Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Kindergartener's Plastic Surgeries

I read this story and just felt so sorry for this little girl, who went through "radical and painful" plastic surgery three times by the time she was five because her parents felt it would help prevent people from judging her by her appearance.

Her appearance was that of a child with Down syndrome. That's why they had her tongue reduced in size, the area around her eyes changed, and her ears adjusted so they didn't stick out.

I've always felt like my son's facial appearance is a gift. Yes, he looks like he has Down syndrome, and that's good, because it gives people a visual cue that he might have some delays, helping them control any knee-jerk reactions they might have. How much harder it must be for children whose developmental disabilities offer no visual cues. They immediately see the reactions of strangers to any behaviors they might have that are different.

My son with Down syndrome has been fortunate not to have had any surgeries, cosmetic or otherwise. And let me tell you, he's a good-looking fella. Don't take my word for it, though. Tell him he looks handsome, and he'll say "Yep! Thanks!" :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Post #300!

In celebration of my 300th post on this blog, I share with you this lovely print by my favorite artist, Carl Larsson:

Getting Ready for a Game, 1901 by Carl Larsson
Getting Ready for a Game, 1901

I have many framed versions of Carl Larsson's works, but I would not have known how to post one on my blog if I hadn't read Renae's blog, Life Nurturing Education, where she has posted some wonderful links to places where you can obtain free artwork for use on blogs. Thank you, Renae!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Homeschool Bag Lady

Dana over at Principled Discovery certainly had her hands full organizing a large group of posts for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. But she did a great job with it, using the theme of "The Homeschool Bag Lady." Don't miss out on the fun; check it out now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Should Have Known

There's this site I like to go to that is so cool. It's done by a family in L.A. that turned their small city lot into a gardener's paradise. Seems like every square inch outside has been put to good use, whether it's for growing vegetables or goats.

This family has so many clever ideas, and I love reading about them. I've been popping by there for some time now, so one would think I would have figured out something about this free-spirited family that seemed very likely. But I had to stumble on to this page to learn what I should have figured out a lot sooner.....they were a homeschooling family! Duh.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strong-Willed Children

It has been suggested that these two at left look like our eldest and our youngest when they disagree. Yes, they're my strong-willed kids, and yes, neither is very willing to give in to the other. It can actually be pretty entertaining to watch each of them try to get the other to back down because, despite their ten-year age gap, they are pretty well-matched when it comes to wills. And yet, they adore each other.

Celebrity as a Goal

The British press is a lot different than the American press. Across the pond, they tend to be much more liberal when it comes to things like nudity in their newspapers. But oddly enough, they can also be quite open, more than we are, about what they see wrong in their culture, particularly when it comes to social mores.

Take, for example, this article written by Melanie Cantor, a judge on one of the many performance-based reality shows on British television. As she puts it, “I'm billed as the tough celebrity agent” on the show. Of the contestants she sees, she says:

“Everyone feels they have the right to fame because they know that talent is no longer required. The cult of Big Brother has made it possible for the most stupid to make millions simply on the back of being stupid.

We live in a country where our children no longer aspire to be doctors, nurses, lawyers or teachers - they want to be famous. To them, celebrity is an easy escape from the mundane, a quick route to riches based on no particular skill or effort on their part.”

Isn’t that the truth? And since American television is no better, I wish there were more Americans willing to admit that many, though not all, of the contestants on these shows have no talent and know it. They just want to be celebrities. That’s their only goal in life.

Instead of pointing out how useless the goal of celebrity is, American culture celebrates it. Little girls are given Bratz and Barbie dolls that come with guitars and microphones, not to mention limousines. In school, children are taught songs like “I’m a Star!” that are supposed to build their self-esteem.

But the elusive goal of becoming a celebrity will likely destroy self-esteem instead of developing it. Ms. Cantor makes it plain when describing today’s culture:

"Celebrity is all - Fame is held up as a God to be venerated. Never mind the emptiness, ignore the public scrutiny that might tear your life apart, better to be famous for nothing than to be nothing.

The joy of anonymity has been lost to this next generation.”

Britain is not the only country with this problem. We have it, too. And it’s up to us as parents to present our children with good examples of achievement, not celebrity, if we want our culture to let go of the worship of celebrity status.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Homeschooling Your Child With Down Syndrome

Momto4 recently left a comment on a February post from this blog:

I had my daughter in public school, she is 6 in kindergarten and has down syndrome. They haven't a CLUE what they are doing. I was very disappointed in their lack of teaching. I will be homeschooling her and it will be interesting as I have never done such a feat. Is there anywhere one could go to help start off in kindergarten for my little girl? Is the curriculum the same? So many many questions. I do know this, anything is better than what we have now.

Since there might be other parents with this same problem, I thought I’d post my response here, where they can find it easily.

Momto4, I admire you for taking matters into your hands once you became unhappy with your daughter’s schooling experience. Pro-active parents are the best asset a child with a disability can have.

Every child with Down syndrome has unique abilities and unique needs, and that’s why I did not use a specific curriculum with my son with Ds, who is now 15. Having homeschooled three older children, I could see that my son was not at or near grade level in scholastic subjects at age 6. I decided instead to test him (using a test I rented for a very reasonable cost from HSLDA). There weren’t any surprises in the test results because I’d been working with him since he was 3 or 4, but you might find such testing very useful for you and your daughter. It will give you an idea of where to concentrate your efforts.

Anyway, after testing him, I continued working with him as I had since he was small, using my own IEP to chart the path we’d need to follow at his speed. We read many, many books, he practiced his printing every day, and we played lots of board games that stressed the different skills he needed.

For example, he had real problems grasping numbers conceptually. He could recite numbers but did not understand what they meant. We played the game “Trouble” once or twice a day and that helped him understand what “six” meant, because that’s the best number to get in that game. BTW, I frequently found the best educational games (sold in teacher stores) discounted at TJMaxx and Marshalls. For my son, educational games where he learns by using his hands instead of just sitting and listening are a real blessing.

My son is speech-delayed, like many children (especially boys) with Ds. I sat in on his sessions with the speech therapist and imitated what she did with him at home on a regular basis. We could not afford thrice-weekly sessions, which had been recommended, but at least this way he was getting daily speech practice. One of the most effective methods of working on speech sounds with him was something the therapist taught me: he’d say a word or sound and I’d reward him with a puzzle piece. So he had to make 100 sounds to get all the pieces of a 100-piece puzzle, and then we’d work on the puzzle together. (We still do this at least once a week, because he really enjoys it.)

In addition to working on his letters, number concepts and speech, we did lots of artwork, including working with crayons, paint, stampers and clay. He loved this, and it was a nice break from the “school” work. We also got him out in nature by going on bike rides (we used a third wheel attachment on my husband’s bike because our son loved to run off and we didn’t want to teach him to ride a bike on his own, thus helping him get away from us more quickly!) Visits to parks, zoos and the aquarium also widened his horizons.

One more thing we did as part of his “school” was to teach him how to work around the house. He’d seen the older kids doing their chores and wanted to be like them, so this wasn’t hard. In fact, he’s been a very eager helper. He also likes to work with his dad in his workshop. (I can still picture him at around age five or so driving nails into a piece of wood with great intensity.)

You’ve asked for specific materials that will tell you what to do with your daughter. There have been several books that helped me learn how to work with my son, and I will list them in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I’ve asked another blogger who homeschools a daughter with Ds to answer your question. You’ll find her post here.

The bottom line, Momto4, is that you are really doing something wonderful for your daughter. Homeschooling her will mean she will get much more one-on-one instruction, or “face time” as I like to call it. Not only is that much better for her, but it will help you learn more about how she learns. She’ll also be able to avoid the negative effects of school socialization, such as picking up bad habits and being bullied because of her disability. And, of course, the bottom line is that you know her better than any teacher can know her, so she’s getting a teacher who knows her well and wants the very best for her. I think your daughter is very fortunate to have you for a mom.

Feel free to ask any questions you might have, and I’ll try to get that book list together soon!

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Official: "The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling" is In Print

I can't believe it's been almost a week since I posted, but we've been a bit busy. On Tuesday the semi pulled up with our new books! The neighbors were probably trying to figure out what the heck was going on over here. You don't see many semi's in this neck of the woods :)

The books look beautiful! They also take up a lot of room, but we stored some of them in the garage and the rest were taken into the house so they could be packaged and shipped to everyone who ordered a copy via our pre-publication special. Thank you to all of you who ordered a copy of the book! It took three of us (dd16 was a big help) a couple of days to get all of the orders together (good thing no one was planning to take photos of our living room for Architectural Digest, as there were USPS containers all over the place for a while.) The good news is that we loaded up the van this morning and handed all of the boxes over to the good people at the U.S. Postal Service. So your books are on the way!

We were excited to learn that Eclectic Homeschool Online has already reviewed the book. If you haven't been to that site before, you're in for a treat. They offer anything a homeschooling parent could need to make her job easier. Thank you, EHO, for the lovely review :) Rumor has it that another review should be popping up before too long over at Homeschoolbuzz.com.

Now that the book is out, the hard part starts: marketing it! And of course, I can now finish the other book I was writing before I got distracted transforming this one from eBook to print. All of this takes a lot of time, and I can't work at it full-time thanks to that little thing called homeschooling that we still do every day. Still, homeschooling is my priority!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lotsa Books Headed This Way!

The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling is on its way!

The printers emailed us yesterday to say that the new books are on the truck! As soon as they get here, the book is officially published and that's the end of the prepublication special mentioned here.

But until that truck full of books pulls up here (we're hoping for Monday!), you can still buy the book for the special price of $12 plus free shipping! (Continental U.S. only; contact us for discounted international shipping.)

(Remember, the 192-page print version of The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling is twice as large as the eBook, thanks to the addition of lots of homeschool encouragement for all homeschooling parents (some of it from my newsletter). It's full of the strategies I've learned over 20 years of homeschooling.)

Once that truck pulls up, the prepublication offer is over and the regular price ($13.95 plus shipping) applies. So click here to save a few bucks and be among the first to read my new book!

P.S. I almost forgot----the first two reviews of this book are in! Thank you, Carol and Kathy, for your kind words:

I recommend her guide to new homeschooling parents. It’s neither dryly theoretical nor boastfully self-congratulating. It’s practical, encouraging, and unintimidating, without underestimating all that homeschooling involves. If you’re not new to homeschooling, but low on energy and enthusiasm for it, this guide is for you, too.

Carol Goudie
Otherways Magazine
(full review in May 2008 issue)

….(T)he truth is there is no perfect home school. Even though I know that already, how empowering it is for me to read Barbara Frank’s book The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling…. This guide is an excellent resource both for those just starting out and the rest of us that need some good old-fashioned encouragement and empowerment.

Kathy Davis
(full review to be posted late 4/08)


Dd16 took the ACT this morning at the local high school, and it was interesting to see the reactions it provoked among us.

My husband came home after dropping her off and immediately said how glad he is that she's who she is. He then described the kids he saw, specifically how they were dressed (skimpily in today’s spring snowstorm), and how they drove into the parking lot (he worried about getting hit).

Meanwhile, dd16 was forming her own impressions. She said the girls seemed pretty calm, but the boys hung together in loud groups, with lots of yelling and swearing. The first thing she said to me when she got home was, “Thank you for homeschooling me.” That’s always appreciated :)

She also mentioned that she said a quick “Thanks!” to the proctor when she left, as everyone always thanked the teachers after class when she took homeschool classes at the community college where we used to live. But today, the proctor looked at her as if she had said something strange. Guess he wasn’t used to a student being polite to him.

Finally, she said that there was not a single cute guy there. Not one of our concerns, but it ranks on her list.

As for my reaction to her taking the ACT (you knew I’d have one, right?), it came when she told me what the essay question was (she took the ACT writing test after the main test). She was asked to write about whether schools should limit kids to one extracurricular activity. Mind you, the practice question on the ACT web site for the writing test asks the kids whether they think students should have to attend a fifth year of high school.

Good grief! Is that all these people can think about…school? Whatever happened to asking kids to describe their favorite character in literature, or their favorite historical figure, or to choose sides on a current social issue, like global warming or free trade? Aside from the fact that “school” questions are biased against homeschooled students (who are admittedly a tiny minority of those taking the test), they’re just dumb questions that really don’t require a lot of thought.

Anyway, she should be able to look up her scores online fairly soon. She doesn’t know if she wants to go to college right after high school or ever, but as we learned from our son’s experience, you need to take the ACT at least once in order to skip some college placement tests and even to help qualify you for scholarships. So taking it is a necessity if there’s any chance at all a teen might go to community or four-year college.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is There a Young Writer in Your House?

I began writing when I was quite young. The best encouragement I ever got back then was seeing my work published in my junior high and high school's newspapers and also in my local paper. Seeing your work in print gives you a tremendous boost.

We have a young writer at our house, dd16, who is hard at work on her second novel. Once she finishes this novel, and then works with me on editing both novels, we plan to publish them using Lulu.com.

I've used Lulu for the proof copies of my books and have been so pleased with them. I don't used them for subsequent printings because we generally order a couple of thousand books at a time, and other printers are more competitively priced for large quantities. But you don't need to have a bunch of money squirreled away for printing. The new publishing model called Print on Demand (POD) is the perfect thing for personal projects, and it's what Lulu does best. You write the book, format it, design a cover and then upload your files to Lulu. They keep the files on hand; whenever someone orders a copy of the book, they print one and send it out. Today's printing technology allows this to be done fairly quickly and very reasonably, price-wise.

Just as an example, the proof copy of my new book is 192 pages and cost me a little over $8 plus shipping. That's a great price for a single copy! Just think, you could have your child's work printed and bound for less than ten dollars! Lulu has a printing calculator on site where you can work out the exact cost. They do offer expensive packages for teaching you how to assemble and market the book, but you can find that information for free online or at your public library, so unless you're impatient, I wouldn't recommend it. Besides, unless you think your child is the next J.K. Rowling, you're probably just doing this as a family project, right?

When I use Lulu, I classify my printing projects as private because they're just proofs. But at Lulu, most people sell their books through Lulu's online bookstore as well as other places. So if Grandma wants a copy of your child's book, just send her to Lulu's online store, where she can order copies for herself and probably all your distant cousins. Your child will earn money on those sales of his/her work. How encouraging would that be?

Here's a great interview with an 11-year-old young man who's already selling his fiction work via Lulu. He cites homeschooled Christopher Paolini (author of the Eragon series) as his inspiration. Maybe his interview will inspire your young writer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Upcoming Homeschool Conferences in Illinois and Wisconsin

Many of you know me from the newsletter I used to publish, the "Northern Illinois Homeschool News." So, in case you aren't already aware of them, here are the details on two upcoming conferences in your area, one in Illinois and one in Wisconsin.

Homeschool conferences are a great way to restore your homeschooling enthusiasm for the coming year. Plus, it's so much fun to meet other homeschoolers!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wacky Week

People are freaking out about Wacky Week, a yearly event at a school in my newly adopted home state of Wisconsin, where kids voted to dress up as the opposite sex or as a senior citizen. Those having fits about this suggest it’s a public school effort to promote cross-dressing.

Given the propensity of public schools to promote so-called “alternative lifestyles” in recent years, I can see where parents would be suspicious at first. But it appears that this was the kids’ choice. Besides, if the school really was promoting cross-dressing, I doubt the principal would have said this:

"I can assure you we will not be having this day (again).”

Instead, she would have been quoted as saying something like, “This was simply an exercise in diversity,” while straightening the tie she wore with a pin-striped suit.

I’m not defending Wacky Week here. I don’t see how dressing silly for a week helps anyone study harder, and as someone with one of those ends-in-zero birthdays coming in a few months, (ahem), I don’t see the humor in dressing like a senior citizen…..what does that mean anyway, wearing Depends under a housedress or chest-high pants?

Regardless, it does bring back a memory from when my older children were little. They were probably four and five years old when they came running down the stairs one afternoon, giggling and calling for me. I was in the kitchen making dinner when they burst in. They had switched clothes. My daughter could barely fit into her little brother’s clothes, and hers were way too big on him. I thought they looked pretty funny and we all had a good laugh.

But then Daddy came home, and he was not amused. He told them to go change back into their regular clothes, and he gave me a look when I whispered that I thought it was funny.

Now, this was nearly 20 years ago, before cross-dressing changed categories from mental illness to celebrity fad. Looking back, I can see why he wasn’t happy about it. But they were so young at the time that I knew they didn’t mean anything by it. In fact, the thought of it brings a smile to my face because I can still hear their giggles in my memory. They’re now in their mid-twenties, our son is five inches taller than his older sister, and neither of them would be caught dead in the other’s clothes, lol.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Stossel Weighs In On California Homeschool Ruling

I don't normally blog on Sundays, but today I saw this and just had to share it with you. John Stossel puts his common sense attitude to work and the result, as usual, is clear and understandable. Spend a few minutes reading this and then share it with your friends (and relatives!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

They Had It All

Twenty years ago, British journalist Valerie Grove decided to interview women who “had it all” for at least 25 years. She defined having it all as:

"...they had to have been married for more than 25 years and have had three or more children, as well as a brilliant career."

She turned her findings into a book, The Compleat Woman: Marriage, Motherhood, Career - Can She Have It All? Her conclusion was that it was very rare for a woman to be able to successfully juggle a husband, children and successful career.

Now, a British newspaper has marked the twentieth anniversary of the book’s publication by going back and interviewing some of the women whose lives were chronicled in it to see if they think it’s gotten any easier to “have it all.” The very interesting (and lengthy) article is worth reading, but if you’re pressed for time, I’d like to share a couple of key points these women now make, as they look back on their lives from the vantage point of old age.

1) Women try too hard to give their children the perfect childhood.

Author Faye Weldon, 77 and the mother of four sons, says:

"Today, we try to fight that destiny and give our children the perfect childhood in the hopes that it will make them perfect. I think children are the better for a little healthy neglect. Mine certainly were.”

I don’t think she means neglect in a bad way. What she’s saying is that if we give our kids more autonomy and stop trying to micromanage their activities, they’ll do just fine and we’ll be less exhausted. This is a point we homeschooling moms, who are already involved personally in our children’s daily education, need to take to heart.

2) Women should realize they can have a career while raising children, but it won’t be easy, and the children must come first.

Shirley Hughes, 80, the mother of three children and a well-known children’s author, recalls writing at home with children underfoot:

“…despite publishing more than 50 books, Hughes managed without a nanny.
"I would have been too jealous of her relationship with my children," she explains.
"We did have au pairs to help out domestically, but I would never have left them in sole charge of the children all day…..But fractured concentration due to interruptions from children is the bane of a working mother's life, especially if you work from home as I did.
"But it was the right thing for me. I was able to be there for my children, and so glad I was self-employed and did not have to disappear off for long days away from the home."

3) Women expect to have too many material things that don’t matter in the long run.

Sheila Kitzinger, 80, a mother of five grown daughters and honored by the British government for her years of work for the National Childbirth Trust, says:

"Women now think they need so much more. Everyone must have a second car in the family.”
She also seconds Ms. Weldon’s concern about providing a wealth of perfect educational experiences:
“But also, we feel the need to do so much more with our children. There are constant educational trips - must see the Tutankhamun exhibition, must see the Chinese warriors at the British Museum.
"It's relentless, exhausting and very expensive."

Ms. Hughes agrees:

"Perhaps women think today they need to have too much. We all say we work because we need the money, but are there sacrifices to be made.
"Perhaps not having a second car; maybe moving to live somewhere cheaper.
"It's very sad when people think they cannot afford to have more children. What do you regret at the end of your life? Is it the expensive stuff, or not having a child?"

According to the article, these women with such successful careers look back over their lives and see where their time was best invested: in their husbands and children. As Ms. Hughes put it:

"My only regrets are that I got too bogged down with getting the shopping and household chores. I should have let it all go to pot a lot more than I did.
"What I wish I'd done more of is sitting and talking to my children round the kitchen table.
"And conversations with my husband, too, now that I'm widowed. Once your husband dies, that is what you long for above all.
"But when you're young and busy with work and family, you are always rushing on to the next thing. That's life."

We can all learn from those who have come before us. And with that, I’d better go make dinner and spend some time enjoying it with my family :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Disabled and Gifted

Since I have a teenage son with Down syndrome, I do know something about having a child with a disability, but I only really know about his specific issue. There are many other disabilities that I know little or nothing about.

One of those disabilities is autism. My cousin has a son who’s six weeks older than mine and he’s autistic. But I’ve only met him a few times because we live pretty far apart. I also have a homeschooling friend whose youngest son is autistic, but again, I’ve only seen him once or twice because we don’t live near them.

So I wouldn’t say I’m familiar with autism, but I have to admit that stories like this one fascinate me. To be able to recreate a scene with so much detail from memory is just completely amazing, and an incredible gift.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Great Carnival.......

The April Fool's Day Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up, and I'm not tricking you when I say it's really well done. The Cates used real April Fool's Day pranks from history as the framework for this week's carnival, and it's so interesting. My personal favorite? The prank involving San Serriffe....a publisher's dream vacation spot, LOL.