Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers #6

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

Kathy from Home Chemistry makes science fun for homeschooled kids. Her blog post about surfaces and density promises a lot of science related fun.This week we did a number of experiments with oil, water, food coloring and various props to explore the property of surfaces. The physical properties like surface tension and solubility are related to the strength of Intermolecular Forces -- the attractive forces between molecules. She even gives instructions on how to make a lava lamp.

I'm always looking for crafts that reinforce what we are looking for. Sometimes I become so tired of the search as I end up getting book after book from the library, only to find that the projects are too complex, don't work, or just not on target. I was excited to discover Home Education Magazine writer, Kathy Ceceri, has recently published a book, Around the World Crafts The key about this book, for me at least, is that it was written with homeschoolers in mind and that it has been tested on children already. Too many craft books are like recipe books. The crafts appear to have been written but never tested. The book has great activities for kids who like history, math, art, science and more!

Scott Palat presents YOUR CHILD ACHIEVES BEST WHEN ABLE TO CHOOSE HIS LEARNING STYLE AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENT posted at Shari Nielsen. I've seen with Ben and Shira, that even though they are twins, they learn very differently. I am slowly, but surely, learning about their different styles and am tailoring my teaching to better suit each child.

Elena LaVictoire shows how a homeschool mom can effectively cover all learning styles and bring History Alive! on her blog My Domestic Church.

Kelly Curtis of Empowering Youth attempted a one year homeschooling experiment. She blogged about it here.

Kelly has two GREAT giveaways on her blog - Kris Bordessa's books.
I’ve written about the colonial decoding project Darla made with Pringle’s cans. This project was one of dozens of hands-on activities in Great Colonial Projects You Can Build Yourself. Did you know that spies were crucial to the colonists, and a large part of the reason we won the American Revolution? We also made a secret mask for messages and had fun giving each other notes to decode.

My son’s favorite project was creating and using an abacus. He learned how to do this by reading one of the 15 activities in Tools of the Ancient Greeks: A Kid’s Guide to the History & Science of Life in Ancient Greece. It was eye-opening to read about the incredible contributions the ancient Greeks made to science and technology.

Both books look marvelous. I can't wait for my copies to arrive with "Mr Brown Box". Ben and Shira don't like calling the UPS man, Mr Brown, they say that their moniker better describes him. He visits our home so frequently that his truck can find us on autopilot.

Heather Johnson presents Homeschooling – Is it for Your Child? posted at Weapons of Mass Discussion. This, to me, controversial post says, "
Probably one of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that it brings out the special ability in a child and allows the parent to focus on that aspect of development without worrying about how the child’s grades are going to be affected. But this very freedom is also the reason some homeschooling attempts fail miserably, because the parents are not dedicated or up to the task or because the kids are too lazy and disobedient to fall in line with the schedule set for them.

Parents must choose wisely, after analyzing all the pros and cons associated with the process not from what they’ve heard from others, but from their own child’s point of view. Does the child have it in him/her to be a good homeschooled student or is he/she better off in a conventional setting? This decision can make or break a child’s future, so if you’re looking for guidance on whether you should homeschool your kid or not, look nowhere else but at your offspring!

Tiffany Washko reviews educational computer games in her post Knowledge Adventure Games for Homeschoolers at Natural Family Living Blog.

Mary writes, Saving your trash for kids to do art work is a good cheap way to have art time. You can give them ideas like building a train, car, bug, drum, doll or any other thing your child may like they can make. As you can in some of the pictures I did add other stuff whatever you have bring it out it is a let them go at it kind of thing. Be ready for a mess, make sure they help you clean it.

Read the entire post Trash to Treasure on her blogA Mom Learning More Everyday.

We're old hands at using trash for art projects. I am always fascinated by how creative my 7 year olds are. This past weekend Shira turned the packaging from a new fluorescent light fixture into a coffin. Yes, a coffin, for some reason she wanted to pretend to be a corpse. She spent half an hour pretending to be dead and then the game was done. Who knows what was going on in her little mind. Ben took pieces of paper and turned them into a snake cage. He's becoming really good at creating 3-D paper buildings. The main ingredient was tape. I have tape, string and glue on my monthly shopping list - I buy it in bulk and we still seem to run out of the stuff. A girlfriend of mine told me many years ago that the only toys a boy needs are string, tape, sticks, stones and empty boxes. Those were very true words.

Piseco's family had an awesome time at their library where they learned:
The knight told lively stories and demonstrated things as he added each piece to his outfit. He explained all about how chain mail is made, and why they made it that way, and demonstrated how swords don’t cut or pierce it and regular arrows can’t pierce it either. As he brought out each piece of armor, helmet or weapon, he described it, explained how it came to be developed, and what it was good for.
She posted at Mind Games. Our botanical gardens has a History Alive! weekend every fall and the local SCA chapters demonstrate medieval clothing, weapons, food etc.. It's one of my favorite activities of the year.

A very useful post comes from The Eclectic Female, who shares tips on how to develop speed in Spanish speaking posted at Women's Lifestyle.

Alasandra presents Embracing the Joys of Summer, with Kids posted at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards. This is one of those posts that I wished I had written. I was nodding my head with every word Alasandra wrote. She ends by saying: "Maybe the parenting choices I made is why I actually enjoy being with my kids all year.". I am constantly amazed at how many women resent having their children home with them over the summer. I've become so tired of explaining to people that we have no intention of sending Ben and Shira off to sleep away camp. I would hate to lose the wonderful summer time with them. This is the time where we have no schedule, no pressures and we get to bond and have an enormous amount of fun.

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.

Consent Of The Governed: Carnival Of Homeschooling - The Boy Scout Edition

Judy over at Consent of the Governed has published the lastest Carnival of Homeschooling.

Once you've read this excellent edition, take some time to read Judy's blog. It's one of my favorite blogs. The fact that I tend to agree with her political commentary might have something to do with it, but even if you don't agree with her views, she always has something thought provoking to say.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Marble Ruuuuun.......

Today we rose to Kidmade's challenge to build the longest marble run we possibly could, just using carboard and duct tape.
This month's challenge is to engineer the longest marble ramp you can using only cardboard and duct tape. Feel free to use chairs, tables, railings and ladders to support your ramp and decorate to your hearts content with paint,markers and fiddly-bits. Your ramp can be a straight run or zig-zag down a wall. We're looking for total ramp length.
I was sold on the project as soon as I read about the duct tape. Almost any experience is improved by the judicious application of duct tape

Our marble run was a whopping 42 feet and 8 inches long. Or in Ben and Shira talk, it was about 7 daddies long. For some strange reason they use Marc's height as a standard of measurement and most things are compared to this.

I am not sure who had more fun, Lydia and me, or the children. Who would have thunk that building a marble run could be so much fun. (Who am I kidding, I knew it was going to be fun. I'm the mom who loves building train layouts with her children, of course I was going to enjoy building marble runs!)

I started off trying to pretend that this was a learning experience by trying to teach the children about gradients but the kids were having none of it. They just wanted to build and test.

Thank goodness for Freecycle. I put out a call for empty cardboard tubes and was royally rewarded.

Here are our supplies, all ready to rock and roll. As you can see, I went more than a little overboard, but I didn't want to run out.

I never thought I would ever be thankful that we have three stories (I'd kill to live in a ranch), but today, I was thankful for the additional height. We started building our run on the banisters at the third floor landing.

Lydia made us some great elbow joints by snipping toilet rolls, bending and taping them.

The kids were diligent little testers of every step of the way. Here are Benny and Sadie dropping marbles down the chute....

....and here is Ben catching the marbles. Yay, this leg works.

Notice the judicious use of Tinkertoy parts to act as risers. By this stage the marble run was on the second floor bannisters.

The final run...

Sadie supervising the marble collection at the end of the run.

I set the collection box at a slight angle and it allowed the kids to go wild with marbles with no fear of them running all over the place. You should have heard the delighted little voices as they let the marbles go down the tubes.

The last exercise was to measure the length of the run. To do this, we measured it with a piece of string. Then we folded the string in half over and over again until we had a manageable piece of string.

The only little bit of homeschooling happened right here at the end. The kids measured that the folded string was 32 inches long and that we had 16 pieces of equal length. Thus they worked out that our marble run was 512 inches long. At this stage we lost the kids' interest and I ended up finishing off the calculations.

This is an activity that I can definitely see us doing again in the future.

Beginning map reading

This morning I started teaching the children how to read maps. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily they picked up the concepts.

We started off working through Jack Knowlton's, "Maps and Globes".

The books goes through basic concepts very simply. It starts off with a simple history of maps that shows the children that maps are simply representations of the world. It discusses how early maps were incorrect and then moves onto the age of exploration as a way to introduce the globe.

Ben and Shira had a little trouble understanding how a flat map is a distortion of reality. I need to check on their understanding tomorrow as I am not convinced they understood the concept, even though they made the right motions.

The book then moves onto the language of maps. Ben, as I could have predicted, was very excited to learn about scales. He and Shira spent well over half an hour measuring distances on various maps and working out the real world distance. I had fun having them measure the distance between Lisbon and Madrid on maps with different scales.

Another activity that they thoroughly enjoyed was to be given the latitude and longitude of two places and then to work out the distance between them. (I only worked with the grid lines on the maps, so they have not worked with degrees and minutes yet). I need to work with latitude and longitude some more as I think Shira's struggling with the concept a tiny bit.

We finished off by learning about physical and political maps and drawing our own maps.

I have a Readers Digest Atlas of the World that is perfect for the children with which to work.

The children asked me if I could write up a quiz for them, so here is the one I plan on giving the children tomorrow:
Look at the map of Europe on pages 74 & 75 of the Readers Digest Atlas of the World.
  • List the countries that lie on 15 deg E.

  • List the countries that lie on 15 deg W

  • Which city is closer to the equator, London or Madrid?

  • Which sea is to the south of Italy?

  • Which country is larger, Portugal or Turkey?

  • What is the capital city of France?

  • List France's neighbors.

  • What see is north of Turkey

  • What is the distance between Paris and Madrid?

  • What is the distance between Madrid and Rome?

  • List all the seas that you see on this map

Look at the map of Australia on pages 180 and 181.
  • Does Australia get a lot of rain over the interior? Why do you say that?

  • What is the distance between Perth and Sidney?

  • What country is to the north of Australia?

  • Is there more wasteland or forest in Australia?

  • What is the approximate latitude and longitude of Darwin?

  • What type of vegetation surrounds Darwin?

  • How wide is Australia?

  • What is the name of the island off its southeastern tip?

Now I need to go through our library and find books to read to them on the subject of map making and exploration.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ode to Joy

Shira's piano piece this week is "Ode to Joy". I've steadfastly resisted making a video of her playing the piano for the blog, but couldn't resist this rendition.

When and how did you start homeschooling?

Makita over at Twinkling Stars Family School asks the question, "When and how did you start homeschooling?".

I decided that I'd find a way to homeschool, if I ever had children, when I was 14 years old. I was desperate to be homeschooled, but I lived in South Africa where homeschooling was illegal. I had a teacher for exactly one subject. The rest of the time we were in classrooms with substitute caretakers.

There were no other schooling options in my town. If my parents wanted me at a different school, I would have had to ride a train and have a long walk the other side. They felt I was too young so we worked a way for me to still get a good education at the abysmal school I attended.

My father said that since I didn't have teachers, I was to work through the textbooks on my own, ask him questions and then teach the material to my classmates the following day.

I realized then that school was a huge time waster and that I could get all the education I needed without it. The lack of teachers turned out to be a huge boon to me. I ended up matriculating with one of the highest marks in South Africa. (A few weeks ago, I was looking at the newspaper photographs of me at 18. I was such a nerd, it was truly frightening - too frightening to even put on this blog). I honestly believe that I managed this because I had to take responsibility for my own education and because my father made me teach my classmates. I could only teach if I truly understood the material.

Fast forward 3 and a half decades. I was pregnant with my twins when a girlfriend sat me down and gave me the lecture about planning to get my children into prep school. She laid out all the steps that started with the "right" preschool at age 2. She stressed that if I didn't implement the plan, my kids would never get into the right prep school.

All my thoughts of homeschooling came rushing back to me and I decided then and there, that sprogs A and B were going to be homeschooled. It took me another 2.5 years to convince Marc that homeschooling was a good idea. It was only after we bumped into some homeschooling fathers in Elizabeth City that he started doing his only investigating and agreed with me that homeschooling was the right route for us.

I've considered myself a homeschooler since I was pregnant, though I did find it sad that I had to declare my intentions the summer Ben and Shira turned two. Everyone around me was sending their 2 year old children to preschool. When I admitted that we weren't sending our two to preschool at such a tender age, there was much smiling and nodding. They saw that I was one of those people who believed that children needed to be older when they started preschool and it was assumed that we would send the kids to preschool at age 3. I finally had to admit that we had no intention of sending the children to preschool, or school for that matter.

After this declaration I had a delegation of fellow Jewish moms come and explain to me that I was "letting down the community" by keeping the children out of Hebrew Day School. I was truly annoyed that they tried to pressure me over our school choice and secondly, it irritated me that they assumed we would choose the day school. The day school was never on our horizon. I don't hold with mixing academic education with religion.

We're hardcore philosophical homeschoolers. Politically we could never put our children into public schools as we question the constitutionality of government education. We also believe that no one can educate our children better than we can. Our intention is to homeschool our children until they go to college.

How and when did you start homeschooling?

And now for some totally useless information....

Ever wanted to know how to "peel" hard boiled eggs without peeling them? I thought not, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Homeschool day at the Mariner's Museum

We spent Friday at one of the area's best kept secrets, the Mariner's Museum in Newport News.

Their Museum Educator, Armalita Holley, is passionate about education and puts a lot of thought and creativity into her homeschool days. This latest homeschool day was one of the best we've attended.

We started the day off with an "alphaboatical" scavenger hunt. The hunt took place in two of the exhibits, the Stationary Vogages exhibit and the International Small Craft Center.

We learned an enormous amount about boats just by doing this scavenger hunt. The three of us discovered that we are far more interested in learning about the various cultures than about actual boats. This meant that we were in heaven at the Stationary Vogages exhibit and lukewarm at the Small Craft Center.

Ben's favorite boat was the Solomon Island Ceremonial boat.

He was particularly taken with the carving on the bow.

Shira on the other hand fell in love with a boat of a completely different complexion. She loved the Native American, buffalo hide bull boat.

I found it interesting that the bull boats were originally boats used primarily by females, while boat Ben fell in love with was used exclusively by males.

I was drawn to the Taiwanese Tatara

Loved the feather decoration.

Ben and Shira are back on their "we have to go to Venice" chant after having a good look at the gondola on exhibit.

Aren't the colors on this Shanghai sampan just wonderful?

Orange speaks to my soul.

After we finished up with the scavenger hunt, a professor from Christopher Newport University taught a photography class.

He gave each child a disposable camera and sent them off to take photographs, while all the while remembering the following points:
  • Take time to think before you click.

  • Remember the "rule of thirds"

  • When in doubt, get closer

  • Don't let trees grow out of heads

  • Don't clutter up the photographs

The museum is going to develop the photographs, critique them, bind them into a book and send them back to the kids. How neat is that?

This activity would have been even better if the children could have used their own digital cameras and emailed the photographs back to the museum. I realized on Friday that my children had never been exposed to an analogue camera. They've only used digital ones and are used to composing pictures on the screen and being able to look at what they've taken. It was quite an exercise in delayed gratification for them as they kept on wanting to look at the pics they had already taken.

We spent a lot of time in the Stationary Vogages Exhibit reading about the photographers' motivation. Ben and Shira are always drawn to artistic endeavors and reading about what the photographers thought about as they photographed the various boats helped bring the exhibit to life for the children. You can listen to podcastsof the photographers discussing their work.

Another fascinating exhibit was the
Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands features more than 60 photographs illustrating the spectacular diversity of the marine and terrestrial life in the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) 14th marine sanctuary opens January 27 in the Daily Press Inc. Changing Gallery in the new USS Monitor Center. This exhibition hosts stunning images of rare plants and animals of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, made by legendary fine-art photographers and award-winning environmentalists David Littschwager and Susan Middleton. NOAA is The Mariners' Museum partner in the USS Monitor Center. NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was the first marine sanctuary, designated in 1975.

The exhibit had a good blend of images, environmental information and back story. Ben and Shira make a beeline for it each time we visit the museum.

After we finished with the inside of the museum, we spent time in a paddle boat on Lake Maury and then took a leisurely stroll through their park. We felt like we were in the middle of the countryside. We left the museum all regenerated and relaxed. Normally my kids are all wired after we've visited museums, so this was a welcome change. The walk through nature did a lot to calm them down after the excitement of the scavenger hunt and the photography.

We've booked our spots for the rest of their homeschool programs. I was glad to hear that the programs are almost full already and the school year hasn't even started. It's always good to know that area homeschoolers are supporting museums that support our community.

Have a look at what we've signed up for. Doesn't it look like a lot of fun?
In the fall of 2008, the Education Department will be offering the Age of Exploration series for two age groups: 2nd through 4th graders and 5th through 8th graders. In this series, educators will introduce students to the economic and cultural life of Old World Europe, as well as discuss the reasons why Europeans went in search of new landmasses. Following this session, students will examine the people European explorers encountered; the nations who “discovered” the Americas and established eastern trade routes before the Golden Age of Exploration; and the technology and skills utilized to venture the high seas in search of new worlds.

Thursday, September 18, 1-4 P.M.: The European Race for Spice, Land, & Glory
Thursday, October 16, 1-4 P.M.: Encounters of a Strange Kind
Thursday, November 20, 1-4 P.M.: The Other Explorers
Thursday, December 18, 1-4 P.M.: Survival! Life @ Sea

Teen VBlog

Had to chuckle at this teen's take on questions homeschoolers are asked.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Magical Bubbles

I want to know how Ana Yang does her bubble tricks. I also want to know what bubble solution she uses. I've never managed to make bubble solution that is tough enough to do the things she does.

I saw a news article, about the theft of bubble mixture for the broadway show, The Gazillion Bubble Show where they mention that the bubble mixture contains glycerin and baking soda. I wonder if it's the baking soda that makes the big difference? I make our bubble mixture with Dawn, water and glycerin and there is no way we can even begin to replicate her bubbles.

Summer Fun at Bay Lab

On Thursday we spent a delightful 3 hours at First Landing State Park. The Virginia Aquarium offered a program where one of their naturalists took us for a walk along the shoreline of First Landing State Park and taught us about the animals that live there.

Shira, my little nature lover was in seventh heaven.

The event started off in the bay lab where Mike, the naturalist, showed the children different crabs, mollusks and fish. They got a real kick out of gently touching everything. According to Ben, the highlight was when Mike was pinched by a spider crab.

After the talk, we went down to the shoreline where Mike and his assistant proceeded to use a seine net to catch creatures that live in the breakers.

He also gave the children large nets so that they could try to catch creatures themselves.

I was surprised at how many creatures they caught. I was hoping to find a horseshoe crab, but unfortunately we had to console ourselves with some molt.

Ben was delighted with his icky find of decomposing squid roe.

This was a great program. Mike has a real rapport with the children and there were enough hands on activities that the children were constantly engaged. The aquarium is doing another one in August, so if you missed this one, you can still make another one. It's $4 a person well spent. Next month we're going on an ocean collection trip with them.
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.

Sew Happy

I started teaching the children how to use a sewing machine this week. Shira wanted to start on a nightgown and Ben had some suitably complex plan in mind. It took a lot to convince them that we should start with simple, straight sewing.

Finally we compromised on making quilts. There's enough apparent complexity to make both kids happy and yet it only involves straight sewing.

Ben finished half his squares this morning and plans on finishing the rest tomorrow. Poor kid doesn't realize that the hard work starts after he's made the squares.

I learned a very valuable lesson. If you can't find your rotary cutter, go and buy a new one, do not attempt to cut quilting pieces with a pair of scissors. A job that should have been a doddle was a nightmare because I used scissors. I'll post pics once the kids have finished their quilts.

BookPALS Storyline Online

The Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) has made my children very happy this week. We discovered that they have a website full of videos of actors reading picture books. Books like:
    Guji Guji, by Chih Yuan Chen; read by Robert Guillaume
    Sebastian's Roller Skates, by Joan De Deu Prats; read by Caitlin Wachs
    Sophie's Masterpiece, by Eileen Spinelli; read by CCH Pounder
    Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon; read by Pamela Reed
    Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox; read by Bradley Whitford
    No Mirrors in My Nana's House, by Ysaye M. Barnwell; read by Tia and Tamera Mowry
    The Night I Followed the Dog, by Nina Laden; read by Amanda Bynes
    Thank you, Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco; read by Jane Kaczmarek
    My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, by Patricia Polacco; read by Melissa Gilbert
    Knots on a Counting Rope, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault; read by Bonnie Bartlett and William Daniels
    Brave Irene, by William Steig; read by Al Gore
    A Bad Case of Stripes, by David Shannon; read by Sean Astin
    Private I. Guana, by Nina Laden; read by Esai Morales
    Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, by Eileen Spinelli; read by Hector Elizondo
    The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg; read by Lou Diamond Phillips
    Me and My Cat, by Satoshi Kitamura; read by Elijah Wood
    Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy, by Jason Alexander; read by Jason Alexander
    When Pigasso Met Mootisse, by Nina Laden; read by Eric Close
    White Socks Only, by Evelyn Coleman; read by Amber Rose Tamblyn
    Romeow and Drooliet, by Nina Laden; read by Haylie Duff
    Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson; read by Camryn Manheim

It was a real pleasure listening to professional actors read these old favorites.

After Ben and Shira listened to "Dad, are you the tooth fairy", they asked me if the tooth fairy really existed. I finally came clean as they've been suspecting the truth for a while. Their first question was, "Why do you guys only give us $2 when Benny gets $5?". I quickly reminded my spawn that the reason they get $2 a tooth is because Marc beat me to the punch when Shira lost her first tooth. If I had managed to get to the tooth first, they would only have received 25c per tooth. The kids were suddenly very grateful for their two dollars per tooth.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dr Fuhrman's Healthy Getaway

We spent last week at Dr Fuhrman's Healthy Getaway. What a treat for me. All the food was compliant with "Eat for Health" principles and most of it was free of our allergens. This meant that I had a cooking holiday. What bliss.

I must admit that I was excited about going because I knew I was going to have a cooking holiday, but at the same time, I was rather leery of going as I was worried about being surrounded by the church of Dr Fuhrman. Thankfully the vast majority of the attendees were rational beings who were glad of the difference "Eat to Live" and "Eat for Health" had made to their lives but who were not sycophants.

There were a bunch of kids at the getaway so Ben and Shira got to see that they are not children of a space alien. They got to see other children and adults who also eat the way mommy makes them eat. A huge benefit was that Ben became more adventurous with his food choices. I was shocked. I have no idea why or how seeing all those different foods on a buffet three times a day worked, but Ben was merrily trying different foods at each meal. Now the hope is that this adventurous spirit will stay with him at home.

I am still trying to work out what top benefit of this getaway was to my family. The major ones were:
  • I had a cooking holiday

  • The children got to see other children who eat the way they do

  • The children were allowed to go free range and demonstrated that they follow orders and are trustworthy

  • The lectures by Dr F were worth their weight in gold. I was reminded of things I had forgotten and I am psyched again to ensure that our family has the best diet possible

  • It was relaxing and rejuvenating. The grounds were absolutely beautiful

I almost think that the top benefit was that Ben and Shira were able to go "free range". They loved being able to run around without me tagging along. I watched my children mature day by day as they were given more and more freedom.

They were as happy as clams to be able to finally learn to fish. I have steadfastly refused to teach them to fish. I think that if you are going to kill animals you need to eat them. We don't eat animals, so I don't hold with killing them. I also don't hold with hooking and releasing fish as I don't think it is ethical to cause harm and pain to living creatures for self gratification. However, the kids' camp was teaching the kids to fish and I decided that perhaps if the kids tried it once, they'd see what I meant. Fat chance! Ben now wants to go fishing again. UGHH!

One of the attendees, Larry, is a great photographer. He took a all the photographs I am linking to in this post. If you want to see more photographs, have a look here.

We're definitely planning on going to next year's getaway. This time we'll plan ahead of time so that Marc can take time off and join us. We had a splendid time, but it would have been so much better if Marc could have joined us. It looks like my in-laws might join us at next year's getaway. That will be marvelous because the ratio of adults to children will be more favorable and I'll be able to do more of the adult activities.

One of the big side effects of the getaway is that I am now psyched again about exercise. I used to be an exercise fiend, then I had twins and developed osteonecrosis. Being overwhelmed and in pain took over my life and I stopped exercising. I am now psyched to start again. I started with a personal trainer this week.

I know it is a luxury, but I know myself, I need a bit of help with self discipline. Having a trainer come to the house twice a week will keep me on the straight and narrow in the beginning. She also checks that I am doing my cardio workouts. The accountability makes a big difference for me. The current plan is to do Pilates with her twice a week, yoga with her and the kids once a week, spinning at the Y 3 times a week and perhaps a Pilates class at the Y on the weekend. The kids have been begging to do a yoga class and I have no been able to find one in Norfolk. Yesterday I asked, Erin if she knew of a children's yoga teacher. To my great delight, I discovered that she used to teach children's yoga in TN. She is going to teach a class in my playroom for me, a friend and our four children. How cool is that? (and it's cheaper than going to the kids' yoga classes in VA Beach).

I am loving the burning, sore muscles I have. I am starting to feel alive again. Dr Fuhrman says that females should have a body fat of no more than 18% (males should be 10%). Suffice it to say that I am not near the recommended 18%. My plan is to be there by next spring.

Fresh Produce

MSNBC published an article yesterday about research done by the University of Arizona that states:
The average U.S. household throws out nearly a quarter of the fruits and vegetables they buy. For a family of four, that adds up to about $500 each year, according to a study by the University of Arizona.
The article then goes on to give tips on how to choose and store fresh produce. To my mind, the research brings up a much more worrying issue.

If the average household of four throws out about a quarter of their produce costing about $500 a year, it means that they are spending about $2,000 a year on fresh produce. Put another way, they are spending $38 a week on fruits and veggies (and only eating $28 a week if the study is to believed about a quarter being trashed). I don't see how anyone can even eat the official recommendation 5 fruits and veg on that amount of money. Five fruits and veg a day are no where near enough to maintain good health. No wonder Americans are so unhealthy.

I was amused by this quote:
One reason is that "people want to perceive themselves as eating healthier than they do," said Timothy Jones, author of the University of Arizona study on food waste.
When you are eating that little plant material, a few extra bunches of broccoli or spinach hardly counts.

I'm spending between $120-$180 per week on fresh produce for our family of 4 and there is no way I throw away nearly a quarter of that food.

One of my best finds were the Tupperware Fridgesmart containers.

I'm not a Tupperware fan as I am no fan of plastic and I think that they are way over priced. However, these containers are cheap at the price. I love how they stack so I can fill every available space in my refrigerator. Better yet, they do deliver as promised. I've kept strawberries fresh for 2 weeks in one of those containers. (not that berries generally last that long in our household. Ben and Shira are veritable berry fiends. They eat berries with every meal. My test happened when I forgot to clean out the fridge before we went on a trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find all the food in the containers to still be fresh when we returned).

I also use the Evert-Fresh bags.

They work well, but don't allow for stacking, so I use them for things like apples and cabbage, stuff that I toss into the produce drawers.

I'm still in shock that Americans eat so few fruits and veggies. This morning I used 2lbs of fruit and 2lbs of veggies to make my family's breakfast. That cost approximately $8 (or $56 a week). Our family spends more on fruits and veggies for breakfast, than the average American family spends on them for all three daily meals. That's truly scary.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up!

Jill at Praiseworthy Things has the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival posted for your enjoyment.

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: July 22, 2008

My little flower child

Shira recently learned how to make daisy chains. No patch of wild flowers is safe anymore.

More Art

Ben and Shira had another art lesson today. This time they worked on painting mountain landscapes.

Here is Ben's painting

and here is Shira's

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers #5

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

Lydia of the Little Blue School shares her lesson plans for Treasure Island Homeschool Seminar: Literary Lesson Plans and Nautical Worksheets.

My son was lucky enough to have Lydia as his teacher for this seminar. A happier boy you never did see. Lydia had high expectations of the boys and they did not let her down. She has a masterful ability to stretch young children's minds while they are having more fun than should be legal. She has made all her lesson plans available to other homeschoolers. You can find them by clicking here.

She's teaching the Odyssey at our co-op this coming semester. Hopefully she'll make those lesson plans available as well.

Mother Hen from Ship Full O' Pirates has a post that is very topical for me. She talks about how to form habits in her children. Everyone in my family thrives on routines and we're feeling the lack of routine this summer vacation. We start up our school year on Monday (don't tell the kids though that they never really stopped school. I just stopped calling it school and changed how we did it.). We need to sit down and work out our routine for the school year. I like Mother Hen's tip about the white board. I am definitely going to copy this idea and tweak it for our family.
The last tool I am going to tell about right now is my white board. I use my white board like a specials board at a sidewalk cafe. I use it to tell about today. I write the name of the day, the date, the season, today’s high and low temperature, weather appropriate attire, where we will be going, what’s for dinner, and anything planned for the day that is out of the ordinary. I also like to write a Latin phrase across the bottom, for the children to figure out. They usually get it, sometimes they will need to discuss it with each other, but they are not allowed to ask me or their Father for assistance. If they really can’t figure any of it out, I will give hints. I might start doing vocabulary words this way as well. Anyway, having all this info on the white board cuts out a lot of repetitive (for me) questions. I don’t hold to these bits of info, rigidly. Some weeks or days I may decide that other bits of info are more pertinent at that time, so I hang loose on the content. But, it certainly eases my day to not have to answer the question, “What day is it?” 4 times in a 30 minute span.

Maria of Playful Learningposts beautiful pictures of her flower dissection. Ben and Shira are showing great interest in doing animal dissections. I am truly grateful that may other half is a pathologist and is not squeamish. I am just not up to dissecting animals with the kids. Flower are definitely more my speed. Our local medical school offers field trips to homeschoolers that take them through the anatomy lab. I need to arrange one for our group so that Ben and Shira can get their gore fix. They love going to work with Marc and seeing excised body parts. I think we have the only children in the world who can look at slides of tissue and say, "cancer". They love nothing better than to sit with their dad and learn how to recognize atypical cells.

After they dissected their flowers, Mariah and her children pressed them.

Staying with Mariah and her flowers, we see how she teaches her young children to arrange flowers. Thanks for the reminder Mariah, that young children need practical life activities that also add beauty to their lives.

Thomas West shares his second music practice tip Don't Exceed Your Brain's Speed Limit.
n the second of our ongoing series of practice tips, I intend to touch on one of the two biggest practice errors that I see students make. The whole article can be summed up in one phrase: BE PATIENT!

Most young students (and even some older ones) try to practice their music at a tempo that is quite simply just plain old TOO FAST!

The more complex the motor skills are for your instrument, the slower you will need to take the tempo and the more repetitions you will need to master the music in question. Instruments like piano, drum set, guitar, and violin have a higher number of independent fine motor skills required to perform than instruments such as the trumpet. For any instrument, you must begin learning a new piece of music by playing slowly - probably slower than you think you should go.

Why so slow? In order to perform a piece of music on an instrument, the brain has to accuate a sequence of events that go something like this:

The brain interprets the written notes
The brain uses memory to determine what the music should sound like if it is performed correctly
The brain sends signals to the various muscle groups involved in order to correctly perform the music
As the muscles are performing, the brain is monitoring the results and making adjustments
The brain also is analyzing the data using internal dialogue
At the end of the performance, the brain analyzes the results using internal dialog and chooses the next course of action

I've found that Thomas' practice tips have made a big difference in how Ben and Shira approach their piano practice. I hope they make as much difference in your children's lives.

Have you submitted your nominations for your favorite homeschool blog? Rush off to Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards and nominate your favorite adult, teen, child and group homeschool blogs.

Dianne of Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes writes about how to How To Find Emotional Intelligence and Positive Thinking In the Ballet World
"Train Your Brain: A Teen's Guide To Well Being" goes beyond tissue and bone into the wondrous creative realm every student experiences, and sometimes loses direction in. Deborah sets forth with help for you, the would-be ballerina or male ballet dancer, to gain more understanding and control over the demanding world you live in.

Any student of music, writing, and performing of any kind, needs to know some survival techniques to maintain emotional intelligence, and stick with positive thinking. Every new class, with new exams, and fierce competitions, can instigate implosions of self-doubts. How do you take command of your mental and emotional space before that important event? Or so you can sleep well every night?

Deborah designed this book so that teens and pre-teens could discover that there is a way to begin a dialogue about self-sabotaging beliefs and thoughts that so influence their patterns of behavior and success.

Silvia at Po Moyemu shares her family's experience radio controlled planes. Ben and Shira were given radio controlled helicopters for their seventh birthday. Unfortunately it appears that they still do not have the developmental skills to be able to fly the things. We've been thinking that radio control cars might be a better starting point. However, reading Silvia's account of her son's exploits makes me wonder if we don't need to find a club with experienced teachers. I'd much rather be flying gliders than radio controlled planes, but since we have such miserable thermic activity here at the coast, I know that the radio controlled planes will be more fun than the gliders.

Alvaro writes an interesting post on Learning & the Brain: Resources for EducatorsThere are a multitude of books about the brain. For educators, the best of these are books that demystify the language of neuroscience while providing information applicable to the teaching/learning process.

My find of the year is Emily's blog Armadillo's Book Blog. Emily has reviewed hundreds of children's books. Each review starts off with the following information
    Reading Level (Conceptual):
    Reading Level (Vocabulary):
    Year of publication:

The reading level information is worth its weight in gold. I often struggle to find reading material for my twins because of the disconnects between the conceptual and vocabulary levels in many books. Emily makes life so much easier for me. I've found this blog to be an invaluable resource, I hope you do as well.

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.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Your neighbors' political donations

This is a post for the incurably nosy.

Whenever elections roll around, the Silverberg household is a lone Independent/Libertarian, sometimes Republican (if it's Ron Paul), voice in our neighborhood. We're the ones with the yard signs calling for a lowering of property taxes and a reduction of government intervention in private lives in a sea of households who appear to relish the idea of government intervention. Talk about feeling out of step. I often wondered though how the people who don't place yard signs vote. Based on what I talk about later in this post, I realize that we are even more out of step with our neighbors than I thought.

I was reading a post this morning on Mom to the Screaming Masses about Googling yourself. Of course I had to Google myself and I discovered my name on "The Huffington Post". I just had to go and have a look at why I was there. It turns out it was a history of my political donations. (don't get all excited, Marc and I had never made a political donation before Ron Paul's abortive presidential campaign, so it looks pretty miserable).

The really neat feature is that if you are incurably nosy, like I am, you can see where all your neighbors' political donations go. You even get to look at a neat little map awash with elephants and donkeys.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The glorious TSA

Salon.com's, Patrick Smith writes:"Propped up by a culture of fear, TSA has become a bureaucracy with too much power and little accountability. Where will the lunacy stop?"

He recounts a story about his run in with TSA officials and his airline issued butter knife that would by hilarious, if it weren't such an indictment of government morons run amok.
"do I really need to point out that an airline pilot at the controls would hardly need a butter knife if he or she desired to inflict damage? As I've argued in the column before, the requirement that crew members be subject to the same screening as passengers is wasteful and pretty much pointless in the first place, especially when you consider that thousands of other workers with access to planes, including fuelers, caterers and cabin cleaners, receive only occasional random checks. But the idea of seizing a piece of standard airline cutlery from a uniformed pilot is lunacy. 
At this point, the Transportation Security Administration's policies in general are wrong on so many levels that it's hard to get one's arms around them. My apologies to those who've tired of my harping on this subject in column after column, but here again are the bullet points:

  • Sharp, potentially dangerous objects can be fashioned from virtually anything, including no shortage of materials found on board any jetliner -- to say nothing of the fact that a copycat takeover in the style of Sept. 11 would be almost impossible for terrorists to pull off, regardless of what weapons they possess. Yet we insist on wasting huge amounts of time digging through people's belongings, looking for what are effectively benign items.
  • Almost as senseless are the liquids and gels restrictions. Experts have pointed out the futility of these measures, yet they remain in place. (Still more from TSA's you-can't-make-this-up list of airport contraband: gel shoe inserts.)
  • TSA's approach is fundamentally flawed in that it treats everybody -- from employees to passengers, old and young, domestic and foreign -- as a potential threat. We are all suspects. Together with a preposterous zero-tolerance approach to weapons, be they real or perceived, this has created a colossal apparatus that strives for the impossible.
I can't disagree that some level of screening will always be important. Explosives and firearms, for instance, need to be kept off airplanes. But the existing rules are so heavy-handed, absolute and illogical as to be ultimately unenforceable."

I unfortunately had to travel to China every three months from 2005-07 and had to experience the TSA craziness first hand. I pity people who have to deal with them on a more regular basis.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sunlight Can Cut Your Risk of Death in Half

From USA Today comes yet another article about the importance of Vitamin D.

New research linking low vitamin D levels with deaths from heart disease and other causes bolsters mounting evidence about the "sunshine" vitamin's role in good health.

Patients with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were about two times more likely to die from any cause during the next eight years than those with the highest levels, the study found. The link with heart-related deaths was particularly strong in those with low vitamin D levels.

The study led by Austrian researchers involved 3,258 men and women in southwest Germany. Participants were aged 62 on average, most with heart disease, whose vitamin D levels were checked in weekly blood tests. During roughly eight years of follow-up, 737 died, including 463 from heart-related problems.

According to one of the vitamin tests they used, there were 307 deaths in patients with the lowest levels, versus 103 deaths in those with the highest levels. Counting age, physical activity and other factors, the researchers calculated that deaths from all causes were about twice as common in patients in the lowest-level group.

The paper from the Archives of Internal Medicine that is USA Today's source concludes by saying: "Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels are independently associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. A causal relationship has yet to be proved by intervention trials using vitamin D."

What's a girl to do? I've had a chronic vitamin D deficiency for over a year despite high levels of supplementation and a daily dose of sun. I fair skin so I have to be careful of the sun. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.  I suppose I should be thankful that my 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels have risen from well close to 10 to in the 20's, though it's still far from the optimal range of 45-52 ng/ml.  

Jim Cramer: Drill At My Beach House

Couldn't agree more with Jim Cramer that to refuse to drill on our shores and at the same time to expect OPEC member states to produce more oil is elitist. We have oil reserves, we should be using them.

Maryland-Based Researchers on Food Allergies and Homeschooling

Milton Gaither over at Homeschool Research Notes posted about the following study: Bollinger, et al., “The Impact of Food Allergy on the Daily Activities of Children and their Families” in Annals of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology 96, no. 3 (March 2006): 415-421. (abstract available here)

According to this study, 10% of their sample of children with allergies, are homeschooled because of their allergies. I'd love to see more on this topic. Our children happen to have food allergies but those allergies never figured into our decision to homeschool.

I wonder how many homeschooling families who have children with allergies fall into each camp. Do they homeschool because of allergies, or homeschool and just happen to have allergies. Homeschooling certainly makes your life easier if you have to deal with food allergies.


I have been following the story of Agriprocessors, the largest supplier of kosher meat in the US for a few years now. I have been appalled at their treatment of their workers and animals and I would have boycotted them, had I been a meat eater.

I have not been able to understand why the wider Jewish community has not taken a stand against this highly visible Jewish company's very "unJewish" business practices. (the Conservative movement has been actively working to try to change their practices for a while). I don't think it matters whether you are a religious, secular or humanist Jew, the community is judged as a whole. It behooves us, as a community, to live up to the code of conduct we teach.

I was pleased to receive the following appeals in my email inbox this morning. The Jewish community has benefited from the illegal immigration, poor working conditions and animal cruelty that has been perpetrated by Agriprocessors and now, finally, the community is stepping up to the plate to help the workers who have been left with no means of financial support, or any means to be able to provide that support, following the I.C.E. raid .

If you are a Jew who has ever eaten any Agriprocessor's meat and thus have helped perpetrate these abuses, here is your chance to help right the wrong you were part of. Your donations will help prevent a family from starving while the parents are unable to work or even move back to Guatemala or Mexico.

A Message from Rabbi Dobrusin

To the Congregation:

Those of you who were at services last Shabbat morning heard two
presentations on an issue of great importance. Bob Savit, a member of
the Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan and Michael Appel, a BIC congregant and
co-chair of our Social Action Committee both spoke about the
situation in Postville, Iowa regarding the serious financial crisis
being faced by the families of former workers of the Agriprocessors
plant. That plant which produces kosher meat under the Rubashkin
label was the subject of a raid by representatives of the Federal
government and many workers were arrested for having false papers.
You can read both of the presentations below. They will both be added
out our website soon.

Bob Savit spoke to the Congregation about the great financial need
and I agree wholeheartedly with him that it is our responsibility as
a Jewish community to respond to the plight of these families. The
Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan has established a fund for the families in
crisis. 100% of the funds collected will be sent, in the name of the
Jewish Community of Ann Arbor, to St. Bridget's Church in Postville
which is organizing efforts to help the families in crisis.
Contributions can be made through the shul. Michael
Appel raised the important concern about the alleged labor practices,
an issue which I had addressed in a sermon a few weeks ago, and our
support of Hescher Tzedek, the Conservative Movement's organization
which is committed to including workers' rights and other ethical
issues into the process of Kashrut supervision.

As you will see in the presentation below, both the allegations
against Agriprocessors and the humanitarian crisis are serious issues
indeed. .We will continue to keep you updated and thank the Ann Arbor
Orthodox Minyan for organizing this fund.

Rabbi Dobrusin

Address by Robert Savit
Dear Friends,

I am writing to follow up on my presentation to the congregation at
last week's Shabbat services about the plight of former workers of
the kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa run by
Agriprocessors. While Agriprocessors is a private business not
officially representing any Jewish organization or denomination, it
is a high profile Jewish business, owned and operated by orthodox
Jews. As explained below, some of the recent actions and policies of
Agriprocessors have contributed to the suffering of former workers at
the plant.

With the wide support and cooperation of congregations in Ann Arbor,
the Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan has organized a relief fund to help the
former workers at this plant, largely undocumented Guatemalan
immigrants, who were subjected to arrest by an investigative arm of
the Department of Homeland Security several weeks ago. Because of
the nature of the arrests and the role played by Agriprocessors in
the workers' plight, we feel it is of great importance that Jewish
organizations respond generously and visibly to help alleviate a
serious humanitarian crisis in northeast Iowa. What follows is some
background about the situation in Postville and a more detailed
description of the current situation. If you are already familiar
with this material, you may want to skip to the final section, "What
our Jewish community can do", which includes information about how to
contribute to the relief fund. If you have any doubts about the
importance of a strong Jewish communal response to this crisis,
please be sure to read the section below entitled "The role of
Agriprocessors". The needs of approximately 200 immigrant families
are serious and pressing. Timely contributions would be most useful.

Thanks very much for your generous support of this important project.


In 1987 Aaron Rubashkin and his family, orthodox Lubovitch (Chabad)
Jews, purchased a defunct meatpacking plant in the small northeastern
Iowa town of Postville and turned it into a kosher meat packing plant
operating under the name Agriprocessors. Postville is a very small
community where most long-term residents are of Lutheran German
extraction. Over the next 20 years, the Rubashkins developed this
plant into a very successful business. It is estimated that the
Postville plant provides over 60% of the kosher beef to the US
market, and also exports to Israel. This developing kosher meat
packing business has brought significant economic benefits to the
Postville area, but it has also changed the nature of the
community. In addition to a small but significant and very visible
orthodox Jewish presence, Agriprocessors has recruited and imported,
at various times, non-local workers willing to take the many
dangerous, difficult and low-paying jobs offered in the plant. The
latest such group of workers consisted of approximately 800 (mostly
undocumented) workers, primarily from Guatemala and some from
Mexico. Many came to Postville with their families.

The ICE Raid
On May 12, 2008, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
part of the Department of Homeland Security, raided the Postville
plant and detained nearly 400 undocumented workers, many of whom had
false identity papers. In the following weeks, most of these workers
were subjected to summary trials. About 300 of them were given
prison sentences of 5 months to be followed by deportation. Another
45 or so, (mostly women) were released to care for their young
dependent children. These 45 were fitted with ankle bracelets to
monitor their movements. The conditions of their release require
them to remain in the state until their cases go to court-which will
not be until October. They are forbidden from returning to any kind
of work, including the packing plant. An additional 20 minors were
also detained and released on humanitarian grounds, and they face a
very similar situation to the adults on conditional release.

The Current Situation
The sentence of 5 months incarceration followed by deportation is an
unusually harsh sentence and has created a humanitarian crisis in
Postville. Postville is a very small community with little in the
way of a social welfare system. As a result of the ICE raid, there
are about 200 families of former workers at the plant that have no
means of support. Their loved ones are currently in prison. These
families cannot work, and continue to be tied to Postville until
their loved ones are released from prison. The situation for those
workers who were temporarily released is yet more uncertain in that
their hearings are not scheduled until October. There is no
organized relief agency in Postville, but some volunteers from the
area have been working through a local church, St. Bridget's, to
provide what relief they can.

The Role of Agriprocessors
The plight of these former workers of a kosher meat processing plant
is of great concern to the Jewish community, not only because it is a
significant humanitarian crisis, but also because it is a crisis that
has been created, at least in part, by the actions of Agriprocessors.

Over the years there have been many allegations of mistreatment by
Agriprocessors of their workers. These charges against the company
are serious, but they have not been unequivocally substantiated and
in the absence of such substantiation one should not be quick to
judge the company. On the other hand, the current response of
Agriprocessors to the plight of their former workers is clear, and,
in itself, is chillingly disdainful and uncaring. In brief,
Agriprocessors has done nothing to help alleviate the suffering of
its former workers and their families. On the contrary, following
the raid, Agriprocessors moved quickly to hire workers from other
parts of the country to replace the arrested workers. Since the
company does not pay its workers in advance, and since those who come
to Postville to take these jobs have very few resources, these new
workers have turned to the volunteers at St. Bridget's for support,
putting additional strain on an already overextended volunteer
organization trying to help the families of arrested workers. Thus,
not only has Agriprocessors not helped their former workers and their
families, they have made matters considerably worse by importing
other out-of-town workers without regard to how that will affect the
community and its scarce resources. The behavior of Agriprocessors
and the Rubashkins following the ICE raid is a chillul Hashem (a
desecration of God's name). These actions stand in startling
contrast to the case of Aaron Feuerstein, also an orthodox Jew, who,
when his textile mill, Malden Mills, burned down in 1995, kept all
3000 of his workers on full pay and benefits for months after the fire.


Agriprocessors is owned by orthodox Jews associated with the Chabad
Lubovitch community. Agriprocessors, however, is not a Chabad
organization. It is not an orthodox organization. It is not even a
Jewish organization. It is merely a private business owned by
orthodox, Lubovitch Jews. But in being a successful kosher meat
packing plant, it is a very visible business with a very strong
Jewish identity. As a result, even though there is nothing
officially "orthodox" or officially "Jewish" about the business, its
policies and actions necessarily reflect on the entire Jewish
community, and, in the perception of the non-Jewish world, has
implications for the ethical foundations of our religion.

For these reasons it is vitally important that the Jewish community
respond vigorously and publicly to the humanitarian crisis in
Postville. We have organized a relief fund for the former workers of
Agriprocessors. The organization providing relief to the workers'
families in Postville estimates the cost of providing basic needs for
these families over several months at about $700,000. It is our
intention to collect donations as quickly as possible from the Ann
Arbor Jewish community and send those funds, on behalf of the entire
Ann Arbor Jewish community, to the relief organization in Postville
in support of their work with the families of the former employees of
Agriprocessors. We will also work to publicize these donations and
thereby try, as best we can, to counteract the public perception of
unethical Jewish behavior engendered by the actions of
Agriprocessors. We hope that you will join us in donating generously
to this effort.

Donations may be made on-line at http://www.annarborminyan.org using
paypal. Please click on the "Donate to the Postville Relief Fund"
button. Donations can also be made by check made out to the Ann
Arbor Orthodox Minyan and marked for the Postville fund. Checks
should be sent to Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan, 1606 Brooklyn, Ann
Arbor, MI 48104. 100% of all funds collected will be sent to the St.
Bridget's Hispanic Relief Fund in Postville where they will be used
to help provide basic services to the families of the workers.

If you have any further questions or want more details about the
situation in Postville, please do not hesitate to write to me (Robert
Savit) at savit@umich.edu.

Thanks very much for your help. Together we can make an important difference.

Robert Savit

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ben and Shira once again submitted artwork to Barb's weekly Sketch Tuesday.

This week's challenge was to sketch something that came from an egg.

Here is Shira's entry:

and here is Ben's entry:

We've been playing around with new media. Yesterday Shira drew a volcano coming out of the ocean onto black construction paper. She then went over the outlines with white glue and allowed it to dry. Once it was dry she colored it in using chalk pastels. She used two shades of the same color at once which gave it a really good look.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Just what we need, another government department

Why is it that people think that the solution to all our problems lies with the government? I came across an organization last week that makes my blood boil. The Peace Alliance wants congress to legislate the formation of a new federal department, the department of peace. Now don't get me wrong, I value peace as highly as the next person, I just do not believe that the federal government has any role in promoting peace within or without our borders. Leave that to individuals. If our government stuck to its constitutional mandate of protecting our borders instead of fighting wars in countries where we don't belong, perhaps our levels of peace would increase. We do not need yet another drain on tax payer dollars.

According to them:
A Department of Peace will work to:

-- Provide much-needed assistance to efforts by city, county, and state governments in coordinating existing programs; as well as develop new programs based on best practices nationally

-- Teach violence prevention and mediation to America's school children

-- Effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology

-- Rehabilitate the prison population

-- Build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad

-- Support our military with complementary approaches to peace-building.

-- Create and administer a U.S. Peace Academy, acting as a sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy.

Last I looked at the constitution, the role of the government was to protect against the unlawful initiation of force - through the police, settle disputes - that's the courts, and defend the borders - that's the armed forces.

The government has no mandate to build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad.

I hope that there are still sensible people in congress who will realize that a department of peace is a lovely feel good concept but that it has no role in government.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacation here we come

Ben, Shira and I are off to Skytop Lodge in the Poconos in Pennsylvania for the next 6 days. You cannot believe how excited I am to be going to Dr Fuhrman's Health Getaway. Initially, I totally discounted the getaway as I was convinced it was going to be populated by sycophantic, guru worshipers and I run a million miles from such people. However, I discovered a few weeks ago that we'd be able to eat three meals a day that are gluten, dairy and soy free, plus they are phytonutrient rich and vegan. This means that the meals will be safe for my family to eat and will be the types of foods we enjoy. Suddenly the getaway became much more interesting to me because I realized that I would get a break from cooking for 6 days.Those of you who do not live with food allergies do not understand how difficult it is to eat out. I can't order in when I've had a rough day, I still have to cook for our family. I haven't had a break from the kitchen for over 4 years.It's a joke when we normally go on vacation. I have to spend hours on the internet and telephone before we leave finding out which restaurants can serve us safe food. Once I've found out about the safe food, I have to find out if we can get vegan food. There are many restaurants that can serve a safe piece of fish or beef, but substantially fewer that can serve safe vegetables.Then I start packing the large 5 day cooler boxes with safe food.Even if I do find safe restaurants, we all start feeling mildly ill after a few restaurant meals. I doubt we feel ill from the allergens, I think it is because we're not used to eating the standard American diet (SAD). The salt, fat, processed foods and sugar does not sit well with us. This all means that I'm back to cooking all our meals.Starting tonight, I have a break from cooking for 6 days. We'll spend six days eating gloriously fresh fruits and vegetables, prepared just the way we like them. It will be heavenly. The only thing that would make it better would be if Marc could join us.The poor guy has a brutal week ahead of him at work.One of the first things Marc teased me about when we met was my fruit and vegetable habit. Every time there is an E. Coli outbreak with fresh produce, he reminds me that if I would only eat processed foods I would be safe. ("An apple? That's not safe! You don't know what's in that thing. There's no list of ingredients!")He once tried to convince me that Twinkies were the perfect food, that with fresh produce you never know what you are eating, while with a Twinkie, you can read all the ingredients on the box.I find it amusing how well we get on, yet how different we are in our attitude to food. However, the mighty may be falling, he's eaten my way for the last week. I'm not holding my breathe over his diet while I am away though.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh, what a mess!

Makita at Twinkling Stars Family Academy is running another Friday Freebie.

This week she's giving away a copy of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. To enter, all you need to do is:
tell us about a fabulously messy activity that you have done with your children in the spirit of education. It could be a cooking experience that went awry or a hands-on science experiment that was ooey-gooey. If you have photos, be sure to share them in your post (everyone likes visuals).

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers #4

Welcome to the July 13, 2008 edition of the carnival of cool homeschoolers.
Michelle of Serendipity Place writes about a worrying trend amongst homeschoolers to be exclusionists. She concludes by saying: "Home education is changing the face of the U.S. But if we don’t find a way to stick together, at least enough to protect our freedoms, we will lose something very important: not just to us, as homeschoolers, but the very direction this country is taking. We must strive to promote freedom and we must begin by giving people the freedom to be and do whatever works for them and their families…without judgement or caveats." 
Laura Milligan presents 100 Unbelievably Useful Reference Sites You?ve Never Heard Of posted at Teaching Tips. A quick look at this website showed me that I wasn't as clued up w.r.t. reference sites as I thought I was. She writes:"Beyond Google, Wikipedia and other generic reference sites, the Internet boasts a multitude of search engines, dictionaries, reference desks and databases that have organized and archived information for quick and easy searches. In this list, we’ve compiled just 100 of our favorites, for teachers, students, hypochondriacs, procrastinators, bookworms, sports nuts and more." 
Alasandra presents Sean Paddock and Tyler McMillan weren't even homeschoolers, so why are their deaths being used to harass homeschoolers? posted at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards. Alasandra writes: "In America one is generally considered innocent until proven guilty, but this editorial, Our View: Help protect home-school children implies that homeschoolers are guilty until proven innocent.The editorial writer ignores the fact that Sean Paddock was four years old and thus not school age. The editorial also fails to mention that Sean Paddock was adopted. Wasn't some sort of government agency involved in the adoption process? Wasn't it their job to insure the adoptive Mother would provide a loving home? Why isn't the editorial calling for more oversight before people can adopt? instead of implying that legitimate homeschooling families can't be trusted and therefore need a government watchdog. What's next government watchdogs for stay at home moms who don't put their newborns and preschoolers in day care?"Alasandra makes some very valid points. I find it rather worrying how the media has this tendency to rush to blame homeschooling for child abuse.
Thanks to Silvia, from Po Moyemu--In My Opinion, I finally understand the difference between Western and English style horse riding. She posts about Riding Lessons for the entire family. It sounds like a lot of fun. Shira wishes she had Silvia for a mom and not Shez, the critter averse mom.
Silvia also shares her daughter Emily's project where she is gearing up for the UNtrepreneurial Fair at the Live and Learn Conference this September. I love how homeschoolers are often entrepreneurs. Emily's Craftiness is a joy to behold. My not so secret dream for our children is that they become entrepreneurs instead of corporate drones. 
Laura Williams presents Around the Homestead Today... posted at Laura Williams' Musings, saying, "Homeschooling, Gardening, and Canning all rolled into one day and a project or two." Laura's post reminded me of my childhood. My grandmother was a baker, gardener, canner, jam and preserve maker of note. I sometimes felt that I spent my entire summers pickling and canning. One of my fondest memories is of coming home from school and diving into a preserved yellow cling peach. I love cling peaches and have not had one since I emigrated. I wonder if they are even available in the US. Granny used to peel the peaches from the trees in our orchard and then preserve them whole. I've never tasted anything to beat those preserves.
Thomas J. West, of Thomas J. West Music submitted a post that is very relevant to our family. He posted the first of a series of tips on how to improve your results of practicing any musical instrument. In this post he shows you how to Make a Practice Session Schedule Thomas has also started blogging about a series of videos, mostly from YouTube, of great performances. He uses these videos to highlight aspects of musical mastery and music learning for the benefit of his readers. This video is of Victor Borge, my late father's favorite comedian.
Tammy Takahashi of Just Enough, and Nothing More submitted Deborah Marcus' screamingly funny Overachievers Quizz. Have a look at Marcus' new magazine, Secular Homeschooling.
Secular Homeschooling is a non-religious quarterly magazine that reflects the diversity of the homeschooling community. Its readers and writers are committed to the idea that religious belief is a personal matter rather than a prerequisite of homeschooling.
This magazine is for any homeschooler, religious or not, who is interested in good solid writing about homeschooling and homeschoolers.
I've subscribed since the first issue. I appreciate being able to read a magazine about homeschooling that does not include religion.
Amy S Quinn presents The Art of Learning Better: 101 Tips to Find and Fit Your Learning Style posted at Teaching Tips. While this blog entry was directed at the learner, not the teacher, I feel that we homeschool parents will find great ideas for teaching to our children's different learning styles. She ends her post with suggesting that students attempt to strengthen their ability to work within other styles by working on other methods of learning and gives solid examples of how to go about doing this.
Our final post comes from my colleague, Lydia. Lydia writes about The Science of Cooking at the Young Chefs Academy. The Young Chefs Academy was one of the sponsors for the homeschool science fair that the two of us arranged this year. Earlier this year Lydia and I were bewailing the dearth of good competitions open to homeschoolers in our area. We wanted our children to be able to enter science fairs and writing competitions. Finally, we realized that all the complaining in the world wouldn't make things happen, so we decided to host our own science and writing fairs. We hosted an exceedingly successful science fair in May and now plan to make it an annual event.
Buoyed by our science fair success, the two of us, ever the gluttons for punishment, are in the throes of arranging a writing competition for homeschoolers. We're very excited to announce some of the big name authors who are going to be judging the entries. 
Sara Gruen, author of New York Times #1 Bestseller Water for Elephants and the upcoming Ape House. 
Joshilyn Jackson, best-selling author of Booksense #1 Pick Between, Georgia and Booksense #1 Pick gods in Alabama. 
Mark Crilley, author and illustrator of the Akiko series from Random House Children's Books.
Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, among many other books, and winner of two Newberry Medals. 
Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the US from 1997-2000, author of 19 books, and founder of the Favorite Poem Project. 
Karen Abbott, author of New York Times Bestseller Sin in the Second City, a book about Chicago's infamous Everleigh Club. 
Robert Pottle, author of several poetry books for kids, including I'm Allergic to School, a book of songs and poems about school. 
Michael D'Orso, best-selling author of fifteen books of narrative non-fiction, three of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
We'll list more judges here as we confirm them.This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for homeschooled children and their parents. How often do aspiring writers, storytellers and videographers have the chance to have leaders in their fields critique their work? Who knows where this will lead..... 
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.