Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Something for Everyone at This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling

You may wonder why I always post the link to each week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. It's not just because there are so many thought-provoking posts each week, or because I'm usually in it and promote it for that reason.

It's because it's so fascinating to get to know other homeschooling parents via their blogs: what they do with their kids, what else they do in their lives, how they think. Yes, it's easier to just hang out with the homeschoolers you know in your geographic area or in an online community. But visiting other homeschooling parents' blogs can really expand your thinking about what you want to do in your own family, and you'll make some great new friends in the process. The carnival is just an efficient way to find many of these blogs.

If you haven't checked out a carnival before, why not try it with this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling?

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Steroidal Play Sets" are Just a Symptom....

This article exemplifies what's wrong with many of today's American parents, who spend tens of thousands of dollars to provide their 1.3 children with the modern equivalent of the swing set, a playset so large it can sometimes be seen from space.

One of the play areas mentioned is three stories high and over 1200 square feet. How many children on this planet live in homes far smaller than that? Those who spoil their children to this extent (particularly considering how fancy public parks are today) better not complain years from now when they discover they've raised some very spoiled adults.

Ending the article with the little boy playing with his trucks under the enormous play area was a nice touch. I especially liked the poem about swingsets the reporter referenced in the article.

Homeschooling as a Discipline Tool

Dd16 and I had our hair cut today, she with one stylist and me with the other.

We'd hardly sat down when dd's stylist asks the inevitable question about whether dd is excited about starting school again. In the process of answering, dd mentions that she's homeschooled.

By now my stylist is talking to me, but I can hear dd fielding questions about whether homeschooling prepares you enough, blablabla, and I hear dd responding that her older siblings were homeschooled all the way through and are doing well, one just graduated from college magna cum laude, etc.

Right then the gal cutting my hair goes, "Yeah, when my kid gives me trouble about going to school, I just threaten to quit my job so I can homeschool him, and he shuts right up!"

I'm guessing her son lives in fear of that possibility. ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hot Flashes AND Flashbacks?

Took a day trip several hours north yesterday to see dd23's new apartment. She was just going up there to sign the lease, so I came along and kept her company. Her actual move is this weekend.

While I was in her new apartment, my menopausal sentimentality hit a new low. She'd left the lease on the kitchen counter, and when I saw her signature, I flashed back to when she first learned to write in cursive. I used A Reason For Writing to teach my older three children how to print and write, and I can still recall how happy dd was whenever she got a border sheet to write on. She never wrote any more words than she had to, but she loved coloring in the border decorations, and adding a few of her own to personalize her work.

Like I said, this sentimental thing is getting out of control......but we homeschool moms sure enjoy our memories :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You NEED This Week's Carnival

I have a hundred things to do today, and I'm already behind schedule because I got caught up in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

My favorite posts so far are Janine Cate's reflections on how homeschooling helps kids become fiscally responsible adults, and a very common-sense critique of Charlotte Mason over at the Common Room. (No, I didn't forget to hyperlink them. You'll just have to go to the Carnival and find them yourself!) ;)

Kudos to Tami for organizing this week's Carnival.

Monday, July 23, 2007

An Impromptu Lesson

Over the weekend, dd16 and I had a little impromptu "Life Prep" lesson, spurred by a letter I received in the mail.

The letter was from the bank where dh and I have our personal checking account; as they have about a million times before, they're offering us a home equity account. But this time, they spelled out exactly how they believed we would benefit from borrowing against our house to pay for the necessities of life. The example they chose was so illuminating that I just had to share it with our teenage daughter.

Here's the tempting little scenario they set up:

Current Monthly Debts Before Tapping Into Home Equity:
Personal Loan $8,000 balance = $183.05/month repayment
Auto Loan $12,000 balance = $237.61/month repayment
Credit Card $5,000 balance = $112.50/month repayment
Total Current Debt Payments Per Month: $533.16

Those loan balances add up to $25,000, and the bank (out of concern for us, I'm sure) points out that if we had that kind of debt, we could take out a home equity loan for $25,000, pay off those balances and end up owing the bank only $166.16 per month. That's a savings of $367 per month or $4,404 per year. What's not to like?

So I sat down with dd16 and went over this offer with her, after dutifully pointing out that the prudent thing to do would be to not carry a balance on your credit card or extend the term of a personal or car loan in the first place. She thought that it looked like a pretty good deal, when you just crunched the numbers.

That's when I showed her the three little asterisks buried in the copy. We found the related explanation on the back of the letter in the fine print:

This 6.99% APR fixed rate would result in 179 monthly payments of $166.16 plus a final balloon payment of $21,613.82, and assumes an open and active personal (BANK NAME) checking account with automatic monthly payments from a personal (BANK NAME) checking or savings account. (For loans without a personal (BANK NAME) checking account and no automatic payment deductions, the APR would be 8.24% and would result in 179 monthly payments of $187.64 plus a final balloon payment of $22,225.93.)

I told her that a balloon payment must be paid in full on the specified date. She was pretty shocked that someone would have to come up with that kind of money, which isn't that much less than the previous 179 payments (15 years!) put together. I told her the bank is assuming the house will be worth more then and the owner would have more equity in it, so the owner could just borrow against it some more 15 years down the road.

But that assumes house prices and people's incomes will continue to go up for the next 15 years. Given the changes we're seeing from the global economy, that's a gamble.

This brief lesson caught my daughter's attention, and I think we'll go over it again this year after we do the Mortgage Project in Life Prep. But now I'm thinking, do I need to add home equity loans to that project before we do another reprint of the book? Banks and mortgage companies have come up with so many new ways to keep people in debt that I could probably add a whole 'nother book's worth of content!

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Curmudgeon's....er....Experienced Mom's Guide to Grocery Shopping

I was out grocery shopping today at Trader Joe's and Meijer. In between the two places, I was stuck in traffic and wrote the notes for this post.

The Experienced Mom's Guide to Grocery Shopping: How to Make Your Grocery Shopping Experience (and Mine) More Pleasurable

1) The right to push a kiddie cart must be earned. Racing in front of other shoppers with one should result in the loss of the kiddie cart privilege.

2) Children should use their "inside voice" in the store. Children who shout their sentences (and they seem to be on the rise these days) need a parent to tell them this.....as often as necessary.

3) Eating out of packages = stealing. That goes for you too, Mom. (Today I saw a mom and her two kids eating bananas in the produce dept. One child dropped half of hers on the floor. Mom glanced at it and kept going. Nice.)

4) Tantrums = home and a nap. Mom must be willing to leave the store and come back later to finish her shopping if her screaming child has become unmanageable. I personally will watch over her groceries, if that's what it takes ;)

5) Children of any age who run down aisles should be put in their parent's cart. The older the child, the more embarrassing this will be, hopefully resulting in an end to the running. (This goes double for kids with wheels on their shoes.)

6) I love little kids....I had four of my own. But no matter how adorable a child may be, to the rest of us, his cuteness factor is inversely affected by his bad behavior in the store.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What To Do With Preschoolers

I'm doing an easy post today---reprinting an email---because our half-price eBook sale is keeping us so busy! :)

A reader asks what to do with her preschooler, with whom she already does two hours a day of online educational games. She's also thinking of homeschooling him in the future and is having a hard time sorting through the huge amount of info she's finding online. Here's my response:

How much fun you must be having with your little guy! I remember those days very well.....now that my four are 14-23 (only two live at home now), I'm so glad I was home making memories with them for all those years.

Researching homeschooling can be quite overwhelming. There is just so much information out there. I know you're eager to keep his mind challenged, and that's understandable. But I want to caution you to take your time and not think too far ahead. Try to enjoy these years without the pressure of programs, classes and educational activities. God has created our little people to be great learners without those things.

I'm not saying you shouldn't work with him online. That's time the two of you are spending together, and as long as he's having fun, that's good. But make sure he gets ample time to explore the world around him. Lots of fresh air and free play is what he needs most at this age.

There is a wonderful article by Beverly Krueger that I usually recommend to moms of little ones. I think you'll find lots of ideas in it and also food for thought:


The site that it came from, "EHO Lite," is a good one for surfing around if you're just beginning to contemplate homeschooling.

I also recommend books like Home Grown Kids by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. I have been greatly influenced by their work since I first read that book nearly 25 years ago. Here's an article outlining their theories:


Those links should give you plenty to think about for now. I don't want to pressure you about homeschooling, but I have to tell you that it's been a great blessing for our family, and that we're very grateful that God led us to this lifestyle.


PS I have a free homeschooling newsletter you can subscribe to, and a book (currently an eBook, and coming out soon in print) with lots of homeschool how-to's. You can find them here:


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Guide to Homeschooling Half-Price

Yes, it's still summer, but before long, we'll be thinking about homeschooling again. Whether you're a veteran homeschooler or a newbie, you'll find lots of helpful homeschooling info in my eBook, The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling.

How does half-off that eBook sound to you? For the next week, you can have all 103 pages of The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling eBook for just $5.95...it's usually $11.95! Just click HERE.

I just know my eBook will get you off to a great start this year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Your "Professional Development"

Over at Principled Discovery, Dana has come up with a great theme for the Carnival of Homeschooling: she's giving us an in-service day! Looks like she's gathered many interesting posts, with a bit of controversy thrown in for spice. I'm off to check it out......

Monday, July 16, 2007

Homeschoolers in Country Woman magazine

Got the latest issue of Country Woman magazine today (August/September 2007) and was happy to see not one but two features about homeschoolers. The first is a profile of a large homeschooling, self-publishing family in Wisconsin, and the second reports on the accomplishments of several different homeschooling families who are CW readers.

If you've never seen a copy of Country Woman, you're in for a treat. There are no ads, no articles about celebrities, fashion or gynecological issues.....just articles about normal women, their crafts, their recipes and their families. My mother-in-law gave me a subscription many years ago and kept it going as an annual Christmas gift, and I sure appreciate it!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Passing of a Great Man

I was sorry to hear that Dr. Raymond Moore passed away yesterday. He and his late wife Dorothy are considered pioneers of the modern homeschooling movement. Their shared heart for encouraging families to work and learn together led them to spend countless hours writing books, giving seminars and testifying in court, all in the name of helping homeschooling parents.

If you're not familiar with the Moores' books, I encourage you to find some and read them. Their gentle yet firm manner will give you homeschooling confidence. My personal favorites are Home Grown Kids and The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook.

Our condolences go out to the Moore family.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thinking Bloggers

Jane over at Indiana Jane's Homeschool Notebook was kind enough to nominate me for a Thinking Blogger Award. It takes one to know one; it would be well worth your time to check out her blog.

Now I need to nominate five Thinking Bloggers. I must nominate Jane herself, as I enjoy her take on things, and particularly how she applies her way of looking at life to what she blogs about.

I hate to seem like I'm copying off of her, but one of Jane's nominees, Susan's Pendulum, is also one of mine. I enjoy her take on many different subjects, and I relate to her because, like me, she has young adult children.

Dana over at Principled Discovery is always presenting challenging questions and sharing well-thought-out answers. Don't go there if you're sleepy, though...you need to be sharp when you read Dana's posts.

Why Homeschool is a great place to drop by for information and issues. The Cates do such a good job with this blog, and are also to be commended for starting and running the wonderful Carnival of Homeschooling.

Finally, Herrick the Deliberate Agrarian can always be counted on for thoughtful posts about issues relating to both Christianity and agrarianism. I don't always like his photos, though...scroll cautiously if you have a weak stomach, because he has some visually instructive posts about things like preparing very fresh poultry that I can't handle :0

Those of you I've just tagged now need to write a post describing five bloggers who make you think; in that post, please include this link and, if you wish, the "Thinking Blogger Award" as you see it at the top of this post.

Testing Teacher Competency: Try It Yourself!

Today's guest host on the Rush Limbaugh radio show is economics professor Dr. Walter E. Williams. He just told about teachers in Peru who set fire to a train station in protest of being made to take teacher competency exams. Wow, those are certainly some fine role models for Peruvian children (sarcasm off).

Dr. Williams wondered whether Peruvian teacher competency tests are harder than those in the U.S., and he gave as his favorite example the CBest test, the competency test given to teachers in California. That test is at about a ninth-grade level. Dr. Williams shared one question from the test: Four times what number plus four equals 32? My goodness, that was tough.

I wrote about this test a while back: why its existence should encourage homeschooling parents, and how you can try the test yourself. You'll find that article here.

Recharge Your Homeschooling Batteries

Maybe you're taking the summer off of homeschooling, or maybe you're still at it: either way, you'll find it a lot easier to keep at it when you read encouraging news about homeschooling.

One easy way to do this is to visit this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, which is offered by the Cates at Why Homeschool? This edition uses as its framework the U.S. Department of Education's list of Top Ten Reasons to Homeschool. Quite a unique way to set up a carnival, with a fair (but not overwhelming) number of interesting posts.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which Kind of Mom Are You?

My friend and I took our boys to Brookfield Zoo today and had a nice time. The weather was perfect; it was a great day to visit the zoo.

Evidently, many other people felt the same way we did, because there were a lot of people there, mostly moms and their children. It's been a while since I was around a huge group of parents with their little ones, and I enjoyed seeing all the babies and toddlers (although my friend and I agreed the moms are looking younger all the time, LOL).

One thing that caught my eye was the way the moms related to their children. A few moms just stood quietly while their children looked at the animals and the exhibits. Their children talked to each other, but not to their moms.

Many more moms were deeply engrossed in chatting with each other, or on their cell phones, while their children enjoyed the zoo. There was little or no conversation between these moms and their children.

Then there were the moms who actively participated in the zoo visit, calling out things like "Tyler, can you see the bear peeking out of the cave?" or "How many camels can you count?"

If you're a homeschooler, I'm guessing you probably fall into the third group. Am I right?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where Does Our Food Come From? We May Find Out

Just the other day, I lamented that we need to label all food sold in this country with the country of origin so we can make informed choices about what we eat. And today I read that we may be getting those labels, if history doesn't repeat itself:

Country-of-origin labeling rules are scheduled to go into effect for beef, lamb, pork, peanuts, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on Sept. 30. The Department of Agriculture is gathering public comment on the rule, which twice has been postponed by Congress since it was passed in 2002.

Looks like I need to call my congressman. I'm also looking into more options for buying food locally and growing our own food (beyond the tomatoes we grow every year). I love reading about others who do this; there were some good posts related to this topic at the new Homesteading Carnival.

Taking the Public Out of Public Schools

I'm not sure what's funnier, the fact that the Pittsburgh Public Schools are going to drop the word "Public" in order to "brighten and strengthen the district's image,"or these comments about the fact over at Lucianne.com.* My personal favorites are "Like rearranging the Titanic's deck chairs" and "In that vein, maybe if they dropped the word 'school' it might help their image too."

* Threads at Lucianne.com are only available for 72 hours.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Adventures in Parenting

We had a little incident here this morning that illustrates why parenting can be so hard at times. While dh and I were in our offices working, dsds14 took the initiative and went outside to bring in the recycler from the curb.

In and of itself, this is a good thing. In fact, I wish we'd seen that kind of initiative in our older kids at that age. So, what's the problem?

The problem is that we have a hard and fast rule that ds may not leave the house without permission. The reason for this is that he has run off in the past, and he has also demonstrated that he will go with strangers if they ask him to. Once he met a young woman from our church who thought he was cute and asked him teasingly, "Want to come home with me?" His response was "Let's go!" and he grabbed her by the arm and headed for the door. (We knew her parents, but ds didn't know them or her at that time.)

So this morning we were in a position where we had to punish him for something we would have applauded in our older kids. But he doesn't have the intelligence of his siblings; judgment is one of his weak areas. We cannot risk confusing him about the rules for leaving the house without permission. Otherwise, if he wakes up at 3 am one morning and decides he wants some fries, he'll be headed down the highway to McDonald's while we're asleep.

Since the house-leaving rule is a biggie, I had to mete out the ultimate punishment: I took away his GameCube. His response was to pack his suitcase, march down to the refrigerator for some orange pop to take with, and tell his sister he was headed to a hotel and needed a credit card. BUT he didn't try to leave the house....so far, so good, I guess.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Comparing Costs: High School

Cost of new high school in Los Angeles, CA: $400 million and counting

Cost of homeschooling one teen from 9th-12th grades: easily less than $5,000

Value of those years with your teen: Priceless

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Gravitational Pull of Homeschooling

It's been a month since we put our homeschooling on 'pause.' By the time we finished up, I was so busy with last-minute wedding details that I didn't give a thought about when and how dd16 and I would start up again. (Dsds14 is a different story; I'll just stick with his IEP.)

After all these years, the pattern seems to be the same. When we take a break from school, I could not care less about where we will pick up with it, what subjects should be covered, or what materials we'll need. At that point, I don't even want to think about homeschooling anymore.

This year, between the wedding and the possibility that we could move before the end of the summer (to an area with a Lutheran high school, an option dd16 has considered), it was especially easy for me to forget about homeschooling.....for a while.

But every so often lately, a homeschooling thought pops into my head:

"The primaries next spring will make great topics for expository writing."

"This year she'll be ready for Life Prep."

"Maybe she should review Algebra once a week, just so she doesn't forget it."

"I've got to get her registered for the ACT next spring."

I'm writing these thoughts down so I won't forget; they're in a growing little pile of sticky notes on my desk. It's like I can't help myself. Once I've had that little mental break from homeschooling, it just draws me in all over again. By this time next month, that stack of notes will probably be a lot taller.

Fiddling While Rome Burns.....

There must not be anything important going on in this world when we reach the point where people consider the naming of their new baby a major source of stress.

When I read about people spending hundreds of dollars to hire so-called experts ("nameologists," and I am not making this up) and numerologists to help them choose a name for their child, I realize that the world really has gone mad.

Then there's the remorse of those foolish people who neglected to hire an "expert":

Karen Markovics, 36, who works for the planning department in Orange County, N.C., spent months reading baby books and scouring Web sites before settling on Nicole Josephine. But now, four years later, Mrs. Markovics says she wishes she'd chosen something less trendy -- and has even considered legally changing her daughter's name to Josephine Marie. "I'm having namer's remorse," she says.

I'd hate to be the poor four-year-old whose mom informs her that she's changing her name because she doesn't like it.

And how about this gal? I wouldn't put money on the future of her marriage:

Madeline Dziallo, 36, a beautician and mother of two in LaGrange, Ill., turned to a consultant when naming both of her children, Ross, 3, and Natalie, eight months. That consultant, Maryanna Korwitts, a self-described nameologist based in Downers Grove, Ill., charges up to $350 for a package including three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing the name's history, linguistic origins and personality traits. "She was an objective person for me to obsess about it with rather than driving my husband crazy," says Mrs. Dziallo.

No, we wouldn't want to get the husband involved in naming his own child.

Despite my frustration at reading silly things like this, I'm thinking I might as well jump on the bandwagon here and set up an easy and profitable business for myself. I'll charge expectant parents $150 (a real bargain compared to the competition!) to email them the right name for their baby, and then, to save myself time, I'll just email them all the same name: Ditz Jr.

Calling P.T. Barnum, or whoever really said "There's a sucker born every minute." I think I might just be on to something.

Apparently, Videos of Dancing Grapes Just Aren't Convincing Enough

It's been a very busy week, and I haven't had time to post here much. But that doesn't mean I didn't have posts floating around in my head, waiting until I got near the keyboard to release them!

One example: I read that the government (that's us, remember?) has spent more than $1 billion so far this year on programs intended to educate kids about nutrition.....and it's not working. Big shock, isn't it? Reasons given in this article include that kids don't like the taste of fruits and vegetables, they'll only eat them if they're given prizes, and they lie to the researchers, saying they ate them when they didn't.

One researcher suggests that what the mother eats while pregnant affects the fetus' developing taste buds. That may be true (though I kind of doubt it), but I think the more telling statement from the article is this one:

Parents are often working, leaving their children unsupervised to get their own snacks.

Let's face it, even when they're not working, many parents let their kids eat all sorts of junk, because they eat it, too, and also because they don't want to be the bad guy by restricting what their children eat. They're more than willing to put the government in the role of parent ("Eat your vegetables, young man!") than to fulfill their responsibility as parents and do it themselves.

However, with freedom comes responsibility. When you give up your responsibilities to the government, sooner or later you'll find that you've given up your freedoms, too.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Articles About Homeschooling

I know that some of you are in charge of your support group's newsletter and/or website, and as busy as you are, you don't always have time to fill a space by writing an article.

Feel free to stop by Cardamom Publishers' free page to find an article you can use. We'll be adding three new articles soon, so this is your last chance to use the articles that are there right now.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Celebrate Your Independence

This morning we attended the annual "God and Country" service at church. Our pastor included George Washington's inaugural prayer, which got me thinking about our first president, and our founding fathers in general.

What would they have said if they could have looked 200-some years into the future to see that the bulk of American citizens look to the government to not only educate their children, but to provide before- and after-school care, free breakfasts and lunches, and even free preschool beginning at age 3? How would they react upon learning that many Americans believe it is up to government schools and other agencies to raise their children during most of their waking hours?

Somehow I don't think they'd be very happy. But I like to believe they'd look at homeschoolers and think, "I'll bet those are MY descendants."

"Interwoven is the love of liberty with every ligament of the heart."
George Washington