Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barbara Frank: Cacophony of Curricula

One of the blog posts I came across in the Carnival is
Barbara Frank: Cacophony of Curricula and it just reminded me that when I first started homeschooling, some of the materials I used were on xeroxed pages, and some were actually mimeographed. (Does anybody else remember the buzz you got from sniffing that purple ink?)

Somewhat later, I can also remember getting some materials at a small Lutheran school that was closing and they were selling off all their textbooks. There were a lot of book publishers that would not sell to homeschoolers, so a textbook on New Jersey history for $2 was considered an amazing find.

It was so much easier when there weren't so many choices.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday -Monkey Butt?

Welcome to Utterly Off Topic Wednesday.

Well, this is one from the Twilight Zone.

While visiting a homeschool colleague's enormously fun blog I came across this post:

"Monkey Butt"

I kid you not.

I don't know what else to say.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Carnival Atmosphere

"Step right up, and see for yourself the most exciting trend in education since free public schools!"

Run, don't walk, to The Carnival of Homeschooling - Women's Independence Day Edition if you want to experience a fantastic selection of blogs of all kinds relating to homeschooling. If you are not familiar with home schooling, this is the place go and see what all the excitement is about.

Our carnival barker and hostess is Renae of, and this carnival is commemorating August 18, 1920, the ratification and final adoption of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. She includes a very informative timeline on the struggle for women's suffrage, for those who are interested.

On Friday, Moms In The Right also posted about women and voting. In this post, she gives us a glimpse into the Night of Terror, that occurred on November 15, 1917, when the warden at Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia gave an order unleashing the guards on the suffragettes imprisioned there for the unspeakable crime of picketing the White House for the right to vote.

Talk about a carnival atmosphere. Only the carnival was in a Stephen King novel.

My mother was only two years old when women won the right to vote. My grandmother was 26. I don't believe either of them ever missed an election. They understood the sacrifices that had been made, and they passed that on to me.

My mother got up off a sickbed in November of 1994 and had people practically carry her to vote in November of 1994 before she died the following March. My grandmother's last election was the June primary before she died in September of 1985.

In the June primary this year here in New Jersey where I am an election board worker, our district of over 1,000 voters managed to attract 30 Democrats and 32 Republicans, 90% of whom were over the age of 60. Two of the seven total voters under the age of 25 were homeschooled.

I wish I was kidding.

There is an interesting statistic in Homeschooling Grows Up, a report by the National Center for Home Education about behaviors of adults who were homeschooled, that says 76% of those 18-24 have voted in a state or national election within the previous 5 years, compared to 29% of the general US population, and a staggering 95% of those 25-29 have voted versus 40% of the general population.

No doubt many of those were women whose moms passed on to them an understanding of the blood, sweat and tears that went into our being able to vote.

So, step right up! Find out more about the kind of schooling that produces informed, engaged citizens!

Discover homeschooling!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Do you have an auditory learner? Have I got a software product for you!

Product Review: Natural Reader

Note: This is NOT a sponsored post or anything for which I have been paid for any reason. This is just a product I came across and liked very much. They don't even have an affiliate program.

When my children were small, reading aloud was a huge part of our home school. We read all the Little House books, and the Anne of Green Gables books, and the Narnia books, and Madeleine L'Engle's books, and Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle. And that didn't even scratch the surface. What a wonderful time that was!

As my daughter got older, i would hear her reading aloud to herself in her room, because she needed to hear what she was reading in order to retain it. Sometimes I helped her read, or we took turns reading. But I confess I wish I had someone to do some of the reading for me.

Now you can.

NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software application using natural sounding voices. It is able to convert written text into speech The speed of the reader can be adjusted, and the voices can be either male or female. It supports Vista and Microsoft Office 2007. You just copy and paste the portion of text that you want to hear into the window and NaturalReader will take it from there.

The free version includes a basic male and basic female voice, plus a voice called "Microsoft Anna", which is really more natural than the other two.

What's not to like?

I became acquainted with Text to Speech when my son's online school provided us with a paid version of a competing program. It completely revolutionized his ability to understand what he was reading. He just kind of started to read when he was about 3. I never taught him anything. He just read. But while he could decode anything on the planet, he couldn't understand any of it unless he could hear it as well as see it. His listening comprehension continues to exceed his reading comprehension. The problem is the flat boring voices that occasionally mispronounce or place an accent on the wrong syllable. We will be using NaturalReader instead this year, even though the other one is included in our tuition.

There are two inexpensive paid versons that have greater capabilities. The personal version is $49.50 and includes 2 free natural voices. It can read aloud any text from Word, webpages, PDF files and emails. It has a toolbar add-in in Word, Outlook, Powerpoint and IE. You can even convert large text files to audio files.

The professional version comes with 4 natural voices, but it also has an audio file recorder and editor, and has the ability to convert text into audio files that can be downloaded into your iPod or burned to a CD. This version is $99.50

You could mosey on over to Project Gutenberg and find some free classic books to "read" with NaturalReader, then convert them to MP3s and burn them onto a CD to listen to in your car!

No pulp fiction here, but the likes of Pride and Prejudice, Tale of Two Cities, The Time Machine, the Sherlock Holmes books, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Hmm. I don't think this free version can actually negotiate the dialects of Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer.

Another great application is to have it proofread something you have written - it will catch some of those things that spelling checkers cannot, such as when you spell a word correctly but it is the wrong word.

Visit the website and click the orange play button at the far right of the upper part of the screen to see and hear a demo of this product.

And before you buy a book or schlep down to the library, check out the Gutenberg project the next time you are looking for a classic book. You will be amazed what you find there.

Natural Reader 7 Free Version

System Requirement:
Operation System: win98/me/NT/2000/XP/Vista
Processor: 500MHZ
Memory: 128MB (256Recommended)
Free Diskspace: 50MB (Natural Voices may
require 600MB free space)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Outsourcing Meets Homeschooling

The New York Times has an interesting article today called The Gilded Age of Home Schooling

I noticed it in the headlines because of the use of the expression "Gilded Age". My son got stuck on the Gilded Age when we were studying American History because he hated the robber barons and the narcissism of the upper classes and the whole "capitalism gone wild" thing of the period, and he just really didn't want to spend any time studying it. So the title did make me curious. I wondered if they had accidentally substituted "Gilded" for "Golden".

In the 70s you had the Unschoolers, in the 80s you had the Christian homeschoolers, in the late 80s and early 90s you had the whole spectrum of other religious homeschoolers - and all throughout you had the Homeschoolers for Excellence, who just believed they could do a better job with their kids' education.

Today, in an odd throwback to the days of governesses, growing numbers of, well, rich people are hiring private tutors to teach their children at home.

Rich homeschooler. Until now, an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Large numbers of homeschool families with single incomes and lots of children have given rise to websites and blogs about Thrifty Homeschoolers and Frugal Homeschoolers, and almost every online resource for homeschoolers includes a section on how to get free stuff, discounted curriculum, and other things that just don't usually include live-in tutors. I can picture these homeschooling moms rolling on the floor laughing and getting peanut butter and jelly in their hair.

I don't mean to beat up on The Rich. All they want is to enhance their family experience by providing schooling that fits their lifestyle, just like the rest of us.

"Lisa Mazzoni's family splits its time between Marina del Rey, Calif., and Delray Beach, Fla. Lisa has her algebra and history lessons delivered poolside sometimes or on her condominium's rooftop, where she and her teacher enjoy the sun and have a view of the Pacific Ocean south of Santa Monica"...

..."It makes life so much easier," Lisa continued. "I don't have to worry about missing tests and if I really wanted to, I could bring the work with me — because it's all in the computer — if I'm in Florida visiting my dad or going to a boat race."
OK, so maybe they aren't exactly like the rest of us.

This is a model that has worked for a long time for show-biz kids and children who are homebound due to illness or disability. And it would certainly be the ultimate way to "mix home business with homeschooling" by having your own business and outsourcing the homeschooling part. But the cost for such teachers is pretty steep: $70 to $110 an hour.

I wonder if my husband realizes how much I am saving him in tutoring costs?

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Anonymous" Revealed


Your respecful reply is very much appreciated. You have succeeded where supposedly neutral journalists failed - to discuss what happened plainly and objectively.

You have a rather well thought out perspective as well as knowledge of the course approval procedure. Are you affiliated with the University?

You know, I could only go on what I heard from the sources I looked at. The articles I read on both sides were designed to persuade me that the other side is wrong, and of course, I brought my own opinion to the table.

A key element for me is the understanding about the "primary text". I guess as a homeschooler I don't always have a "primary" text.

Frankly, your explanation also clarifies for me why our online Christian school frequently includes secular offerings in its science and elective courses like sociology and psychology that seem out of character for its mission statement. But I was on the site today doing some planning and scheduling and noticed that the courses are accredited.

Can I have a light bulb, please?

I'm not a journalist, just a blogging mom who is concerned about this ruling being twisted in the future to further prevent the Christian worldview - including intelligent design - from seeing the light of day anywhere on college campuses, ever. Couple that with an innate distrust of home schooling on the part of some state schools especially, and you have the potential for increased discrimination against Christian home schooled students rising out of this ruling.

This concern is neither new nor unfounded. If you have never seen the discussion on this website about discrimination against homeschooled students on the part of colleges, I hope you will take a few minutes and read this discussion from The Chronicle of Higher Education from 2003.

Thanks again for your response - and for including your name. :) You still aren't quite revealed, but you are not anonymous anymore, either.



As I was saying...

Well, the LA Times suggested Friday the same thing I told "Anonymous" might happen.

If you missed the fun, I posted on 8/15 about the ruling in which the courts upheld University of California's decision to disqualify several classes offered by Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta for being "too narrow or not academically rigorous enough to fulfill UC's entrance requirements."

"Anonymous" chided me for ignoring reality regarding this subject which is clearly emotional for me.

My reply to Anonymous included my concern that even though this case was about specific students and specific texts, a victory for the University could open the door for other universities to step up their restrictions on texts written from a Christian worldview.

David Masci, a senior research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington, D.C. agrees with me. The case could influence admission practices at public colleges nationwide. "No one is questioning the right of Calvary Chapel to teach what they want to teach. But what the case says is that when you do that, there may be consequences," Masci said Tuesday.

Historians testifying for the university said that a history class titled "Christianity's Influence on America" failed to teach critical thinking and relied on a book that attributed historical events to divine providence. The book also contained inadequate material about non-Christian groups, the historians said.

So why isn't the reverse true? Christianity's influence in America has been all but excised from texts from K-12 and beyond. Today's elementary school children are taught more about Sojourner Truth than about the faith of George Washington. I once had a conversation with my niece that revealed that she was taught that Thanksgiving commemorates the Pilgrims giving thanks to the Indians!

Are you serious?

I am not objecting to school children learning about strong women in history or Sojourner Truth's specific importance to the abolitionist movement. Neither am I opposed to a balanced and realistic treatment of Indian relations with whites or with the US Government. I am a Chickasaw Indian, among other things, and had family members who knew up close and personal about exploitation by whites AND the Government.

But please, let's not ignore or suppress the Pilgrims' beliefs about God or their acknowledgment of His favor in our zeal to be politically correct.

I doubt that Feminine Roles in Literature or Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Literature, books that were approved by UC, contained much in the way of words of wisdom from dead white males, or information about Exodus International or PFOX, except in the most negative terms.

Well, of course not. And, more to the point, you wouldn't expect them to.

So why were they approved when the Christian book was rejected in part for not containing enough material about non-Christian groups?

This is kind of where I was going the other day with my Santa Claus remarks. Would you not find it patronizing and insulting to have what you believe regarded as being on a par with believing in fairy tales? Through the use of statements like "teach what they want to teach" and "a book that attributes historical events to divine providence fails to teach critical thinking", they are patting us on the head and saying "There, there. If you want to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that is OK with us."

For the record, we do actually believe God is in control, and that historical events can indeed be attributed to divine providence.

This does NOT mean we hide the fact that some other people may think the chronology of events was different from what we are teaching.

It does not mean that we teach about other cultures and religions without according them respect.

It does not mean that we ignore those individual players on the stage of history who were the agents of change, or consider their contributions and motivations, even if we do not agree with them.

It also does not mean we refuse to use the History Channel and other aggressively secular resources as supplementary materials that can challenge our students to think through why they believe what they believe.

ADDENDUM: Here is an old link from the Calvary Chapel Christian School website showing an article from the Wall Street Journal about this lawsuit when it was first filed in 2005. This article is dated Oct. 28, 2005. So far I have linked to articles from parties rooting for the university. Here is a WSJ reporter who comes down on the side of Calvary Chapel, and presents a lot of what I would like to say, but more eloquently.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lessons from the Hot Place: Smashing Idols

I planned to take advantage of our off-topic day to commend to you a series of Bible Studies on idolatry that are posted this month with videos at The Ramp:Lessons From the Hot Place. Though as I have been writing this, I am discovering that it isn't totally off topic, as you will see. So I have saved it for today instead.

Author A. W. Tozer once wrote, “Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it”

Isn't that the truth? How many of us sit smugly thinking that any discussion of idolatry doesn't apply to us because we don't have statues in our homes?

Let's get down to basics. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our hearts. OK, so maybe your computer or your television doesn't actually take the place of God in your heart, but does it consume so much of your time and energy that you have no time left for prayer and worship or time in God's Word?

This is a particular challenge for work-at-homeschool moms, or even moms who just do one or the other. I can recall homeschooling consuming my days - and nights - when my kids were younger, as I obsessively planned lessons and activities, graded papers, and worked with them individually memorizing math facts, or states and capitals, or doing book reports. It choked off time for housekeeping, time for my husband, time for myself, and time for...God?

Hmm. Without God I couldn't do any of it, and yet every year I would have a period of time where I burned myself out, cracking the whip and focusing on academic excellence to the exclusion of everything else.

Then there were the days - way too many - that I became absorbed in some facet of internet marketing: working on a website, blogging, or talking to prospects on the telephone, and this consumed my time and energy and choked off time for housekeeping, time for my husband, time for myself, and time for...homeschooling...and time for...God?

Idolatry. It isn't just for the heathen anymore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday - Kindness is its own reward

Today's heartwarming story is from my good friend Ed, who forwarded this by email. It doesn't seem to have a title, but it has a wonderful conclusion.

By Jaye Lewis

I was feeling my age that morning as I limped from the parking lot up to the Physical Therapy Building.

I was pushing fifty. I was crippled, and I was feeling like a failure. Thankfully, I was happily married. However, health problems had cut short my dreams of finishing my education. Gloomily, I couldn't recall a thing that I had ever done that was important.

My thoughts became more disheartened when I noticed the middle-aged man limping in front of me--his long gray hair blowing in the wind. I just knew I'd be stuck in the waiting room with him. I was in no mood for a conversation. I knew I was in for a long and painful wait.

By the time I reached the hallway, one of the two chairs available was occupied by the gray-haired man. Reluctantly, I took my seat next to him, hoping that I could bury myself within the pages of an outdated magazine.

My bubble of protection was immediately interrupted by his curious stare. I looked up with a sigh. He gave me an uncertain smile as our eyes met.

"I know you," he said.

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I'm certain I know you."

"I'm not from here," I insisted.

"No. I've met you someplace before."

"That's impossible. I'm certain we've never met."

"I feel that I know you from long ago," he said with conviction.

In spite of myself, I was intrigued. We played "twenty questions," and we finally got around to the Vietnam War and San Francisco.

He had served in the Army. He'd been wounded in battle, and he was darned proud of it.

"I didn't do anything important," I said. "I served stateside, as a U.S. Navy WAVE, at San Francisco International Airport. I married way too soon, and I was discharged when I became pregnant," my voice trailed off.

Suddenly, the man became very excited.

"I remember receiving help from a young WAVE," he grinned, "with red hair just like yours! It was in the spring of '67, when I came back wounded from Vietnam."

He continued, "I've never seen anyone like her, before or since. She moved heaven and earth to make sure that I was well taken care of. She was a tiger, all right. I was badly wounded, barely dragging on crutches. She got me into a wheelchair, and she literally ran after a local bus, making them stop. Then she nearly carried me onboard, giving the driver careful instructions to make sure that I arrived at the hospital, safe and sound. And then she called to see how I was!"

"I didn't see her, again, until four months later, when I was heading home, still on crutches. All I saw was this WAVE fighting like a wildcat, trying to get away from some drunken sailor."

Chills crept up my spine as I remembered the wounded soldier who had rescued me.

"I just couldn't let that girl be ill-treated, after all she had done for me. I threatened that sailor with one of my crutches and he finally put her down. I escorted her back to her desk..."

"And then you went and got the sailor," I choked on the words, "and you made him apologize to me."

Tears streamed down my cheeks, as I remembered that day, and him.

How could this happen? My rescuer from 1967 was sitting next to me, twenty-five years later and half a continent away. Our lives had come full circle, and there we sat--thanking each other for a mutual kindness, long ago.

We talked for a long time, and then we parted. I learned some important truths that day.

First, people are seldom what they seem to be at first glance.

Second, kindness is its own reward. It changes the lives of both parties.

Last, I learned that though my time was short, I had served my country, simply by serving those who had sacrificed everything.

I continued that day a happier woman because I understood that a kindness given will often return to bless you again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Faith and science - a response to "Anonymous"

I was going to respond to you on the comment that you left, but this got so long I decided to make it a general post. I'm sorry you didn't leave your name. You needn't have posted anonymously. As long as someone uses a respectful tone, I am open to anyone posting comments. I don't expect everyone to agree with me.

Anyway, "Anonymous," thanks for your response. Once I got going, I did get off on the Santa Claus tangent :-) - which is definitely a more emotional topic. But I don't believe I ignored reality at all.

The reality is that my worldview is increasingly under attack, and my concern is that this ruling, which today may be directed at specific students and their specific high school texts, will ultimately be redirected to penalize all Christian high schoolers, and Christian home schoolers who would like to attend UC schools.

Here is another reality: "As California goes, so goes the nation." Once the first inch is ceded, it is only a matter of time before they take the mile as well. So "all UC schools" could eventually become "all schools".

I firmly believe in evolution, if defined as the observed changes in populations of organisms over time. But I did teach my children that they were under no obligation to believe the "Theory of Evolution" as dogma.

I tell a story earlier on in this blog about using Bill Nye the Science Guy in my elementary science curriculum, which provided many opportunities to talk about science and faith and that the two are not mutually exclusive. In oversimplified terms, we considered science the "how" and faith the "why." Once in high school, we used an excellent science curriculum that supported our worldview, but I still made a point of familiarizing my children with the evolutionary curriculum and terminology they were expected to "know", using texts that contained evolutionary material.

In public schools this is called "teaching to the test." Perhaps this is what you meant by "adapting the teachings to fit the requirements." See, we didn't disagree after all!

I guess my main beef is that the theory of evolution has evolved - pardon the pun - into a kind of competing religion from which no dissent is tolerated. Kind of like the Inquisition, minus the burning at the stake.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Find Out Your Child's Learning Style

How does your child learn? It is important to discover your child's primary learning style if you are about to start a home schooling program. You will be able to help your child increase their enjoyment of learning if you know how they learn best.

There are three main learning styles - Visual, Auditory and kinesthetic.

Visual: Normal school learning is usually aimed at visual learners. Children who are primarily visual learners frequently see what they read or are told in a series of pictures or mental images. These children will be mostly quite fairly well organized in their schoolwork or habits. They may spend hours absorbed in a picture book or watching television if allowed. They will often be called 'imaginative' and love painting, drawing and crafts. The educational system is aimed at this kind of learning and so these children usually do well in a regular school. But the visual learner who wants to concentrate on artistic pursuits, for example, will have more opportunities to pursue his interests in a home school setting because of the flexibility of schedule.

Auditory: Children that are primarily auditory learners will have no trouble listening to and remembering a list of instructions. They will be happy to listen to a cassette tape without needing to look at pictures too. They will enjoy working along with the sound of music and usually have no trouble memorizing the words of songs. Actually, they are able to memorize almost anything if you put it to music. My daughter had some visual issues when she was really young, and was slow to learn to read. Because of this, she leaned heavily toward auditory learning, and enjoyed listening to books on tape that were way beyond her reading level, but that she easily understood. She also memorized astounding amounts of Scripture that was set to music from a very early age, and actually won an award in her AWANA club for memorizing 550 verses over a period of 7 years. Auditory learners make great university students, because they are able to absorb information through lectures.

Kinesthetic: kinesthetic learners are those who find it hard to sit still. They like to get their hands dirty - that is, they want to actually participate in the building of things, usually before reading the instructions. They will often figure out the way to do a thing quickly by experimenting with it, rather than sitting and listening to instructions on how to do it. My son's primary learning style is kinesthetic. When he was eight years old, he built a complex K'nex structure called a Power Tower Crane in two days with minimal attention to the directions. He also found a design flaw in it, and got into an argument with his engineer dad over whether it actually created a problem in the structure. These children often fall through the cracks at school because there is not a lot of opportunity for hands on learning. They are the ones who excel in the agricultural, woodshop, or home economics department - if there is one. Butchers, mechanics, carpenters and many other necessary tradesmen have been kinesthetic learners.

By careful observation, you will soon be able to determine which way your child learns best. Some children may be a combination of these learning types, but usually one type will be dominant. Many boys are kinesthetic learners, though of course some girls are too. Lots of girls are visual learners, but boys can be too. There is no hard and fast rule, so it is up to you to observe.

A learning styles test may also assist you as you try to identify your child's learning style. This particular test costs $8.95 to purchase and you can use Paypal to do so. There is no monetary benefit to me if you do or don't use this one. If you don't want to use this one, you can search for "learning styles test" and perhaps you will find a free one. I thought this one provided some interesting data. You can see my results here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Free CD - Five Elements of Network Marketing Success

Today I would like to offer you a free CD on how to finally be successful in network marketing. It is called "Unstoppable Income" and it is produced by a company that since 1994 has been enabling networkers and other small business owners to earn more money, effectively find new customers and business builders, AND do it all on a limited income.

This makes it perfect for work-at-homeschool moms and dads, no matter what program you are in.

Among other important things you will learn is how to stop chasing your friends and family. That one alone is worth the effort it takes to request the CD.

I think the main problem people have with network marketing is that they don't want to have to approach people they know. I know that there are people who got involved with clunkers I have worked in the past who would now cross the street to avoid hearing about whatever new deal I might be doing now.

Of course, nowadays that is their loss since I am finally making some meaningful money online. But maybe you are a beginner and are dreading the friends and family thing. This CD contains the secret to talking only with prospects that actually care about what you have to offer.

What a concept!

You can order the CD by clicking on the title link above, or here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

California Dreamin'

As I mentioned the other day, the University of California has decided students who have been educated in a Christian worldview that rejects evolution and relies on the Bible renders them unfit for matriculation at any UC school.

This week, a federal judge agreed with them.

The ruling declared that the University of California can deny course credit to Christian high school graduates who have been taught with textbooks that reject evolution and declare the Bible infallible, according to the article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.

Failed to teach critical thinking? Do you have any idea how important we Christian homeschoolers consider it for our children - indeed, ourselves - to be able to explain why we have considered the historical or scientific "evidence" and rejected it in favor of believing in God and the Bible? In this unbelieving day and age?

So it is interesting to me that a judge and a bunch of academics have decided that students who attended a school that taught something THEY don't believe is true are not worthy to attend UC schools.

Funny thing is, they probably taught their children to believe in Santa Claus - something that they knew in advance was not true.

Not only that, nobody can actually prove that the thing they believe instead - evolution - is true. A lot of people believe it, but that doesn't make it true.

The object of your faith is more important than the intensity, or even the sincerity of your faith. Intensely and sincerely believing that a nice old fat man lives at the North Pole, knows what I am doing all year, comes down my chimney once a year after circling the whole world in a flying sleigh powered by reindeer, one of which has a light bulb in his nose does not make it true.

I can remember being criticized when my children were small for not teaching them to believe in Santa Claus. "They have to have something to believe in," they sniffed.

They DO have something to believe in.

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:24-29 (NIV)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I know it isn't Wednesday, but your dog could die


Seriously, this is REALLY important. So here is another brief digression from our home business/home schooling riff.

I was browsing Blog Explosion earning credits and I came upon a blog called My Yorkie Puppies.

How can anyone resist a Yorkie puppie? I figured there would be some awesome pictures or something, but what I found was a very important article about how your dog can be poisoned by xylitol.

This was very upsetting to me as I have two Cockers who love to dig in the trash and will not hesitate to eat anything like a muffin or cake.

So PLEASE be careful when you give your pets human treats. Just a quarter cup of zylitol that a 60 lb. dog got from a cake in the trash killed him within 48 hours, even with medical care.

A little Homeschool Humor

Seen at the home school conference at Sandy Cove this year. Our Speaker was Todd Wilson of Familyman Ministries and the author of "Help! I'm married to a Homeschooling Mom!" and several books of cartoons that had me wetting my pants.

This is a lot funnier when you are a homeschooler, and you have experienced the pressure not only from the skeptics outside the homeschool community but from the people inside our wonderful community I once heard Mike Farris describe as "homier-than-thou."

You know the ones. Their seven children all have matching perfectly sewn clothes, they make their own bread and they don't own a TV. They may even buy 50 lb. bags of wheat berries from a wholefoods coop and grind their own grain. If they have girls, they are wearing matching jumpers and their hair is perfectly combed.

Compared to these people, my life is more like Everybody Loves Raymond...

Hmm. I have to be careful which show I pick. If I say, "The Simpsons", everyone will think my kids are wild and undisciplined and my husband is a doofus. They might even think I actually WATCH "The Simpsons."

And I certainly can't let anyone know I let my son watch **BLIPPED OUT** (Sorry, I was going to write the name and then changed my mind - the stakes are too high). For that matter, maybe I shouldn't mention any show. Someone might be offended that I watch TV at all.

Then there are those on the Other Side. You know, the ones who think the public schools are too conservative. The Homeschoolers for Obama. (What planet are they on, again?) They will think it is ridiculous that I care whether someone is offended. Oh, wait. Maybe they were offended because they thought I said Obama is on another planet...or maybe...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Utterly Off Topic Wednesday - Your FICO Score

Well, it seems that there is a trend toward "Wordless Wednesdays" in the blogosphere in which the bloggers take a break from commentary or blather and publish only pictures.

In that same spirit, I offer "Utterly Off Topic Wednesday". We will not be talking about homeschooling at all today.


Let's start with the quote of the day - I just got this in an email and LOVED it.

Calling an illegal alien an 'undocumented immigrant'
Is like calling a drug dealer an 'unlicensed pharmacist.'

I wish I knew who said this, I would like to shake his hand, or at the very least give him an attribution for the quote.

OK, now for the meat. I want to bring to your attention an article on my free info site about debt consolidation and other debt related topics at There is actually also a link to it in the sidebar.

The article gives three strategies to raise your FICO score. For the uninitiated, the FICO score is a number the three major credit bureaus use to determine whether the way you handle money makes you a reasonable risk for them to extend credit. The score has several components - payment history, utilization (do you have a lot of accounts with low balances or a few accounts that are maxed out?), established history, number of inquiries, and mix of credit types that you are holding. Your FICO credit score can be used to determine your interest rate and how much credit a lender will give you.

Here is a sample strategy from the article. You can read the whole article here.

Strategy Two: Maintain Your Good Credit History

Good job - you have paid your bills on time, and do not have high credit card debt. Here's some ideas to keep your FICO score as high as possible.

First, don't close your old accounts. One part of your credit score is based on the amount of credit available versus amount of credit used. Closing old accounts can lower this part of your score. Another part of your score is based on the longevity of your accounts, another reason not to close older accounts even after they are paid off.

Second, paying off your credit cards every month is good money management, but you may be able to improve in this area. Here's the scenario: you have a $2000 credit card. Every month, you charge about $1800 to that card. And, every month you pay it off. But here's what happens - your credit card company reports your credit information monthly to FICO. If they report it before you pay off your card, it looks like you carry a high balance on your credit card every month. You may find your FICO score improves if you pay off your credit card at a different time of the month.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

For all you single issue voters out there

Single Issue Voters are passionate about a particular issue, hence the name. But you will find more single issue voters who are passionate on one side or the other about immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, and other social issues than about foreign policy, oil, or the economy - with the possible exception of the war in Iraq.

You almost never find anyone whose single issue is homeschooling.

Actually, I think the Single Issue that encompasses homeschooling and other educational choices would be "parental rights." And that is something I don't think enough people are concerned about.

The same court case that established a right to home school is the case that determined that parents possess a fundamental constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit: the 1925 ruling in Pierce v. the Society of Sisters.

But in today's legal and cultural climate, judges routinely deny parental rights, and there is an additional threat from those who would like to see international law as the standard for what is acceptable parental action on behalf of their children.

Then there's California.

Need I say more? From the state that brought you Muslim role playing in public schools and banned hateful references to "Mom" and "Dad" from textbooks lest any homosexuals be offended comes the latest assault on the sensibilities of Christians, not only in California, but all over the US.

There was considerable Christian media attention focused on the Rachel L. ruling in California this year that directly attacked homeschooling freedoms, and even some secular attention. Many groups with various agendas banded together in support of homeschooling.

But where was everybody last year when the University of Califormia quietly placed our Christian worldview in the crosshairs by declaring that any student educated with curricula that made even the smallest reference to a biblical worldview would not be allowed to attend any UC school?

Under the admissions guidelines to University of California colleges, in-state students must either score in the top two to three percent on standardized tests or complete a core curriculum of approved preparatory classes (called "a-g" classes) to be deemed eligible for entrance into the state university system.

More than 90 percent of UC students achieved eligibility by completing an approved a-g curriculum. Under the disputed policy, however, a-g classes based on books that mention God or the Bible don't count, effectively making a secular education a prerequisite for admission.

Can you say "Germany"? Basically, this policy forces parents to choose between their faith and their dream or their children's dream of attending UC.

Calvary Chapel Christian School and 5 students have filed suit against UC, saying that this discriminatory policy creates an ultimatum for Christian schools to either give up any idea of their students attending UC schools, or to teach from a secular worldview.

World Net Daily reported last month that according to the lawsuit, a variety of textbooks with supplemental perspectives were accepted – just not those with a Christian perspective.

For example, "Western Civilization: The Jewish Experience" and "Issues in African History" were accepted, but "Christianity's Influence on American History" was rejected.

"Feminine Roles in Literature," "Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Literature" and "Literature of Dissent" were accepted, but "Christianity and Morality in American Literature" was not.

Most strikingly, "Intro to Buddhism," "Introduction to Jewish Thought," "Women's Studies & Feminism" and "Raza Studies" were deemed acceptable electives, but "Special Providence: American Government" was unacceptable, both as a civics and elective course.

"In other words, (UC schools) routinely approve courses which add viewpoints such as non-Christian religion, feminism, an ethnic preference, a political viewpoint, or multiculturalism, or that focus on religions such as Buddhism or Judaism, (and plaintiffs believe they should evenhandedly approve such courses), but disapprove courses which add viewpoints based on conservative Christianity," the court filings said.

Even though this case is about Christian schools teaching a Christian worldview, should the court rule in UC's favor, it will be a terrible strike at the heart of Christian home schooling, and any kind of educational choice that includes a biblical worldview.

So as much as I am loathe to say it, it matters where the candidates stand on homeschooling. The only one who was solidly and vocally in favor of homeschooling was Ron Paul.

McCain supports vouchers, home schooling, charter schools and generally any policy that helps parents choose the private or public school that they want their children to attend. McCain argues that school choice will create market forces that will spur competition among schools, not just for students but for the best teachers. He has also said that he would expand federally funded vouchers called Opportunity Scholarships that would let more parents pick the school of their choice.

Obama also wants to give parents more options when they pick a school for their children, but he would limit those choices to public charter schools. He does not support vouchers for children to attend private and parochial schools. He doesn't mention homeschooling specifically on his website or in any of his literature. I have never heard him mention it in a speech.

We need to be asking this question in terms of "parental rights" instead of homeschooling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ill wind blows for homeschooling - part 2? part 3? Where does it end?

I have written several posts lately about how there is a chill in the air regarding homeschooling in the last few months.

Well, the People's Republic of the District of Columbia has decided to spread its tentacles over the homeschool community by requiring parents to be approved by the state board each year in order to be allowed to home school, along with other restrictions and increased regulations.

Incredibly, they claim that they based their decisions on more than "2,800 e-mails and written comments and 400 phone calls" from homeschool supporters around the country.

"The participation of the homeschooling community was a very significant component of this process. The voice of the community helped to ensure that we approved regulations which are sound and balanced," D.C. State Board of Education president Robert Bobb said.

Say what? That is like saying they received over 2,800 emails and 400 phone calls from gun owners who were not satisfied with the restrictions on gun purchases and ownership. Or 2,800 emails and 400 phone calls from abortion advocates who were urging them to support the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Sound and balanced. Right.

People home school for many reasons, but one of the things that keeps us going is having the state off our backs and the freedom to teach our children according to the dictates of our own consciences. Freedom, not restriction.

You can read the article from the title link or here.

Germany declares WAR on homeschooling

Check out the short video and read the article by clicking on the title link or clicking here.

As stated in earlier posts, the German government's argument against home schooling as stated by Wolfgang Drautz, German Consul General is that "The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole."

"Germany does not want the kind of citizens that home schooling produces. They've seen how the home-schooling movement in the U.S. developed and they're very keen on that not happening here," said German academic Klaus Guenther, who is also an American citizen and was home schooled.

I'll bet they don't. As I mentioned the other day, staggering numbers of home schoolers are more likely to vote and be politically active than the general population. Moreover, only 4% of former homeschoolers believe politics and government are too difficult to understand. That would be a dangerous number of informed citizens for a government that is using as its justification a law that was first put into effect during the Third Reich!

Where is the EU in all of this? I thought they were going to be getting involved.

Here's Your Chance to visit the Floor of the House of Representatives!

Received this notice today from the HSLDA e-Lert service concerning the ultimate field trip opportunity:

All this week, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., members of the House of Representatives will be speaking about our energy situation.

This is an opportunity for you to sit in the seats vacated by members of Congress and listen to the debate. If you are able to make the journey, HSLDA encourages your family to make the trip to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

If you are interested, please go to the south visitors entrance to the Capitol (Independence Avenue side). Everyone should have photo identification. You will then go through security. Please make sure all metal and electronic items are available to be inspected.

After going through security, inform the security desk you are going to H-307, Congressman Roy Blunt's office. From H-307, you should go down the main hall, take the first right and go to the elevators at the end of the corridor. Take the elevator to the third floor. When you get off the elevator, go right, then left, then slight right down the hall. A congressional staffer will meet you and escort you to the floor of the House.

Please note: the time when there will be most space is between noon and 1:30. If you get lost or have any questions, please feel free to ask a Capitol Police officer. They are trained to assist you.

Hope you choose to take advantage of this opportunity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What about Community Service? Environmental Concerns

Today we will look at some of the volunteer opportunities that are available for home schooled kids and teens that involve the environment or animal well being. Here is a sample of available opportunities near our home. No doubt there are many near your home as well.

  • Help clear, maintain and renovate trails in a 1200 acre county park - used by hikers, equestrians and bicyclers
  • Volunteers needed to work with Master Gardeners and people with disabilities to maintain gardens. Willingness to get dirty and have fun.
  • Work with staff from Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center or Pyramid Mountain on programs and events, leading hikes or operating the visitors centers.
  • Volunteers will be trained on how to assist marine mammals that have become beached. Individuals will learn basic skills to assist the staff of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
  • We are desperately seeking foster homes for Beagles coming into our rescue program.
  • Help the environment in your community. Typical tasks include: sprucing up flower and shrub beds, clearing fence lines, painting benches and litter cans, removing non-native weeds.
  • Help the environment by documenting and removing debris from the shores of your favorite ocean, river, estuary, sound, lake, pond, or stream.

The website below has a variety of different choices of things to do with the unique hook of three time frames: how to make a difference in 15 minutes, a couple of hours, or on a volunteer vacation. Obviously, a lot of these would not qualify as community service, but you can use these ideas to brainstorm your own family project.

volunteer to help with environmental protection

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What about Community Service? Working with Seniors

There are many opportunities to enrich the lives of your home schooled teens by matching them up with a senior citizen. Seniors often need help that a teen might provide, whether they live independently or in an assisted living or even long term care facility.

Here are some representative listings of current opportunities to work with seniors in New Jersey from just one volunteering website.

Computer Tutor - Tutor seniors on computer basics, such as e-mail, surfing the internet, etc.

Friendly visitor - Read, play games, converse, walk, attend programs together or be a " Special Pal" to one particular resident.

Walking with a Senior - Walk with a senior or group of seniors indoors or outdoors on facility property.

In House mail delivery at senior facility.

Visit with Senior residents - Spend some time with our senior residents and it will be as rewarding for you as it is for them! Share your stories, play an instrument, read to them, play a game, or just take a walk with them and enjoy the scenery.

Craft time - Come teach our resident seniors a craft OR share your hobby/collection with us!

Special event recorder - Volunteer as a photographer at special events throughout the year. Help set up for special events.

LINK is a volunteer support program that places high school students with elderly or disabled residents. Students visit one to two hours each week, providing friendship across the generations, learning from their elder friends, and performing a few light housekeeping tasks.

Good grief, that alone could keep you busy for a long time. And most schools only require 20-40 hours of community service to be rendered over four years. Not that we need to feel that we have to match the schools in every "requirement", but there are many benefits to volunteering that have nothing to do with meeting someone's bogus "requirements."

I can remember that my mother-in-law had several teenaged helpers over the years who performed light housekeeping and ran errands. She was disabled and was only able to leave the house with great difficulty, but she was also fiercely independent, and determined to live alone for as long as possible.

The relationships she developed with the girls who came to her as part of the program lasted for the rest of her life, and in several cases have extended to the rest of our family and endured through the years since her death.

She was not the only one who benefited from the relationships - in every case these girls received love and valuable mentoring from a very wise woman. Not only that, she lived in a two-family house upstairs from HER 90 year old mother who was constantly in and out of the apartment.

I am so grateful that my children had the unique experience of a close relationship with a senior. Most teens these days probably have grandparents my age or a little older, so they may not really have the chance to be an intimate companion of someone who is REALLY old during those impressionable teen years. My daughter knew three out of four of her grandparents, and two of her great grandmothers - one of whom lived to 104!

If you are involved with a church, there are probably elderly members who could use some kind of assistance. Check with your pastor or volunteer coordinator for more information. If you are not involved with a church, there are a number of organizations that can connect you with opportunities to work with Seniors. A few of these are listed here.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What about Community Service? A look at CERT programs

A relatively new requirement for graduation in New Jersey, and many other states, is community service. Well, I am not sure if it is required statewide, but it certainly seems to be in our community.

Actually, home schooling provides more time for diverse community service opportunities. The next several posts will showcase different kinds of community service projects a homeschooled student might consider.

Our community just had an emergency drill for first responders all over the county that simulated the crash of a small plane in a field behind the local high school.

Members of the high school drama group participated in this drill by portraying the dead and injured. But among the responders and CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams - a partner of CitizenCorps, a US government initiative to get all Americans to volunteer and serve) there were only two young people - you guessed it, they were homeschooled.

CERT programs are sponsored by city, state, and local emergency management agencies. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives.

CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community, or increase awareness of emergency preparedness resources. For example, our whole family participated in "National Night Out", a crime and drug prevention event in the parking lots of the municipal complex/police department featuring various games, music, contests, vendors, community organizations, fire department demonstrations and donated food and snacks by local merchants. My son manned a game booth and dispensed prizes to the kids who played.

High school aged students may take the CERT training, but cannot be certified or deployed until they are 18. I heartily recommend CERT training for every student, for the discipline, first aid and emergency training and the opportunity to learn about the careers of firefighters, police and EMS workers at the local and county levels.

Homeschooling IS Legal in California!


The Three Blind Mice of the Second Appellate District Court in California reversed themselves and unanimously conceded that homeschooling is, in fact, legal in California, to wit: "California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education."

We give all the glory to God for this victory!

We saw some pretty strange bedfellows in this fight - Arnold Schwarzenegger and Focus on the Family. Christian Home Education Association and the California superintendent of public instruction. Alliance Defense Fund and the California Attorney General.

Wow. Take a look for yourself by clicking the title link or here

Let's not assume that the fight is ended. Every year some politician introduces a bill trying to place restrictions on homeschooling in one or more states.

Perhaps they are afraid for their political careers. Home schoolers are way more likely to participate in the political process than other Americans. The report "Homeschooling Grows Up," a summary of the research conducted by Dr. Brian Ray on the adult behavior of former homeschooled students includes the eye opening statistic that 76% of those 18-24 have voted in a state or national election within the previous 5 years, compared to 29% of the general US population, and a staggering 95% of those 25-29 have voted versus 40% of the general population.

This would bode ill for legislators of all stripes who were virulently opposed to homeschooling.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Germany strikes again

Can you imagine having your home raided and five of your children seized as "endangered" because you are home schooling?

Click on the title link (or here) to read a truly horrifying article about the ordeal being experienced by the Gorber family. In January of this year, representatives of the Jugendamt (child welfare agency) and police took five of the family's children while the father was visiting the mother in the hospital after complications with the birth of their ninth child. They are now in foster care pending the results of a court ordered psychological exam of the parents.

More homeschooling families have left Germany to escape this kind of persecution, and it now appears that family court judges and the Jugendamt are ready and willing to take children away from their parents simply because they are being homeschooled.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Finishing the race

Well, it is finally happening.

Homeschool veterans from my era are retiring.

Not the original pioneers from the 70s and early 80s - the ones who fought for legalization and went to jail and paid hefty fines for the right to homeschool.

But the second wave - the mid to late 80s crowd who were still considered way out on the fringes of normal when we announced our decision to homeschool.

And we aren't talking about ones who were only called for a particular season. Or the quitters. Or the posers who shouldn't have been doing it in the first place.

These are the ones who poured out their lives, who have fought the good fight and finished the race.

My friend Katie is retiring from home schooling after 20 years.

She first heard of homeschooling in 1986 from her pastor when her family was young and they lived in Cleveland OH.

Then they moved to Baltimore, and in 1988, she attended a meeting with 7 other women who wanted to start a home school support group. From this inaugural meeting grew Christian Home Educators Network (CHEN, which became the first successful large homeschooling support and lobbying organization in Maryland.

On August 16, after 20 years and with 5 kids educated (One in Iraq, two in college, two in high school), Katie is leaving her chalk in the chalk tray and sitting down for a well deserved rest.

Congratulations, old friend, on a job well done.