events discussion with critical thinking skills using teacher lessons (free on website), ages 11+

As of this week we have been accepted into a second co-op on one other day a week (10 sessions in fall and 10 in spring). I will be teaching a cooking class focusing on cooking and baking from scratch, showing how cooking at home can be more frugal and better tasting than prepared foods or even restaurant foods.

My kids want to continue their experiential learning class focusing on pioneering skills, building shelters and useful structures in the woods and learning some survival skills all while hiking or working outdoors. (One day a week for each child, different days of the week, 10 weeks in fall and 10 weeks in spring.)

At present that leaves us one weekday to be at home with no appointments (well until that gets filled in with orthodontist visits, guitar lessons and everything else). Oops, I have not yet asked the guitar teacher if he has time on those days to switch lessons to...oh no...

My ten year old son is asking to play football. That is three practices on weeknights and one weekend game. I am overwhelmed at that idea yet he needs exercise and he would be with nearly all the kids he has met in Lacrosse this season and it would provide more opportunities for that 'team spirit' feeling and to get to know those kids from town better.

Both of my kids are feeling burned out of Scouting right now. My older son is close to making Star rank and wants to make Eagle ASAP. I don't want him to receive his Eagle at age 14, because I think it is too young. Maybe this burnout feeling is just because it's the end of the year. Both plan to do Scouting for the year that begins in fall 2010.

I am going to limit field trips to once a month as this year we did way too many. We did four museum trips in the month of March, it was too much.

I think it is time for a change (yet again) to put even more responsibility on my now-twelve year old to follow lists or schedules to get his homeschool lessons done, rather than having me sit by him and tell him what to do all the time.

I am concerned that I'm over-booking outside classes that do not fulfill the foundation, the core of my children's education. I'm worried that they are over-dosing on extra-curriculars.

I need to wrap my brain around this and make some decisions, because now is the time that things are booking up for fall 2010. I'm not in the mood to think about any of the stuff about what I'll teach and home and how and when as I'm too busy running here and there doing stuff with my kids!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Best LOST Scene

The LOST fan page on Facebook posed the question asking if we could put ourselves into one LOST scene, which would it be? A quick skim revealed the favorite seems to be the cage scene. If you watch LOST, I need not describe this more as it's probably embedded in every fan's mind.

If you'd like to take a peek at it, YouTube has a great resolution copy titled "Sawyer and Kate Love Scene" uploaded by thetrueno1charmedfan (embedding disabled).

Favorite quote from the scene, Kate asks why he didn't tell her they were trapped on another island.

Sawyer: "I wanted you to believe that we had a damn chance."

At that point in the series that was the most revealing statement that verified Sawyer's feelings for Kate.

Loved it.

I can't believe the series ends tonight. I'll borrow the DVDs from the library and re-watch the whole thing!

The Dangerous Book of Heroes Book Review by ChristineMM

The Dangerous Book of Heroes

Authors: Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden

Publication: William Morrow, Harper Collins, April 2010

Genre: Non-fiction, ages 18 and up (per publisher’s website 5/23/10)

My Star Rating: 1 star out of 5 = I Hate It

Summary Statement: BUYER BEWARE This is NOT a Children’s Book! For ages 18+ per the Publisher! Numerous Reasons Why I Hate This Book Besides That Issue!

I began reading an advance reading copy of this book two months ago and hated the book by the third story. I have picked the book up over and over and cannot bring myself to read every single page. I skimmed the book over last week and still can’t stand it.

The first confusing point is the authors first found publishing success by publishing a book for young BOYS called THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS marketed to kids aged 9-12. That book was a rehash of hands on activities and crafts that boys did a hundred years ago such as could be found in old books like THE AMERICAN BOYS HANDY BOOK. I was happily surprised at the success of that first book since to me it was a shorter, watered down re-write of books out of print but in the public domain and others still in print. But, if readers loved it, bought it for their grandkids, that’s fine.

THE DANGEROUS BOOK OF HEROES has mature content and the thought of minors reading this and clothed in story about a hero horrifies me. Today I checked the publisher’s website and it states the MARKETING AUDIENCE FOR THIS BOOK IS “18 AND UP”. I am totally CONFUSED as to why the publisher would publish a book for adults with mature content as part of a series of books that was marketed to boys ages 9-12 (or girls in the case of the DANGEROUS BOOK FOR GIRLS which was the second in the series).

I’m a homeschooling mother who often uses older books and who appreciates some of the good things about days gone by such as the old methods of schooling, the quality of some of the children’s books and the moral thread that ran through stories for children. One thing that was common that has fallen out of fashion is boys used to read lots of stories about heroes. I was hoping this book was attempting to introduce today’s children to heroes, modern heroes and heroes of long ago, so they would be inspired. I had high hopes for this book.

As explained in the last chapter “Heroes”, heroes are imperfect people who sometimes have their heroic moment quickly; their endeavors are not always life-long pursuits. Heroes are flawed people. I agree with this but have problems with the fact that this book GLORIFIES THE BAD ASPECTS OF SOME HEROES in a way that, to me, reads more like MORAL RELATIVISM -- “don’t judge them for this misdeeds or sins, immoral behavior, or the crimes they committed or the dangerous actions they took” but to be inspired or to look up to everything they did. It reads like “there is no right or wrong”. THIS IS THE OPPOSITE VIEW OF THE OLDER BOOKS ABOUT HEROES. While I don’t like my history scrubbed clean and therefore full of falsehoods I have an issue with providing mature content to young readers who do need some moral and ethical elements in their formative years.

Even if you have no problem with the things I’ve said so far or the examples that I’ll share in a minute, there are a few other issues with this story collection that makes me dislike the book.

First to explain, this is a story collection of biography sketches. There are 34 stories and the shortest are seven pages and there are four over twenty pages. If you’re curious, nearly all are men (this is not a factor in my negative opinion of this book but maybe other readers would take issue with it).

These stories are about people from around the world and from old times and from people whose heroic acts were in the 1990s and 2000s. I have no issue with diversity but the book is confusing with its randomness.

First there seems to be no organization to the order in which the biographies appear in the book. They jump from long ago to modern and all around. They jump from one country to another. The stories don’t make clear exactly where the person is from but references are made that the reader is supposed to figure out. As a pretty well-read forty-something mother I didn’t even know of these references (being an American) so I don’t know how kids would (especially American kids or 18 year olds). The book lacks context and confuses the reader. The authors assume the readers know more history and geography than they probably do. Saying someone was in Windsor, where is that? (page 27) Fiennes in Eton, where is that? (page 28) Fiennes found the “lost city of Ubar” in 1992, I’d never heard of it, where is that? (page 32) The authors presently live in England and Australia. Possibly the issue is their knowledge base is different than Americans and they assume the American readers know more than we do to put these biographies in context?

The stories are unevenly paced, at points focusing on action and other times bogged too far down by details (George Washington). Sometimes there are so many dates and brief historical mentions that it is incredibly boring (George Washington). I was unable to get a real sense for the heroes as people when they were so mixed in with dates and historical references. Yet the historical references didn’t resolve the issue of the uninformed reader on the history, possibly because the way it was told was just boring and seemed to shut off my ability to connect with the story. (This is hard to explain but it’s what I felt after reading it.) I didn’t really feel the authors were connecting the reader to really care about the hero which truly is the hallmark of good writing (and something that is difficult to do well). We need to connect with these heroes to be inspired by their heroic acts. (A contrast is the successful writing in narrative format of non-fiction historical information by JOY HAKIM in her HISTORY OF US series in which we feel more connected to people who came before us.)

The authors seem to like the idea of shocking the reader with the badness of the hero. I wasn’t won over to admire these heroes knowing this level of detail. Again the mature content and glorification of things both physically dangerous and crime committing is not something I want my boys or even young men (age 18-ish) to look up to.

Examples of Details I Hated

Sir Ranulph Fiennes:

Had frostbite after hiking at the North Pole, visited a doctor in England who postponed the surgery, was in dire pain.

Cut of his own fingers at the first knuckle using a hack saw in his tool shed to get the surgery done faster. I was horrified at the level of detail including that a hacksaw was too slow and agonizing so he switched to using a Black & Decker fretsaw. (page 32-33)

Sir Richard Burton:

He felt “jolly” after murdering a man.

“He was convinced women enjoy sexual activity as much as men, a very unfashionable idea in Victorian England”.

Page 36:

Saying he enjoyed drugs and alcohol: khat, opium, cannabis

At age 5 the two brother knocked their nanny down and ‘trampled them with their boots’

At age 9 shot windows out of a church and said ‘obscene’ remarks to girls

As a boy all pocket money was spent on prostitutes

Page 38:

As an adult, enjoyed brothels in India

Had an “exploration of sexual matters” and wrote about them

He “freely enjoyed all the pleasures of the senses” and Tantricism (tantric sex)

Later became Catholic then switched to being Muslim (went in and out of many religions)

Page 40:

Investigated a male brothel in India when working as a reporter and some said what he knew could only be known by someone who participated in the acts first-hand

Had an affair with a Persian woman that ended ‘abruptly’ with a ‘violent end’.


Then left his ‘regular mistress behind in Sindh and spent some time trying to get a nun out of a local convent to be his next one”

Broke into a nun’s bedroom at night, was in the wrong room, was chased by an elderly nun, and he got rid of her by pushing her into a river.

Translated the Kama Sutra, explains to readers this is an Indian sex manual (page 43) NOTE: If kids hear this information a quick Internet search will reveal what essentially is pornography illegal in USA for those under 21 years of age.


In summary I feel this book is not appropriate for readers under age 18. Honestly I don’t know if readers over 18 and in their 20s really want to read about heroes. I think minor-aged boys should read about heroes but for good stories that inspire and uplift them in their FORMATIVE YEARS, parents and teachers need to look elsewhere.

(If I hear about parents and teachers buying this book for use with minor aged kids you may see steam coming out of my ears.)


I rate this book 1 star = I Hate It.

Disclosure Statement: I received an advance review copy of this book from Amazon Vine product review program for the purpose of reviewing the book on the site. I was not paid to write this review. I was not obligated to also blog this review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Unfocused Method for House Tidying

1. In living room find books that belong in the libary.

2. Place books in library. See a stack of son's magazines laying on the love seat.

3. Ask son to put magazines in his room. See math manipulative left on coffee table.

4. Move math manipulative to math shelf. See scraps of paper son used for math work, toss to trash, realize it's full, remove bag and carry to the garage.

5. Go to dining room to finish decluttering the table. Find broken pices of model airplane, walk to kitchen to throw it out.

6. After tossing trash look up to see bottles to go to recycle bin. Pick them up and go to garage to toss them in the recycle bin.

7. Walking back into the house, I spot tote bag full of library books sitting in the hallway. Carry books to the library to place in bin that holds the library books. Put empty tote bag in coat closet.

8. Am thirsty. Go to kitchen for a glass of water. See bills husband left on counter.

9. Move bills to husband's desk, upstairs.

10. See empty laundry basket that we'll need in the laundry room in a minute, take that downstairs and leave by the dryer which is still running.

11. Remember I was working on the living room. Go to living room, notice the potted rosemary kept indoors over the winter is dead. Move pot to the deck and pull dead plant out and put in compost bin in kitchen.

12. Realize ficus tree has not been watered in a couple of weeks (oops). Fetch watering can, fill it and water it. Think this should spend the summer on the deck. Move it to the deck. Leaves fall on floor. Go get broom and dustpan.

Oh, I never did get myself that drink of water....or lunch....

On and on and on. That was what yesterday morning was like for me. I don't usually work in that manner, I hate it as it never feels like any one spot gets finished.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Teaching Our Kids About Politics and Government

The topic of how to teach our kids about government and current events has been on my mind for a few reasons.

I am considering offering a class that touches on these topics in the fall at the homeschool co-op I am in but this is a touchy topic and one I'm not sure that I want to step into. One idea was to discuss current events, which would be one class that would not focus only on politics (or may not be about politics at all).

The second idea was to teach government and elections and watch the unfolding events as the November 2010 congressional elections take place, but I think that topic may be 'too hot to handle' given different family's views and issues of bias on my part too!

I need to make my decision as I believe soon I will have to turn in my course proposals.

An issue happened last week that I'll share in detail near the end of this post. My twelve year old was verbally attacked by another homeschool teen about politics. This was a parenting challenge for me and has underscored that how and what we teach our children about politics and government should also include etiquette about how to have (or whether one should avoid) discussing hot button topics with peers who they have to be around in paid classes they attend. Perhaps even young children should be taught the advice that adults often use "don't discuss religion or politics" at social events.

This morning I read an email on a homeschool chat list asking about ideas, books and materials, for an 8 and 10 year old to learn about politics and current events and following the fall 2010 elections. It occurred to me this mother seemed to be focusing only on current issues not including history.

I decided to blog my thoughts on all these topics since they are all related.


1. It is my opinion that at least covering the history of the founding of the United States of America and how our government was founded is essential to explaining politics and government today. I don't mean to start a debate by stating this, but I feel that teaching politics and government as JUST a current event is dangerous.

One reason is there is current debate over the Constitution, should we keep making law that upholds it or is it a "living document" that can or should be changed? I know this is big stuff for kids to grasp, and I don't know how far each family wants to get into this with our children, but, I do feel teaching the history of how and why our government was set up the way it is, is a great foundation to set before launching into the hot topics of today. I feel this because even when trying to discuss some small tidbit on the news it can easily lead directly to a foundational topic that should not be glossed over let alone avoided completely.

It is not easy to discuss current events or political elections on a shallow basis that is 'neat and clean' for elementary grade students. It would be easier to do a study of our government discussing the topics at a distance to try to keep things more sterile -- because if you include the current events it can get sticky or messy quite quickly.

Honestly, I'm of the opinion that I'd rather just delay teaching a topic to preserve a child's innocence or to keep things simple and carefree until some later time when the topic can be taught more deeply and discussed more honestly and thoroughly. I am sensitive also to not over-burdening young children with negativity that is beyond their control.

2. There is a series of picture books about a mouse which discusses the American government by Peter W. Barnes.  I recall seeing these for sale at a MassHope homeschool conference at a vendor called The Book Peddler. I don't own these books and have not used them.

Woodrow the White House Mouse

Woodrow for President: A Tail of Voting, Campaigns, and Elections

House Mouse, Senate Mouse

Marshall, The Court House Mouse


Mice Way to Learn About Voting, Campaigns and Elections

Mice Way to Learn About Government

2. You may want to read aloud The History of US by Joy Hakim, just start with volume one and see if you like it. (They may be purchased as a full set or each book can be purchased individually, or check a library.)

These books were intended for the child to read to themselves hence not as easy to read aloud, they have lots of sidebars and photos and illustrations. But this series is geared for discussion. You could read it aloud at your chosen pace and see if you think this is a good resource.

I feel that there are items for discussion that come up naturally. Hakim sometimes poses questions to the reader in the text that could be discussed orally with your children.

There is a teacher manual I don't own and don't plan to use it. My 12 year old and 10 year old are reading this series to themselves. I've read half of volume one and really like it. I'd intended for my husband and I to read it alongside them and discuss but I have been too busy then one child lost the book we own, and my husband was so busy traveling for work, then increased his work hours, so he hasn't read them yet. The things that get us off track can be so small and ruin the best laid plans.

3. I have not seen a lot of materials about discussing current events with kids age 8 and 10. Sometimes even understanding a short newspaper article requires having some foundational knowledge that children of that age might not yet know (refer back to my discussion earlier in this post of teaching how our government was founded and what its organizational structure is).

If I did use prepared materials to teach my children, I would be cautious about the bias of the writer.

I enjoy the free current events teacher guides at, one is published a day, they only archive the last 5, and not all are about politics and government, and some may be too deep or hard for kids age 8 and 10. They also are only publishing seasonally. I received an email stating in 2010 they will cease new content (free lesson plans) on Memorial Day and will resume after Labor Day. Their topics are NOT just politics and government.

I like that often Izzit plays Devil's Advocate. Sometimes the questions ask about the bias of the journalist. Some may argue that even discussing the other side of the story from what the journalist portrayed is Izzit pushing their own agenda or bias, but I'm of the mind that discussing both sides of an issue is important and how homeschooling families do this in the context of their own family's values and opinions is different than what school teachers have to contend with. If you think Izzit has a political slant to the conservative, I bet there are even more resources available to give you the liberal slant, if you desire that instead.

4. I have been thinking about the fall and the elections and how I could teach more about this and watch what unfolds. I don't have an answer for my own family yet as I feel much of what the media portrays is full of bias and sometimes is really nasty and shallow discussion of topics not really getting to the core of the issue. How much of this mess should children be exposed to? How much is enough? Is following the news by watching actual news programs on TV really the best way to teach this topic? If we choose print or digital media, what is the bias of that newspaper or magazine or website or blog? How much of it is pure reporting of facts versus editorializing?

The smear campaigns and the tactics used to try to put down someone with an opposing view by doing something like attacking them on a personal level is not really what I want to teach my kids about. I want the focus on the issue not on the arguing. My husband and I have already had talks with our kids based on what they see or hear in the news. But these are not provided in curriculum or lesson plans they are "made up along the way". I don't mean for that to sound casual. What I mean is that during a discussion with our children, they ask questions that no teacher manual may ever touch upon. We answer their question which leads to another question and another. You can't prepare this type of thing ahead of time in a lesson plan or purchase it bound into a book. I value these conversations and discussions, they unfold on their own as content is discussed if the child feels safe asking questions of the parent!

5. I also have been thinking about whether I should (finally) teach my children about logic and fallacies. If children learn these things they may be able to spot them when people they know, or media uses them with each other or when communicating to the viewer (such as in advertisements).

A homeschool mom friend (KL) referred me to this student workbook which she owns and feels can be taught directly from (there is also a  teacher manual): The Art of Argument (which she thinks is fine for for children age 10 and up). I was thinking of using this manual to teach a homeschool co-op class. Given the time constraints of the class just teaching from the book could take a whole session.

 So far I have not seen this book in my hands but some free samples can be viewed in a PDF document on this website. I see that Amazon also sells these at a discount price.

Student workbook that can be taught from directly:

Teacher Manual:

6. My 12 year old son was attacked at a homeschool class last week about politics by another student which included verbal bullying and insults. How the discussion segued from a discussion of an innocent topic into politics was swift and not initiated by my son, the teen made a leap into controversy after my son shared a joke dollar bill he saw in a store (just telling what he saw not making any opinion statement about it). The other student demanded to know which party my son supported and like a fool my son answered the question by just stating the party I'm affiliated with (I used to be an Independent but switched to one party, which I did in order to run for election for town council, and indeed I was elected and served my term).

This brought to light that we had not yet discussed how to handle political discussions let alone heated arguments!

Assumptions were then made that if you are a (insert political party) then you support (name of a politician who the media is bashing frequently lately) who is a (insert profane insult words). The teen went off on a rant while my son stayed silent. The rant included a raised voice and a rally to try to get the other students (all older than my son) to gang up on him and indeed some did join in. The closest thing to standing up for a differing view was one teen and the gist was (only), "I don't really care about any of those politicians so who cares who anyone likes or doesn't like". However weak I feel that was, my son felt this provided some relief for the ranting teen to finally drop the topic and lay off, so I'm grateful he said that comment even if it was bathed in apathy. The truth is, my son didn't know much about the politician this student was ranting and raving about his hatred for, but my son was personally attacked because the kid thought my son was a fan of that person.

Another upsetting thing was the ranting teen went off on another political (to him) topic: vegetarianism (because the politician he hates hunts and eats meat) and he began bashing anyone who ate meat. (How hunting and eating the meat is somehow worse than factory farming of animals with its methods that some feel are unethical is something I don't quite understand, wouldn't hunting rate one up from factory farming? Sorry, I digress.) We'd not yet taught my son about how to deal with people who want to bash meat-eaters (for the record we eat meat in our household), I guess that's another topic to teach our son about.

For the first time it occurred to me that some homeschool families are teaching their kids to push an agenda and to pop out names and use smear campaigns rather than to a) teach their children tolerance for difference of opinion, b) have respectful discussion, c) discuss the issues. This lesson could be learned by observation of the media the family watches or the teen watches on their own or from hearing the parents talk or by direct teaching.

I don't know what that family does in their home, the point I'm making is our children are learning all the time and sometimes what they learn from their families or the media is not taught directly by the parent or contained in a curriculum's lesson plan. As parents we should think about this issue and ponder what our children may be learning from what they see in our home.

In our home we discuss our views and why we believe in them. We also teach tolerance and that discussion of the actual issue itself should be done not just shallow talk or using smear campaign tactics.

If we let our children watch those cable news shows what are they learning? If we let them see it and don't discuss our family's values what migh they learn? A simple discussion could be, "Do you think it is good to insult the person by saying ___ instead of actually answering the question about the issue?" Also, "Did you see how the person didn't answer the question but instead discussed a topic they wanted to discuss, something they wanted us to hear?"

Another issue with letting the kids watch debate shows on TV is it can paint a 'doom and gloom' picture of the USA and our future. I feel we need to be careful about that. My kids sometimes overhear these programs when my husband watches them. (For the first ten years of my older son's life I banned all TV and radio news when my son was awake as I was trying to protect him from the various scary and negative things on the news. After that I succumbed and now we talk about things they overhear from either news shows or lectures on BookTV.)

As an example of how kids worry, after overhearing parts of an author lecture on BookTV about debt owed to China, my husband and I had to discuss national debt and how we borrow money from China to use to do the things we do, when weeks later while shopping at the grocery store suddenly my then-nine year old asked me if the USA was going to end in two or three years due to having too much debt to China? He asked if we would we be taken over by China and lose our independence? This was after my son knew from overhearing on the news that President Obama chose to not televise his meeting with the Dali Lama after pressure by the Chinese government to not even meet with the Dali Lama at all (which at that time instigated a short discussion on why President Obama might change his plans based on pressure from another country's government.) My son was taking this way more seriously than I'd like any nine year old to do yet his question was a logical one. I share this as an example of how a nine year old can take a real life current event and turn it into something that scares them about their near future, not to start a debate here. I also share this to show how a child of that age that most adults would think would never care about such a topic can worry and care about it.

7. We also should discuss etiquette with our kids and how to react if other kids ask them questions. When adults try to avoid discussing religion and politics at social events to try to keep the peace, why not teach our kids this same thing? Teaching a nine and twelve year old how to diffuse a heated argument may be asking a bit much but maybe it is never too young to start discussing some communication techniques?


Can you see how complicated something as simple as asking for ideas and materials to homeschool to teach about politics and current events during a Congressional election can become in real life?