Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Homeschool Trivia

Question: which television family was the first homeschooling family on tv? Here's a clue: this show premiered over 40 years ago.

You'll find the answer to this question plus more homeschool trivia here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Life Worth Living

Amy has something absolutely awesome at her blog. I told her I think everyone should see it. So go there now!

Where Do You Buy Your Books?

So the proof copy of my new book arrived here yesterday, and it was wonderful to see it in print (part of it has been an eBook up until now). There are still a few little things to be worked out, but all in all I'm pretty happy with it.

This book will be available through Amazon. We used to sell Life Prep through Amazon, but they kept cutting the price so low that it was hurting our catalog customers, which is not something we want to do. So we pulled it from Amazon a while back. This time we will set it up so we have more control over the price.

I'm wondering, when given a choice, do most homeschoolers buy books from Amazon or from homeschool catalogs like Rainbow Resource, Book Peddler or CBD? What do you do?

Defending Life

Good thing this little fella's parents ignored doctors' recommendations to abort him because of his problems, which include "water on the brain, a hole in the heart and pyloric stenosis."

My cousin's daughter was born with hydrocephaly; she is now a teenager and doing fine. My own son, almost 15, was born with a hole in his heart. It closed up on its own. And I had pyloric stenosis when I was born, and I'm still kickin' at age.....well, let's just say it's been a while. :)

My favorite line of this article is:

"Just to have had him alive for a few hours would have been better than not giving him the chance of life."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's Not Over Yet

There are three days left of Barnes & Noble's Educator Appreciation Week, when homeschoolers (along with other educators) get 25% off books (except reference and text books)and 10% off music and DVDs.

The discount is only applied to items used for teaching purposes (which makes me wonder why you can't use it on textbooks and reference books), but if you're looking for something new to add to your homeschool routine, now's the time. (You will need an ID proving you're a homeschooler, and a B&N educator discount card, which you can get this week if you don't already have one.

You can find the nearest Barnes & Noble here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Am Not Making This Up......

So the debacle that is public education has come down to this:

You run the public schools in your county. There are quite a few kids who aren't doing well in your schools. Their test scores stink, so you recommend they take after-school tutoring, and they refuse. What else can you do?

You bribe them, to the tune of $8/hour. And if their grades then go up? You pay them bonuses, of course.

You know, I occasionally told my kids (when they were young) that it was their job to learn. It never occurred to me to pay them to do so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Locking a Nation Into Permanent Childhood"

Here's Vin Suprynowicz's latest column, where he describes the origins of today's version of public school and why it's inappropriate for our country. His primary source in this article is none other than John Taylor Gatto, former New York State Teacher of the Year turned homeschool advocate.

This column itself is a great introduction to Gatto's book The Underground History of American Education. You can read Gatto's book online for free (although I own it and recommend buying a print copy). You'll find the link to the free online version in Vin's column.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dissing Phonics

Here's more evidence that you can't always believe so-called experts:

LEADING Australian education experts continue to reject scientific evidence that teaching phonics improves reading skills in children.
The latest results from a seven-year Scottish study show that children taught how to put sounds together to read words, called synthetic phonics, had significantly better reading skills than their peers taught using analytic phonics, breaking whole words into their constituent sounds.
But eminent Australian literacy researcher Allan Luke, from the Queensland University of Technology, questions the validity of using evidence-based research in assessing teaching methods. Professor Luke, a former director-general of the Queensland Education Department and ministerial adviser on education, has dismissed scientific studies showing the benefit of phonics.

Phonics has been taught with great success for many years. My mother taught me to read at age three using phonics. Homeschoolers everywhere have had great success with phonics. To say that phonics does not improve reading skills is just ludicrous.

That said, we should not assume other methods aren't any good. I used phonics to teach my first three children to read, but when it came to #4, phonics just wasn't working. His severe speech delays made it impossible for him to make the necessary sounds. That's why I used a sight reading program with him (Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein). We still use the techniques in that book along with some phonics now that my son is older.

No single method works for everyone; it depends on the child. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can tailor the methods to the child.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's a Weird World.....

Thirty years from now, when today's generation of male infants is grown, won't those young men be thrilled by baby photos of themselves wearing these?

The Queen and Me

So, what do I have in common with the Queen of England? Apparently, she's frugal, too. She doesn't want to replace her 40-year-old tv set with a new model, because her old one works fine. How cool is that?

My favorite part of that article is this comment made by the reporter:

You can have the most expensive television set on the planet, but it will not make the programmes you watch any better. The 36in Jamie Oliver is as bad as the 12in Jamie Oliver. Worse, if anything.
Or you can buy the most advanced satnav system and still get stuck behind a tractor.
The sense of progress is nine-tenths illusory. Novelty for the sake of novelty brings stresses in its wake.

No kidding....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two Great Carnivals This Week

Starting to feel a bit better...I've got just enough energy to go blog-surfing. In addition to this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, which is always good, I've found a new carnival: Make It From Scratch. This particular edition is based on Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a book I read with each of my girls some years back. (We have the whole series; I can't bear to give them up.)

We're supposed to be getting six inches of snow plus high winds over the next day and a half, so I'm looking forward to burrowing in and reading a lot of great posts when I'm not doing school or working :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The WSJ Speaks Up for Homeschooling

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal says what we homeschoolers have been saying all week in "Scapegoating Home-Schoolers." Be sure to check out his article for more info on the supposedly homeschooling mom who allegedly killed her four daughters; more details have emerged, and none of them have to do with homeschooling.

I Think I'll Have More Tylenol With My Whine......

Waah, I don't feel good.

I just want to curl up in a ball and cry, "Mommmmy!" But I'm the mommy around here.

I've been fighting this bug since Saturday, when I first felt the telltale sore throat. Yesterday I rallied enough (i.e. pumped full of meds) to make it to an appointment at the bank, and pushed myself to do school and work. Today, I finally gave in and did nothing.

School for dd16 was watching "Sense and Sensibility" with me all morning. For dsds14, it was assembling and painting a wooden car in the office with Dad's help.

Dd16 made tuna salad for lunch and a chocolate-frosted layer cake for dessert tonight. Dh made chicken-fried rice for dinner, and did the dishes.

I didn't even work today, not trusting my fuzzy brain to proofread my new book, which is supposed to be headed to the printers very soon. I finally took my shower at 4, then snoozed in my recliner for a few minutes.

It's not often that I just abdicate like this and let the chips fall where they may, but considering how well my family manages, I should do it more often, don't you think?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Homeschooling Makes Headlines.....Sometimes

Today's New York Times has a hit piece on homeschooling that's sure to have repercussions, and not good ones.

A Washington, D.C. woman is charged with murdering her four daughters, and the writer of this article claims the fact that the woman was homeschooling the children allowed her to stay under the social services radar for many months while she held the children hostage and eventually killed them. (Do note the prominence of homeschooling in the headline.)

There are so many flaws in this article. First off, just because someone claims to be homeschooling their children means nothing. This mother also claimed the children died in their sleep because they were possessed by demons, so how can the reporter believe anything she says? The reporter is just using one sad and ugly situation to tar all homeschoolers. Her ultimate goal is to perpetuate the liberal belief that all families need to be under the scrutiny of social services. This is what happens in a society where we look to government for everything.

Ultimately, lazy reporters like Jane Gross of the NYT make themselves look bad even as they unfairly blame homeschooling for cases of child abuse. Had Ms. Gross stepped away from her agenda and done some actual research, she would have learned, as this reporter did, that the family's problems began last February, when the father died of cancer and the mother freaked out. Social services was involved at that time but gave up when the mother chased off a police officer by claiming to be homeschooling the children, including the eldest who attended school until March. Family members also tried to help the mother with her problems but she refused them. This whole situation is a tragedy, but to suggest homeschooling had anything to do with it is disingenous.

The downside of the rise of homeschooling is that, as the concept has become well-known, a few deceitful parents have found it convenient to say they're homeschooling when they're not. The reporter should know by now that some people are using the freedom homeschoolers have to cover up something. But you don't take away everyone's freedom just because there are a few people abusing that freedom. Homeschooling parents who fought for that freedom in the '70s and '80s must find stories like this especially frustrating.

Those same parents might be interested in another story about homeschooling, one that hasn't gotten nearly as much publicity as the Washington, D. C. situation. Schools in several states have become prohomeschooling, but for self-serving reasons. Some parents are actually being told to homeschool their children by their children's schools, which are pushing the children out in an effort to raise their schools' aggregate test scores; see Susan's fine post on "pushouts" at Corn and Oil. (Knowing first-hand the kind of dedication that goes into homeschooling your children, I find it hard to believe these parents can muster the motivation, since homeschooling wasn't their idea in the first place.) How interesting that we're not seeing this story in the headlines.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Homeschoolers' School Bus

Since we are new to the area, I put out an email to the homeschool group we joined asking to hear from anyone who has a blog, so I can get to know them in cyberspace. The first response I got was from Kari, who just started blogging a few months ago but has obviously picked it up quickly.

Among other things, she has several interesting posts about the school bus she and her husband bought and are turning into a camper. I found it so interesting! Like me, she is blessed with a very handy husband.

Austen Alert!

We've been here nearly five months now, with no television access besides one fuzzy local channel, and it hasn't been an issue so far. It helps that the lone channel we get is NBC, so we were able to watch "The Office," the current favorite around here until the writer's strike hit and the series went into reruns. We've watched only DVDs since then.

And that wasn't a problem until yesterday, when I learned that PBS' Masterpiece Theatre will begin a new series this Sunday: adaptations of Jane Austen's six novels, plus a show about her life. Dd16 and I are now urging the technological expert in our house (AKA Dad) to please reconfigure the antenna in hopes of snagging PBS.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Chicken States Her Case

My husband took this shot on New Year's Eve when we brought our visiting son and daughter-in-law over to the state park down the road from our house. The red building in the foreground is an ice-fishing shack. (If you've seen "Grumpy Old Men," you know what it looks like inside.)

So, yes, we were standing on ice, a short distance from the shore, and if you look way out past the red ice-fishing shack, on its right, you will see many more shacks farther out into the bay. (Note the snowmobile tracks heading out there.)

Being a monumental chicken, this was as far out into the bay as I was willing to walk. Dh wanted to walk out past the red shack but I convinced him not to. In defense of my fearfulness, I'd like to point out that the area of trees to the left of the ice shack is an island, and here is what that island (foreground) looked like the last time I saw it, back in October:
I absolutely love it up here, but even if I spend the rest of my life living here, no one is ever going to get me way out there on the ice. The question is, how do I keep dh from trying it? You know how men are.....sigh.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homeschoolers for Whom?

Finally had a chance to surf the blogosphere today and I noticed an alarming trend. Some bloggers are sporting graphics that proclaim "Homeschoolers for Huckabee," "Homeschoolers for Paul," or "Homeschoolers for Obama."

I don't have a problem with people proclaiming their presidential preferences. What bugs me is that they're using their homeschool status to do so. There's no connection between homeschooling and political preference, no matter what these people, including HSLDA, want to believe.

Homeschoolers are wonderfully diverse. Get a random group of them together and the only thing you can be sure of is that they're very concerned with the upbringing of their children, so much so that they sacrifice years of their lives to provide them with an atmosphere conducive to their children's propensity to learn.

So please, bloggers, proclaim your preference all you want, but stop suggesting that homeschoolers as a group are going to vote for any one specific candidate. Personally, I don't think it's worth trying to convince other people to go with your candidate anyway. Your time is better spent praying that God sends America the president we need and not the president we deserve. Otherwise, we could end up with someone like this:

A Graphic Challenge

I'll admit right up front that I'm technologically fact, it's a miracle that I've managed to get two blogs off the ground over the past three years. No matter how easy they make it for me, I can usually overcomplicate the process.

Maybe you're not like me and you actually have the gift of technological competence. Maybe you even have artistic talent. If so, you should check out a contest sponsored by the Cates, initiators of the Carnival of Homeschooling. They're looking for entries for a graphic for the Carnival of Homeschooling. If you enter, let me know. I'd love to see the graphic you design!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

They Learned By Example

As I’ve written elsewhere, we homeschooling parents teach a hidden curriculum that goes beyond the math and writing books we buy to use with our children. When we live with our children 24/7, we continually teach them about life…by our example.

This might be a daunting thought, but it’s an inescapable fact. When you’re with your children day in and out during their growing years, they’ll take their cues for handling life from you and the example you set.

I’m thinking about this today because we just spent several days with our son and his wife, AKA the newlyweds. They're not brand new newlyweds, having recently celebrated their six-month anniversary :) But to old fogies like us, they’re newlyweds.

This morning, as they were packing up for the 10-hour drive back to their new home, it struck me how well they work together. They very efficiently put the sofa bed back together, found their belongings and gifts, and packed up their car. Over the five days they were here, I had noticed several times that they work as a team.

This may sound very matter-of-fact, but not all married people behave that way. I remember back to our pre-children years, when my husband and I took a trip to Michigan to stay with my grandmother for a few days. We had a great visit with her. As we were leaving, she said to us, “I’m so happy to see you two working as a team. I never had that with Louie.”

When Gram was a young mother, she threw her husband out because he wouldn’t stop gambling away his paycheck (when he wasn’t using it to buy a round of drinks at the corner tavern most paydays). She told him she didn’t need a fifth child, and that he should get out if he wasn’t going to bring home his pay to feed their children. That’s how she ended up a 20-something single mom of four (during the Great Depression, no less). Gram had a very hard life raising my dad and his siblings to adulthood on her own. She would have much preferred to work as a team, but her husband was not interested.

Gram was right about us. We have always been a team. God has really blessed me with a husband who will do whatever needs to be done. When I was floundering, trying to homeschool three children plus care for our developmentally disabled toddler, he even quit his job and started a business from home so he could help me with the kids and the house. Our newlywed son was nine at that time; I believe the example he saw of us working together on a daily basis for the past 13 years was his “course” on marriage.

This is not to say that homeschooling your children is the only way to set a good example for them in the marriage arena. Our new daughter-in-law was not homeschooled. However, she is a child of long-married Christian parents, and this certainly shows in her demeanor as part of a newly married team. She obviously learned from the example set by her parents.

It’s no secret that it’s been hard for me to let go of my kids. But it certainly makes it easier when I see that the hard work of parenting has borne fruit, and I’ve enjoyed a little taste of that fruit over the past several days as I watched the newest team in our family.