Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back Home Again

Not sure how it can be a week since I last posted, but between preparing for Christmas, enjoying Christmas and going back to IL to see relatives, the week has sped past. I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas.

Lots of thought-provoking stuff happened this past week, but I have to ruminate on it before I'm ready to post. And tomorrow, ds22 and his bride will be arriving for a visit, so I think I'll be pretty busy through New Year's. So for now, I wish you a wonderful New Year's celebration, and a blessed 2008 :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Take a Quick Break for Something Funny....

I know you all are busy today; around here, we've been making cookies and fudge (it's called Home Ec). So I just want to share something quick and funny that my support group shared with me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

At Least One Candidate Signed It

I don't want to go all political here, but I have to admit I am watching this next presidential election with great interest. If I had to decide today who to vote for, I couldn't do it; it's a moot point anyway, because we don't know who will finally make it to next fall's ballot. As in past presidential elections, I'm praying for the president we need, not the president we deserve.

That said, I find it interesting that one of the current candidates has signed the proclamation of the Alliance for the Separation of School and State. I'm not going to name him (well, now you know who it isn't, lol). You'll have to find out for yourself by going to the Alliance's news page. While you're there, I encourage you to snoop around a bit and discover the purpose of this organization. If you feel so moved, you can sign the proclamation, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Christmas Present to Me

Maybe you know Lizzie. In the blogosphere she goes by the name of "A Dusty Frame." I pop by her blog once in a while and she pops by mine. She's a homeschooling mom of a young son, and her husband is in prison. Wanting to bring in some much-needed income, she decided to try writing and selling an eBook. Specifically, she chose to turn an old Home Ec project into a Christmas cookbook.

Now, even though I write and sell eBooks, I don't buy them. It's hard enough finding time to read the books I drag home from the library. And I certainly don't need another cookbook. I've got quite a few already, plus an overloaded file drawer of recipes torn out of newspapers for the past few decades (seriously....since I got married, so that's 28 years' worth!)

But I wanted to help Lizzie out, so I bought her cookbook. And what I discovered is that I had actually bought myself a pretty nice little Christmas gift. As I told her after examining my purchase, she included recipes that you don't usually find, yummy stuff like Gingerbread Waffles, Breaded Steak, Swedish Brown Beans.....are you getting hungry yet? I am.........and several candy recipes, one of which dd16 and I will be trying VERY soon.

Sprinkled throughout are warm Christmasy sayings and illustrations, plus tips for Christmas projects, including dough ornament recipes. What a great gift this would make for a friend (or yourself)!

If you'd like to check out Lizzie's Christmas cookbook, you'll learn more here. BTW, Lizzie is not paying me to say this, and I don't make money off any sales from this post. I just wanted to share this great little cookbook with you this week, because it's full of Christmas spirit :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Speaking in Dollars

I've been reading Randy Alcorn's thought-provoking book, Money, Possessions and Eternity, and in it he says something I've never really thought about before.

He discusses how some Christians refuse to purchase the products of companies that support and/or promote activities they disapprove of, and how doing so makes more financial sense than just simply selling any stock they might have in those same companies. He reasons that when you sell stock in the offending company and convince others to do so, you put that stock back on the market at a lower price, which just makes the stock more attractive to someone else, and can actually profit the company. But when you choose not to buy products from the company, it directly affects the company's profits, its bottom line. When large numbers of people choose to boycott a company's products, they can really make an impression on the decision-makers in that company.

So, for example, if you're offended by the anti-Christian bias of the movie "The Golden Compass," (see this month's newsletter for the specifics), it's understandable if you decide to sell any stock you own, including mutual funds, in New Line Cinema, producer of the movie. But to be most effective, you would want to boycott its movies, particularly "The Golden Compass."

While you're at it, you'd probably also want to boycott the companies promoting the movie with their own products. That list includes:

Barnes & Noble
Best Buy
FAO Schwarz
Circuit City

At this time of year, it would be pretty hard to avoid all those companies, particularly if you buy gifts of books or entertainment. And for homeschoolers, it eliminates all the largest sources of new books. But it could be done, if you were really determined; you would also want to notify the companies of your intentions in order to really make your point. Then you could go to local booksellers or homeschool businesses to buy your books, and local stores to buy your entertainment (if Best Buy and Circuit City haven't already forced them out of business.) Just a thought.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Easy and Worthwhile Writing Assignment

This time of year, there's nothing I like better than easy assignments for my kids. Here's one that's easy and very worth doing: sending a postcard to one of our troops overseas.

Xerox is sponsoring "Let's Say Thanks," a site where you can electronically send a postcard that will be printed out and given to one of our troops around the world. All postcards have been pre-designed by American kids; while there are also prewritten messages we can send, why not have your kids write their own message, choose their own postcard and click "Send"? It's so easy, and teaches them how important it is to say thank you to the men and women who uphold freedom.

Once the messages have been sent, click on the link "From the troops" so you and your children can read the reactions of those who have received one of these messages. You'll be glad you did.

Catching My Breath

Yesterday dd16 and I took a rare day off of school to go Christmas shopping. This is a whole new experience for me, driving an hour to the nearest city to shop. Having lived in the Chicago suburbs all of my life until this summer, I'm used to driving ten minutes in any direction and finding plenty of busy stores, complete with the usual traffic. Now that we're living in a small town, major shopping trips are planned ahead. It's certainly a change. Before, I lived in the middle of the hectic activity. Now, I leave our peaceful little world here and drive an hour to find the activity, which isn't nearly as crazy as the hectic world we left behind in Illinois.

We got a lot done, plus had time to drop in on dd24, who happened to have the day off of work. We had a nice visit. I came home to a to-do list a mile long, but chose instead to take it easy. I didn't used to know how to do that, and I'd just keep pushing myself until I was exhausted. But I've learned over time that it's especially important at this time of year to take breaks here and there. So, instead of working on my new book last night (it's almost ready for the printer!), I watched "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" with dh and dd16 after ds14 went to bed. This movie is the real "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," the Alfred Hitchcock original, and rare in that it is a screwball comedy (the majority of his movies were thrillers, of course).

It's kind of poignant to watch Carole Lombard in this movie, as she would die in a plane crash a year later on her way home from a war bond tour. The movie has a more mature theme than many comedies of that time, but is still pretty funny. Watching this has made me want to watch my very favorite Carole Lombard movie (for the umpteenth time): "My Man Godfrey." I highly recommend it. (Watch it for free here.)

Tonight's break will probably be spent surfing this week's Carnival of Homeschooling; hope to "see" you there!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Twelve Days of Homeschooling

This is really clever:

On the first day of homeschool, my neighbor said to me.......

The Newsletter is Ready

This month's "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter includes:

two new articles (including part two of "Don't Let Inflation Keep You From Homeschooling"),

links to Christmas puzzles and projects for you and your kids,

and, as always, the "What Our Kids are Missing Out On Dept.,"

plus a few other goodies. Check it out!

Together Again

It's kind of noisy in the dining room just now. Dd24 came over to do her laundry (it's free when you use Mom's washer and dryer) and to hang out with dd16 and ds14, and they're making a gingerbread house from one of those kits every store seems to carry these days.

I love when they can spend time together like this. It reminds me of the days when they were young and all of them still lived at home. At Christmastime, they'd all work together to decorate Christmas cookies, or to make gift tags, or some other Christmas craft. It's hard to find something that everyone can do when your kids span a wide age range like mine do, but whenever they found something to do together, they all had fun.

Ds14 is finally old enough to work with everyone else; when he was young, he'd often just watch, happy to be included in whatever the older kids were doing. Now he's quite opinionated about how to do things, and it's fun to watch.

I often think that homeschooling allowed us to make more than the usual number of memories when the kids were young, but I never realized that growing up together 24/7, with no school attendance intruding on family time, would help them appreciate their time together now that they're grown (or almost grown). Looks like all those years together paid off.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Carnival with a Twist

How well do you know children's literature? Here's your chance to test your knowledge. This week's Carnival of Homeschooling includes "eleven cold and snowy excerpts from children's books." Will you recognize them without being told their titles or authors? See how well you do, and browse a variety of homeschooling posts as your reward.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

His Proudest Achievement

It may be that in the next few years I shall discover the cure for cancer, write the great English novel, work out how to transmute base metal into gold, or invent an ingenious in-shoe device that stops the wearer treading in dog poo, even when it's concealed in autumn leaves. But even if I do, the proudest achievement of my life will remain the same: that I taught my children to read.

That's from James Delingpole, a British writer. I love the sentiment he expresses here. He sounds like a dad who has his priorities straight.

It's clear he believes that he's responsible for his children's education. Having seen the British educational system fail at teaching kids to read, he took matters into his own hands and proved that it's not really that hard to do so.

There's another dynamic at work here, though, and that's his pride in teaching his children something as important as learning to read. Parents who take the time to do this are rewarded with the knowledge that they've given their children one of the most important skills they'll ever need. If that's not time well spent, what is?

Still, we live in a world where most people expect to see tangible, material signs of how we spend our time: new cars, big houses, designer clothes. It's important to remind ourselves that those things eventually fall apart, if they don't go out of style first, while investing time in our children gives them lifelong rewards.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ode to Homeschool Blogs

When I began homeschooling, there were only a few places I could go to learn about other homeschooling families. I had subscriptions to The Moore Report and The Teaching Home; my favorite parts of both were the letters from other homeschooling families that described their lives. I could not get enough of that stuff! It was comforting to know there were people like us out there somewhere. I got lots of ideas for activities and resources from those letters.

Fast-forward twenty years. Now there are not only scads of wonderful homeschool magazines out there, but there are blogs! I love blogs by homeschooling parents because they're real. People are on their best behavior in a magazine article, but a blogger will admit to you that she spent this morning locked in the bathroom crying because of exhaustion or PMS, while her still-pajamaed children watched DVDs. She'll ask people to pray for her because she needs more patience with her kids lately, or because there isn't enough money left at the end of the month. And she'll rejoice that her son learned to read or her daughter made dinner all by herself. You, of course, will rejoice with her; that victory is all the sweeter because you were there for her hard times.

That's why I regularly share links to the weekly Carnival of Homeschooling. Where else can you get up-to-the-minute reports on what's going on with homeschooling families? This week's Carnival, put together by Mom Is Teaching, is extra special, because it is the 100th edition. As always, there's lots of good stuff there.

I've been so busy lately that I neglected to mention last week's Carnival. (I hope you know you can always go back to a carnival; all you need is the link.) Last week's carnival was so good! It included a post from April about how homeschooling on a single income can actually make you more financially secure, a post from a American homeschooling single mom living in France who shares frugal tips for movie buffs, and ChristineMM's post about children with a sense of entitlement, as illustrated by the school bus of today. No, I did not give you links to those'll have to go to last week's Carnival and find them yourself! :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Is There A Novelist in the House?......Yes!

Dd16 reached a milestone over the weekend; she completed her novel. As I posted a few weeks ago, she joined in with thousands of others competing in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Participants commit to writing a novel during the month of November; the finished novel must contain at least 50,000 words.

Dd16 finished her novel six days before the deadline, though she had not written steadily throughout the month. She actually got bogged down about a week in, missed a few days, and then decided she was going to finish after all, which meant she had to write more than the suggested daily average of nearly 1700 words to reach the goal of a completed novel by November 30.

She is now editing her work. When she’s done, I will also take a look at it (with my infamous red pen), and then we’ll have a copy printed for her. She hasn’t figured out her cover design yet, but shot the author photo herself several days ago :)

Her dad and I are very proud of her for reaching her goal, but her motivation came from within, not from us, and I think that’s something I should emphasize. People sometimes ask me, “How do you get your child to study such-and-such (i.e., a school subject most kids dislike.)” We did not suggest that she participate in NaNoWriMo. It was her idea, one which she’s had before but never pursued until this year. We did not bug her to do this.

Still, despite her motivation to write, I sometimes have to provide her with tools to keep her going. For example, while she always loved to write, she only wanted to write fiction stories she conceived. So I sometimes require her to write essays and other pieces that she’s not motivated to write, in order to develop her talent. There’s a fine balance between developing her skills and pushing her to learn something; I walk that line all the time. Believe me, when I cross it, she lets me know!

Noticing her talent and her desire, I’ve also used resources that I did not use with my older two kids when teaching them to write. For example, much of the plotting of her new novel came from what she learned in a book we used in her studies last year, How to Write a Story by Lee Roddy. When she first began reading that book, she felt it would not be helpful to her. But I encouraged her to stay with it for a while, and sure enough, as she began to relate to some of Roddy’s comments about writing, she took his advice to heart, and it has helped her a lot.

The three of us (dd, her dad and I) are looking into a writing program from the Christian Writer’s Guild for her to use as she finishes high school over the next 18 months or so. Some of the lessons will be rehash for her, but there’s a lot there she can still learn. Whether she decides to pursue writing as a career instead of a hobby, however, will be up to her.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home Economics

For the first time in many years (and despite my recommendation in "A Simple Homeschool Thanksgiving,") we did school this week, because we're trying to follow the Wisconsin state school schedule. On Monday and Tuesday, we studied the usual subjects. But today we had Home Economics.

Dd16 made a cheese ball, garlic cream cheese potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry/apple casserole and fresh cranberry/orange relish for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. Dsds14 assisted in the kitchen during our morning session, and made chocolate cherry cake by himself (with supervision) this afternoon. He was especially interested in making the cake because he does not like pumpkin pie, even if it's homemade.

It may sound like we're planning on having many people over tomorrow, but there will just be five of us. However, we love leftovers, and I especially love not having to cook for a few days after Thanksgiving.

Hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

72 Hours

Just a little over 72 hours until it's time to put the turkey in the oven. In past years, I spent the week getting ready for guests on Thanksgiving. But this year it will be just five of us; the four who just moved here and our daughter coming up from her new home 45 minutes away. (We'll be heading back to IL for Christmas, but staying here for Thanksgiving.) Meanwhile our son and his bride will be eating turkey with his in-laws in St. Louis.

It's no big deal to cook for five, especially since our vegetarian daughter will be bringing her tofurkey. I'm not stressing, and I'm not preparing nearly as much food as I did when we had all the family over in the past. But if you're in charge of the turkey dinner this week, and are expecting a crowd of relatives to descend on you soon, I highly recommend taking the week off of school to get ready. That's how I used to survive Thanksgiving. I wrote about it here: "A Simple Homeschool Thanksgiving."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's True: Time Flies

I don't know where this week has gone. It seems like since we moved, time sped up on us. Each day just flies by. I think it's because there's so much to do:
We homeschool five days a week.
I work every afternoon. Right now I'm working steadily on the print edition of The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling; it's twice the size of the eBook, so it's taking a while.
We're working to combine the contents of two storage units into one. (ugh!)
And people around here still need to eat and have clean clothes on a regular basis.
This week I even forgot to check out the Carnival of Homeschooling until just now--well worth the time, btw.
We're also trying to make time to relax a bit in the evenings. Lately dh, dd16 and I have been enjoying Nero Wolfe DVDs. Since we only get one channel on the tv, we're watching more DVDs than ever.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Will She Make Her Goal?

This month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when aspiring writers accept the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month (that means writing an average of 1,667 words per day). Winners get the satisfaction of knowing they wrote a novel.

Dd16, who has written several novels in her short life already, decided to tackle NaNoWriMo this year, and despite a few days of writer's block, has written 13,500 words so far. She tells me she must up her daily average to about 2,000 words to make the goal of 50,000 words total. This might be hard for some people, but since she has my genetics in her to balance her father's quiet demeanor, I'm thinking she'll pass 50K if she puts in a little time each day.

When she announced her goal to us last month, my dh said we should count her writing time as part of her school day, which makes sense. To sweeten the pot, we've told her that if she reaches her goal of 50,000 words and completes her novel, we'll have it printed at, where a single copy of a 200-page book will set us back a whopping $8.53. Seems like a reasonable price for such a good incentive. One catch, however: she has to submit her manuscript to my red pen first. Our older kids said I used it mercilessly on their work. It's true; that's why they're both good writers.

Friday, November 9, 2007

November Newsletter Now Online

Where can you find articles about:

being able to afford to stay home with your kids,
answering questions about homeschooling,
and getting ready for Thanksgiving when your children are home every day?

In this month's edition of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter!

The November issue just went out this afternoon, so check your email box; if you're not a subscriber yet, you'll find the complete current issue here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Check Out Homeschool U!

Homeschool U is the name of this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Dana of Principled Discovery. Looks like there's plenty of course offerings for both the newbie homeschooler and the veteran, plus everyone in between...enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dream Class List

Barb the Evil Genius has tagged me: I'm supposed to come up with a list of 5-10 courses I'd want to take to fix my life, including one also chosen by the person who tagged me. Then I'm supposed to tag five more bloggers.

Hmmmm....the only thing I can think of that would help fix my life would be going to Bible Study, so that has to be choice #1. Our move from Illinois to Wisconsin this summer took me away from the Tuesday night Bible study I'd been attending for 14 years, and I'm really missing it. It was a fantastic group led by our pastor's wife, who is a terrific teacher.

But many courses, while not fixing your life, can bring joy to it, so if I had my druthers, I think I'd enjoy:

A literature class where we'd study and discuss Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries.

An art history classes specifically about the work of Carl Larsson.

A quilting class where I can learn how to use a long-arm quilting machine.

I'd like to retake the typography class I took in college, because as a publisher, I'd appreciate it so much more now.

A cheesemaking class, something I read about in Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

And for a class to take with Barb TEG, I'd have to choose Fashion History, because it sounds so interesting!

I think I will tag Gena, Christine, Janet, Tami and Heather.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Parental Pressure Can Mean Failure

Betsy Hart makes a great point about not pushing kids and letting them just be who they are without pressure. Her kids are in school, but I think this also applies to homeschooled kids. In fact, raising "perfect" homeschooled kids is a very real pressure now that the word is getting out about how well most homeschooled kids are doing not just scholastically but in other activities as well.

Whether or not parents homeschool their children, they fail them when they fail to keep an eye on the big picture. As Ms. Hart puts it,

When it comes to my children, my ultimate goal for them is heaven, not Harvard. If they go to the latter on their way to heaven, that's great. But if I reverse that equation, I've failed them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Check Out the Yearbook...

This week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is certainly unique and rather ironic. Hostess Sprittibee has used the theme of a high school yearbook to highlight a wide range of homeschool bloggers. You won't want to miss this one!

Friday, October 26, 2007

More on Indoctrination at Colleges

As I posted recently, "Indoctrinate U" is a new documentary that exposes efforts at indoctrination in American colleges and universities. Dr. Walter E. Williams, economics professor at George Mason University, syndicated columnist and my favorite guest host of the Rush Limbaugh radio show, reports that the documentary describes how professors at some schools seek to repress free speech and control students with opinions different from their own:

Under the ruse of ending harassment, a number of universities have established speech codes. Bowdoin College has banned jokes and stories "experienced by others as harassing." Brown University has banned "verbal behavior" that "produces feelings of impotence, anger or disenfranchisement" whether "unintentional or intentional." University of Connecticut has outlawed "inappropriately directed laughter." Colby College has banned any speech that could lead to a loss of self-esteem. "Suggestive looks" are banned at Bryn Mawr College and "unwelcomed flirtations" at Haverford College. Fortunately for students, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has waged a successful war against such speech codes.

He also reminds us:

On other campuses, such as Lehigh, Central Michigan, Arizona, Holy Cross and California Berkeley universities, administrators banned students, staff and faculty from showing signs of patriotism after the 9/11 attacks. On some campuses, display of the American flag was banned; the pledge of allegiance and singing patriotic songs were banned out of fear of possibly offending foreign students.

Bottom line: if you're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your child's college education, check out the college thoroughly so you don't find yourself paying the salaries of people determined to limit your child's right to free speech.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Homeschooling Network

Scroll down the right side of this blog and you will see something new. I have joined FeedBurner's Homeschooling Network, a fine group of bloggers who offer lots of insight on homeschooling and the issues surrounding it.

If you have a question about homeschooling, you can use the search function in the Homeschooling Network box to see what others have said about that topic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Post #200!

I didn't realize until I started to write this post that it's post #200. Seems like I should write about something a little more earth-shattering than a recipe Leslie requested in her comment, but I'm afraid I don't have anything more exciting prepared for this noteworthy milestone ;) OTOH, these scones are pretty yummy, and they do have chocolate in them, so I guess that makes them worthy of post #200, doesn't it?

BTW, Trader Joe's charges $2.99 for a skimpy package of these. Save money, time and make your house smell great by making them yourself ;)

Chocolate Chip Scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine 2 c. flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda and 1/2 t. salt.
Stir in 1/4 c. sugar.
Using a pastry blender or two serrated knives, cut in 6 T. butter (cut in pieces first) until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add 1 c. chocolate chips and stir well.

In separate small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 3/4 cup vanilla lowfat yogurt. Stir into dry ingredients and mix just until blended. (Warning: this gets gooshy.) Plop dough onto floured cutting board. Flour your hands and gently knead dough 3-4 times, then pat into a 1/2" thick circle. Cut into 12 wedges (I use a pizza cutter). Put wedges on ungreased cookie sheet and lightly sprinkle with a bit of sugar.

Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown; enjoy!

(P.S. You healthy types might want to try this with berries instead of chocolate chips. That's what the recipe called for before I got hold of it.)

The Carnival is Up!

This week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up, courtesy of Kris. I just love all the cute graphics she has on her blog. She did a great job with the carnival, too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Woody Woodpecker Stops By

I was washing the many utensils, etc. I dirtied while making chocolate chip scones for breakfast this morning (it was worth it!) when something large flying across the backyard caught my eye. When I realized what it was, I called dh, who loves birds and particularly the pileated woodpecker, which he'd heard was common up here but had not seen for himself until today.

It is around 15" tall, and it spent quite a while going rat-a-tat-tat on the tree, long enough for dh to get some video. The kids got a kick out of Woody, too.

Not Missing the Suburbs Yet

A friend of mine has suggested that I'm having a hard time getting things done since we moved to Wisconsin in August because my brain thinks we're on vacation. Here's a photo my dh shot yesterday when we went on a walk. Maybe my friend has a point.....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

If: Pedophiles are attracted to places where they can find children.

And: Schools are full of children.

Then: Pedophiles are attracted to schools.

This article describes in nauseating detail how pedophiles work within the school system. True, they are only a small percentage of the total number of teachers and other personnel, but if your child was the victim of one of them, you would consider that percentage is far too high. (Be sure to click on the accompanying graphic to see where your state ranks in terms of sexual abuse in schools.)

You cannot guarantee that your child will not be the victim of a sexual predator working in a school unless you keep him or her out of that system: just one more good reason to homeschool.

I'm sure this girl wishes she'd been homeschooled:

In Hamburg, Pa., in 2002, those "red flags" should have been clear. A student skipped classes every day to spend time with one teacher. He gave her gifts and rides in his car. She sat on his lap. The bond ran so deep that the student got chastised repeatedly — even suspended once for being late and absent so often. But there were no questions for the teacher.

Heather Kline was 12, a girl with a broad smile and blond hair pulled back tight. Teacher Troy Mansfield had cultivated her since she was in his third-grade class.
(BF: emphasis mine)

"Kids, like, idolized me because they thought I was, like, cool because he paid more attention to me," says Kline, now 18, sitting at her mother's kitchen table, sorting through a file of old poems and cards from Mansfield. "I was just like really comfortable. I could tell him anything."

He never pushed her, just raised the stakes, bit by bit — a comment about how good she looked, a gift, a hug.
She was sure she was in love.

By winter of seventh grade, he was sneaking her off in his car for an hour of sex, dropping in on her weekly baby-sitting duties, e-mailing about what clothes she should wear, about his sexual fantasies, about marriage and children.

Mansfield finally got caught by the girl's mother, and his own words convicted him. At his criminal trial in 2004, Heather read his e-mails and instant messages aloud, from declarations of true love to explicit references to past sex. He's serving up to 31 years in state prison.

..... In Pennsylvania, after news of teacher Troy Mansfield's arrest hit, girls called Kline, his 12-year-old victim, a "slut" to her face. A teacher called her a "vixen." Friends stopped talking to her. Kids no longer sat with her at lunch.

Her abuser, meanwhile, had been a popular teacher and football coach.

So, between rumors that she was pregnant or doing drugs and her own panic attacks and depression, Kline bounced between schools. At 16, she ran away to Nashville.

"I didn't have my childhood," says Kline, who's back home now, working at a grocery cash register and hoping to get her GED so she can go to nursing school. "He had me so matured at so young.

"I remember going from little baby dolls to just being an adult."

The courts dealt her a final insult. A federal judge dismissed her civil suit against the school, saying administrators had no obligation to protect her from a predatory teacher since officials were unaware of the abuse, despite what the court called widespread "unsubstantiated rumors" in the school. The family is appealing.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Cheryl tagged me, so now you must suffer through "Seven True Things About Me":

1) I've been to a speech by my favorite president (Ronald Reagan) and a concert by my all-time favorite band ("Chicago"). Dh and I could have gone to one of Elvis' last concerts in 1977 but we were poor college students and couldn't afford the $12 tickets.

2) After living in Illinois my entire life, I just moved to Wisconsin; however, I will never be a Cheesehead.

3) My hubby and I have worked at home full-time for the past 12 years; yes, we are still married ;)

4) I'm a homeschool publisher with two new books nearing completion, God willing!

5) In Bible study a few years back, we were asked to share our LCMS (Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod) heritage. Here's mine: my family joined the local LCMS church because it had pews while the ELCA church had folding chairs, and my mother preferred pews...I am not making this up! :0

6) My little sis has been a Los Angeles radio personality for the past 20 years.

7) I have not flown in an airplane since I was six and my dad took me for a ride in his private plane out over Lake Michigan. I said I'd never fly again; forty-plus years later, I've stuck with my pledge (and I'm praying none of my kids ever wants to get married in Hawaii!)

Now I have to tag seven people....let's see, how about Rona, Janet, Beckie, BarbaraLee, Gena, Julie and Theresa.

Am I a Secessionist?

Mark Steyn is one of my favorite writers. I found his book America Alone to be very thought-provoking, and I enjoy most of his articles.

Today I was reading a very recent piece he wrote, "The 'Cold Civil War' in the U.S.," and was surprised to see that in discussing the not-yet-physical battle between the Left and the Right in this country, he describes the Right in an interesting way. Just after listing some of the exploits of the Left, he moves across the spectrum:

Well, it takes two to have a cold civil war. The right must be doing some of this stuff, too, surely? Up to a point. But for the most part they either go along, or secede from the system -- they home-school, turn to talk radio and the Internet, read Christian publishers' books that shift millions of copies without ever showing up on a New York Times bestsellers list.

"Secede from the system".....I like that phrase! Still, it makes me wonder if, in this case, seceding is the same as giving up. Something to ponder.....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Newsflash: Motherhood Plus Two Careers is Hard!

It has been said about women, "You can have it all, but not all at one time." Ain't it the truth!

This is especially true of the way God has designed the seasons of women's lives. We were given our infancy and childhood to prepare us for life, our young adult years to bear children (while we're fertile) and raise them, our middle age years to regain some freedom while still being there when our now-grown children need us, and our old age to share the life wisdom we've gained with our loved ones, even as we prepare to leave them.

When you stick with that program, it makes so much sense (as does everything else God designed). But when you start messing with it, life gets considerably more difficult. Pursue a full-time career in your 20s and 30s, and when you finally get around to having kids in your 40s you find that your body won't cooperate. Have the kids when you're young, but take on college and a full-time job while they're toddlers, and your kids show the result of not having you around much. A lot of this is just common sense.

But some people, even very intelligent people, are short on common sense. They're the people who want things on their own terms, but tend to complain an awful lot once they get what they want. Case in point: Rosa Brooks. In today's L.A. Times, Ms. Brooks complains that modern motherhood is just too hard, too much work, too much to expect of her or anyone:

Of course, it's virtually impossible for parents to hold down two full-time paying jobs and also manage the full-time job of modern intensive parenting. Something has to give -- and much of the time, it's still the woman's free time, or even her career, that goes.

How's that for a news flash? Having kids and raising them means you have to give up some of your free time. You think? And if you insist on having your kids after establishing a career that you want to maintain, it's going to be hard. Good grief, that's just common sense (there's that concept again). But as usual, we have to place blame somewhere, and Ms. Brooks does that:

What to do? In the long run, the workplace needs to be more flexible to accommodate parents -- both women and men -- who value the making of families as well as the making of money.

So it's the workplace's fault that Ms. Brooks chose to have not one but two careers (she is a columnist for the L.A. Times and a law professor) in addition to being a mother of a preschooler. Well, at least now we know who to blame for Ms. Brooks' hardships.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Public Schools: Where You Don't Get What You Pay For

What does it cost you per year to educate your child?

I probably spend less than $100 a year to homeschool dd16 and ds14, but that's because they're my second pair of homeschooled teens and I'm reusing the books I used with the first two. Nevertheless, I don't think I ever spent more than $1000 a year to homeschool the older two, and we only hit that high number during the few years we used a satellite school.

But I'm guessing even the wealthiest homeschoolers, the ones who keep their credit card right next to their Rainbow Resource catalog just in case they get the urge to order something new, don't spend more than $2,000 per child per year. (Note: I'm only counting money spent on education, not on a roof over the child's head. The mortgage payment and utility bills would be due whether or not you homeschool. Maybe that makes what's coming two paragraphs from now an unfair comparison, but bear with me.)

Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably heard that homeschoolers are outperforming public school kids by quite a margin. So will someone please tell me exactly what kind of superstudent you produce when you spend $64,000 a year educating one? And no, my zero key is not stuck. That's $64,000, which is what the richest school districts in New York state spend per student per year! And before you start feeling sorry for the kids in the poorest New York school districts, be aware that those districts spend about $10,600 per student per year.

Now compare that $10-64,000 per student to what you spend to homeschool your child over the course of a year. True, I told you not to include your house in your total, while the public school total includes infrastructure. But obviously, whether a New York student attends school in a decrepit building or one worthy of Architectural Digest (which is what I'm guessing the $64,000 school districts must have), the simple fact is that you can throw money at public schools year after year and the students still don't do as well as homeschooled kids.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

College: Education or Indoctrination?

If you've been homeschooling for any length of time, you may have already noticed that the older people of your acquaintance tend to picture the public schools of today like those they went to, the ones they fondly remember.

But of course the public school of today is nothing like those of 50 or more years ago. So when they question you about why you would choose to homeschool and thus reject public school, you have to realize that they have the wrong picture in their heads of what you're rejecting.

The same could be said of parents like me who went to college. We often picture college the way it was when we were there. But like the public schools, today's college campuses have changed. Parents now spend tens of thousands of dollars to send their children to colleges where they'll come out with a degree, but not always an education; in many cases, what they absorb is more of a social indoctrination than a solid education.

Filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney recently created a documentary, "Indoctrinate U," about the extent to which colleges and universities now indoctrinate students by restricting opposing viewpoints. Here's the description from the Web site for the documentary:

Speech codes. Censorship. Enforced political conformity. Hostility to diversity of opinion. Sensitivity training. We usually associate such things with the worst excesses of fascism and communism, not with the American universities that nurtured the free speech movement. But American higher education bears a disturbing resemblance to the totalitarian societies that are anathema to our nation's ideal of liberty. Evan Coyne Maloney's documentary film, Indoctrinate U, reveals the breathtaking institutional intolerance you won't read about in the glossy marketing brochures of Harvard, Berkeley, Michigan, Yale, and hundreds of other American colleges and universities.

"When we think of going to college, we think of intellectual freedom. We imagine four years of exploring ideas through energetic, ongoing, critical thinking and debate," Maloney said. "But the reality is very far from the ideal. What most of us don't know is that American college students check their First Amendment rights and individual freedom at the door."

Hailed by the New York Sun as one of "America's most promising" documentary filmmakers, Maloney has assembled a scorching indictment of higher education in America today, one that should make students, parents, trustees, lawmakers, and concerned citizens sit up and take notice. The London Telegraph has called the long-awaited feature-length film "as slick and incisive as anything by Michael Moore."

This documentary sounds like worthwhile viewing for all homeschooling parents, and particularly those who are currently helping their college-bound teens choose a college or university. You can fill out a form on the site to request that the documentary be shown in your area. Screenings in some cities have already begun. Check here for the next scheduled screening.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Homeschooling No Matter What

One of the ironies of homeschooling is that, as overwhelming as it appears at first, it becomes such an integral part of your family's life that you pursue it no matter what obstacles get in your way.

I've known families that kept homeschooling despite financial difficulties that would cause most other families to send Mom to work full-time and the kids to school. I've also known families, including mine, that continued to homeschool even after the birth of a child with disabilities and/or medical problems. (It still amazes me that I used to interrupt math to ask one of my kids to check and make sure the baby's lips weren't blue and that he hadn't stopped breathing again; our average homeschooling day sometimes included hearing his apnea alarm go off.)

Perhaps one of the most challenging situations that I've seen is the family that continues to homeschool even after Mom has fallen ill with something more than just the flu. One recent example of that kind of dedication is Pamela Berthume. She and her husband are the creators of Homeschoolopoly. I met Pam last winter when she had a booth across the aisle from mine at the InHome Conference in suburban Chicago. I was inspired to witness her positive attitude as she described her life as a homeschooling mom and businesswoman who just happens to have multiple sclerosis.

More recently, however, I was alarmed to hear that her MS had progressed to the point that she became paralyzed from the waist down this past August. Yet despite that difficult news and the financial problems resulting from expensive testing and treatment, Pamela continues to homeschool her teenage daughter and two younger children (her eldest is a young adult now) and is hoping to retrofit her car so she can drive her children to regular activities like Awanas.

I find her resolve inspiring but not surprising. Once a mom begins to see the fruits of her homeschooling labor, she wants to keep at it, no matter what. Pam is a great example of a dedicated homeschooling mom.

(Pam's family is going through some tough financial times because of her illness. If you'd like to help them out, you might want to check out something her friend Lorrie Flem of TEACH Magazine has set up. You'll find it here. Even if you can't help Pam and her family out at this time, please keep them all in your prayers. )

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling

It's cold and rainy here (yes!) after several days of tropically warm, decidedly un-Wisconsin-like weather: the perfect atmosphere for making a hot cup of tea (today I'm into peppermint) and settling down with the new edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Apollos Academy.

Note to those pressed for time just now: there are so many great posts linked there that you might have to go back and finish tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How Homework is Hurting His Family

Imperfect Homeschooler newsletter subscriber Michelle Leichty sent me a great email the other day. She shared her response to a newspaper columnist whose family's life is being run by his son's homework. Check it out:

"How Homework Is Hurting Our Family"

This was the headline of a column in Sunday's Daily Herald, written by Jeff Opdyke. His column for The Wall Street Journal is entitled "Love & Money." To read his column, click here.

I had to respond - I was so glad that my 4th-grader is not under the kind of stress his 5th-grader is! Here's what I wrote:

Mr. Opdyke,

Thank you for your column on Sunday about how homework is hurting your family. I've heard similar complaints from parents with children in the public schools in my school district - although I don't think it starts as early as fifth grade. I was struck by your column especially because my oldest son is nine years old, and in fourth grade - I cannot imagine him having the kind of stress your son has.

He is not under that kind of stress for one major reason. My husband and I have decided to teach our four children at home. Your column on Sunday made me so thankful for that decision. We started homeschooling when my oldest was going into kindergarten and I was expecting our fourth child three weeks after school started. For a number of reasons, we decided it would be less stressful on me if we kept him at home (it seems counter-intuitive, but it really was less stressful).

Here are some reasons why we still teach our children at home:

1. Much less stress on our children. Not only less stress, but they learn to love the process of learning. They aren't learning information because it'll be on a standardized test - they are learning because it's interesting. The longer I've homeschooled, the more I've realized that learning really happens all the time - not just between eight and three on school days. As I write, my oldest has taken the initiative to start preparing for an upcoming science fair with our homeschooling group, and has already made a plan for the history fair next February. Instead of dreading these projects, he eagerly anticipates them.

2. More free time. Because I'm only teaching four in my home, we are able to complete our formal schoolwork before noon. If my older two still have work to do after lunch, it's because they've dawdled (lesson learned!). Every afternoon, they have time to play with their siblings, read books that interest them, draw, color, or just play outside. Unstructured time is so important for children, and I'm glad that our schedule allows my children several hours a day.

3. Learn to balance school (eventually, work) with real life skills. Since my children are at home every day instead of school, they are learning from a young age how to manage a house. This may seem a bit silly, but is really an important life skill. They are learning to make breakfasts, lunches, plan dinners. They know how to clean the bathroom, sweep the floor, do the laundry. The bonus for me: help with the housework, and self-sufficient children.

As I read your article, I thought about the amount of time, energy and stress you and your wife are putting into one child's school work... and now even hiring a college student to help. I realized I probably invest about the same amount of time and effort in teaching my four children their formal schoolwork (ages 9, 7, 6, 4), but with much less stress for all of us.

Admittedly, homeschooling requires financial sacrifice. I do not work outside the home (although I run a business from my home), so my husband and I have chosen to cut back financially in many areas, such as:

*We live in a small, older home.
*We drive older cars - currently both are over 10 years old.
*Our vacations are to visit family members or friends - not resorts or Disney World or overseas.
*We shop at thrift stores, wear hand-me-downs.

We happily make these choices - especially since it means less stress on our children, our family and our marriage. Because we homeschool, homework actually helps our family.

Didn't Michelle do a great job of making the case for homeschooling?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Trying to Recapture the Past

Dsds14 often wakes up with an idea that he can’t shake until he acts on it. When he came downstairs this morning and marched directly into the garage, I could see he was on yet another mission. Turns out he was looking for our folding table. He insisted he needed it.

My husband humored him and gave him the table, which ds set up in the middle of the living room, right in everyone’s way. Of course, since we have too much furniture from our old house crowded into our (smaller) rental house, this couldn’t be helped.

Anyway, I knew when I told ds that it was time to do school that he would have some excuse related to the table. That’s how his mind operates. Our usual procedure on the days when he wakes up with a plan is:

He tells me he can’t do school because of it,
I shoot down his objection,
and we get to work.

His missions usually involve him being Spider-Man and needing to rescue Mary Jane, him being Santa Claus and wanting to check on the elves, him being Batman and looking for Robin……this kid has a very vivid imagination (and watches a lot of movies). Still, I’m pretty good at side-stepping his plans and steering him towards our schoolwork.

But today he informed me that he couldn’t do school because he had to set the table since everyone is coming to lunch: his sister, his brother and his new sister-in-law.

Ouch. I dread the days when his plan involves the big kids, and I can’t just shoot this plan down as I usually do. Wanting his siblings back is a sore spot, and one I feel guilty about. It’s been four years since his sister moved to her own place and his brother left for college, and he still hasn’t gotten over it. Every time they come home for a visit, he’s overjoyed. And every time they leave, he asks “Why?” for weeks afterwards. All he wants is to have everyone back home together again…for good.

I feel guilty because A) I’m the one who homeschooled everyone, and B) I’m a mom, so guilt is a regular part of my thought processes when it comes to my kids. After all, if I hadn’t homeschooled them, dsds14 wouldn’t have had so much time with his siblings and probably wouldn’t miss them so much. After all, they’re 8-10 years old than him. Their lives in school would have been their priority. They would have been gone all the time. He wouldn’t have gotten used to having them at home.

Please don't misunderstand. I’m glad I homeschooled them, and I think the closeness that can develop between homeschooled siblings who were together all their lives is a good thing. But it can be so painful for the youngest one to watch everyone else leave. And when the youngest has developmental disabilities, he doesn’t understand why everybody keeps leaving him. His plaintive questions make it painful for those of us at home with him as well.

Fortunately, we still have dd16 here. She’s also had a hard time letting go of the older kids, but she can understand why they’re gone and where they are, and that makes a big difference. Her presence does ease dsds14’s pain. But he still regularly asks for the older kids; on days like today, he decides to take matters into his own hands and set the table, figuring that effort might make them appear for lunch.

That’s not going to happen. Dd24 lives less than an hour away (she was just here yesterday) but she’s at work today. And ds22 and his bride are also both at work today…ten hours from here. Understanding distance, however, is not one of dsds14’s strong suits.

So I calmly explained to him, yet another time, that the kids can’t come home for lunch today, that they live far away in their new houses because they’re big now. I reminded him that he just saw his big sister yesterday (he even made a chocolate cake for the occasion), and that he’ll be seeing ds22 and his wife when they come up for Christmas.

He seemed to accept that, and we got going on school. He worked hard all morning, and we finished up just in time for lunch. But then he ran upstairs, and when I called him back to set the table, he didn’t answer. So I went up to his room, where I found him wrapping household items (including the ceiling fan remote, an empty video case, a cd, and his toy ball) in birthday paper (the Christmas paper is packed away).

“Look, Mom! Christmas presents!”

I guess he figures if he declares it’s Christmas, maybe the kids will come home today after all.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The October Newsletter is Ready

Earlier this week, I realized I was so late producing my September newsletter that it needed to become the October newsletter. Here it is, with three brand new articles and a few other little goodies. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Supernanny: Epilogue

The only thing surprising about this is that it didn't happen sooner. One of the kids in a family counseled by Supernanny has torched their family room and now the family's homeless. (It's also divided, because since being counseled by Supernanny Jo Frost two years ago, the parents have separated.)

I'm sorry, but how could we not see this coming? These nanny shows highlight families where the kids are in charge. The nannies then tell the parents what they're doing wrong in raising their kids and spout all sorts of advice, along with this warning: never, never punish them physically.

In their effort to be politically correct, these "supernannies" take away a tool that parents sometimes need in order to keep their kids safe. If little Joel had been told not to touch the kitchen stove lighter, and given a swat on the tush the first few times he disobeyed that order, and the promise of more swats if he touched it again, the family would not be homeless now. (Even expensive research studies of the human brain have shown that people improve their behavior when threatened with punishment.)

Thank God nobody died in that fire!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling

I don't know how Tami does it: homeschooling a growing family, running a successful business and hosting blog carnivals. But she sure does a great job---check out this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Living Within Your Means Should Be A School Subject

I think we can all agree that Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are all worthy subjects for children to study, whether on their own or by assignment, as they grow up. We homeschoolers are fortunate that we can add whatever we deem necessary to those Big Three subjects.

That said, I’d like to propose a fourth subject that should be considered important enough to rank with the Big Three: Living Within Your Means. There are some scary things going on in this country right now, and they’re the result of people living far beyond their means by obtaining mortgages with steadily rising payments that they cannot afford, or by borrowing against the equity of their homes, whose prices are now dropping (and in some places, plummeting) in value.

Every day I’m reading about people who are losing their homes because they bought more than could handle out of greed, ignorance or both. And now President Bush and some members of Congress are proposing that we bail out some of these foolish people, in an effort to minimize the potentially devastating effects this could have on our economy. Of course, any bailout is going to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers, i.e. us.

How much pain and suffering can be avoided if people live within their means! If we teach our children from the time they’re little to use money wisely, to know the difference between a need and a want, and to pay upfront for the things they need instead of borrowing the money (this brings advances on the allowance into question), we can try to protect them from the world of hurt that many Americans are about to go through.

Homeschoolers are in an excellent position to teach our children these things because we have so much time with our children every day. Of course, we should also be setting a good example for them by living within our own means.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Sweet Lesson

Vicki over at B&B shares a great site that's a homeschooling mom's dream: a hands-on civil engineering lesson that involves chocolate. This one's going on my to-do list!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

All I Can Say About This is......

Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Ow Owwww!

(Actually, it was a caesarean birth, but imagine carrying this child around those last two months of pregnancy.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Get Your Hands Off Homeschoolers' Checkbooks, Sen. Edwards

It's starting already: the promise of freebies for votes. Democratic presidential contender John Edwards has come up with a program for universal preschool (read: free daycare):

Edwards' plan calls for federal funding for the creation of universal preschool for all children when they turn 4. The preschools will teach skills students will need in school, including language abilities and introductions to early math, reading and other academic concepts.

As if there weren't already enough pressure being put on small children to learn things before they're ready. Of course, the basics won't be the only subjects in the universal preschool curriculum. Being a federal program, universal preschool will likely include the use of so-called "literature to promote diversity," including the infamous Heather Has Two Mommies and its clones.

And who will pay for this very expensive program? We will, of course. Even though we've chosen to forego full-time paid employment in order to raise our own kids, our (usually single income) families will lose even more income to Uncle Sam in order to subsidize working parents, who will rejoice over this freebie.

Note also that the program would be first. In states like Illinois, one legislator would like to reduce the compulsory attendance age to three. So much for voluntary preschool once he succeeds in getting that passed!

This news is just one more reminder that we homeschooling parents, as busy as we are, must take the time to study the presidential candidates carefully, because when candidates make campaign promises, there are always hidden costs, not just in dollars, but also in freedom.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Step 1: Remove Shoes From Oven Before Preheating

All of my kids can cook, partly because they grew up seeing me cook, but also because, being homeschooled, they had plenty of time at home to learn by watching and doing. But I guess I underestimated just how few of today's adults grew up knowing at least the very basics of cooking. According to this,

Despite the popularity of the Food Network cooking shows on cable TV, and the burgeoning number of food magazines and gourmet restaurants, today's cooks have fewer kitchen skills than their parents -- or grandparents -- did.

The article's author notes that most of today's young adults had full-time working moms, which reduced the number of times they were exposed to meals prepared from scratch. Another important factor is that home economics cooking classes were eliminated from most schools for about 20 years (they're coming back as electives).

Some people are apparently quite clueless about how to cook and bake:

"We're now two generations into a lack of culinary knowledge being passed down from our parents," said Richard Ruben, a New York cooking teacher whose classes for non-cooks draw a range of participants, from 18-year-olds leaving for college who want to have survival skills to 60-year-olds who have more time to cook but don't know how.

"In my basic 'How to Cook' class, I get people who have only used their ovens to store shoes and sweaters," he said. "They're terrified to hold a knife. They don't know what garlic looks like."

I'm so glad my kids grew up on home-cooked food and learned to appreciate it. While they may not always have time to cook that way now that they're adults, that knowledge will be there when they need it. (Side note: as I write this, the house is filling with the aroma of the brownies dd16 just made. There are definitely advantages to homeschool home ec!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Believe It or Not, I'm Speechless....

I'm finding it hard to comment on this so I'll just put it out here: LINK

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dude, Where's My (Homeschooling) Stuff?

I never realized how much of my life was on auto-pilot until we moved last month.

We downsized to a rental house, so we’ve been unable to bring everything in yet (we have to go through all of it first and weed out the things we don’t have room for anymore—ugh!) While I did set aside a couple of plastic boxes for our schoolbooks so they wouldn’t be lost in the shuffle, I forgot about all the little things we used back home when we did school each day, or the fact that I kept them in specific places so that I never had to search for them.

Now I’m relearning what it’s like to be completely disorganized. For example, this morning I was working with dsds14, and I needed a project so he could practice his cutting skills. I usually use a picture from a coloring book, but I didn’t know where his coloring books were. So I went online, downloaded a Scooby-Doo picture, printed it out and had him color it. So far, so good.

But then I had to find his kid-sized scissors. Back home, I kept them in a file cabinet right behind the dining room table (we used the dining room as a schoolroom). Well, we don’t have a filing cabinet in the dining room now; we don’t even have a dining room anymore! Fortunately, I remembered I had a small pair of scissors in the office, and ran to get them (if I don’t get back quickly, he’ll be off like a rabbit).

I’d only just sat back down next to him when it occurred to me that I’d need a glue stick so he could paste Scooby onto a piece of construction paper. I always kept a glue stick next to the scissors in that same file cabinet that sat in the dining room. Who knows where the glue sticks are packed now? I decided he’d have to settle for tape. That I can find.

I wish I could say the same for the construction paper. However, at the old house, I kept the construction paper in the basement by the art supplies, none of which I have seen since the day I packed them into one of the many boxes that are sitting in the garage here, or in our storage unit in town, or in our second storage unit an hour down the road. There’s no chance I’m going to find the construction paper today; maybe not even this year.

So I suggested he just turn Scooby over and write Daddy’s name on the back and give it to him as a present. His stubborn gene must have been sleeping in today, because normally, a suggestion like that would never fly (like Mom, he prefers his routines). But moving has apparently discombobulated him as much as me: to my shock, he agreed, and Daddy got a lovely Scooby Doo cut-out to decorate his side of the office (yes, we’re sharing an office now, but that’s a post for another time.)

Searching for things and substituting other things is becoming a way of life for me, particularly since we started up homeschooling again two weeks ago. Everything else we’ll find eventually, but the school stuff is what we need right now. I can’t believe how much I relied on my systems for keeping track of our possessions! “A place for everything and everything in its place” allowed me to work efficiently without stopping to look for things, kind of like being on auto-pilot, with everything running so smoothly you don’t have to think about it. I may have to reread my own book so I can get back to an organized life again!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where'd the Chips Go?

I was in the grocery today, learning the layout of a store that's new to me because we just moved here a few weeks ago, when I spotted some cheese potato chips. Mmmmm....too good to pass up.

One bag looked a bit different than the rest and had an expiration date of two days ago. The rest of the bags had an updated design in the same color scheme, and an expiration date in November. All of them were the same price.

I soon discovered that not only were the new bags a different design, they also had a different weight on them: a new bag of chips weighed nearly an ounce less than the old one.

I know, big deal, one less handful of chips. But these kinds of little changes add up. Food companies are raising prices like mad these days, and they know we're more likely to notice a higher price than a smaller quantity for the same price, so they shrink the product just a bit every so often.

This explains why a recipe I tore out of the newspaper when I was a newlywed back in the 70s calls for a 7-ounce can of tuna. Good luck finding that size today! Over the years, a can of tuna has declined in 1/4 oz. increments; now tuna comes in 6 oz. cans. By the way, the price of a can of tuna has also gone up over time, but we didn't realize how much because part of the price increase was "hidden" by a microscopically smaller can.

One more example: a few years ago you could buy a two-quart container of ice cream; now almost all the brands are 1.75 quarts, and the price certainly hasn't dropped.

The frustrating thing about this is that all of these examples are of products you can't easily replicate at home. I can make eight dozen cookies for the retail cost of a package of Chips Ahoy, and a lovely loaf of bread for far less than Sara Lee charges. But making potato chips and ice cream, not to mention raising my own school of tuna, are far more labor-intensive pursuits!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling

Fortunately, the Soccer Edition of this week's Carnival of Homeschooling doesn't require us tired moms to race down a field at the end of the day; all we have to do is grab a mug of something warm (it's chilly here!), rest our weary bones in front of our computers, and vicariously enjoy the activities of other homeschooling families for an encouraging few minutes (or hours, if you enjoy the posts as much as I do!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's Changing Boys?

How might plastic bottles, video games and kindergarten be related to the rising level of unmotivated, lethargic boys and young men in our society? Read this interview with Dr. Leonard Sax to find out. If his theories are correct (I don't know if they are, but they're certainly interesting), we homeschooling parents are on the right track by not sending our boys to kindergarten. But according to Dr. Sax, kindergarten is just one piece of the puzzle.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ahead of the Trend.....

I've been baking cookies from scratch and using a clothesline for the last 25 years....and now all of a sudden doing such things makes me part of a trend that even has a name: Retro-progressive. I wonder which other things I do on a regular basis will become the next trend? Maybe using a broom instead of a Swiffer?

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Flexibility of Homeschooling

I’ve always appreciated the flexibility of homeschooling, and never more than during this past month. At the end of July, after nearly 10 months on the market, we received an offer on our house, with the buyer requesting possession less than four weeks later.

Of course, we accepted the offer, thrilled at the chance to finally get on with our lives. But we had no idea just how crazy it would be to try to move 19 years of stuff accumulated by our family of six, not to mention two businesses, in such a short period of time. As a result, we are now the renters of a house with a garage full of boxes, plus two storage garages in similar condition, and I’m having a hard time finding just about everything.

But we’re managing, and I can’t help but think how much harder this whole process would be if our kids were in school. They would have had to start school last week, just a week after we moved here. They’d need school supplies, clothes and all the other “necessities” of modern school attendance, whatever they are these days (after 20 years of homeschooling, I don’t even know!) I would have had to find time to register them at their new schools and attend whatever parent meetings they require.

Instead, all I’ve had to do is find the two specially marked boxes filled with their schoolbooks and start school. No, we don’t have all of our reference books on the shelves yet, nor have I been able to find my lesson plan book. But we’re just sitting at the kitchen table, working a day at a time, and things are going fine. In fact, adding “school” to our daily routine has made our new house seem very much like home.

While it’s been a big help during our rushed out-of-state move, the flexibility of homeschooling is also noticeable in the little things that happen on any given day. Last night, noisy storms swept through our area. Our 14-year-old, who has Down syndrome, has always been terrified of storms. At the old house, he’d cry out for my husband and me and, being in the next room, one of us would hear him and comfort him. Now he’s in a room upstairs next to his sister’s, while we’re downstairs, so we didn’t hear his cries last night. But his sister did, and she comforted him and calmed him down. However, he was not able to go back to sleep, so he played and drew pictures quietly in his room until breakfast time.

Soon after breakfast, he fell asleep on the living room sofa. Now, if he were in school, I’d have had to wake him up and put him, drowsy and probably cranky, on the bus. Instead, I just left him to sleep, and spent the morning working with his sister. He awoke shortly before lunch, rested though still groggy. By the time lunch was over, he was in much better spirits, and we were able to have a productive afternoon together working on his lessons.

That’s just one small example of the flexibility of homeschooling. Many homeschooling families have experienced it by being able to take vacations in the fall, when tourist areas are less crowded because most families are back in their schools and offices. It can be seen in the relief of a mom who can stay home with her new baby instead of dragging the poor little thing around while she takes her kids back and forth to school and its related activities. It’s very appreciated by the dad who is able to take a child with him on a business trip, and the grandparents who can bring their grandchildren home with them for a two-week visit any time of year they wish.

That flexibility must be a big secret to outsiders, though, because people always seem to think we homeschool moms have such demanding lives. Shows what they know!

Please Join Me Next Week....

One of the most enjoyable homeschool workshops I’ve ever run was on the topic of “Blogging for Homeschool Moms.” I saw how much interest there is in this subject, because the workshop was SRO (Standing Room Only), and the attendees expressed a lot of enthusiasm about it.

I was happy to think that some of them would become regular bloggers in the homeschooling community. In the world of homeschooling, new voices are always welcome, because there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. You never know, a post about how or why your family homeschools might be the one that helps another parent decide to give homeschooling a try.

If you’re already blogging about your homeschooling life, I hope you’ve tried entering one of your posts into a homeschool carnival. I am amazed at the number of responses I get, both blog comments and emails, when my posts are mentioned in a carnival. It’s become obvious to me that many prospective and new homeschooling parents are using homeschool blog carnivals to get the information they need.

Next week you have an opportunity to participate in the best homeschooling carnival around, the one sponsored by the Cates of Why Homeschool. They originated this carnival, and they’re looking for more blogging participants. Why not give it a try? All you have to do is use a recent post from your blog that is related to homeschooling, or write a new one. Submit it by Monday Sept. 10th at 6 pm (Pacific Time). Your post will reach many people, and could make a difference to someone who really needs honest information about homeschooling.

I’ll be there, as I am most weeks. Won’t you join me?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Going to the Lifestyle Center vs. Having a Life

A while back I read a book called Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher that got me thinking about how we Americans eat. We buy food from far-off places, where the safety standards are not as high as they are here, and use tremendous amounts of fuel to ship those foods here. Wouldn't it be much simpler to learn to eat what's available in your own country?

There are a lot of answers to that question; definitely a post for another time. But I recently read something by Bill Bonner, an American living in France, that got me thinking about eating locally:

One striking difference between Europe…especially France…and America," said a perceptive visitor recently, "is the lack of retail space. At home, everywhere you go…there are malls, strip malls, shops…and more shops. Here, there are just these little stores…and occasionally a small mall. Nothing like in the United States. And these places are often closed. God forbid you want to buy something between noon and 2 PM…or after 6 PM.

"I saw a statistic. The United States has about 10 times as much retail space per person. I don't know why. It's just part of the culture. We shop for things. We don't stock anything. We don't grow our food. I'm amazed at the gardens around here…everyone seems to have a garden behind his house here in Normandy. I guess they just ride their bicycles into town to get their bread and go to the butchers. They don't need much else. That's probably why they don't use much fuel either. They don't have to drive around looking for things everyday."

In the Chicago suburbs, where I lived nearly all my life (we just moved to a small harbor town in Wisconsin two weeks ago), there are enormous shopping centers where people in Hummers circle the parking lots looking for the closest spot to park so they can go in the stores and buy, buy, buy. In Algonquin, the suburb we just left, there's actually a "lifestyle center," an upscale shopping center whose site was chosen because of its proximity to families with incomes of more than $100,000 a year. I'm no big fan of France, but the lifestyle Bonner describes above makes a lot more sense to me than the lifestyle of the people who hang out at the "lifestyle center."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Gem

I was over at Deirdre's interesting blog where I saw this post about where your child should be instead of kindergarten, courtesy of Peter Robinson. What a gem!

Getting Pumped About Homeschooling

Only a small fraction of our many, many boxes were unpacked before it was time to head down to St. Louis to see our ds22 and his bride in their new home. It was great to see them both, and we also got to see the company where our son works and the Lutheran school where our dil has just started her first official teaching job. We had a wonderful time!

BTW, our son's first post-college job is with a Lutheran publishing house, where he manages their bookstores. Meanwhile, dd23 is a supervisor for a major bookstore here in Wisconsin. Reading all those books to them paid off, and now they get discounts on the books they buy where they work (you can guess what I often get from them for my birthday and Christmas...books!)

"Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter readers, be warned: between moving less than three weeks ago and spending the Labor Day weekend out of town, I am running behind on everything, and that includes the newsletter. It is in process, though, so keep an eye on your email box. (Not a subscriber yet? Get your free subscription here.) And while you're at that page, please note that while I said there that I prefer to start back to homeschooling in September, I didn't say WHEN in September....I'm hoping maybe this week, but we'll see........

Last, but not least, if you're feeling lethargic about homeschooling instead of energized, you need to head on over to this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Message of Hope

This is from our church's bulletin for this week:

We received two responses to our Rally Day balloon
messages. (One girl)'s balloon landed on a farmer who was
in his tractor near Knox, Indiana, about 4:00 p.m. last Sunday.
Another balloon landed in a boat that a woman was sitting in
because the area near Merrillville, Indiana, was flooded! Please
keep Stephanie and all flood victims in your prayers.

As I recall from my days as a Sunday school teacher, the balloons the kids launch to celebrate Rally Day usually have a message attached that says "Jesus Loves You." Imagine sitting in a boat in your flooded neighborhood, praying for a sign that everything's going to be ok, and then that balloon lands in your boat. How cool is that? :)

Putting the Kids on the Bus (or Not)

Janet made an interesting comment regarding my last post, and that got me thinking. I don't recall ever looking at a school bus and wishing I could put my kids on it so I could have some time to get things done. I'm not trying to make myself out to be a saint or something, it's just the truth. And I think I know why I never felt that way.

I had my first two children when I was 25 and 26; they were 18 months apart in age. Being a typically self-centered 20-something, I struggled with giving up my life and interests to raise them 24/7. Not that I didn't enjoy them, because they were a lot of fun (ok, exhausting fun, but fun just the same). But my dh worked 50-60 hours a week back in those days (before his industry went to China), and I was alone with the little ones a lot. The hardest thing for me was not having time to read, to write, to sew, to garden whenever I felt like it....those are things you can't do very easily with two little people running around.

My dh, being the wonderful husband he is, often gave me time in the evenings to do my thing. He'd play with the kids while I sewed in another room with a gate up, or push them on the backyard swings while I went shopping alone (so much easier than taking them with every time!) Despite his own exhaustion, he gave me as much time alone as he could. We both figured I would come out of my time alone refreshed and ready for another long day of life with toddlers.

The reality, however, was that instead of coming back with my batteries recharged, I came back cranky and a bit resentful. It was not enough. I wanted more. My selfish nature was dissatisfied with occasional time off.

But I loved my kids, and wanted to be home to raise them, so what I finally decided was that for me, it was better to make time to pursue my interests while I was home with my kids instead of leaving them to do things. From then on, I read the paper while they played in the morning. I gardened while they were on the swingset. I sewed during their naptimes. And I gave up writing because I couldn't concentrate on it while the kids were around. Writing ended up being put on the back burner (with occasional lapses) until the kids were teens.

And I learned that while I couldn't do everything I wanted to, I could do just enough reading, writing, sewing and gardening to keep me satisfied. I've stayed in that pattern ever since, even after having two more kids. So I guess over the course of homeschooling for the past 20 years, I made just enough time for my interests that I didn't ever think about sending the kids to school so I could get things done. Having them home was just part of daily life.

The School Buses Are Out Again......

The school buses are out again, those yellow beacons that remind us we’ve chosen a different path for our children. There’s a certain energy floating around during these first few weeks of school that can be felt as the buses drive past, or when you’re in the school supply section of Target, surrounded by other parents with their mile-long preprinted school supply lists, that can make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing by keeping your children home.

Don’t let that energy fool you. It’s an annual occurrence, and within a month or so, it will be replaced by the boredom of school. I still remember the hope I’d have as a child on each first day of school: maybe this year will be better. I’d arrive at each class optimistic about the school year. Maybe this class will be fun. Maybe it will be interesting. Maybe this will be the year that it gets better.

But by the end of that first day, once the last class of the day was over, I could see it would be just another year. Sure, there would be the occasional interesting class, and once in a while I’d get a teacher who was really into the subject and sharing his or her enthusiasm about it. But by the end of that first week, I’d find that I had lost all hope that things would be much different than the year before.

Our kids have no way of knowing this if they have never been to school. They grow up accustomed to learning on their own timetable, and take for granted the rhythm of day-to-day family life. School (particularly these first few weeks of the school year) can look like something foreign and exciting to them. They may feel like they’re missing out on something good.

They don’t know the truth, but we do, and if they feel like they’re missing out, they’re just going to have to trust us that we’re doing the right thing by keeping them home. Usually it only takes a few years before their neighborhood friends begin to discover what I discovered: that for all the hype, the shiny yellow buses and the new school supplies, school is no fun. It quickly becomes monotonous, a sameness of day and situation that runs on endlessly, while out in the real world, people come and go and do interesting things.

Our family was fortunate, because by about third grade, the neighbor kids had not only discovered this truth, but were more than willing to share it with our kids:

“You’re so lucky you don’t have to go to school!”

“I asked my mom to homeschool me and she said no. Could your mom homeschool me?”

“I hate school.”

This certainly made my life easier, because as my children’s eyes were opened to the reality of their friends’ daily lives at school, my concern that they felt they were missing out was erased. They could plainly see that they were not missing out on much.

Before long, the annual first day of school in our neighborhood became our cue to celebrate our family’s freedom. We started to take vacations in the fall, when it was still nice outside but all the crowds at the tourist attractions had disappeared. As we’d drive along, occasionally the kids would see a school bus full of children. And I’d usually hear a comment from the back of the van along the lines of,

“Aren’t we lucky?”

They certainly are, and the return of the yellow buses each fall has become a reminder of that fact.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The World is Their Potty, Apparently

This new trend in childrearing is all over the Internet today. I'm sorry, but if I come into the ladies' room and find you holding your baby over the sink so she can pee into it, I am not only going to look at you funny, but I'll probably say something to you, too, because my kids need to wash their hands in that sink.

As for teaching baby boys to pee on trees in the backyard, good luck breaking them of that habit when they're older!

(Funniest line in this article: "She says finding a supportive daycare center is the biggest challenge for parents who choose not to use diapers." I'll bet they laugh her right out of the room, lol.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dressed for Suspension

Several students in a Florida high school were given in-school suspension for breaking the dress exceeding it. That's right, despite being warned not to do it, they showed up in (brace yourself) suitcoats and ties, and were promptly suspended for doing so. Kids these days! What will they think of next?

This is silly. High school supposedly prepares kids for adulthood, which is a big job. With all the important things school officials should be teaching these kids, nitpicking over exceeding the school dress code belongs at the bottom of the to-do list.

We're starting another year of homeschool high school in our family next week. The "principal" is usually here during the day (he works at home), and he prefers we all be dressed before we start school. The kids are pretty good about following that rule, but sometimes I wake up with the urge to write before we begin our studies for the day, so I end up teaching in my pj's. Fortunately, I haven't been suspended yet...

T-shirts and Totes for Homeschoolers

I stumbled onto this site and liked several of the homeschool t-shirts and totes they sell....what do you think of them?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back Online...Better Late Than Never

Ok, so maybe I was a bit optimistic when I said I'd be back online early this week. It's been 19 years since we last moved, and I forgot how hard it is to find things once you start unpacking! Before we could get online, we had to find the computers, the modem, the keyboards, the right cables and wires....what a project! But my wonderful dh got it all working...woohoo!

This whole moving thing was a rush job to begin with. After nearly 10 months on the market, we got an offer on July 26 (four weeks ago yesterday, but who's counting?) The buyer wanted possession of the house by 8/15 or 8/22. Choosing the latter was a no-brainer, but as we soon learned, moving out of your home of two decades in less than a month is not easy.

The buyer's mortgage was not approved until the last day the contract allowed, 8/15, which meant this deal wasn't close to being official until a week before the closing. Considering how many mortgage lenders have gone belly-up lately, I did not breathe a sigh of relief until we got the call two days ago that the closing went without a hitch. Thank God (and that's not just a phrase, it's the truth! Selling in this market is the work of God, without a doubt.)

If Budget Car Rental's stock went up in August, they can thank us. Truckload #1 made the trip north to storage unit #2 10 days ago. Truckload #2 (all 24 feet of it plus a trailer carrying our minivan) left last Sunday, but unfortunately we were unable to fit the rest of the mess in it, thus we came back to IL on Monday night, rented Truck #3, and finished moving north on Tuesday. Add the cost of three truck trips worth of diesel fuel to three truck rentals, plus the wear and tear on my poor dh, and I have to wonder if we should have hired movers. But by the time we knew the sale was probably going through, the movers were booked up (we checked).

But the important thing is that we're here. We've left the Chicago suburbs, crossed the Cheddar Curtain and landed in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Yes, this is a smaller house, and we have no idea where we're going to put all our stuff (most of which is in the one-car garage and storage units #1 and #2. I'm thinking mega garage sales next spring.) But we're a half-mile up the hill from the bay, and we're enjoying the background noise of the boats blowing their horns. I've stopped trolling the realtor blogs (they were getting awfully depressing!) And I've already got a line on two local homeschool support groups, one of which has a teen group. So things are looking up :)