Archive for the ‘ Random Thoughts ’ Category

Lunar Eclipse Tests Parent’s Patience

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Did you wake your kids up to see the total lunar eclipse the other day? Hubby (my hero!) drove the kids to an open area to see the eclipse. (We live down in the woods and are completely surrounded by trees).  The kids were absolutely amazed! They thought it was spectacular! On the other hand, doing something amazing like well before 5am wasn’t without its consequences…  tired kids… And then today (Thursday), the day after?  Oh my! Look out world! The kids were zonked out and it took us for-e-v-e-r to get started on our day.  Even once we did, there was more than our fair share of bickering, arguing and general crabbiness.  It was a day when I carefully plunked myself between kids when we read, sent them off to separate rooms (not just separate desks!) to get things done… For example, at this point in the day ED worked at her desk, DD read on the couch while LD (not pictured) worked in the homeschool room!

Do you know this quote by Bill Cosby? 

No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I’m not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.

It’s certainly not preparing for homeschooling or being ready for the day that I find challenging… It’s the intense sibling “love” that tests me on days like these!!

In the end, though, we really did have a great day. I gathered us all on the couch to read our novel together. We’re reading a gripping story about the Trail of Tears written from a young girl’s perspective (Soft Rain). It’s so good it’s hard even for me to stop reading to go on to other things! From there we moved into our Writing Workshop. It always flows well since we have such a predictable pattern.  So by the time we got to other things that needed more individual focus (like math, etc.) the kids were in the groove.

If you have days of bickering and general grumpiness in your homeschool — just know that you’re not alone!!

Hope you have a good one today!



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Colorado Students Protest Sanitizing History and Removing Political Dissent

Friday, September 26th, 2014

The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice. –Mark Twain

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. –Winston Churchill

By now you’ve probably heard about the Colorado protests and walk outs by school students and their teachers this week. (See this Denver Post Article or this New York Times article). I’ve been quite caught up with the debates and protests out in Colorado because years ago I taught history… A.P. American History, in fact… in Colorado.

Student protesters have been photographed holding signs such as

  • Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.
  • There is nothing more patriotic than protest.
  • Education without limitation.
  • Honk if you love history.
  • Only the nonreader fears books.
  • History. We need to know.

What is at the root of these protests? The Colorado (Jefferson County) board,  in a proposal to create the committee, said materials for the (A.P.,  Advanced Placement) class should promote “citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.” Any materials used in the course, the school board continued in its proposal, should not “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” These discussions have been tabled until October, but walk outs and protests continued anyway.

The Colorado proposal said that U.S. history instructional materials “should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.” It goes on to say, “Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.” [JeffCo Board Committee for Curriculum Review proposal can be read here.]

Putting a “positive” spin on history sounds an awful lot like censorship.  That never goes down well in history.

Take a very famous emperor of China,  Qin Shi Huang. He is lauded for unifying China 2,000 years ago.  But he was also quite paranoid.  Harvard University’s Peter Bol said that “ideologically speaking the Qin made the argument, We don’t want to hear people criticize the present by referring to the past” [BBC]… and so you probably remember from your history books what the emperor did… He buried Confucian scholars alive and burned books. By suppressing intellectual discourse, he and his advisers hoped to unify thought and political opinion.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that any committee will burn books, but they did write that “The committee shall regularly review texts and curriculum according to priorities that it establishes, however, at any time, the Board may add items to the list for review.”  I’m left wondering what those “priorities” are.

And going back to the sentence, “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Just what is civil disorder or social strife anyway?  It depends on what side you are on in history. Many, many famous and not-so-famous people have been accused of civil disorder and disregard of the law in their time… and later. It depends on who “wins” and who “writes” the history as to how they are viewed for their actions. Often today’s social strife becomes tomorrow’s common sense. Today’s “trouble makers” become tomorrow’s heroes.

Why is it important to study and even to admire those who challenge the social norms? Here are some powerful people you probably studied in school. Were their actions too violent, unsavory, unpleasant, distasteful for the history books? Did they challenge authority more than they should have? If so, who decides that?

Nat Turner: He was the leader of one of the bloodiest and famous slave rebellions in American history in August 1831. Somewhere between 55 and 65 white men, women and children were killed. Nat Turner’s Rebellion was put down within 48 hours. The state tried and executed 56 blacks on charges of conspiracy, insurrection, and treason.  Around 100 or more blacks were killed by militia. After the rebellion, laws were enacted to enforce illiteracy among slaves.  The Virginia General Assembly even debated the future of slavery in the state; the proslavery side won. Are the realities of this failed rebellion too negative?  Likely to encourage civil disorder? Unpatriotic?

1831 woodcut, courtesy of Wikipedia

Lucretia Mott: In the 1830s, Lucretia Mott spoke out against slavery and racism. Her participation in the anti-slavery movement threatened societal norms of the time. In fact, some people opposed women’s speaking to mixed crowds of men and women, which they called “promiscuous.”  

Elizabeth Cady Staton and Susan B. Anthony: These two  played a pivotal role in the woman’s suffrage movement, fighting hard for women’s right to vote in the 1850s through early 1900. Elizabeth Cady Staton spoke out on a range of issues from the right of women to ride bicycles to the right for women to vote.  Meanwhile, did you know that Susan B. Anthony was arrested? It’s true.  According to one historian, she was much despised.  She was arrested for voting in the 1870 election.

Are these two women too radical? Perhaps their actions condone “disregard of the law”?

What about the muckrakers of the early 1900s?  Certainly they were stirring up trouble with their exposes on the meatpacking industry, photos of child labor and How the Other Half Lives. Did these muckrakers really put America in the best light possible, though? Just look at one of Jacob Riis’ photos of children sleeping in the streets.  Not terribly positive, is it?

From Jacob Riis’ famous expose, How the Other Half Lives.

The examples go on and on… Jane Adams, W.E.B. DuBois, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr, Betty Friedan, Michael Harrington, Rosa Parks, Ralph Nader.  As Peter Dreier wrote in The Nation, Often the radical ideas of one generation becomes the common sense of the next.”

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. –Robert Kennedy

Time had a compelling quote about book banning that seems particularly relevant to this debate:

Written words running loose have always presented a challenge to people bent on ruling others. In times past, religious zealots burned heretical ideas and heretics with impartiality. Modern tyrannies promote the contentment and obedience of their subjects by ruthlessly keeping troubling ideas out of their books and minds. Censorship can place people in bondage more efficiently than chains.

I thought one protester’s sign summed things up well, “My education is not your political agenda.”

As homeschoolers now, we have the wonderful privilege of designing and implementing our homeschool history curriculum. In fact, you can take a close look at the units and topics I hope we can cover in history and science while the kids are 6-12 or so. We read and study all kinds of books and materials and I really hope that my kids grow up with as much of a foundation and balance as possible. Everything written has a bias of some sort… but I hope to help the kids learn about that as well.

History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon. –Napoleon Bonaparte

This is the question, isn’t it.  Who gets to decide on the version of past events that children learn? A school board? A committee? The college board (which oversees AP exams)? Teachers and parents?

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What About the Social Aspects of Homeschooling?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Update: We have moved to

For so many of us who grew up attending public schools and being educated among same-age peers, there are real questions about the socialization of homeschooled kids. We remember sitting in classrooms packed with other children and truly wonder how homeschoolers will fill in that “void” of being with other children so many hours of the day.  As a homeschooling family, though, I was quick to realize that socialization is not an issue. Let me explain why…

Are homeschoolers isolated?

You would be surprised how many homeschoolers there are. The number is estimated as somewhere between 1.9 and 2.5 million according to Dr. Brian D. Ray, head of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. To put that in perspective, that is the same number of kids as attend charter schools in the U.S.  Because of this, there are lots of homeschool opportunities:

We may be “home” schoolers but some of the best learning opportunities take place outside of the home!

Be sure to check out Homeschool Days at your local museum, historic sites, aquariums, zoos and elsewhere. For example, there are homeschool days at Mt. Vernon, Valley Forge, Gettysburg,. Biltmore. Williamsburg has two weeks of homeschool activities in September. There are outdoor homeschool programs at nature centers and environmental centers.  And though not necessarily educational, places like Disney World, Legoland, Silver Dollar City and Sea World have special homeschool days.

To be honest, we have to try to keep our schedule clear enough that we can get our academic work done!

How do homeschoolers learn to listen to a teacher or authority figure if they aren’t in (public) school?

Another underlying concern that comes from the “socialization” question is, if kids are not listening to a teacher all day, will they still have the same skills (listening to adults/authority, following directions and things like that).  If you think about a large classroom of kids, teachers definitely have their hands full keeping everyone on task.  In a homeschool setting, it is glaringly apparent when the kids are off-task, distracting a sibling or being disrespectful. In the homeschooling families I know, the parents are very involved and emphasize the social skills of good listening, being polite, using their manners, respecting and listening to others (adults or kids). We are able to address behaviors that are inappropriate simply because we are around them and monitoring them more. Does that mean my kids are perfect angels?  Absolutely not! But Hubby and I have helped them learn to be polite and respectful. Homeschooled kids are around adults during the course of a normal day and usually have coaches, teachers, adult friends and other adult mentors they interact with regularly.

I like this quote I found from Fine Homeschooling:

Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. “The idea that children need to be around other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and over excited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop.

After analyzing more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents — not other children.

How do homeschoolers learn the skills of working together so that the skills necessary for collaborative work?  

This is definitely something to think about. There is no doubt that teamwork is important in the workplace and elsewhere. So how do you find opportunities for homeschooled kids to build these skills (especially if you have an only child?)  Basically, you have to seek out opportunities for your children.  Certainly there are team sports, scouts and other groups, but there are other collaborative opportunities for homeschoolers such as homeschool robotics clubs, homeschool science odyssey comptetition teams and even odyssey of the mind teams for homeschoolers.  If there isn’t a team around, you could always form one! As always, it takes time and energy as the parent/educator/fascilitator to make sure kids build the skills you feel are important.

Do homeschooled kids learn to deal with bullies and other “realities” of school?

I actually get this question from time to time… In fact, sometimes the tone is more like “how will your children cope if they haven’t experienced this?” It’s important for every parent to address the issue of bullying… and to emphasize being respectful and kind to other kids.  In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity homeschooled kids outscored public school students.  Studies show that homeschooled kids are often more self-confident and self-assured than their public school peers. This inner strength is what I believe will help the kids deal with difficult situations and any of the different kinds of people they will meet in life.

Some final thoughts on homeschooling and socialization:

At the end of the day, Hubby and I are trying to raise polite, respectful, articulate, friendly people who treat others (regardless of their age) with respect. Some of the true skills of socialization are

  • character
  • honesty
  • morality
  • generosity of spirit
  • citizenship
  • listening skills
  • manners
  • respect for others
  • fairness
  • sympathy/empathy
  • kindness
Whether at school, at home or out in the world, these are skills that all parents are trying to foster in their kids.

This seems  to be the perfect time to share a graphic with you. I was contacted by Peter a couple of years ago and he said I was welcome to share the graphic he and his team developed with all of you.  It celebrates many of the positives of homeschooling.  Anyway, I have WAY too many friends whose (brilliant, wonderful, motivated, amazing) kids attend public school to agree that mine will “dominate” or “take them down” but I do like how this graphic presents many of the statistics about the successes of homeschooling:

Homeschool vs. Public School

If you are interested in seeing some of the educational statistics about homeschoolers for yourself you might want to visit this National Center for Educational Statistics: Digest of Educational Statistics about homeschooled students which is where I suspect he and his team got a lot of the statistics they use in the graphic above. Another source of homeschool statistical information is the National Home Education Research Institute and you can read some Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brian Ray, PhD.

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.

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How Many Homeschoolers Are There in the USA?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Update: We have moved to

Last August, a new study was released showing a continued increase in the number and percentage of students who are homeschooled in America.  The last time the U.S. government released data about the number of homeschooled students was back in 2007. Since I am doing a series about homeschooling in general (How to Start Homeschooling, Choosing homeschool curriculums, etc.), I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share some of the results of this study again. This information was based on a survey called the National Household Education Surveys Program.

How many homeschoolers are there?

In 2007, 2.9% of students were homeschooled. In 2011-2012, 3.4% of students were homeschooled.

In 2007, the number of homeschooled students was about 1.5 million. In 2011-2012 that number had increased to 1.77 million. [Dr. Brian Ray (2011) estimated (using methods different from those used by both government studies) that there were 2.04 million K-12 homeschool students in the United States in spring 2010. See this NHERI report for more information.]

Just so you know, this is about the same number of students as are enrolled in charter schools across the U.S.  According to the National Center for educational statistics there were 1.78 million students enrolled in charter schools in the 2010-2011 school year.

Where do homeschoolers live?

The rates of homeschooling were highest in rural areas where 4.5% of students were homeschooled.  The homeschooling rate was 3.2% in the city, 3.1% in the suburbs and 2.7% in towns.

What grades are the students who homeschool in?

One things that surprised me about the newly released statistics was that the homeschooling rate was actually higher in the upper grades. Just from conversations I’ve had with others, I had assumed that many people choose to homeschool in the younger grades and then put their children into traditional school (public or private schools) in middle school or high school.  I had it totally wrong!

The percentage of K-2 students who homeschooled was 3.1%.

The percentage of 3rd-5th grade students who homeschooled was 3.4%.

The percentage of 6th-8th grade students who homeschooled was 3.5%.

The percentage of 9th-12th grade students who homeschooled was 3.7%.

Overall, the vast majority of students in the U.S. attend public schools… based on some of the statistics I found,  a pie graph of U.S. students might look something like this:


You can take a closer look at the study and these statistics by going to NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) pamphlet: Parent and Family Involvement in Education… 2012, Tables 7 and 8 (pages 27 and 28).


You might also be interested in the post: Let’s Talk about Homeschool Successes which compares homeschoolers to their public schooled counterparts and talks about test-taking, graduation rates, etc

And you might be interested in our family’s answer to the question, “How Long Will You Keep Homeschooling?”

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Thank You to My Wonderful Readers!

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

This week I’m going to hit a major milestone since joining the team… two million hits on my blog…. one million in just the past nine months. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of such a wonderful team and love having the blog to share our family’s homeschool journey.  Ours is certainly not the best/ideal/only way to homeschool, but I enjoy sharing how we meander through each year!  My kids and I love homeschooling and we all enjoy having the blog as well. Believe me, I wouldn’t be blogging if this weren’t a family endeavor. :)  The kids have always been okay with all the pictures I take of our activities… Not once have they complained or asked why I’ve always got the camera at hand when we’re ready for another science experiment or are just about to play a math game.    It also takes their support for all the time I spend/spent writing. It’s a family effort to get “everything else” done. (I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about — the dishes, laundry, sorting, picking things up, weeding, yard work and on and on!)  They get a kick out of sharing our activities with the wider world.  Sometimes I’ll share something I’ve whipped out for the kids… let’s say a grammar sheet about using apostrophes and quotation marks… and to my astonishment it’ll get thousands of hits (83,000)! Or I’ll go out with the kids to take pictures of the ice storm and that post will continue to get hits well into the summer (93,000 and counting!).

I started blogging more than a decade ago – first on a family blog and then branching off and creating the Homeschool Den in 2009. One of the best things has been getting to know some other homeschoolers through the blog… I’ve “met” homeschoolers and educators from China, Africa, Australia, Europe, South America and all through out the U.S.  Each year we’ve exchanged country boxes with other families from around the world just from connections I’ve made through the blogging world.  (In fact, we have a box that arrived a couple weeks ago from a family in Great Britain that I’ve been saving for the kids.)  When you’ve emailed or written on Facebook, I always feel happy that you took the time to write! I try (though don’t always succeed!) to write back… but always appreciate hearing from you.

The blog has also been a joy for other reasons.  I’ve chronicled my crazy ear/health problems — which wound up with six surgeries and my having to go deaf in one ear.  It’s not a very common medical condition/issue, but I’ve found that writing about it is cathartic and have gotten several emails from other people enduring similar challenges.  As it turns out, there are still some on-going nerve/noise issues (I’ll be going back for my post-op appointment at Johns Hopkins on Monday morning). Last October I went in for a reasonably “simple” procedure… and wound up ten months later looking like a Borg-wanna be. Here’s a picture I took a couple of days ago of the plastic button that is sitting over the titanium implant.  I think they’ll take the gauze out on Monday and will remove the stitches.  The plastic part will come off in a couple of months after the bone has grown back around the implant. I’ve always been a happy hearing-aid user… so now I’ll just look all the more sophisticated with this new device. And hey, it’ll be blue-tooth compatible. Nothing like being able to tune into technology straight into my head!

Anyway, I guess I felt compelled to write all this today because I haven’t been on the computer practically at all this past week. I’ve been flat on my back coping with the ear ache pain, loud noises in my ear, nerve spasms, etc.  Now that I’m feeling a bit better, I’m feeling grateful for that… and for everything else in my life.  I guess when the dark clouds settle in for a little while, you’re all the more appreciative of life when the sun peaks back out. You know what I mean?!!

So once again, I just want to say thank you for all of you who have tuned in to read about our adventures here at the Homeschool Den.   Thank you!

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