Friday, May 30, 2008

Getting an Education in Driver's Ed

It’s been a while (eight years, to be exact) since we signed up one of our kids for Driver’s Ed. I’d forgotten what it’s like. Your offspring's first few times behind the wheel can test your nerves and rev up your prayer life, that’s for sure.

Dd17 is doing fine, though, and it’s interesting to get her take on the classroom portion of the instruction. We’re using a private driving school because Driver’s Ed is not offered in the public schools here as it was where we used to live. As a result, the class is not run by the school district yet is full of kids from the public schools. If there’s another homeschooler in her class, dd is not aware of it.

Each time she comes home from class, she thanks me for homeschooling her. I remember my son doing the same thing when he took Driver’s Ed at the local high school. He used to come out to the car where I was waiting and say, “I feel dumber.” This might have been because the teacher (a coach) breezed through the material and then showed the kids movies (popular movies, not driving instruction movies.) This went on for an entire semester.

Dd is surprised by the amount of wasted time in class. She’s used to working efficiently, and the classroom is not at all efficiently run. Sometimes the class doesn’t start until 15 minutes after it is supposed to start. The teacher sits up front and says, “Let’s wait in case there are latecomers.” There might be one or none. Nevertheless, she does this each class. Considering the classes are only two hours long, that’s a good-sized chunk of time lost at the beginning of the class. And yet sometimes, the kids are released early.

This is not a good thing, because the classes are held at night. Dd can call us to pick her up early, but it’s 15 minutes away, so she is left waiting there in the dark with a few other kids. As a result, her dad has taken to waiting in the car with a book. This means he’s right there whenever the teacher lets the kids out, and it also saves gas (one round trip instead of two). But it also means he loses 2 ½ hours to Driver’s Ed. Starting this weekend, the classes will run ten nights in a row. Losing that much time is going to get old. We’ll have to take turns bringing her to class.

So it’s not very convenient for us, but it’s important for her, and not just in order to get her driver’s license. I can see with her, as I did with her two older siblings, that having a classroom experience for the first time (excluding Sunday School) is a real eye-opener. If you want your child to appreciate homeschooling, sign them up for the classroom portion of Driver’s Ed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Survivor: The Kindergarten Edition

I am appalled by this story: a boy in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's was voted out of his kindergarten class by 14 of his 16 fellow students, after his teacher put him in front of the class and asked each child individually whether the boy should stay or go.

Here's a video report of this story, where you can see the boy and his mom. After watching this video, I have so many thoughts:

1) What kind of teacher humiliates a small child like this? She must be mentally ill.
2) Why would this child's mother humiliate him further by discussing this traumatic event on national television with him present the entire time?
3) What has the teacher taught her students about dealing with people with disabilities? Vote 'em out!
4) Is this an example of how mainstreaming a child with special needs can sometimes disrupt the classroom and therefore the learning experience of the other students, resulting in resentful children and an exhausted teacher?
5) I wish I could congratulate the parents of the two kids who voted no on raising such kind-hearted children.
6) How thankful am I that I can homeschool my disabled son so that he cannot be humiliated like this? Incredibly thankful.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rejecting Fanatic Feminism in Favor of the Joy of Motherhood

Imagine having a mother who's a famous feminist (and author of The Color Purple) and believes that having children turns women into slaves. She treats you with annoyance, when she's not neglecting you, because she sees you as a millstone around her neck. You are raised believing that you are one, and that any children you might have will be millstones, too.

And then, in your mid-30s, you have a child and you fall in love with him from the moment he's born. You begin to wonder how your mother could believe what she did about being a mother. But you can't ask her this, because she cut you off once she found out you were having a baby.

Rebecca Walker's story is amazing; don't miss it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Happened to Andrea Jaeger?

Maybe you remember her. I do, because she's from Chicago, where I'm from. Andrea Jaeger was a famous tennis player from age 14. She had fame and fortune, and she was miserable.

And now she's not. Post-tennis, she started a foundation for kids with terminal cancer and then became a nun. Read her story if you want to feel good, because it's wonderful.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ditching Class

I was at a blog recently (not a homeschooling blog) and saw this comment:

I ditched 5 out of 6 days in High school. Would goto the library and read. The truant officers never looked in the library. The best place to get an education is the library. I would show up to school on test days get an A and leave. Hated high school. Tested at 15 out went to college at 16 was in the was in the army at 17. That was the real education sitting in the desert having someone shooting at you.

I'll admit it's obvious that this man ditched punctuation class. :)

But he's now a self-supporting adult (I don't know how old he is). Given his ability to test out of high school and be accepted into college, just how much did he miss out on by ditching school? I see his posts occasionally at that blog, and clearly he's quite knowledgeable about economics and business. Makes me wonder how many others would be better off spending the day in the school library reading and hiding from the truant officers.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New Project

Summer's almost here! Dd17 and I are taking off the summer from homeschooling, and I'll only be doing regular review with dsds15. So I'm already making plans to get a few things done this summer that I haven't had time for this past year.

One thing I really need to do is sell some of the many homeschooling books we've accumulated over the past twenty years. The homeschool group I'm in is having a big used book sale soon, but their process for booksellers is so time-consuming that there's no way I can participate. So instead I've started a blog, where I can post the books for sale (with photos) one at a time, as time permits. That way I can break this big project down into smaller chunks, which will work a lot better for me.

I think it will work out well for potential book buyers, too. All they have to do is subscribe to the blog. Each time I post a book for sale, the post will automatically be sent to subscribers via feed or email.

The blog is called Used Homeschool Books. I've posted a link to it on the right side of this blog for those who would rather not subscribe.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bribery for Class Attendance

They're paying kids to go to school again.

Seriously, this is pathetic. A Connecticut high school's Advance Placement (AP) classes are not attracting many students, so it's decided that the way to get kids to take these harder classes and pass the AP tests is to pay them for doing so. A $450,000 grant from the National Math and Science Initiative will be providing the cash for these kids.

How much are kids likely to really learn if they're only there for the money? The root of this problem is not being addressed: what happened to kids' inborn desire to learn? How can that desire be nurtured instead of snuffed out?

Not that I approve of bribery, but since NMSI is going to spend this money anyway, I think they should start a program that offers parents some "hard cold cash rewards" to start reading to their kids and taking them to libraries and museums instead of giving them DVDs and video games from the time they're tiny. Seems like that would be more productive than bribing the kids.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Young Actor with Down Syndrome

In England, a new book written by the mother of a boy with Down syndrome is due out in two weeks. The boy is 15, loves acting and currently has a role in his second movie.

I love how she describes life with him in this article. She certainly captures it well. (He's almost the exact same age as our son.) I especially appreciate her comments regarding her unwillingness to have a subsequent pregnancy tested for Ds because she would never abort a baby with Ds. I think she and I would get along just fine.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two Wonderful Homeschooling Magazines

There is a lovely little homeschooling magazine in Australia called Otherways. How do I know this? (Considering that I live in the U.S.?) Because they just sent me a complimentary copy so that I could see how they used my article "Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs," which is excerpted from my new book.

I am thrilled to have my work in this publication. It actually reminds me a little of Growing Without Schooling, one of the first homeschooling magazines in the U.S. Last year, when we moved and were forced to whittle down 20 years' worth of belongings, I sold my beloved collection of GWS to a homeschooling mom who snapped them up as soon as I posted them online. I hope she's enjoying them as much as I did. They're a gold mine.

Fortunately, some GWS back issues have been posted online. I go there when I miss my old issues too much :(

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

When Are They Too Smart To Be Homeschooled?

Imagine homeschooling your extremely intelligent son and realizing that he's so smart that he should be in age eight! What an interesting story.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

The new Carnival of Homeschooling is up, and I'll let you find your way there by using the lovely new Carnival of Homeschooling icon, which you'll find on the right, just between the blog archive and the post labels.

The Cates, founders of the Carnival of Homeschooling, had an icon contest, and that icon was one of three winners. You can see the others here.

Now you can use this icon to see the latest carnival (but that doesn't mean I'll stop reminding everyone when there's a new carnival!). If you have a blog, feel free to put one or all of these icons on your blog to lead your homeschooling friends to the carnival.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy 17th Birthday, Mimzy!

Yesterday, in a Mother's Day post, I mentioned the best Mother's Day gift I ever got, which was my daughter, born on Mother's Day 1991. That was May 12, which is today! So Happy Birthday, DD17, aka Mimzy. You are so special to all of us :)

(That's her banner ad on the right, btw, with all the little creatures on it that she makes and sells. )

The May Newsletter is Up!

This month's issue of "The Imperfect Homeschooler" newsletter is now online. Feel free to check it out, and remember, you can always subscribe to the newsletter at my site so that it turns up in your email box and you don't have to wait for me to remember to post it here (because sometimes I forget, like this month, and post it late....sorry!)

New articles include "Our Entrepreneurial Homeschooler," "The Kids' Flea Market" and "Preschool Pressure or Preschool Peace?" And as usual, there's the "What Our Kids Are Missing Out On Dept." Sadly, I never seem to run out of news in that department!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother kissing infant by Henryk T. Kaiser
Mother kissing infant
How well I remember the moment it really started to sink in that I was a mom.
It was the middle of the night, and I was trying to beat back the lingering adrenaline rush and fall asleep a few hours after giving birth to dd24.
A nurse walked into the dimly lit room carrying a tiny pink-wrapped package, and said, "Here's your little angel, Mom."
Mom? Me? Well, the bracelets matched, so I guessed she had the right person.
The nurse handed me my baby girl, who stared into my eyes (I soon learned she liked being awake at 4 am). And at that moment, it hit me that I really, truly was a mom.
It's a sweet memory. As it turned out, over the next ten years I was fortunate enough to be handed three more packages totalling four in all, two pink and two blue.
What joy! What responsibility! Even now, it amazes me that God would loan out some of his best work to someone as flawed as I am. Good thing He looks out for all of his children. Because it's tough being a mom, and if it weren't for His help, how would I have managed?
Fast forward to May 1991. My doctor tells me that I'd better hope the baby comes before my due date, Memorial Day, because if she doesn't arrive until then, she'll easily hit 11 pounds. Ouch. But she's a wonderful child, so considerate to kick hard enough to break the water she lives in, so that I spend Mother's Day giving birth to her. At 9 lb. 9 1/4 oz., she's my biggest baby, but she's not 11 lbs. for which I am so grateful. And what a great Mother's Day gift!
I have great birth stories about my boys, too, but I won't go into them now because I've gone on about birth long enough. Yes, it's what turns us into moms, but what really counts is how we spend the rest of our lives loving our kids and doing the job God gave us when He loaned them to us.
I've been blessed to know some truly awesome moms. Some, like Sandy and Darlene and Bev, are my role models. Others, like Mary and Ann and Bobbi, are my friends and my encouragers, just by their existence. And then there were Julia and Linda, who died long before they were done mothering. Their smiles and their joy live on in their children, all of whom are now young adults.
To all moms everywhere, and especially to those who visit this blog and to those whose blogs I visit (you know who you are!), Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Book List for Homeschooling a Child with Down syndrome

As I mentioned in my recent post on homeschooling a child with Down syndrome, there have been many books that have helped me as I homeschool dsds15. Not all of them have been "school" books.

There’s a certain amount of acceptance that parents of kids with disabilities must gain, and it takes a while to get there. Sitting down to work with your child makes you realize just how hard it is for him to learn things, and that can really get you down.

Some books have helped me understand that homeschooling him is a process that will go on in one form or another for his entire life. It’s not like it was with my older kids, where we worked together for a certain number of years and then sent them out into the world. This guy has a lot of hurdles in front of him, and while I try not to be negative, it was plain to me pretty early on that he would not attain anywhere near the level of education his siblings would. That was a pretty depressing realization for me, and I had to find encouragement from a multitude of sources, including books, in order to keep homeschooling him.

(Sometimes, when I got discouraged, I thought about what it would be like for him in school, and that usually got me back on track. After all, who has time to sit patiently with him each day and work and play if not me? No teacher or aide has time to work with him one-on-one, which is what a distractible guy like him needs, and no teacher or aide can know him as well as I do, anyway.)

Keep in mind that while these books helped my son and me, that doesn’t mean they’ll work for all parents homeschooling kids with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. Children differ in temperament and ability, and so do parents. There’s a wide range of abilities among children with Down syndrome, and they develop at different rates, although most do develop more slowly than your “typical” child.

In my son’s case, there are other issues. Due to central apnea during his infancy, he may have sustained minor brain damage. His doctor said we could run a lot of expensive tests to find out for certain if and where such damage occurred, but he felt that we’d be spending a whole lot of money without being able to change things. We agree. But what our son went through makes it harder for him to learn certain things. Even his long-time speech therapist said some of his speech patterns are not typical of Down syndrome.

So he is a unique individual, and so am I, thus don’t rely on this booklist to cure what ails you and your child. On the other hand, I’ve always felt that if I learned one useful thing from a book, it was worth reading. So hopefully, you will find at least some tidbits in these books that will make them worth your time.

(Do keep in mind that the curricular-type books here are not the only things I use to homeschool my son. We do a lot of hands-on work also. But the purpose of this post is to share books we’ve found helpful.)

Christian Homes and Special Kids by Sherry Bushnell and Diane Ryckman

This book is a great resource and encouragement for all parents homeschooling their child with special needs, and I’m not just saying that because there’s a chapter about our family in the book. It’s just a book written by parents who want to share their experiences and their favorite resources.
ISBN-10 09744332-0-9
Available at

Helps for Special Education Teachers by Eileen Shaum

I bought this book from Rod and Staff, one of my favorite sources for homeschooling books. It helped me establish a well-rounded foundation for my work with Josh. It helps you set goals and gives you activities for reaching those goals.
Available at

Rod and Staff’s Preschool Series of Workbooks

We bought and worked through the entire series twice, that’s how much we liked these workbooks. Lots of cut-and-paste educational activities. Pages are nicely illustrated (farm animals, not licensed characters!) without being too busy and cluttered as many workbooks are. I used this series with dd17 when she was little and wanted to do school with the big kids, so that’s how I knew about them when dsds15 reached that developmental level. I can’t say enough about these workbooks!

Available at

NOTE: You can usually find Rod and Staff products at homeschool conference vendor halls. I highly recommend their products for all children.

Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Teachers (Topics in Down Syndrome) by Patricia Logan Oelwein

Excellent resource! This book offers complete instructions for building a reading program for your child. By the way, I have been to two of Ms. Oelwein’s seminars and learned so much. If you get the chance to attend one, go! You won’t be sorry.

Teaching Math to People With Down Syndrome and Other Hands-On Learners: Basic Survival Skills (Topics in Down Syndrome) Book 1 by DeAnna Horstmeier, Ph.D.

Personally I don’t find this book as useful as Patricia Oelwein’s book, but your mileage may vary. I do like the fact that this book is intended for people of all ages with Down syndrome, not just children. I attended Dr. Horstmeier’s seminar and enjoyed her stories about her adult son with Down syndrome.

Communication Skills in Children With Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents (Topics in Down Syndrome) by Libby Kumin, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Filled with ideas for encouraging proper speech development in your child.

When Slow Is Fast Enough: Educating the Delayed Preschool Child by Dr. Joan Goodman
An eye-opening book that helped me understand exactly what early intervention is all about.

Teacher Created Resources

My son is a workbook guy: he gets great joy from finishing a page and getting a star on it. We have had success with some of TCR’s math workbooks. I love how they have several workbook pages for each step in the learning process. I photocopy the pages over and over and over until he gets the concepts (it can take a long time).

You can buy TCR books online, but I recommend going to a teacher store and flipping through them yourself to see which might work for you and your child. If that’s not convenient, you can download many of their titles as eBooks at:

Here are two of their books that we’ve really used a lot:

Math Practice for Beginners

Math Picture Puzzles Grade 1 (Practice Makes Perfect (Teacher Created Materials))

Take It To Your Seat Learning Centers
published by Evan-Moor

These premade manipulative activity books called “Take It To Your Seat” are really good—clever learning projects all ready to be cut out, laminated and used regularly. Two we’ve enjoyed are:

Take It to Your Seat Math Centers, Grades K-1

Take It to Your Seat Phonics Centers, Grades K-1

Buki Books

We love Buki Books! They’re educational but so much fun that kids don’t mind. There are dot-to-dot books up to 1-150 (painless way to learn number sequencing), Calc-U-Color books (color by number where you have to figure out the number first using addition or subtraction), maze books and more. They have several age levels for each type of book. Once again, I find these in teacher stores, but you can also check out their online catalog at:

Note: They don’t show the full line on their site for some reason. In teacher stores, they’re often found on freestanding kiosks. They’re very colorful and hard to miss!

Betty Lukens Felt Activity books

Great for teaching Bible stories to kinesthetic learners. My son (15) still likes to look at these books and arrange the felt pieces on them. I think the fact that they’re realistic-looking and not babyish helps.

50 Bible Paper Pop-Ups: 3-D Visuals for Hands-On Learning Fun by Robin S. Parimore and Lynne Marie Davis

We’ve been working our way through this book for the past year. Requires cutting skills. I combine each project with the appropriate Bible story.

The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling by Barbara Frank

My new book has a chapter in it on homeschooling your child with special needs.

The Dance Goes on by Roberta Bandy

The true story of how the birth of a child with special needs grew the faith of a young couple. We’ve known the Bandy family for years; their story is so encouraging!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Mother's Day Treat

Melissa of Melissa's Idea Garden has a lovely Mother's Day treat for all of us homeschooling moms this week: the newest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. There are so many wonderful posts included that I don't know where to start.

One interesting trend I'm noticing in the carnivals as of late is that more young people are getting involved. What a great way for them to get their work out into the blogosphere!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Making Gifts in "School"

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that you can take the time to indulge a child’s interests. I tend to keep a fairly regular homeschooling schedule with my kids, but when we need to change things, we do so.

That’s what happened at the end of last week. On Thursday we devoted the day to Home Economics. What this means is that I found a really cool new bulk cooking cookbook at the public library (more on this in a future post) and decided that dd16 and I should do some major cooking during the day Thursday and count it as a school day.

While we worked in the kitchen, I mentioned to dd that I still needed to wrap presents for dh’s birthday the next day (one of those major birthdays….let’s just say an AARP card turned up in the mail right on schedule, lol). And she responded dejectedly that she had wanted to make her dad the perfect gift but had been unable to come up with anything. We discussed a few ideas, but nothing caught her fancy.

That night I heard her sewing machine humming up in her room and went to see what she was making. Sure enough, she had come up with a gift idea for her dad. It was a great one, but quite ambitious, and I wasn’t sure she would be able to finish it by the next day.

By the time she designed the project, chose the fabric and cut everything out, it had become obvious to me that she would not get done in time. But she got up at 7:00 the next morning to work on it, and after hearing her sewing machine humming for three hours, I made the executive decision that school would again be Home Economics that day, but this time sewing instead of cooking.

She finished her project after lunch. She chose the subject because one of her dad’s favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40:31. Needless to say, he was quite taken with her gift.