Homeschoolers are enough

It’s August.  Homeschool mamas, I know what some of you are thinking.

You are wondering if you are enough.  Are you smart enough to own your children’s educations rather than delegate them to professionals?  Are you organized enough to juggle all the curricula, the competing demands of multiple ages, and the laundry?  Are you dedicated enough to keep up with the other homeschool moms with their co-ops, field trips, basketball teams, and robotics tournaments? Are you patient enough to deal with the immature emotions and incomplete communication skills of your kids day in and day out?  Are you brave enough to face down the judgements of skeptical relatives and random challenging strangers at Wal Mart?  Are you strong enough, have you researched enough, do you have enough money?

Let me be the voice from the other end of the path.  You are enough.

You don’t need to be a professional educator.  Your kids need the love and encouragement of mom, and you are enough for that.

You don’t need to be a time management guru.  Life is messy, and it doesn’t always follow schedules.  You are enough to handle those daily pressures. You will adapt and flex, as needed.

You don’t need to “keep up” with anyone, whether it’s that person’s reality or just their public projection.  Each family is unique, and your own set of personalities and challenges and needs won’t match anyone else’s.  You are enough being just who you are, and letting your kids be who they are.

Some days, your toddlers crying or your preteens crying will wear down your patience.  You will be frustrated and will need support or time to calm yourself.  You are enough anyway, even when your patience pulls a bit too thin and gives way like soft caramel.

Some days, sideways comments or disdainful sniffs will bounce off your armor, and some days they’ll arrow through the chinks and leave you bleeding.  On some days, kind words and unexpected praise will pick you back up.  You are enough, regardless of whether outsiders recognize it or not.  Their perceptions do not define you.

What if in an honest evaluation of what your kids need and what you can provide, you realize that you need outside help?  A professional writing instructor?  A math tutor?  A housekeeper or babysitter? A therapist to help you deal with anger or discipline issues? A specialist to help your child learn strategies to cope with disabilities or disorders? A doctor to prescribe proper medications? A nutritionist to tweak your eating plan?  Then you will hire or barter, and you will triangle in the support you need.  Sometimes, someone will hold your hand the way you held up your daughter’s bike when she learned to ride, and together you will be enough.  Enough doesn’t always mean alone.

This journey will challenge you.  Will surprise you.  Will bless you.  Will uncover strength and creativity you didn’t suspect.  Keep pouring yourself into your family, your children.  Keep searching for ways to improve and people who will empower you.  Embrace the journey, learning right alongside your children.  Embrace the moments with the people that matter most.  Embrace the connections. Come as you are to this homeschooling adventure, and know that whatever happens, you are enough.

Advertisements

18 Things I’m Glad I Did in 18 Years of Homeschooling

When new homechoolers pop up online or in support groups, the first question they usually ask is about what curriculum they should use.  It doesn’t seem to matter if they have a pre-schooler or high schooler, they want advice in picking a curriculum.  A certain logic dictates that since they’re doing something new and are uncertain, that they want something formal, approved and proven, to guide them. In the void, a curriculum looks like a lifeboat that will keep you afloat. It will tell you what to do.  

Yet, that’s not the most helpful question to guide your experience in homeschooling.  As I look back over my 18 year career home educating my children, I can only think of 2-3 curriculums I wouldn’t have wanted to do without.  Only a few that truly guided and shaped us, that I can say, “I’m so glad I picked that.” The rest of the time, I think dozens of choices would’ve served us as well.

If curriculum didn’t make or break us, what did make the difference?  Real life choices.  Engagement with people and nature and organizations around us. Priorities. Habits. Attitudes.  Adventures. Philosophies.  Discussion.  In hindsight, I can identify plenty of choices and experiences that contributed in a meaningful way to our success.  And it was a success.  Above all else, I can say without doubt, “I’m glad we homeschooled.”

My children are now confident adults, excitedly chasing dreams, tackling challenges, and learning new skills.  They aren’t perfect (they never were).  They are real.  Maybe their lists would look a bit different than mine, but I think they’d overlap considerably.  After homechooling for 18 years, here are 18 things I’m glad we did.

  1. Played board games. My babies learned to match colors with Bert’s Bottlecaps, learned to count with Chutes and Ladders, learned to add and subtract with Monopoly, Jr, and learned to read tables with Battleship.  Somehow, we never stopped playing board games.  Rummy Roots to Settlers of Catan to Imagine If (and my youngest son recently aced a few high pressure scholarship interview questions which felt directly lifted from “Imagine If,” so I know that’s a plus!) We still have a closet full, and I credit them with so much mental development, from creativity to problem solving to critical analysis to teamwork to sportsmanship.
  2. Summer camps.  I’m not talking about sending my kids off for 2 weeks (although I did some of that). I’m talking about creating summer camps with my kids.  Some as short as 2 days, some as long as 2 weeks.  Every one of them grew out of some activity or book or experience my kids loved doing and we wanted to do more of.  Turns out you can just arrange a place, invite people to do fun stuff with you, and plan your own camps! Camp Halfblood (based on the Rick Riordan books) will forever reign as a cherished family memory.  Lego Camp?  Wow – yeah! I would do that again.  I’ve helped run 7 camps, and pitched in (or my kids pitched in) with several more.  Perfect way to create the magic you want and be deeply engaged in what your kids are doing.  I don’t mind the perk of my kids thinking I’m awesome.
  3. Let me kids change my mind. My oldest son wrote his first persuasive paragraph on why I should let him change his daily routine to do writing first and math last – and I let him do it.  It turned out to be more efficient for him. A few weeks ago, the same child (can we call 20-somethings children??) persuaded me to listen to a soundtrack that was almost all rap, which he knows I don’t care for.  I listened, and I cried because it was so powerful.  In between, I’ve let the kids talk me into all manner of crazy projects that would “never work” and things that I would “never do.” You know what? Kids have good ideas.  They know what they want and need and enjoy.  If I don’t listen to them, how will they ever learn to listen to themselves or expect others to listen to them? Where will they get the confidence to lead others if they never have the experience of making good decisions and influencing others?
  4. Take risks. This dovetails with #3. Sure, homeschooling itself was a big risk since I didn’t know anyone at the time who’d done it successfully.  Once I jumped that hurdle, other risks seemed more do-able.  Ms. Frizzle is my hero, and I hear her voice saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” It was a huge risk when I tried to start a robotics team with no robotics experience. While that project never grew to be all that I envisioned it to be, it was totally worthwhile.  We learned a lot (both about robotics and about organizing group projects), we made memories, and we launched from there into other opportunities.  From another homeschool mom, I picked up the habit of calling anything with an uncertain ending an adventure (including losing car keys on top of a mountain or taking a wrong turn on a road trip). Some risks worked out fabulously.  Others, not so much.  But every one was not only a learning experience, but it was real life modelling of the person that I wanted my kids to be as adults.  Risk takers for whom life is an adventure to tackle wholeheartedly, not a danger to be survived by huddling in the corner.
  5. Compete. Do you see a theme developing? Every contest is a risk.  We’ve been on the volleyball team that lost every game and got eliminated from the tournament first.  We’ve placed last in the field.  We also won a fair share, and pretty much placed everywhere in between.  Contests add the pragmatic benefit of rounding out resumes (yes, I credit them greatly for helping my kids all land college scholarships), but more importantly, they offer intrinsic value.  Every contest was a motivation to improve; a challenge with a deadline to kick us in the butt to tackle a project; an avenue to meeting new people and witnessing how differently other people attempt the reach the same goal; a chance to practice grace while learning to deal with unfairness; and a chance to practice grace while learning to deal with victory.  My kids did not handle every contest maturely, and let’s face it, neither did I.  But we grew through those moments.
  6. Take tons of pictures. The days go slow, but the years go fast. I am so happy to have digital mountains of photos – of momentous occasions and holidays, of ordinary moments and drudgery.  Of taking trips and of days lying upside on the couch re-reading Harry Potter.  Of hugging the dogs and of making silly faces at the restaurant.  I wouldn’t sell those pictures for anything. Looking back at pictures spurs me to share stories with the kids of moments they might’ve forgotten, and sometimes it spurs them to tell me stories of the experience from their perspective, and I learn something new.
  7. Get outside. We aren’t a naturally rugged family –  but being in the sunshine was usually a good idea. When the kids were younger, this meant anything from providing plenty of unstructured play time to run off energy to impromptu trips to feed the ducks at the park.  Through the  elementary and middle school years, nature walks (with or without nature journals) and circling the neighborhood on bikes or rollerblades helped break up the day. After splurging physical energy outdoors, it was easier to sit down with refreshed minds and tackle mental challenges.
  8. Trust my kids.  I let my kids do hard and sometimes “dangerous” things. I trusted them physically to climb trees or rock walls. I trusted their characters enough to try challenges I thought had a valid chance of failing. Two of them tested my trust the most in high school by wanting to travel without parents.  It took a load of parental courage to drop off my 16-year-old daughter at a shuttle to the Dallas Fort Worth airport on a trip to Washington, DC, and that trip was an absolute highlight of her schooling.  When my youngest told me he wanted to plan a cross country trip with friends to ride a roller coaster, I told him yes.  Planning and organizing are incredible learning experiences, and I knew the memories would be amazing.  A few of the friends he asked were denied by moms who weren’t ready for that kind of independence, but I knew there was one friend whose parents would say yes.  Remember the mom who taught me to use the word adventure?  Yep.  She not only said her son could go, she encouraged them to think bigger and make the trip longer, then helped them find friends to stay with along the route. She knows the value of trusting the “kids” to take on “adult” experiences.
  9. Partner up. I never could’ve arranged and coordinated all the experiences for my kids on my own.  In most big ventures (summer camps, leadership training, speech classes, drama club, robot team), I found a collaborator.  I’ve worked with many homeschool moms and learned something from each of them from their style of leadership. Some partnerships blossomed into friendships and a few ended on a sour note.  I’m glad I took the chances, though, to make the big things happen.
  10. Keep 4-H recordbooks. I stink at record keeping.  Honestly. Details need to be recorded? I’m usually not your girl. One of the few I was consistent with were 4-H recordbooks.  Although the kids balked every year at the chore of collecting and articulating so many details, the end result was a priceless record of their accomplishments.  We used them to preserve memories.  We used them for self-accountability to make course adjustments.  We used them as informational treasure chests when it was time to apply for college scholarships. Since I wasn’t great at motivating myself to keep records, the yearly deadline of the recordbooks spurred me on.
  11. Keep pets. They’re messy.  They’re destructive. They shed, pee, and chew on valuables, and they demand attention at inconvenient times.  I’m glad for every furry family member who has snuggled up or played fetch. Lots of experts will tell you how keeping pets teachers responsibility and compassion, and they do.  But the overarching factor for me is love.  If you can have more love in your life, why would you not?
  12. Volunteer. Spending time helping others takes us out of our own lives, above our own troubles.  We dabbled with single afternoons for a lot of different charities and causes, and settled slowly into a few that truly connected with us.  A few that helped with something that meant a lot to us.  For us, it felt good and helped us learn some extra skills (my oldest learned to use power tools building sets for the community theatre), but those are bonuses.  The big benefit, of course, is that they helped others, and they developed a habit of which will (hopefully) lead them to continue to do so throughout adulthood.
  13. Write a novel. Not me, silly.  My kid. I made a bargain with one son that if he would spend one year focused on academic writing, mastering essays without complaining, I’d allow him a full year to write a novel, with no other English class assignments.  Win-win.  He wrote a novel.  Besides being a most amazing learning experience for understanding how literature is constructed and how to use language effectively, it is also a major confidence builder to complete a novel.  Someday, I hope to be as accomplished as he was at 16.
  14. Made relationships and interaction with the real world a priority. Building strong relationships with family members and learning to navigate tricky relationships with friends and coworkers took priority over completing written assignments. When Granny broke her hip and couldn’t take care of herself, she moved in with us.  For 5 years, we traded a cramped lifestyle and curtailed freedom for the joy of sharing the end of her life.  Our kids know without a doubt how important people are in life.  I watch them now as adults choosing to spend their free time together, and driving for hours to show up to support a sibling or friend for a big moment, and I know those priorities are well placed.  I see how they handle outside relationships with respect and dignity, and I have no regrets there.
  15. Senior projects. Before each child’s senior year, we had “the big discussion.” The “you’ve got one more year…what do you want to accomplish?” discussion.  That talk didn’t come from nowhere. It was built on a foundation of years of listening to their ideas and giving them permission to follow their interests.  But this discussion was license to think big and a commission to use their time wisely.  Every one of them challenged me.  Produce a serious drama when I’d never been in charge of live theater? Travel the country when caring for an invalid family member meant the whole family couldn’t leave the house together for more than an hour? I treated their requests with not just respect but enthusiasm.  I’d taken to heart advice from another homeschool mom that the world will tell the children “no” enough times.  It was my job and my privilege to say “yes” as often as possible. We dedicated large amounts of time to those projects, trusting that the learning experiences coming from real life planning and organizing and fundraising would be educational.  We built precious memories, and my children built personalities full of confidence that they capable human beings.
  16. Tea parties. Sadly, I let tea parties fade into the background when the kids were older, but when they were young, it was a pause in a busy day.  A chance to breathe and enjoy each other’s company.  A chance to trust them with fragile cups and treat them to yummy snacks so they felt valued.  Sometimes we read poetry.  Sometimes we told jokes. Sometimes we just drank koolaid (real tea seldom graced out teapots).
  17. Kept the “dress-up” box full. When I chased a house full of toddlers, we kept one plastic tub full of random wild pieces of clothing, some real and discarded, some fantastic, most free or from garage sales.  A bridal dress. A Dalmatian puppy (or a cow…depending on your mood). A green dinosaur. A cowboy hat.  A gray wig.  I wasn’t training the kids for a life in the theater, just offering them space to see their own imaginations in color. As we read books, it was common to see the books reinvented later through the magic of the dress-up box, sometimes with supporting actors from the stuffed animal collection. Over time, the box morphed into a costume closet.  The kids design the most amazing Halloween costumes.  And sometimes they design costumes for “real” plays rather than the impromptu ones that used to fill the living room. One favorite memory: taking the family to Comic Con to celebrate two spring birthdays.  Yes, the cosplays were amazing.  I don’t imagine that it will ever stop.
  18. Went to homeschool conventions – and then stopped going to conventions. When my oldest was 4, an older homeschooling mama drove me to Arlington for my first homeschool convention.  I was overwhelmed by the energy and inspired by the sheer number of other people on the same journey as me.  Listening to speakers filled me with ideas, and actually putting my hands on books helped me understand them and make better purchases.  I faithfully attended conventions every year, eagerly recommending them to other new-ish homeschoolers.  Sometimes I travelled with friends.  A few times, I helped work a booth and gave out advice.  Then, somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t counting the days to convention season anymore.  I just didn’t need them anymore.  I had plenty of real life support in my own community.  I knew curriculum well enough to (usually) judge by descriptions and recommendations if it would fit.  And I found plenty of speakers online to listen to when I sought out specific advice.  I’m glad for all the conventions I went to.  And I’m glad I stopped when I did.

Ask more questions

 What I love most about my kids’ new environmental science teacher isn’t that she knows all the answers.  It’s that she asks all the questions.  Even better, she encourages them to ask question.  As they hike down the nature trails, they stop to examine wildflowers, caterpillars, spider webs, whatever is on the frontburner.  She points out features and she asks them questions about what they observe, about form and function.  Then she encourages them to ask more questions.  Science is discovery.  Science is curiosity.
Their homework assignment this week is to find four native Texas plants, and ask four questions about each one.  Apparrently, finding the answers can be dealt with later.  Asking the questions is the key starting place.
This experience was on my mind when this quote and article were posted my way.
“Teaching is not about answering questions but about raising questions – opening doors for them in places that they could not imagine.” ~ Yawar Baig

http://saudilife.net/alphabets/29615-o-teacher-stop-teaching

The author of the article is Muslim and gives credit to Allah for nature, so clearly our religious beliefs differ exceedingly.  And he seems to speak to public school teachers rather than homeschoolers, so our situations differ as well.  It is his approach to teaching that appeals to me, his concern for sparking curiosity and encouraging a love of learning.  This much we have in common.

Field trips – concrete benefits in the real world

My youngest son participates in a co-op biology class.  During a recent module on the respiratory system, one of the moms arranged a field trip to a medical supply company that specializes in oxygen and respiratory care services.  While there, I saw a nebulizer on display that was amazingly improved over the one my husband and daughter use to treat asthma attacks.   I knew our nebulizer was 20 years old, but didn’t realize how much the technology had improved.  Okay, I will be honest: we just hadn’t thought about it at all since our machine “worked.”

We ordered a new one from Lincare, and it arrived yesterday.  Besides being smaller, lighter and quieter than the old one, and having a handy car power chord, it actually works more efficiently (imagine that!).  Both husband and daughter have already used it and have commented that the recovery time from the asthma attack was much faster.  I’m so grateful to see my family spared physical pain.

By the way, it’s called the Mini Elite nebulizer by Respironics.  I give it two thumbs up.

Anyway, just wanted to remind homeschoolers that field trips and seeing “school subjects” in the real world are worthwhile.  Keep taking advantage of our wonderful opportunities to have our children educated in the real world rather than being tied to lengthy hours inside a classroom.  Sometimes the benefit is simply an understanding of how the subject is applied.  Sometimes the benefit is an inspiration for a career.  Sometimes it’s something immediately concrete and useful to your family.

You don’t need a co-op class to take field trips.  Whatever you’re studying, look around and ask, where does this show up in the world around me?  If you can’t think of one, a google search will often turn up new homeschool field trip ideas.  Venture forth, brave learners!

My answer to the high school question

Yesterday I shared a question from a homeschooler who is nervous about beginning high school with her 1st child.  She wondered about things like curriculum choices, but more important about character matters.  How to develop self-discipline and Biblical grounding and a servant’s heart in her child-soon-to-be-adult.  Below is how I answered her.

(BTW, we share a common faith, both being members of the church of Christ.  The book I recommend at the end can be read and agreed with by folks of most denominations, but I see several worship practices mentioned which do not conform to the Biblical standards.  It’s not the topic of this post, but I’d be happy to discuss and explain that further if anyone is curious.  I’ve had all 3 of my kids read the book and feel like we benefitted from it.)

How exciting for you!  I remember the anticipation (and nerves) when my first little boy started high school.  I was so nervous about it that we actually toured a public charter school, but he begged us not to enroll him, and we are so glad that we didn’t. 🙂

My oldest is now in college, with one in the middle of high school, and one in the same place as yours – on the verge of high school.

I think that in high school it’s important to start giving the kids more control, more choices.  Start developing their own vision for their lives, their own passions.  This is a time of transition to when they move out and take complete control, so it’s important that they learn to make decisions and make mistakes, that they learn to deal with consequences of their own choices while still at home with you to guide them and support them.

Have you talked with him yet about what he wants to accomplish during high school?  About what he’ll need to get where he’s going?  If college is in his future, start checking college websites to give him an overview of what he’ll need to study during high school to get there.  If he deams of a particular career, start finding ways to give him a taste of it (field trips, job shadowing, competitions where he competes using those skills).  Once he starts getting a taste, he’ll either develop a deeper interest, or he’ll find a new direction.

When my oldest was entering high school, he thought he wanted to be an engineer.  We helped start a robotics club and he got to help design and build a robot.  I’d never run a club before and knew nothing about robots, but I was able to find mentors and talk enough people into joining us.  Turns out my son hated it.  But in that club, he made a new friend who was interested in drama and, particularly, musical theatre.  So we joined (and eventually ran) a 4-H drama club.  Besides our own small productions, he also ended up spending countless hours at the community theatre, acting, singing, volunteering, building, painting, and using power tools.  We put him with people who were actually doing and producing what he was interested in.  His senior year, he spearheaded a full scale production of Beowulf.  He learned leadership, delegation, how to write grant applications, how to build a sturdy table, how to choreograph a fight scene, how to place each person in the best position for their own strengths and for who they got along with.  Lots of practical skills and lots of interpersonal communication skills.  That real life, in-depth study of how people work together and how personalities mesh (or clash!) led him to choose physchology as a major in college, which is he pursuing right now. 

My point isn’t to brag about what he accomplished – it’s just to demonstrate the benefits of DOING something and ACCOMPLISHING something. Don’t be scared to try new things, to take on big projects, to let your child start taking the lead.  And don’t be scared to ask others to try out a new adventure with you.  Maybe the project that excites him now won’t be what he ends up being excited about later.  That’s okay, too. 🙂  If you try something and don’t like it, it’s not a failure.  It’s an opportunity to learn something about yourself and maybe open a door to something new.  And every project will force him to learn all kinds of related (and maybe seemingly unrelated) skills because real life isn’t separated into neat boxes by subject. 

HIgh school (IMHO) shouldn’t be about just studying books.  My kids, at least, develop self-discipline when they have a goal that they’ve set for themselves and truly, truly desire to reach.  Yes, often that goal include studying books, such as when the goal is to earn college credits early.  But not always. Sometimes it pushes them to do things they aren’t normally comfortable with (like negotiating with strangers, or getting up really early in the morning, or learning to get along with clashing personalities) or that they wouldn’t do unless truly driven by internal motivation (studying and practicing harder).

Also, in our experience, the best way to develop a servant’s heart is by searching for the opportunities to serve within the field of whatever they’re excited about and doing.  For my son, that meant spending volunteer hours assisting at the non-profit community theatre and mentoring younger kids.  For my daughter who loves to bake and loves little children, that has been totally different.  She bakes birthday cakes each month to take to the local homesless shelter and children’s home for kids who normally wouldn’t have a birthday celebration.  I just have to constantly ask, “How can this skill/this talent/this passion be used to serve others?”  The same daughter enjoys photography and shopping.  Those don’t seem like “servants heart” kind of hobbies, do they?  Except that right now we’ve found an event for her to be a part of where she can do just that to help others.  An annual fashion show is held here to raise money for CASA (an organization which helps abused kids).  She gets to do photo shoots and put together outfits as part of the fundraiser, and then she will take some of the money raised to shop for things that the abused children need.  Again, I tell this story simply to illustrate that any interest or hobby can be used as an opportunity to serve others.  And again, these group activities lead to more opportunities to share the gospel.   

I recommend a book called Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  I recommend it with reservations – it’s written from a decidedly denominational perspective.  It should be read together with you and your child so you can point out the Biblical error.  But it’s a great book for helping teens develop a vision for actually accomplishing something – for finding a focus and purpose for their studies and for developing self-discipline toward reaching goals. 

The next four years

I think the beginning of high school is a moment of truth for all homeschoolers.  High school is big.  It’s official.  It’s intimidating territory.  It seems to be a moment when we all go through the re-evaluation of our goals and commitment.  Is this really what I want to do?  Can I do it? Is it what’s best for my child?

I waffled and agonized.  In hindsight, the choice seems obvious, but nothing was obvious at the time.

Today, I read an email from a fellow homeschool adventurer.  It read like this:

It is hard to believe that my little boy will be starting High School this fall, that he is on the downward slope of his learning at home, yet it is the hardest. I want to spend the next four years with him learning and enjoying this time.  High school was not a good time for me, and I’m very thankful to be blessed with being able to home school my children.

 I have to admit that I’m scared. I want to end well. I want my son to not be excited about being done just so he can be done with school and home.

 What I’m asking is this….

She went on to ask about subjects to choose, and how to guide character development, and how to set priorities with eternity in mind.

As hard as the decision is, “Should I homeschool through high school?”, I think the agonizing is helathy.  The planning, the questioning, the evaluating every aspect…it’s all part of the process as we express our burning desire to give our kids the best possible life.  It forces us to reach out to others, seeking what advice on what works and what doesn’t.  It’s an initiation of sorts.

Having come out on the other side, I feel more confident that I’ve considered my options and made an informed decision.

The goal – or the path?

A link forwarded to me by a philosophical friend.  A highly interesting read.  What am I focusing on as we start the school year – the goal or the path?  Can we do both?  Am I nurturing a human being or trying to create the “best slave”? 

I find this girl’s reflection on her no-doubt outstanding education to be sad.  She’s the valedictorian of her high school, and yet she missed something valuable in her schooling, and she knows it.  This is simply her perspective.

Worth reading.

Maybe since my oldest is starting his final year of high school, I’m just getting mushy.  But as I reflect on the goals I set for his education and evaluate how well we met those goals, I have to evaluate if the goals were worth reaching in the first place.

http://americaviaerica.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html

Anxiety and learning

Something worth contemplating, during the rush of “back to school” that August inevitably ushers in.

“A fundamental psychological principle is that anxiety inhibits learning. Learning occurs best in a playful state, and anxiety inhibits playfulness. The forced nature of schooling turns learning into work. Teachers even call it work: ‘You must do your work before you can play.’ So learning, which children biologically crave, becomes toil–something to be avoided whenever possible.”

Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, is a specialist in developmental and evolutionary psychology and author of an introductory textbook, Psychology.

Go ahead, read the rest of the article.  Plenty to chew on here.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200909/seven-sins-our-system-forced-education

A wicked new writing tool

Call me easily amused, but this writing tool cracks me up.  It’s called Write or Die and is run by someone calling himself Dr. Wicked.  Basically it’s a tool to help you bulldoze through writer’s block.  You set a word limit and a time limit, and start typing (yes, there are writing tips and links to writing articles).  Then hit “go” and start typing.  There’s a countdown timer, and the screen changes colors and provides “evil sounds” as your time runs out.  You can choose “normal” mode or “evil” mode, depending on how strict you want to be.

I can see this truly appealing to my son.

http://writeordie.drwicked.com/

He’s got a writing blog, an online writing lab and a free writing newsletter, too, if you get hooked.  I haven’t thoroughly searched the entire site, but I haven’t seen anything inappropriate yet.  Standard disclaimer: please use discretion with allowing your children unsupervised access.

Maxing out the cards

I maxed out three cards today while shopping.  I didn’t intend to – I was just going to pick up a few needed things and then browse a bit.  But I kept spotting items my kids would love, and items I didn’t know existed but suddenly was filled with excitement about. Before I knew it, stuff was spilling out of my arms.

It’s okay, though.  I was at the library.  The cards I maxed out were library cards.  Besides, I still had two more cards in my pocket, so I could’ve checked out even more.

Whew!

And my kids were thrilled with my “purchases.”

For my youngest son, a great book of magic card tricks and one about how to take care of ferrets (our newest addition to the menagerie).

For my lovely and gastronomically gifted daughter: The Science Chef.  It’s about learning the science behind cooking, like why toast turns brown or why onions make your eyes water or why egg whites change color when you beat them, followed by science experiments and yummy recipes for each food.  How fun is that?

For my oldest son, the musical theatre buff, a gorgeous coffee table book called Disney on Broadway.  He sighed at me as I staggered in the door under the pile of books (there goes mom again!), but he excitedly grabbed that book from my hands before I could dig down far enough to show it to him.

I love that my kids love books as much as I do.  I love that the library makes it possible for me to indulge our curiousity on ANY subject.  I love that my kitchen table is covered with piles of books, looking like the most delicious buffet imaginable.

And I’ve still got two empty library cards left to fill…