Help for Haiti

Help for Haiti
This organization has been in Haiti for many years. They are trustworthy.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homeschoolers Meeting People

As homeschoolers, it’s important to make a good impression so people can see how wonderful we homeschoolers are. Homeschoolers have long been the subject of speculation about their social skills, a concern that I personally believe is unwarranted. After all, we meet people all the time. Sometimes we even make a very positive impression.
I’m one of those moms who believes in teaching children how to think and make choices for themselves from a young age. My goal is to train them up into independent adults, capable of critical thinking and able to explain their convictions and not just parrot my beliefs. To work toward this goal you have to start small, by allowing children to make decisions in non-essential areas while the stakes are low. One such area for me was to allow my children to choose their own outfits for the day. My daughters carefully made their selections and chose outfits that generally matched. My son, who is both extremely artistic and colorblind, chose outfits that would look right at home if he were a very young circus clown performing in the center ring. When we ventured out into the community, we appeared, if not fun, at least interesting enough to chat with and get to know a little. When some people found out we were homeschoolers I could see the “Aha!” moment as if that explained the wild outfits. For others, the fact that my children didn’t feel pressured to conform to others’ ideas about what to wear seemed cool and made them a little envious of our freedom. Either way, it was a good conversation starter.
Here is another guaranteed way for you homeschool moms to either meet new people or run into people you haven’t seen for awhile. Trust me, this works for me every time. First of all, tell yourself that you will get up extra early and run to the store to get a few items before the store is crowded. Assure yourself that since no one else will be there, and you are only ducking in and out quickly, you really don’t need to take your shower before you go. In fact, since you will be showering after you get back from the store, it doesn’t make sense to put on makeup because you will just have to reapply it later and that wouldn’t be using your time effectively. After all, you are going early to be strategic like the efficiency machine that you are. So just run a hairbrush through your hair and throw on your sweatpants and an old shirt, and go conquer the first task on your list for the day. Isn’t it great to be getting a head start on your day? Avoid looking in the rear view mirror as you remind yourself that there is NO WAY you will be seeing anyone you know this early. It helps to repeat this to yourself several times. Who else would be crazy enough to go to the store at this hour? No doubt the store will be practically deserted. Whenever you try this strategy, you will either meet someone who sees in you a kind person willing to help them, someone who assumes you are a morning person looking for someone like-minded to chat with, or (best of all?) someone you have not seen for months. This last person is usually someone who seems a bit skeptical of the whole homeschooling thing, and no matter if you see him or her first and try to hide behind a display, you will be spotted. It’s like a law or something. When you have run out of excuses to babble in a vain attempt to explain away your unusual appearance, you can catch up with your acquaintance. Just remember to emphasize that this is your unusual appearance and not at all what your typical daily self looks like. Use words like “exception”, and “atypical”.
Another option is to adopt my other strategy and just relax. In my case, I am now middle-aged and peoples’ expectations for my appearance no longer pressure me. I wasn’t a beauty when I was younger and I’m certainly not getting better with age. When I have these unexpected meetings I try to relax and enjoy the moment. God forbid that I should miss the opportunity to talk to another person because I am worried about being perceived as a weird homeschooler. Someone may still draw that conclusion after talking with me, but it won’t be because I held back.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Read To Readers?

Do you still read to your children once they are proficient readers themselves? It's true that they may read just fine independently and that should be encouraged, but let's consider some of the benefits of listening to someone else read. When you listen to a good narrator, you learn how to pronounce words you may have only read silently and mispronounced in your mind. This is one of the ways I knew my children had been exposed to a new vocabulary word, when they said something that was phonetically correct but not the accurate way to produce the word. Listening to me as I read aloud also exposed them to variations in inflection, volume, and timing which are important components for developing language skills. When I read to my children, even after they were good readers, I could explain vocabulary and themes in the context of what we were reading together. I could pause for discussion, something that typically does not happen during independent reading. Hearing my children's perspectives helped me to see how they express and process information. It gave me insight into some of their personality traits as they learned to think critically about our reading selections. Sharing a book together gave us common experiences which generalized to other activities. We sometimes quote favorite lines to each other or make a reference to a literary character with shared understanding. Another benefit of reading to younger children is that you can tackle more advanced material and facilitate a love for good literature from a young age. Listening to someone else read is good practice for comprehension, as the children are taught to visualize what they are hearing. Good readers can picture what they are reading about, which is why seeing a movie based on a book can be disappointing when it doesn't match what we had imagined while reading. When someone reads aloud it also provides the listeners with good practice for auditory skills. Learning to tune in to the auditory channel is an important skill that impacts many other academic and life skills. I recommend listening to stories performed by a good narrator even for young children who are not yet readers themselves. Learning to listen and visualize will serve them well in their own independent reading endeavors. Memory is enhanced when a visual image is recalled, so encourage your children to picture the story along with you as you read to them. I read to my children even when they were in high school and quite capable of reading without me, because the shared experience meant not only reading together but time together and connections made despite busy schedules. How many of us love to read but are hard pressed to find the time to actually sit down with a book that's not related to work or school with our children? Several years into homeschooling I discovered audio books for me. Again, a good narrator makes all the difference when listening to a story, but having access to audio books allowed me to "read" that way while doing dishes, laundry, crocheting, and other tasks. I still find that I have little time to just sit and read, but I no longer have a sense of reading deprivation as I go about my day with my little MP3 player loaded with audio books. Reading and being read to can be enjoyable for all ages and levels of readers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Answer is Yes!

Yesterday was a big day for my daughter. She graduated with honors with a B.S. in Education from The Ohio State University. She hand embroidered Jeremiah 29:11 on the top of her cap, and I am very proud of her accomplishments and her perspective about her future. Since I homeschooled Beth all the way through high school, I have been asked by many people through the years if homeschooled students can go to college. Fortunately, with the growth in homeschooling we are not considered to be such a fringe element of society anymore. Many homeschool students have found success in a variety of venues. Beth's graduation from college answers that question with a definitive "yes". College is not for everyone, homeschooled or otherwise schooled. But for those who wish to seek that additional education, homeschoolers can hold their own in any setting. What a joy to celebrate Beth's success!

Of course, it seems nothing goes without a hitch when there's a big event and multiple people involved. Beth's graduation was held outside in the stadium at OSU, and the heat and humidity were both high. Both of Beth's grandparents came to see Beth graduate, but grandma doesn't do so well in the heat. Just after I got a text from Beth saying that she wasn't feeling well and felt dehydrated, grandma passed out in the bleachers. We were able to eventually find the first aid station and she is fine, but we were shook up and spent time in the first aid station while waiting for Beth's turn to get her diploma. With a graduating class of over 8,600 students, it took a long time. We did leave grandma with the medics, at her insistence, and popped back into the stadium to see Beth officially graduate. Because there were so many students, instead of calling their names they tolled a bell that sounded like a funeral dirge the entire time students were receiving the diplomas. My two sensory/auditory processing children were beginning to twitch from the relentless ringing.
Next we drove to a restaurant of Beth's choice, The Cheesecake Factory, but they didn't take reservations and there was a 2 1/2 hour wait. We hunted around for other restaurants in the area, but all had long waits so we headed back home. I had potato salad, a fruit and yogurt parfait, and graduation cap cookies on hand, but that hardly made a meal for eight. So we got carryout to go along with it.

My son, Josh, is an author and he broke out of his usual sci-fi writing mode to pen this "Ode to Beth's Graduation":

Rush so we will be on time.
Walk a mile and then we climb.

Hungry since we walked so far.
Left the food back in the car?

Seated up so very high.
Great view of that cloudy sky.

Now the band begins to play.
Half an hour til the parade.

8,600 tassels tall.
Did you have to name them all?

Graduates who have done your best!
Survive this day and pass the test!

Moving speeches, people sing.
Can anybody hear a thing?

Think it's time to go inside
Before this turns to suicide.

People get their PHD's.
Hangin' out with EMT's.

Additional speeches get carried away.
What? You mean we're just halfway?

More interesting show to watch:
Grandma versus the Red Cross!

Sunburn in the first degree.
People leaving. Wait for me!

Diploma time's a living hell.
Someone kill that funeral bell!

Over? Really? Now we're free!
To the Cheesecake Factory!

Two and a half hour's wait?
Fifty bucks for a piece of cake?

Everything else is crazy as well.
Ten miles around the Hilton Hotel.

Home at last. What a day.
Now we get to eat parfait.

All is over, and I'm glad.
...just what year is Beckie's grad?


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sea Monkeys

When my daughter Beckie was younger she decided she wanted to raise sea monkeys. Since sea monkey eggs can remain dormant for years, they are available in kits for you to raise. The packaging is attractive for children, and I've even seen necklaces that allow you to wear a sea monkey in a little water globe around your neck. Doesn't that sound cute? It certainly appealed to Beckie, and the sea monkeys on the packaging looked animated and eager. Although she followed the directions on how to activate the sea monkeys eggs so they would hatch, the first attempt failed and Beckie had no sea monkeys. Undeterred, she went for it again and the second attempt resulted in several live sea monkeys. Guess what? They weren't nearly as cute as the cartoon sea monkeys on the box. In fact, Beckie's older sister Beth started calling them "Sea Scaries". Sea monkeys are basically a type of shrimp. Shrimp are not that cute. Beckie, however, was proud of her sea monkey family and was determined to see them grow and reproduce to a zillion generations. Since Beckie has AD/HD, it is hard for her to remember to do tasks on a consistent basis. She wanted to check on her sea monkeys daily, and her solution was to keep them in the kitchen. She knew she would be in the kitchen every day, and would see them and have that visual reminder to check on them. This worked great for her. For my part, it was extremely unappetizing to me to see the sea monkeys skulking around their little habitat while I prepared meals. I just trained myself not to look at them after awhile. Beckie's sea monkeys grew, and even had sea monkey babies once. Unfortunately for Beckie, she is only one of three family members with AD/HD and clutter is a big problem in every room in our house. I can't clean as fast as they can unclean, so piles of stuff end up in the kitchen. One fateful day, Beckie's Dad knocked the sea monkeys over and they flooded the kitchen counter. Rather than trying to scoop them back into their little habitat, Dad just dragged a trash can over and swept them all into the trash can. RIP little sea monkeys. Thinking his work there was done, Dad moved on to something else and didn't think to mention the "terrible accident" to Beckie. When Beckie discovered the empty sea monkey container she was understandably distressed. Her strategy to keep them in the kitchen worked for her, but they were not safe from other family members who dump things in the kitchen. Her Dad's strategy was to clean up the mess in the quickest and easiest way possible. The sea monkeys were the casualty. Beckie decided it was safer to have fish in a bowl that mounts onto her bedroom wall, and she has happily lived with her fish pets without having to worry about the bowl getting knocked over.