Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'm Moving....Finally!

After lots of tweaking, the blog connected to my new site is mostly ready and I've begun posting on it. If you're subscribed via a reader or Feedburner, I will try my best to switch you over. We do have RSS set up over there, and other subscription options will appear soon. Thanks for your patience. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Busting Myths or Overgeneralizing?

My m-i-l gave me a copy of this Chicago Tribune article about raising a child with Down syndrome.

I'm kind of torn here, because I agree with both the moms who say their children are a joy and those who say making Down syndrome look like butterflies and sunshine could mislead people. The bottom line is that while having a child with Ds is both good and difficult, it's not up to us to decide whether a fetus with Down syndrome should live. God has already given that child life. He made the's not ours.

I hope all parents of unborn children with Ds are being told that there are parents who will adopt their child if they can't handle him or her. One agency that does that is CHASK.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Carnival of Homeschooling

This week's carnival is hosted by Susan over at Corn and Oil, a blog based in my home state of Illinois. Do stop by and check out the wide array of posts she's assembled there!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Some of You Will Recognize Yourselves Here....

Melissa tagged me with a cool meme. Here’s how it works: If you recognize yourself here, consider yourself tagged!

1) I’m a mom and grandma who loves caring for my family and my home. Sometimes I also help my husband with his business. Oh, and I love my garden!

2) Barb and I only live about an hour apart but we haven’t met in person yet. I homeschool my teen daughter and three adorable sons.

3) I’m a Canadian redhead who just added two adorable children to my family through adoption, which now makes me a mom of six!

4) Listening to Charlie Sykes, organic food, the upcoming election and becoming a grandmother for the first time are some of the things on my mind these days.

5) We try to fit homeschooling in between recovering from our recent move to Florida and avoiding the alligators that are our new neighbors.

6) I have one foot on either side of the Cheddar Curtain (the WI/IL border) these days, and am busy working hard for the Lord while keeping up with my teen girls, one of whom has Down syndrome.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Down Syndrome Pregnancy in the Spotlight

What Sarah Palin went through in her pregnancy with her son Trig was not easy. Being in the spotlight as the governor of Alaska, she had to work hard to keep her pregnancy and the baby's subsequent diagnosis out of the news until she and her family were ready for what might happen once the situation became public.

Whether or not we know about our baby's diagnosis before birth (I didn't know until my son was a day old), parents of babies with birth defects have to make a lot of hard decisions about how and when to tell people, how to accept the changes in their lives and how to move on. This article goes into detail about how Sarah Palin and her family dealt with her pregnancy and Trig's birth. Many of us can relate to it, I think.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Despite some server problems necessitating a new location than what was originally planned, this week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up and running. Get your weekly homeschooling jumpstart here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Teaching Traditional Subjects, Homeschool Worries and More

The October issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter went out this morning. It includes information about teaching traditional subjects and why homeschoolers shouldn't worry about homeschooling for the long run, plus links to sites that offer free great literature in your emailbox and a fun computer game to keep the kids busy for a while, among other things.

As always, we have the latest entry in the "What Our Kids Are Missing Out On Dept." as well. You can see the entire issue here. If you'd like your own free copy each month, go here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Calming Thoughts of a Simpler Life

This summer while they were visiting us, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a lovely little book: The Simple Life: Devotional Thoughts from Amish Country.

It's not a very big book, but it's got some really nice stories in it. The author, best-selling writer Wanda E. Brunstetter, uses 60 fictional vignettes from Amish life to illustrate biblical principles.

In scary economic times like what we're living in right now, reading something that emphasizes the simple life along with God's sovereignty and grace is just what I need. And to sweeten the pot, the author includes an Amish recipe after each devotion. Our family loves Amish recipes!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Homeschoolers = Green?

Susan notes that her homeschooling lifestyle is just naturally green (i.e. environmentally beneficial). I think she's right. I think ours is green, too. We don't use individually packaged anything either. We don't need to, because, like Susan's family, we eat using plates and silverware at home.

What do you think? Is your homeschooling lifestyle green, too?

Friday, September 26, 2008


Remember when you were a kid and you got hold of a special treat, like a box of Chiclets or a bag of M&Ms, and you couldn't wait to share some with someone special?

That's how I feel about Elisabeth Elliot. Anything she does is so wonderful that I just want to share it with my friends. She's so encouraging, so wise, so Biblically accurate that I can never get enough of her work.

Here are some Elisabeth Elliot treasures I want to share with you. First off, here's a list of back issues of her newsletters. At her Web site, you will find a link to her very encouraging radio broadcasts, which she stopped doing in 2001. (Here's a direct link to the transcripts of those broadcasts.)

I was fortunate to receive one of her books for my birthday: Keep a Quiet Heart. The most recent book of hers I read was Discipline: The Glad Surrender, and it was certainly a good one!

I included her fantastic book Shaping of a Christian Family, The: How My Parents Nurtured My Faith in the reading list found in my own book, Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, Second Edition: A Parent-Friendly Curriculum For Teaching Teens To Handle Money, Live Moral Lives And Get Ready For Adulthood, and all three of my older kids have read it.

One of her most famous books is Through Gates of Splendor, the story of her first husband, missionary Jim Elliot, who was murdered by some of the Ecuadorian Indians he and his fellow missionaries were trying to reach with the Gospel (the movie End of the Spear is also about that sad event).

You'll enjoy Elisabeth Elliot's work. And lest you think she can't understand what your life is like because she only ever had one child, you should know that her daughter is a homeschooling mom of eight :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some Links and a Timely Reminder

We're still working out the details on my new site, Barbara Frank Online, and recently discovered that the links to the September articles had self-destructed (who knows why these things happen!) But they're fixed now, and since those articles will be coming down in a week or so, you might want to check them out while you can:

"Knowing When to Back Off" answers one of the most important questions a homeschooling mom can ask.

"The School Buses are Out Again" reminds us that the school bus is a good symbol, not an ominous one.

Also, don't forget, there's only one week left to get a special price on my latest book, The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling. You'll find the link to that special price in Melissa Markham's review of the book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tonight's Assignment

Tonight dd17 attended a charity art auction in Green Bay as part of an assignment from one of her teachers. She's taking two classes at the local technical college (Wisconsin's version of community college) this semester, in addition to her studies at home during this, her last year of homeschooling.

One of our older kids also attended community college while homeschooling for high school. This is a great way for young people to try college and see if it's what they want before committing to attending a college or university after high school.

I think it's good for the kids to take these classes, not only because of what they can learn about the subject of the class, but because they get to try out the classroom. Of course, there's a lot more freedom than there would be at a public school, so it's a good fit for kids who've never been to school.

A prime advantage, of course, is that they earn both high school and college credit for the courses they take. It really makes a nice transition between high school and college, i.e. between doing things because your mom says so and doing it because the teacher assigned it. Kind of a nice breather for Mom, too :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different....

Last year we moved to beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is primarily known for being a tourist area. However, it's also comprised of small communities that spend 2/3 of the year without many visitors. Having come from the rush and anonymity of the Chicago suburbs, we're really enjoying the small-town atmosphere here.

This fall there has been a particularly neat development. A young man from this area, son of a local artist, has been moving up on one of the musical contest-type talent shows on television. This week he made it to the top ten, and his friends and family gathered at a local establishment to watch him on the show. They all brought their cell phones so they could vote for him at the same time. (There was a cute article about this in the local paper.)

Now everyone is excited because he made it to the top five on the show. Later this week they'll learn if he makes it to #1 and wins $1 million and a show in Las Vegas.

He seems like a nice kid. We saw him perform live soon after we moved here and were impressed with him. Good luck this week, Eli!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thoughts on Turning Fif....Fif...25x2

It’s true: time flies when you’re having fun. That’s why I’m having a hard time believing that I turn 50 today…I just don’t feel like I’ve been alive that long. And yet when I consider how much the world has changed since I arrived well into the Baby Boom years, I realize that 50 years is a long time (gulp).

When I was little, ladies wore hats and gloves to church; now some wear jeans and show cleavage. My dad, my grandpa and all of my uncles smoked, as did several of my aunts. Many of the adults I’d see in cars, restaurants and on the street smoked; now I don’t see many smokers in public at all, and no one in my family smokes except one aunt.

As a child, I rode in heavy metal cars with lots of chrome; now cars are plastic or thin metal, and they’re smaller and have more safety features. I remember holding my baby sister in the car; no, she wasn’t in a baby seat, nor did I wear a seat belt.

Like the rest of the kids in my neighborhood, I walked to school in the morning, walked home for lunch (and Bozo’s Circus on channel 9 at noon), walked back to school after lunch and walked back home at 3 o’clock. I always felt safe, because most of the houses I passed had moms in them. In fact, I didn’t know anyone whose mom had a job outside the home until I was in high school.

I never thought much about what it would be like to be 50 someday, but I have to admit there have been a few surprises. I didn’t think I’d need bifocals until much later, and who knew all those fillings my childhood dentist gave me would give out in my 40s, so that I now have more crowns than the Queen of England?

I don’t mind the gray hair (my crown of glory, according to the Bible) or the crow’s feet and smile lines (from lots of good times and laughter), but gravity is definitely taking its toll in a few places. Luckily, I don’t have my glasses on when I come out of the shower, which faces the mirror.

A sad surprise has been how many friends I would lose before I hit 50. A couple of my high school friends passed away within a few years of graduation. One of my childhood friends was murdered the year we turned 30; a pregnant homeschooling mom I knew passed away in her sleep two years later. My friend Linda died four years ago this month after fighting an aggressive cancer. My friend Gary died suddenly a few months ago. I guess I assumed all of us would make it to old age.

Other surprises: My dh and I bought our first house when we were 22, which might explain why I never dreamed I’d be renting a home at 50. But that’s how it worked out, and I’m certainly not complaining! God has blessed us with a nice home in a beautiful area, and while I don’t know what the future holds, I know He has it in His hands.

I also assumed I’d be working full-time outside the home by now, but instead I have a small business and can work at home, plus I’m fortunate enough to still have two kids at home, and to be able to homeschool them. This sure beats the high-powered career the 1970s feminists told my generation we’d need in order to be happy.

A few things do not surprise me. I’m not surprised that I’m still married…I never had any doubts that it would last, because God gave me a wonderful husband. Nor am I surprised that I love motherhood every bit as much as I thought I would. It’s been a fantastic experience that I continue to enjoy as the mom of two adults and two teens….and since last year, mother-in-law to one more!

As for the future, and the thought of turning 60, or 70, or 80, or even older (my great aunt lived to be 104!), that’s in God’s hands. Each year, more and more, I see His hand in everything, as He patiently reminds me that He’s in charge, and it’s all good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A True Story of God's Provision

An American playwright, known not only for his highly acclaimed works ("Death of a Salesman," "The Crucible") but also for his marriage to the world's most famous screen siren, dies without admitting to the big secret in his life...the son with Down syndrome whom he institutionalized soon after birth. But after the playwright's death, it's discovered that he left his son a portion of his enormous wealth equal to that of his siblings, and now his son is set for life financially.

You know what struck me after reading this true story? How God looked out for the young man with Down his life turned out to be full of the love of others, even though his earthly father rejected him.

A friend of mine and I (we both have children with Ds) recently discussed wills and special needs trusts. She reminded me that God loves our boys and will look out for them. This article told me the same thing.

As a writer, I also found the ramifications of this father's act to be especially interesting:

It would be easy to judge Arthur Miller harshly, and some do. For them, he was a hypocrite, a weak and narcissistic man who used the press and the power of his celebrity to perpetuate a cruel lie. But Miller's behavior also raises more complicated questions about the relationship between his life and his art. A writer, used to being in control of narratives, Miller excised a central character who didn't fit the plot of his life as he wanted it to be. Whether he was motivated by shame, selfishness, or fear—or, more likely, all three—Miller's failure to tackle the truth created a hole in the heart of his story. What that cost him as a writer is hard to say now, but he never wrote anything approaching greatness after Daniel's birth. One wonders if, in his relationship with Daniel, Miller was sitting on his greatest unwritten play.

Who knows if he could have gotten his greatest play out of it? What matters is that he missed out on knowing his son, which was an enormous price to pay:

He had a bank account and a job, first at a local gym and then at a supermarket. He went to parties and concerts, and he loved to go out dancing. He was also a "natural athlete," says one social worker. He learned to ski, and competed in the Special Olympics, in that sport as well as in cycling, track, and bowling. "Everyone loved Danny," says Rich Godbout, who ran the supported living program. "His greatest joy was helping people. He would insist. If someone needed help moving, Danny was always the first guy to volunteer to help."....

Some wonder why Arthur Miller, with all his wealth, waited until death to share it with his son. Had he done so sooner, Daniel could have afforded private care and a good education. But those who know Daniel say that this is not how he would feel. "He doesn't have a bitter bone in his body," says Bowen. The important part of the story, she says, is that Danny transcended his father's failures: "He's made a life for himself; he is deeply valued and very, very loved. What a loss for Arthur Miller that he couldn't see how extraordinary his son is."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeschoolers are Everywhere!

The high school years have been pretty exciting for 17-year-old Isabelle Erb. Her mom began homeschooling her at the start of high school, which freed up enough time for her to follow her current passion: high-fashion photography.

And yes, she's right in there scrambling with professional photogs for the best shot; here's a photo of her along with the rest of them during the recent Fashion Week in New York City. Don't miss the article that goes with it---the description of her quiet persistence will make you smile.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away

Oooh, an 80% chance of rain tomorrow! I love warm rainy days.....they're perfect for staying inside and curling up with something good to read.

Right now I have a stack of library books to skim through (a book has to be fantastically good to get me to actually read straight through anymore). And of course, I'm going to spend some time reading the posts over at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling: "The Hero Edition," to be specific. It's hosted by the Cates....don't miss it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We're Going to School!

Cooking school, that is.

I've known about the Taste of Home cooking schools for years because my mil and fil regularly gift me with a subscription to Reiman Publications' Country Woman (wonderful magazine, btw....lots of nice articles, recipes, crafts, no ads...what's not to like?), and Reiman also runs the cooking schools.

Recently I heard on the radio that a cooking school event was scheduled near me in a few weeks, and that tickets would go on sale at the local grocery store Sept. 10. While running errands yesterday, my wonderful dh picked up tickets for dd17 and I!

We're really excited, as I've heard lots of good things about this event, which includes food, coupons and samples. We can't wait :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homeschool Encouragement in Your Email Box

Just sent out the September issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" should be landing with a thump in your email box any second.

This month's issue covers topics like
school buses,
when to ignore your curriculum's timetable
and how to get a free copy of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Plus there's a limited time special price on my new book, but you'll have to read the newsletter to find out how to get it.

If you're not already a subscriber, check out the newest issue here. If you'd like a free subscription, you can get yours here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lookin' Good, Little Brother

A lot has happened politically and culturally since I posted last week about Sarah Palin's baby boy. Let's not go there. Instead, I want to share this cute moment at the convention last night. Dd17 and I loved this! We just about fell off the sofa laughing. Anyone who's ever had or been a sister can understand :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Help I Wish I'd Had...

I wonder if you realize how lucky you are.

Back in the day, I’d have given my eye teeth to have somewhere to go and learn about other homeschoolers. After all, there weren’t all that many of us around yet, and the homeschoolers I knew didn’t usually have much in common with me other than the fact that we were all weird enough to enjoy being with our kids.

I recall that one used Christian Liberty Academy Satellite School, a few used Bob Jones and pretty much everyone else used A Beka, including me. But it wasn’t long before I began to see my children becoming bored, and I started reading up on different ways to homeschool.

Also, I learned about homeschool advocates like John Taylor Gatto, whom no one else seemed to have heard of, and I wished I knew others with whom I could talk about these things. And of course, at that time I was the only homeschooler I knew with a disabled child that I hoped to eventually homeschool. How I wish I’d had access to other parents homeschooling their kids with Ds back then.

I would have loved being able to visit the blogs of other homeschooling parents! The beauty of the blogosphere is that you choose whether you want to be “the fly on the wall” of someone else’s homeschooling life, become close friends with them, or end up somewhere in the middle.

That’s why I tell new and prospective homeschooling parents to visit each week’s Carnival of Homeschooling. It’s a great way to get to know others who homeschool their kids. I’ve "met" many awesome homeschooling moms because of their blogs, or because they’ve come to mine.

This week’s Labor Day edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is hosted by Carol Topp. Last week’s edition was hosted by a terrific homeschool mom named Renae. If you have a blog, you can submit one of your posts each week just by going here.

If you ever want to know where upcoming carnivals will be held, or where a past carnival was posted, just visit the Cates. They started the Carnival of Homeschooling nearly three years ago, and we all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. It’s because of their work that parents who homeschool today have such a wonderful source of homeschool friendship and information, right at their fingertips!

Speaking of blogs, I’ve been asked what happened to my old blog. I’m sorry to say it’s been taken down by Homeschool Blogger. Of course, it’s their right to do as they please with their bandwidth, but I wish they'd left my old blog up because recent readers found many of the posts useful. I stopped blogging at HSB in December 2006 because of all the technical difficulties I was encountering there. However, the good news is that I did save the posts, and I hope to use some of them in an upcoming book and/or ebook. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Balancing Work and Family: Some Labor Day Thoughts

I've written before that homeschooled kids tackle adult life with great gusto. At least that's been my experience. My adult kids have eagerly embraced their schooling and/or work. In today's world, that means lots of work hours and steady commitment to the job.

My son and his wife both have jobs that they love and in which they're successful. Work takes up enough of their lives that they have to commit to spending time together. It doesn't just happen. This is a lesson we all learn sooner or later, but they're learning it right now; so far they appear to be keeping up with the balancing act.

But at some point they're going to want children, and that's when the balancing act becomes more complex. Men in particular feel the need to excel at their jobs in order to feed, clothe and shelter their growing families. But sometimes they can become so involved with their jobs that work takes priority over their families, and they can't see it.

That's what happened to Sir Richard Attenborough, the acclaimed British actor and director. Over the course of his life, he achieved fame and fortune while staying married to one woman (for over 60 years!) with whom he had three children.

While on vacation in 2004, his daughter and granddaughter died in the tsunami that hit the areas around the Indian Ocean. This tragedy forced Sir Richard to reassess the way he spent his life (as excerpted from his recently released autobiography):

When I look back, I see the whole of my adult life crammed with ceaseless activity. But in all my roles as actor, director, producer, charity fundraiser, chairman of this, president of that, I've always been aware that it was Sheila, not me, who held us together as a family.

Yet, eternally optimistic and, to a degree, selfish and egocentric, I always believed in a future when I would make it up to the children. In determining the allotment of my time between public and private, work always took precedence.

Supposedly, weekends were set aside for the family. But not as conscientiously as I would now wish. If it needed a Saturday morning to conclude some business, then I took it.

When we lost Ginny - my nickname for Jane - and Luce, that opportunity was gone, never to be recovered. And that has changed my relationship with those who are left to the extent that I will do anything to be with them and we spend much more time together.

I can talk to people about Jane now, although sometimes I can't get the words out. I can also see her. I can feel her touch. I can hear her coming into a room. She comes in laughing or excited or determined, but always full of commitment. That was the very essence of Jane - commitment.

And music. After they died, I started to hear music in my head all the time. Handel is Jane; Puccini is Lucy. I can no longer turn on the radio or listen to CDs because they clash with their music in my head.

Just thinking about Jane now, I am listening to the Messiah: I know that my redeemer liveth. How about that? Me, an agnostic.

I have, I know, been one of the privileged creatures on this Earth, not just slightly but hugely privileged. Even as early as my mid-20s, I was aware of leading a charmed life.

I won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Then, unlike many of my contemporaries, I survived the war unscathed and went on to marry the most wonderful girl in the world.

My career blossomed in so many different areas. I had fame, fortune and good friends.

I became a knight, an ambassador, a president, a commandeur and a chevalier, several kinds of chairman, a university chancellor and latterly a lord. And although I now have hearing aids in both ears and my heart is ticking courtesy of a pacemaker, I have made it to my mid-80s.

Before the tsunami, I had always thought of myself as a sort of ridiculous male Mary Poppins, the eternal optimist whose glass is always half full. But, after the loss of my daughter and granddaughter, nothing would ever be the same again.

In case you're wondering, yes, I did send this to my son :) And as a side note, isn't it interesting that Sir Richard hears "The Messiah" in his do you suppose that got there?

Friday, August 29, 2008

What You May Not Know About Sarah Palin

CNN is reporting that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate for November's presidential election.

I haven't yet considered the political implications of this choice, or even the fact that McCain has chosen a female veep candidate. I'm more excited because Ms. Palin is the pro-life mama of adorable little Trig Palin, who was born four months ago and has Down syndrome. I'm picturing future photo ops and articles that will hopefully clue people in to the gifts that a child with Ds can bring to a family. What an opportunity! :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Every Child Has Special Needs?

Got back from several days in Chicago yesterday, weary but happy. It was the first time I've ever taken a trip alone with dsds15, and it went very well. We stayed in a hotel near O'Hare with ds23, who was in town on business. This was a great help to me, as I could take a shower without worrying that my youngest was downstairs hailing a cab or something, because his big brother kept an eye on him for me.

Came home very tired, and found this in a homeschool email newsletter I receive:

Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

I have special needs children. In fact, ALL my children are special needs children. First, there's Ben (15) who really needs me to listen to him talk . . . because he talks a lot. Then there's Sam (13) who likes to tease but who needs me to know when it's time to stop teasing and be understanding. Katherine (11) needs me to be extra gentle during these "changing" years.

Ike (9) needs lots of one-on-one attention. Abe (7) needs snuggling and closeness. Maggie Rose (4) needs me to help her use self-control. Cal (2) needs me to read books to him and Jed (7 mos.) needs me to smile at him.

Now before I get an angry note from some well-meaning mother who insists that I'm making light of or minimizing special needs children, let me say that I am not doing that at all. I know some of you have children who demand incredible sacrifice and labor on your part. I know you lie awake at night wondering if you can make it through another day. I'm certainly NOT trying to equate my "special needs" kids with your "special needs" kids. But I am trying to point out that ALL of our children have special needs and that we've done our children and ourselves a disservice by labeling our special needs children as "special needs." They're just children like all the rest.

Yes, they have special needs, but as I've already described, all children do to some extent. Amazingly, God has given you the abilities to meet those special needs and has given your children the mom and dad just right for them. You don't have to feel inadequate or apologize for their lack of progress, or label them as a "special needs" child.

All you have to do is love, train, and prepare them for THEIR future. Oh, yeah, and one more thing . . . . . .
Be real,

Wow. That didn't sit real well with me yesterday. I pictured myself reading that back when my son was little and we were trying to adjust to homeschooling three kids while caring for a toddler on an apnea monitor who couldn't keep weight on because of severe reflux, and I think that attitude (no matter how well-meaning) would have really hurt me.

Also, having just seen family in Chicago who have a daughter (our niece) with delays of unknown origin and how they have to fight to get the right kind of education for her out of their local school district, and having some idea of the pain they have gone through with and for her, his message kind of got me going:

Hi Todd,

I read your column in TOS' THM occasionally, and usually find it amusing. But I've got to tell you that you stepped in it today. I get your drift about all of our children having special needs, but you're off track here, and I'm afraid you probably hurt some parents of children with disabililties.

We have four kids, currently 15, 17, 23 and 24. They were all homeschooled from birth. Like your children, they're all special. But our youngest has Down syndrome, and let me tell you, once you have a child with true special needs (i.e. mental retardation, not a need for extra hugs), your entire life changes, and it will never be the same.

Todd, kids with special needs aren't kids like yours (and my older three) who simply need to gab a lot or snuggle a lot. We're talking about kids with major physical and/or developmental issues. This is life-changing stuff, not "Love Language" preferences. Flip through an issue of the wonderful magazine NATHHAN puts out and you'll see what some families' daily lives are like. You might also want to read The Dance Goes on by Roberta Bandy for a true-life description of the joys, blessings and heartache of a Christian family whose oldest son was born with a chromosomal defect.

I'm certain you didn't mean to offend anyone, but some of your comments came across as a bit flippant, to say the least. Like you, we have a 15-year-old son who needs us "to listen to him talk...because he talks a lot." Of course, his speech is extremely delayed, so we have to work to understand him. He may well be telling us about what happened in one of his beloved Winnie the Pooh videos, which he's told us a hundred times before, but it's important to him, so we listen. BTW, at 15 he can't play outside by himself because he runs off and has no sense of danger. He was in diapers until he was almost eight.

We love him dearly, and are grateful that God gave him to us just as he is. But telling us or other parents that all we have to do "is love, train and prepare them for THEIR future" is incredibly naive. Newer parents of the disabled (who are still coming to terms with their child's disability) are likely to consider it insensitive, and I would agree.

Todd, be real: please consider issuing an apology.

Barbara Frank

Each of my kids is unique, no question. And they are all special and very dear to their dad and me. But one of them does have special needs. We didn't give him that label. He got it when he arrived with an extra chromosome. It is what it is.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dreadful Homeschoolers?

There's nothing like digging into a juicy article promoting school choice. Apparently, even the socialist-leaning Swedes have begun allowing it. But it's not permitted here in the Land of the Free, except in some areas where your only "free" choice is from among the public schools in your district.

After the article, one of the commenters got my attention by asserting that "Half of homeschoolers are dreadful. That's a fact." Then he made some Lutheran references. This lifelong Lutheran found the urge to respond to him irresistible, lol.

Feel free to have at him. Many others already have.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Homeschooling a 12th Grader.....Again

It’s a bittersweet fall for me, as I once again have a 12th grader.

The first time it happened, it was exciting: wow, we’ll soon have our first homeschool graduate!

The second time it happened, the very next year, it was still exciting, but it went by so fast I couldn’t believe it.

This third time is different. I now know firsthand how very quickly this year is going to pass. One of the great things about homeschooling for high school is that your teens can do it their way, which means lots of stuff going on. And we all know how time flies when you’re busy.

Reaching the end of 12th grade, no matter how gratifying, is tough on Mom. Another one ready to fly the coop. I miss the first two a lot; I can’t imagine letting go of this one. Let’s not go there right now, ok?

Instead I want to talk about homeschooling for 12th grade. When I was in high school, senior year was pure torture. It seemed like such an afterthought. After all, by December I’d already been accepted to the university. Hanging around high school seemed so….anticlimactic.

But there I was, marking the time until I was released.

My kids didn’t have that experience. Each one’s 12th grade year has been different.

Our eldest made it very clear that she didn’t want to go to college. So we used that year to do projects that would give her a leg up on the independence she craved so much. (They’re the basis of Life Prep.) She worked through a math-review-for-adults book from the 1960s (my dad had used it to prepare for his military exams, and for some reason I had it on my bookshelf.) She read some good literature. She put in many hours a week watching a neighbor’s baby while she was at work (and bought a car with her earnings). She ran a fundraising table for Rock for Life. She got into local concert promoting. And then April came, and we called it graduation for the one-woman Class of 2001. She moved out on her own two years later.

Number two was a different story. He wanted to go to college. He studied some subjects at home, plus took a noncredit Chemistry course at one local college and Spanish at another. The latter was at the community college, so he got college credit for it. He was on the board of our church’s youth group, a great job for someone with an eye for ministry. He also worked at a local grocery store. He spent the year after his 2002 graduation doing much the same things, except he didn’t study at home. In fact, he was rarely home! So 12th grade and real life a year later were very similar. And then he went off to college. Shortly after college graduation, he got married and moved to his wife’s hometown, ten hours from here. Another one flies the coop.

Now we come to number three. She has neither the fierce independent spirit of her sister nor the academic desires of her brother. But she is very creative and has many interests. This year will be spent exploring them further. Sure, we’ve got some formal studies planned, and she’ll continue to work her way through Life Prep, too. She’s also taking a few for-credit college classes (one online, one in person). And if there’s time, she’s going to enroll in a Christian Writer’s Program. But she’ll also be playing her violin in the county’s youth orchestra. She hopes to keep growing her craft business and her web design business. And she just got a new job in a coffee shop, where she’ll be working a few days a week. Before we know it, the year will have flown by, and it will be graduation time again.

Looking back over the 12th grade experiences of all three of my older children, I see that they look more like real life than a school year. That satisfies me. It means my kids weren’t marking time the way I did senior year. I realize they can’t appreciate that the way I do; from birth to age 17 or 18, all they ever knew was homeschooling. But it makes me feel good to know they had it better than I did.

Number three doesn’t want to leave home yet; she says she’ll still be around for a while. That should make this third high school graduation a little easier on Mom. :)

Still, in many ways, this year marks the end of homeschooling as we knew it. After number three graduates, homeschooling will be the day job of our 15-year-old with Down syndrome and me. He won’t ever need our very useful (if not always loved) copy of Saxon Algebra, or our A Beka High School Literature series. By the time he reaches 12th grade, he’ll still have many years of study left, and he’ll be nowhere near ready to leave home. That’s ok. His senior year will consist mostly of real life, just as it did for his brother and sisters. And like the others, he’ll be just fine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cacophony of Curricula

Maybe I’m just getting old. But when I open the many homeschool-related e-newsletters I receive, and when I visit homeschooling sites, I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of curriculum now available to homeschoolers.

One homeschool magazine in particular sends me oodles of offers, to the point where my eyes start to glaze over. I wonder, does this cacophony of curricula overwhelm other people too? Or is it just me?

I run the risk of being seen as hypocritical here, because I, too publish homeschool materials. But I don’t work fast enough to produce anywhere near the vast amount of homeschooling products being produced elsewhere. (I’m still homeschooling and caring for my family, and those things have to come first.) I also don’t send out mailings every other day, because I don’t want to add to people’s already overstuffed email boxes. A good portion of Cardamom’s sales come from word-of-mouth recommendations anyway, as far as we can tell, and we’re grateful for that.

The bottom line? I’m glad I’m not a new homeschooling mom these days. Too many choices overwhelm me at the grocery store, much less when flipping through my doorstop-sized Rainbow Resource catalog. When I first started homeschooling, there weren’t that many choices of what to use, so I just used what was available. Since then, I’ve learned that what you use isn’t nearly as important as that you spend time working one-on-one with your children when they need it.

As children get older, they can be trusted to take on more responsibility for their learning. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t assign them things that we think will be good for them. But the mass quantities of curriculum available now could make people, and especially newbies, think homeschooling means buying a lot of stuff and pushing it all on their children. I’ll be interested to see how that works for them as time goes on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

I've been pretty busy lately, but I didn't realize how busy until I noticed that I hadn't posted here since Friday. Seriously, it seems like I just posted a day or so ago. Time flies when you've got a long to-do list, I guess.

So I had better get caught up here. First off, you won't want to miss this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, which is being sponsored by Janice Campbell, who very kindly parked the cover of my book next to my post. Thank you, Janice! BTW, you can tell that many people are getting back to homeschooling this time of year by the great variety of posts at the carnival this week.

Next, I want to thank Melissa Markham for the lovely review of my book. We're offering a special price on the book, but only for those who visit her blog and read the review. Again, thanks, Melissa!

I don't know where the time went since Friday, but part of it was spent shopping so I could do another round of bulk cooking. The nearest Sam's Club is an hour away, and just happens to be down the road from the community college where dd17 started classes this week (more on that in an upcoming post). It just made good sense to combine those two trips. After stocking up at Sam's yesterday, I spent today making red sauce (40 cups, now frozen in bags), chicken parmagiana (five dinners) and pork ribs with sauce (two dinners).

Before we went to Sam's, we went to JoAnn Fabrics, where I bought three yards of a layered set of fabrics called Warm Windows. It was $27/yard but I had one of those 40% off coupons. I'm going to make window covers for our bedroom. We just signed another year's lease on the house we're living in, despite the difficulty we had last winter keeping this house affordably warm (that was the only downside to this house; it's wonderful in every other way!) Since we're staying another year, I'm ready to make a few improvements.

In the coldest month last winter, it took $300 worth of natural gas to keep the house at 65 degrees. Not good! So the landlord is going to have the boiler tuned up, and we're going to try to make the house a little tighter against the cold Wisconsin winds. After I make the window covers, I'm going to hem the thermal drapes I recently bought to go over the dining room windows. The curtains and the Warm Window fabric are a creamy white, so we can take these window treatments with us to the next house, wherever and whenever that might be.

I'm hoping to get that work done over the next few days. Next week, dsds15 and I will be heading to Chicago, where we will visit with some dear homeschooling friends. Ds23 happens to be there on business those days, so we're going to meet up with him, too. It will be great to see them all!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Get Rid of Her

Here's a headline that caught my eye this morning:

When my little girl was born with Down's, I felt like I'd given birth to an alien and just wanted to get rid of her

Yow! Of course, I had to read it. I guess I was led by that same impulse that makes you look at a car wreck even though you're afraid you might see dead bodies. And I was prepared not to like this woman, just going by the headline.

But you know, it's actually a pretty poignant story (Kleenex alert!) I can't relate to her feelings when she first saw her little girl, because I loved Josh before he was born and my feelings only intensified when I found out about his spare chromosome. But I've known other moms of kids with Ds whose feelings more closely compared to this mom's than mine. It took courage for her to admit it.

Her little girl is absolutely adorable. I do hope this mom understands that God is using little "Grace" in her life to change her. I pray that she comes to know God, if she doesn't already, and that He gives this little girl the best medical care available.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My New Site, Plus Newsletter Update

My new Web site is now live! has many articles and freebies related to homeschooling, including two new articles, More on Bulk Cooking and Quiet Kids. C'mon over and check it out!

The site is designed and run by Mary, aka dd17. She worked on it diligently this summer, and I want to thank her for taking the time to do that for me. She’s a great girl (and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom!)

BTW, her plan is to move this blog over to the new site very soon. But I’ve told her I want to take it slowly. All this change is a bit much for technologically challenged me.

Also, the latest issue of the “Imperfect Homeschooler” newsletter is now available. Most subscribers received it this morning. If you’re a subscriber and you did not receive it, most likely you forgot to renew your subscription when we changed over in June. Please reread your June newsletter to see how to do this (you’ll find back issues here), or just go here to subscribe again.

Please note: You won’t be officially resubscribed until you click the confirmation link we’ll send you. I hate to add in that extra step, but it’s necessary so we don’t get attacked by spambots again >:(

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Carnival of Homeschooling

The Homeschool Memories Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is now up. Sprittibee has assembled a lot of great posts that will get your homeschooling engine humming. Don't miss it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Living in the Past

A while back I posted about Tasha Tudor, the artist and homeschool mom who lived as though it were the 1800s, shunning modern conveniences for most of her adult life. Of course the Amish are known for living the same way; a few homeschooling families I've read about have also made this choice. As much as I like modern conveniences, I find the lives of those who "live in the past" quite interesting.

But I found it especially fascinating to learn that there are young women in their 30s who shun today's culture in an effort to return to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. They particularly revel in their roles as stay-at-home wives (though one does work part-time), but they also wear the clothes, use the appliances and drive the cars of the era they admire.

According to this article, their choice of lifestyle is a reaction to the problems in our modern culture as well as the vagueries of modern marriage and roles of men and women. One of the women says:

I admit I am in retreat from the 21st century. When I look at the reality of the world today, with all the violence, greed and materialism, I shudder. I don't want to live in that world.

I relate to that sentiment, but realistically, I can't help wonder what pushed them to this point. I mean, I've always had a fascination with the 1920s and 1930s (in high school, I had a crush on Humphrey Bogart, who died the year before I was born), but I live in the modern age, with a computer for each of us, a 2003 car and a couple of cell phones. What is it that makes a person retreat this far into the past?
Do check out the article, if only for the photos, which are really interesting.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Nannies 24/7: Why Have Kids at All?

The photo of the little munchkin that accompanies this article just breaks my heart. It's the middle of the night, and she's being comforted not by the parents she doesn't see during the day because they're at work, but by the night nanny they've hired so their sleep isn't interrupted by their adorable baby.

The article explains that Mom and Dad are tired from their day jobs and need their rest. Before Congress gets wind of this and votes to offer taxpayer-subsidized night care, I'd like to point out who's driving the demand for night nannies:

The bulk of Nocturnal Nannies’ clients are dual-career, professional families, Ms. Seveney said, and revenue has been increasing 25 percent a year.

So this is not an economic necessity. The fact that there are actually agencies with names like "Nocturnal Nannies" for the convenience of parents who don't have time for their kids at night much less during the day is really depressing. Poor kids. Why have children if you don't have any time for them?

(By the way, ours is not the only country where babies are often seen as an inconvenience. In Australia, they're saying that babies are a drag on the economy!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Books I Wouldn't Sell, Part 2

Woman Reading
Woman Reading

Despite several reduction campaigns, my book collection is not small, thanks to homeschooling four children. Here are more of the books that I just would not sell:

Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children (Miller Family Series) was recommended to me by a homeschooling friend many years ago, and I'll always be grateful to her for that. This book is part of a series that uses the adventures (and mishaps) of a young family to teach children Biblical principles. Our kids loved these stories! There are workbooks that go with the Miller books, but we only tried one and, not surprisingly, it seemed to dampen my kids' enthusiasm. These books are best-suited for reading aloud or devotions. We also have Prudence and the Millers (Miller Family Series) , which humorously illustrates the need for wisdom. These books were published by and for Mennonites, which means you'll see women wearing headcovers, etc. They are charming books.

I really did try to make myself sell our set of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers/Boxed, but I just couldn't do it. These hardbound readers are reprints of the originals with which so many American children learned to read. The irony here is that I didn't use them to teach my children to read, although they did read these for pleasure. But they're such nice readers that I just can't let them go.

Speaking of reprints, two beautiful books that I will never give up are Aesop's Fables: Childrens Classics and Tales from Shakespeare: Children's Classics. I like these specific versions because they're hardbound, beautifully illustrated reprints from the 19th century originals. Tales from Shakespeare is especially good because it's a retelling of some of Shakespeare's works (including Taming of the Shrew, Romeo & Juliet, Pericles, etc.) written specifically for children.

Two books that were deservedly popular among homeschoolers when they were first published are The BOOK OF VIRTUES and The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey. Both were edited by Bill Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education. These are great read-aloud books, but I also assigned stories from them to my older kids. I've been known to sit down and read a few stories from these books for my own pleasure.

My husband loves history, and he asked me to hang on to our copy of The Bulletproof George Washington. Not a problem....we all loved this story of how God protected George Washington over his lifetime so that he could become the father of his country.

I got rid of most of our textbooks, figuring I wouldn't be using them with our youngest, who has Down syndrome and is more of a kinesthetic learner. But I kept Saxon's Math 54: An Incremental Development as a memento more than anything else, because we used the Saxon series for many years and it worked very well for my kids. I sold all the rest of the books we used, right up through Algebra 2, but this first one I can hold in my hands and remember all the hours we spent at the table doing math. :)

Before we got started with Saxon, though, we used Miquon Math All Six Student Workbookswith a set of wood Cuisenaire rods very similar to this one: CUISENAIRE RODS INTRO. SET WOOD 74/PK I don't have the workbooks anymore (they're consumable), but I saved some other books we used with the rods, including Lab Sheet Annotations (Miquon Math Lab Series:), Everthing's Coming up Fractions with Cuisenaire Rods: 6 Fraction Lessons with Blackline Masters (Grades 4-6) and Using Cuisenaire Rods: Multiplication and Division (Grades 2-4).

I also spent time with each of my older children using Winston Grammar, and those little cards hold a lot of memories for me, so I'm keeping it. My kids may not share my fondness for this set, but they are all good writers, so I think it was time well spent.

Finally, someone recommended a simple little book to me, and it helped a couple of my kids learn to draw and sketch. It's called Drawing Textbook, and despite its humble appearance, it's a really nice little program for budding artists or anyone who wants to be able to draw. My husband has artistic talent, which has shown up in our kids and will likely be present in some of our future grandchildren. So I'm hanging on to this one!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Books I Wouldn't Sell, Part 1

Books in Winter by Jessie Wilcox-Smith
Books in Winter

When we moved last summer, we ended up with two storage units full of stuff. Last fall, we pared down to one unit, overloading the nearest Goodwill store in the process. Forced to reduce my mountain of books, I pulled all the ones that were easiest to give up but kept my favorites from 20 years of homeschooling.

This spring, I went back to the storage unit for the first time in months and became completely depressed at how much stuff we still had. I decided I needed to be more ruthless about paring down our library. I went through all of the remaining books one more time, removing many wonderful books that I forced myself to admit I could give up.

One of my summer projects this year was to post those books to a blog called Used Homeschooling Books. It was a great success. Most, though not all, of the books have sold. The rest are still for sale there, in case you feel like browsing.

As for my favorites, some are back on my bookshelves, and the rest are in boxes here at the house, not in the storage unit. I want them to be where I can get at them.

Why am I saving them? Well, you never know, some of my grandkids (none of whom have arrived yet, of course, but I like to plan ahead) might be homeschooled and their parents might want these books. And even if my future grandchildren aren't homeschooled, we'll need some good books to read together when they come to visit.

So I want to share some of these titles with you, because we booklovers like to recommend good books to our friends.

The Eloise Wilkin Treasury is so beautifully illustrated. I love the way she depicts small children. We also have many of the Little Golden Books she illustrated, including my youngest son's favorite, We Help Mommy .

I'll bet I've read The Seven Silly Eaters aloud to my youngest son at least a hundred times. He likes the silly story and the cadence, while I just love (I know it sounds ridiculous) the house the family lives in. Illustrator Marla Frazee has captured my dream house in a dream location, which is why reading this book to my son is never a chore for me.

Like many homeschoolers, we enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. One of the versions I kept, Little House on the Prairie: Deluxe Edition (Little House), is particularly pretty, with beautiful borders and a nice hardbound cover.

Along the same vein, A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840 is such a lovely book that I couldn't give it up. Each of my older kids went through a "pioneer" phase when they were younger, and books like this really helped them imagine what it was like back then.

History comes alive when you give your kids good historical fiction. Some of our favorites have included Matchlock Gun, Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805 (Dover Books on Americana), and anything by the D'Aulaires, particularly Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.

A curriculum we loved, Literature Approach to Geography (History Through Literature), introduced us to the works of Holling Clancy Holling. We added the Holling Geography Map Packto the mix, along with Pagoo, Tree in the Trail, Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books) and my daughter's favorite, Minn of the Mississippi, and we not only had a wonderful learning experience, but discovered four books we now love too much to give up!

When I was a child, I inhaled every book of the Childhood of Famous American series in our school library. Once I found out they were still available when I had children, I bought quite a few of them. We're keeping them all, of course. The kids' favorites included Paul Revere: Boston Patriot (Childhood of Famous Americans Series.), Amelia Earhart: Young Aviator (Childhood of Famous Americans), Teddy Roosevelt: Young Rough Rider (Childhood of Famous Americans) and Ronald Reagan: Young Leader (Childhood of Famous Americans). My own personal favorite was Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag (Childhood of Famous Americans (Sagebrush)), a book I received on my sixth birthday and which I still own.

Wow, this post is getting kind of long, and I still have quite a few books to write about. I think I'll save the rest for the next post.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Advice from a Wise Man

Perhaps you've heard of Tony Snow. He was a journalist, a radio talk-show host, a musician and a past presidential press secretary. He was also a husband and the father of three children, and he died a few weeks ago after battling cancer for several years.

My husband and I admired Tony Snow immensely. His wit and charm made even his political opponents his friends, and he spoke and wrote clearly and winsomely about his life and faith as well as his political beliefs.

Here's a transcript of a speech he gave last year at a college graduation. I don't know of many people who could pack that much wisdom and love into one brief talk, but he could. One of my favorite parts:

American culture likes to celebrate the petulant outcast, the smart-aleck with the contempt for everything and faith in nothing. Snarky mavericks. The problem is these guys are losers. They have signed up for an impossible mission. Because they’ve decided they’re going to create all the meaning in their lives. They’ve either decided that no moral law exists or they will be the creator, the author of those laws. Now one road leads to complete and total anarchy. Life is solitary, nasty, brutish and short. The other is to insanity, since it requires playing God. We know in our hearts, intuitively, from our first years as children, that the universe unfolds with a discernable order and that moral laws, far from being convenient social conventions, are firm and unalterable. They predate us, they will survive us. Rather than admitting our weakness a lot of times, we just decide we’ll try to get by. And maybe rather than giving God credit, we’ll try to look for a cheap substitute.

Walk into a bookstore, you’ll know what I mean. The shelves are groaning underneath the trendy tomes promising salvation — medicine balls, herbs, purges, all sorts of weird stuff. In politics, there’s a variant that elevates government to the status of God. It says that it is the source of love. It ought to be the recipient of your tithes, but government, while it does pursue compassionate ends, cannot be loving and personal. It treats all of us as completely equal rather than uniquely divine. The point is you can’t escape the question of God and you can’t escape the question of commitments.

When it comes to faith, I’ve taken my own journey. You will have to take your own. But here’s what I know. Faith is as natural as the air we breathe. Religion is not an opiate, just the opposite. It is the introduction to the ultimate extreme sport. There is nothing that you can imagine that God cannot trump. As Paul said “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And once you realize that there is something greater than you out there, then you have to decide, “Do I acknowledge it and do I act upon it?” You have to at some point surrender yourself.

Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Something New

Just added a few new links to the blog, and they're for freebies :)

Both are special reports that you can download. One is called Teaching Your Children to Write, and the other is Ten Tips for Coping with Temperamental Teens.

Scroll down a wee bit and you'll see the links for them on the right side of your screen, in the section under the photo link for Life Prep.

The first report comes from my vantage point as a writer as well as a homeschool mom. The second comes from my experience living with and raising teens (we're on our second pair.)

In the name of fairness, the next special report we publish will be written by my 17-year-old daughter, and will be titled Twenty Tips for Coping with a Menopausal Mom.

Just kidding....maybe. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Used Homeschool Books

You may recall my summer project, a blog called Used Homeschool Books where I planned to post and sell many of the books we've used over 20 years of homeschooling.

Well, it's been quite successful, and I'm thrilled to know that some very good books are now in the home libraries of other homeschooling families. I'm down to the last few books I can bear to give up, which I will post at that blog this week. But for now, I've got a list of those that have not yet sold, in case you're looking for something specific.

New Carnival is Up!

Judy Aron is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, with the great theme of Boy Scouts. Don't miss it!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Homeschoolers Love Calvin and Hobbes

My family is full of Calvin and Hobbes fans. We have several of the C&H comic strip books, and can read them again and again and still laugh every time.

Over the years I've found that many other homeschoolers like Calvin and Hobbes, but I never thought about why that might be. Then I read this essay. As he puts it:

As this strip clearly shows, Calvin has nothing but utter contempt for his school, as did I for mine. Calvin’s fantasies are clearly more violent than mine. (All I ever wanted to do was stay home sick.) ....There is not a single Calvin & Hobbes comic strip that has anything positive to say about this institution. Just use the search engine in the link at the beginning of this article and type in "school." You will be taken from one strip to another where Calvin is bored, anxious, unhappy, disgusted, hopeless, daydreaming, or scared. The only school-related strips where Calvin is in a better mood have to do with recess or grossing out Susie at lunch (an episode that got Calvin & Hobbes cancelled at one local paper). His teacher is named Miss Wormwood, after the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. Think about it. That’s not a joke the average reader would get. Just what is Watterson trying to say?

I remember walking the few blocks to school on a foggy morning and pretending that the reason I couldn't see the school building looming up ahead was because it had mysteriously evaporated. I, like others who were bored or unhappy in our own school experiences and later chose to homeschool our children, relate to Calvin. Why didn't I notice this before? Duh.

Friday, July 25, 2008

When Kids are the Center of the Universe

A recent thought-provoking article at a British newspaper's Web site caught my eye. It laments the rise of the child-centered world, where keeping Junior’s self-esteem intact becomes Job 1. The large number of comments after the article makes it clear that the writer struck a nerve with a lot of people. Apparently, there’s a bumper crop of self-absorbed young people around these days.

It’s easy to bash schools where teachers aren’t allowed to correct students’ work in red pen because it could make them feel like failures. It’s natural to lament parents in the store who fall all over themselves trying to make their children like them by buying them presents (yes, I have actually seen mothers begging their child to choose a large toy. It’s an amazing thing.)

But it’s also tempting to think that it won’t happen to us when, as homeschoolers, it could easily happen to us.

I mean, homeschooling takes over your life. You find yourself poring over curriculum catalogs, spending hours on the phone signing your children up for co-ops and lessons and staying up late planning upcoming learning experiences.

And that’s just in the summer! Then there’s all the time you put in working with your children, reading to them, making sure they understand concepts they’re having trouble with, taking them to zoos and museums ….add in feeding them and clothing them and making sure they live in a healthy environment, and you can easily end up living in a child-centered world. And that’s not a good thing.

In a child-centered world, kids are the center of the universe. That’s how they come to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else’s, and often turn into adults who continue to believe that.

Over the years, I’ve struggled to maintain a balance between giving my kids what they need in order to grow and develop properly, and giving my kids what they need in order to learn that they are not the center of the universe. I haven't always been successful.

Being sensitive myself, and having been hurt in childhood by some adults, I wonder now if I protected my children’s feelings too much. As they’ve ventured out into the world of work, they’ve sometimes gotten their feathers ruffled over things that aren’t the end of the world. Maybe I should have been tougher on them.

There were also times when I wondered whether I’d gone overboard in creating a learning environment for my kids, because once they discovered an interest in something, they took off with it on their own, with no encouragement from me. Perhaps some of the time spent making lesson plans would have been better spent on a dinner date with my husband.

Oh, yes, him. That patient guy I married. He worked to pay for all the books and educational games and craft supplies, and he never complained about how much time I spent with my nose in the Rainbow Resource catalog. Sometimes I think we should have carved out more time for ourselves.

But on the other side of the scale, there were times when I managed to make my kids understand that the world does not revolve around them. We limited their outside activities so we could have time together as a family. Occasionally, they’d find me on the sofa with a good book or having fun using my sewing machine and they knew that anything they asked me to do right then would be denied. Of course they had chores and responsibilities that they had to do, whether they were in the mood or not. And then there were the evening walks-for-two that were reserved for their dad and me.

As they say, hindsight is 20-20. The end result is that my kids, while not perfect, are doing fine. But looking back, I can see that if I hadn’t struggled with maintaining a balance between their world and ours, they might not have turned out so well. That’s why even now, with only two children left at home, I keep fighting to maintain that balance. Because it’s when you’re not aware that you need that struggle between your world and theirs that you fall into the child-centered universe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homeschool Class Rings

Brumbemom asked me a question last week. Like me, she has a senior homeschooler this year, and they’re wondering about class rings.

My older kids were not into “school” things like that; my eldest didn’t even want a graduation party. As for dd17, she seems more interested in my high school ring (she’s into anything “vintage,” i.e. 1970s!) than one of her own.

But there are places where you can go to get your teen a homeschool class ring, including Josten’s. If your teen would rather design his or her own ring, this looks like a good place.

For more information on this topic, here’s an article you might find helpful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blog Carnival 101

Lately I’ve gotten a few emails asking me what exactly are these blog carnivals I keep mentioning in my blog.

It’s easy! A blog carnival is a post on someone’s blog that consists of descriptions and links to posts at other blogs. There's always a subject theme (ex. the subject of the Carnival of Homeschooling is homeschooling) and most of the time, the carnival itself has a theme that it’s structured around.

For example, this week’s edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling has the theme of the 12 Labors of Hercules (homeschoolers are a well-read bunch, but you probably already knew that!) So the hosts of the blog carnival have cleverly arranged the posts around this theme.

The beauty of a blog carnival is that it connects you with others who share a common interest with you. In the case of the Carnival of Homeschooling, you get to peek into the lives of others to see what their families are like, how they homeschool, what their children are learning, what they’re learning from their children, etc.

For the newer homeschooling parent, this will help you feel that you’re not the only one out there living this wonderful and challenging lifestyle, because you’re definitely not! For the more experienced homeschooler, the Carnival of Homeschooling offers an opportunity to widen your sphere of friends while also sharing the wisdom you’ve gained from your years of homeschooling.

For bloggers, participating in the carnival means exposing their blog to a larger audience than just their friends, relatives and the people who happen to find them by clicking the “Random Blog” or “Next Blog” button.

So, if you’re new to the concept of blog carnivals, why not jump in right now? Head on over to the carnival, read the posts, leave a comment if you’re feeling really adventurous, and just enjoy yourself. Everyone is welcome at the Carnival of Homeschooling.

And if you have time for any other interests beyond homeschooling (!), you might also want to visit blog carnivals about other subjects. Here’s a site that will help you do that.