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!