Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Economics of Food Book Review by ChristineMM

The Economics of Food Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Economics of Food: How Feeding and Fueling the Planet Affects Food Prices
Author: Patrick Westhoff
Genre: Nonfiction, Economics
Publication: FT Press, March 2010
ISBN: 9780137006106

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It
Summary Statement: Frank and Honest Dissection of Complex Issues; A Breath of Fresh Air after Hearing Spin Doctor’s Simple Remedies or Accusations

Westhoff, an economist, explains the complex issue of food prices. The first breath of fresh air is the honesty that the prices are affected by many variables, so this is a complex topic. Besides the sheer number of variables, it's complicated due to the fact that some are global factors not just domestic and a mix of controllable and uncontrollable factors. He explains that some changes take years to show their effect. Not all changes or remedies, however well-intentioned, can provide a quick fix. Changes today may not be seen for years to come. Various topics have an analysis of the real world events for the years 2005-2009 which is helpful to apply theory and abstract discussions to what actually happened and to explain why.

As a layperson I found most of the information easy to understand due to Westhoff’s direct way of addressing the issues, by breaking them down into smaller parts and explaining each component. The book is not dumbed down which I actually appreciate, but it does use basic language that makes it accessible to just about any INTERESTED reader. You have to really want to know this information to enjoy reading it and to learn from it. It will not entertain you, it doesn’t read like Freakonomics, which drew people in with the writing style regardless if they ever thought they’d be reading about those topics.

This book is not for the closed-minded, those who will refuse to listen to the truth if it disrupts the stance they presently hold. For example those who insist being a locavore, that is, eating only regionally produced foods is best for the planet will be crushed to hear the analysis of the fact that those living in Britain would use less carbon if they imported their dairy and meat from New Zealand rather than eat the locally produced fare (page 46).

I appreciated the fact that the author reminds us how easy it is for various people with a point of view to push can find statistics to prove their point. Some things are more complicated than laypeople realize. Sometimes subject matter experts in one field may not realize there are factors in other industries and areas that are involved or more influential than they had ever imagined. These issues are dissected and explained in detail, not so much detail to bog us down but just enough to get the point.

The fact is that sometimes things are complicated; food and fuel issues are two of them. No matter how much we want things to be simple, quickly or easily changed or fixed, sometimes it’s just not that easy.

There are 214 pages of text but the font seems a bit on the larger side and the page size is small. I don’t know the word count but it seems to me this is a short book. For me this means the book was not over-written or too lengthy. This makes the book more accessible to readers.

I was unable to detect author bias or slanted views, the topics were discussed in a balanced way showing both pros and cons or how things may be more involved than we’d like. (Confession: when I started reading the book I was worried about if the author was writing this to push his view, if this was propaganda.)

If you have a serious interest in learning more about food prices and fuel issues I highly recommend this book.

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It for tackling a complicated issue in an organized manner by dissecting the topics and explaining each thoroughly, for clear writing and for approaching this topic as an honest discussion not as a piece of propaganda to push one point of view.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Amazon.com's Vine program. I was under no obligation to give it a positive review nor was I paid to do the review. I was only to publish a review on Amazon.com if I so desired, I did not have to publish it on my blog. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Study Aid Idea: Audio Recordings in MP3 Format

A friend who I met through the local homeschool community, Kim McNeill, introduced me to Audacity software. This is a free downloadable software which she used to make some podcasts (with me). Kim did all the learning and work on editing. I always wanted to podcast, I thought, but realized I have no interest in learning the recording and editing part, so in the end, podcasting is not for me.

However this Audacity software is easy to use. I realized immediately, its potential as a study aid.

A student or the homeschool parent can make recordings of their voice and save it as an MP3 file. This can be loaded onto an MP3 player or burned to a CD. The student may study by listening to the recordings.

I started this project a couple of weeks ago and got busy before I had a finished product. I want to finish up the learning process so we can move onto using it. But in the meantime I wanted to share this idea with my readers. Perhaps you'll find this of use?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Placed My First Order with The Teaching Company

I feel like I've been granted entry into an exclusive club: homeschooling teenagers.

The admission requirement was accomplished, I've placed my first order with The Teaching Company. They are also known as "The Great Courses" and they sell lectures by college professors to laypeople. Some courses are high school content but most are college level classes.

Just about every homeschool family who has a teenager, and is home educating their children with an academic focus, is a customer of The Teaching Company, from what I've gathered.

I have been told many times over these years to watch for the August sale. This is when courses are offered for 70% off.

(If you are on a budget check your local library and neighboring towns. You may be able to use interlibrary loan to borrow these materials, if not, perhaps in your state you can drive to that library and borrow them. I find that some libraries don't carry any of these while others have a good sized collection. Another tip is to try the wealthier towns with higher educated residents, that is where the highest number of The Teaching Company courses are owned by public libraries in my area.)

I have been mulling over some paper catalogs we've received and have been pondering over what to purchase. I started with two courses but wound up ordering seven. I learned some insider secrets that I'll share.

First I made an error by throwing away one paper catalog, the first one I received. I threw it out when a new sale catalog arrived. I made the error of assuming it was the same content but with a different cover (as some other mail order catalogs I receive are). I also assumed that what was online was the same as what was in my catalog. When the third catalog arrived and I opened it I couldn't find some of the courses I'd seen listed in catalogs #1 and #2. My confusion began at that point.

I then tried to place the order on the website "going in cold" since I wanted courses from all three catalogs. The problem was the sale prices in my catalogs were not showing up on the website (they were all full price), I was being charged full price. I phoned the company and was told to use the promo code on my catalog, near my name, then to try it. I hung up the phone to give it a whirl.

With both catalogs in hand I made a list of the courses I wanted to purchase. Some were in both, some were only in one. I tried to buy them online using one promo code. The promo code only works for that one catalog's offerings. When I tried to get sale prices for the other promo code, it wouldn't work. I couldn't find a way to order from both catalog's sale prices in one order even when inputting both promo codes. If I had placed two separate orders online I would have paid another $20 in shipping fees (forget that!).

I phoned the company and they had to take the order over the phone, using both promo codes. There was another course I recalled from the first catalog that I'd thrown away. I mentioned the situation and the associate gave me the sale price. What good customer service!

Here's what I ordered:

1950 Nutrition Made Clear $84.95 (reg $374.95)

2198 The Art of Reading $59.95 (reg $254.95)

104 Basic Math (high school) $69.95 (reg $254.95)

1001 Algebra I (high school) $69.95 (reg $254.95)

140 How to Become a Superstar Student (high school) $34.95 (reg $149.95)

2368 Building Great Sentences Exploring the Writer's Craft (this was an impulse buy prompted by the customer service agent's recommendation--what's another $70 when you're spending over $500?) $69.95 (reg $254.95)

160 Understanding the Human Body, Intro to Anatomy and Physiology $109.95 (reg $519.95)

Total spent with sale prices: $499.65

Total if paid regular price: $2064.65

Savings: $1565.00, that's right around 75% savings.


Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post nor am I affiliated with The Teaching Company. I bought these products for our family's personal use.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reading in My Family of Origin and Our Homeschooling Decision

My mother has severe dyslexia, diagnosed in school. School was a struggle for her and she was happy when she graduated from high school because the learning was a struggle and the bullying due to her learning difficulties was brutal. I knew this growing up and other than my own personal experience this was a perspective I was aware of and that I viewed school through. I knew some of my peers struggled in school and I had empathy for them. I was bored in school and felt it could be better and different and I hated some of it, especially the emphasis on short term memorization and testing only to move quickly onto the next topic and forget what we just finished.

My mother read books aloud to my brother and I before we learned to read. She read a few Judy Blume novels before giving them to me to read and since that day she has not read a single book of fiction.

My father hated school from day one. He should have been held back a year as Connecticut's public school start date says to enroll in September if the child turns five by December 31. So my father was aged 4 and 8 months at the start of Kindergarten and he was flagged immediately as being behind in everything and being behind developmentally. He was NOT behind developmentally by age but by grade only. I know this for certain as I have the paperwork from the teacher stating his struggles. Based on his writings and drawings he seemed to be developmentally normal to me for his AGE. My grandmother was so upset she paid for him to be tested at Yale's Gesell Institute and that result was basically he was on target developmentally (but not explicitly stated he started school too early and the goals were too high for him). She should have held him back a year but didn't due to the social stigma and the fact that the teacher didn't push it (I think that was hardly ever done in the 1940s).

My father is a hands on learner and has a problem solving mind geared toward fixing mechanical things. My father dropped out of high school, something he was ashamed of in part as he lied to us about that fact. I myself discovered this through research when I was a teenager. I was told he didn't have his high school yearbook. I wanted to see his senior year picture and his yearbook so one day at lunch at high school I went to the library and asked to see the yearbook for his graduating year. He was absent. I tracked him back to his sophomore year only.

I confronted him that night and was told yes he did drop out in his junior year as he'd always hated school and didn't see the point. He wanted to be working in the real world at a real job and making money and living an adult life. He dropped out and enrolled into community college nights while working days and still living at home. He took some basic courses like English 100 and then he quit community college. He said he lied to us as he wanted to inspire us to graduate from high school and not use his example to give up and quit as he did. He felt graduating from high school was what he wanted for his children. (He was not supportive of us attending college much at all but that's another story.)

My father has not read a book since quitting high school. He has not subscribed to a magazine since he was a teenager (he used to read Popular Mechanics). He reads the city newspaper every single night cover to cover except he skips the sports section as he could care less. He is a slow reader. He says he has no desire to read fiction.

My father is an autodidact. He learns what he wants to know. He used the PBS TV show "This Old House" to teach him many techniques for fixing houses and repairing things. He learned other things from people he knew and by doing them. He renovated our entire house one room at a time nights and weekends after working at his day job. None of his learning was from books or reading it was largely by trial and error and by creative problem solving thinking.

Money was tight for our family growing up and my father is not just thrifty or frugal, he is cheap to the point of ridiculousness. My mother was given a small allowance to spend as she wanted and she spent it buying my brother and me new picture books then later, chapter books. We were frequent customers at the used book store one town over and we swapped back the already read books for new ones almost weekly. We also went to the public library together. Despite her struggle to read she encouraged a love of learning in us.

I was allowed to read anything and everything. There was no censorship in my home. My mother was happy I was reading. With that said the stuff I read as a middle grade reader was good wholesome stuff and some of the crap that is on the market today for young kids was just not available. I read all of the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew then I was sick of series mysteries. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lois Lenski and Scott O'Dell and Jean Craighead George and many other books. I bought books from Scholastic through school. Then I was onto Judy Blume. I'm not sure if I was in 8th or 9th grade when I'd moved on to adult fiction. I know in 8th grade I read the popular biography of Jim Morrison and in 9th grade I was onto Stephen King. I also was reading Jackie Collins and some other adult beach read gossip type books for adults. I came out unharmed and not living the values expressed in those books. My mother was so happy that I was a bookworm. I am glad she instilled a love of reading in me despite her personal struggles.

Sadly my brother struggled to read as my mother did. He really was not reading with ease until grade four. I will not share all the details of how it affected him as they are too personal, but you'd be horrified to hear the abuse and humiliation he endured at the hands of one particular teacher in second grade. She ridiculed him in front of the other students when she made each student stand in front of the class to read aloud. To this day he is a slow and deliberate reader who will only read what is really worth his time and energy, that is mostly nonfiction to teach himself things he wants to know when no one he knows can teach it to him by talking or seeing. He is not against reading but chooses not to read much as it is just too hard and takes so long. He reads magazines on nonfiction topics of his hobby passions and watches documentaries. He also talks to other people and learns from them through discussion or doing activities together.

My brother was never tested or diagnosed with any learning disability as in our public school in the 1970s hardly anyone was ever tested or received special education. Even when I graduated in the mid-1980s the only kids in special education were mentally retarded (a common phrase back then), some with Down's Syndrome. The kids who left the class for special instruction in reading or math could be counted on one hand out of a class of 250.

Looking into my family tree farther shows varying abilities to learn at academic school work and with reading. On both sides of the family it seems to be two polar opposites. Either the person is a good school type learner who thrived in school and is a bookworm and a lifelong reader or they hated school, struggled there, quit or barely graduated and hardly ever reads as an adult.

Among the grandparents that were living when I was growing up I had a non-reading great grandmother (gossip rags and city newspaper only), her daughter was a nonreader (newspaper) and her husband/my grandfather was a nonreader (just the newspaper). My other grandmother was a lover of fiction reading and devoured books for pleasure. She read technical manuals for doctors, to learn more about her career, a technical field of limited scope in a hospital, so she was an autodidact when she wanted and needed to learn something. She also read field guides to identify birds and plants and read about herbal medicine.

Not every person is a reader as an adult, that's just a fact. Some of the hardly-ever-readers have learned to adapt by learning through talking to wise people or watching how they do their work, or through watching television documentaries or by trial and error in the real world. Some of them seem mechanically gifted and have special abilities for visual-spatial thinking. Some of them are artistic and creative people who use those talents as hobbies only (sadly) and are passionate and intense about their "hobbies".

I note those I know like this are living a bit more in their own world, their lives are centered more around their own lives not really thinking much about society and culture as a whole, they have more myopic lenses and live for themselves and don't think about everyone else much. I mean, they spend more time at home doing their thing and they are not really social people and not involved in the community, not doing volunteer work and such.

The readers who did well in school live more cerebral lives, living in their head more, thinking about things more. They stay more on top of current events, feel they are more vital to things like thinking their vote in a political election actually matters and they may even volunteer to help their candidate of choice, if not run for office themselves. These people are sometimes more outgoing or outward focused, knowing both themselves and how they fit into the community around them. Some readers are autodidacts and nonfiction readers. Other readers are busy working and doing things but not reading about those, but read a ton of fiction books. Their reading may also focus on current events (the newspaper or news magazines or magazines for women, fashion, or those focusing on celebrities). Certain people are into celebrities and fashion and makeup and so forth, that's a personality thing that affects their reading life as well.

I do feel that some of the struggling readers may have learning challenges or learning disabilities, some which, if identified correctly, can be cured by changing the method of instruction. Other times the student must learn adaptive techniques to cope to get through the material and to study in special ways in order to learn the way the schools or our society requires.

I shudder to think of a child or even a now-adult who has a learning problem but was never identified and thinks they are just stupid or incapable of learning. To see kids and adults who have fallen through the cracks drives me crazy. This is why I cannot become a school teacher. I would go insane and be miserable being confronted daily with either kids not getting the individualized instruction they need or kids hurting due to past experiences of feeling or being told they are defective.

I am too sensitive to handle seeing so much of that on a daily basis. As it is, in my volunteer work with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts it pains me to see boys who clearly have learning issues and to know they are not being addressed. I see potential in children and to know that the adults in their lives are failing them, and to watch them struggle do read or write or do math, or to see them treated differently by their peers pains me. Worse still is seeing parents who fail to be advocates for their children.

I think the only kind of teacher I could ever be is one at a private school specifically for kids with special needs. I'd need to feel I was part of a system that works and goes above and beyond to help children realize their potential. I would work best with kids who on a path to success knowing they have challenges but who are willing to do the work it takes to realize their goals. It would feel good to know the work I was doing was effective. It would be icing on the cake to know the parents care enough about their kids to take special measures to enroll them in a special school. I'd love to feel I had an equally committed partner in the student's parents and would welcome their advocacy.


I am thinking about this today as I'm thinking about planning our upcoming homeschool academic year, thinking about college goals for my sons, thinking about schooling versus what it means to be educated. I'm thinking of all the different ways people learn and how our culture still is stuck in a "one right way" mindset and seeks to push everyone to college.

I heard a couple of stories this week about the lack of skilled trade workers, from workers doing a big heating and plumbing job in my home. We need all kinds of people in our society and we should help each child realize their potential and use their natural gifts and talents to use in their adult lives.

My decision to homeschool was based in part on what I have shared with you today about my family. I have seen adults who I know and love live adult lives of happiness or success, and sometimes struggle and dealing with feelings of low self-esteem due to what happened to them in school. Despite the fact that I'm a bookworm and I love reading, and that I want all kids reading, the fact is that not all adults are readers and maybe that's not a bad thing after all? Or perhaps it's not ideal that some kids fell through the cracks on reading instruction but not all suffered for it, some do, but not all of them. Even the kids who did learn to read and did fine in school somehow wind up not being readers as adults, I have no explanation for that.

I know that people are different and have different abilities. The "one right way" of schooling in America, sadly points out deficits in some kids but ignores their strengths. If a person lets themselves be defined by the failure label or the "defective" label it can have life-long negative effects on a person.

I have wanted my children to have a customized education tailored to them uniquely. I want to both emphasize their strengths but also to know their weaknesses and to address those in a gentle and appropriate way. I wanted their schooling to be a blend of the most minimal to get the thing learned (cutting out the busy work and nonsense) and spend more time learning some things that are either their own interest or good stuff not taught in schools in that grade, or to teach more deeply than the schools determined was necessary.

I have been looking into dyslexia more and believe my older son may have it but that's a long story for another day. So far it looks like the reading method I used to teach him is the ideal for dyslexics so we may have avoided the issue of him being a late reader or a barely-reader by using both a best method of instruction combined with gentle learning in a positive environment in a one on one tutor setting, thanks to homeschooling (and never having been flagged as being a problem or flawed person). He has many other symptoms of dyslexia though, that are making learning a struggle for him now. He has just completed a week in the Davis Dyslexia program. I will share more about all this in the near future.

I am so grateful for the freedom we have in America and in my state of Connecticut to homeschool my children. I am happy to be able to be home to raise my own children (but if I were not I'd move mountains and pinch pennies to do whatever it took to continue to be a single income family with my husband as the breadwinner).

Mothering is the most important job in the world, it's the hardest and there is no monetary reward either.

I feel that homeschooling is both rewarding and difficult; it changes as the children grow and go through various developmental stages. The family dynamic shifts as the years go on and especially when puberty hits. I personally have sacrificed various things in order to homeschool my kids but I'd not have it any other way.

The hardest parts of homeschooling (some would call these cons) have to do with me and how I react or adapt to the situation. I try not to whine about it in a "woe is me" way as I am in control of my decision to homeschool. (It was my husband's idea and he is fully on board but if I change my mind about homeschooling, that's it, we're done.)

I mostly take the struggles and challenges in stride and consider these growth opportunities for me. I'm taking responsibility and tackling the problems as they come. Sometimes I don't want to deal with an issue but I have to because it's my responsibility and if I don't handle it, no one will, as it's my job!

I sometimes am rocketed out of a comfort zone into a place where I need to learn and grow and change to continue to make it work. It's not always easy and I don't always have the answers but it sure keeps life interesting and I'm never bored, that's for sure.

Homeschooling is about my children getting a good, unique education that will prepare them for their future. Homeschooling is not about me doing this thing for self-entertainment or something to do. The minute it becomes more focused on me and not my kids is also the day I quit homeschooling.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Secrets of College Success Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: The Secrets of College Success: Over 600 Tips and Tricks Revealed (Professors’ Guide)
Authors: Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman
Publication: Jossey-Bass , August 2010
ISBN: 9780470874660

My Star Rating: 5 stars = I Love It

Summary Statement: Everything You Wish You Knew From Those Who Know the Drill

This nonfiction book presents over 600 tips for college students to learn the ins and outs of how to be successful in college. It’s arranged by topic into chapters using lists or bullet point presentation of the material, thus it is a fast read and non-intimidating. Some parts are repetitive but I’m not complaining, in trying to be thorough in the list format some material belongs in more than one place. When reading it by skimming or looking up one or more topics at a time rather than a cover-to-cover read of the almost 200 pages it is good that some things are repeated.

Jacobs and Hyman give a ton of information in this book that will be of use if only a college or senior in high school a) actually reads the book and b) does what is recommended. And therein lies the rub. Many will agree that most teens reject outsider’s advice and instead shirk some of even the most common sense recommendations as they think they know better (such as attend class, take notes, and study). Yet this book recommends these things multiple times. I hope the authors can get through to the readers when the student’s own parents cannot. (Thanks for giving it try!)

I liked the tone of the book which is direct and to the point. The authors don’t mince words and say just enough to get the point across yet are not so skimpy as they fail to give supporting examples for their advice (good for Doubting Thomases who may roll their eyes at the advice). The writing tone is upbeat and street smart but not snarky. It is not condescending or patronizing, the readers are spoken to with respect even when trying to convince them that yes, they do need to attend class and yes, they need to actually do the homework.

Some percentage of people seem to only learn by experience: skip class, miss learning material, score poorly on the test, then and only then do they choose to try to actually attend all their classes. Those students will not read this book even if it were given to them. But hey, you can’t blame a well-meaning adult from trying (so yes, buy this book for a to-be college student you know)!

Smart students who want insider information who somehow don’t glean this from their own parents, fellow students or their own street-wise savvy will be wise to read this and do what the authors recommend.

I rate this book highly. It would be a good gift for parents or anyone else to give to a high school junior or senior (not a week before college starts please). Study tips apply often to high school as well so honestly it’s never too early to read the book. Students who want to excel academically but feel unsupported within the family or their community should read the book as the authors can be their cheerleaders and mentors on the path to college success.

Up Tunket Road Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader
Author: Philip Ackerman Leist
Publication: Chelsea Green Publishing May 2010
ISBN: 978-1603580335

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Thoughtful and Philosophical, Excellent Storytelling Memoir of a Modern Homesteader; Worthy of a Slow Reading

My great-grandparents were real homesteaders in northern Maine a hundred years ago and I grew up visiting my grandmother on the same land in the same home she and my grandfather built by hand after the original home burned to the ground. I knew enough of the practical hardships trying to live off the land to not want to do it myself but still cannot help but wax romantic of some aspects, and on bad days I do fantasize of running away to live in the Brooks Range.

I was interested in what Ackerman-Leist had to say about modern homesteading and the various forms that homesteading can take place, such as applying a certain mindset and doing certain things even when one lives on the grid in a city or in a suburb. That would be me: the self-taught home canner, organic gardener (when it was considered weird and stupid), wildcrafter and do-er of many other things that some of my friends and neighbors think is nutty. I don’t fit in with the back-to-the-landers and I don’t fit in with my chemical spraying for the perfect lawn neighbors either.

It was apparent from the start of the book that I didn’t want to rush through this. This is a memoir worthy of a slow read. Ackerman-Leist is an excellent storyteller. He manages to keep up a good pace, never letting the story get boring. Some chapters are have funny parts, and some are sad (I cried my way through chapter 9, about sending his oxen off to slaughter). Some chapters are more philosophical in nature, thoughtful musings and contemplations on modern living versus living off the land. Other chapters are more information focused, giving lots of details on solar power, for example.

I found so much of the writing was profound that I began taking notes then later gave up on that and just started marking up the book’s margins. There is a lot to ponder here and it would make for great discussion between people who are interested and care about such matters are green living, sustainable agriculture and sustainable living.

Ackerman-Leist is a thinker (he may be accused of thinking or caring too much about some things). He is an excellent writer.

What I wished for, but was absent, was more about parenting and education. Ackerman-Leist is a college professor which at first made me think that he thought the status quo for formal education was fine. I wondered what he’d think about modern school education or if he had alternative lifestyle notions about schooling the kids as well. He mentions just a tidbit, only to say that his children were homeschooled. As a homeschooling mother myself I longed for more details about that choice and how the family homeschools.

Also lacking was much about his personal relationship with his wife Erin. The impression I got was she was more serious and rigid than he is (and he’s pretty serious I think). She is very practical, a hard worker who liked doing laborious tasks (other than the mention of losing patience with moving the human waste). There must be more to Erin but it was not shared. There also was not enough about their relationship with each other except some mentions of having to negotiate on some decisions about green living choices. Not saying much left the impression they were more like cold business partners needing each other only to help get through the many daily living tasks associated with sustainable living, but I refuse to allow myself to believe that is true. (Perhaps a second book focusing more on his wife and children and their education is in the works? If not, may I put in a request that it be written?)

One thing I valued was the ponderings about what homesteading is, how to define it, and valuing how one can use homesteading in their lives even if they are not living in a remote wilderness area in isolation. I enjoyed the discussion of creating community wherever a person is. I also appreciated the practical way Ackerman-Leist looked at homesteading, being a realist about the issues that so many people lately seem to like talking about in a more romantic way but don’t even try, so they wind up advocating for a certain lifestyle that in reality they are not even willing to experiment at living in their real life. Ackerman-Leist is not a poser, he and his wife have lived the homesteading life in various incarnations and locations and those experiences and his wisdom are shared in this thoughtful book.

His wife Erin Ackerman-Leist illustrated the book with pen and ink illustrations which are lovely. I’m glad the book was illustrated.

If you enjoy reading memoir and you are interested in homesteading you will enjoy this book. I want to underscore if you enjoy reading memoir this is a great book to read since it is so well written and enjoyable, perhaps even if you don’t care much about sustainable living. If you are primarily interested in green living matters but are not usually a memoir reader, just know that it’s a memoir, it’s storytelling, it is not a non-fiction how-to manual.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program. I was under no obligation to blog this review or give it a favorable rating. I was not paid to write this review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Framing and Foundation Building, Not Sheltering


I have reached the point in my parenting journey where I cannot shield my kids by having them live in a bubble. Actually I seemed to have reached this point perhaps eighteen months or two years ago but have not yet shared this on my blog. I figured it was about time I share these thoughts.


When my children were younger I tried very hard to fill their lives with quality experiences and media (books and movies). I tried to not introduce them to pure garbage. And of course I didn’t expose them to information or media or life experiences that would rob them of their innocence and corrupt them.

Due to negative influences in the larger American culture and actually anyone outside our immediate family, keeping kids sheltered and protected is nearly impossible, the older a child gets, the harder this becomes.

My kids have learned a fair share of inappropriate information from their same-aged or younger cousins for example, so in the spirit of trying to have close relations with extended family my kids have been “enlightened”.

Things have gotten to a point where animated movies marketed to toddlers are rated PG and contain sexual innuendo or concepts like cross-dressing and homosexuality, conversations I neer imagined anyone would have to have with a three year old. (That movie was Shrek 2.)

Just driving down the highway is a challenge due to the bulletin boards for adult “toy stores”. I’ve been asked about those by my kids before they even knew the facts of human reproduction, talk about stumbling for words!

While I don’t necessarily intentionally and knowingly expose my kids to things I don’t like or think are inappropriate, when they see or learn things I handle it by sharing our family values and our morals in relation to the new information. I had read about this parenting approach before I actually needed it, in a book by Rebecca Hagelin called Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.

Despite my hardest efforts at being informed before doing something like taking my kids to a movie, it seems impossible to get fully accurate information or enough details. Even when other parents give a movie the green light I have been horrified when I saw what was in it. A close friend of mine once insisted a scene that I thought was too sexually mature never happened in the movie (the masturbation scene in Transformers. I was so disgusted by a Christmas movie marketed to preschoolers based on a children’s picture book that I wrote a detailed negative review of the VHS home movie version, Olive the Other Reindeer (which I owned) and one Amazon customer accused me of being insane and insisted those scenes did not happen (when they did). The movie I hated, the picture book I loved. This is what we are up against when we try to inform ourselves, criticism and being accused of lying, by other parents, the ones who we think would be our allies!

You reach a point as a parent when time or money is just not available to pre-watch every movie or book before your children do then try to censor them from being exposed to them. Just censoring them from the media is not always possible as sometimes other parents, relatives or even loving grandparents expose young kids to inappropriate material. And once a teen knows about an Internet search engine or YouTube they can access these even at public libraries to find information they want to know or are curious to see (like watching a controversial music video another kid told them about, so what does it matter if MTV is locked by parental controls on the family’s TV?).

Total censorship is futile at some point. Honestly I’m at a point where censorship seems wrong anyway as sometimes through discussions of the topic the child is enlightened and informed about good things the family really should be teaching them anyway. Consider the discussions of cringe-worthy topics a teachable moment, maybe even a gift.

In spite of my efforts to protect my sons from learning something there have been multiple times that other kids, even religious homeschooled kids talked with my kids about things like detailed sexual information. I cannot and should not prevent my children from talking to other kids. However I honestly never imagined having to discuss oral sex with my nine year old after a ten year old homeschooled boy told a group at a drop-off paid class for homeschoolers all about it. I have even heard from my kids of some conversations had at church at Sunday School!

Last year my then-nine year old son came home asking about a pop song that he said his teacher talked to them about with lots of sexual references in it (I’d never even heard of the song and had to Google the lyrics to see what he was asking about). Another time other nine year olds were discussing specific sexual lyrics in pop songs at Sunday School when one boy said his parents won’t let him have that song on his iPod. It was a song neither I nor my son had ever heard of (so I'd never actively censored it from him anyway!). My son asked about the song, asked what they meant by the lyrics, and asked to hear the song and watch the video on YouTube.

My view now is also influenced by the fact that as a parent I may focus on the negative parts that I am annoyed were in the movie or song --- but the kids often disregard those and toss them aside but instead focus on the other things. For example my son may not like a popular country song as the singer is a girl and she is singing about love and romance and he has no interest in those topics, while I’m annoyed that she is singing about being drunk and phoning the ex-boyfriend begging to see him in the middle of the night. (That song is “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum which is also a cross-over hit in the pop music genre.) My son doesn’t like the song and he tunes it out when it is on the radio, while I’m sitting there wondering if I should change the station due to the content. Or we could discuss the topic but for me to lecture on the topic every time that top hit comes on the radio would be ridiculous and counter-productive as it would teach my kids to not listen when I talked.

The last challenge with the inappropriate content and friends is the social issue. It gets to be a problem when kids can’t talk to each other about things they do or see or listen to. To constantly say, “No I didn’t see the movie my parents won’t let me” creates a social issue. To decline attending a birthday party for a teen as they will see a PG-13 movie (and they are 13 or older) because the mother says there is a drug scene will create a social isolation problem. Kids need ways to connect to each other. (Before you get angry with me please read the next paragraph!)

Sometimes the kids talk about how they can’t stand a certain song that is on the radio constantly. Any shared experience that they can talk about helps kids and teens bond and form friendships. Not everything they are exposed to does corrupt them (especially if the parents know what the content is and if they talked about it at least once). You may be surprised to know sometimes the kids talk to each other about why something is not good such as saying the song does have a catchy tune but they don’t like the sound of rap singing (thus hearing a hip hop or rap song will not mean a child will love that music with some of its associated horrible language such as referring to a female as a ‘ho’ and views like being a pimp is cool).

I’m with my kids a lot, especially due to homeschooling. I know the parents of my children’s friends, or at least I’m getting to know them and have no reason to feel there is an issue. I am around my kids when they are with their friends and the other kids talk to me. I hear most of their conversations too. I can avoid having my kids see the kids who wind up being a bad influence (some of these are homeschoolers, both very religious and non-practicing). No parent should assume that just because a family is very religious that their children are innocent, na├»ve, and all sweetness and light.

In the end this is about knowing who you are as a person, and your spouse, and defining your family’s values. I recommend talking with your spouse about various topics and seeing if you are in agreement. Sometimes you can discuss how you will handle discussing certain topics with your kids and other times things come up before you ever thought you’d need to be prepared for such a discussion and you’ll be blindsided.

Parents should know their children and have an open line of communication. Kids should be safe to share information with their parents and know they can ask questions and get truthful answers. These answers can be both fact discussion and also moral and value related. A question about a fact can be answered then the parent can discuss the values or other things the child didn’t necessarily ask about.

Don’t just answer the question if the child needs to know something more important, such as if they ask what “ice” is to tell them but add in something about how dangerous it is and what it does to the body, how far you take that discussion will depend on the age of the child and their maturity level and why they may be asking.

Parents should take caution to not load these discussions with emotion or shame as if the child somehow gets the idea that talking about these issues is “bad” they will shut down and will not ask you in the future. That could be the first step to them closing the door on communications with you.

One friend of mine tells her kids, “I don’t know” when she doesn’t want to answer a sex question. Another mother just told me while watching an educational documentary on Ancient Greece they mentioned orgies and her child asked about it and she said she’d answer it in one year when they were slated to study Ancient Greece as a homeschool lesson. Perhaps a simple, very short answer, or something dumbed down to be age appropriate would have sufficed and not be closing the door to communication. (The topic of parents answering these questions when they are asked was a major theme in the very good book What’s Love Got To Do With It: Talking With Your Kids About Sex).

In summary I recommend that parents are aware of what is in the media and in our culture and at young ages children should be protected from intentional exposure to too-mature content. However sex, drugs, and any number of other issues are all around us, even on bulletin boards, on magazine covers seen at the grocery store and overhead on the news. No matter how hard a parent tries to protect and shelter their child they will learn and see things that will make the parent cringe or become angry.

However once something has been learned or seen it cannot be undone. The only thing a parent can really do is be sure that the family’s morals and values are known to the child so the child can frame the information learned from the wider culture within the family’s lens or perspective. This starts with something like a five year old telling their parent to shut up and you telling your child that in our family we don’t talk to each other that way, later the discussions are about a story heard told by the radio station DJ about Lindsay Lohan’s arrests for drunk driving and a child asking what the line in the comedy movie meant about homeless people having an orgy in a car parked on a city street (a scene from The Other Guys).

Parents, on the one hand we’re powerless to shield our children from the culture but on the other hand we’re the ones with the power to raise them with our own family’s values. How they act when they are young adults and living away from us is not in our control but what happens for those first eighteen years when they’re living under our roof is our responsibility. It takes years to build a strong foundation and it is our parental obligation to help build it. It starts at birth, really. Please take your role as parent seriously.

Parenting is a verb. Parenting is not to be taken lightly and it’s not always easy but if you put in the effort and remain persistent over the long haul I’m confident that you will have good rewards along the way and in the end.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 241 Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 241 has been published at Notes From a Homeschooling Mom.

This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

I enter these Carnivals and encourage you to as well.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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The New York Public Library Student Planner Review by ChristineMM

Title: The New York Public Library Student Planner August 2010 to August 2011

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5

My Summary Statement: Different and Better Than Other Student Planner Calendars; Great for Homeschooled Students Too!, August 21, 2010

After looking at all the student planners available in a big chain bookstore in person, when I saw this one, person I knew it was right for my son (in grade 8). This calendar is for August 2010 to August 2011.

The bulk of the planner is the weekly planner section which I'll focus my review on.

The main body of the planner has a column for Monday-Friday that runs the length of the page with three topic sections in boxes. This is a different style than other planners which have just one section for assignments/homework. The larger section has 18 lines for "assignments and meetings" then there is a section with 9 lines for "study schedule" then a section with 7 lines for "extracurricular". Then there are small boxes for Saturday and Sunday with 7 lines each.

Every other planner I've seen just has one giant area for homework and assignments for each day which neglects to help track other appointments like a before school appointment or after school meeting, for a private music lesson or even a doctor's appoinment that happens on a regular school day. Kids do have appointments other than just attending school so this should be able to be tracked but most student planners focus on school homework lists not the student as a person with a life outside of school. I liked how we can write in the day's appointments and meetings in the top part then the extracurricular appointments at the bottom section and then work to be done independently in the "study schedule" area.

Once the days fill up with appointments and extracurriculars the student cannot help but think about time management for homework and studying. How they can fit it all in is something they can't help but ask themselves. If they are really busy on a Wednesday but a paper is due at the end of the week they'll have to think about having to fit in time to work on that earlier in the week, and noting that in the 'study schedule' box.

This is a great planner for schooled students.

Great for Homeschoolers Too

This not only is this planner good for schooled kids, but it better suits the needs of homeschooled kids (like my son) than the other style of planner. Since we have appointments during the day for academic classes to be held at various places and for some homeschool co-op days this easily can be written into the "assignments and meetings" area which I consider the general daytime hours. His dental and medical appointments can be written in. Sports and Boy Scouts, his two main extracurricular activities that happen in the evening, will be written in the "extracurricular" area.

This is a great planer for homeschooled students also.

Disclosure: I purchased this product, it was not given to me. I was not paid to write this review by any company. For this blog's full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Almost Time to Start the New Homeschool Year

The summer has flown by. We were too busy. It was a summer in spurts, spurts of being too busy, spurts of rest, spurts of me doing big house maintenance projects and spurts of travel.

We have one week of summer left before the homeschool activities done elsewhere, sports and Scouts resume. I'm not completely ready to start homeschooling. But the outside things are paid for and the appointments are on the calendar and we'll show up for them.

I'm perched at a dangerous point -- where if I don't get my mind wrapped around what we're doing at home versus juggling our time away from home being at appointments I will risk repeating an old mistake of mine: showing up to do everything else happening somewhere else and not doing anything at home (academically speaking). Thus the tail then wags the dog and our homeschool consists of stuff that others teach my kids which formerly meant some basics that were to be learned at home don't happen.

I am not freaking out. I am not stressed out. But my warning signal is beeping, "You'd better get your act together and figure this out as Labor Day is right around the corner and after that all hell will break loose."

Real Life Grammar Lesson #2

What's wrong with this sign, seen at a deli in Connecticut?

I admit I've not found the use of the apostrophe easy but this one is pretty bad.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beer Can Chicken Attempt

In July while in Cape Cod with access only to a propane gas grill we attempted to make Beer Can Chicken. I've wanted to try it since seeing it praised highly on various FoodTV shows. This recipe was from somewhere on the Food Network site (sorry I don't recall which).

I'm deeming this first attempt a failure but figured I'd share the photos as they are kind of funny.

This seemed like way too much smoke to me. The temperature is much harder to control on this Weber gas grill than the Weber charcoal grill we have at our home.

The flames were going up the sides of the chicken. This was the second red flag of a possible failure. Also, one of these kept tipping over as it was unsteady on the grill's cooking surface. We added a rack thing intended for grilling vegetables under one of them.

This poor chicken's foot was on fire and it was trying to run away. I was now very concerned for how this would turn out but seeing this really made me crack up.

While the skin was burned and not edible the meat was tender and moist. However it had no real flavor, other than the outermost had a burn flavor and the inner meat had no flavor at all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Time to Hate on Homeschooling!

It's back to school time in some places and the rest are gearing up for a start date sometime soon.

Thus the time is perfect for blog posts and media articles to share why the person hates homeschooling. These are opinion pieces where the writer seeks to both convince us of how happy they are while trying to tell us that those of us doing what they hated should be hating their situation too. Well, sorry, I'm not in your boat and no matter what you say I'm not joining you.

These articles sometimes take the shape of a person who claims they always wanted to homeschool their kids, tried it, hated it, quit, enrolled the kids to school and have never been happier. (The saddest of these claim they homeschooled for a WHOLE TWO WEEKS or that they "experimented over the summer and decided it would never work during the school year so put them in for day one of school.)

They hate on homeschooling and try to get their readers to hate it too. I always want to say to these mothers, "Don't you realize different people are different from each other and just because you had a bad experience doesn't mean everyone will?" Another case could be made that, "Your children love school but maybe mine would not." Or it may be said by those who have used school and rejected it in favor of homeschooling, "Your children are having positive experiences but mine had bad experiences and are thriving with homeschooling."

Well I don't think those bloggers or writers care about painting a clear picture and thinking rationally or open-mindedly. Case in point a number of homeschool quitters will share they homeschooled using this one method they thought was perfect but didn't work. They are often rigid and closed-minded in their view of what homeschooling should be like that they never looked at other options. One issue may be that they were imposing their One Right Way onto their children without even considering that their children are unique individuals. Instead of designing the curriculum around the unique child they pick the curriculum or method and force it on their child. This goes back to one of the points about successful school teachers made in the book Teaching As Leadership, that teachers are always learning and asking for help and educating themselves on other methods or different ideas for teaching. My point is these homeschool-quitters didn't have what it takes to be a successful teacher as defined by the book. (The book is about schooling not homeschooling but I feel teaching information can be useful to home educator-parents sometimes.)

My advice for happy homeschooling parents is avoid reading those media stories like the plague. Just don't read them. If you get a Google news alert for homeschooling you will see the link, don't click on it. If you are on a homeschool chat list you may see a link to such a story, don't read it and delete all posts in the discussion thread without reading those.

The reason I recommend avoiding that nonsense is this is an important time of the year for happy successful homeschooling parents. This is when we need to spend our time enjoying the last good stuff that summer has to offer. It's the time when some of us are scrambling to finish planning things that we thought we'd have finished up long ago. We need to save our energy reserves for the real important work we need to do. To homeschool our kids takes our time and energy, don't waste it on reading stupid articles that you know will anger you or at least annoy you. Don't waste your time discussing with others your emotions on these articles either, as sometimes those add more emotional fuel to the fire.

Just hit that delete button or walk away from the computer! Focus on what YOU need to do for YOUR CHILDREN. No matter how much time you spend reading those pieces and reacting, no one else is going to be doing your prep work for you, your work will remain undone and in need of finishing. And if you have no prep work or thinking to do, how about using that time to do something fun with your kids or even just having a conversation with them?

Surround yourself with people and online reading that supports and encourages you instead of tears you down or incites anger within you. Try it if you don't alread do that.

P.S. Don't think those bloggers don't know what they are doing. Some of them seek more readership and know one way to get it is to blog controversial topics. They might get more hits on that one post but most readers won't become regular readers so what's the point? Once you know a blogger may be essentially using your emotions to draw your interest to click that link to navigate to their page so they can have you as one more visitor that day, don't you feel used? If not, you should. My advice is to find some blogs that lift you up and really interest you and become a regular reader of them. If you can find some with a regular number of posts that appeal to you, you've found a keeper. If the blog had just one or two high-emotion stories that drew you but the rest is uninteresting, forget about that blog, don't you have other things to do with your time than read posts that don't touch you or help you or entertain you in some way?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ethical Wildcrafting Practices

This nine page online free guide explaining ethical wildcrafting practices is fantastic. This is a must-read for beginners. I hope experienced wildcrafters already know this!

It's applicable to all wildcrafters nto just professional herbalists.

Wildcrafting for the Practicing Herbalist by 7song.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great Book Weeds of the Northeast

While in Barnes and Noble this week I found this book that I'd never heard of before, in the gardening section.

Weeds of the Northeast

This book has what I've wanted in books on plants or gardening but have not been able to find. It is a guide to plants and shows 3-4 illustrations including close-ups as well as the whole plant then just the seed and also the blossom. Views of the plant in various stages of development (including seedling or emerging plant) plus most being full color photographs is just fantastic.

I would love a book like this on vegetables and ornamental perennials. I'd like help in determining if that thing emerging is a weed or the seed I planted. I wanted this fifteen years ago when I started gardening and I still want it. But in the meantime I have this new-to-me weed book that will help me identify the weeds at least.

I have been using field guides for wildflowers to try to identify some plants in my yard and woods. It is not always easy to find a match. However I quickly identified many weeds from this book while standing in the aisle of the bookstore.

I use the term weed now with trepidation as I have been learning that many so-called weeds, whether native or non-native or even invasive sometimes have uses as highly nutritious edible plants (yes for humans not just for the insects or wild creatures). Other weeds are actually wildflowers which are beneficial (unless right where you don't want them in a cultivated garden). Yet even a few weeds in the garden can help draw beneficial insects that will help keep pests from damaging your edible crop or ornamental plants. Lastly some of the weeds are herbs that have medicinal uses or uses in personal care products such as to make homemade soap, body lotions, salves or massage oils.

At this point I want to identify the weeds not to eradicate them from my garden necessarily but to eat them or use them in some manner! I want to know more about them to identify them in my cultivated gardens and in the wild for wildcrafting.

Real Learning vs. Answering Test Questions

This month I placed my first order with The Teaching Company so I feel I've entered another milestone in home education. It seems all academic-minded homeschoolers, with teenagers I know use The Teaching Company lectures on DVD (most are college courses taught by college professors).

The I made both of my kids watch with me yesterday was the first two lessons of How to Become a Superstar Student. I figured it would be good to hear some of this from someone other than me.

One thing said had me shaking my head in disgust, not at what that high school teacher was recommending but what happened with a school teacher and my older son when he was in homeschool fifth grade. The issue is what is learning and how is it seen by someone else versus test questions and about scoring open-ended test questions.

My son was ten years old and in fifth grade and I was helping an experienced middle school teacher who had returned to college full time to become a reading specialist. Her dream of helping middle schoolers, especially boys, learn to read and comprehend the reading was a noble one that I admired.

One section of the test, she told me, she was really frustrated with my son about. He had a reading on Ancient Egypt then had questions. The closed-ended questions were correct but the open-ended questions posed a scoring problem for her, she said. What he did was take the new information and wrap it around old information he'd learned prior and gave an answer that included both type of information which was well-stated and correct. My reply was that it was great as it showed he learned the new content plus put it into context with what the old information and assimilated it in a way that was correct. That is real learning, I said. She was not happy.

She explained basically, using my wording, she wanted him to parrot back the answer but with only the information in the reading so she could know he understood it. I replied that the information was there, plus more, so obviously it was a correct answer and he did show "reading comprehension". She said no, because with the scoring she was supposed to look for facts A, B, or C and he just gave too much information even though it was correct (based on what she knew from Ancient Egypt) and she didn't know what to do with his more thorough than desired answers. I honestly don't know what her problem was as the facts were there thus the tick marks could have been done and voila, a perfect answer (and ignoring the excess yet accurate information).

I really think what my son did was to show real learning had happened.

I believe it was in the second lecture that the professor stated that indeed real learning happens when a student takes in new information and can put it into context with prior information and put it all into context. So there!

Look I know developing written tests is not easy, because I've done a bit myself. When working at an HMO with new hire training at one point Human Resources wanted us to do a written assessment to see if the lessons actually taught them something. It was not easy to develop test questions that were clear, left no room for confusion, yet didn't have multiple choice answers that led the test-taker to the right answer. It had to be a multiple choice test as they wanted it administered and scored on a computer. I learned a new appreciation for test writers, it's not easy. The harder we tried to write test questions, the more variables presented themselves that would lead the person to answer the question in different ways. Writing just one correct answer which was also short in word count was not easy. It was hard to also slice the real job scenarios into such a narrow thing that only one tidbit of information could be asked in that question. We tried one scenario with multiple questions about that topic but that backfired. In the end the project was scrapped as was deemed impossible to test, except if we made a really stupid easy test that everyone would have scored higly on yet it measured nothing really worthwhile in the end!

This is a case where what a real human knows and how a real human thinks can't always be translated so easily into writing and with someone determining how to score them. When you get beyond true and false it gets dicey. Well-written multiple choice questions are okay. Open ended questions leave room for interpretation that may be faulty.

And the fact remains that if a person is not very careful when taking tests they can give an incorrect answer when they actually do know the real information being tested.

My kids don't know how good they have it that for most of their lives they have not been tested, scored and graded. However the truth is they will have to learn how to take tests and to be careful and diligent about following directions and reading. every. single. word. before they answer. They are going to have to take the PSAT and SAT and maybe even some SAT II's and in college they'll be tested plenty.

But for now let me bask in the glow of seeing real learning taking place in real life without having to rely on measurement tools to show me. Let me enjoy seeing and the connections being made and the lightbulb going off and this new piece of information linking to that long-ago-learned thing and seeing evidence that neurons are firing. I am so grateful that I work closely enough with my homeschooled kids to know what they know and what they don't know and that in discussions or with observations those things are revealed to me.

At times like this I realize how much I love homeschooling my children and how grateful I am for this opportunity. I appreciate the legal freedom I have as granted to me from the state I reside in, Connecticut and I am happy I'm not forced to spend my time working outside the home so I can be with them to raise them.

Disclosure: I was not paid to mention this company or its products on my blog and as already stated in this post I bought this DVD for our family's use.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 240 Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 240 has been published at Consent of the Governed.

This Carnival provides a lot of homeschool-related reading. Take a look!

I enter these Carnivals and encourage you to as well.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feeling Pissy

Although I had a good night's rest today has turned out to be a day when I'm in a terribly pissy mood and feeling overwhelmed to boot. I've lost my patience with both of my kids and it's going to be a long day. On days such as these this is what I do to save my sanity:

1. Stay offline as much as possible lest I communicate something via email that I may regret or stir up more trouble than I intended due to that "bad tone" coming through.

2. Stay away from social networking sites as something my friends and acquaintences say may tick me off further.

3. Stay away from all news sources as any number of current events or even local events are so annoying or upsetting or frustrating that they will add fuel to my ignited fire and I'll get in a worst mood, yet be in no position to affect any change in whatever it was that ticked me off in the news anyway.

So with that said, I'm heading offline, sorry I don't have the mental energy to come up with something better than this for a blog post today.

P.S. I checked the calendar and it's possible that this is my usual one bad day a month PMS time.

P.P.S. There is a homeopathic remedy for PMS by Boiron that I own but never used I think I'm going to give it a try. Oh, and I have a sample of the supplement "Happy Camper", a giveaway from the health food store which I thought was funny, that has (surprisingly) worked in the past. I'm going to pop those capsules as well. Even if they are little more than placebos, it can't hurt.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Random Thoughts About What I've Been Up To Lately

Today I barely thought about homeschooling which is a good thing I think. It was nice to stop planning and worrying about the schedule being over-booked. Instead I spent a whole day working on projects in the house. None were fun but both were necessary. I feel the urge to get things in order before chaos beings. So I'm happy that the laundry room was totally decluttered and cleaned and that I tackled more corners in the basment by decluttering and tidying up. I got out in the garden only to harvest which was bountiful with tomatoes, cukes, eggplant and a ton of basil.

I was offered a gig to make money via the blog but I am not supposed to be a person against high fructose corn syrup so there goes that. I refuse to pretend to earn money so add that to the list of why my blog isn't making me much money.

I decided against an ad campaign that would encourage readers to sign up to be a member of something (free) to get email junk mail from them. At $3 per registrant I was tempted but my email inbox is full of junk mail and honestly I care more about people being less inundated than making $3 per person. Again add that to the list of why I'm not getting rich from this blog.

I turned down a few product reviews and some free review copies of books. I just don't have time to read and use the stuff let alone to review it. I am trying to focus and prioritize.

It's an important time for my husband's job. I am not complaining but just saying that him working more than fifteen hours a day takes adjustment. The whole family dynamic has shifted and I have more on my shoulders than ever before. The kids miss him and that is hard for me to see.

I am thrilled to announce that my kids were bored today. Boredom is good for a person. They've been getting along great since my son returned from being away for twelve days at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.

I sat on a Boy Scout Eagle Board of Review for an always-homeschooled, now 18 year old. I didn't know what to expect, it basically was like a job interview at a corporation (I know this as I used to be an interviewer). It was difficult to see an eighteen year old answering such difficult questions, it must have felt tough for him but he handled it well. In a discussion of how he thinks most people today, especially teen, lack loyalty, he was so eloquent and his thoughts so deep I actually got a tear in my eye. He really revealed that he's become a mature young man and I'm so proud of his parents for doing such a great job. I can only hope I do as well. (He was largely unschooled but is such a driven autodidact he was doing things like teaching himself Mandarin Chinese, Hindu and is now starting Arabic.)

People all around me are talking about extroversion and introversion. After a talk with a friend she admitted she is very introverted, something I'd not realized. She explained to me that meetings and group discussions literally tax her and drain her. I have come to the conclusion that truly I'm an extrovert. In various quizzes I've taken over the years I come out 50% with one result and 50% with another so I never really knew (or cared too much about the topic to be honest). I do love my alone time and I do need a certain amount of time alone to recharge sometimes. As I told my friend if I'm around jerks or have to sit through long painful meetings with nonsense going on I get sapped of energy also which I frankly think is normal for all types of people!

However I do need interaction with people. This must be why I have, since leaving my career, looked outward to make connections with like-minded people. First it was face to face group meetings then it was Internet chat boards and now blogging, Facebook and Twitter. However I realize the downside to all that online stuff and it honestly doesn't replace real life friends and seeing people face to face, or a good long phone call. I need my friends and acquaintences. I need to be around people or I can start to chomp at the bit and I get a little cagey. I need other people for their energy, support, ideas and comraderie.

I continue to pull back from helping strangers learn about homeschooling but have committed to multiple tasks for homeschoolers in my immediate circle. I'll be teaching at two separate homeschool co-ops this fall. I am organizing and facilitating some other classes. I have been busy going to planning meetings for a new homeschool project. My mind is on all of that and that takes a lot of time.

There's a lot of stuff happening here. Our home was broken into (but nothing stolen as they left when the alarm went off); we were out of state at the time, thank goodness. It has me in a bit of an annoyed state for multiple reasons that I'd like to share but think I'd better not share. I have a longer blog post in draft but it may be too personal to ever publish and maybe some of it really should just be not stated in writing.

I'll just say that you can add to my parenting challenge list, helping a ten year old deal with anxiety about being scared that the house will be broken into and possibly after dark when he's asleep in a bedroom other than mine. And I'm wondering if it's time to invest in window treatments for the first floor as I feel like I'm living in a fishbowl now more than ever.

Lately I have a lot of balls juggling in the air and so much I'd like to blog about. I either have no time to blog what I'm doing in real life or I am so busy doing stuff that I am not having deep thoughts that I feel the need to write about and share on the blog. I can only hope something I'm saying lately is interesting to some of you. My first priority is living my life not blogging and I am sure that 99% of you can understand that it's a right and good mindset to have.

My husband's computer continues its slow death all the while I'm at risk for losing our family photographs, which just might be the death of me. We are trying to deal with that project but you can't move stuff off a hard drive if the hardrive won't even run. Sigh. Perhaps this weekend it can get done then we can trash that hard drive once and for all. (I think it's at least twelve years old!)

I'm in a very good place with feeling grateful for the life I have. It's a great feeling.

I have a few more gray hairs and got a highlight to try to hide some of it. I don't mind some grays but do they all have to be right in my bangs? Thank goodness they have organic hair coloring so I don't feel I'm putting one more nail in my coffin by starting regular highlighting.

Now if I could only drop fifteen or twenty pounds I'd be thrilled also with my physical self. Well, I'm healthy, and that's most important, right?