Monday, March 31, 2008

Our Entrepreneurial Homeschooler

Way back when I read the book that turned me on to homeschooling, Home Grown Kids by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, and then their subsequent books, one of the things the Moores described that fascinated me was the opportunity homeschooled children had for entrepreneurship. My older kids were babies then, but I could just picture them someday sitting behind their own little lemonade stand.

They did have lemonade stands when they got older, and I remember one summer when they made a killing by selling cold pop and homemade brownies to people attending one of our garage sales. One of our daughters also sold handmade cards door-to-door. I’m sure there were other entrepreneurial experiments that I’ve since forgotten.

They learned so much from those experiences, and lemonade stands were just the tip of the iceberg. Back when I first read that book, how could I (or the Moores) have foreseen the advent of the Internet and its usefulness for entrepreneurs of all ages? Indeed, I never would have imagined that I would someday be writing and selling my own homeschooling books via the Internet.

Well, homeschooled children have that same opportunity, and our dd16 has taken up the challenge. She’s gotten so many compliments on the funny stuffed fabric creatures she makes that she recently set up her own online shop to sell them. She’s still in the process of adding her products to her shop, but already has quite a few creatures online. You can see her shop here. Feel free to look around; she loves having visitors browse her shop :)

This has been a great exercise for her. She keeps track of all her expenses very carefully, including the time it takes her to make each creature (around two hours including design time). She’s careful to use her raw materials conservatively (no waste). It took her a while to figure out how to use, and she discovered that the site offers very cleverly designed virtual forums where she can learn more about marketing her wares. All of this has taken a lot of time, but being homeschooled, she has more free time than she would if she were in high school all day.

She's in 11th grade, and we’ve been studying economics (Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, excerpt here) since the fall. But I have to think that the things she’s learning right now by setting up her little business are at least as valuable, if not more so, than what she’s learning from Dr. Sowell’s book. Add in the dinner time discussions her dad and I have about our own businesses, and I have to think she’s fortunate to learn real-life economics in her daily life. That she has the time for all of this is yet another blessing of homeschooling.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Do YOU Think?

Presales of the new book are going great, and I'm starting to look ahead to the next few projects, now that this one is at the printer.

I have one book halfway done; it's about preparing our children for uncertain times in our economy. I will enjoy finishing that book, but most of the research is already done, so I need a new topic for the book after that.

I had one idea which was recently brought to my mind again by a writer who needed some info from me for an article she was writing. Said article just came out, and reading it has made me think harder about the topic: preschool. I'm thinking of expanding on "Preschool Pressure or Preschool Peace." What do you think? Is this an issue that needs further discussion?

What the World Needs Now.....Some Good News

Henry Cate of Why Homeschool has declared today to be Good News Thursday. Here's what he's asking bloggers to do today:

Much of the news today is depressing. Newspaper headlines tell us about awful things happening in our neighborhood, at the national level, and around the world.

I want to try something different. I invite you to join with me in focusing on good news. This can be as local as your baby taking his first step or you saw the first flower of spring. It could as earth shattering as someone has solved world hunger or there is a break through in a Grand Unification Theory. It could be some new insight you had about a topic you are studying, or life.

If you are interested, you can add your post via Mr. Linky.

Even if you don't have a post to share, head on over to Henry's and read some uplifting posts so you can have a Good News Thursday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Such a Deal

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is offering its Spring Promotion again this year. You get 25 free bonus gifts when you buy a $25 one-year subscription. The prizes are $550 worth of actual products donated by homeschool companies. That's a pretty good deal. You can learn more here.

Spring Break!

We're taking this week off of school for our spring break. The funny thing about doing so is that it doesn't seem much different than an ordinary day except that the kids were allowed to sleep late and we didn't do any bookwork.

Otherwise, dh and I have been busy working, dd16 is hard at work on her new etsy store (she sells adorably silly stuffed animals that she sews; I'll have a link soon) and novel #2, and dsds15 is enjoying the fact that he was able to watch "The Flintstones" in the morning instead of waiting until after we're done with his school work.

We did travel to see family over the weekend and just got back yesterday, but today it seems as though we never left. Just another day....time flies when you're having fun!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My Newsletter is Up!

Well, I'm a bit late with it this month, thanks to being busy getting the new book to the printer, but my March newsletter has gone out to all subscribers, and can be read here if you're not a subscriber.

Since it's so late, it's actually the March/April edition this time. I did include a few extra things in it, so it's a bit larger than usual. If you'd like a free subscription, just sign up here.

P.S. So far, the most popular article from this issue has been "Take Control of Your Family Schedule." Interesting.....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why the California Ruling Affects ALL Parents

I’m almost afraid to write about the recent California court decision that has freaked out many homeschoolers in that state as well as everywhere else, because most of the things being said about it can be found all over the blogosphere by now.

But columnist Ken Blackwell has makes an important point about this landmark ruling that we parents (not just homeschooling parents but ALL parents) need to be aware of:

It has been nearly 20 years since the United Nations first agreed to codify the Convention of the Rights of the Child into international law and since that time, America has been only one of two member states of the United Nations to have not ratified the Convention.

The California case is a perfect example of why America has not ratified the treaty……..

But, as Blackwell goes on to emphasize in his column, the NEA is a supporter of that U.N. Convention and would love to see us ratify it. If you don’t know what it’s all about, you need to read up on it. The short version is that the “rights” it grants to children are built on the removal of parental rights. And that’s what the California appellate ruling is all about, taking away the right of parents to teach their children.

I’m glad Blackwell is bringing up this aspect of the story, and I hope it gains some legs. I find it even more important than other angles of this story, though they’re certainly not minor issues. Besides the homeschooling aspect, they include:

1) Requiring homeschooling parents to be certified teachers could ultimately hurt private schools, which do not always insist on that requirement for their own teachers.

2) Requiring teachers to be certified could also be applied to substitute teachers. The NEA does not state that California requires substitute teachers to be certified, but they must have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. This site comes right out and states that CA substitutes don’t have to be certified. If, as this article mentions, the California teacher’s union's members think all students should be taught by certified teachers, shouldn’t CA substitutes be certified before they go after homeschool parents?

3) To become certified in California, you must take the CBEST exam. I’ve written about this before: that test is a joke. See for yourself.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Our New Book Is On Its Way!

Our new book is finally at the printers! That's right, The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling will be available in softcover in a few short weeks, probably early April.

We began selling this title as an eBook last year. We got lots of great feedback on it, but the thing we heard most is, "I want a print copy!" So we began work on that last summer, but our move from IL to WI really slowed things down.

It also took a while because we added so much information to the eBook version (which has been kept in its entirety). The eBook was just over 100 pages, while the print version is 192 pages. You can see the table of contents at the book's page over at the Cardamom Publishers site.

If you'd like to pre-order this book, just go here for a pre-publication special that includes a discounted price and free shipping. As soon as the books get here, we will send your copy right out to you.

This book is chock-full of what I've learned over 20 years of homeschooling our four children. I hope it will be a blessing to you :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Recognizing the Supremacy of the Free Market

Playwright David Mamet made the news this week with his announcement that he is "no longer a 'brain-dead' liberal." As I read his lengthy explanation of how he determined this, something in it jumped out at me:

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

How interesting that Mamet, a celebrated writer of multiple well-known works, would so casually mention this, as though it were public knowledge: "which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling."

He is blatantly acknowledging that he remembers very little of his pre-college schooling experience, and he believes most people don't remember much of theirs, either. So what's the purpose of school then? If you don't remember learning anything beyond the three branches of U.S. government, was it really worth your time?

Later in the essay he makes a statement, used in a different context than where I'm going with it, of course, that speaks volumes:

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it's at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

Government should stay out of the way, because the failings of the free market are less than those of government intervention....this is also true of education! We've seen what has happened with government-controlled education. The removal of schools from local control so many years ago made things worse, not better.

A free market, where parents are free to choose (with their dollars) how they will educate their children, whether via public-, private-, home-or un-schooling, can do much better than governmental control of education, and can certainly do no worse. Maybe Mamet will come to that conclusion on his own and someday become a mouthpiece for the free market in education. Why not? He's on the right path now.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If This Doesn't Give You Chills, You Might Want to Check Your Pulse to See If You're Still Alive......

This is a good video for our kids, to teach them that you should never give up on your dreams. Simon Cowell was so impressed with Paul Potts that he's going to produce a movie about him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

For Lutheran Homeschoolers

We've been homeschoolers for many years, but we've been Missouri Synod Lutherans even longer.

Back when I began homeschooling my kids, I looked for a Lutheran Bible curriculum, but was disappointed to find that while the LCMS' Concordia Publishing House did have a Bible curriculum, it was intended only for Lutheran schools, and so I was unable to purchase individual copies to use with my children.

But times change, and I recently learned that CPH is now reaching out to homeschoolers. My son, who works for CPH, sent me a link to Lutheran homeschooling resources at CPH. The materials aren't just for Lutherans, though.....many Christian homeschoolers would like what CPH offers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Carnival

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up, and it's a doozy. Not only does it include a variety of posts, but there's a special section regarding the California issue (questions about the legality of homeschooling in CA since a recent court ruling that homeschooling parents must be certified teachers). All homeschoolers, no matter where they live, should be aware of what's happened in that state.

BTW, here's an interesting take on the California issue.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Road Trip

Just got back from a short trip…..well, short in terms of time (five days) but not distance (1400 miles).

We started off early Wednesday morning en route to Fort Wayne, IN, where we spent the night. The next morning we drove through Amish country to a small town where my dh’s family is from. We had a wonderful time visiting with relatives from both sides of his family. When we arrived, we found out that if we’d come a day earlier, we would have found ourselves driving in a terrible ice storm.

On Friday we headed to St. Louis. It started to snow right when we left, but the roads weren’t bad, and by the time we left Indianapolis, the snow had stopped. The area we drove through would get between 12 and 20 inches of snow over the next 24 hours. Once again, great timing. I can’t take credit for these instances of missing hazardous weather except for the fact that I did pray for good travel before we left, more than once. :)

It took most of the day to get to St. Louis, where we visited our son at work, met some of his very nice coworkers, and saw his place of business. He loves his job, and we’re very happy to see that.

Dinner was prepared by our son and his bride; it was delicious. We visited them again the next day, and went to church with them and her family. Since we haven’t found a church home yet, we really enjoyed being there. Then we all went back to the newlyweds’ apartment, where we dined on frozen pizza and birthday cake, because it was dsds15’s birthday. That’s right, my youngest is 15. This makes me feel somewhat old. But it’s always a celebration, because we weren’t sure he would make it through his first week of life because of the problems he developed soon after birth.

We left for home very early the next morning (ugh, time change Sunday made it even harder to get up early) and arrived home in time for dinner last night.

Some observations about the trip back:

1) Gas prices are ridiculously high. We even saw diesel at over $4 a gallon.
2) I finally tried using the cruise control on our car and liked it. I’d always avoided it because I thought I would be less alert if I didn’t have to concentrate on staying near the speed limit (not one of my strengths). But it didn’t work out that way. I stayed awake the whole time I drove…always a good thing.
3) In addition to all the great home-cooked food shared with us by family members, we also ate at restaurants and fast food places while on the road. I find that as I get older, I like fast food less and appreciate home cooking much more.
4) You can get really tired of the same six CDs when you drive 1400 miles in five days. Not that they weren’t great CDs (Carly Simon, WOW’s Best of Gospel, Paul McCartney, Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Count Basie), but we heard them too many times.

So that’s where I’ve been lately. And if you hung on all the way through to the end of this post, you must be avoiding the dinner dishes or something because it’s not a very exciting post. ;)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling...

looks like another great one. Hosted by PalmTree Pundit, it has something for everyone. See for yourself!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Worth the Interruption

The usual routine around here is that we do school in the morning. I start off working with dd16 for a while, and then she goes off to work independently while I work with dsds14, who needs pretty much constant supervision. We do that until lunch, and after lunch I work.

Today after lunch I took off for the post office to ship some books, then made quick stops at the bank and the video store. After I got home, I had about five minutes in front of the computer screen before dd16 popped into the office to ask for help with an essay question in her economics book.

This led us to discuss the issue for a good 20 minutes, which was occasionally punctuated by her comments expressing continued confusion. So I kept talking, bringing in points made in the book (which is Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, in case you’re interested). And all of a sudden, she caught on.

She then wrote up her answer to the question, and when I checked it, I could see that she had come to the point of understanding.

I think this is one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling. You start out with a student you already know very well, and over the years you come to know them even better. So when they ask you for help with something, you know how to approach the issue and how to help them with it.

Since you’re not on a class schedule, you can sit and work with them for as long as it takes until they reach the point of understanding. Sometimes it happens quickly, and other times it takes some extra effort. But there is great satisfaction in knowing that you helped bring them to the point of understanding, however long it might take.

However, it also means that you will be interrupted in the middle of your work at times. But as much as I may love what I do, I always keep in mind that my main job is homeschooling.

Perfectly Understandable, Considering the Source

An Israeli researcher has declared that Moses was high when he thought he heard God issue the Ten Commandments.

Benny Shanon, a professor in Jerusalem, does not believe that great Biblical event actually happened. I think the explanation behind Professor Shanon's ridiculous proclamation lies in this sentence from an article about him and his beliefs:

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.

Drug there anything they don't know? (With apologies to Homer Simpson)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Back to Basics

Every time I go to the grocery lately, I freak out at the prices going up while the package sizes shrink. This reminds me of the late 1970s, when I was a newlywed. Being college students, we were on a very tight budget. Seeing food prices go up regularly back then made me realize that I had to learn to stretch a dollar.

Raising four kids on a single income in the intervening years helped me stay in good financial shape when it comes to stretching those dollars. So it's second nature to do what I can to keep the grocery bill from going over budget.

I saw soup on sale for $1.50 a can last week. That's crazy.....$1.50 for a couple bowls of oversalted soup with supposed meat in it. That put me in the mood to make homemade soup, and for a few dollars more than that one can of soup, I made a big batch that covered dinner for four plus lunch the next day.

Then there's baking mix. I don't buy the name brand because the company that makes it supports Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the U.S. I just cannot give them money and consider myself a good steward. Fortunately I have a lovely book full of recipes for name-brand products, and one of them is for baking mix. I made some over the weekend, and now I have a nice big plastic box of baking mix in the pantry: twice the quantity for half the price of the name brand. It makes me smile every time I walk past it.