Sunday, August 31, 2008

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers #8

Welcome to another edition of the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as I did.

I want to start with the blog post that is most important to our homeschool and that I suspect will be important in many other homeschools as well. Shell from Eclectic Eccentricities writes about how her THINK bracelets were born:
These aren't just to remind them to think before they speak (although that is the main purpose). Each of the letters actually stand for something. (Because if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.... or something like that. )

Rather, it's an acronym for what's really going on in your head.

Is what you're about to say:

T- thoughtful
H - helpful
I - intelligent
N- necessary
K - kind

I plan on doing this activity with my children as they both need to learn to be kind to each other and think before they speak.

Have you always wanted to know how to make a hat out of duct tape but were too afraid to ask? Fear no more, Lydia, from Little Blue School has step-by-step instructions on how to make a duct tape hat. She writes, "This project is part of the Vote for Me! Elections Unit Study hosted here at Little Blue School. All the lucky people who are attending the political conventions are going to be wearing those crazy, ridiculous, fashionable hats, so I decided to get us in the mood with duct tape hats."

We've bought our duct tape in a myriad of colors and plan on making our hats tomorrow. What are you waiting for?

One of my favorite homeschooling bloggers is Christine from The Thinking Mother. I find that her reviews always give me good solid information. For this carnival she reviews , "The Unnameables Book" aimed at children ages 9-12.

Suzanne from Adventures in Daily Living is another blogger who writes excellent book reviews. For this carnival she reviews Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson. She writes: "In this non-fiction book, he informs, educates, inspires, and entertains. You need to know that he is awkwardly placed as a public school high-school English teacher who home-schools his own kids in the Pacific Northwest, so he has a rather unique view on the complexities of the home-school vs public school discussion."

I want to be a kid in Piseco's house! They've made their own kid sized, indoor planetarium. What fun!

Silvia is one of those cool moms that I want to be. Her kids do all kinds of neat activities that other kids just dream of. This time her daughter got to make a slingshot. As Silvia says, "It's only fun till somebody loses an eye. But we try to have a more positive attitude."

Kris from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers shares her instructions on how to make a Roman Road. I've known Kris in cyberspace since our children were preschoolers. She's a very cool mom who does really amazing activities with her kids. When you have time, browse through her blog - you'll find many fun activities to do in your homeschool. Best of all, she generally includes step-by-step instructions on how to do them.

There must be something about the name Kris that turns women into great bloggers. Kris from At Home Science is another blogger who has a blog filled to the brim with exceedingly useful information. Read her blog post about Zome tools (one of our FAVORITE construction "toys") and the Golden Ratio.

Julie from
Homeschooling Ideas has a simple, elegant and fun way to help keep your children in touch with the seasons. She writes this about her Tree Project: "The idea of the project is to decorate a large tree-shaped stick or twig each season. You can keep this simple, or go to town! As the season changes I will remind you it is time to re-decorate your tree, and give you some extra ideas of what to use, via this blog."

Don't forget to pop on over to Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards and nominate your favorite homeschool blogs. Have a look at the updated list of nominees. There's still time to make your own nominations.

Lydia reminds us that the deadline for the Book Arts Bash is nigh.

She writes: "You have heard of the Book Arts Bash, right? It's a new writing program and contest for homeschooled writers, with twenty categories across the full spectrum of literary arts from novels to poetry to storytelling, dramatic skits, and book cover art. With five age groups in each category (including homeschooling moms and dads!) the Bash has something for everyone. The list of judges is mind blowing:
Bestselling authors: Sara Gruen, Karen Abbott, Joshilyn Jackson, Dan Elish, Michael D'Orso, Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart.

Industry Pros: Caryn Karmatz-Rudy and Emily Griffin (Editors, Grand Central Press), Kirby Kim and Daniel Lazar (literary agents in NYC), Caitlin Roper (Managing Editor, The Paris Review), Cressida Leyshon (Fiction Editor, The New Yorker), David Lynn (Editor, Kenyon Review).

Then we have homeschooling moms who are also published authors: Julia Devillers, Jennifer Roy, Melissa Wiley. Storytellers Bobby Norfolk, Odds Bodkins, Joel Ben Izzy. Internet Favorites: Ann Zeise (A to Z Home's Cool), Mir Kamin (Woulda Coulda Shoulda), Michelle Mitchell (Scribbit).

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Have your children started writing their entries yet? You only have a month left to send you entries to The Book Arts Bash

Dr Adrian Preda writes about how exercising the body is exercising the brain. This is an important post for all educators. If we want our children to do well academically, we need to ensure they have sufficient physical exercise.

Alisa over at Smart Teaching has a blog post that will make all frugal homeschoolers very happy. She lists over a hundred ways to score freebies for your classroom. She promises: "From audio books to activity kits to free software, you will find something in this list that you can use with your students."

Thomas once again shares very good tips for practicing a musical instrument. He addresses the body/mind ego and how it affects the results of music practice. I've been using this blog post with Shira for many aspects of her life. We're slowly, but surely, overcoming her fear of failure.

He writes: "Students of music often say that something is "too hard" after being exposed to a new concept or musical task. I often tell them that "hard" and "easy" are labels that are relative only to their level of experience right now. A task is hard because it is unfamiliar. The student has not had enough experience with the task to master it. I often demonstrate something from their early day son their instrument and say "Remember when you thought this was hard? Now you think it's easy!""

He addresses many issues in this excellent article. While this article was written with the practice of a musical instrument in mind, I feel that much of the advice is relevant in our every day actions as well.

Margaret of The Earthly Paradise She writes about the educational opportunities that exist for homeschoolers with iTunes U: "iTunes U was launched late last year by Apple in cooperation with a number of leading universities and other educational providers and is completely free and available to anyone. You can watch videos and listen to audio recordings from MIT, University College London and other great schools (in addition to content from Museums like MoMA).

Keeping with computers and education, Linsey Knerl writes how computers worked for her family. She writes" "Will computer-based learning work for every child? I can't say for certain, as every child is different in their learning style. There is a learning curve for students who don’t type well yet, and the program can be particular about what it accepts as a right or wrong answer. What I loved about it, however, is that I can go back in and give credit for items that I feel were correct, and I can always reassign problem lessons or botched quizzes. There is a greater amount of flexibility with the newer versions."

Alisa gives us a great list of a hundred essential web tools for homeschoolers.
Taking on the education of your children can be a rewarding and fun experience for all involved, but it requires a lot of preparation and organization. You can use the following web tools to enhance your homeschooling experience for yourself and your children. From general organizational tools to tools for specific subjects, you are bound to find some inspiration from the list

I'd like to end this carnival with information for the college bound homeschooler.

You can read about the best student credit cards at Money Blue Book. He writes some very wise words, "Knowledge and Education Is Power, So If You Are A Parent, Be Sure To Teach Your Student Or Teen Financial Responsibility Early and Often"

Scott shares the Ten Commandments of finding college housing.

Christina shares her Ultimate Guide to Using Open Courseware.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the carnival of cool homeschoolers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who is responsible for children's success at school?

I just read that a quarter of schools in our area failed to meet federal standards. In my city, Norfolk, the amount of schools failing to meet the standards increased by 80% over last year. (Both the middle and high schools we're zoned for failed to meet the standards.)

I can't help wondering if the schools or the parents are to blame. I've recently spent a fair bit of time talking to some public school teachers in the Norfolk school system. One thing that has struck me is that the failing schools have one thing in common, a high preponderance of parents who are uninvolved with their children's education. In each case, where the teachers have told me that their parents are involved with the children, those schools did well and vice versa.

It sucks to be a teacher right now. Teachers aren't left to educate, they teach to tests. I don't see how they can make up for all the learning that should be happening in the home.

One kindergarten teacher was telling me how difficult it was for her because she had kids who came from homes where the parents were very involved in the children's lives and these children were generally fairly numerate and were beginning to read when they entered kindergarten. Then she had kids whose parents put them in front of the TV all day, these kids often didn't know their colors and couldn't count to ten. How on earth is a teacher supposed to deal with disparities like this in their classrooms. She told me that by 3rd grade the differences were often even more pronounced because the involved parents did homework with the children and gave them enrichment opportunities, while the children of uninvolved parents had to reply on the school for all their educational input.

It looks like I am not alone in thinking that educational failure starts in the home. A local Baptist Church has kicked off an initiative where they will reward children for increased grades this year.
onight, a dozen or more youths at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Norfolk are expected to sign a contract in front of their parents and congregants, pledging video abstinence.

That means no television. No Internet video. No DVDs.

The Rev. James Webb said the church expects that children unplugged from video will spend more time doing homework and will perform better at school.

The pledge also obliges parents to spend more time with their children after school, he said.

"If the parents will spend one hour a day with their kids, checking homework, looking at school work, it'll be an absolutely phenomenal outcome," he said.

We need more such initiatives. Being the non-judgemental person I am, I think it is unconscionable that people have children and then do not live up to their responsibilities. We as adults decide to have children, therefore it is our responsibility to ensure that those children get the best possible start in life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shira's "calm and crazy" picture.

I asked Shira to draw a face or an animal and then to draw a line down the middle. She was to make one side look "crazy" and the other side "calm".

Here's her picture:

Archie's first haircut

Today our scruffy little schnoodle visited the groomer for the first time. Oh, my goodness, what a difference a good cut makes.

This is what he looked like before his cut.

Here are the after pics. Is this not just one of the cutest little pups alive? (His "sister", Hershey, is in hospital with a tummy thing. Hopefully she'll be better by tonight and we'll be able to bring her home).

Friday Field trips

Last Friday we went on two field trips. A tour of the WHRO studios and an ocean collection trip with the aquarium.

WHRO is our local public broadcaster. Despite our relatively small size, we are only one of 5 (I think) metropolitan areas that has 2 different public radio stations. I listen to the talk one and Marc listens to the classical music one.

I'm not sure how much the kid learned, but nevertheless, they had a lot of fun. They particularly liked pretending to be radio announcers. The tour leader gave each child a script to read into the microphone. I just wish he'd switched on the mike and let the kids wear headphones.

It was a good experience for the kids to read out loud in public as this is a skill that is lacking in homeschools. My two want me to arrange for them to go to a preschool and read to the little kids. So far I've approached 4 preschools and they've all declined my offer. I am now thinking of seeing if the kids can get into the "Be a Reader" program in the elementary schools. I just am not sure if they will accept 7 year old children to work with other elementary schoolers.

The kids were also fascinated by the TV director's suite. Ben was taken by the split second timing that has to happen when broadcasting.

I highly recommend the Virginia Aquarium's Ocean Collection Tour.
Seahorses, stingrays, crabs and sand dollars - just some of what can be found beneath the surface of the ocean.

During this 75-minute boat trip, Aquarium staff will trawl the ocean floor for a sample of sea life to bring on board. Kids will have a chance to ask questions about the animals before they are returned to the water.
Cruises are offered March through November.

All three of us had a blast. The educators are great with kids and let them help out as if they were adults. Ben is still talking about helping to transfer the squids from the nets to the touch tanks.

As per usual, the highlight of the trip was totally out of left field. We found a huge, fiberglass shark on the dock. The kids spent way too long playing in it.

Championship Chess

For years I have been seeing the guys from Championship Chess at homeschool fairs. This summer I finally had a good look at their offerings. I'm in love, what a simple and clever way to teach scholastic chess.

I bought the curriculum and then discovered that they have a coach in the Norfolk/VA Beach area. I was delighted as this meant that I could have someone else teach the kids chess. I know we homeschool parents are happy to teach subjects where we are neophytes ourselves, but it's so much easier to have someone who knows what they are doing teach chess. This way I get to learn from a coach at the same time as the kids.

Coach Kala Dawson is simply wonderful. I have seldom met an adult who got my children's numbers so quickly. It took him less than fifteen minutes to get a handle on the dynamic between Ben and Shira. He immediately reigned in Mr "I know it all" impulsive Ben and at the same time set about building up Shira's self confidence. I love how he manages Ben without putting him down. There are a few adults in our lives who find him very tiresome and are rather horrid to him. Ben does not mean ill, he just has a very well developed sense of self, is very quick witted and very impulsive. He needs reigning in, not putting down. This is one of the reasons I vet the adults in our lives very carefully. I want Ben to learn how to survive in the world while not losing his special characteristics that will make him successful as an adult.

He had Shira eating out of his hand. She thinks he walks on water. He has her stretching her comfort zone and feeling full of self confidence.

He has immense patience and has a real gift for imparting knowledge to young children. I gather via the grapevine that the parents of the children in the chess club he started at St Helena Elementary School also think he walks on water.

I don't know how he finds the energy to do everything he does, he coaches chess, is president of his daughter's school's PTA and runs a real estate business.

I'm just glad he has the energy he does, because we're much enriched by our interactions with him.

Math games and multiplication

The other day I had a brain wave, I decided to do Bingo with a difference with the kids. Instead of using the spinner to call numbers, I had the children roll two, twelve sided dice. The person who rolled the dice had to add, subtract and multiply the numbers. This meant that for each dice roll, we ended up calling three numbers.

Initially I worried that I was pushing the limits because we haven't yet done any formal multiplication, but my worries were allayed when the kids merely started doing some mental addition. I am so happy to see that Ben and Shira love numbers, just like I did as a child.

Shira rolled first and she got a 7 and an 8. Luckily the kids have this habit of thinking out loud, so I heard how she worked out the answer. She said:
4 is half of 8, and 2 is half of 4. I know what two 7's are,. That's 14, so 4 times 7 is 28. Now I just double that and I have 56.

You should have seen the big smile I had on my face throughout the entire game. My kids showed me that they aren't scared of numbers and are happy to attempt new things. They LOVED playing Bingo this way and now want to play it this way all the time.

This success prompted me to start teaching them their times tables. I haven't looked at Prof B yet to see how he teaches times tables, but I figured that it wouldn't hurt to jump ahead of our math curriculum and teach something using my own methods.

I first taught them the ten times table because they already know place value. Then we did the 2's because they know the adding of twins. Fives made sense because once you know the tens you just halve the numbers and because the kids love skip counting in 5's.

Next it made sense to teach the 9's and the 11's. If you know the ten times tables, you either subtract or add and you have the answer. The kids as happy as clams to have these new tools. It's going to make playing Mythamatical Battles so much easier. Up till now I've been giving the kids a cheat sheet, now they can practice mental multiplication.

On another note, did you see how untidy the area behind the kids was in the above picture? I finally became fed up with it and reorganized it.

I moved the chest upstairs (I have no current use for it, but my late father made it for me when I was born. It's solid mahogony with all tongue and groove joints. It's one of my few links with him so I can't bear to not have it) and I bought Sterilite drawers on casters. Now we can move things to sweep that area.

I also labeled each drawer and woe betide the child who doesn't put things back into their right drawer. I was fed up with not being able to find things because the kids just tossed stuff willy nilly into the drawers.

The Miracle of Caffeine

Let me say at the outset that I am no caffeine fan. I think that it is bad for you, however, on days like today, I think it is nothing short of miraculous. Last night we spent half the night with Hershey at the emergency vets because of diarrhea and vomiting. When you weigh 2 lbs, that's scary. Then no sooner had I fallen into a deep sleep than Archie woke me up to go pee. That was the end of my restful sleep. What sleep I managed to get after that was filled with bad nightmares.

This morning I felt like the stuff Hershey was throwing up. I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Against my better judgement, I went and bought a shot of espresso, drank it and forgot all about it. A little while I ago I was trying to work out why I am all energetic and raring to go. Then it dawned upon me - I partook in that legal psychotropic drug, caffeine.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The "Banana Diet" for celiac disease

Tricia Thompson has a very interesting post on the history of celiac disease on her blog today.
The gluten-free diet has not always been the treatment of choice for celiac disease. Before the 1950s and the identification of wheat gluten as the culprit in celiac disease, the thinking was that people with celiac disease could not properly absorb carbohydrates and/or fat. A particularly interesting dietary treatment used during this time was the banana diet, made popular by physician Sidney Haas.

This diet restricted both carbohydrates (with the exception of ripe bananas) and fat. In his famous paper, “The value of the banana in the treatment of celiac disease,” published in 1924, Dr. Haas presented the following foods as a typical diet for a child with celiac disease: albumin milk, pot cheese, bananas (as many as the child would take, usually four to eight each day), oranges, vegetables, gelatin, and meat.

Ben, Shira and I are very thankful that we were diagnosed with celiac disease in the 21st century. I can't even begin to imagine eating that stomach churning diet. We would have coped with the bananas, oranges and vegetables, but the thought of the rest has my stomach churning.

Ships Without A Shore - America's Undernurtured Children

Anne R. Pierce, author of Ships Without a Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children is a lady with whom I appear to wholeheartedly agree. I am about to start reading her book and will report back.

I like what she says about "relaxing at home". This is something Marc and I have worked very hard on protecting. We've tried to make our home an oasis of calmness. Every so often I look at the lives of some of our friends' children and worry that I am depriving Ben and Shira because we are rigid about limiting extramural activities. We all become unglued when we don't get enough calm time at home. I know in my heart of hearts that we're doing the right thing, but every so often I get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses and worry that our children are going to be losers in the competitive race that I see happening around me.

Then I remind myself that children who have unhurried lives with lots of time to think and explore tend to be more creative, and as Daniel Pink says, it's the creative skills that are becoming increasingly more important in the US economy.

Enough of my rambling, this is what Anne Pierce has to say.
Childhood is nearly lost. In fast-paced, competitively charged modern America, there is unyielding pressure upon children of a younger and younger age. Today, tiny toddlers in uniforms gather on fields and in gymnasiums, with frustrated coaches imploring them to “listen” and learn the rules of the game. Young children expend their energy on long days in group situations, in structured activities and after-school programs, on team sports and music and athletic lessons. Teenagers build resumes and prepare feverishly for the future. Super-parents are raising super-kids, supposedly capable of both outstanding academic and artistic performance and athletic prowess.

For much needed relaxation, our high-performing children collapse in front of the TV, computer or “play station,” the now defining features of homelife. “Relaxing at home” no longer signifies shelter from corruption, nor does it signify quiet and repose. A veritable storm of lurid, violent and sensational “entertainment” now inundates our young, robbing their innocence. (Highly orchestrated teenagers are especially vulnerable to media-induced definitions of relaxation and release.) There is little room in this scenario for idle contentment, playful creativity, and the passionate pursuit of interests. Our busy lives leave too little time to question whether all this busyness is necessary and whether the content that fills our children’s lives is good.

We have become unsympathetic to exhaustion, vexation, and demoralization, seeing them as necessary corollaries to high achievement. ”Come on you can do it” parents shout as children “try again” to achieve the perfect pitch of the ball, the perfect ballet pose, the perfect runner’s mile, the perfect musical performance. Thus, we are taken by surprise when success strategies backfire; when, instead of gaining momentum, children and teenagers lose energy, motivation and enthusiasm. But, this end result simply makes sense. For, it takes freedom to be creative, time to be a thinker, and opportunities for independence to become inspired. Moreover, when we emphasize outward displays of accomplishment over children’s actual moral and intellectual advancement, children feel a void.

It is sad to think of young children with little time for play. They are missing the multifarious opportunities that play provides: for relaxing, imagining, exploring, creating, interacting, relating and just having fun. Play in childhood is important both for intellectual growth and for psychological growth. Play is a way for children to relish the experience of childhood and way for them to prepare for adulthood. Teaching children to be tough and prepared for the world, achieving doers instead of capable thinkers,has its price. Children’s innate curiosity is intense. When that curiosity has no room to fulfill itself, it burns out like a smothered flame.

It is also sad to think of children whose innocence is disregarded. Innocence is vital. Innocence allows children a freshness and creativity which artists and writers since there was writing and art have tried to recapture. When we let children into a hardened adult world. we risk putting out their flame. Once a child’s need for trust in the world and in their parents is jeopardized, the child’s positive approach to the world is jeopardized. The child is forced to adopt a defensive posture; she holds her innocence at bay for fear that the world might get the best of her.

An alternative to the harried, preordained way of life we give our children would rest upon renewed respect for childhood and a reassertion of parental influence. Research shows that attachment and bonding with mother in the early years, and such moments of family togetherness as working in the yard, casual conversations and family dinners in the later years have a hugely beneficial effect upon childhood development. Children do need a “homelife” to which to retreat and from which to explore.

What a difference a summer makes.

We took a 3 month break over summer. I learned much from this long break.

The first being that three months is too long to take off formal schooling. Our kids need structure and schedules. They become emotionally adrift when they face a long period with no structure or schedules.

That's not to say that I over schedule the kids, but they appear to be more emotionally grounded when they know that there is a definite morning routine. Their little faces have been beaming each morning since we started up school again. I walk into the kitchen only to find them sitting at the table with paper and pencils in front of them, waiting to do dictation. They love doing dictation. I love giving it because I can cover basic grammar and spelling at the same time as handwriting practice.

I thought I was being clever by having a lazy summer with just lots of reading, mental math, play and art. I should have continued to do school 3 mornings a week to help the children feel like their world has remained the same. They loved the freedom and at the same time emotionally came apart. Next summer we'll keep a happy blend of school and vacation.

The other surprising thing I discovered was that their handwriting and spelling improved dramatically this summer. This was despite no handwriting or spelling practice. I credit the jump in handwriting skills to their being 3 months older and all the arts and crafts we've done this summer. They did an enormous amount of fine motor skill activities and I think that paid off.

The only reason I can think of for the spelling improvement is that they both read around 10,000 pages this summer. We've been keeping a log since the third week in June because I am paying them a penny a page. It's amazing how well that motivated them. They both want to hold $100 bills in their hands. I'm only too happy to oblige if it means they read.

We're going to have a delayed start to the formal school year because my parents arrive in 10 days for a 3 week vacation. I've learned my lesson, so we're going to do some school while my parents are here, but it will be impossible to get into the full swing of things before they leave.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Glen Beck and Penn Jillette on...

Can't say I disagree with them. I don't think I will be able to look at my children in the eye and tell them that I am a rational principled person if I vote for either Obama or McCain. How have we managed to get ourselves such appalling presidential candidates?

Magical video for your viewing pleasure

Great fun watching for when you are feeling brain dead (like I am right now)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rational Jenn: Objectivist Round Up #58

Rational Jen has anotherObjectivist Round Up on her blog.

This week's one is a great read.

There are plans and then there is reality.

Today I had a good laugh at myself. A few months ago I thought pet ownership was crazy. Now we own two puppies and I am besotted with them.

I thought that doggy daycare was the most ridiculous idea I had ever heard of. Now our pups are going to doggy daycare when we can't be home to take them on potty breaks.

I was insistent that our dogs were going to eat a raw meaty bones diet because that was closest to their natural diet. Less than two days into the feeding plan, my fear of E.Coli and Salmonella got the better of me and we switched to a commercial dog food. I put a plastic tray down on the floor, gave the pups their chicken and then watched them ignore my plastic tray and pull their raw chicken around the floor. I had visions of having to Chlorox the floor 3 times a day and it all became too much for me. I even had nightmares of giant E. Coli attacking us. That put a speedy end to raw food in the pups' diet.

Potty training was a joke. The first week of puppy ownership was more stressful and more sleep depriving than the first week of twin infants. I hated parenting infants and if I found that easier, you have to know how tough I found puppies. I finally gave it all up as a bad job and found a dog trainer who holds puppy potty training boot camps.

Lisa was a wonder. She took two puppies who had trained me to take them potty around once an hour at night and a week later gave us pups who slept through the night. Archie who is now 13 weeks, goes potty at around 9 or 10pm and can hold it until 7am. Hershey needs to go potty at 4:30am. We're busy adding 5 min per day until she reaches 7am.

We now have a schedule and puppies who are crate trained. They are too young to be considered potty trained, but I now know what I am doing and we don't have puppy accidents in the house.

It's amazing how much more enjoyable the puppies are now that someone has told us what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling: There’s More to School Than Textbooks!

janice Campbell has a great Carnival of Homeschooling up at her website.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Out of touch with reality

More than half of randomly surveyed adults -- 57 percent -- said God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared treatment would be futile. And nearly three-quarters said patients have a right to demand that treatment continue.

Entire article here

Homeschoolers on the Radio

Syndicated radio host Barry Lynn interviewed Greg and Martine Millman today for about 40 minutes.

I look forward to listening to the interview basaed on what the Millmans had to say:
Lynn disputed the notion that people can homeschool without teaching credentials, insisted that public schools are doing just fine for most kids, and challenged homeschoolers who don’t like something about their school system to stay in the system and change it instead of homeschooling.

The show will be available on Lynn's website tomorrow. (show #1231)

I've never heard Greg and Martine talk but have read Greg's newspaper and magazine articles and am currently reading the book they have just written on their family's homeschooling journey.

So far, I have been pleasantly surprised while reading, "Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey". It's a very thoughtful discussion on one family's educational choices. I'll do a full review as soon as I have finished reading it.

A.J. Jacobs: My year of living biblically

In this TEDtalks video, author, agnostic, philosopher, prankster and journalist A.J. Jacobs talks about the year he spent living biblically where he followed the rules in the Bible as literally as possible.

Interestingly, he found that there were two things that were very challenging about living biblically. The first was avoiding the little sins. It's easy to avoid murdering but not so easy to avoid gossiping, lying or coveting. The second type of rules that were difficult to obey were ones that would get you into trouble into 20th century America - like stoning adulterers.

He makes an interesting observation how his behavior changed his thoughts. He pretended to be a better person and he became a better person. I've been having a discussion along these lines with Ben and Shira. I'm trying to convince them to change how they act towards each other and I've been telling them that if they change how they act, they'll start feeling differently about each other. (they've been irritating each other a lot lately and Ben's inherited his dad's sense of always being right. This is not good for Shira's ego or mood)

He concludes with the following lessons (can't say I agree with him though):
  • Don't take the bible literally.

  • Give thanks.

  • Have reverence (interesting concept for an agnostic). He talks about the need for sacredness even if there is no god.

  • You shall not stereotype

  • You shall not disregard the irrational. Rituals are by nature are irrational, just choose the non harmful ones. Don't disregard rituals.

  • Pick and choose the bits you want from the bible. You cannot live the bible literally.

Steven Levitt: Are children's car seats necessary?

Steven Levitt shares data that shows car seats are no more effective than seatbelts in protecting kids, 2 years and up from dying in cars. However, he does mention at the end of his talk that there is some medical research, that used very a very different methodology from him, that showed that car seats were dramatically more effective than seatbelts in protecting children.

I hope that he manages to resolve this conflict in the next half a year because that's when Ben and Shira will legally be allowed to go without car seats/boosters in VA. I've told the kids that they are in boosters till they are 4ft9 (I think have 4-5 inches of growing still to do). I'd dearly like to feel confident enough to let them out of boosters come their 8th birthday as the seats they use give me horrid blind spots in my van.

Goodness, the kids will think the aliens have taken me over if they get out of boosters on their 8th birthday. They only got out of 5 point restraints this year and that was only because the restraint was causing Ben to need to urinate too frequently and that was driving me crazy on long road trips. I sometimes wonder if we hold the record - 7 year olds in 5 point restraints. LOL

A New Vision for Refrigeration

I just love TEDtalks. Every so often I spend a few happy hours watching TEDtalks videos. This little video featuring Adam Grosser has gotten me very excited. He has developed a little gadget that can keep a 3 gallon vessel at 3 degrees above freezing for 24 hours.

He was pitching this as a marvelous tool for 3rd world villages without electricity. Of course, my excitement has much more to do with self interest. I have great visions of using a few of these little $25 gadgets when we travel. My world will change if I can have reliable refrigeration for our food while on the road. Having food allergies sucks, but it will become less sucky if we have a little gadget like this. All I need to do is find out when it is going to move from prototype to retail.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mental Health Day

I'm taking a mental health day today and it is marvelous. Marc has taken the children up to DC to visit his family and I got to stay home ALL ALONE!!

What bliss. The house is silent, except for the noise that I make. I don't have to make meals if I don't feel like eating. I don't have to answer anyone's questions, adjudicate any disagreements or even be nice to anyone else.

Don't get me wrong, I adore my family and I love homeschooling, but sometimes I become overwhelmed. I'm a loner who for the last 7 years has been surrounded by 2 other people 24/7. I generally manage my life so that my needs are met, but the addition of 2 puppies, night after night with no sleep and then a summer cold managed to bring me to my knees.

Marc, that King among men, suggested that I take today off while he took the children to see his family. They've only been gone for 5 hours and I already feel slightly rejuvenated.

My parents are coming to visit us from South Africa in September. I am hoping that Marc and I will be able to disappear for a little couple's time while they are here. I'd love to go to Charlottesville with Marc. I love that town. There is something very calming and rejuvenating about it. Hopefully my mom will love the idea of having the grandkids to herself for a few days while we spend some quality couple time together.

Cake Wrecks

This post has nothing to do with homeschooling, it's just a bit of fun. An online buddy of mine posted a link to her new favorite website.

I couldn't resist posting the link to this Cake Wrecks blog for my homeschooling buddy, Shell who teaches cake decorating.

I'll bet that none of Shell's professionally iced cakes have gone this wrong.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And then there were boys....

Ben and Shira have a playdate with another brother and sister. The kids were at a loose end so I gave them each a large sheet of paper and suggested they each make up a country and then draw something that is representative of that country. The boys both immediately started drawing weapons and flags. Our little male visitor drew a butt on the flag with farts bubbling out of it.

The girls are drawing beautiful pictures of the countryside with assorted horses and unicorns. Both pictures include happy rainbows.

Now the boys are regaling me with stories about how fearsome their countries' weapons are. Ben's country has a broadsword that changes color when necessary to keep it camouflaged.

Why am I so surprised at how differently the boys and girls are working on their projects?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You have heard of the BookArts Bash, right? It's a new writing program and contest forhomeschooled writers, with twenty categories across the full spectrum of literary arts from novels to poetry to storytelling, dramatic skits, andbook cover art. With five age groups in each category (including homeschooling moms and dads!) the Bash has something for everyone. Lydia and I have been working hard to promote and organize the project, in this our "beta" year, and we've run into some major shocks.

First, the judges. Now peel your eyes open. I know you had a late night watching the Olympics. Take a deep breath. Shoulders back. Just have a look at a few of the people we have on our roster of judges for the Book Arts Bash.

Bestselling authors: Sara Gruen, Karen Abbott, Joshilyn Jackson, Dan Elish, Michael D'Orso, Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart.

Industry Pros: Caryn Karmatz-Rudy and Emily Griffin (Editors, Grand Central Press), Kirby Kim and Daniel Lazar (literary agents in NYC), Caitlin Roper (Managing Editor, The Paris Review), Cressida Leyshon (Fiction Editor, The New Yorker), David Lynn (Editor, Kenyon Review).

Then we have homeschooling moms who are also published authors: Julia Devillers, Jennifer Roy, Melissa Wiley. Storytellers Bobby Norfolk, Odds Bodkins, Joel Ben Izzy. Internet Favorites: Ann Zeise (A to Z Home's Cool), Mir Kamin (Woulda Coulda Shoulda), Michelle Mitchell (Scribbit).

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Are you kidding me? Does it not bring a tear of joy to your happy eye to see such glorious support for homeschooled writers from all over the literary world? I cannot tell you how shocked and amazed I am at the response from everyone we've contacted. Many more have said they can't help this year, butasked to be kept in mind for future years. These are busy, busy people who are juggling speaking engagements, new projects, book promotions, and regular jobs, as well as parenting and grand-parenting and the rest of life. They have agreed to help us with our project, to get more kids to try different types of writing and art, and to encourage homeschool teachers to use writing and art across different areas of the curriculum. A big booming thank you to all our judges, the ones I listed here and the other twenty exciting names I have not yet announced.

The judges will be reading the world of all 300 finalists in each of 20 categories, 5 age groups each. All of the adult groups will be judged by industry pros. All of the winners will receive critiques and comments from the judges, glory and recognition on the web site. The younger kids will get prizes too. One early critic of the Bash sourly and openly speculated back in June that the prizes would probably be pencils, and the judge would probably be the lady down the street who edits the local homeschooling newsletter. I can assure you (and her) that this is not the case.

Here's another shocker: This was originally intended to be a rather localized program, reaching out from our home base in Norfolk, maybe across Virginia and down into North Carolina, possibly up to DC. The idea started as a book fair to complement our science fair, to showcase literary efforts of local homeschoolers. However, when we started getting "yes" replies from big names like judges Robert Pinsky and Sara Gruen, we also started getting urgent interest from elsewhere in the country and even in the world, as far away as South Africa and Australia. We had never meant to exclude anyone, but we didn't think people from other areas would really be interested. But they were. So, would we open the contest to people outside Virginia? We decided yes.

Such a swell of interest from such widespread locations led us to really examine the original idea, which was to have an event in Norfolk, at the Chrysler Museum, where we'd invite in one or two visiting authors, showcase the finalists in a reading and a display in the museum lobby, and party down to celebrate homeschoolers' creativity. We can't celebrate finalists from Oregon if the party is in Norfolk. Then there's the question of the visitingauthor: We've been in conversation with Christopher Paolini's publicist, but will we be able to actually swing a visit from that homeschooled superstar?

How many people will ultimately enter? Is it fair to have an actual Book Arts Bash event in Norfolk when our finalists will be from all over the country and mostly unable to attend? Will we get a great big name for the event? Will Walt Whitman sign on as a judge? What will the prizes be for theyounger age groups? Trips to the moon? These questions are all still in the air. As we put together this experience for homeschooled writers, illustrators, and teachers, we are watching it unfold in front of us. As we were shocked with the level of judges we were able to get, shocked with theamount of interest from around the world, we hope to be shocked by more, developments as we move into fall.

The entries have started to come in. Will you be among them? Do you have any advice for us? Can you help us promote the project? Are you a close personal friend of Mary Pope Osborne, and can you convince her to speak at the Book Arts Bash in November? We welcome all your comments and suggestions. And of course your best work!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Six things people don't know about me

My friend, Shell tagged me for a meme. She wants me to write down 6 things people don't know about me. Yeah, right Shell, there's a reason they don't know certain things about me, I want those things kept under wraps.

Let me see if I can come up with 6 things that won't embarrass me too badly.

1. Like Shell, I have very dexterous toes. I hardly ever bend down to pick up things if I am barefoot, I just use my toes.

2. I was well into my 30's before I finally accepted that I was not adopted into my family. I just did not understand how genetics could have made me so different on every level (emotional, intellectual, inner drive, self discipline, self awareness etc) from every member of my family.

3. I LOVE the sound of the voices of old, black Southern men who smoked a lot. I can sit for hours listening to their deep, gravelly voices. When I was pregnant I used to go to the local iHop every Friday morning and sit in a booth next to these old retirees who met there every week so that I could just let their gorgeous voices wash over me.

4. It appears that I am going over to the dark side. After years of being slightly disdainful of the excesses of pet owners, I find myself wearing puppies in slings and rushing through errands because i worry about the puppies being in their crate for longer than 90 min. I have just spent a week sitting on the kitchen floor playing with puppies and getting up every few hours though the night to take them potty. How are the mighty fallen?

5. I am one of those very rare people who truly does not care what people think of her. I figure there are so many people in the world that there are always going to be people who dislike you and people who like you. it's not worth the effort to try to change people's perceptions of you. Enjoy basking in the glow of the people who like you and ignore the rest.

6. I am not just anti Obama's candidacy, I am terrified of it. I find the parallels to Hitler's rise to power frightening in the extreme. Look at this salute:

It makes every rational hair on my body stand up in horror. Cults revolt and scare me. The cult of the politician even more so.

So there you have it, 6 things that I think people didn't know about me.

I tag Lynne, Lydia, Makita, Michelle and Steph.

Why is this blog so quiet?

I've received many emails this week questioning why I've not been blogging. Blame it on being made of wuss material. I do not do well with a lack of sleep. The pups still need to go outside every 2 hours or so and since Marc needs his wits about him at work (who wants a sleep deprived pathologist reading their slides?), potty patrol falls to me.

Whenever I read about Americans being chronically sleep deprived I wonder how society manages to survive. It wouldn't if everyone were like me. I need 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. When you start messing with my sleep I start losing the ability to sleep and lose the ability to control my body temp. I hate being sleep deprived. I've barely been functioning.

However, it is well worth it. These pups are the cutest little beans you've ever come across.

Hershey is 2lbs of doxipoo love.

Her favorite place in the whole wide world is on me. It's become so dangerous in the kitchen, if I move she moves. She's smaller than my foot and one misstep on my part will result in squashed puppy. She just wants to be with me all the time. I wondered if she would enjoy riding in a baby sling. Oh, my goodness, what a successful experiment. She just loves riding next to my heart.

Archie is far more active than Hershey, but I think that's because he's 2 weeks older than she is. I have to laugh at how I've started thinking of him as the "big" dog. He is all of 3lbs, that's just big in relation to Hershey.

This reminds me of a conversation I overheard between my children. Shira sleeps in a double sized bed and Ben in a single bed. Ben and Shira agreed with each other that he sleeps in the longer bed and Shira sleeps in the shorter bed. I had to pull out a tape measure and demonstrate to the children that both their beds were the same length, that it was the width of the beds that was distorting their perception.

Hilarious take on school choice

Spelling "truely atrosious," says academic

From the UK

Fed up with his students' complete inability to spell common English correctly, a British academic has suggested it may be time to accept "variant spellings" as legitimate.

Rather than grammarians getting in a huff about "argument" being spelled "arguement" or "opportunity" as "opertunity," why not accept anything that's phonetically (fonetickly anyone?) correct as long as it can be understood?

To kickstart his proposal, Smith suggested 10 common misspellings that should immediately be accepted into the pantheon of variants, including "ignor," "occured," "thier," "truely," "speach" and "twelth" (it should be "twelfth").

Amazing, isn't it? Instead of railing against the poor primary and secondary education these children are receiving, he suggests lowering tertiary educational standards.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ancient Greek Eclipse Calculator Marked Olympics

An ancient Greek astronomical calculator that showed the positions of the sun, Earth and the moon, and outshined any known device for 1,000 years after it, also kept track of something more mundane: when the next Olympics would take place.

Its design just might have sprung from the skull of the brilliant scientist Archimedes. Read all about it here

View a slide show of the Antikythera mechanism linked to Archimedes' home of Syracuse

World's smallest snake discovered

The world's smallest snake, averaging just 10cm (4 inches) and as thin as a spaghetti noodle, has been discovered on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Read the entire article at the BBC.

I think it is amazing that we are still discovering new animals.

Oy vey!

I didn't realize that dog ownership was so complex. I am reading up a storm on feeding your animals raw meaty bones. I've read enough to be convinced that commercial dog food is junk food for animals so now I have to get over my life long squeamishness and handle dead animal in the name of "doing what is best for the pets".

I am also reading up a storm on how to train dogs. A friend suggested that I read Jan Fennell's books. She's the woman they call, "the dog listener". Her books are fascinating. I'm learning how to be an alpha bitch. No comments from the peanut gallery now. I know that some have always thought I have that role down pat.

I am amazed at how quickly the pups are responding to me being the alpha dog. I am spending today working on them coming to their names and on the children understanding how to train their puppies.

A friend asked me why on earth we got two puppies at once. I had to think about it a bit and then I realized that Marc and I are thoroughly conditioned to think in twins. We didn't even think of only getting one dog, in our world kids come in pairs, and so should dogs.

Shira changed her mind about her dog when we arrived at the breeder yesterday morning. She fell in love with a little chocolate doxiepoo (that's a dachshund/poodle mix). Hershey is the funniest little pup. Her legs are so short that she trips over blades of grass. Yesterday we were convinced that Ben's Archimedes was a timid dog. One night disillusioned us. He's as crazy as his owner.

Marc and I are severely sleep deprived. Hershey does not appreciate being in the crate and she cried for 40 min each time she went back in the crate. It wasn't so bad at 10pm but at 3am it was brutal. Hopefully she'll get used to the crate soon. So far we've had no accidents. She woke me up at 3am to take them outside for a potty break.

Pics to follow soon.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's official, I have lost my mind!

We're getting dogs. I can't believe that I initiated this situation. Do I really need the extra work two puppies entail?

We're getting two schnoodles (poodle/schnauzer mixes). They are non-shedding and supposedly hypoallergenic. The kids are over the moon as they thought that this day would never come.

We're picking up the pups tomorrow. The breeder sent us pics. Here is Shira's Jasmine

and here is Ben's Scruffy/Archimedes/Alpha