Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

(Imagine photo of something Halloween-ish here.)

My husband is working diligently to try to fix my PC with the viruses. The laptop had no fewer than 700 infected files and many different nasties on it. This leaves me unable to use computer technology fully for optimal blogging. Actually dealing with the computer problems is taking away time from enjoying Halloween and doing all the regular Halloween festivities. Sigh.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Blame AT&T U-Verse

When we installed AT&T's U-Verse, a professional technician was here to install the hardware devices necessary to use the system. He disabled our hardware firewall saying it was incompatible with the U-Verse hardware. He insisted the software that AT&T uses to protect it's customers was good enough.

(We saved $50 a month by combining our phone with internet and TV services. We love the DVR system which we use for 90% of our TV viewing.)

Ever since changing to AT&T U-Verse our desktop PCs and laptops have gotten infected with various viruses and trojans. We do have active anti-viral software. However somehow these viruses and trojans are entering our system and disabling our anti-virus programs. Then we don't know that happened, and we are infected by even more viruses and malware that attempt to infect our systems.

Some of these do tricky things with the anti-virus software. Some display messages after we manually run our anti-virus software that state the program was used and is completed, tricking us into thinking that the scan was done, when it was not.

We are alerted to the fact that something must be wrong by various signals such as the computer slowing down, the computer making chugging and churning noises from it that are abnormal or various little odd things that happen.

Last week one laptop was infected and took my husband's whole evening to fix. I was alerted to the problem when it started making grinding weird noises that it usually does not make during use. When I tried to run the anti-virus software it would not open up fully. The feature to tell it to run the program is not there.

Yesterday my PC got a trojan, a bad one we'd gotten over the summer as well. It's that one where fake messages come up telling you that it found a virus then if you click on it to fix it, new bad programs download immediately, opening many windows like crazy. My husband is going to have to spend today fixing that. It probably will take all day.

(We just don't have time to spend on fixing computers like this!)

I'm really frustrated at this as for years before subscribing to AT&T U-Verse our hardware firewall was successful at stopping many attempts to hack into our system. (The system kept track of these attempts, the number was staggering.)

I am so disappointed with that issue with AT&T U-Verse. I do wonder if the issue with the firewall was ignorance on the part of the technician that was here. I don't know how to get someone who really knows what they are doing from AT&T to address this. My husband is too busy working 16-18 hours a day out of state with a long commute to spend hours on the phone with AT&T trying to find someone who can verify that truly a U-Verse customer cannot have a hardware firewall and to report that their software firewall system is not working good enough.

Meanwhile well-meaning people keep telling me to get a Mac. They think Apple's Mac products cannot ever get a virus which is untrue. Almost everyone has told me after their PC got a virus they didn't know how to fix it so they ran out and just bought a Mac. Only two people I know bought a Mac for a reason other than the falsehood that "Macs cannot get a virus"; they bought them to do advanced programs with media (video, photography) that they swear a Windows-based PC can't do as well or as easily.

I wonder if Apple knows the increased sales of the Mac is due to people's ignorance about computers in general, and thinking that a Mac computer can never ever get a virus or malware? I know people whose Macs have become infected by viruses and they had no choice but to turn to the Apple store to fix them for them. Microsoft would do well to exploit this fact about Macs in ad campaigns. However I'd prefer it if Microsoft would spend some of their profits on R&D to help consumers battle these viruses, trojans and other malware.

Microsoft to the rescue?


Friday, October 29, 2010

How to Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Days

Reduce stress!

On day one I made decisions about whether to continue homeschooling or whether to use school. Both kids are thrilled with the decisions made by my husband and I.

On day two I notified homeschool co-op C organizer that if the schedule remains as is we will not continue as there are only 60, 90, or 120 hours of instruction spread over a 7.5 hour day.

I also visited the Barnes & Noble store to glance at the various books for standardized test prep. That's a relief to know so many materials are available to help my kids. I bought a bunch for my kids to use now to give them practice for standardized testing that we will begin doing this year. I also bought a Kaplan SAT Subject Test Physics book which will be good for supplementing with the above grade level physics book my eighth grader is using.

On day three I notified homeschool co-op B that we'd not enroll into the next session due to my kid's discontent with classes not being rigorous enough ("boring" and "babyish") and the age mix is not balanced in their favor.

On day four I realized that we are too busy at that time of day for my son to continue doing crew. To get that off the schedule when the fall session ends next week will feel great for everyone.

So that's how I lost four pounds. I hadn't thought that stress was the cause of my body gaining three pounds in January and holding onto it despite adding exercise and reducing calorie and fat intake.

I feel lighter now with both stress and in body too. It's great!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Victor Kill Mouse Trap Product Review

Product Name: Victor M265 Kill & Seal Mouse Trap 2 Pack

Full Retail Price: $9.95 for a box of 2 traps

My Summary Statement: Love - Hate Relationship with the Trap

My Rating: 3 Stars

I live in the woods where field mice enter homes in order to take up residence in a more warm and cozy locale for the winter season. Dealing with mice trying to live in the unfinished attic, unfinished basement or inside the walls accessed by either is an ongoing challenge for us and everyone in our neighborhood.

To make matters worse I live in Connecticut and my town has a high incidence of Lyme Disease, spread by infected deer ticks (33% of the deer ticks analyzed from my town carry the spirochete). The main carrier of deer ticks are mice, not deer, although we have an overpopulation of deer also. The fear is that mice come inside to overwinter in warm temperatures, and carry with them infected deer ticks which stay alive through winter rather than going dormant in cold temps. Then the deer ticks can infect the family living in the house. The question is, if the mice are killed by poison, glue pads or traditional traps; do the deer ticks or other nasty parasites walk away looking for a new host?

Before ordering this product I watched the marketing video on this site and was horrified. It should win an award for inciting fear and disgust.

We have also suffered with the consequences of using D-Con in the past, although effective, we had a terrible odor of decomposing mouse bodies for almost a month. The time it was in my bedroom wall was the absolute worst. Other plastic traps and the old wooden and metal traps rarely work for us. The glue pads worked twice but I also once accidentally stepped on one, gluing both shoes together and causing me to fall over when I tried to walk and had not realized my feet were glued together! It took pliers and about five minutes of pulling to get that darned thing off the soles of my Dansko clogs! I watch my step now when going into the attic and under the eaves storage places!

The idea that this type of trap would lure in a mouse and close up, trapping it and any nasty parasites on its body inside was tempting. The downside is it is expensive ($5 each trap) compared to the often used poison pellets and that it is a one time use of plastic which some consumers would not like for environmental reasons.

The directions with the product stink, just teeny tiny illustrations on the box. My husband went online to look for better directions and found none, so he used his common sense to set the traps. His frustration over the poor directions tainted his opinion that these were easy to set.

The traps are set and await their victims. If they ever work I will update this review with that information. It's October, the cold has set in, and it's been a couple of weeks and so far the traps have not been triggered; whether that's for lack of victims or malfunction of the trap is something I don't yet know.

Disclosure: I received one two pack of traps for a product review from Amazon Vine. I was not paid to write this review nor was I expected to write a positive review. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidbar.

Photo Op Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Photo Op: 52 Inspirational Projects for the Adventurous Image-Maker

Author: Kevin Meredith

Publication: Focal Press, 2010.

ISBN/Full Retail Price:  978-0-24-84100-1 / $29.95

My rating: 5 stars

Summary Statement: Inspirational Creative Techniques Using a Variety of Cameras and Accessories with Eye Candy

Photo Op is a fun book of 52 ideas to challenge photographers, to play and have fun with their cameras.

Most of the technique and sample photos are laid out in 4-6 page spreads; more complicated topics may have a couple more pages. The wide page layout of the book allows for plenty of images, from full page to three horizontal photos on a page plus room for text.

Techniques are written by 21 different photographers so the techniques vary from traditional (time-lapse) and serious to quirky and fun. Each photographer’s voice and unique creative outlook and perspective kept the book from becoming boring reading material also.

Something important to know is the camera techniques requiring different cameras. This is not a book of just photo techniques for DSLR cameras or point and shoot digital cameras. Some techniques include the use of antique cameras such as the Diana or newly manufactured plastic “toy” cameras such as the Holga, a Polaroid camera and film, or a pinhole camera. Thus unless you photograph with a wide variety of cameras and toy cameras you would not be able to try every project in the book. The good news is on the first page of each project there is an ingredient list that tells what type of camera and accessory equipment is required, such as a remote shutter release or tripod. Perhaps one of the most surprising accessories is a kite, to which you attach a lightweight camera to and fly it high to take aerial photos.

This is an inspirational book for photographers of creative ideas ranging from serious to just plain fun. The book layout is great, the paper is high quality and thick, the color photography looks great on these pages.

Personally I learned some new techniques that I can and will use. I enjoyed reading the ideas and feeling inspired even when I don't own the equipment to do some projects. I found the book both helpful and inspirational creatively for its eye candy and fun ideas. PHOTO OP was a good anecdote for me, much needed after reading more serious photography manuals in trying to teach myself to use my Canon Rebel xsi DLSR not on its "auto" function (which is an ongoing process for me). The way I use my DSLR fluctuates between trying to make decent candid photos of our family life, to nature shots requiring special techniques and with challenging light situations, and throwing in some fun techniques just for creative play. I am intrigued by toy cameras and own some, such as the Lomo Fish Eye, and own some antique cameras such as the Diana, various Polaroids, and some Russian and German film cameras. My challenge is I have little time for fun experimentation with the film cameras and instead lean toward using my DSLR that I carry with me daily or my Droid phone's camera with various fun photo settings and apps.

This book was a good fit for me.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program. I was not paid to write this review nor was I influenced to write a positive review. For my blog’s full disclosure statement see the link at the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Pick the Title

While feeling so stressed about homeschooling and future college admissions and homeschool co-op's and over-scheduling a little voice in the back of my head was trying to tell me that what's important is raising my children. It was trying to tell me to think about the Big Picture, and who my kids are as people and that their education is just one part of thier childhood lives, and to not obsess over making perfect choices for their education.

A weight has been lifted from my shoulders after making big decisions earlier this week, which I blogged about yesterday.

Today my friend, who I met through Cub Scouts seven years ago, emailed me this photo she took of my older son taken at the 2010 Boy Scout National Jamboree held at Fort AP Hill in Virginia, when she was there visiting her son. This was our son's first time out of state away from home and it was twelve nights total.  This was just before his thirteenth birthday. My husband and I felt our older son grew up a bit on this trip and he had a fantastic time. Just two days ago he said to me, out of the blue, that he wished he could go back to Jambo right then, since he had such a great time.

A picture says a thousand words.

So pick your title for this post:

It Looks Like I've Done a Good Job Raising This Kid So Far

No Matter What his SAT II or AP Test or SAT Test Scores Are, He'll Be Alright

Reminder: We're Raising Our Children Not Just Homeschooling Them

He's My Son Not Just My Student

It Matters Who Are Kids Are as People, Not Just How They Look on Paper

Attachment Parenting Works

Homeschooling Kids Are Well-Adjusted

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Major Homeschool Decisions Made

This last weekend I attended my first ever open house for a private (parochial) school. The plan was to bring the prospective student as well but he was delayed in coming home from Boston where he went with a friend and his family to watch a big regatta.

My eyes were opened to a few things, the biggest one being that the good things I've heard about the school from families whose children attend, or have graduated from, seem true. The place had a good community feeling and I was thrilled that it wasn't super snobby and elitist-seeming (hard to find around here).

The next thing I realized was that if a family homeschools with an intention to continue homeschooling through high school and suddenly ponders enrolling into private school it just might not be possible. There are certain steps that must occur at certain times and the ducks have to be all in a row. Our family did not plan for this and my older son is not prepared to apply for admissions and take a standardized admissions test with less than a week's notice. He has no past standardized test scores to admit nor any grades, subject test scores, and no written teacher recommendations, which they require.

Perhaps worst of all, he is not ready in one semester to jump into doing school type work and performing on a level that they'd expect. When at home I'd have him doing a certain higher level of work he would have to prove himself via test results by certain dates that he qualifies for those courses, to take them at the private school. I am not certain it could be done in time for him to enroll as a freshman next September. (I could hold him back a year, especially since he's an August birthday and many of his same-aged male peers were already red-shirted, but he does not want that at this time.) For example, for homeschooling vs. private school, even looking forward to taking an AP class in grade 10 he would have to have performed highly in grade 9 whereas if we keep homeschooling I can pay the fee for him to take any AP course in grade 10 that we selected without anyone's permission. (Sure he may struggle but at least he'd be guaranteed a spot in the class.)

Something else I learned is that schools can be good places to learn if the teaching method jives with the child's and if the student can play along with the game and keep up the pace. I knew this before but it was a good reminder. Of course I hope my kids would be able to keep up the pace, but am not sure that, right now, for both of them.

What I did realize was that socially and academically my younger son is a perfect fit for school. I have known this for a long time. The main reason to not enroll him into public school in the early grades is that public schooling is dumbed down and is too focused on standardized testing. My younger son was an early learner and a fast learner and would have been bored to death in public Kindergarten and elementary school. Socially he would be fine and would like it but I still fear out of boredom he'd be the class clown. His tendency to be a follower would lead him into trouble, even the type about the distracted boys laughing in the classroom in first grade type of stuff. His sensitive nature (which he tries to hide behind a wall) would suffer I am sure, in some manner.

My younger son continues to push for school attendance. I hear the stories from my friends and neighbors of the social hell that is public middle school in this town and I don't care to throw my child into that mess. I hear also of the dumbed down academics in middle school (and elementary school) and still there is the issue of the too-much time spent on standardized test prep to keep the scores high here.

I decided while at the open house, and later discussed this with my husband who agreed, that indeed high school would be great for our younger son. I think he would do fine academically with all that left-brained learning. The kid thinks testing is fun so he'll love that part. He loves to have a goal and to meet it. He likes checking off the boxes. He loves being ranked and graded and striving for a high score. He wants to be a part of a group, a member of a sports team, and a part of something bigger. (One of his motivation styles is affiliation.) He does not like doing alternative things or feeling he is different (such as being a homeschooler). He wants to be mainstream and accepted as normal. He wants to be one in the crowd. He wants to blend in.

He thinks school is like High School Musical, which we adults (and the kids who actually go to school) know it is not. But anyhow if he is prepared for an honors track at a private high school and gains admission to one, he may avoid some of the nasty social stuff that could happen if he was under the same roof as the school who must take all who live in the town. (I already envision this child as being the one to test out drugs and drinking.) If he is in a private school with more rigorous academics he may have more access to high quality classes or at least be in a school where the atmosphere is "it's good to be smart" or at least not "it's uncool to be smart". If he's really busy learning and doing school work he may avoid some trouble.

As I sat at the open house I realized just how alternative my children's homeschooling has been to date. I have been living this life so completely that sometimes what we do seems normal and good and right and I forget we are living and learning outside of the box (no matter what other homeschooler accuses us of doing school at home, we are not doing enough of that, if viewed by the eyes of school staff).

For multiple reasons I don't feel that traditional school is right for my older son. He could survive but I don't think he'd thrive. (Plus he does not want to attend school, he wants to keep homeschooling.) If we continue homeschooling with some changes to our present situation in order to help him fit the mold necessary for college admissions and attendance I think he'd thrive. So the question is, if given the choice, do we do what will help this child thrive or do we pick something that he may "just survive"? We do have options and choices, so we're picking "thrive". (And so far as the younger son, socially school may make him feel he's thriving, where homeschooling may make him feel like he's just surviving.)

So the decisions made this week are this:

At the end of this semester we are making major changes to how we spend our time. In a nutshell we will be spending more time at home and doing more rigorous academic studies. The loosey-goosey crap is out the window. Period.

My older son will continue to homeschool at this time with a goal of homeschooling high school and later applying to college for a degree in engineering.

In order to fulfill that goal my older son will begin taking some online classes. We will work on his areas of weakness to bring them up to grade level (writing composition is my main concern). Actually writing composition will change to be a major focus as he needs to have great essay writing skills for SAT II tests and AP tests that he'll be doing as part of his homeschool high school experiences. Those are in the category of "how homeschoolers must go above and beyond what schooled kids do in order to prove their homeschooling experience was rigorous enough and credible and they're capable of college learning".

The goal for our younger son is to enroll him into high school. What school, what type and so forth will be decided upon when that time comes (he has three more years until that time arrives so we can't get too far ahead of ourselves).

In the mean time I will change our homeschooling in order to prepare our younger son to take standardized tests and he will begin taking them yearly for practice.

I will adapt our younger son's curriculum in order to make it look more school-y and to get his writing composition skills to a high level.

The goal will be to aim our younger son for qualification in an honors program at the high school level not the bottom or even the basic college prep track. This goal is because he's always been a fast learner and he was precocious. I think he can handle it and I want him to continually be challenged. Maybe being busy with academics will keep him out of some trouble (socially). (He has been bored and under-stimulated in our homeschooling experiences since fourth grade began so the increase in rigor with a real end goal in sight will fix this.)

So that's the plan.

I'm open to change which includes me letting go of a totally alternative home education plan for my older son starting in December, and I'm willing and open to doing something more traditional in order to qualify him for college admissions.

I'm open to letting my younger son go to school so long as the academics are not dumbed down and it is a healthy social environment.

Change is in the air!

(Homeschooling can be great but it's not always best for every child or for every year of a child's life.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mildew in Books

I have tried numerous methods to rid books of mildew or the mildew smell (to me they are one and the same but others might argue that a smell of mildew or mold doesn't mean the book has it, but somehow it just smells like it from being around other items with mildew).

I have been told that X method definately rids the books of the smell.

After years of dealing with this I have come to the conclusion that none of it works.

I live in New England which has humid air and different seasons. I have come to the conclusion that some who claim to have permanently rid their books of  mildew smells may have been helped by the dry climate they live in. For example a person from Arizona buys a used book from a humid location (via internet sales or other used book vendors) then they do X to rid the smell and it goes away and stays away. I believe what is really happening is the very dry climate has the mildew dormant and the method they used put the mildew into dormancy or the spray they put on it masked the smell. If that same book was put in a humid locale then the mildew would reactivate and come alive and smell again.

Adding scents via chemical sprays to books may mask the odor but it doesn't necessarily kill the mildew or stop the smell, it just covers it with a more powerful smell. I have purchased used books that reeked of Febreze but over time that scent disappeared and the smell of mildew was present. That is one trick of eBay sellers that turned me off to Internet sales of books especially on eBay, because a book seller can spray a book and make it smell like the chemical smell (I won't say "nice scent"), and then they sell it saying it has no mildew or mold smell, when it arrives it reeks of Febreze.

Another thing that has happened to me is after confirming with used booksellers that a book has no odor it arrives with a strong scent of mold or mildew and the book seller claims "I didn't smell it". If they don't smell it, something is wrong with their olfactory system or they are just plain lying.

The cat litter method, immersing a book in clean non-clumping cat litter is said to work. I have done it and it did seem to work in the short term, but a year later or more, the book reeks again like it did before the cat litter technique. I had thought the cat litter drew the moisture out of the book, it may, but over time the book sucks up the water from the surrounding air (in humid climates) and then it is back. Sometimes at first the book has the scent of the cat litter but over time that goes away and the smell of mildrew comes back.

I am not a scientist or a botanist or whoever is a specialist in molds and mildew. These are my guesses based on observation.

I note this applies also to book with a mildew or mold smell but no visable water, moisture, or mildew on the pages or covers.

From what I understand the mildew or mold or whatever it is can spread from one book to another thus it is not worth keeping one or more mildewed books on your bookshelf as they may ruin the non-infected books.

The Color!

It's been a fantastic year for fall foliage viewing this year in Connecticut. The season seemed to start early in the third week of September. Actually due to an atypical dry summer some leaves turned yellow and started falling in early August. I worried we'd have a short season. However as of today still some trees are green.

Here is a maple I spotted on September 28th. This week that tree shed the last of its leaves.

Photo copyright ChristineMM 2010.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is Your Child Attending MIT Splash 2010?

One of mine is!

My son loved MIT's Splash last year and can't wait to attend this year. Academically minded kids from all over flock to Cambridge to attend classes that range from fun to academically challenging to intellectually stimulating.

I talked it up among our circle of homeschooling friends and about a half dozen kids my son is friends with are attending.

I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that MIT has changed the registration procedures for 2010. There is now a lottery system for class enrollment.

For details for this program open to kids in grades 7-12, see the MIT Splash page or follow them on Twitter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting Real About Books We Own

This weekend I'm letting go of hundreds more books from our shelves.

I can't take the overload. The unused books gather dust that needs cleaning and tending.

The books we want to use have no room on the shelves.

What's the point of putting them in boxes to store away? Will they ever really be used?

This weekend I've culled adult fiction, adult nonfiction, memoirs (for adults). I have let go of some of my favorite parenting books that I read and used.

I've put the railroad and train books in boxes to go into a closet as I just can't let them go yet.

Next on the list of what to go through are the cookbooks, gardening books, and reference books. I may also confront my antique children's book collection which has done nothing but grace the shelves with their presence.

I want the books in our home to be accessible and cleanly stored. I want access to books we use.

(I also need to decide what to do with these books. I wonder if the used book shop that loves antique and vintage books and also book collections by topic would like to buy some of these.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homeschooling Situation Check Point

The status is now:

"The tail is wagging the dog."

I hate that and it must stop.

I knew this over-scheduled autumn would be difficult but exactly what lessons would be learned was not known.

By joining multiple homeschool group learning experiences I have given away my power to have full (or almost any) control of the learning experiences my kids are exposed to. What they are spending their time doing will not get them to their goals they set for themselves or to the goals my husband and I have for them.

Additionally some classes that we didn't think would have homework have homework, sometimes twice as  much homework as the length of their class that week.

Some classes have required last-minute added-on purchase of textbooks or other supplies.

Some classes have required additional prerequisite learning be done which takes time and sometimes the purchase of even more curricula. In one case the course content was so difficult extra work independently has to be done outside of class, administered by me.

Some things I thought I was paying to hand my children off to learn from someone else requires my help for prerequisite learning in a scrambling type mode and my assistance with homework. So much for me having "free time" on my hands. I have also learned that trying to teach content from the middle of a course in a rushed manner for a class deadline is much harder and more chaotic than a systematic, organized, and thorough manner of home instruction that proceeds in a calm atmosphere at home.

Things have wound up being:

more time in the group classes
more time at home doing work for the group classes
more energy on my children and my part to expend in time outside of class
more money spent on materials and supplies than expected

Mid-December can't come soon enough for any of us.


The number of tote bags, boxes, and large items I schlepped and toted into my car, up to the homeschool co-op, into the building, and out of the building.

Even with my two sons helping me is it any surprise I left one thing behind? It was my knitting project in its tote bag.

Is this representational of my life now? Remembering all the essentials and everything for my kids and everything to teach other kids but leaving behind the one fun creative thing I do for myself?

I think so.

Well here's what my sons and I hauled to and fro in case you can't believe it.

7 tote bags with food items, small gadgets, measuring cups, pans, et cetera (for cooking class)
1 tote bag with cookbooks and my class notes in it
2 bags of groceries bought on the way to co-op
3 boxes of stuff to give away to others on the Freecycle table
1 laptop computer in its case
1 bag of school papers for older son
1 bag of school papers for younger son
1 pocketbook
1 brown bagged lunch bag
1 Kitchen Aid stand mixer
1 Cuisinart food processor
1 pogo stick (for Freecycle)
1 tote bag full of slippers (we're mandated to wear inside the building)
1 tote bag holding my knitting project

Now consider the time it took me to plan what to take, load it into bags, move it into the car, then to do it all in reverse when the day at homeschool co-op was over, before dinner and before rushing out to the Boy Scout meeting where I had a volunteer job to do.

I do this three days a week at three different homeschool co-op's, but usually not with THIS amount of stuff.

Welcome to my world, the fall of 2010, the most over-scheduled semester this family has ever lived.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson Partial Lecture Animated

In January 2009 I heard Sir Ken Robinson lecture in Ridgefield, Connecticut on one of his first book tour lectures to promote his book The Element. I blogged about that lecture: Heard Sir Ken Robinson Lecture Last Night.

This new video is an animated presentation set to recorded lecture audio by Sir Ken Robinson. This was the same content as part of that lecture I heard in person in early 2009. This section talks about the history of mass schooling and education and touches upon "the ADHD epidemic" and touches upon a paradigm shift in education.

Related Posts of Mine About Sir Ken Robinson

Newest Sir Ken Robinson Video (May 2010)

The Element Book Review by ChristineMM (January 2009) Note: I have received both kudos and complaints about the long length of this review. I wish I used more brevity but it is what it is, I was in a gushing mindset when I wrote it.  Take it or leave it.

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 251 Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 251 has been published at Homeschool Buzz.

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.


Technorati Tags: , , , , .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeschooling High School Meeting Summary

My friend and local homeschooling mother Polly Castor was the host of the homeschooling high school meeting that I attended earlier this week Most if not all of the meeting attendees were interested in a rigorous high school education as college prep, with aims to apply to competitive colleges.

I blogged about what I left the meeting with yesterday: The Take-Away.

Polly has provided a summary of our discussion and links to companies, curriculum and classes that homeschoolers at this meeting have used, see that here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Take-Away

Last night I attended a homeschool support group meeting on the topic of homeschooling high school. This group holds these sessions usually only once a year so I had to change our family's usual Monday night plans to make time to attend.

I am so happy I went because I got to re-hear advice I've been hearing from people and online forums. I heard some new information about the experiences of some kids in school. I heard of one private school who did not guide the student to take SAT II tests and it ruined the student's chances of even applying to some colleges.

I heard four stories of kids who were in public school and were able to get good grades and good teacher reports despite having not mastering content and being pulled out to homeschool and seeing the amazing progress that can be made with 1:1 tutoring at home with mom when the gaps were addressed once school was quit and homeschooling commenced.

More importantly I got a better sense for the rigor of basic high school courses (as outlined on paper not based on some hollow public high school experiences). I got a sense for how difficult honors or AP classes can be when taken through online schools (recommended). I got a sense for how hard it can be to get a good score on the AP test (a 4 or a 5) if self-study is done that is not rigorous.

The urgency of homeschoolers taking SAT II's was made clear and to pass with a good score requires serious study. It was advised that the test be taken shortly after the topic was studied.

The point has been made that writing composition is crucial as to communicate clearly and to also blend this with analytical thinking that is high school level writing important. Taking a high school class then writing like a middle school student or elementary student is just not good enough for high test scores, will lock kids out of college not to mention that they will not be prepared for college itself.

One more thing: the importance of not pushing standardized tests down to students in grade 7 or 8 or maybe even 9 was made clear because if their writing composition abilities are on that grade level not on a grade 11 or 12 level they will not score well (nor should they). One mother shared that her child knew the content thoroughly but didn't fare well on the writing component as the essay was typical for a student in grade 8 (she was able to obtain a copy of what her child wrote and judged this for herself). One friend of mine would argue that developmentally their brains are not ready at ages 12-14 to think analytically enough or they have not yet learned enough wide content to have context and to be able to write about it well to boot.

I have finally gotten it through my head that the level of rigor for a student such as my son with an engineering school college goal will not be met by mostly attending homeschool co-op's or at least not the ones he is currently in. At best we could spend one day a week at one co-op for social time and some extra-curriculars, but the rest of the time my son will have to work independently for core subjects, with me, take online classes or community college courses, or have 1:1 tutoring with a private tutor.

This fall semester is a mess of running around. Endings are in sight, chapters will be closing. The saddest is the ending of five years of experiential nature classes (because the school is closing). I need to really think about what we will when all of our committments end in December in order to decide which things we will re-enroll in. I fear that my son will have to either reduce his participation with the homeschool Science Olympiad team (one of his passions) or he won't participate in his high school years at all. Things have to be dropped in order to make time for the basic high school studies that are rigorous enough to meet his goals.

I didn't leave the meeting feeling overwhelmed or incapable. I left feeling reassured that changes need to be made and that things have to be kicked up some notches (hat tip to Emeril Lagasse for that phrase).

I am encouraged by the fact that my son is already stepping up to the plate this fall and accepting more work and doing his homework assignments on time. He is getting more organized with his school books and papers and is getting better at time management. My nagging is reducing and he is being more proactive and working independently without any nudging from me at all. He has a good attitude. The thing that bothers him the most is that we have too many appointments and not enough time at home for a slower pace and a more peaceful home study environment.

This eighth grade year is a learning curve for both of us, apparently.

(I am trying not to let my fifth grader get lost in this shuffle too! It seems that these issues of homeschooling high school and college admittance are using too much of my time and energy lately.)


I love the HSLDA brochure DEVELOPING A HIGH SCHOOL PLAN about homeschooling high school. It has three basic high school plans to pick from.

Be sure to read the college's websites about requirements for homeschoolers. The colleges may require more AP classes or SAT II tests that are more rigorous than the HSLDA brochure may indicate. The colleges may require more or less studies depending on the major (HSLDA says four years of history while two competitive schools for engineering require only two or more advanced math and science may be required than the brochure indicates).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trip to Rhinebeck for Knitting Festival

Yesterday I went to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held on the Duchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck. This was my second time going, the first having been two years ago. This time I went solo while my husband and sons were at a Boy Scout camping trip.

I had a relaxing time. I decided to travel light and left my DSLR camera at home. I was not in the mood to snap photos although there was plenty of photo worthy things seen. I snapped about a dozen photos with my Droid's camera.

It rained hard the night before and in the early morning hours but by opening time it was sunny and about 60 degrees out. It was really windy but that didn't affect me much. In a turtleneck and a handknit sweater and jeans I was just fine.

The thing I noticed a lot this time was there was less yarn and more fiber intended for spinning. I guess spinning has taken off more in the last two years than I'd realized. How many vendors can sell so much identical product for the same price?

(Above: gorgeous muted colors of naturally dyed and processed yarn by and from Maine fibers by Wind-Spun Yarn by Hope Spinnery, named since their electricity comes from windmills. I'd already spent too much by the time I saw this yarn so didn't buy any, but couldn't resist gushing over it.)

Regarding me and spinning I did really want to learn two years ago. I purchased an antique spinning wheel from an antique collector through a Craig's List ad. I have not spun on it yet as it needs more bobbins which are not easy to find since this is about 150 years old. It also is a little warped and I don't know if it really can be used. I tried teaching myself from books and YouTube video tutorials but have failed.

I have been so busy homeschooling my kids and parenting them that I barely knitted this year. I picked up the needles again this summer and am back at knitting. I reset my priorities and realized that I should stick to knitting, something I know and something I own materials to do already. Spinning would require the purchase of more stuff for the wheel (or a new wheel) and then wool roving and maybe some class fees. How much can one person do? So as of right now I'm going to stick to knitting.

Well...the other day a homeschool mother who I see once a week when we both have time to kill while our kids are at a paid class together, told me she's been spinning for over 20 years and teaches classes. She suggested I buy a $10 drop spindle and first learn to spin by hand which is portable and cheaper. So to that end I spent about $30 on three colors of wool roving yesterday and will use that to give hand spinning a whirl.

It was a relaxing day and I'm happy I went. I bought some great yarn. I have enough new yarn for at least two full projects and partial materials for two or three more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who Should Decide About Homeschooling: Kids or the Parents?

I have been thinking about, and my husband and I have been discussing the issue of whether to discontinue homeschooling and to enroll one or both of our children into school.

This blog post is about my opinions and my family. I respect freedom of choice and what other families decide to do is none of my business. This piece is not a criticism of what others have decided for their own children.

As with each autumn, I learn which of our friends and acquaintances have quit homeschooling and enrolled their kids into school, as they are noticably absent from the activities they formerly participated in. Yet at the same time there are a fresh crop of newbie’s joining the homeschool community who took the plunge this summer. Then there are the even newer ones whose kids were always in school but felt this school year was different and unacceptable and withdrew their kids from school after attending school for weeks or a couple of months this fall.

Although it's none of our business we can't help but wonder what would make a family stop homeschooling. Sometimes the whole family is affected and other times only one or some of the kids stop homeschooling.

Sometimes in conversation with the mothers (or when reading their online communications) the reason is shared that the child wanted to go to school and they let the child make the decision, so off the child went.

For our family, our recent consideration to continue or stop homeschooling was two different issues, very different reasons for each child due to the unique nature and circumstances of each of our children.

The younger son requested last fall that he wanted to go to school to be around kids his age more. He thought it was fun 'party all day' time in public school. He dismisses the negative things his friends tell him about school. Every schooled boy we know hates school except for lunch and recess and sometimes gym. They hate getting up early, hate and are bored by the learning in class, and hate the homework. This month that son tells me he is just curious about school and wants to see what it is like. In reaction to this we joined one new co-op last spring which he loved and seemed to satisfy his desire to see kids more. He made a new homeschooler friend there and got to see another close friend more often as a result and then was around some acquaintences more (but the boys around his same age are of limited number in that co-op). Both kids were so happy with that co-op that we re-enrolled for this fall.

For our older son the concern was how difficult for ME and the whole family it would be to adequately prepare our oldest son for an engineering college's prerequisites. It can be done but should I bother? It would be easier just to send him to school and let the colleges trust that what was done there was of high caliber and wipe my hands clean of things like researching curriculum and comparing online classes? It's a lot of work figuring out how to get into community colleges (around here some courses are closed to homeschoolers as demand for enrollment by matriculated students is high and they get priority) and then even if he did get in, handing schlepping my kid to and from college classes in between whatever else is going on with our younger son's homeschooling.

So who gets to decide if the kids go to school or not? Should it be up to the child?

Right now, our older son doesn't want any part of public or private high school. Our younger son wants to go to school, with a request to do so just last week.

Neither my husband or I feel the decision should be made by our children. The reason is that we did not come to the decision to homeschool lightly or quickly. The decision was made after careful consideration of what we feel public and private school can supply regarding the quality, content and goals of that education versus what homeschooling can provide. We felt homeschooling could be a superior academic education. The freedom to learn actual content instead of a major focus on practicing to ace the state standardized test (so the school looks good not for the goal of the individual student to learn) is also important to us. That was our main reason for homeschooling: quality of academics and the ability to customize the education to the young child's developmental stages. We wanted to be able to focus on what needed extra attention to achieve mastery and to be able to glaze by easily grasped concepts.

Less major but added together seem almost as important are issues such as avoiding certain negative social experiences and peer pressure, not being around kids who don't value learning or give the impression that it's stupid. My child being more concerned about social experiences than learning, being forced to learn what the school's trend of the moment is regarding learning method or content, and putting unimportant issues ahead of core academic content (i.e. pushing social agendas while barely teaching science and history or teaching touchy-feely math or to do simple math with calculators).

We wanted to raise our children with more of a total parenting experience. We didn't want to compete for our kid's time and attention with most of their waking life being spent in school or being cared for by strangers we pay in before and after school activities and all summer long in camps.

We wanted to be able to infuse our family's values and belief system into the academics, to view things through our own perspective (and in the teen years to open this up to teach other views and the way other people look at the same issue).

We didn't want to be in a situation where it's us the parents against them, the school (as that applies to many situations).

We wanted to introduce our kids to difficult topics when it was right and appropriate not when the school thinks they should know it (it seems lately that everything is being pushed down to kids who are too young to even know such things).

Living together for more hours in the day has allowed us to know each other better and to have a different kind of family experience than most modern families have. In the early years active parenting with the attachment parenting method was intense and not always easy but it was worth it. I was able to meet my children's needs as the developed and grew up.

I have come to know my kids deeply and we can live more in harmony with each other. This has helped my kids through things like mourning the deaths of loved ones and coping while watching a grandparent go through the dying process, slowing changing over time as their health declined. It has helped situations like when my younger son was being bullied by school kids on his travel lacrosse team. Taking negativity in small doses when the majority of the child's time is in a more positive environment is much different than being bombarded with too much negativity and too much pressure day in and day out.

My husband and I have lots of reasons why we homeschool and we don't feel that our children at age 13 and 10 are in the position to make the decision for themselves about whether to keep homeschooling or to go to school.

If I let my kids decide it may not be best for them or even for me! Yes, I said me! Why should my child be the one to decide if I am going to homeschool him? If I'm incapable or burned out then I'd not be a good homeschool teacher or parent, and at that point I'd want my children in the hands of a competent and not burned out teacher instead (although the fact is what the teacher's qualities are is a crapshoot but I'll ignore that for the sake of this argument; I'll drink the Kool-Aid to make my case).

If I let my older son decide to not enroll into school but keep homeschooling, that keeps me being responsible for his homeschooling. Even when he said, "I'll teach myself", even though he's 13 years old and maybe can manage a self-teaaching method, the burden of responsibility legally lies with me, the parent, to ensure what he is doing is not only good enough per the state. For my husband and my standards, we raise the bar for me to also include me be responsible to provide him with an education to fulfill his goals (seeking admissions to an engineering school). However if I'm burned out or don't feel I can adequately provide a rigorous enough content for homeschool high school, then what? If I'm burned out, I'm done. Period. My kid shouldn't force ME into continuing to homeschool!

If my husband and I choose that he will indeed go to school (against his wishes) I would view my role as his mother to help him realize that he can not only survive attending school but can learn to thrive there. It's my role to help him learn to be independent and if that includes a switch to school for high school, then so be it. I can teach him how to navigate those waters and how to play the school game since I remember what I learned from my own experiences in public school.

If we let our younger son go to school just to try it, that's dicey. From what I know from my friends and neighbors about this highly ranked public school I don't want my kid in there. The academics are dumbed down and all they care about is teaching to the standardized test or labeling kids with something that qualifies them for a 504 that will give the school more money from the state.

(Update: since I drafted this yesterday I ran into a mother in town who I'd not talked to for two years and learned of some important issues regarding super dumbed down curriculum and having "no general curriculum" in our public elementary school. What I heard was going on or not going on in there was absurd.)

If I let my son go and he aces these assignments and tests and flies through the homework, he will be thrilled to death. He will have checked off the little boxes and feel so wonderful about his accomplishments. His self-esteem would soar (it's not bad now but he'd have the makings of becoming a narcissist or a megalomaniac). At age ten he knows nothing about what quality academics are, how could he judge which school or if homeschooling is superior academic content? He'd probably love school due to its easyness. Then what? The decision would be whether to force him to quit against his will or to let go of our family's goals for education.

If being in school, even being an "A" student, and even if taking some honors classes in middle school next year (our town does not have any gifted education for grades K-5) still yields a sub-par education then what? Is it really in my child's best interest to be the one to decide if public school is right for him? If on paper he's seen as thriving in school but suffers personally and socially or is just thriving at the dumbed down academics is that something to actually celebrate? I don't think so.

This is also a kid who I know will be tempted to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Knowing that in this town some kids are already drinking vodka under their parent's own roofs and experimenting with pot, shall I place him where those temptations and peer pressures are within such an easy reach? I know my son enough to know that temptation is a major challenge for him (as it always has been).

That son of mine is also a follower socially. All the rules go out the window and he quickly follows the leader. I have witnessed this happen right in front of me and it's mind boggling to me. (I've also seen other kids join right in too so it's a general follower thing not just a flaw with my son.) My son takes strong cues from his peers as to what is normal behavior and overrides his rules at home. One example I learned of this week is that an instructor in a class he takes allows the use of the phrases "pissed off" and "shut up" and those are not words we allow to be used in our own home. Yet my son has joined with the other kids in using them at the class regularly apparently.

Those who would advise that I should just trust my child and he will rise up to make the right decision for himself do not know my child as I know him nor are they responsible for the welfare of this child (nor will they have to deal with negative fallout from his decisions like I will).

There is a difference between protecting a child and sheltering him, in this case for me, it's about protection from imminent harm. It's not about me raising my kids in a bubble; anyone who knows me and my children knows we're not in that category of homeschoolers. I can only hope that my son will mature enough in his teen years to have his head on straight when he leaves for college and can really get into some serious trouble.

I am grateful to have been born in the United States of America where we have certain freedoms that others in the world do not. I am happy that Connecticut has lenient homeschooling laws that do not compel me to use or even answer to a system which I have rejected. Our law even has some wiggle room as to what has to be taught when (by not defining such detailed parameters) which allows us to teach to our children's developmental stages (more of an issue in the younger years than it is for us right now).

At this time my husband and I have decided to continue homeschooling. So long as we're financially able and our kids are thriving personally and academically, we will continue homeschooling.

If one of our sons grows up resenting it and wondering what school would have been like, that's tough for him and we'll have to accept that one grateful child out of two is better than none. The resentful son can go away to college and see what college is like and that will have to be good enough. Perhaps for some years he won't appreciate the superior education he received at home nor appreciate how good he had it in his childhood. Maybe he'll not even be grateful that we're letting him go away to college (something my father wouldn't le me do) but that will be his problem not ours. Any bitterness he chooses to harbor will be his burden to bear, not mine or my husband's.

My husband told our kids this last year during a lecture after they were complaining that they felt our academic standards were too high: that he will continue to make the right and best choices (such as homeschooling and requiring a certain competence in core academics and being prepared for college admissions), and if they grow up hating him for it, that's something he can live with.

My husband said what he could not live with is if he didn't do right by our kids and made second best or poor decisions and regretted it all the rest of his life. He said he felt he had a responsibility as a father that he must fulfill. He made it clear to our sons that night that they had no choice but to do what he and I felt was right and best and if they grow up hating us for being good parents who are trying to prepare them to be self-sufficient adults then that's their problem, not ours.

The bottom line is my husband and I feel our duty as parents includes providing not only food, clothing and shelter but a loving and nurturing home environment. We feel our duty is to provide a quality education (which is exactly what the Connecticut education law says). For now that means a continuation of homeschooling.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Working

One of the goals I had for my children this fall was to let them see what doing all the things they want to do was actually like. I figured it would not be bliss as they thought and I was right. They asked to see their friends more and their desire for time for socialization seemed insatiable. Their time together at home contained more bickering than ever before and they were turning nasty toward each other like some other kids I see (and used to feel happy that mine weren't like that).

So now we're about half way through our fall 2010 crazy schedule and the kids can't wait for the routine to change. We are so busy I can't imagine really living this way for any extended period of time.

The alarm wakes me Monday-Friday and I have to get up and wake up before we're off and running. The kids struggle to wake up so I vascillate between giving them an hour before we have to leave and a half hour. They want to sleep more but just leaving thirty minutes to get up, shower, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast and get in the car is a bit stressful.

After being out all day we are home for sometimes just twenty minutes before dashing out to the evening appointment. That happens four nights a week.

One weekend a month is a Scout camping trip which means prep work packing is crammed in sometime during that week then they are rushing out the door on Friday night to meet the carpool.

On non-camping weekends, Saturday is our one day to sleep in. We have one standing appointment on Saturdays: fall ball lacrosse. Sunday it's get up again to get to church.

This week I felt like a homework nag. Despite my best efforts to get my kids organized I myself felt confused and unorganized regarding their homework. I realized it is because they each take about a dozen courses with different homework that is due on different days so I'm trying to make sure they get the stuff done when it's due. The homework is never consistent or the same, and sometimes there is none, so there is no steady routine to it to help me or them remember to do it. I am working with them to use a student planner calendar to write the assignments but so far they are not compliant.

My kids now have four bags each, either backpacks or laptop cases which line the hallway. Each has the books and papers for the one day's classes. It got too crazy to use the same bags and to unpack and repack them each week, they were losing stuff. Besides, the backpack for wilderness school seems to always have some dirt and leaf litter and wood shavings in it or something messy. I myself have a tote bag for each thing. This is poor interior decorating, believe me.

On Columbus Day our two events were cancelled so we had free time. I'd intended to do homeschool lessons unrelated to co-op's and to do homework and Boy Scout merit badges but my sons fell into creative endeavors instead. I didn't have the heart to stop them. They worked for hours and hours making walking sticks and staffs for staff fighting (something learned at homeschool wilderness school class).

My sons are fried from all these appointments. At present we are living the antithesis of what we used to live as a relaxed pace homeschooling family. Now it feels more like cram in the appointments, do some learning and check the boxes off. This has left me to ponder what they are doing and learning at the outside clasess and events and to ask myself "is this worth it". In the past I'd said no.

Before I chastize myself too much I need to remind myself of how much my younger son was asking to go to school JUST to be around kids more. (Tomorrow's blog post will be my opinions on who gets to decide if a child goes to school.) Believe me my son had plenty of social time but he was asking anyway. Now he is saying he sees enough of these kids and feels he is with some of them too much (the annoying ones) and still doesn't see enough of some others. Hey, that's what it's like in school too, there are always some kids you would like to see less (or never) and some you'd like to have more time with.

Both of my sons are asking for more free time, more unscheduled time. They have things they want to do that we have no time for. A sampling of what they want to do:

read for pleasure more in long stretches of time without being forced to stop and do something else or leave to go somewhere

sleep in later in the morning

wake up when their body has slept enough

be free to stay up later at night

have free time to learn more of the Anime Studio 7 computer program and make their own anime

learn to draw better

learn to touch type, and with faster speed

learn certain subjects in a less rushed manner, to slow down to learn

have time to dive deeper into topics and learn a bit different things than some of the co-op classes are focusing on (i.e. do more chemistry experiments not just talk about the periodic table)

more time to work on and complete Boy Scout merit badges

more time to take photos and learn to edit them in Photoshop Elements

more time to take videos with their digital cameras and edit them into short movies

more time to bake and cook from scratch

me to read aloud to them again (I haven't done that in perhaps a year, gasp!)

(older son) more time to do studies that need to be completed to seek admission to engineering school

Well the price of this crazy schedule this fall may have been worth it. If I can get through it without getting sick or gaining any weight I'll have done more than just survived it.

One benefit from being so busy is my sons are hardly bickering (about once or twice a week they bicker).

I am so happy that my kids have come to the conclusion that I wanted them to: they want to continue to homeschool, they want to do more studies at home and they are being serious about academics. They have shown they are developing more self-discipline and responsibility in completing assignments for homework. I think that will carry through with home studies so long as I don't relax back and let go of a structure that is tight enough to ensure they don't slack off and become unproductive.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The New is More Trivial Than Essential"

While decluttering paperwork I found a book review torn from The Wall Street Journal on 12/15/08. I meant to blog it but never did.

The book is "The Overflowing Brain" by Torkel Klingberg and the book review was written by Christopher F. Chabris.

I wanted to read the book but it never made the list of things to spend my time on. Too many interesting things to read and do and too little time...

Today, instead of tossing this into the recycle bin I decided to share this one paragraph with you as I loved it then and I still agree with it now. If you don't know what the book is about it is about all the things in our modern lives competing for our attention, including the Internet, email, blogs, and so forth. This was published before Twitter hit or that would have been on the list also.

"For Mr. Klingberg, the mismatch between our modern lives and ancient brains is most evident in the problems of working memory and attention, but another culprit may be at work. We are easily distracted also because we vastly overvalue what happens to us right now compared with what comes in the future and because novelty is intrinsically rewarding. So whatever we are supposed to be focusing on has to compete with every new email, new task, new blog post and new conversation that wanders into our information sphere. These biases may have served us well in our species' evolutionary past, when the future was uncertain and the new could well be a threat that deserved immediate attention. But nowadays the new is more often trivial than essential, and sacrificing immediate rewards can yield greater ones in the future."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pretty in Rain

The changes seen in nature in autumn are so varied and all are beautiful. Even the back of a leaf covered in raindrops is lovely. Stuff like this is lying all around our feet. The key is to look and see then to appreciate it.

As I was snapping this one shot my ten year old son turned around to see what I was doing and complained. We had nowhere to go and time to kill so there was no rush. When and how will he learn to stop and smell the roses?

Photo copyright by ChristineMM 10/05/10 in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Homeschooling for Engineering Wanna-Be's

Today I revisited this blog post explaining MIT admissions and homeschoolers (which I had originally read a couple of years ago).

Given that MIT is one of the most prestigious engineering schools I think that planning studies around their ideal is a good idea. How can you go wrong? With that said having been on the MIT campus for Splash in 2009 I saw many things that made me think their students are some of the  most brilliant minds in the world. Since my son loved Splash and feels comfortable on the MIT campus of course it's already on his top choices list (and he doesn't graduate for another five years). I don't know if my son would be accepted to MIT but he is surely going to try.

I thought I'd share this link today because about a handful of my blog readers have sons  nearly identical to mine with hopes of becoming an engineer.

Here are the admissions guidelines for MIT for your consideration also.

Recommended High School Preparation


Here are quotes from the blog post on homeschoolers and MIT Admissions and my reaction:

"One quality that we look for in all of our applicants is evidence of having taken initiative, showing an entrepreneurial spirit, taking full advantage of opportunities. Many of our admitted homeschooled applicants have really shined in this area. These students truly take advantage of their less constrained educational environment to take on exciting projects, go in depth in topics that excite them, create new opportunities for themseleves and others, and more."

Check. However if we keep doing multiple homeschool co-op's there will not be time for this except for the cases when the co-op is hiring SMEs and professional science teachers to delve deeper into specific content areas. Note to self: stay home more to do lessons at home.

"The vast majority of our admitted homeschool students have taken advantage of advanced classes outside the homeschool setting, such as through a local college or an online school such as EPGY. Transcripts of these courses, in addition to evaluation of the homeschooling portfolio, are very helpful. Some students will also take advantage of MIT's OpenCourseWare."

Check, kind of. To be qualified to do "advanced" courses he'll have to stay on top of the basic courses. So we have to  make those a priority and do them early enough so he'll have time to do the advanced courses. This means we will have to stay home more to do the work.

Check, for the future. My son will probably end up in community college perhaps starting in grade ten.

To Do: If he is to take any EPGY online classes I'll have to start teaching him how to take standardized tests now and have him tested perhaps this year, since EPGY requires certain high test scores to get into their program which is for gifted kids.

To Do: My son will wind up taking other online classes.

To Do: If he is to take advantage of the MIT OpenCourseWare (which is free I'll add) he will need more time at home to pursue those studies (not out at homeschool co-op's).

"Most of our homeschooled students have taken advantage of extracurricular activities and community groups, such as community orchestras and theater, athletics groups, scouting, religious groups, volunteer work, work for pay, etc. Our homeschooled applicants, like all of our students, are active in their communities."

Check. My son recently turned thirteen. He was a Cub Scout and earned his Arrow of Light and now is a Boy Scout. He is in a religious group and does crew at a rowing club. He has already started doing volunteer work.

To Do: He is too young to do work for pay now but I do want him to do some entry level minimum wage jobs as I did, they teach life lessons like nothing else can, whether it's working a service job with customers or washing restaurant dishes, there is a lot to be experienced and learned there.

"Many (but certainly not all) of our homeschooled students have been active in summer programs. For some students, summer programs (see some recommended examples in this entry; some programs I have frequently seen in homeschooled applicants include CTY, TIP, PROMYS, MathCamp, RSI, Tanglewood, and Interlochen, among many others) are a great opportunity to work with other students from diverse backgrounds in a colloborative manner. Summer program mentors and job supervisors can also be great choices to write college recommendations."

To Do: This is something we are going to have to look into. Some of these programs require certain scores on standardized tests. He will have to find time for these in addition to Boy Scout summer camp and the summer season of crew.

"Extra recommendations can be especially helpful for many homeschooled applicants. We welcome a recommendation from a parent, but require at least three recommendations in total (usually a counselor and two teachers). We encourage you to submit additional recommendations (but don't submit more than 5 total recommendations) from those who know you well, such as coaches, mentors, job supervisors, clergy, etc."

Check. This will be easy. My son is a unique individual with good relationships with every adult he works with. I have received many compliments on his demeanor, behavior, actions, and personality and some have said they see and like the way his mind works.

"MIT has alumni volunteers called Educational Counselors throughout the world who conduct interviews on behalf of MIT Admissions. We strongly encourage all of our applicants to take advantage of the interview, if available."

Great! This will be especially important for my son since I think his personality and character will shine in an interview, possibly looking even better than his transcript and showing more about him than the test scores.

However the interview is irrelevant if the student has lower than desired standardized test scores. Therefore, this underscores the need to get working on whatever is necessary to prepare him for getting good SAT scores and also practice writing good essays and finding his authentic writing voice so his essays can show who he really is rather than sounding like some stock answer that a college admissional essay writing tips book recommends. Note to self: stay home more and get this work done.

Know the goal and focus on what it takes to get there.

Reviewing this has helped me decide what some of our family's choices for homeschool experiences should be going forward.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Culinary Herb Harvest

Parsley, basil and oregano harvested from my organic garden.

We made speghetti al burro with it, using my husband's made up recipe. I also taught the homeschool kids in my co-op cooking class to make the dish. They all had never had it before and loved it.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Rip It Out

Homeschooling, the ultimate Rip It Out experience.

"Words and ideas can change the world."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Posting is sporadic this week due to an untimely and sudden death of a person close to us.

Add to the list of my life experiences, being with the family at the hospital when they had to make the decision as to whether to discontinue life support, and being at their side when they followed through. What a terrible situation to be in, something so hard to see. The family needed us, so we stayed to support them.

My husband has lost his best friend, who is also a relative. My children are devastated since he was friendly and treated them like real people, actually talked to them, and he loved them, and they knew it.

This is too close to home for me, he was in my father's high school class, they are the same age. This makes me think that any day my father could drop dead at any moment as well. I loved this man and sometimes have wished he was my own father, wondering how my life would have been different if I'd been raised by a father like that, one with so many different qualities than my own father's.

The man was a long-time vigorous exerciser, having won two triathalons in his division last month. He was healthy, according to doctors, so the sudden massive heart attack while on a bike ride on a crisp sunny autumn morning came out of the blue.

Instead of reading my non-existant blog post for yesterday, I suggest that we all take two minutes to review the CPR procedure so if someone needs your help we can assist above and beyond dialing 911 on our mobile phone. Simplified directions are here. Making the call is just not good enough. Precious minutes pass while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. You may be able to save someone's brain someday, which will save their life.

Many people's lives are affected by this man's life ending, I'm saddest for his wife, two daughters and his two young grandchildren. I'm broken hearted.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Two Evenings

One new routine for our family this fall is an evening sport twice a week for my thirteen year old son. He has done a crew program for the last three summers through Yale University's free Community Rowing program, we made the jump to making it a more regular thing. If you've got the money and the time, you're in, so there he is.

My son is at the front, sculling on the river.

He joined with one homeschooler friend. Based on my word of mouth promotion, another homeschooled teen joined in as did his best friend's cousin (who he's met only a couple of times). This level of rowing is co-ed and it is of course, 99% middle and high school kids which is a whole social scene in and of itself.

We thought it would be more social but talking is banned except while doing the jogging warm-up (or at drop off or pick up times). It's like a football team where the whole team gets punished with push-up's and other physical exercises for an any rule breaking by anyone, such as latecomers, slackers and complainers.  Reports to the coach by tattle-talers also cause the group to get punished. What I find wild is that parents and our society (such as teachers and others) would consider doing a sport like this a good opportunity for socialization but when talking and laughing is banned and whispering is done at risk of the whole group being punished I'm not sure I get how this is social. Well one thing he's learning is to put up with troublemakers, cheaters, slackers and idiots.

(I am not complaing about the coach's choices. I have empathy for them due to my own work with boys in Scouting. It just isn't always easy to work with a group of diverse kids, trying to get them all to do something together when some don't listen to authority figures, when they complain, or when they cause problems for the group.)

My son is enjoying it so far. He needs the exercise and is not in shape, so he finds the general conditioning difficult and it's something to complain about when he gets into the car. At least he knows to keep his mouth shut while at practice with his moaning and groaning and is being respectful to the coaches.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I Still Have My Marbles

I have not lost my mind or jumped off a bridge. (If you have been reading my blog you may have sensed my  despair.)

I have done a lot of thinking and talking to homeschool mom friends in the last few days.

I also got a break from my regular life by going out of town for a night to attend a homeschool workshop on writing composition given by Julie Bogart of Bravewriter. It was a Friday night three hour workshop and six more hours on Saturday. She homeschooled three kids for seventeen years. Not only was I enlightened by her advice about how to teach writing composition including at the high school level and for SAT essay prep, I was encouraged by her positive words about homeschooling in general.

Friday at the homeschool co-op I spoke my mind, politely and from the heart. I laid out my questions and concerns when trying to figure out how proposed classes at a homeschool co-op would mesh with a typical scope and sequence for high school college prep track studies. I was embarrassed when I broke down and cried in front of about a half dozen mothers, some who know only as acquaintences and would have preferred not to have seen me in a vulnerable state. I received the information I was looking for which helped me make some decisions about how my children and I will spend our time, at homeschool co-ops versus home lessons or other educational options.

My husband has come back around to supporting our children on the homeschooling journey so long as I am clear about college admissions requirements and can figure out a do-able roadmap to fulfill them. Since my oldest son is on a rigorous academic path this is more complicated than it is for other homeschooled stduents seeking different degrees. We're still going to the private high school open houses but more for my curiosity than his.

Hopefully this too-emotional state and the roller coaster of up's and down's is over now or at least for a while. I feel like the emotional fog has lifted and I can think clearer. I have more information to ponder. It feels great to be thinking in a more logical manner compared to living in a state of confusion and worry.

I have worked out short term goals for how the next two and a half months will go.

Appointments and task that will take our time includes:

Homeschool co-op A that I also teach 4 classes at.

Homeschool co-op B that I teach 1 class at.

Homeschool co-op C that I don't do any volunteer work for. Limiting us to attend once a week not three days.

Full day experiential homeschool class for each son on different days of the week.

Cub Scouts one son and me with a small volunteer job.

Boy Scouts one son and me with ongoing volunteer work, and attending two training sessions.

Shuttling one son to crew two times a week.

Shuttling one son to lacrosse once or twice a week.

Church attendance that I don't do any volunteer work for. (Today at church they pushed that we volunteer for the church if we are not already, this is just impossible for me to do at this time.)

One thing making me feel more relief is that I narrowed our homeschool lessons at home during this too-busy time. By December 15 every outside homeschool class will be over and other than Scouts and one sport we will have all our time unbooked and open. At that point I will decide which things to repeat for spring sessions. I can decide then which of the homeschool goals needs teaching at home or may enroll one or both kids in some online homeschool classes.

As Julie Bogart said we did not start homeschooling in order to make ourselves so crazy we have to be admitted to a psychiatric ward. Those words really hit home with me.

I hereby vow to keep calm and level headed no matter how stressed out I feel due to being over-scheduled. I hate to live life as if I'm counting down the days but honestly I am counting down the days until things start wrapping up at various dates between mid-November and mid-December. The first big relief is just six weeks away and in ten weeks total relief will be upon us.

In an effort to clear my blog of worry and dread I may do a series of blog posts featuring photos and telling some happy or non-controversial stories from our lives. The last thing I ever intended this blog to do is to bring my readers down, I hope I haven't caused anyone distress just by reading about mine.

Besides the blog comments, I appreciate also my blog readers who cared enough to contact me privately by email with encouraging words and information to answer some of my questions about homeschooling, private high school attendance and college admissions. I have a certain blog reader following who value their privacy and don't like leaving public blog comments. Thank you.