Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Going Tribal

Yesterday morning we took a field trip to go see a matinee of Where the Wild Things Are. We all enjoyed it and towards the end as I was double pumping my fists because I had made it through without shedding any tears, they slammed me with a one-two punch. Ouch! But so's are a sucker for this kind of thing. So, as I thought about how I would share this movie I thought it would be fun to play word association (I do take the liberty of using two words occasionally). Here we go!

Intro = Little Turd!
Max = Adorable
Behavior = Therapy
Cracks = Double Recracker
Chicken = Prothsesis
Bob = Terry
Billy Goat = Hilarious/Gay?
Location = Gorgeous
Carol = What?
Music = Fun

So there you have it. I hope it stirs your interest and you consider check it out. I will mention that the movie moves along smoothly on a superficial level but also supports a 'heavier' underlying storyline that the parents will pick up on. There are definitely intense scenes of potential peril for our little actor, a dog, and the monsters but I will assume that they had green screens and stunt men. I just had to take lots of deep breaths with wide eyes and enjoyed the movie on both levels.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Day of School

Our school year is starting on Tuesday, September 8 and we will NOT be listening to the president's address to our nation's children.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Not Our Kids...

Watch the video, we homeschool, 'nuff said!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No Way! Way!

Okay, it's kind of an old throwback reference in the title that I won't go into but check this out. If it's new to you, believe it. If you've heard it before and have chosen homeschooling, way to go!

Wonderful Reminder

This guy tells it like it is, you get what you put in.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Importance of PE for Kids

The importance of PE class in the schools have long been debated and proponents continue to fight an uphill battle during these times of budget tightening. I would like to make a case "for" sports in school regardless of the costs. Here are the two main reasons I feel that it is vital: self-confidence and physical fitness.

Self-confidence is only gained through feeling somewhat successful in a particular sport as well as the confidence in trying new sports. How many books have been written about the defeated teen who is humiliated over an over in gym class but the more athletically superior "jocks". Being picked last, sitting on the bench, kicking the ball in the wrong goal are all aspects that some of us can relate to but are really unnecessary side effects of that social experiment called school. Providing a variety of options is the key. How many adults like being told what exercise class they "have to" take at the local gym? It is simple people, kids are humans too and like to have that thing called choices. Worst School Memory

And options are out there. In a recent Sports Illustrated for Kids I came across an article about two schools in New York that are offering PE classes for kids, girls and boys alike, that is about learning how to ride a skateboard. There are those archaic nincompoops that hold the belief that skateboarding is just for punks but I would challenge that assertion. Just look at any football or baseball player in the news lately. They could probably be classified as worse than punks...

Tony Hawk is now a 40 something father along with all the other skaters of days gone by who still skate! Wow, you could almost put skateboarding up there with golf as a sport that you can enjoy your entire life. Recently I took my boys, cousins, and a friend to the local skate park. It was great. There were young guys there as well as the "old dudes" and they were all having fun. The boys spent about 3 hours there over the course of two days. Here are some photos of their experience.

The second basis for supporting PE classes in school is obviously the physical fitness component. Everyone needs more physical activity in this age of conveniences. Kids are no longer allowed or encouraged to ride the 2 miles to go to the local store and buy their candy bar. They sit in the back seat and consume it. I remember riding to Evergreen Market which was only about 1 mile one way but it would get so windy at times that you literally had to walk your bike. It was a great workout. But in this day and age you can go to jail for child neglect if you put your child in danger by telling them that they could ride to the store - heaven forbid!

Below are a few articles that address how different districts are addressing the issue of budget cuts impacting PE for school kids. It is amazing how homeschooling allows our boys to choose the sports they are interested in and invest their time into what they enjoy.

PE Budget Cuts
150% Rise in PE Injuries
More Budget Compromises

Friday, June 19, 2009

Those Who Control the Schools, Control the Future

This is an interesting video pointing out the danger of the indoctrination that occurs in ALL public schools. Look into who controls the teacher unions, examine their hidden agendas, and you might be surprised at who is leading our children.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Kids Love Most!

This letter is written to parents everywhere on behalf of their children. It is really just a simple thing but would you please read them more bedtime stories? While on vacation, as I read the local paper, I saw a recent study showing that children want more bedtime stories, with more than three quarters of those children saying that they wished that their parents read to them more often. What, kids want to hear us read to them?

On behalf of all children, I would encourage parents to consider reading more bedtime stories. In a recent study researchers found that storytelling ranked higher than TV or video games among pastimes for kids and that "more than half of all children aged 3 to 8 said story-time was their favorite pastime with their parents. 

As a parent I can recall evenings when my children begged for a story and being too tired, either didn't read one or I would speed through a familiar book only to be caught skipping pages, heaven forbid! But I can also recall some of the best times reading great children's literature with my kids as we laughed together at David running down the street bare-bottomed, cheering together for Desperaux as he fought the rat, Chiaroscuro, crying with Fern when Charolette died, or giggling as we read of Othello's romantic longings for Desdemona. 

Storytelling is such a natural thing for people to do and we all love a good story. I am constantly reminded of how important it is to do this as a family. Turning off the TV, computer, or video games and just curling up with your child and a good book can create some of the best and least expensive memories that I am aware of.

Even if your child is over the age of ten, even if it is a book that you're reading for the twenty-third time, or it's a book that, gasp... you did not select. Kids want to hear it and more importantly they want to hear it from you. 

Visit your local libraries together, don't stress on your child's choice of literature, be involved in the process, and don't forget to pick-up an audio book or two for those evenings when you just want to sit back and listen to a good book too!

If you're interested, here's the Reader's Bill of Rights. Think about how adults assert these rights everyday in their own reading, kids should be able to as well:

1. The Right to Not Read
2. The Right to Skip Pages
3. The Right to Not Finish
4. The Right to Reread
5. The Right To Read Anything
6. The Right to Escapism
7. The Right to Read Anywhere
8. The Right to Browse
9. The Right to Read Out Loud
10. The Right to Not Defend Your Tastes

For a fun movie that is kid friendly that deals with bedtime stories, check out Adam Sandler's Bedtime Stories.

20 Great Reasons to Homeschool!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Case for Homeschooling

I came across a blog posting today titled, "The Case Against Homeschooling" on a blog called, Teacher, Revised. I could not believe the junk they were spewing. I've attached the link above so you can read what they wrote. Below is my response to it. Yikes, I think this is indicative of what some public/private school teacher's feel about homeschooling in general and that's kind of scary.

Wow!! I think every rebuttal above speaks to the frustration I experienced as I read your asinine blog post! I am a FORMER teacher who quit my job in order to homeschool my children after recognizing the shortcomings of public/private education.

I was amazed at your contradictory list of reasons against homeschooling. Especially when considering your list of “credentials” that you provide; “My qualifications to teach English include a double major in English and education, two master’s degrees (education and journalism), a student teaching semester and multiple internship terms, real world experience as a writer, and years in the classroom dealing with different learning styles.” I think this provides further proof that you can not train any one person to be a good teacher, it is rather a calling and something that is ingrained in that person that makes someone a good teacher. I would like to point out that this is often what makes a caring parent the perfect person to teach their child – they care. Also, the way you write is inflammatory, derogatory, and hypocritical. You end up making the case FOR HOMESCHOOLING! Honestly, you are one of the reasons why I chose to take my children out of the public/private school setting and homeschool them. To provide a supportive, open, and encouraging learning environment.

Hmmm…let’s take a look at your top 10.

10. Geeky – this is just name calling. Yes, I do believe they teach this one on the playground.

9. Sarcasm and generalizations – not a very effective way of making a point but again, an often used tool in the public/private classroom.

8. Selfish Parents – Selfish because this article refers to “white”, “upper-income”, and “well-educated”. You assume that it automatically excludes people of color, lower-income, and poorly educated from homeschooling? That is called an ASSUMPTION and you can not base an entire point on one newspaper article, as it leads to generalizations. My take on this article is that there are many UNSELFISH families. Families who are willing to cut corners in order to allow themselves the privilege of homeschooling because they care about their child/children.

7. Hateful God – By the way, as an agnostic, I think you are the last person to speak to what God hates.

6. Arrogant lunatics – You refer to your list of credentials to teach English but based on your post, I would rate you poorly on use of evidence, inflammatory tone, and overuse of slang words, which I believe to often be used due to lack of ability to express oneself otherwise.

5. Pisses you off – The fact that what others do the does not impact you directly seems strange that it can “piss you off”. This implies an emotional response. Are you bitter about being homeschooled? I think there are bigger and more personal issues here for you. Also, see response to #6 in regards to the use of words, such as ‘piss’.

4. *Intolerance and racist – Well, if you’re referring to yourself, I believe your post provides ample evidence of such, but your asterisk implies that intolerance and racism of others is a potential side-effect of homeschooling. Homeschoolers everywhere counter this with activities called reading, outreach, and open-minded and tolerant discussions.

3. Socially unprepared – My question is, socially unprepared to what, roll a joint, succumb to peer pressure, get pregnant, belittle others, waste class time because they wish they were anywhere else, talk back to adults, drink alcohol, hope for a fire alarm or a bomb threat so the day will go more quickly, become suicidal, get in fights, or drop out of school?

2. Arrogant gamblers – The only arrogant gamblers are the parents who send their child to school thinking that all of those child’s problems at home and at school should be solved by the teacher(s) hoping that their child will return home “fixed”.

1. Geeky*** – You conclude by referring back to your #10 reason. Your comments on geeky mean squat. I thought we’d include the definition from Wikipedia; The word geek is a slang term, noting individuals as “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc.”[1] Formerly, the term referred to a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken, bat, snake or bugs. The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This word comes from English dialect geek, geck: fool, freak; from Low German geck, from Middle Low German. The root geck still survives in Dutch gek: crazy, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut: geek’s hat, used in carnivals[2]. Unfortunately, “geeky” kids everywhere are ridiculed and tormented. You provide evidence, once again, of that very cruelty.

I would suggest renaming your blog post, The Case for Homeschooling with Evidence Provided by a Public School Teacher.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Homeschooling Families are Growing

Recently I saw the following headline at the bottom front page of USA Today, "Profound shift in kind of families who are home schooling their children". As I read through, it confirmed what I've seen on a local level, more families, especially, white, wealthy (who is really wealthy anymore?), and well-educated families are moving towards homeschooling. I think that this reflects people deciding to take ownership of what happens to their families as their confidence grows in making decisions who impacts their children.

In the article it cites various reasons families choose to homeschool; religious, educational, physical, and emotional reasons. It's interesting to see that the number of girls homeschooling has grown due to the increased focus and attention on the "mean girls" experience in a social setting. The fact that families are stepping in is fantastic.

I am not sure at what point in our nation's history it became expected and accepted that teens learn how to behave from other teens, which is exactly what happens in a typical high-school setting, rather than watching various ages model acceptable behavior. Parents usually only "hope" that the training they've provided up to that point will persevere in difficult situations. Keep those fingers crossed as research shows that the teenage brain is not fully developed, sometime, until a person (especially those guys) reaches the age of 25 years old!

To all of those who are considering homeschooling but are afraid that they can't do it...try. What do we tell our children when they are afraid to try something new? Try and do your best.
For a great read into the teen brain check out, The Myth of Maturity: What Teenagers Need from Parents to Become Adults by Terri Apter.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

D's for Done!

This is a photo that I found and kept from an education textbook that I used while attending Western Washington University back in 1990. I first attended college with the intention of becoming a teacher. I believed then, as I believe now, that this photo sums up many children's educational experience. I know it did for me. Memories of sitting in a class thinking what a total joke it was, both in terms of my time, as well as the teacher's. 

It was experiences like this early on that led me to take 7am classes during my sophomore and junior year so I could take late arrival and early dismissal during my senior year. This allowed me the freedom to get the freak out school during the day sooner than later. Back in the day, I did not know about options such as getting your GED or homeschooling. They simply were not options.

You might wonder why I would want to become a teacher when I often times despised school. Well, I do have to say that there were a few, but very few, teachers who did inspire me to do what they did and that was not only teach, but to do it in such a way that the kids in their class knew that they cared. My problem in being a teacher was that I ended up having to work side by side those teachers who only showed up for the paycheck. 

The story I am going to share was obtained when I called the local high school where a student that I tutor in math attends full-time. He came in as a sophomore needing to satisfy his freshman math credits and because of his entrance exams, he was placed in a lower level math that the school calls, integrated math. In tutoring him in this subject I have found myself frustrated over and over because of the books reliance on story based problems, lack of examples, and vague applications. This student is weak in his reading as well as his math concepts so to give him a story problem to learn a concept has created a very frustrating situation for him. I have been very impressed with a math curriculum called, Math-U-See, which would be a perfect fit for this student. 

So, I called the school and asked a very simple question; can a full-time student take a home-study course on their own to satisfy missing credits? In response they asked me the student's name, I told them, then they transferred me to his counselor. It was at this point the counselor began telling me all of the student's personal information, such as test scores. I was shocked but by that point I didn't want to tell him who I was, although, I didn't call with the intention of impersonating anyone. I later called his mother, explained what happened, and apologized. She was shocked as well at this lack of security. They never once asked me my name!

Anyway, I think the most shocking comment made during this conversation was when I was asking about the student's need to meet various requirements as a senior in order to graduate and I asked about what grade he would need to pass his math class with. I asked if he would need to receive at least a C. "Oh, no, he needs to get a D...D's for done!" This is a direct quote. I was incredulous, a D?! How does that even come close to preparing that student for anything beyond high school? It's a joke and this happens to be at the most respected high school in our county. 

Our local papers have had a barrage of stories, as of late, explaining the huge cuts that will need to be made in local school budgets that will impact teachers and programs. As I see these stories day after day, I cringe for the kids who have to continue to attend these schools where it's not A for excellent but D for done. I hope that in light of stories like this more and more families will one day choose to homeschool.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Finally, We Agree On Something!

President Obama has a difficult task ahead of him, at best. Though, I do question anyone who runs for office for that very reason, but then they may question why anyone would want to be a teacher, a parent, or a proctologist. Each of these "jobs" come with their challenges but I do know first hand that for two out of the three jobs listed above, that despite their difficulties, they can be extremely rewarding. So, for President Obama, I want to say that I appreciate his willingness to serve as our president.

Not having voted for President Obama, I have agreed with him on very few issues, but find myself fully on his side in this instance. He was recently quoted as saying, "In the end, no program can substitute for a parent." In the following link you will find 10 tips for parents, suggesting ways in which they can be more involved with their child's education and well-being. I would venture to guess that most of you are one of those super duper parents, with the tights and capes to boot, but just in case you need a refresher, check it out, it's good to know that you are doing a great job!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just In Case...Notebooking

Just in case you're like me and you've never heard of notebooking, it is worth your time to take a few minutes and check this out!

Free Printables, Notebooking Pages, Charts, & More!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's a Gang Thing

Recently, at a public library where I work, we had an author visit us. Her name is Liz Scott and she wrote a book called, Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand. It’s the story of her daughter’s brave fight with cancer from the age of one and how Alex decided at the age of four to help raise money for her doctors. She decided she will do this by having a lemonade stand. Her mother said that she raised a few thousand dollars the first year, over twelve thousand the second year, and then began raising millions in the following years. Of course, this was through the support of children and adults everywhere wanting to help Alex and make a difference for others. Great story, great mom, and a great program at our library.

So, I was asked to help in coordinating this program and encouraging local students to attend. The person I was helping made calls to the local public elementary schools and I made calls to a local private school. With over 70 2nd – 5th grade kids planning on attending, I was asked to create a craft to tie into the presentation. Going with the idea that Alex had worn a yellow bandana, I decided that we would provide plain yellow bandanas, fabric pens, and ask the kids to decorate and wear them to the author’s visit.

My director was concerned that the yellow bandanas may be forbidden by the schools in respect to any anti-gang clothing policy that they may have. So, I made the call and spoke with the secretary in the office (they’re really the ones who run the place!). She told me that there was no policy against the color yellow and that yellow bandanas would be fine.

The bandanas, fabric pens, and lesson plans (for a writing and science component, of course!) had all been distributed to the participating classrooms. Alright, we’re good to go, or so I thought. The day before the program, I got a call from one of the teachers from the public school and was told that they were not going to use the bandanas because it was “a gang thing” and that since it had snowed and it was too cold, they would not be attending the program.

Hmmmm…my mommy mind was racing…a child can’t wear a yellow bandana decorated with dinosaurs, princesses, or the obligatory, “Girls Rock!” and you’re also saying that KIDS can not be allowed to walk in the cold?!? My mind reeled in recollection of a recent article I saw on the art of hiking nude, in the Alps, no less!

Well, there goes over half the attendees for our program and I couldn’t do a darn thing about it other than hope that the private school pulled through for me. They did and it was darling. The kids and author had a great time. She told the kids how much it meant to her that they had worn the yellow bandanas because she knew how much Alex loved the color yellow. And you know what else happened? Liz noticed the little girl with the “Girls Rock!” bandana and loved it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Teenage Liberation Handbook

For a good resource that is open to exploring options outside of the classroom, traditional homeschool, or anything else you may have heard of, check out this book by Grace Llewellyn.

The Game of School

If you've ever sat in class daydreaming of being anywhere else, then you may be able to relate to Fried's book. If you have ever done an assignment just to get the grade, or if you, as a teacher, have ever taught a lesson only because the material needed to be covered for a test, then you have played “the Game of School”.

This book could leave you wondering just how authentic your own education really was. He contends that students from kindergarten through graduate school are often playing “the Game” of getting by and complying with the system and not really engaged in learning. The problem with this type of system is that it stifles creativity and the opportunity for impromptu discussion. However, this book does not point fingers but rather calls attention to the situation encouraging those who recognize the problems with the current system and inspires them to make changes that allow for more authentic learning and teaching.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Failure Without Failing

The news came in the mail stating that even in an on-line home schooling situation our son was a pleasure to have in class but that did not change the fact that he had failed his math class. Really? How does that work? 

As his "learning coach" I periodically check on his progress by asking the typical questions; are you getting it, how's it going, what's your grade, etc. He would answer with typical responses; fine, okay, can you help me on this section, etc. 

So, then when the mid-terms arrived and he was getting a C- his dad was all over him. There were tears, promises to do better, and then the final report card arrived in the mail. 

Ripping it open with certainty of an improved grade shining in his eyes, that light was soon dampened as he looked up at us in disbelief. We looked at the grade slip asking the same question, how, why, what? His progress report a week before his finals showed a C- and he completed his final test feeling quite certain that it would bump his grade up to a solid C if not possibly a B-...we just all stared in disbelief and looked at the comment, "student is a pleasure to have in class". 

He was very upset and couldn't explain the situation. By this point we were done with even trying to figure it out. So, it was at this point that I told my husband that we're going to go the more pure home school route of choosing the curriculum, seeing it done daily, overseen directly by his parents, and not necessarily on the computer. We have come to discover that home schooling your children is not a one size fits all proposition, does not come without challenges, and is not just about getting your school work done in under two hours. It is about learning to deal with challenges, figuring out a better way of doing things, and working together to find a solution. We'll find a way to make it work because we're a family.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."  - Winston Churchill

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Schools In the News

Two Mt. Vernon Schools Locked Down
SW Schools Looking at Deep Cuts in the Budget
Helping Kids Get Ready for a 'Competitive World' - Quote from article: “It’s just so exciting,” Schlundt said. “They’re learning how to read. They’re just becoming big people. They aren’t little kids anymore.”

If they are not little kids in Kindergarten then that is a very sad thing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Et tu, Costco?

This famous line was uttered in shock and betrayal and now I utter them as I skimmed through a recent Costco magazine. On page 16 of the September 2008 edition they have done a two page spread on the topic debating: Should parents be certified to home-school their children?

At first glance my initial response is the thought that this would be great. How can you go wrong in ensuring that these "weirdy" parents are on track in instructing their children. Considering that we have teachers go through an arduous training process to ensure excellence...right?

Sadly, I don't think that's completely true. While it is true that it can be a long (5 years in college) and a somewhat arduous process with the student teaching, it's going to come down to who is sitting in that chair, in that class, "learning" to become a teacher. Either they're doing it for the right reasons or the wrong ones. Either they're going to put their heart and soul into it or they're not. Either they're going to be a good teacher or an ineffective teacher. While we can only hope that that the children will survive and learn in spite of the person at the front of the classroom.

It's actually my sincere belief that either you are meant to be a teacher or not long before you step foot into your first college class but that's for another post.

So, while at first glance I thought I would lean on the pro side. I then reread the article and spent some time thinking about what was actually being said. You had the president of the teacher federation acknowledge that not every certified teacher is an effective educator while stating that "...a homeschool teacher may be a natural teacher but lack training and necessary supervision" My question is, supervision by whom and why is it necessary? The last time I checked with the county you are not required to obtain a license to become a parent. It is assumed that we will be a parent to our child, good or bad, but that appears to be a God given right and only in the cases of neglect and/or abuse is it necessary for the government to step in.

The other side of this question is responded to by a gentleman who is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He counters that states have moved toward more home schooling freedom because research has shown that home schooled students on average score 20-30 percentile points above the national average on SAT's.

How can you argue with that. What is it that parents do that is difficult for all teachers to do?

Let's consider for a moment the benefits a "teacher" has when homeschooling; small class size (1-4 students), flexibility, not tied into a schedule (ie. computers, PE, art, library, assembly, etc. is at a certain time and my possibly interrupt other learning), opportunities to DISCUSS (more on the value of this later) at length, not governed by a bureaucratic school board/principal in what they can or can't teach, autonomy, ability to collaborate with lots of different resources/people, you know who your students are and don't spend the first couple of weeks/months just getting to know them and helping the class bond, and I could probably think of a few more but I'm worried about my run-on sentenece. Hey, Mrs. Johnson, I just think I broke my old record for number of words in a sentence ;-)

Now let's consider the benefits a "teacher" has when working in a traditional school; large class size (18-24 students or more - hang in there Aunt Karen!), inflexibility with the schedules of other classrooms and in coordinating everyone for pull-out classes, addressing a variety of learning styles and abilities, lack of opportunities to discuss topics at length because of the schedule, time constraint, and curriculum goverened and controlled to some extent in what they can or can't teach by a bureaucratic school board/principal, ability to collaborate with the teacher next door to you because you can or can't stand her/him, getting to spend the first couple of weeks/months of school getting to know your students and their parents, and then helping the class to come together and bond - can you say Kum Ba Yah?

So, in the end it comes down to making the decision to teach your child at home being a very personal one. Where we get a lot of debate is from folks who are not able/willing to acknowledge the good and bad of homeschooling and the good and bad of public education. Neither one is perfect but they both can work. Doesn't being able to make your own choice sound great?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Flight of Fancy

On a cold blustery day in January Nathan was laying around the house and there didn't seem much to do. So, we gathered the camera,tripod, pitch counter, notebook, and pencil and headed out with the hope of counting and documenting the number of Trumpeter Swans within a one mile radius of our house.

Out we went and right off the bat Nathan had to start clicking away on the pitch counter (device used to count the number of pitches during a game to ensure that your pitcher, or their's, does not go over the maximum number of pitches during a game). There were birds far out in the field and he was counting and I was counting to compare numbers and ensure some accuracy.

Overall it took about an hour to drive that square mile, count, and stop to take photos but it was a lot of fun. I should mention that the photos were taken with a small pocket camera so quality suffers but it was a lot of fun and you're able to see some of the beauty we saw. Final results were:

Trumpeter Swans - 874
Canada Geese - 56
Mallard Ducks -23


Monday, February 16, 2009

Nathan's Native American Button Blanket

Nathan's Native American Button Blanket
Eagle patterned button blanket designed for beauty and warmth. To see more pictures of how he made this click on the picture above.

Rick Miller - Bohemian Rhapsody