Thursday, November 25, 2010

Friday School Fun

Nathan just finished participating in First Class Homsechool Co-op for the very first time. He enjoyed it much more than he first thought he would. He participated in a digital photography class, a nutritional cooking class, and a fitness walking class. Surprisingly, his favorite class was the walking class. His teacher was great and motivated the kids along with a few parents. On the last day of school I visited as many of the classrooms as possible and took some pictures of the 300+ students who are involved in this fantastic program.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sweet Prayer

There's no quicker way to my heartstrings than with Schulz's Peanuts. The thoughts that were so directly and simply expressed through this man's ability to draw cute, little, round-headed children, a dog, and a bird are simply amazing. Wishing you and yours a very wonderful Thanksgiving!

Abbreviated Version:

Extended Version:

Monday, November 22, 2010

National Day of Prayer Debate

During the month of May I received a lot of forwarded emails from friends and family about President Obama canceling National Day of Prayer. I read through the emails and just added it to my list of reasons why I did not vote for him the first time. I was appalled and insulted that my country and the person who holds the position of president would not want to continue in this wonderful tradition of setting aside a day in honor of our Christian nation.

Then a friend on Facebook, who is a self-professed atheist, posted a link to an article discussing the issue of National Day of Prayer and some of the people involved in making this decision. When I clicked into the link, I found that there are actually Christian groups who are happy that this day might go by the wayside. I was shocked and continued to think about it over the weekend. That is when I realized what a great opportunity this would be for our boys to explore the issue further.

As homeschoolers, the right to make certain decisions for our family, such as educating our children at home, is vitally important. This led me to think about the issue of a National Day of Prayer and whether this actually impedes on our rights as well as the rights of others.

So, we began our school week with a new assignment; investigate the origins of the National Day of Prayer, who is actually suggesting and pursuing the continuation or the elimination of a National Day of Prayer, and what is your personal stance on this issue. It was explained that they’d have to gather information from all sides so they could support either the pros or cons of such a measure.

The many educational aspects that such an investigation would offer are many; media bias, citizenship, analytical thinking, points of view, ethics, distinguishing fact from opinion, research skills, and where do you go for reliable sources. Our society is rich with opportunities to learn. Taking the time to go in depth is the challenge now. So, after doing some further research I found that President Obama did in fact proclaim May 6, 2010 as a National Day of Prayer. Verifying sources would be another skill that need to be reinforced.
 Here are some additional helpful links:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What Does It Mean?

Since the Call of Duty: Black Ops was released only 12 days ago on November 9th, 2010 the game's makers have sold more than 650 million dollars worth of games. Within the game there is a counter bar which scrolls along the bottom of the screen, listing random collective stats and in less than two weeks it has calculated some amazing stats:
  • 6560 years spent playing
  • 96 billion shots fired
  • 45,263,258 head-shots
  • 1,551,912 flags captured
  • 2,810,451 flag returned
  • 1,123,452,673 practice dummies destroyed
  • 120,948,334 offensive and defensive medals gained
  • 10,871,896 matches played
  • 190,624,247 medals earned
  • 80 percent of the world's population has been killed
More than 6000 years spent playing? That's in less than two weeks! So, this raises the question of addiction and what does this mean for America?

The Video Game Addiction Questionnaire (Gentile 2006)

1. Over time, have you been spending much more time thinking about playing video games, learning about video-game playing, or planning the next opportunity to play?

2. Do you need to spend more and more time and/or money on video games in order to feel the same amount of excitement?

3. Have you tried to play video games less often or for shorter periods of time, but are unsuccessful?

4. Do you become restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop playing video games?

5. Have you played video games as a way of escaping from problems or bad feelings?

6. Have you ever lied to family or friends about how much time you play video games?

7. Have you ever stolen a video game from a store or a friend, or have you ever stolen money to buy a video game?

8. Do you sometimes skip household chores in order to spend more time playing video games?

9. Do you sometimes skip doing homework in order to spend more time playing video games?

10. Have you ever done poorly on a school assignment or test because you spent too much time playing video games?

11. Have you ever needed friends or family to give you extra money because you spent too much money on video game equipment, software, or game/Internet fees?

What does this mean? It means that anyone can become an addict and we've seen the tragic results in recent news accounts involving mothers shaking or harming their children when interrupted while playing farmville, as an example. For these people, it means that they are having issues dealing with reality and are escaping elsewhere through this technology. While you might laugh at the image above, I think it captures a sadder truth.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


An article hailing the achievements of an 18 year old young man hailing from Bremerton, WA who has recently accomplished the rare feat of earning every merit badge currently available through the Boy Scouts of America caught my eye. Talk about bling! Then, as I thought about it a bit more, I wondered which of those skills was his favorite in learning. He did after all learn to scuba dive, play the bugle, and design a tent warming system using hand-warmers. It would seem that there would be two approaches to his achievement; quality vs. quantity. There is no way that he was able to master every task but he certainly mastered the task of setting a goal and reaching it. Kudos to him! This wouldn't work for every kid and he achieved this because he wanted it, not his parents or his teachers.

That's when I discovered that his parents were his teachers. He is homeschooled and because of the freedom that comes with homeschooling he was able to accomplish this rare achievement. It appears that there have only been 129 scouts to have accomplished this task, ever. His parents helped him stay focused, chauffeured him, and financed his learning. They did what no school can truly do and that is the beauty of homeschooling, although, not necessarily the focus in this story.

I've heard about a movie coming out called, Race to Nowhere in which the climate of today's educational system is explored through the feelings, frustrations, and realizations of today's students as they look at what they are actually accomplishing and if these accomplishments actually mean anything. It's a very telling look into the reality of "education". 

That's when I came across this video of a young lady giving her valedictorian speech in which she questions the very system in which she excelled while suggesting that her success is not worth as much as she thought.  She also pays homage to a teacher who helped point out some of these ironies and that because of that one teacher, there may still be hope for her, but that she is still afraid. Based on her insights and honest questions, I don't think she needs to fear anything, especially her future.

Kids and Sports

The importance of PE class in the schools have long been debated and 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. The two vital reasons are: self-confidence and physical fitness.
Self-confidence can be gained through feeling successful to some degree. It's all about personal goals and achieving your personal best. How many books have been written about the defeated teen who is humiliated over an incident in gym class by 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. 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 and like to have choices.
And options are out there. In a recent Sports Illustrated for Kids I came across an article about two schools in New York who are offering PE classes for kids, girls and boys alike, that is about learning how to ride a skateboard. There are those archaic held beliefs that skateboarding is 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 sons, their 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.
The beauty of some of these "fringe" sports such as BMX'ing, skateboarding,or golfing, is that they are individual sports to a certain extent but that still require that you "play" with others. It's about your personal best. Not about standing out in left field for 98% of the game not making a single play or on the bench for the entire basketball game. Let's empower our children to participate in activities that they enjoy and that they can continue to participate in throughout their lives.
The second basis for supporting PE classes in school is obviously to access 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!

So, it is essential for us to provide opportunities for our children to explore different activities that will allow them to be as healthy as possible. If our kids can't be physically healthy they will have a more difficult time being healthy mentally and emotionally. This should be the last thing schools should consider cutting from the budget when everything else depends on it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Should Kids Be Paid for Their Performance in School?

Throughout my time in grade school I tried to get good grades but good grades were never really the goal. In 4th grade when I first received letter grades, I was surprised that A's and B's were so easily earned. In 5th grade they tanked to include some "-'s" with those A's and B's because of the social issues; first love, mean girls, and mean teacher.

Then there was my ultimate achievement in 6th grade when we were given the assignment of writing a science report and told explicitly by our hard-ass male teacher that no one would receive an A+. Did I mention this was back in the day when it was still legal and appreciated by some parents that he was one of those teachers who had a thick wooden paddle, complete with holes drilled into it, hanging in his closet, always at the ready? In regards to telling us about the grade thing before hand, I guess he just wanted us to know that up front. Well, guess what? I did the impossible! I received a big A+ circled in red ink. Ahhh, I can see it now. It was a huge surprise but perhaps it was just some sort of psychological trick for underachievers to prove him wrong, but whatever. My paper was about, The Eye: The Human Camera, which was simply amazing and the best he'd ever seen - I'm sure of it (tongue in cheek).

So, then came middle school where I experienced the freedom of lockers, different teachers, and breaks! As a side note to this freedom came one of my non-babysitting jobs where I was selling powdered Jello/Kool-Aid mix for $5 bucks a bag. I had a couple of regular customers, which in hindsight, seems really weird. I guess it was a rich man's version of those dipstick candy packets. Maybe their parents didn't allow sugar at home but it proved fairly lucrative for awhile until the principal found out and ended that business venture. What was up with that? Sounds like I was selling dime bags (I think that's a drug reference).

Then there were the kids who didn't want to do their own work so I'd write their papers for them. At $10 a shot I was a money making machine. I would pause here to wonder where they got the money to spend like this...I think they got paid for their grades. Would it also sadden you to know that some of those very students who paid someone else to do their work are now teachers? I made the honor roll both years of middle school despite my side ventures and what was my payoff? My dad offered to get me a Big Mac. Not a lot of incentive, especially since I had always been on the honor roll. This form of bribery was in stark contrast to what was later offered to my younger brothers. I believe they were offered $100 for every 'A' they received. Surprisingly or not, they never earned that $100, much to my dad's chagrin.

Then I came across an article telling of an experiment in paying students for their performance in school. In this article it tells of many examples and situations in which one would hypothesis that this would be a proactive way to reinforce positive behavior. In the end millions of dollars in grant money was used to prove the failure of such an approach. Time after time, in school after school, student's achievement was measured before and after. It was shown to maybe hold steady for a short while but they would then drop dramatically in performance when the monetary incentive was removed. Duh!

Amazingly, the only group to increase their comprehension and maintain those results were 2nd graders who were paid $2 for every book they read. Their standardized test scores went up and they continued to do better even after the payment for books read had stopped. This tells me two things; gains from paying kids for grades are short-term and wanting to learn is based on an intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic. When adults decide what is expected of children and what they will give them as an award based on those expectations, the adults are maintaining the control.

Kids who are allowed to be curious and active in their learning will think and behave in a way that they create meaning from their experiences and be effective at what they value. The only scary part of that for some adults and the traditional school structure mindset is that in order to do this effectively means giving up some of that control. I don't think the adults in charge are ready for that. It's too bad. And, no, we don't pay our children for good grades.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Are You Waiting for Superman?

It's sad to think that parents feel that the only option for their children is a lottery...but hopefully this movie will bring to light everything that IS wrong with our current public educational system. Perhaps changes can be made but it's going to take some big guns to take back the education of our children and place it in the hands of people who care.

This is one movie that I am definitely planning on seeing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Who's Looking Out for Your Children?

Parents in Morton, WA are speaking out against the rehiring of a teacher who plead guilty (albeit an Alford plea). One would think that the teacher’s union would see the folly in their support of such a criminal. Well, maybe they will once they consider the fact that the teacher called in sick the first day of school due to protestors outside of the school. Oh, did I mention that parents have been calling the school prior to the start of school in order to pull their kids from his class? Yeah, parents do care but there are still those in the teacher’s union who believe that parents are misguided and prejudiced when it comes to their children…duh! What do they expect and would they really want any less?

This point was driven home today as I listened to NPR on a little portable radio and had to resist the temptation to just throw it out the window in utter frustrations. What would cause me such distress you ask? Well, it started with the host discussing the LA Times article regarding an investigation of teacher performance data with the reporter who was involved in studying and writing about their findings. He broke it down and explained how the data was taken over a 7 year period in which they analyzed the data with a value added formula. This allowed them to see who were the effective teachers, the middle of the road teachers, and the ineffective teachers. You can guess which group was having the biggest issue with their findings.
Hallelujah! What a great way to evaluate and recognize the good and the bad, make changes, acknowledge the obvious, and improve the education of thousands of children. But hold on, the teacher’s unions are upset. Notice that the headline says “Teachers” are upset but read the article and it says “Teacher Unions” are upset…is anyone surprised? Not really and especially the teachers, the good ones at least.

NPR then brought on a representative from the teachers union to offer a counter point and one of her main reasons for these results being made public not being a good things was that it would allow parents to make decisions for their children in the school based on information. This in turn would give them the power to make informed decisions when requesting certain teachers over others. Again, what is the problem? She went on to explain that this is a problem because parents don’t see the big picture and are unable to recognize the needs of the schools, administration, and the district when placing kids each year. The one group not listed in her rundown of who matters was the children. I just thought to myself, “Keep digging lady!” As a parent who does homeschool their children, I believe she was making an excellent case for parents who do care about their children’s well-being and education …this is the definition of parent, in my mind! Why would anyone NOT want to homeschool their child after hearing this? Children, as individuals are not their (Teacher Union's) priority.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Downside to Homeschooling...

While on vacation in Canada without the kids my husband and I saw this commercial. Let's just say we both thought it was wonderful and that for anyone who has children we think you will be able to find the humor in it while your kids just glare at you. Enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Apple Pie Recipe

You might consider the request to make an apple pie a simple one, but when you've seen this video, you will realize that it is not that easy. So, the other day when Nathan suggested that we make an apple pie, I suggested that we follow the directions as instructed by Carl Sagan and friends, and as a result, we needed to make the universe first. Even that was not as simple as it first appeared. I'm one of those people who refuses to read the directions first and then in the end does it wrong at least two different ways. It is only after these first two attempts that the directions even begin to make sense! Regardless of the difficulties involved, it was a delicious afternoon. Below the video is a photo of Nathan and his universe.

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