ThrowingMarshmallows

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Yes Virginia, you can homeschool without a college degree

Well the misinformation is starting again. A new bill has been introduced into the state legislature that would remove a couple of extra hoops that parents who do not hold a college degree need to go through. This would be a great improvement in the law, because it really is unfair to require more info from those parents who do not have a degree. Holding a college degree does not make you any more or less qualified to teach your children. I have so many friends who do not have a college degree who do an absolutely awesome job homeschooling their children.

What is required is not a degree, but rather a love of learning and a love of your children. Sounds a bit corny, but that is what it takes. You do not need to be up on the latest teaching trends because most of that does not apply when you teach your own children. And what is great is that what you need to teach your children is out there...on the internet, on homeschool email lists, in the libraries. Half the fun of homeschooling is learning right there with your kids.

I do hope that this bill passes. It will definitely make taking the first step and filing your Notice of Intent (NOI) much less intimidating for first time filers. It will make the law more equitable for all homeschoolers. What it will not do is give parents the right to homeschool if they do not have a college degree. They already have that right.

And herein lies the biggest problem with this bill...the newspapers keep getting it all wrong and spreading the misinformation that homeschoolers without a degree can not homeschool. And that is a shame because I wonder how many people will read that and not look further into homeschooling because they think they would not be allowed to.

My friend Barb's blogpost gives a great synopsis of the Virginia homeschooling law and what this new bill would and would not do, so I won't take the time to rehash that here. It will be interesting to see if this bill gets any where. It came very close two years ago. I guess we will wait and see what happens this year and hope that some reporters will get it right.

And for those who want more information on homeschooling in Virginia without a college degree, check out this great article.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Beach Pictures


We spent this summer in Ocean City, Maryland and had a wonderful time. This picture was taken on the beach waiting for 4th of July fireworks.







This blowfish was outside the Kite Shop on 4th Street. Pretty cool!





Enjoying the beach











Enjoying Icees on the boardwalk

Trying something...


Decided that it was about time that I figured out how to load pictures to my blog. Turns out to be pretty easy! Obviously this is Jason and Kyle. :o) Nothing like a box to play in...

Hmmmm...now I need to go and find some of my favorite pictures...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Did you know?

That pushing the elevator button on the outside is not the same as pushing the elevator button on the inside? It it is definitely more desirable to push the inside. And is worth running over your brother to get there first. And worth arguing and debating with said brother until an agreement is reached where you both will press it at the same time.

This is Very. Important. Stuff.

More info on Homeschoolers getting into college

Tara on the VaEclecticHS email list forwarded this article about how college admissions folks are coming to view homeschool applicants.

“Homeschooled students, by and large, are a liberal arts college’s dream,” says Sabena Moretz-Van Namen, associate director of admission at the University of Richmond. “We want more students who think outside the box and color outside the lines. Homeschoolers often have developed into self-directed learners. Traditional high school students sometimes lack that trait.”

My feeling is that it is going to get easier and easier as time goes on for homeschooled kids to get into college with a non-traditional transcript. Very good news indeed!

Monday, January 16, 2006

I am addicted to audible.com!

OK…so I have been looking at audible.com for awhile and finally took the plunge around New Years. How cool is this? They have a great selection of audio books that you can download to your computer and then either burn to CD or load on your MP3 player. And their prices are great! I had been looking at buying some Redwall books on half.com and they were running about $25-$35 apiece…audible was having a sale and I got 5 for $40!! Even without the sale, most of the kids books (Redwall, Eragon, DragonRider, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper) that I was looking at were all around $15 or so.

They have several different membership options…I am only signed up for the basic…$10/year which got me 1 free book and great discounts. They seem to have a good selection (other then Harry Potter which I think you can only get exclusively through iTunes). I already have a pretty good wish list made up. I am going to keep looking around and might need to upgrade my membership!

Jason loves audio books (as do I) and we go through them like crazy from the library. It will be nice to add more to our personal library.

For some reason, when I downloaded my first books (on New Years Eve...yes, I live a very exciting life!), they took awhile…usually about 2 hrs or so for ~5hrs of book. However, now it only takes around 5 minutes...not sure why, but I am not complaining! Burning them to CD only takes about 5 minutes as well. Extremely easy to use.

What fun!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Too many good books out there...Part 1

I have come to the realization that there are just too many good authors and books out there. I have so many books I want to read with the boys and just not enough time to do it! Not to mention books I want to read for myself.

We always have an audio book going in the car, Jason listens to books in his room every evening and I read with the boys as much as I can...but there are still so many books out there! Currently I am reading Stuart Little with Kyle, Eragon with Jason and we are listening to The Boggart in the car. I picked up a few poem books to read to both the boys. One is entitled Exploding Gravy: Poems to Make You Laugh...Jason actually picked it up after I got back from the library and read two on his own! I am finding that he seems to enjoy poetry (if the subject matter is fun)...I think that he likes that they are short and he likes the rhythm. And I am just starting The Golden Compass (actually a young adult novel by Phillip Pullman that is supposed to be really good) and John Adams by David McCullough which I am really enjoying.

I have decided to periodically share books and authors that we have discovered along the way with you all. Hopefully you will find something that strikes your fancy! And please remember...all kids are different, so I recommend that you pre-read (or at least skim) these books to make sure they are age-appropriate for your kids. Don't just take my word for it!

Diana Wynne Jones
My favorite new author we have found so far. I find myself getting lost in her books...and Jason enjoys them too! Interestingly, I have found that sometimes her books start a little bit slow but as I keep reading I get more and more hooked. Please note that she writes for all ages, including young adult, so be sure to check the books out first before choosing them for your child. I have to admit that I am enjoying this part!

The Chrestomanci Chronicles Volume I
Made up of 2 books: A Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant A very unique take on wizards and witches. In these books, there are multiple parallel worlds created when a major event takes place which could have more then one outcome (such as a war being won or lost or a major event like the Industrial Revolution taking place). In some of these worlds, witches and wizards exist. In order to keep them from taking over worlds without magic, the Chrestomanci (a very powerful enchanter with 9 lives) must keep watch. These stories are about how 2 Chrestomancis come to learn about their special gifts and destiny.

The Chrestomanci Chronicles Volume II
Made up of 2 books: The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Week These books take a slightly different approach...instead of being about the Chrestomanci, they are actually stories where the Chrestomanci plays a small but key role in the outcome of the book. The books themselves focus on different characters. The Magicians of Caprona focuses on a magic family in a culture similar to our Italian culture. An unknown enchanter is capitalizing on an ongoing feud between the two main magical families in Caprona. The two youngest members of each family find that it is up to them to figure out what is going on before it is too late. Witch Week is set in a boarding school in a world where witches and wizards are feared and hunted by inquisitors. Someone in class 6B is a witch but no one knows who. This story has a wonderful message but also deals with some of the more cruel kid behaviors. I actually have not read this one to Jason because he has not had much exposure to this type of behavior and I am not sure he would get why they were acting this way completely. Those of us who have been in school would definitely be able to relate though. So I will let him get a little older and bit more wordly ;o) before we read it.

Mixed Magics
This book is made up of 4 short Chrestomanci stories. Since the stories are shorter, they do not have quite the same depth as the other books, but they are still fun. They pull familiar characters from Volumes I and II.

Conrad's Fate
The newest book in the Chrestomanci series. We have not read it yet, but are looking forward to it!

The Dalemark Quartet
My favorite series so far of her books. I started pre-reading these and got totally swept up in them. The Quartet consists of 4 books: Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Spellcoats and The Crown of Dalemark The first three books seem to not have much to do with each other...other then being set in the same place - Dalemark. However each holds a piece of the puzzle which is pulled together in the fourth book. I could not put the fourth book down...I was fascinated with how it was all coming together and needed to know how it ended! I still want to re-read these to see what I missed in the first reading. Which is a good because I still need to read them to Jason!

Well, this has gotten really long and I have not even gotten off my first author! Or mentioned two other books of hers that we really enjoyed: Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air.

I will have to continue tomorrow...and the next day...and the next day....and the next day...

Help for those addicted to blogs

I found out about this from another blog, so I figured that I should probably pass it on. If you are like me and have several favorite blogs that you like to check out, you can use Bloglines to more easily keep up with them.

It is free and easy. You just tell bloglines which blogs you want to track. Then you go to your "feed page" and bloglines will tell you which blogs have new posts. You click on the ones you want to read and you are off. So now I do not need to check each blog individually each day. Whew! Talk about a time saver. Good stuff.

Moo Cow Fan Club

The boys and I just finished reading the latest issue of the Moo Cow Fan Club on Egypt. It was wonderful! We really love, love, love this magazine.

It is relatively new and only comes out 4 times a year and is really great. No advertising, no pop culture tie-ins and the boys love it. Jason is not big into magazines...does not like Spider, Highlights or Ranger Rick but he really likes Moo Cow. And Kyle is just now starting to really enjoy it as well.

They cover a single topic each issue (prior topics include Japan, Aztecs, Space, Forests, Scotland, Ancient Greece, Sports, Baby Animals, and Games) . It is really well done with a mixture of article types including comics, hands on activities, recipes, stories, articles and some pretty funny regular columns and characters.

I met the creator at a hsing conference a couple of years ago and really liked her approach and what she wanted to accomplish with the magazine. She was just starting to reach out to homeschoolers (and later I saw that she published a letter to the editor from a homeschooler which Jason thought was really cool). They publish pictures/drawings/letters from their readers and since they are small there is a good chance that if you send one in it will make it in.

Definitely check it out and spread the word!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It is good to have days like today

Got off to a slow start this morning. Not sure why. The boys pretty much played game cube and watched tv until I got breakfast. I have been trying to find time in our days to start reading The Story of US (a US History series) that my in-laws had gotten for us awhile ago without much success. Today I decided to try reading it during breakfast. Went over really well! They were asking a lot of questions and we have a few things that we want to follow up on. Generated some good discussion so I think that we will keep this up. :o)

We then got moving for Jason's OT at 11am. It was our first day back since before Christmas and Jason really enjoyed it and did well. He really liked the game that they played where Torrey traced letters on his back and he wrote them down. He played it a bit with Kyle while he was waiting for us to leave and he wants to play it with me as well. This is a good thing as Jason does really well with writing if he copies the words, but if he does not see the letters (mostly lower case) he has a harder time remembering what they look like. So this is great for helping him visualize the letters and he enjoys it. A great combination!

Then it was on to swimming. Had a lot of fun...lots more kids in the class this time around. One of my friends, Linda, has signed up her daughter so we will get to see them each week! Yea! Jason and Aurelie really get along well...they have very similar personalities. Jason unfortunately was not happy (an understatement) because the water was very cold (the Rec center is fixing their heating system so hopefully it will be better next time). He wanted to skip the class and go home. After talking a bit, he agreed to try the class for 10 minutes and if he was absolutely miserable, he could come out. He stayed in for the whole class and enjoyed it. Although he did say he was still cold.

Came home and the boys asked how many more days until their new Gamecube game would come in. They ordered it on
www.half.com and it is being shipped from Texas. While we were talking, Kyle wanted to know what country it was coming from. I told him it was coming from the state of Texas. Then Kyle wanted to know what the difference between a state and a country was and Jason was trying to remember where Texas was. I went and got the US and World Atlases that we have (yes, I was actually able to find them when I needed them! Always a good thing...) The boys were full of questions...we looked at where Virginia was and then where Texas was. Jason commented on how big Texas was and counted the states between there and Virginia. We looked at the Virginia page and found where Grandma and Grandpa were in Virginia Beach. They really liked reading a bit about the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel and how it is the longest such structure in the country. We then found where Ocean City was and how part of Assateague Island is part of Virginia and part of Maryland. We then looked at Texas and found that it is the 2nd largest state by area but not by population, which led us on a search for the largest state in the US (Alaska). There we noted that Alaska was actually ranked 48th for population and Jason wanted to know which state was the least populous. Spent a lot of time looking at a US population map (Jason was really interested in analyzing this) and narrowed it down to a western state and then found out it was Wyoming (almost 50% of which is owned by the US government). Spent some time looking at the World Atlas and looking for countries that have shown up in several of the books that we are reading. Kyle enjoyed this as he likes playing with the globe that we have and kept going back and forth between the two. It is times like this that I wish that I had a tape recorder to catch the conversation.

Kyle started asking me if it was day or night in the different countries which reminded me of this
awesome website It shows a satellite image of the earth in real-time...so you can see where it is day and night and you can see where the more populous areas of the earth are based on the light pollution. If you check out that website, be sure to play around with the different views...you can see the earth from the where the sun is, from where the moon is, the dark side and the whole world view. And you can zoom in on any part of the world for a closer look. And if you come back after a couple of hours and refresh, you can see the daylight move across the world!

So after we played around a little bit with that website, the boys wrote some more Christmas thank you notes. I never know how that is going to go...sometimes Jason has an awful time and drags it out, other times he does it happily and quickly...this was a happily and quickly time. Kyle had a bit more trouble...he was doing fine, but getting frustrated with himself.

We finished up with reading the last part of their
Moo Cow Fan Club magazine on Egypt. This magazine is awesome...it is a smaller magazine, only published 4 times a year and both boys love it. It is wonderfully written and has no advertising. It has a great voice and is really a lot of fun to read. Great characters, good columns and articles and always looks at the subject from different, interesting angles.

All in all a relaxed, learning packed, fun day. And the best thing is that it was driven by their own curiosity. What more could you ask for? You need days like these every now and then and I am finding that we seem to be having more and more of them lately.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Major Technological Breakthrough

This came through on my UU Homeschoolers email list and just cracked me up! Go out and get yours now!

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade named: BOOK BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere -- even sitting in an armchair by the fire -- yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here's how it works:

BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder, which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKs with more information simply use more pages.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.

Unlike other display devices, BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, and it can even be dropped on the floor or stepped on without damage. However, it can become unusable if immersed in water for a significant period of time. The "browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional "BOOKmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session-- even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOKmarkers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

- Original author unknown

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I love Jon Scieszka!

I can't tell you how much fun we have been having with his books! I have already blogged about the fun we had with The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. The boys absolutely loved the parodies and it inspired them to write their own (Jason's and Kyle's) . They were so thrilled to read what they had written on the internet! They still love this book...so much so that Santa just had to bring them their own copy.

I decided to check out some more of Scieska's stuff from the library and picked up Math Curse and Science Verse and Jason loves them! Science Verse is really funny. Scieszka takes commonly known poems like nursery rhymes, Casey at the Bat and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and parodies them with a science theme. Jason has a few favorites that he likes to recite to friends now. There is also a CD that came with it where they mention the original poem. And Kyle was so cute...he kept repeating precipitation, evaporation over and over (from the poem It's raining, its pouring, the water cycle is boring. Precipitation, evaporation, precipitation, evaporation...).

Math Curse is a lot of fun and Jason really likes it as well. It throws in some interesting to think about math stuff along with goofy stuff like what is tunafish plus tunafish? Fournafish...Well, you get the picture. It really plays I think that he really is drawn to the cadence of the poems as well as the general silliness. His favorite part is where the main character is trapped in a dream of the ultimate math problem...she then revelationlation and breaks her chalk in half...after all, two halves make a whole and she can use this "hole" to escape! It totally appeals to Jason's enjoyment of plays on words.

And it gets better! Not only have these books sparked tons of creativity and interesting discussions...but Jason has been picking them up and reading them!! Jason did not start reading until last year around 8 (perfectly on time for him) and although he has "caught up" quickly, he still feels that he is "not good at reading". His words, definitely not mine. I have not worried about it because he actually reads quite a bit...his video games and manuals, the lego catalog and other miscellaneous things. But he has not shown any interest in reading books for pleasure despite his great love of stories. Partly because the books he wants to read (we are currently reading Eragon) are still above his level and he is a perfectionist. I know that once he gets a bit more confidence he will love reading on his own...so it is so cool to see him curled up on the couch reading to his brother!

And it has seemed to give him more confidence...today he picked up the I Hate Math Book we had gotten from the library (he saw it and had asked me to get it for him...yes...this is my kid who hates anything schooly who has never been to school!) and was reading me some of the math puzzles from it. He was still reading it on the couch when Jeff got home from work...needless to say Jeff was pleasantly shocked!

Scieszka also writes a series called the Time Warp Trio which is similar to Magic Treehouse (but so much better! Sorry...even though Kyle loves the Treehouse books I find them BORING!). Three boys find a magic book that takes them on all sorts of adventures. They are meatier then the Treehouse books, the kids are a bit more real (and not as annoyingly perfect as in the Treehouse books) and the topics are fun..DaVinci, the Brooklyn Bridge, King Tut, Pirates, Cowboys etc.

Just had to share. This really is why I love homeschooling. I feel like I did when Jason was learning how to walk. One step at a time. On his own time. Not saying that every kid will like Scieszka's books, but it is so much fun when you find an author that hits it off with your kid!

I have found that much of Jason's learning comes from reading books. He is much more into concepts then into details...so while he says he hates math, one of his favorite TV shows is Cyberchase on PBS which is about...you guessed it! Math! He does not like to do computations, but he loves playing around with concepts and problem solving. So for us it is about finding a good balance. And books are playing a large part of that. I think that one of the things that I most enjoy is all the great books I get to find and share with the boys. Another perk of homeschooling!