October 31, 2003

The agenda of books... I am surprised that I can still be amazed at the agenda's pushed in children's books, but I can be. We stopped at the library to pick up some books this afternoon and we came home with some surprises. I admit to being in a rush there and did not take the time to preread and screen our finds (I almost always do this) and just gave them a quick glance over. You would think I would then prescreen them tonight when we got home. Alas - my brain was off tonight and I just picked up the books and started reading - only to find myself surprised and editing as I read aloud.

Some might argue I am sheltering or shielding my children. I however think I am just not introducing them to concepts they are not old enough to understand or handle, nor do they need to face them yet. Lisa Whelchel expressed it well in her books "Creative Correction" (as I do not have the book here I am going to paraphrase) through a word picture she used. A young girl asks her father a tough question about a word she is too young to understand or need to face (I forget the example) and the father asks her to try lifting his suitcase which is heavy. Then he helps her and takes it from her and lifts it. He says there are some things you are too young to carry yet - let me carry them for you. That example really struck me and has stuck with me. Let's carry some of our children's burdens and let them face them when they need to - let them be kids a little longer.

Some may disagree with me and that is fine. Let your kids read whatever you deem appropriate and I'll let mine read what I feel they are ready for when they are ready for it. I'm not saying those books shouldn't be written - just that I find myself occasionally surprised at the subjects covered and the manner in which they are covered in innocent looking children's books. If you don't prescreen what your kids read or watch you may want to consider it - or you may find yourself faced with some real tough questions before your kids need to or can know the answers.

Just my .02,
Roses on my table... Serona brought roses home tonight from work - what a treat! I love fresh flowers on my table and it has been awhile since it was roses (I am usually a sunflower kind of gal) but roses are perfect for the moment. We have had a stressful few weeks and we just made it through Serona traveling for business for a week (he headed to Disneyland while we had our first glimpses of freezing rain and snow!) - he is back now thankfully. In addition our house in on the market and we just dropped the price by 10,000 in hopes that it will sell quickly. It is a hard market here now. But I look at the roses and I remember to take a deep breath and smell and relax.

Sirah is sick, she woke up from a nap with 103 fever. While normally just letting a fever run its course I need to admit such a high fever in such a little one does make me nervous. Take a deep breath and relax again, remember God is in control. I am finally recovering and it seemed everyone was on the mend here. Perhaps this shall pass quickly. Another stressful week coming up. But the roses will be on my table.

File Folder Games... I have often spoken of the wonderful benefits of file folder games. I have recently been asked about them by several people so I thought I would write a little here. Of course I just wrote a long post and blogger chose that moment to experience "technical difficulties” and I lost the whole thing – so I will summarize and try to be brief (this is brief for me keep in mind).

A file folder game is basically any game or activity that is self contained and placed in a file folder. We have a collection of about 40 of them right now, covering topics such as: addition, subtraction, phonics, patterns, shapes, colors, numbers, ABC's, numbers, matching, opposites, graphing and so on. My kids love them and we use them in the car, doctor's office, or anywhere we need to wait as well as during school and freetime.

These are really easy and cheap to make, albeit time consuming (printing, coloring, laminating, cutting, glueing, velcro) to make – but well worth it. Some great resources to make your own games include: Preschool Printables, Free Board Games, and Homeschool Hutt. I also find it relatively easy to adapt printouts from Enchanted Learning into simple or more challenging games.

For those who prefer to use non-online resources there are several great books out there. I especially enjoy the Carson-Delarosa series (we have used many of these). There are also CD-ROMS with printouts available such as this one. We have also made games out of old issues of “Your Big BackYard”.

All in all I can't say enough good about file folder games. The many hours of this summer that I spent creating these for my children has been well worth it. I am also making some for gifts for friends and family. Just thought I would share. Remember you can make these appropriate for any age. We started with basic shapes and colors and you can do science facts, math and logic games and anything your imagination can think of – or resources are available for. They are compact, self-contained and if done right pretty tough to hurt (always a plus with small children) and the kids love them.


October 30, 2003


Which month are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well I must admit I was expecting fall. As fall is my favorite season and all. Yet this is about your personality not your favorites right? And the description does fit me. And heck I am Irish - so why not?

Phonics Jumping... We have one of those giant foam alphabet mats and we use it nearly every day. As I type this Rhiannon is playing one of my favorite games with it. She took out a box of flashcards that has words and pictures on them. She stands on the first letter and then jumps to the next letter as she sounds out each word and tried to figure out what word she is jumping. Then after she guesses she turns over the card and can check for herself (since she uses picture/word flashcards). Sometimes when I think we need to burn energy - we jump their names or I sound out the letter and they need to find it or I show a lower case letter and they need to find the uppercase.

Or we play colors and they jump from color to color. Or jump their ABC's (most often the letters are not in order) and then sometimes backwards. We have a lot of fun and get some energy out at the same time. Another game we play on the mat - it to take objects from around the room and place them on the appropriate letter they begin or end with. They really enjoy our mat games. I am looking for the numbers foam puzzle to do this with numbers as well.

Permanent Canvases... Last night the children and I were at odds - they decided to draw their artwork on the wooden doors of our basement (two doors - both sides). They used dry-erase markers on wood (anyone have any ideas how to get this out?). We can't clean it off and of course we are in the process of trying to sell our home. So I was truly mad as we are now going to have to paint the doors, which will also mean painting trim.

After it was all over I got to wondering why this lesson of not drawing on things other than paper or their easel seems unable to sink into them. In the past few months we have had discussions each time after they drew on their wooden bunk beds, wooden dresser, and three separate walls in the house (which we had to repaint). Needless to say it is getting old - but I don't want to believe my kids just want to defy me. So I got to thinking - what could their motivation be?

Then I recalled an article I read once on children and permanent canvases. You see very few children have permanent canvases in their lives. They draw or paint on an easel or whiteboard and it gets erased. They make their artwork and we hang it on the fridge for a few days and then it comes down to be replaced by the next. If they are lucky their artwork finds its way into a box or portfolio to be saved. Yet they have nothing permanent. Adults: what do we have? Well many of us have home decorating (not a skill of mine) - if we decide we want that picture up it stays there, we change the color paint on a wall and it stays. We have some way of expressing ourselves artistically. What to we grant children?

So maybe my kids were longing to express themselves in a more permanent way. Or perhaps they were just really wanting to draw on a different medium - like wood. Or maybe they were just being naughty. I will try to help them find more ways to express themselves and understand why they are doing what they are doing now that the discipline time is over. That is when I decide my children can ever hold another writing utensil.


October 29, 2003

On the diets of infants and toddlers: Sad but true... Be sure to check out my post over at CyberEcology (our family's news commentary blog) about a recent study detailing the sad diets of infants and toddlers in this country.

Lessons From Mary Poppins... Our Kids just finished watching Mary Poppins and I am struck by the lessons I take away from the movie. Listening to "Let's Go Fly a Kite" play in the background of this post reminds me how important that life philosophy is. To take time to just go fly a kite. On a personal note, one of Serona's favorite family things is to fly a kite, it is not mine. This summer there were many times when I gave in and went to fly a kite many months pregnant and chasing two small children - but now I can see it was worth it! There is something so wondrous and carefree about flying a kite and the kids love it. I of all people should have seen how important it is - as I am such a big proponent of doing things that actually make the kids happy.

But Mary Poppins is more than kite-flying. The message of the movie to me is to remember to slow down, lighten up, have fun and take children seriously. To treat children as people with real feelings and opinions and to respect and further those. To teach in a fun and creative way. To make even tasks seem fun. What child ever forgets the "Tidy Up the Nursery Game" and "A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down"? And of course we can't forget laughter - Uncle Albert on the ceiling from laughing and the banker who dies laughing. Laughter is the very stuff of life and it makes everything so much better. I need to laugh more with my children. I need to lighten up!

And of course "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" always reminds me of how important silliness is. Sometimes silliness is the only solution. The other day Ciaran and I were having a battle of the wills and I was at my wits end and so was he. I knelt down to reprimand him for what felt like the hundredth time and he came barreling into me and we both feel down and just started laughing, which turned into ticking which just resolved the whole thing and we went on happier. It was amazing. Don't get me wrong we can't ALWAYS be silly with our kids - but I know I could do it more often.

When I look back on some of our favorite days I realize those are the days we are the silliest, most creative and make everything seem fun. After all we are in the magical days of childhood. Why not be a family of bears heading for our den when we have to leave a place? What not let them go out in full dressup gear other than on Halloween? Why not sing songs while we clean and play games to learn things? We do all this and on the days I am most creative - we learn the most and have the most fun.

So laugh with your kids today, be silly and remember to "Go Fly a Kite" in spirit atleast.


October 28, 2003

A fun and easy service project for homeschoolers... Scholastic Book Clubs is sponsoring a great program called ClassroomsCare. A description of the program from the website:

ClassroomsCare is a classroom reading program designed to teach children about the joy and importance of reading and giving. For each class that reads 100 books by December 31, Scholastic Book Clubs donates 100 new books to one of its charity partners — up to a total donation of two million books! This year's charity partners are: First Book, the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, Reach Out and Read and Save the Children. Each of these organizations gets the books into the hands of children in extremely under-resourced schools and communities in the United States.

Our homeschool support group is going to do this as a classroom but part of me wonders if each individual family shouldn't register as a class as many of us will read close to that many books in our own household over the next two months! We will keep track of our book reads here. I encourage you to look into this for your homeschool or homeschool community, as I will hazard a guess that many of you have reading families.


October 27, 2003

Monday Coop: The Senses... Today was my first day back at leading a class for our Monday coop since I was about 8 months pregnant. It was nice to get back into the swing of things though the weather did not cooperate and my lesson plan had to change. I am teaching a unit on the Five Senses. Today we opened the unit with an overview of the senses and I will follow-up with a full class on each sense. Not really because I think it is necessary but because I think it will be so much fun to do each sense and there really is a lot to teach if I get more detailed and a lot of fun to be had with activities.

Today was a real simple and short lesson though. We opened with a Q and A session on what are sense are to see what the kids knew already. At first they didn't think they knew but once one of them said that Hearing was a sense they were able to get the others. We then read My Five Senses by Aliki. A fun, engaging, short and cheap little book that the kids enjoyed. It was also the most recommended resource I found on several of the websites I surfed while putting the plan together.

Then we drew a web on the white board starting with the word senses in the center and drawing five spokes out for each sense and then five more spokes from those for the corresponding body part. The kids enjoyed this simple activity and helped the visual learners to see it. Then we did a worksheet connecting the body part to the corresponding sense. Then my intention was to take them on a walk and have them try to use as many senses as they could and talk about their experiences. But the warm summerlike fall days we have been experiencing have been replaced by Minnesota's first snow (thankfully it is not sticking) and the cold weather. We would have gone out but the children were not really dressed appropriately for that - so we stayed in and talked about how we use different senses and when. Then I went with the kids momentum and realized we were cutting our lesson short today and I let them have free playtime and then a snack. The rest of my prep work went home as homework ( a printout of the body) with blank spaces to label and another worksheet with cutout pictures of the sense and the corresponding body part and a song about the senses.

I will try to update this post later with the actual resource links, but I simply am too tired right now to find them all again. We will revisit the topic in a few weeks again anyway. Up next Monday - Spanish.

For the youngest among us... Okay so I admit it I was too lazy to find and print out black and white images and flashcards for our infant. We used these with Rhia and Ciaran and well Ciaran had a penchant for chewing things and they did not make it through. The lazy part of me headed off to "babies r us" and "toys r us", I hardly ever go to these stores - I failed they did not have what I was looking for. Friends were astonished that I was actually looking to buy them instead of make them myself - we have MANY homeade teaching tools - and this one seemed so easy. Well for once I decided to take the "easier" road and it was far harder, I loaded all the kids in and out of the car multiple times and never found what I was looking for.

In the end a good friend gave me this website which has some nice free printables for infants. Before you get on my case for pushing my kids too hard too young (Sirah is just 2 months old) I don't actually do the black and white images for education (though that may be an added benefit) I do it because my kids love staring and them and I think it is better than staring at my bedroom wall during changes and the back of my minivan seat during the MANY hours we spend in the car. They really are fascinated by these images.

So in the end a homemade solution was best. If you are looking for black and white infant images or black and white flash cards, visit the site, run the slideshow and print each image on cardstock, then laminate them. I also like the poster printout, laminate that and punch holes in the top and run string around it to fit around the back of your carseat (though please don't let your child play with it with the string - for obvious reasons) and enjoy watching your babies face as they interact with the pictures when they can't be interacting with you. Always remember you are still your baby's favorite toy but in a pinch or for a change of pace I find these work nicely. So do black and white images of mom and dad's face also laminated to survive baby handling.

What I want my kids to learn... Life in a Nutshell posed an interesting question: "
What is it that you want your DC to know by the time they reach 18, or leave home to go to college or work?"

I posted the following brief answer off the cuff:

I want my children to have a love of learning and a passion for knowledge. I want them to have a strong understanding of right and wrong (ethics, morality, whatever you would like to call it), I want them to have a strong Christian foundation, the ability to communicate clearly, and an ability to find the answers to whatever question arises. I want them to have the skills and interests that will make them happy, healthy, well-rounded and contributing citizens.

While this is clearly not all I want to accomplish in the years my kids are at home with me, I think it is a good overview. I really want to pass on a firm foundation and a passion for learning and the understanding that you don't need to "know" everything, but you do need to know how to find whatever it is you need. In addition to what I wrote I think I really want my children to understand and live out certain character traits: empathy, patience, wisdom, kindness and courage jump to my mind.

How about you? What do you want your kids to know? Please leave your thoughts in the comments area.

The loss of our friends... As many of you know we are in the process of trying to sell our home. We are avid readers here and the amount of books in our home is wonderful and ever growing. However, our realtor did not see it the same way. So we packed up many boxes of books to head off to storage, we took down two of our bookshelves and did not even refill the one bookshelf we still have out. I have a hard time each time I look at the shelf and see four books and a ceramic bowl or the other shelf with maybe a dozen books and a basket and photo. I feel like I am living in someone else's home and I miss all my "friends". I don't think I realized how often I go and pick up a book until they are not here, I miss them (I even miss the ones I don't really read) and the lack of books has changed the feel and personality of my home.

We stood our ground on the kids books and they still fill the house in baskets strewn throughout and on the bookshelf in the basement that Serona built. But my house feels so empty - which can also be attributed to the fact that I returned our library books and I am sure they were happy to see 50-70 books coming back to their library! So what did we do tonight? We went to a bookstore to buy more books of course!

We were in the children's section of the bookstore and I found myself in a challenging moment. No Ciaran did not throw a temper tantrum but I could not get my children to leave because they were too busy reading (well truly looking at the pictures) books. The sales clerk came back and witnessed my children sprawled out on the floor flipping through books, returning them to the shelf and picking out another. We were there for almost an hour and I really did need to leave, but how do you justify making your children stop reading? The sales clerk simply said " You don't" and we waited a bit longer and then they got their "last book" - so of course Rhiannon picked up the thickest longest book she could find and sat down to read. It just made me smile even though I was ready to go.

It is like at night time - somehow books manage to levitate and hide themselves in the top bunk where she sleeps no matter how many times we clear them out. The other night she was forced to empty them all and there were over a dozen hidden in various places (under her pillow, tucked at the foot of the bed under the blanket, between the comforter and the sheets, in her dolls dress and so on). As much as I want to be mad I can't help but smile as she is so much our daughter. Both Serona and I were guilty as children of reading by the light from the crack of the door or hiding flashlights or reading by streetlights - so why should we expect our children to be any different? A friend of mine once suggested we have a set bedtime and then allow them to read as long as they would like. However that means my children would be up forever! Rhia can fight sleep in amazing ways - the only thing that seems to work is boring her to sleep. I tried this strategy and she is up well past 11pm! Maybe when she can actually read the words will help her fall asleep - but if she takes after me or Serona she will fight sleep to finish one more chapter that always becomes half a book!

But all this has made me realize how thankful I am that we are "book people" and that we are raising a family of readers. I hope my children will find as much enjoyment out of reading as we do and as much as they enjoy being read to I think we are well along that path. Now if I could only convince Rhia that she does need to learn her phonics to read (she just wants to sight read - telling me the phonetic sounding out of words is NOT what the words sound like when you read them) than we would be making progress.

So when you go to sleep tonight and see all the books that surround you be thankful for your "friends" and realize how much we miss ours!


October 26, 2003

Homeschoolers better citizens?... According to Survey: Homeschoolers new political force homeschoolers are more active citizens:

An unprecedented new study of adults who were homeschooled not only contradicts assertions they lack socialization but shows them far more likely than the average American to be civically minded and engaged in their local communities.
Only 4 percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed consider politics and government too complicated to understand, Ray found, compared to 35 percent of U.S. adults.

The study showed homeschool graduates work for candidates, contribute to campaigns and vote in much higher percentages than the general population of the United States.

For example, 76 percent of homeschool graduates surveyed between the ages of 18 to 24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29 percent of the corresponding U.S. population.

Homeschool graduates in older age brackets show even higher numbers, with voting levels of 95 percent or higher compared to a high of 53 percent for the relevant U.S. populace.

Not only do homeschooled citizens tend to vote more and be involved with the political proccess, but they are also more involved with community and service work than other citizens:

The study shows 71 percent of the homeschool graduates participate in an ongoing community service activity such as coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared to 37 percent of U.S. adults of similar ages.

Eighty-eight percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed were members of an organization such as a community group, church or synagogue, union, or professional organization, compared to 50 percent of U.S. adults.

Somehow this does not surprise me, nor am I guessing it will surprise you. It is however nice to see the facts down on paper and compare the averages. Also Linda refers to another story from the Washington Timesabout this study.

Kudos to Congressional Leaders... Kudos to the Arizona representative (and the other 33 - I am trying to track down who they were) for taking on CBS:

CBS report blasted

Freshman Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks was one of 33 House members who signed a letter last week saying they were "deeply offended" by a CBS Evening News segment that aired Oct. 13 that focused on a murder-suicide involving a family that was educating children at home.

Their letter to Andrew Heyward, CBS' president of news, criticizes the "Eye on America" segment as implying the rural North Carolina tragedy was evidence of a dark side of home schooling, justifying further government regulation of home education.

"The tenuous connection between this 2-year-old tragedy involving a single family, which happened to home-school, and millions of law-abiding mothers and fathers who successfully and safety educate their children at home is absurd," the letter states.

Courtesy of Arizona Republic

October 25, 2003

The importance of a support group... Several moms from our homeschool support group just left my house and I need to thank them again. Today was "Mom's morning out" and I could not go due to the variety of things going on in our lives right now (sickness, moving, travel, newborn baby, etc). One of the moms decided we would just move the moms morning out here to my house if I wanted and they came over to hang out and to help me!

And help they did! We had a very hectic morning - we had to pick up our buying club order and take Rhia to Irish Step Dance with the whole van full of boxes. I arrived home to one of my friends sitting on our steps waiting for me. She was quick to help and took Sirah and chatted with the other two while I unloaded the car. Soon two more moms arrived and helped out with the kids and helping me unload and unpack all our monthly bulk groceries (including 15 gallons of soy milk). Then we just sat on my floor to chat, it was wonderful.

Wonderful to know there were women willing to come around me in my time of need and help out. Wonderful to get to know them and hear all their stories and share some of my own. Wonderful to feel the support of these women that I am just getting to know as if I had known them for years. And their help and friendship is genuine (you know when you can just tell) and for that I am truly thankful.

As a culture we so rarely surround our neighbors, communities and friends with help and love. I have really found that within the homeschool community. People aren't afraid to get involved in your life and to let you into theirs. That is a refreshing change of pace. I read an article in Mothering magazine ( an outstanding publication on parenting) called "Finding Your Tribe" and it was one of the best I have read. The article talks about finding your own tribe or "family" and really coming around one another in love and support. It always reminds me of the old adage "It takes a village to raise a child." Let us always remember to come around one another in love and friendship - like these wonderful women came around me today.

What science fiction/fantasy character are you?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?


A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.

Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not - for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life greets it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminescent beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, everywhere.

Yoda is a is a character in the Star Wars universe

Why two characters you ask? Well there was one question I truly could not choose one answer for so I took the quiz twice changing only that question and here are the results. I love both characters so that was fun! Yoda has always been one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars universe (we are official members of the Star Wars fan club and have been to Celebration II in full costume) and it was the character picked by my debate team for me to be. Galadriel is an amazing character and I am truthfully amazed to be considered "like" her in any way.

Find out who you are at Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?
For the love, will they EVER be happy?... A state teachers union went to court in order to attempt to shut down MN Virtual Academy, a "virtual" public school that allows parents to teach their children at home using the K12 curriculum. MNVA is set up as a charter school and many homeschooling families chose this option for its structure and the availability of teachers on each subject. This is not a "traditional" (I use the term loosely) form of homeschooling as the grading is done by a "certified teacher" and the curriculum is set and must be followed (though there is flexibility in pacing) however many homeschooling families do chose this option.

According to the recent Pioneer Press article EDUCATION: Suit seeks to stop online program the teachers union is up in arms claiming that we are funding homeschooling with taxpayer dollars _gasp_ :

Education Minnesota argues that state officials erred when they certified Minnesota Virtual Academy to receive public funding because the school relies mainly on parents to deliver the instruction, but state law requires licensed teachers do the teaching.

"Is it public education, or are we funding home schooling?" asked Education President Judy Schaubach. "... What we are talking about is, what is the definition of public education."

The state response was valid I believe. Of course I believe in technicalities even when they don't suit my needs. But afraid of someone stepping in on their territory the teachers need to raise up arms:

State officials said Minnesota Virtual Academy meets the requirements of state law, which says a licensed teacher must "assemble and deliver" the online learning product.

"We believe the school has been properly certified," said Bill Walsh, Education Department spokesman. The agency was reviewing the suit Thursday.
Education Department officials said it was the Legislature's intent to fund programs like Minnesota Virtual Academy that rely on parents or another adult to help the student through the curriculum. At least one lawmaker on the Senate Education Committee agreed.

"If you have distance learning, you have to have some freedom at one end," said Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista. "To require teachers at both ends is clearly not the intent of distance learning or the legislation."

Well good for the state standing up for the MNVA. While this is not even truly about homeschooling (as MNVA technically is a public school) I think it just shows that many (not all) teachers are upset about territory issues (AKA money and students) not about the education the child is receiving. Here the school provides "certified teachers" to answer questions, develop the curriculum and grade - but somehow that is not enough for brick and mortar counterparts. What will they be happy with?

Joanne Jacobs has a nice write up with some information as well.

Read about it yourself and then you decide.

October 24, 2003

On the subject of phonics... Carol over at Carol's storybook shares her thoughts on the need for structured phonics lessons early in life.
The more I learn about unschooling and homeschooling, and of course public schooling, the more convinced I am that many children are simply lacking a strong foundation in phonics. No wonder the children can�t read until they are 8, 10, or even 12! I really believe that children should not be deprived of the joy of reading, especially when they are young. I understand the concerns related to readiness skills and developmental issues, but in general, I think we shouldn�t underestimate the minds of young children. Rather, we should provide them with attention and encouragement, and in addition to reading aloud to them, a concentrated phonics-based program may be appropriate to equip them with the reading skills they deserve.

She advocates the use of Abeka phonics program. Anyone have any other phonics ideas to share? We have primarily used Phonics Pathways and our letter of the week philosophy (we focus on the sound of one letter for that week in all we do - example can be seen here. Would love you to share other comments and ideas.

Yet another reason we homeschool... A recent CNN article takes up the issue of textbooks. In Some educators take issue with textbooks the authors outline how several teachers are moving away from state ordered textbooks and outlines some of the problems with the texts. A quote:

"According to Diane Ravitch, author of 'The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn,' four big companies control about 75 percent of the American textbook market. Ravitch attributes the distortion in the marketplace to the states' role in buying the books.

She would like to see less involvement from the states so that 'small publishers have a chance to compete.'

'When you realize that your history books and your science books and your literature books are not the result of experts sitting down and making it a wise decision, but of political pressure groups coming to the state textbook hearings, this is wrong,' Ravitch said."

Of course this is NOT a newsflash to many of us homeschoolers and the blessing of homeschooling is we have the freedom to decide which resources (including textbooks or not) our children will consult during the years of their education.

Friday Five... This idea was taken from Life, In A Nutshell though I have seen it on several of the homeschool blogs:

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
silk soy milk, leftover black bean soup, Guinness stout, jalepeno peppers and seitan

2. Name five things in your freezer.
soy butter, edamame, frozen oj with calcium, edy's strawberry sorbet and leftover sloppy joes

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
garbage pail, recycling, dish rack, sos pads and trash bag box

4. Name five things around your computer.
file folder games, guitar, timer (otherwise i would never get off), whiteboard cleaner and all my new house/old house paperwork

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
target brand ibuprofen, nyquil (for dad only), halls cough drops, gentian violet tincture, and cranberry supplement pills
Thanks for the comments... Thanks to all the people who have recently written in comments, I always love knowing what everyone else thinks on a subject. I especially enjoyed reading other people's comments about how they school on this post.


October 23, 2003

Getting our groove back... Well life could stay crazy for awhile until the house is sold - but we really need to get back into our groove here. So today we started to try to do that. This morning Rhiannon and I worked on patterns for a long time, with blocks and worksheets and crayons. She went in and out of being frustrated and enjoying the work. Ciaran played alongside us building block towers and always wanting the blocks we were using for our pattern work.

We also spent some time working on our favorite file folder games and puzzles and flash cards. Then we had a neighbor friend over for open play time and everyone had a good time. The boys played well together and we let him play with some of our file folder games and his mother is interested in making some for him. Then we had to split for lunch and my kids needed an early nap as today was science class at the nature preserve.

Science class today was a lot of fun for the kids. They learned about colors in nature and how we see colors. They learned about the difference between light being absorbed and reflected. They learned about the famous ROY G BIV. They learned about how we process light. Then we went for a hike on the trails and looked for all the colors out in nature (on the trails, the animals, the sky, etc). During this time they also collected leaves and berries to use to make dyes.

We returned to the classroom and the children did an art project of making a bracelet that was dyed with natural dyes made from cottonwood leaves and berries from a variety of trees. They enjoyed the whole time and even Ciaran managed to keep still through most of the "Class" parts. It was truly enjoyable to be outside for awhile today on a nature hike and it was nice weather for the walk.

We sat in traffic for an hour on the way home and then arrived home for a dinner of Boca burgers, fries and corn with soy milk and vegan raspberry bars for dessert. The kids wound down by reading quietly in the living room by themselves and now are with Serona for their bedtime routine. As for me I am finishing this sentence and heading off for an early bedtime in hopes of kicking this cold.

Ramblings and Rantings of a Homeschooling Mama... I realized tonight it has been a long time since I just sat down and blogged from the heart late at night. Those are some of my favorite blogs. Some examples of these from the past are Tea with Norah Jones, The Food Disconnect, Journaling Family History and Late nights with Norah Jones. It seems there is something about listening to Norah Jones that spurs me to write from the heart. Incidentally I am NOT listening to her right now. You would not believe what the background noise for this blog entry is: a vacuum cleaner running not to clean but simply for its sound. My youngest daughter LOVES this and it helps put and keep her asleep. I really need to make an Mp3 recording of this so I don't have to keep running the vacuum all night long!

Anyway what is it that I want to talk about? I'm not really sure truth be told there is so much going on in our lives right now and it seems so little of it has to do with homeschooling. And yet in a very real sense all of it does. I have to admit I am not yet sold on the concept of "unschooling", (even though I keep finding myself there) I can see it's value and can see how it can work and many of its benefits but I just have a hard time understanding how one unschools math and language rules and how you are sure to cover all the basics. In many ways I see an unschooling tendency underlying both my teaching style and my children's learning styles - but not fully. At this point in our schooling I would classify us as "classical unschoolers" - a term that seems to contradict on face and yet it is a comfortable home for us.

The classical style of homeschooling really appeals to me for its structure and I really like the concept of the trivium. It makes sense to me and seems like a logical way to teach and to learn. However in some ways it is so rigid and I feel like I can't fit everything in to that "method". I would say that is the basis for our curriculum and my goals for the kids but it is not the way we actually school. In many ways I find myself moving down the "unschooling" path - following the desires and interests of my children. If we get interested in the letter F and the kids want to spend a week talking about firefighters - let's do it I say. Let's go to every kid friendly website I can find, let's visit the fire department, let's do fire safety drills at home. Let's work with their interests. This seems to be the way I end up teaching, very spontaneously sometimes flushing the day's schedule or even half the weeks schedule to go with the flow of the moment. You see my kids learn more that way, they learn when they are interested - so I am learning to go with their interests. However, I can not just let go of the rest I still find time to make Rhiannon do math even if she doesn't want to and we need to practice handwriting even if it is boring to her. But I will delay a certain lesson another week to accommodate the learning that is inspired by the moment in our household. Some recent examples of this can be seen in our lessons on Ride the trolley and On the Ocean Floor. These lessons both started from a field trip that became a week long lesson plan that covered a variety of subjects. And of course you can see that I plan lessons around topics or letters quite frequently from our recent E week. Those letter weeks seems to ebb and flux from what I expected or planned into something far better - simply by following the interests of the children at the moment and keeping a general plan and goal in mind for the day or week or lesson. So I guess we try for a classical curriculum with room for whatever our unschooling tendencies bring us to.

I think what makes me so excited about this is that it feeds my natural love of knowledge and it is exciting to observe this same passion in my children and I want to foster that however I can. I love learning, my calling in life would be to be a professional reader or professional student if that could be a profitable profession. Alas it is my hobby and my passion, I always seek to learn more and to better myself and the world around me through that knowledge. I want my children to share that passion and love that my husband and I share. So when I see the light bulb go on I want to foster that and encourage them to do more. That is why when the kids ask a simple question like How Do You Make Soy Milk? or How Do You Make Apple Cider? or What is Dry Ice?we do more than make a simple answer of "I don't know" or share the limited information we know. We go to the "answer box" (our computer) and find a detailed answer and then try to do an experiment to couple or reinforce the lessons. These have spurred some of our favorite lessons so far in our house.

I truly love starting with a simple question and following it through as far as we possibly can - giving the children both age appropriate knowledge and some more advanced information I don't expect them to fully understand now but atleast they will have the term or concept in their knowledge base to come back to later when the timing is more appropriate. Kind of like creating verbal signposts for them to hang the knowledge on as they learn it. Right now sublimation is not clearly understood by my 4 year old though she can tell you that it is "when a solid goes directly to a gas" Someday that definition will make more sense to her and she might recall the experiments we did that made her interested in recalling the definition.

It is this that makes me delve deeper for the answers and follow the paths of their interest in addition to our regular "scheduled curriculum". Some days I feel like we are saying "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you the following special report" and that is just perfect with me and the kids. This freedom is one of the best aspects of homeschooling in my mind. I think all teachers would like to be able to reach their students the way I can reach mine when I can work with their interests and desire to learn. That truly is a blessing in the homeschooling environment and one of the many reasons we have chosen to homeschool.

Well the time has passed quickly by and I do need to sleep so for now I will sign off. Thanks for listening to my late night ramblings.


October 21, 2003

Jury Duty and Homeschooling... A woman on one of my homeschool listservs just got called for jury duty again (she was able to delay once) she is homeschooling an older child and nursing an infant and is still expected to serve out her jury duty.

Now don't get me wrong I am a strong supporter of civic involvement of all Americans and think that jury duty is an important responsibility that should be done by all Americans (myself included) however there are times in ones life that it is more suitable to serve and times when you should be able to get reasonable exceptions. In my mind a nursing mother should be exempted for a variety of reasons, but especially because it would be medically inadvisable for a nursing mother to be separated from her child for that long for the health of both mother and child. Not to mention the obvious attachment and general caregiver issues that arise. However I was saddened to see that only 4 states have laws on the books exempting nursing mothers and only 1 state (florida) has a law exempting primary caregivers of young children.

I consulted the HSLDA website and found that there are no laws that would directly help a parent be exempted from juror duty. They do offer some suggestions on how one might get out of it or delay it for awhile.

So several local mothers have decided to get together to attempt to create statewide "Family Friendly" jury duty laws. I will throw my support and help behind them. I encourage all of you to think this issue through and consider starting ones in your own state. Atleast think through what you would do if the slip of paper came in your mailbox tomorrow.

Some resources to consult:
Family Friendly Jury Duty
What is Family Friendly Jury Duty
Why We Need Family-Friendly Jury Duty

Public Policy Update: Family-Friendly Jury Duty

FLYing while selling our home... Many of you have heard me talk about FLY lady and how she has helped us get our lives and home in order. It is from her that I stole my "I can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes" philosophy to life. Well the recent experience of getting the house in order for the selling made me write the following "testimonial" to her:


I just wanted to say Thank You! You have helped us during a very stressful time in our lives. We are in the process of selling our home and we had one week to get it on the market. During that week we had to recarpet and repaint nearly everything. We have been living in CHAOS as we moved through that week and then we had a little under 48 hours to set up, clean and decorate our home after the carpeting was laid. It was crazy, especially since we have a newborn baby, and 2 and 4 year old siblings!

But we were able to FLY through the task 15 minutes at a time. With our timer in hand we moved throughout the house and got it all shiny and clean in the time we needed. But FLYing hasn't stopped there. You can imagine how tough it is to keep a home with three small children in "showing" condition at all times, but we are doing it!

The morning and evening routines have been changed slightly so that our house looks like it could be shown every night before we go to bed and in the morning when we wake up we do the maintenance cleaning and dusting to keep it shiny and new! I keep on top of the kids throughout the day and never let the whole house get beyond 15 minutes from clean. We never leave the house without it looking like it needs to for someone to see it. The whole process has made me realize that I am keeping my house clean for "other" people shouldn't I keep it this clean for us? It has been tough but you are helping us on our way, hopefully our new house can look this shiny and clean as well.

Flybaby in MN

Courtesy of Nowak cartoons.
Kudos to Claritin... I thought the header might grab your eye. How and why is Tenn praising a medication and its company? Lest you think I have became an advocate for pharmaceutical companies and the like let me be clear I am only giving them kudos on a particular issue and make no claims about the medication and anything else the company may or may not stand for.

The company that makes Claritin allergy medication deserves our praise as a homeschooling community. In response to the outcry from homeschooling activists Claritin pulled it's sponsorship and advertisement from CBS's programming. Claritin was scheduled to sponsor the second part of the program but withdrew in response to all the calls and emails it has received.

Thanks to all of you who made calls and voiced your opinion, we are making a difference. Thanks to daryl over at Homeschool and Other Education Stufffor the heads up and link to the full story found at
Sponsor Pulls Ad from CBS News After Homeschoolers' Complaints -- 10/21/2003.

A final CBS spoof... Okay I know CBS is old news now, but this came into my mailbox this morning from a homeschool support group and I can't help but share it with you for a few good laughs. At first reading I had a hard time getting through it because it was so ridiculous. Then I thought it through and as a debator could see it is the same logic (or lack of logic) basis that CBS used in their report and this very nicely shows how ridiculous it truly is:

"The Dark Side of Homegrown Vegetables - Part I
[a response to CBS news, two-part series on A dark side to homeschooling
and Home schooling nightmares aired October 13 & 14, 2003]"

Received via e-mail on 10/17/03 from:

Brian Hill
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Bryan College

Good evening, I'm (NAME-OF-ANCHORMAN).

You've seen the success stories: A prizewinning pumpkin at the
state fair grown in backyard suburbia. Your Aunt Mary's squash casserole
that melts in your mouth. Smiling faces out in the sunshine surveying
freshly tilled earth. Indeed, there are millions of Americans today who
garden in their backyard with nothing but the best of
intentions. Unfortunately, there is also other stories; stories about
backyard gardening turned deadly, even fatal. (NAME-OF-REPORTER) has this

(Photos from a high school yearbook of a smiling young lady)

Reporter voiceover: At 17 years of age Amy X. had everything
in life to look forward to. Validictorian of her senior class, active in
glee club, volunteer at the local hospital every weekend. Her sister

(Amy's sister talking from the living room of her house)

Amy's sister: "She could always make me laugh, I could sit
and talk to her for hours. We never argued. I don't think she ever had a
mean thought in all her life. Everybody loved her."

(Photo's of a college age man)

Reporter voiceover: Unfortunately for Amy, after she
graduated from college she met and fell in love with this man, John Y. At
first, at first it seemed a perfect match.

Amy's sister: "They were definitely a fun couple. You would
always see them together holding hands."

(Photo of a young couple at their wedding)

Reporter voiceover: At first, it was a storybook wedding
leading to a happily ever after marriage, but then something went wrong.

Amy's sister: Yes, in those first few months I'd run into Amy
at the supermarket. She would be picking up and looking at their tomatoes
very carefully. John loved fresh tomatoes, you see. Anyway, she would
always go on and on about how fulfilled she felt as a wife, how much she
loved John.

(long pause)

An then, after a few months, I stopped seeing her at the
grocery store. I would call her up and ask her what was wrong. She'd just
laugh and say how John was starting to grow his own tomatoes in our back
yard. I could tell something was wrong, because I'd suggest we get
together and see each other, but she's always say she was too busy...

(longer pause)


(Amy's sister turns away from the camera and hides her face,
tears streaming down her face)

(Reporter in the middle of a large backyard garden)

Reporter: Yes, here, in their suburban backyard, John started
his garden. At first it was only tomatoes and green beans, then he went on
to lettuce, broccoli, squash, you name it. Only John Y. had a terrible
secret he was effectively hiding from everyone: John really didn't like
tomatoes. He was just using his garden as an excuse to prevent Amy from
going to the grocery store. He then started ordering all his canned goods
over the internet, and having them delivered straight to his door by
UPS. Pretty soon Amy was not going to the grocery store at all. And then
the beatings started...

(Cut to a young, competent-looking police detective)

Detective: We had several neighbors call us up with
complaints about noise, but none of them were specific enough to be able to
issue a search warrant. We had the idea that something was going on, but
without any actual evidence... (shrugs) We spoke to Mr. Y. several times.
He was definitely a typical controlling personality type, we knew
that. There just wasn't anything we could do, until it was too late, until
we found out that she had been murdered.

(Photos from the crime scene, along with voiceover description
of thesensational details of the grisly murder. Cut to footage of a
defiant John Y. being led away in handcuffs.)

(Amy's sister, again sobbing)

Amy's sister: If it hadn't been for gardening, my sister would
be alive today!

(Detective's office again)

Detective: I've seen other cases like this one, but this one
haunts me. Usually, when a victim of wife abuse goes to the supermarket,
we get some witnesses who are able to tell us about the huge bruises they
see on her face. This time, though, there was no one there to see
it. There was just nothing we could do.

(Reporter again in the middle of a large backyard garden)

Reporter: Home gardening has been legal in this country for
many years, and most home gardeners are normal people who garden with the
best of intentions. Yet experts warn that an alarming number of people are
using gardening as a means of maintaining social isolation in order to hide
their spousal abuse.

(Cut to a man identified as Gilbert Z., president of the local
chapter of the home gardeners association. Gilbert Z. has a bad hair cut
and looks uncomfortable being on camera.)

Gilbert: ...there are only a few isolated instances; I know
of thousands of gardeners who are really nice people. I don't see how this
is connected to gardening...

{Gilbert's statement is obviously a sound bite captured from
the middle of a long interview.}

Reporter: No one knows exactly how many gardeners there are
out there, much less how many are actually abusing their wives. Until now,
there has been no federal mandate to collect data on gardening in
America. Its an environment that allows men like John Y. to thrive.

(Cut to footage of John Y. being taken into court.)

John Y. is currently serving 5 years in prison, since the
charges against him were plea-barganed down from murder to
manslaughter. John Y.'s lawyers declined our request for an interview.

In tomorrow nights report, NAME-OF-REPORTER will tell how nationwide, wives
are being put in danger, even killed, while gardening.

{You now have 24 hours to imagine just what is meant by the word
"while". You probably now have this mental image of a husband and wife out
together in the field, the wife smiles and says, "Honey, could you pass me
the shovel?", and then the husband grabs the shovel and hacks her to death
with it. What you actually see in the next report, though, shows that
"while" simply means that they beat their wives and they happened to have a
garden at the time.}

The Dark Side of Homegrown Vegetables - Part II

Good evening, I'm NAME-OF-ANCHORMAN.

It is estimated that there are BIG-NUMBER of homes in America
today that have backyard gardens, and the overwhelming majority of these
people have only the best intentions at heart. Yet home gardening is
essentially unregulated. NAME-OF-REPORTER has uncovered dozens of cases of
gardening husbands who have been convicted or accused of wife abuse when no
one was there to regulate them.

Reporter: John Q. shot his wife one night and buried her in
the backyard. Yet since his wife hadn't been seen in the grocery store in
months, no one noticed.

Charles R. had his wife chained up in the attic for over a
year, away from the prying eyes of people at the local grocery store who
might have turned him in.

Both men were home gardeners.

And then there is the imfamous cases of Bob S. and Harry
T. Both had large vegetable gardens at the time of their conviction.

Detective: The genuine gardener is a person who grows
wonderful vegetables. There is, however, a subgroup within this group that
is only using gardening to cover up their wife abuse.

Gilbert Z.: ...I don't see any trend here. There's no
connection. These are definitely isolated cases that have nothing to do
with the gardening community...

Reporter: Yet no one knows exactly how many cases there are,
because at present there are few government regulation covering home
gardening. Home gardening is legal in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia, with only the requirement that the gardener refrain from growing
marijuana, opium poppies, and certain types of mushrooms. All but seven
states have no zoning restrictions outside of major cities which require
reporting gardening activities to local governments. No states require FDA
approval, permitting, and monthly inspections of each and every home
garden, or any other requirements that are currently in place to cover
commercial farming activities but for some strange reason have not yet been
applied to people who just want to grow a few squash at home. Until these
garden inspections start uncovering hidden cases of wife abuse that are not
being uncovered by the grocery stores {darn that fourth amendment anyways}
this cycle of violence will undoubtedly continue.

John Q. now faces life in prison. The question remains for us
how to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again ever anywhere
no matter what the cost.

{Oh, and I note in passing that even though dozens of cases
have been related which involve those "convicted or accused of wife abuse",
only four cases were mentioned which actually involved conviction. How
many of the rest were spurious unsubstantiated accusations remains a
mystery.} ###


October 20, 2003

Two good causes come together.. This article combines two of my favorite "crusades": fair housing and homeschooling. Recently a homeschooling family moved into a Habitat for Humanity home. Another success story! YAY Habitat, thanks for doing great things.


Link thanks to daryl.
Calling all stargazers...Tuesday and Wenesday early mornings promise to be spectacular for us! According to Science at Nasa:

This week, Jupiter will have a close encounter with the crescent moon. Dozens of meteors will shoot out of the constellation Orion. And Saturn will shine down over it all.

Check it out!
Things here... Well things here are slowly settling down and hopefully we will be getting back to life as usual sometime this week. We are headed to the laundromat as we are nearly out of clean clothes - we have been without a washer for quite a few days now (we have even started using disposable diapers). It is another unseasonably warm day here in Minnesota and I think we will go out rake the layer of leaves that fell last night (we had a clean lawn on saturday night) it is amazing how many leaves our yard manages to find. Though I shouldn't be shocked with all the mature tress we have in our yard!

The kids are surivivng, they enjoy eating out nearly every day for atleast one meal and they are happy to have access back to all their toys and school stuff. Though they have expressed that they miss sleeping in the basement as a family. As much as we love the family bed here, I can't say I miss it and am happy to see them back in their bunks!

We have read some this morning, played some and now are headed outside.


October 17, 2003

In the thick of it... Here we are in the thick of it all, carpet man upstairs, handy man downstairs, all of us crowded into the spaces of the family room that is not piled high with furniture. Yet we are having a good time, making the most of the situation.

We ate our breakfast of corn flakes (gasp) and soy milk on the floor in the bedroom. Then we moved into the basement for the day. We played duck duck goose (even though I live in the Midwest now I still can't accept duck, duck, grey duck) and built a little people village on our car rug. We drove the little people and the animals from the school to the zoo, to the barn, to the amusement park and to the construction site. We reviewed animal names and sounds and talked about colors while we played.

Rhiannon lost interest in this faster than Ciaran, so she went on a trip to the moon with her space helmet on and saved a little bird in the forest. She brought the bird home to take care of him. Then we did somersaults on the floor and then they asked to watch a movie. So I put in the Tigger Movie and sat down to blog before Sirah wakes up for the day.

The kid have already lost interest in the movie, fine by me and they are working on wooden puzzles on the floor now. Rhiannon has done a simple animal mother and child matching puzzle and Ciaran is playing with one of his favorites a butterfly and insect catch puzzle which has a wooden butterfly net stick with a magnet that allows you to pick the butterflies up with the magnet and then put them away. They both like that one, while Rhiannon waits her turn she is playing with a wooden block puzzle that has 16 painted wooden blocks, each side of the blocks is a different puzzle, it is a very tough puzzle actually. Truth be told she usually does not have patience enough to get through it.

When Sirah wakes up is nursed and changed I think we will head outside for awhile to play in the yard and run out some of the energy that has been cooped up from being in chaos all week. Though yesterday we were over the house we hope to buy and while we were looking around the kids played in the yard and had a grand time on the Rainbow Play System that is already there are will stay. YAY and just running the perimeter of the yard while I timed them and then rolling down the hill.

Well Sirah is up, that is my cue.

October 16, 2003

Life in Absolute Chaos... I'm not sure life could possibly get any crazier (though I truly hesitate to say that in fear more will come) than it is at this moment. We are putting our home on the market this weekend (on one week's notice and preparation). Perhaps no big deal you say. Well our whole house needed new carpet throughout the entire upstairs and painting in 4 rooms before we could show it. Okay possible in a week, yes. Possible in a week with three children under 5, sure with stress.

Now let us add the fact that in our house everyone is sick with a head/chest cold. We have had two ear infections, a bladder/uti infection, and a wisdom tooth coming in. We have an 8 week old baby who has been sick for nearly a month. Okay still managing. Then the carpet people inform us they will not be able to remove the carpet and we need to do it and we need to have all the furniture out from the entire upstairs. Sure. We now have all our furniture from our bedrooms, living room, front porch downstairs in our basement with all our family room/school room furniture and this is where we are all sleeping for the past two days!

The good news is the carpet people will be here tomorrow and this will soon be a happy memory of close family bonding. All I can say is praise God for his faithfulness it truly is amazing what he has accomplished and how faithful he has been. We never could have done this ourselves. I will likely be without much computer access tomorrow. I imagine you can understand why.

CBS spoofs... My husband is always able to see the humor in things and deal with them in a fun way (as well as his serious and logical responses). Here are a few recent ones:

"Next on CBS Eye On America: The lurking dangers of Drivers who Chew Gum and Drive at the same time (but without drivers licenses). We are urging Government Oversight of the Gum Chewing and Driving people who show wanton disregard for life by chewing gum and driving. (but we wont tell you they are not legally driving)

Eye On America interviews the CEO of Wrigleys Gum:"I see no connection between gum chewing and dangerous driving..." Yet we at Eye On America and CBS have unearthed earth-shattering information: The CEO of Wrigleys has 17 PARKING TICKETS in Atlanta, GA. He too chews gum.

And just last year police reports in Fargo N. Dakota indicate that in 2 fatal auto accidents (but we wont tell you it's 2 out of 200,000) someone in the CAR WAS CHEWING GUM at or near the time of the incident.


Spearmint seems to be the culprit in more accidents than other flavors but ALL GUM CHEWING and driving is dangerous. We at CBS are urging Federal investigators to spend your tax dollars investigating and hopefully regulating the sale of this auto-accident-inducing substance"

And of course here is the now well known Homeschool Sping: A look at the Dark Side" spoof. Link courtesy of Daryl over at Homeschooling and Other Education Stuff.
CBS Run around... Want to get more frustrated? Here are the results of calling the numbers.
These are the numbers various homeschool associations are encouraging you to call.

1. Viacom President and CEO - Mel Karmazin at 212-258-6000

Here you talk to a live person who refers you to this number (212) 975-5005 where you can leave a recorded message about the program. Which they claim will be expressed to senior staff and management. Somehow I am not hopeful.

2. CBS Evening News - LA Bureau at (323) 575-2202

Here you again talk to a live person who refers you to Viewer Services at (212) 575-3247. I have been unable to get through to this number - it is always busy (a good sign perhaps)

UPDATE - okay I finally got through - you need to let it ring a LONG time when it is finally NOT busy. I've discovered why the phone is so busy - they have ridiculous hours 10-11:30a.m. and 2-3:30pm EST. That is the only time you can talk to someone, otherwise you can again leave a comment on an answering machine. I'll let you know this afternoon if I actually get to talk to someone.

I encourage you to call all the numbers listed. Do leave a message on the recording expressing your feelings - however don't let them get away with just forwarding us to voice mail make them talk to all of us!

CBS again...I really encourage you to visit Joanne over at The Happy Homeschooler. She has a very nice response to the cases CBS has listed. In addition here is the list of sponsors of the program according to her:

During: Crest Toothpaste
Lincoln Mercury
Smith Barney Citigroup
Campbells soup
Serenity (TENA)
Post cereals
Capital One
GM (Mr Goodwrench dealership repairs)

The commercials right before the story were:
1. Post Grape Nuts & Shredded Wheat
2. Claritin
3. Capital One
4. Mr. Goodwrench

The commercials right after the story were:
1. Osteo-Bi Flex
2. Vicks Vapo Rub
3. Poli Grip
4. Hyundai Sonata
5. Detrol LA
6. Procrit
7. The Early Show

Calling all avid readers... Check out Book Crossings. This is a site dedicated to furthering reading through giving away free books, and it is free. The basic process is you:

1. Read a good book
2. Register it at the website
3. Release the book into the "wild" aka leave it for someone else to pick up
4. Rescue a book to read and start the process over again.

It truly is a neat concept and it adds another element of fun - each book maintains its own journal so you can see where it has traveled and what others thought of the book. Join today and further the freedom of books!


October 15, 2003

Home Schooling Nightmares...CBS presented part II "Home Schooling Nightmares" last night. While I really wish I had more time to answer this poor piece of journalism I simply do not. I will simply reieterate my point about the last piece that there is no casual evidence or links between homeschooling and child abuse. And point out a few highlights.

According to the report - CBS estimated 850,000 children being homeschooled and found "dozens of cases" of abuse.

My first question - how does that compare with public school statistics? I'm guessing more than dozens of children (nationwide) who attend public school are victims of abuse. But I do not have the time to research it right now.

My second question - where are these dozens of cases - I count 5 presented - one which was admittedly not even legally homeschooling. I'm sorry but these are cases of child abuse by people who happened to be homeschooled. What is next "The Dark side of McDonald's: Children who are abused and also eat McDonalds"

There is also the whole point that CBS never showed a solution to this problem or how regulating homeschooling more would prevent any of these crimes. There are other laws on the books that can be used to protect all children.

And the most absurd thing in the whole report in my mind was this quote: "Not one state requires criminal background checks to see if parents have abuse convictions." So we are going to check homeschooling parents only for a criminal background? There is no law that ANY parent should have a criminal background check to have children, why in the WORLD would there be one so they can homeschool? I mean where is the logic? Is anyone home at CBS?

Okay my rant is over. There are several good and well written responses by bloggers with more time and patience than myself right now. See Homeschooling and Other Education Stuff for the North Carolinians for Home Education's response. Also Icky over at The Homeschooling Revolution has several good points. And Joanne at The Happy Homeschoolerhas some great points including a list of the sponsors of the show. I always enjoy what Kimberly over at Number Two Pencil has to say - she has a nice summary of several other responses as well.

You can also read the Homeschooling Legal Defense Agency's response.

Finally here is a phone number to call CBS/Viacom about the piece: (212) 975-5005. Call and give em grief.


October 14, 2003

The "Dark Side" of Homeschooling... I honestly don't know where to begin on this one. I just finished watching the CBS News report "A Dark Side To Home Schooling". At the website you can find the text of the program, the actual video and at the bottom of the page a feedback link to leave your thoughts. Please take a moment to go to the site yourself and leave feedback for the producers.

This program was simply non-relevant to homeschooling. It took an extremely sad case of children who happened to be "homeschooled" and tried to lay the blame of the problems on homeschooling. There is no relevant evidence or support given for such a claim even specifically for this case much less ANYTHING that could apply to homeschooling in general.

In the sole case cited there is no link to homeschooling. It is truly as if the journalist picked something in their life to blame their death (it could have been they all ate oatmeal or lived in north carolina) upon and then tried to apply this to homeschooling in general. In the case at hand, the news reports from the time (2 years ago) do not even make mention of the fact that the children were homeschooling.

It really seems that CBS is grasping at straws with this report. They also offer no solution, much less any causal evidence. I will await Part two before making final judgment. But it seems to me that any logical person can see the problems with this story and should not take it as a serious or legitimate criticism of homeschooling. This was a family that had problems and they are in no way a reflection upon the broader movement of homeschooling, nor should they be used as a justification for new laws or policy's about homeschooling.


October 13, 2003

Calling all homeschoolers... Please watch CBS news "Eye on America" program tonight! According to information available the program will address homeschooling in America and " that the intent of the report is to encourage further state and federal government regulation of homeschooling."

Please watch the reports tonight and tomorrow and take action if necessary. As we do not have TV we cannot watch it tonight but I do have friends taping the special for me and will report back when I know more. Don't take your rights to homeschool for granted and be sure to stay on top of the news: good, bad, biased and unbiased. I am reserving judgment until I see the special but I am concerned based on information I have heard so far. This includes a summary directly from CBS: which states "Homeschooling has produced some brilliant young minds.. but there's a dark side to the movement that is putting children's lives at risk. "

Light Blogging... Well it is official we have put in a bid on a new house and it has been accepted. So the next week or two will be spent trying to get our house ready to hit the market and be sold. As we need to paint nearly every room (to cover our budding artists murals) and lay new carpet (as many of you know children are HARD on carpet and dogs are hard on hardwood) and the million other little details - I will be light in my blogging and truth be told my schooling (other than real life experiences) so please be patient with me. I will return to a regular schedule soon.


October 11, 2003

E week roundup...

Here is the review of our E week study and a list of some of the concepts and things we worked on. While not complete (I can't ever write all that we do in a week) it does give a good feel for our week and hopefully provide people who are interested with some ideas for themselves. We have chosen this letter strategy mostly so I can easily coordinate the learning of my preschooler (Ciaran) and my kindergartner (Rhiannon) in a fun and playful way.

Language Arts
E books we read this week: The bold ones were favorites and read several times.

My "e" sound box by Moncure, Jane Belk.
Emma's elephant : and other favorite animal friends by Ellwand, David.
The edible pyramid : good eating every day by Leedy, Loreen.
Earthdance by Reiser, Lynn
The elves and the shoemaker by Galdone, Paul.
Eating the alphabet : fruits and vegetables from A to Z by Ehlert, Lois.
Exodus from Egypt by Auld, Mary.
What a week : the sound of "long e" by Klingel, Cynthia Fitterer.
Ee by Doudna, Kelly,
The little engine that could by Piper, Watty
Emily is a Flower Girl by Claire Masurel
Thomas Gets Tricked and Other Stories by W. Awdry (Thomas the engine)
Eggday by Dunbar, Joyce.
Bonjour, Babar!: The Six Unabridged Classics by the Creator of Barbar by Jean De Brunhoff

Then of course there was reading that was not based around the letter E where we pointed out words that started with the letter E or some that had the sound of "e" in it as we read. That list is too numerous to post this week.

In addition we worked on the phonetic sound of e - pointing it out everywhere we could and kept our regular word list throughout the week (to be posted soon)

Science and Health

- the concept of evaporation
-Body parts that start with the letter E (eye, ear, eyebrow, eyelash, eyelid, elbow, esophogus, epidermis, etc)
- Senses of hearing and sight
-Several animals that begin with the letter E (elephants, emu, eagles and eels to name a few)
-eclipse (what it is, why it happens, what it looks like)
- food pyramid (what we eat and how we should)
-exercise - we did stretches and a childrens exercise tape

-recognition, number sense and handwriting of numerals 8, 11, 18 and 80
-skip counting by "even" numbers - 2's and 10's
-equal shares
-location (right, left, top, bottom, under, over, in, out, etc)
-matching manipulatives to numerals for numbers 1 -12

Social Studies and Social Skills
-emotions (what they are, how they are expressed, how they affect our relationships with others)
-errands (what they are, how to do them, what we learn)
-the country of Egypt
-the continent of Europe

Music and Dance
-concept of tone (esp as it relates to the way we express emotions)
-Do Your Ears Hang Low
-Irish Step Dancing Practice

-"e" collage
-several coloring pages: maps of Europe and Egypt, pictures of egg, eel, eagle, the letter E, etc
-free time with watercolors
-free time with play-doh

Bible Study
-memory verse Proverbs 20:11
-review of verses Proverbs 16:20 and Proverbs 15:1
-the story of creation
-the story of exodus

Miscellaneous Lessons
-"e" soundbox of our own
-recitation of Humpty Dumpty (egg)
-watching Dumbo (elephant)
-handwriting E, e, 8, 11, 18, 80

Well there you have a pretty good roundup of our week and the lessons we worked on. Some more details can be found in the blogs below. I will have a light blogging weekend as we have a lot to do around the house.


October 10, 2003

E lists tommorrow...Sorry but things have gotten crazy here tonight and the lists will have to wait until tommorrow.
On the subject of co-sleeping Read Jim McKenna's response to a recent study criticizing co-sleeping over at Simple Essentials. Wish I had more time to comment myself, but thought I would pass the info on.

Finishing up E... Today we are going to be finishing up the letter E and our lessons from this week. We will make a letter collage from magazine clippings, finish all our coloring and art pages and put the portfolio for the week together for art.

For music we are doing the fingerplays for the song "Do Your Ears Hang Low" and reviewing the concepts of tone. We will also practicing Irish Step Dancing

For math we will review the numbers 8, 11, 18, 80 by writing and by counting manipulatives. We will continue to review skip counting by 2's and 10's (tied in by even numbers), and work on estimating and equal shares.

For language we are reviewing the sounds of E and reading a few more "E" books (list coming soon). The kids are practicing their recitation of "Humpty Dumpty" (egg) and completing and reviewing our word list. In addition Rhia will practicing writing both lower and uppercase E.

For bible study we are reviewing our three bible verses and the story of creation. We will use a felt kit for review and play a few games and coloring sheets.

Check back later for our completed reading lists and word list from the week.


October 9, 2003

Today's lessons... Today we have been minivan homeschooling for the most part as we run our errands. As many of you know we are in the middle of our E week, so today is errand day. We talk about our various responsibilities as we do them and do lessons in the car along the way.

Today in math we worked on counting by even numbers and learned to count by 2's and 10's. At the doctors office we practiced drawing our 8, 11, 18, and 81 on the chalkboard. We also practiced writing big E and little e.

For social studies we discussed emotions and talked about why we feel the way we do and labeled a variety of emotions, and discussed how emotions and the way we express them can affect our relationships with others. We took turns acting out different emotions and guessing what the other person was feeling. We also discussed what makes us feel the way we do and how to control some of those emotions. We also printed out maps of Europe and Egypt to color.

For science we talked about the different body parts that start with E (ears, eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes, eyelids, elbow, exoskeleton, etc) and printed out a diagram of the face for them to practice labeling. We also talked a little about the senses of hearing and seeing. We also reviewed a variety of animals that start with the letter E and discussed evaporation and how it relates to sublimation.

For music we discussed the concepts of tone (since it related nicely to emotions) I talked in different tones and with different words and the kids had to guess my emotion. Then they had to practice varying their own tones to express themselves in different ways. These especially enjoyed being allowed to pretend to be mad or frustrated with mommy. Rhiannon was cute "Are you giving me permission to talk that way?" before she would do it. I was very proud of her.

We are about to cover the food pyramid and "eating". I will the book "The Edible Pyramid" and "Eating the Alphabet" and we will discuss why we need to eat and what the best things to eat are (for our health and for our enjoyment). For lunch they had: edamame, apple sauce, granola and soy milk (no I am not making it up - this was their choice). After their naps they are allowed to have some sorbet, lunch demonstrated good for them and snack with demonstrate an extra enjoyable food.

In addition we have read a few more "E" books and worked through the rest of the English Picture Dictionary - Letter E and followed up with a few of the lessons there. Some favorites from today were: estuary, equator and evergreen.

I think we will take the rest of the afternoon off and play outside and enjoy this 80 degree october day in Minnesota!


October 8, 2003

Light Day... I expect to have a light day blogging (which is compensated by yesterday where it seems I blogged all day) as we have a lot going on here today. We will not be around for most of the day. Our plans include morning community service and then likely lunch and naps. Then some outdoor time and a light afternoon lesson. We are continuing our work with the letter E and today we will do science and music (in addition to daily math and phonics) and perhaps art depending on how the day goes. Hope you have a great day.


October 7, 2003

This afternoon... I should get up early more often! We have gotten so much done today and I have blogged more than I do in a week sometimes and it is only 4pm! My mothers helper is here now so I have time to work on afternoon cleaning and special time with the baby and finishing up dinner.

After naptime (Ciaran is still sleeping - wow) Rhia and I worked some more (she asked too) on the letter E and math. We discussed some numbers that started with the letter E (8, 11, 18, 80). She did several worksheets on the number 8, counting, estimating and matching numeral to objects. Then she practiced writing the numbers 8, 11, 18 and 80. She even learned the proper way to write an 8 (she was making two separate circles when we started) though she does much better with the dotted numerals than free form.

She also worked on left and right and a worksheet that had all the location concepts on the same page making her think through relationships between all of them. To finish out that lesson I asked her questions about various objects throughout the room and then made her use descriptive sentences she made up such as the dinosaur is to the right of the giraffe which is above the flash cards.

We also went through almost half of the "E" English Pictionary Dictionary , an absolutely WONDERFUL resource. She was especially interested in entries for ear and eclipse and we did a connect the dot puzzle of an easel and she asked to print out and discuss the map of Egypt. I really enjoy working through this resource with her and it gives us many words for our letter lists.

Well I need to be off to spend time with my littlest.

A visit with neighbors... I just finished a nice tea time with my next door neighbor, a wonderful man in his early 80's. He is newly widowed and he and his wife in many ways are like grandparents to our kids. They were married for 51 years before she passed away and mow he is home alone during the day/ I can not even imagine what that must be like for him. But we had a wonderful afternoon tea while the older two slept and Sirah nursed and sat with us. He told me stories of the war and his wife and his marriage and travels. We shared our thoughts on politics, social issues and education. He is a good man and I enjoy spending time with hum. I am glad that I invited him over today.

You know it truly is the small favors of our time and stories that often mean the most to people and bring us the most joy. I think we were both able to offer that to one another today. As he enriched my life with tales of his own and brought a friendly face to my day we both offered each other the simple and free gift of companionship and made each others days better. Just a simple half hour and the day seems completely different.

Starting with E... Today we began our letter E week and we actually accomplished quite a bit this morning. We started off with a new bible verse for memorization (we are on our third now) Proverbs 20:11. We are working through My ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt with the verse corresponding to our letter week. Then we read the story of Creation from Karen Henley's Before I Dream Bible Storybook, a beautiful and fun bible story book. As we read it each day we repeated what God created for each of the days until they knew the story of all seven days by heart. Throughout the rest of the week we will play a variety of games to remind them of the story and they will need to know what was created when.

After bible study we read "My 'e' soundbox" book and created our own 'e' soundbox. Some things currently in our box are several elephants, an egg (no not a real one), a picture of an easel, the letter E from our puzzle mat, the letter E from a big wooden puzzle, an emergency worker, a wooden eggplant and an empty cup. This will only continue to grow as we go along. Then Ciaran played with some toys while Rhiannon and I worked on her phonics e sound and she practiced writing her upper and lower case E. We read two books that emphasized the letter e sound and started our e word list (which I have decided to post at the end of each week for ease of updating) and came up with about 30 words or so.

Then we did some physical education and had exercise time. I had rented a video from the library on kids exercise and they had a blast. I only let them do the warm up and about half the video as they were pretty tired. I was impressed at how much they were actually able to do (sometimes I don't give my kids enough credit). Then it was snack time and a water break.

Next we did math. We worked on number recognition from 1-11 and matching manipulatives with the numeral that represents the grouping. We did this with wooden blocks and number flash cards. Then Ciaran played with the blocks and Rhia worked on location worksheets: inside, outside, top, bottom, middle, etc. After the worksheets I asked her questions about various items around the room (Is this book inside or outside, what toy is on the middle shelf, where is the olivia book, etc) and she needed to answer the questions and use the location words to help me find things. It was a lot of fun. Much of it was review for her and was helping Ciaran as he begins to learn these concepts.

Then it was story time and we read several books related to E:

Ee by Kelly Doudna
What a Week: The sound of long e by Cynthia Klingel
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Paul Galdone
Emma's Elephant by David Ellwand
Eggday by Joyce Dunbar
My "e" soundbox by Jane Belk Moncure

We also read:
Hard Scrabble Harvest by Dahlov Ipcar
The Mouse, the Very Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood (can you tell we are fans of hers)
Anna Needs a New Coat by Harriet Ziefert
Jimmy Jonny Brownie Stays Up All Night by Bing Puddlepot

Now it is lunchtime and they are eating edamame and leftovers from their lunch at perkins yesterday. They had some sorbet as a treat and now it is off for naptime. It has been a good morning and they have had a lot of fun.