My boys have been playing Runescape.

From their site:

RuneScape is a browser-based MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). In simple terms, all this means is that the game is not bought or downloaded, but instead runs off our website, through a popular program called JAVA.

The ‘massively multiplayer’ aspect of MMORPG refers to the idea that hundreds or thousands of people can play a game together, online, at the same time. In RuneScape, as many as two thousand people can play on a single server at any one time.

A ‘role playing game’ (or RPG) is described best by taking its title quite literally; you play the ‘role’ of an adventurer. In RuneScape, after designing your character by choosing its physical attributes and base clothing, you enter a ‘tutorial island’ where you are introduced to the basic features of the game – talking to computer controlled characters (NPCs or Non Player Characters), fishing, mining and woodcutting. After this you are sent into the actual game environment, where you then have a whole world to explore.

RuneScape is a fantasy RPG. Although it is set in a fictional world, many aspects of the game are very familiar. Like the real world, RuneScape has an economy; players can buy and sell items from shops or trade with one another and can even dictate their own prices. The in-game currency is called GP (gold pieces) and allows players to purchase anything they might need to live within the gaming world. If their character loses health, they will need to eat and drink in order to replenish. If a player wants to attempt a more dangerous quest, then they will need better armour and supplies in order to succeed. They can even chop wood, smith nails and weave cloth in order to build and maintain their very own house.

Every player has a set of skills that can be improved. The more a player practises each one (by completing tasks directly relevant to that ability, e.g. chopping wood increases the ‘woodcutting’ skill), the higher their rating in that skill.

A higher skill level unlocks new items and abilities that can be utilised to better effect. It also gives the player a higher overall rating, which is visible to other players and shows their experience.

This is them tonight, Cimion (14 yrs. old) playing on one of our PCs and Billy (my husband) on the laptop.

The artist in all of us

Is an artist someone who makes money from their art? Someone who has their sculptures in a museum or takes formal classes? What about a child drawing a picture of their house? Or someone painting their first self portrait for the fun of it?

"What is an artist anyway?" Tera Leigh has this to say;

"Being an artist is about more than just creating original work or mastering every skill! It pervades every facet and moment of our life. If you've ever rearranged your furniture, you used your artistic ability. If you've ever painted a white room a different color, you've change and created".

Pay attention to the moments in your life when you are creating, and remember to acknowledge it. You are being an artist. Creating something makes you an artist. It really is that simple. :-)

Tera again;

"What if you just decided to call yourself an artist? Right this second, pick up a tablet of paper and write: I AM AN ARTIST on it. If it makes you laugh or feel nervous write it over and over and over until those feelings diminish. If you have struggled with defining yourself as an artist, those feelings will not go away overnight. When people in your life question you about it, you will feel those old doubts creeping back up. You will have to continue to work at it but like anything else in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Artist is just a word. It is a way that others can understand what it is that we do. You are worthy of this title. You are so very valuable"

Jessica, a member from a group I belong to, Imagination Tribe posted a quote by Nina Wise, from a book entitled "A Big, New, Free, Happy Unusual Life";

"You already know everything you need to know to live a big, free, happy, unusual, enthusiastic, and amusing life. Creativity is an inborn aspect of being alive. All you need to do is relax and let it out. And if you do, you will find yourself, without the slightest hint of effort, dancing in your living room, singing in the car, writing poetry on cocktail napkins, and noting the dinner plate is a perfect canvas for a painting made of food."

Also, from the same book;

I've been told the story of a six-year-old girl who asked her mother where she was going one afternoon. The mother replied that she was headed for the university to teach her students how to draw and paint. "You mean they've forgotten? her daughter asked, amazed.

I never felt like an artist. Not until recently anyway. Not until I started unschooling my children and deschooling myself. Not until I had a daughter (Jacqueline) who would accept nothing less than being an artist because she draws comic strips and being a writer because she writes stories.

My daughter & I have been creating
Artist Trading Cards for several months now and have traded them at Imagination Tribe and atcards.com. ATC's are miniature works of art that are the same size as a baseball card. How you create them are totally up to you. There is no right way or better way. It's up to you. You can draw, paint, collage, melt wax, use metal, ribbon...the only limit is your imagination.

I created the "Dream" ATC above. It's a reminder to myself. :-)

Here's one that Jacqueline (age 8) did.

YOU are an artist. Don't save the word artist for "other people". It belongs to anyone who creates.


Yellow Kalanchoe

I've posted before about my my black thumb. Well, it seems to be getting slightly greener. :-)
I have no idea how these kalanchoe have survived living in my yard. lol


Day 169: Our Christmas Tree '06

I took this today...the gifts are there because we're waiting for my aunt and cousin to come back to Florida (they went home for the holidays) so we can exchange gifts with them.


Day 168 (non-human babies)

Here are photos (taken today) of my two non-human babies. :-)

First is Mini. She's a 7 year old, miniature poodle and we've had her since she was about 7 weeks old. She loves to play tug-o-war, chase squirrels and enjoys hanging out and watching the kids when they're playing a board game or watching TV. She's very attached to my husband & I, and she sleeps in bed with us every night. :-) Her nicknames are Mini Pearl and Minnie Ha Ha (given to her by my mother's late husband), The Princess (given to her by Shawna) and Minala Goldberg (given to her by one of our friends). We usually call her Mini Girl.

Next is Buddie. She's a 10 year old, green iguana (scientific name: Iguana iguana). We've had her since she was about a year old and she was 22" long (from head to tail) and weighed one pound. Now she's 44" inches long and weighs about seven pounds. :-) She is a free-roaming iguana, meaning she's not caged. She basically lives in our screen room (1,200 sq. feet). This time of year she spends her days outside but sleeps inside because it gets cold at night. She's very user friendly and allows people to handle her.

My azelea

I have such a black thumb. Plants have to have a strong will to live if they're going to be part of my garden. LOL

Like this azelea...it's a survivor and refuses to let me kill it. I just took this photo this morning (my first picture photo with my new Christmas gift!) and I think it's beautiful, if I do say so myself. :-) I've been really making an effort to keep up with it, especially after I killed all the herbs that was growing. :-(


My daughter, the writer

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that child is someone today.” Stacia Tauscher

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and I mentioned that my seven year old wrote a story. My friend said something to the effect of "Maybe she'll be a writer when she grows up". To which I replied, "She already is a writer". She paused as she thought about that, and said "Yes, she is a writer. What a wonderfully supportive way of looking at it".

That little shift in thinking has been very helpful to me in unschooling my three children. What she's doing now is valid and important, not because it may help her when she becomes an adult, not because she may choose that as her career, but because it brings her joy and makes her happy now, right now. She is not an "adult in the making". She's exactly where she should be.

So without further ado, here is Jacqueline's story. She is already working on her second one, which I'll post when she'd done.

Princess Barbie by Jacqueline Anne (a 7 year old unschooler)
“I love being a princess.” Said Barbie.
Barbie’s tutor came in and said “Princess the queen sent for you”. “Where is she?” said Barbie. “In the throne room” said Ken.
Barbie went to the Throne room.
There the queen sat. “Come my dear” said the queen.
Barbie hugged the queen.
Barbie was surprise to see royal page.
Soon Barbie was heading back to her room when she heard a cry. It was the royal page yelling invader!
“Invader?” asked the princess.
“Yes” said the royal page. “We must hide” said royal page.
So they hid. The invaders lost. They were safe.
The Royal page was nice.
The End.

Anne Ohman

Excerpt from *Making Connections* conference talk
Anne Ohman

In our unschooling family, learning is nothing that's separated, categorized, planned, judged, graded, or forced. It's just a natural, joyful part of all of our lives.

Because real, natural learning is in the living. It's in the observing, the questioning, the examining, the pondering, the analyzing, the watching, the reading, the DO-ing, the living, the breathing, the loving, the Joy.
Real learning happens when our children make real connections that have meaning in their real lives.
Real learning is not what we were told it was. It's necessary for us, as unschooling parents, to make a shift in our perception of what constitutes learning. That's sometimes difficult for parents to do, because our old definition of education and learning is so deeply ingrained in our society and in us.
So in order to make that shift, we first just need get out our erasers and clear away the old crap ~ because real learning is buried under that school definition of learning. Erase that away, and then shift your focus.
Focus on that connection with your True Self and focus on allowing your children the freedom to connect with their True Selves.
Focus on that second connection ~ connecting with each other.
Focus on living. Living joyfully. Live a full, rich, connected life with your children.
Focus on the Joy and allow your children to focus on the Joy. They are constantly and joyfully and effortlessly making connections within their own minds and hearts. Their body of knowledge that they possess within themselves has the chance to grow every day. What does that mean? It means with unschooling, they're learning every day!
We also need to erase away the harmful fallacy that learning is something that can be forced. Real learning is nothing that can be forced upon another person. The connections have to originate within themSelves. It has to come from that first connection. Otherwise, it's not real learning. It's temporarily memorizing something in order to pass the test.
John Holt once said in an interview, "Children are interested in the world, as far as they are able to get into contact with it." That's our job. To put before our children as much of the world as we can.

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Merry Christmas

I hope everyone is having a nice Christmas. :-) My long time friend (30 years!!) Adrienne and her family (husband, twin 15 yr. old sons, 21 yr. old daughter and baby grandson) came over Christmas Eve. We had a really nice, relaxed time; eating, hanging out and exchanging gifts.

This morning the six of us (my mom was over) exchanged gifts and had Christmas morning breakfast together. My husband bought me a digital camera, my 8 yr. old daughter bought me leopard slippers (which I needed) and my older two chipped in and bought me the new
Godsmack CD. My mom gave me a gift card for the place that cuts and colors my hair.

Now the kids and Billy are relaxing in the living room watching
X-Men: The Last Stand, which was one of their gifts. :-)

Have a great day!


New unschooling article in the Chicago Sun

'You have to trust that the child will learn'

Eighteen-year-old Abby Stewart got word this month that she won early admission to elite Princeton University, even though she has never set foot in a high school classroom.
She also wrapped up a huge challenge -- dancing the Snow Queen role in "The Nutcracker Suite" at the Athenaeum Theatre -- largely because she has never set foot in a high school classroom.

Five years ago, frustrated with the pace and depth of a Chicago Public School gifted program, Abby withdrew from eighth grade and entered uncharted territory -- a branch of home schooling often called "unschooling."
Under this ultimate form of "child-directed" learning, Abby used no set curriculum. She called her own hours, worked at her own pace and, most important, followed her own interests -- without taking tests or receiving grades. Some days, she'd wake up, grab a bowl of cereal and go back to bed with a book.

Since then, she has amassed a six-page reading list ranging from Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species to Holt, Rinehart and Winston's Calculus to 16 Shakespearean plays.
"I do exactly what feels right to me," says Abby. "If I want to just read literature for three weeks or three months, that's perfectly fine with my family."

The flexibility of unschooling made it easier for Abby to take ballet classes six days a week, resulting in the shopping bag full of pointe shoes in the corner of her Hyde Park bedroom and her recent role in Ballet Chicago's Studio Company production of "The Nutcracker Suite."
Abby also volunteers three days a week at the Field Museum, where she reduces animal carcasses to bones. Her first day at work, she was given a pair of gloves and a scalpel and directed to the remains of a Siberian tiger.
"Compared to a kid in high school with worms and frogs, it's pretty heady stuff," said her dad, Dana Stewart, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
'Delight-driven learning'By some counts, Abby is part of a growing movement, at least in the Chicago area.

Federal officials estimate that about 1.1 million students nationwide were home-schooled in 2003, up a hefty 30 percent from four years earlier.
Although numbers on unschooling are more difficult to come by, since 1999, at least five unschooling online support groups have sprung up in Illinois, four of them concentrated in the six-county Chicago area, said Melissa Bradford, founder of Many Rivers Unschooling, serving mostly DuPage and Will counties.

"It's definitely growing. Look at our group," said Winifred Haun, a choreographer and dancer who co-founded Northside Unschoolers of Chicago in 2001 with some half-dozen families. Last year, membership hit 100.

Unschooling is rooted in the ideas of education reformer John Holt, who said children are innately curious and will learn what they need to know when they need to know it.
That doesn't mean unschoolers won't ever take conventional classes.
Art enthusiasts may take art classes. Teens who want to go to college may take community college classes first.

Unschoolers figure out what they want to do in life and then learn what they need to get there. Advocates say they absorb material better by learning it when they need it.
One unschooling Web site calls the approach "delight-driven learning." Author Pat Farenga, a student of Holt's, calls it "the natural way to learn."
"This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work," Farenga writes in Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Unschooling.

One Northside Unschoolers mom was seeking an alternative to the test emphasis and heavy homework in her public school. Other unschooling parents may want to avoid labels schools put on especially active kids or late readers.
"The hardest thing for most people ... is that you have to trust that the child will learn," said Mary Griffith, author of The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom."For those of us who had late readers, it was really hard. A lot of unschooled kids don't learn to read when they are 6. Sometimes waiting until they are 7, 8 or 9 is quite common," said Griffith.
"But once they learn to read, they read anything and everything."
'Noodling around' The tools of unschooling in the early years are scattered across a third-floor playroom of Winifred Haun's turn-of-the-century Oak Park home.
Dice and board games help daughters Athena, 10; Iris, 5, and Selene, 2, learn math -- and social skills. Pads of paper, pencils and markers are there for writing and drawing. Books are omnipresent.

This "unschooling" morning, Iris and Athena have completed math problems they asked their dad, Stephen Parke, a Harvard grad and physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, to create.
"Iris was interested in 1 plus 1 is 2," Haun says, so Parke's worksheet expands the idea all the way up to 50 plus 50. Athena's problems amount to early algebra.
Selene plays on a futon as Iris works with her mom on sewing and Athena announces "I need to practice my writing."
Athena has seen what she's missing -- and doesn't miss it.
"I've been to school for a day. It was fun, but I like it here better. In school, they just sat there while the teacher talked," Athena says.
Athena knows some question whether home-schoolers will develop the proper social skills away from a classroom full of kids their age.
"I say home-schoolers do get social skills," Athena says. "I go to choir where there's one other kid who's home schooled. And I go to a home-schooling group where there are kids of all ages. And I have Girl Scouts and ballet."
Haun said some days her kids "just noodle around, but they are investing in days when they produce more."
Besides, she said, "You can teach your kid in 90 minutes a day what it takes the school six hours. ... The other 4½ hours are, 'Stand up. Sit up. Let's go to the bathroom. Let's take attendance. ...'
"If my daughter needs to know ... how to find her friend's name in the phone book, I can take five minutes and explain to her about alphabetizing," Haun said. "I don't have to test her. I know when she can look up the name on her own."

In their teenage years, said Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook, unschooling kids can study biology with a textbook, in a community college or with software. Or they can befriend a doctor and brainstorm on books to read or projects to do. Or they can volunteer to work in a veterinarian's office.
"The sky is the limit," Llewellyn said.
The college questionAbby's dad and mom, a hospice social worker, gave their three children a taste of school (all won admission to gifted programs), and eventually let them decide if they wanted to stay there. All three wound up pretty much unschoolers, with the oldest graduating from Dartmouth in June.
Abby wanted to go to college, too, and plunged into subjects she'd need to get there.
To prepare for the SAT college admission tests, she bought some test prep books and took some old subject matter tests. She posted knockout scores: an overall SAT of 2,350 out of 2,400.

To pad out her track record, she also took the SAT world history, literature and U.S. history tests, scoring 800, 790 and 780, respectively, on an 800-point scale.
Not all unschoolers or home-schoolers have Abby's scores, but on another popular college admission test, the ACT, test-takers who identified themselves as home-schoolers have scored a notch above the national average for the last decade. This year, they averaged 22.4 on a 36-point scale compared with a national average of 21.2.
Before Abby got the news last week that she had won early admission to Princeton, she had researched applying to seven other colleges and found them "pretty forgiving" about her lack of a traditional grade-point average.

At Harvard University, admissions director Marlyn McGrath Lewis said, unschoolers without transcripts can submit college admission scores, and then "tell us what they have done in the way of academic preparation for college, and we'll take it from there."
Some may wonder if unschoolers can adjust to the structure of college life. After the regimen of ballet classes, Abby doesn't expect problems.
Unschooler Sam Dickey, 23, an Oak Park native now attending Beloit College after four years at a community college, said he has no difficulty making it to classes. He found he performs well on deadline and is a "very good writer" despite never having written a research paper before college.

But just like traditional schoolers, not all unschoolers want college.
Jan Hunt, an unschooling counselor who operates the Natural Child Project Web site, said her unschooled son didn't go to college. He started a computer consulting company instead.
"He continually beats us at Trivial Pursuit. He's an incredible editor," said Hunt. "He can do any math problem in his head. I have the proof in the pudding right here."
Not for everyoneYet even advocates caution that unschooling is not for everyone.
"It's just kind of a scary way of doing things. Not many people are willing to go out on that limb," said Dorothy Werner, founder of Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience, an Illinois home-schooling support group.
"You have to trust that children want to learn. You can't believe that children must be forced to learn," Werner said.

"Parents who need to be in control ... would have a hard time. If you want your child to be learning the same factoids as the child next door, unschooling is not for you."
Home-schooling researcher Michael Apple, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is "wary of the hype." He wonders what unschoolers are really learning about people of other races, religions and cultures.
"There is no public accountability," Apple said.
Counters unschooling author Farenga: "Who is going to be the commissar of correct thought?"
William Schubert, professor of curriculum studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, home-schooled his daughter using a few unschooling ideas.
He says unschooling can be positive, but requires time, resources and "dialogue with ... well-educated people."
"We don't know that children are innately curious. The question is open," Schubert said. Some unschoolers "may not get any further than eating candy bars."
Unschooling may be easier for parents with the time and resources, Farenga agrees, but "everyone can find that within their own little sphere."
"I'm not trying to make this sound like it's easy," Farenga said, "but it's not easy if your child is failing or hurting in school, either."
Abby and others insist every child has a passion waiting to be ignited.
"Every person has something they absolutely adore and would like to do for the rest of their life," Abby said.
"If you can pinpoint that, and have your kids run with it, you'd be amazed how excited your kids can be about learning."


Question of the Day

Still checking out the many memes in the blooging world. I came across one called "The Question of the Day". Today's question is "So, tell us, have you ever met anyone famous"? Feel free to answer as a comment or on your blog and let me know so I can stop by and read it. :-) Here's my answer:

Yes, I've met quite a few famous people.

1) I met
Bruce Springsteen right after 'Born in the USA' came out. I was working in Greenich Village at a clothing store called Unique (Broadway and 8th) and he came in to do some shopping. I helped him pick out some sunglasses and asked for his autograph. He wrote "Dear Joanne, you're cute and just the right size too!" LOL I guess he likes us short girls.

2) I met and hung out with
Ace Frehley a few times. First time was in Florida and then again a few months later in Brooklyn. This was back in the '80's, soon after he left KISS. I'm a major Ace fan so meeting him was great! I have a lot of pictures and a lot of good memories from those times. :-)

3) We (Billy & I) met the guys from
Godsmack right before we moved to Florida. They played in Brooklyn and a friend got us backstage passes. They were cool as hell! We got their autograph as well.

Let's see...there's a few more that I'm forgetting. I hung out with John Kelly, drummer for
Type O Negative when he was in a band called Slider with our friend Bob. My uncle Anthony was in a doo wop group in the 50's called The Passions. (click on the link and he's the one on the left, listed as Tony Armato). They did a reunion show (along with other doo wop bands) at The Beacon Theater once and it was great seeing him up on stage. I met former NYC mayor Ed Koch, got stepped on the foot by racist bastard Al Sharpton while on jury duty, met Sebastian Bach and Carl Anderson when they were in Jesus Christ Superstar. (Carl was also in the movie..he played Judas).

There's probably more that I'm forgetting and if it comes to me, I'll add them in. :-)


Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Bands (past & present) I Like

1: Godsmack
Alice in Chains
Led Zeppelin
The Sex Pistols
The Dead Boys
The Beatles

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1.Blah, Blah, Blah
History is Elementary
Adventures in Juggling
Amy's Random Thoughts
6. Hunna's Happenings

7. Snapshots of my life
8. Practical Chick

9. Sauce for the goose


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things.
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday Mind Hump

I've been checking out some of the weekly memes that are going around the blogging world and decided to participate in the Wednesday Mind Hump...basically because I like the name of it. lol
Feel free to answer it on your blog (or leave it as a comment here if you're blog-less) and let me know so I can read it. The original link is above.

1. Name a song that makes you smile.
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison: not because I like it, but because soon after I met my husband (before he was my husband) he dedicated it to me in a bar. :-) How romantic, except I have blue eyes. LOL

2. Name a food that makes you smile.
Bryers Natural Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

3. Name a person that makes you smile.
My youngest child (she's 8) Jacqueline. She's my rainbow. :-)

4. Name a movie that makes you smile.
Beavis & Butthead Do America :-)

5. Name a website that makes you smile.
Free Hugs


Day 167

This past Sunday. we had our annual Christmas party with our children's former foster parents, Pat & Bill & their new foster children (all five of them!) and Lance, their former foster brother (who also lived with Pat & Bill at the same time as my kids) and his parents, Chris & Kelly. This is the 4th year that we've done this and I hope it continues for many more years to come. :-) I know Pat & Bill enjoy seeing their "kids" as they grow up and we enjoy their company also. :-)
I took a bunch of pictures and I'll add them here as soon as I develop them. All the kids got along great and had a lot of fun playing in the yard on the trampoline and playset. We ordered pizza and made mozzerella sticks and salad. (it was yummy!) After we had desserts (chocolate cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, pineapple cake, chocolate covered pretzels and cookies covered in white chocolate) we opened gifts by the tree.
Billy & Cimion will be seeing Lance & Chris again in a few weeks when they go to
Daytona Speedway for the 5K Walk/Run. They went last year and are looking forward to going again, and possibly camping overnight at the track.

We're still watching the
25 Days of Christmas shows on ABC. Last night we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (what a classic!). The shows end on Christmas night. What a blast seeing some of those old Christmas shows were. It brought me back to being a kid and watching with my parents. :-)

We're not ready for Christmas...but then again, we never are, so why fight it? LOL I hope you're enjoying your holiday season. :-)


Day 166

I've been spending some time sorting and organizing some photographs and I came across two of my favorite pictures of Jacqueline from a couple of years ago. She's five in the first one and six in the second one. I love her little sly smile. :-)



It's been a while since we checked the geo-tracker (it tracks what countries our visitors come from). My daughter just reminded me. :-) We noticed a few new countries so she's trying to find them on our world map.

United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
South Africa
Bahamas Virgin Islands, U.S.
Hong Kong
Republic of Italy
Czech Republic
United Arab Emirates
Puerto Rico
Russian Federation
Saint Lucia
Costa Rica
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Saudi Arabia


A Home For The Holidays

From their website....

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Children's Action Network are pleased to present the eighth annual "A Home for the Holidays" television special on CBS December 22 at 8 p.m. EST/PST (7 p.m. MST/CST)

Each December, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the Children's Action Network present "A Home for the Holidays," a CBS network television special bringing together all-star talent to raise awareness for foster care adoption.

This year, the celebrity lineup includes Cedric the Entertainer, Miley Cyrus ("Hanna Montana"), Five for Fighting, Angie Harmon, Melina Kanakaredes, John Legend, Mary Mary, Katharine McPhee, René Russo, Jeri Ryan and Rod Stewart.

In addition, several extraordinary families once again share the joys they found through foster care adoption.

Since 1999, this heartwarming holiday special has generated tens of thousands of calls from viewers moved to action after hearing true stories of families who adopted from foster care and of waiting children.

Tune in and watch "A Home for the Holidays" and share, through the eyes of a child, the joy of having a family - not just for the holidays, but forever.

If you, or someone you know someone who is considering adoption and has room in their lives for an older child, I urge you watch this show. As the parent of three children that we adopted through foster care (and as a sister to my brother who my parents adopted as an older child), this is something very close to my heart.

Day 165

Last month, Shawna (11 years old-white headband), Jacqueline (8 years old-yellow shirt), my mom (dark glasses), my Aunt Mary (on the left) and I went out for lunch. I liked how this picture came out and wanted to share it. My girls are so lucky to have such wonderful women in their lives. :-)

Day 164

Billy and Jacqueline had been saving bottle caps for a few months because he wanted to show her how to play skully (actually we just found out it's skelly). They finally collected enough and went out front to play.

Another New York City steet game passed on to the next generation. Next is stoop ball...except we need a stoop. LOL

Day 163

I was cleaning out a closet and found some face paints that I had forgotten about. Shawna & Jacqueline wqent out into the screen room and started painting each others faces. They had so much fun and just kept giggling the whole time. :-)

I bought organic milk for the first time today. I've been doing a lot of
reading on artificial growth hormones in dairy cows and although I'm not that knowledgable on this topic, I figured better safe than sorry. We haven't tried it yet but it's from a company called Aurora Organic.


Day 162

Today we got together with our homeschool group at the park today. We haven't been there in a while so it was nice to see everybody and catch up. The kids & I really enjoy the people in this group...everybody is so laid back and nice to their kids. :-)

I got some pictures developed today from Jacqueline's last birthday, when she turned 8. This first photo is on her actual birthday, with cake #1.

The next two are a few days later when we had family over. It was cousin Maryann's birthday also, so we bought her a sugar free pie.

Jacqueline and cake #2. She had asked me last year if she could have a Barbie cake this year and I couldn't resist getting it for her. :-)


Another older unschooling article

I don't think I shared this when it was e-mailed to me. It's from this past March.

Chicage Tribune: For these kids, school is always out.
Method of home schooling allows children to learn by pursuing their interests rather than set curriculum
By Vincent J. Schodolski, March 12, 2006

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. -- Riley Brown is 12 years old and lives a life many of his peers might envy, or perhaps find incomprehensible.
On any given day Riley will probably sleep until he is ready to get out of bed and then spend his time doing whatever interests him. Maybe he'll play his guitar, or go to the park to meet with like-minded friends. Or maybe he will boot up his computer and start "playing around" with HTML codes.
His younger brother, Casey, 10, and his sister, Maggie, 5, do more or less the same thing.
And their mother, Deanne, could not be happier.
"I love unschooling," she said. "It has been the best decision I could have made for me and my family."
The Browns are part of an approach to education that is called "unschooling" and allows children to pursue what interests them, rather than trying to make them interested in things that interest others.
The concept holds that learning is best done when a child's interests are engaged, and for a family with the talents and the resources to allow this to happen, great success is possible.
"Unschooling" is a subset of home schooling, which has seen rapid growth in recent years.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 1.1 million children were being home-schooled in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is up from 850,000 in 1999 and represents a 29 percent increase.
Education experts estimate that about 10 percent of the home-schooled population is "unschooled," meaning there may be as many as 110,000 young people being educated in this way.
A significant part of the growth in home schooling has been among Christian conservatives who shunned public and private schools for reasons that included curriculum, school violence and social trends. These parents often seek highly structured curricula suited to their conservative beliefs.
But those who practice unschooling tend to do so because they believe the school system, be it public or private, does not allow children to learn to their full potential.
"I think the one reason that stands out from the rest is that I felt that my kids were losing that incredible spark they had before they entered school," Deanne Brown said. "After being in school for a few years I saw their natural curiosity, imagination and love for learning being crushed by rules and conditioning. Learning became a task."

Not everyone is convinced that unschooling is a great idea.
"I think the downsides would be related to teachers who don't understand putting parameters around children's decision-making," said Jill Fox, an education professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
"It's one thing to allow children to choose to study Amelia Earhart before studying Harriet Tubman, with the clear understanding that both will be studied thoroughly during the school year. It is another thing to allow children to study Muhammad Ali and completely skip over what the state standards or district curriculum require," Fox said.
"Teachers -- and parents -- have to keep in mind that children's decision-making skills are not yet fully developed. They don't quite understand cause-and-effect and often don't realize the consequences they may face as a result of their decisions."
And unschooling is not for everyone, experts say.
"It is not suited either to all kids or all parents," said Tom Hatch, a professor at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City. "It requires students with considerable curiosity and independence, who come up with and get interested in questions and can sustain some interest in them."
Several hundred families attended a two-day home-schooling conference that began Friday at an Arlington Heights, Ill., hotel. There they chose between sessions such as one that taught the principles of DNA and another called "Shakespeare Without Fear."
Winifred Haun of Oak Park, a mother of three, was among those networking and searching for new ideas at the Home Educators Conference Fund event.
Haun started Northside Unschoolers of Chicago five years ago with 15 families and now organizes events, from support groups to Spanish classes, for 100 families throughout Chicago and the suburbs.
"People are realizing that school doesn't do what it's advertised to do," said Haun, a former teacher in Chicago who said she felt like "an advanced baby-sitter" for kids who did not want to be in class.
Her experiences and further reading led her to unschooling when her oldest, 10-year-old Athena, was not yet school age.
These days, Athena is into drawing tropical birds, practicing ballet and reading Harry Potter books. Her sister Iris, 4, has taken to writing names and words she likes, such as "princess." Selene, 19 months, joins her mother and sisters for Girl Scout meetings, trips to museums and a weekly open gym session with other unschoolers.
Any family activity can turn into an educational experience. Math is incorporated into everyday life, something father Stephen Parke, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab, calls "cookie arithmetic."
The approach is not without its challenges or fears but the couple believe their decision has made their children independent thinkers.
"To me, learning to think is much more important, especially in the modern age," Parke said.
Experts say parents who choose this path for their children usually are well-educated and believe the present primary and secondary educational system is not structured for a world that prizes free thinking, curiosity, imagination and independence.
"I don't think you can apply that to all schools," Hatch said in defense of traditional schools. "It's so hard to predict what opportunities and interests students will have in 20 years, or what the job market will be like in 15 or 20 years."
Most trace the origins of unschooling to an approach devised by educator John Holt in the 1970s. He believed children could be natural learners, instead of requiring formal schooling.
"A core distinction between these two approaches, it would seem, comes down to beliefs about human nature, or at least the nature of the child and their learning," said Robert Kunzman, an assistant professor at Indiana University. "Do they learn best following their own interests, or by being carefully led upon a preordained path?"
Parents involved with unschooling argue that modern resources such as the Internet make exploration easy.

There is little, if any, empirical evidence of how unschooled children fare in later life, but home-schooled children are being accepted by Ivy League and other prestigious universities.
Riley Brown of California is a believer.
"I like being able to have a lot of freedom, which gives me a lot of time to explore my interests," he said. "I also like not having to get up at 6:30 in the morning and being able to stay up late."
Regine Verougstraete, who moved to the United States from her native Belgium 11 years ago, elected to unschool her two sons after the older one struggled in regular classes.
"He had lost the pleasure of learning," she said of now-10-year-old Elliott.
Now he and his 7-year-old brother, Teodore, study at home with mom as the mainstay teacher in their home in South Pasadena, Calif.
Some critics of home-schooling say that it denies children interaction with others and thus blunts their social skills.
Not so, say unschooling parents. Deanne Brown points to regular weekly park meeting with other unschoolers and the fact that all three of her children are engaged in team sports.
Rules on unschooling differ among states with some requiring children to take standardized tests to measure progress, others asking only that forms be filed with the state, and some requiring nothing.
The question of measuring progress is a thorny one among parents of unschoolers. Most do not grade their children.
"We do not take tests, use a curriculum, grades or punishment and reward systems," said Deanne Brown. California does not require such measurements for home-schooled students.
"Virginia law requires that home-schoolers provide annual evidence of progress," said Shay Seaborne, who is unschooling her daughters, Caitlin, 15, and Laurel, 12.
"I meet this requirement with results from a standardized test, as that is the least intrusive means for our family," she said.
For many students the first test of their learning in a standardized way comes when they take the SAT, or ACT exams.
Ned Vare and his wife, Luz Shosie, unschooled their son, Cassidy, first in Colorado and later in Connecticut. Cassidy never attended regular schools and when he took the SAT he had a combined verbal and math score of 1390 and went on to get a GED with a nearly perfect score. He is now enrolled at Hunter College in New York.
While unschooled children may have regular social contact with peers who are involved in more traditional schooling, there appears to be a gap of understanding about their differing circumstances.
"My schooled friends' opening question is usually, `What grade are you in?'" said Riley Brown. "I tell them that I would be in the 7th grade, but it really doesn't matter. I don't usually try to explain because they wouldn't get it if I did."


What follows is
Sandra Dodd's thoughts on this article.

I'm so glad they quoted that! Too often, the good parts people say are left out.
And as usual, they think any old "expert" has had half a chance to be "convinced" just on some passing reference to unschooling: "I think the downsides would be related to teachers who don't understand putting parameters around children's decision making," said Jill Fox, an associate professor of education at the University of Texas at Arlington. "It's one thing to allow children to choose to study AmeliaEarhart before studying Harriet Tubman, with the clear understanding that both will be studied thoroughly during the school year. It is another thing to allow children to study Muhammad Ali and completely skip over what the state standards or district curriculum require," Fox said.

Yeah. I'm sorry, but a big "WHATever" is welling up in me. There is just nothing that makes the stories of Amelia Earhart or Harriet Tubman more important than any other single American with a biography worth knowing. Neither was the only one in her field. They've just been tagged as icons, and the school system wants to touch all theicons. And "during THE year"? as though they're both "studied thoroughly" every year (or ANY year).

And this is just the chit-chat of nonsense:
"Teachers -- and parents -- have to keep in mind that children's decision-making skills are not yet fully developed. They don't quite understand cause-and-effect and often don't realize the consequences they may face as a result of their decisions."-=

WHAT decision!? The "decision" not to "study thoroughly" Amelia Earhart? It's not too late! If they hear her name and know who she is, fine. If they hear her name and don't have any idea, maybe they'll wonder, and in finding out who she is, they will learn about her. Sheeesh... My kids might know about her because of the ballad which they probably heard me sing with my friend Dave a time or threewhen they were little, and if they don't, that's fine. If they asked me who she was I'd sing some or all of that four verse song, and tell them to google for photos.

It's a great article. If only they had let one of us do a final pass before the published! I could have said "ARE, not 'could be,' is what he said" about this:
Most trace the origins of unschooling to an approach devised by educator John Holt in the 1970s. He believed that children could be natural learners, instead of requiring formal schooling.


Getting rid of arbitrary limits

My parenting has gone though a lot of changes in the three years that we adopted our children. Mostly, because my children have changed and my parenting of them reflected those changes. We've gotten rid of a lot of "rules" and "limits" with the girls and replaced it with respect, freedom and choice. I could go on and on about how well they've responded to those changes...it amazes me sometimes, especially with my youngest (8 years old).

I've been cleaning out files on my computer this past week and came across something I had saved. It's an exchange between a new member at one of the unschooling lists,
Joyce and Ren.


If there are no limits what so ever, how do you keep your children from running out into the street? from jumping off a high building or a bridge? I'm thinking there has to be some limits? How will they learn they have to follow the rules to keep a job? or even to follow the law?


Not ONE post said "there are no limits". What we're advocating, is equal freedom for children that adults have. What we're talking about is CHOICES and freedom, not no limits. LIFE has limits. Society has limits that actually make sense. If they don't, I ignore them. Like the idea that children have to go to school to learn...that's an idea (a limiting one) I choose to ignore.:)

Why would a child WANT to jump off a high building or bridge? None of my children have ever wanted to harm themselves knowingly. If they're too little to be aware of the dangers, it's your job to keep them safe. That's what they'd WANT you to do if they understood the potential for harm.

You'd keep an adult safe that was unaware of dangers, right? Providing safety is a parent's job. Nobody is saying "no limits". We ARE saying "rid yourself of ARBITRARY limits". Arbitrary limits are there only because an adult chooses to impose their will on a child. They don't necessarily make sense. If a limit makes sense then by all means, impose it!!

When I'm truly exhausted, truly needing some quiet and calm, there are limits to what I can assist my children with. That's a real limit and children are pretty understanding about that if you're generous with them.

When one of my children chooses to ignore personal boundaries and hit or otherwise try to harm someone, I stop them. There are a load of good reasons to limit a person from doing harmful things.

Public places have limits. If my children want to scream and run up the aisles at the grocery store, making other people miserable, there will be some creative problem solving to figure out ways to avoid that problem. I wouldn't take my child to a restaraunt and expect the other patrons to put up with whatever my child felt like imposing upon them. They have a right to peace also. One persons freedom ends where another begins....we need to honor other human beings space and sanity too. That will create natural limits.

Limits for real reasons that make sense....well, make sense. It's our job to help our children figure out how to work with, and be creative or honor those limits. Limits that are decided for the child because the parent has a set of values that aren't very flexible, aren't helpful. The child can't figure out their own balance, feel what THEIR body needs and learn in their own way if the parent decides
when they'll sleep, what they'll eat, when they should learn certain things.


I also feel that realistically in life the majority of people have limitations, things they can and can't do on the job, in public, etc.


Is that a reason to impose more limitations? Kids will come up against gravity, appointments, rain, rules about running in grocery stores. Life is full of limitations. We can help them learn to deal with natural limitations by helping them deal with natural limitations. We don't need -- as school does! -- to create artificial problems for kids to practice on. They get to try out the real stuff (while we're there to keep them safe from onrushing buses and out of situations they aren't ready to handle).


But I have a different take on it, especially for young children. I view them as a safety box, if you will.

You *can* view limits and safety that way. But it won't help you see how helping kids get what they want -- like not get hit by a car, not getting shocked by a knife put in an outlet-- is different than putting a fence around them because of what you fear will happen.

Limits say "I don't trust you. You're not competent enough." For many kids that's a challenge! They want to test themselves even against things they wouldn't want to try. When the world is divided between what you can and can't do, it's natural to want to test yourself on what others believe you aren't capable of handling.

But when the world is divided between what you enjoy and what you don't enjoy, there isn't a reason to do the things you don't enjoy. Life is risky. But we can be there with them to keep them from imminent death, to help them figure out situations as they arise.That's how people learn :-)

Principles work a lot better. If the principle is safety and a child knows mom will help them do what they want, there isn't a reason to try to sneak to do something risky. When they're younger, of course,we can't depend on them understanding the consequences of every choice. Our presence is what's needed then, not rules and limits as a subsitute for our presence.

Unschooling is...

"Unschooling is about embracing the person for exactly who they
ARE, not who we want them to be.
Unschooling is about CELEBRATING each unique individual and focusing on their beauty and strength. Focusing on perceived weaknesses does not help it become a strength. And that which we view as a "weakness" may very well NOT be such.

Perception is reality for us.
Change your perception of your children.
Change your perception of what real learning looks like. Change your perception of this day, and this very moment so that you can find the JOY in it.

Then unschooling will begin to blossom in your lives and school/tests/grades/subjects will be forgotten in the swirl of
activity that is REAL life".

I've had this quote saved on my computer for a while and found it again while I was cleaning up some folders. It's something Ren posted on one of the unschooling e-mail lists.


Dwelling in the past

I'm not sure where I found this but I had it saved on my computer and wanted to share it here.

Many people unconsciously dwell in the past.
They choose to relive their past memory.
Day after day they think about their old life instead of living in now.
If you choose to adhere to the past all the time,

you will get stuck in your past reality and it will be hard for you to move on.
Past exist so that we can learn from it and move on.

It is the old events that have faded away so there is no point of reliving it.
Choose not to whine
Choose not to believe that life stays in the grey world of past
If the past is haunting you choose to let it go gently and choose to focus on NOW-
You live only once so choose not to live in a grey world.

Choose to enjoy every moment of NOW as life is all about living in the NOW.
Choices are made in the NOW, not in the past nor future

Day 161

What we've been up to...

Shawna, and her storytelling club, performed a holiday program, along side members of the
Ocala Storytelling Guild, Saturday afternoon at the main branch of our city's library. She was fantastic! I'm so proud of her because she's come such a long way in the few years she's been in my life. Sometimes I look at her and I can just see her shining from the inside. :-) Some of our homeschooling pals showed up for support and we hung out for a bit afterwards. It was a really nice day. :-)

We've been watching the
25 Days of Christmas shows on ABC Family. Friday we watched Jack Frost (Jack Frost becomes human to win a lady's heart. But when she's in danger, he realizes that only magic can save the day) and The Polar Express (A little boy with a lot of doubt about Christmas gets whisked away on an unforgettable journey aboard the Polar Express. When he arrives at the North Pole, he meets the one person who just might be able to make him believe.)

Last night my daughter Jacqueline (8 years old) and my husband Billy went to an open field about a mile from our home to watch the space shuttle Discovery (STS-116) take off. (We're about 100 miles away from Cape Canaveral). Jacqueline has had a strong passion for space for about a year and she's the main reason why we went to the Kennedy Space Center in June. They said they saw an orange glow reflecting in the clouds, much like a sunset, only a brigther read and realised it was the shuttle's rocket exhaust. About 15 seconds later, they saw a red ball of flame coming over the tree line, going upwards. They watched it rise for about 90 seconds and then saw it seperate into three parts, which was the solid rocket boosters coming off.
Jacqueline hopes to be going into space one day. :-)

My daughters have been having a board and card game fest lately. Last week it was Uno, Connect 4 and Multiplication Bingo, which we played for money. This week it's
Mancala (paid $2 at a flea market) and Dominoes. As it gets cooler here, the games just keep coming out. :-)

That's it for us. :-)

Another unschooling article

This was posted back in January but I forgot to share it, so here it is.

Monday, January 30, 2006:
Unschoolers' chart their own course
The Courier-Journal

Mandy Ridiman is 17 years old, but she's never been in a classroom, taken a test or followed a school schedule.
When it comes to Mandy's education, her curiosity dictates what she learns. Take, for example, the time she got interested in mummies after seeing one on TV. Soon she was soaking up the science of mummification, the history of ancient Egypt, comparative religions, hieroglyphics, how rivers flood and mathematical riddles of the pyramids — until she decided to move on.
"I was just amazed at so many things," she said.

Mandy and her family, who live in Newport in Northern Kentucky, are "unschoolers," followers of an unconventional branch of home schooling in which children learn mainly what they want, when they want -- no teachers, curriculum, schedules or tests.

They probably represent 5 percent to 10 percent of the more than 1.1 million home-schooled children in the country, experts say. But unlike traditional home-schoolers, most unschoolers reject structured coursework and age-appropriate learning.

Instead, they believe that most lessons can be learned from everyday life, from cooking to gardening; that children don't need to master a skill such as reading or multiplication until they're ready; and that children's interests can largely guide their education.

"You're saying, 'We're going to trust the child, trust that they're going to learn, and by following what they're interested in, it will happen naturally,' " said Debbie Harbeson, an unschooling parent who lives in Sellersburg, Ind.
Critics question the logic of that approach.

They imagine children doing nothing all day, or failing to learn all they need to know for college. And they worry that children will develop their strengths but ignore their weaknesses.

"The premise … that children automatically know how and what to learn … is utter nonsense," wrote Gail Withrow, the author of a home-schooling Web site in Texas who has argued that unschooling takes self-directed learning too far.

Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Virginia, acknowledges that the method requires a radical rethinking of how children learn.

"People think if you just allow children to do what they want, then no education is taking place, or a child won't read, write or function in society," he said. "I don't think that's accurate."

Unschooling's growth:

Experts estimate that unschooling is growing at about the same rate of home schooling, which increased 29 percent between 1999 and 2003, according to federal statistics. Kentucky has 12,170 home-schoolers, a number that has not increased substantially since 2000.

Unschooling gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. The term was coined by education reformer John Holt, who argued that children should be trusted as capable learners and that schools squelched their natural curiosity.

Like all home-schoolers in Kentucky, unschoolers are not required to take state achievement tests, exams or learn skills by any specific date.
Parents must register with the state, and then provide occasional reports stating that the child is attending the home school, identifying what they are learning and acknowledging that they are progressing academically.

When unschoolers graduate, they receive a diploma from their home school -- no final exams are required. Some take college entrance exams, and it's then up to schools to decide how valuable their education has been.

Unschooling parents "facilitate" their children's learning by providing resources, stocking the home with books, computers and microscopes, and helping their children join activities. Some explain the academic concepts involved in their child's current interests, such as how geometry was integral to building Egyptian pyramids. They also set up unschooling groups, in which others can help explain higher-level concepts or can aid socialization.

Unschooling parents tend to have a college education and be part of two-parent households in which one parent can stay home. They observe their children closely, and at times might nudge them toward concepts to help ensure that they're learning everything they should.

"If I am concerned that they need to learn something, I set up situations that ease them into it," said Kathryn Ridiman, Mandy's mother. "Giving them a grocery list and asking them to buy the groceries and make change, for example, taught them that they need to know how to add and subtract."

Higher-level math and science concepts often are tackled by teens using books after they find out what's needed for college.

Although unschooling parents acknowledge that their children probably won't learn all the concepts in the state curriculum, they argue that public schools push too many topics and teach them too shallowly.

"Who decides what is important and what is not? … How often in my adult life have I used the periodic table?" Ridiman said.

Making up a gap in college:

Some unschoolers find they must take remedial coursework in college.
Debbie Harbeson's daughter, Melissa Harbeson, 22, of Floyds Knobs, was an unschooler whose interests drew her to a broad range of subjects. Gardening, for example, led her to the chemistry of soil testing and scientific planting trials.
She filled her days reading history books and visiting museums. She said she almost never "just sat around," but took breaks when she felt like it.

She took a German class at a community college. When she heard her public-school friends talking about Modern Language Association format for writing research papers, she got a book and learned what it was.

Although her math skills weren't as accomplished, she did well enough on her SATs to be accepted at all five colleges to which she applied, including Notre Dame.

She decided to stay close to home, choosing Indiana University Southeast. She had to take some lower-level math courses but found she could think critically and learn quickly.

"I didn't understand the concept of learning as a chore," said Harbeson, who today works at the DePaul School in Louisville.

Some unschooling parents admit they worry. "Any parent who cares will have moments where they wonder if they're doing the right thing," said Laura Derrick, president of the National Home Education Network. "Unschoolers are on the fringe, doing things that most parents wouldn't consider doing."

Carrie Otterson has had doubts, but so far she has been reassured by how her 8-year-old son, Oren, learns without receiving explicit instruction.
His day might include an art project, reading magazines and hunting for fossils.
"My son picked up multiplication and division without knowing what they're called," she said.

Janet Futrell unschooled her children while living on 25 acres near Big Hill, Ky.
Futrell decided schools wasted time and arbitrarily pushed learning expectations. So she let her children, Andrew and Brook, guide their schooling.
Andrew "spent half of every day of the year roaming around in the woods. He just wandered, watched and looked. He came back with stuff he found, looked it up and asked about it. Now, he's an ecologist working on his Ph.D in freshwater systems," she said.

Some experts say that the idea of self-directed or child-led learning -- although taken to an extreme with unschooling -- could hold lessons for public schools seeking ways to engage students.

"There's no question we have to organize schools more around the interest of kids," said Phillip Schlechty, director of the Louisville's Schlechty Center for Leadership in School Reform.

CNN article on homeschooling

This was out in March but I never posted it so, better late than never right? :-)

March 2, 2006:
Homeschooling grows quickly in United States
COLUMBIA, Maryland (Reuters)

Elizabeth and Teddy Dean are learning about the Italian scientist Galileo, so they troop into the kitchen, where their mother Lisa starts by reviewing some facts about the Renaissance.
Elizabeth, 11, and Teddy, 8, have never gone to school.
Their teachers are primarily their parents, which puts them into what is believed to be the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. education system -- the homeschool movement.
For their science lesson, Teddy and Elizabeth are joined by three other homeschooled children and their mother, who live down the street in their suburb midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Before the lesson starts, all five kids change into Renaissance costumes -- long dresses and bonnets for the girls, tunics and swords for the boys.
"We definitely have a lot more fun than kids who go to school," Elizabeth said.

Nobody is quite sure exactly how many American children are being taught at home. The National Center for Education Statistics, in a 2003 survey, put the number that year at 1.1 million. The Home School Legal Defense Association, which represents some 80,000 member families, says the figure now is quite a bit higher -- between 1.7 and 2.1 million.
But there is no disagreement about the explosive growth of the movement -- 29 percent from 1999 to 2003 according to the NCES study, or 7 to 15 percent a year according to HSLDA.

This growth has spawned an estimated $750 million a year market supplying parents with teaching aids and lesson plans to fit every religious and political philosophy. Homeschooled children regularly show up in the finals of national spelling competitions, generating publicity for the movement.

Parents cite many reasons for deciding to opt out of formal education and teach their children at home. In the NCES study, 31 percent said they were concerned about drugs, safety or negative peer pressure in schools; 30 percent wanted to provide religious or moral instruction while 16 percent said they were dissatisfied with academic standards in their local schools.

"I wasn't sold on the idea of institutionalized education. It's a factory approach -- one size fits all," said Isabel Lyman, author of "The Homeschooling Revolution," who taught both of her now-grown sons at home.
"The schools take all the joy out of learning. They don't take account of a particular child's interests, needs and development. The whole system is anti-child," she said.

Regulation, instruction varyDifferent states take widely varying approaches to homeschooling. Some, like New York and Pennsylvania, require that the parents submit lesson plans four times a year and regularly test the children.

Others, like Texas, basically leave them alone. So there is little reliable data on how they are doing, said University of Colorado education professor Kevin Welner.

"There are popular myths that homeschooled children are socially inept, cloistered kids and that they are either illiterate or academic wunderkinds. Anecdotes aside, we simply don't have the data to make such generalizations," he said.

"Some children will get top-notch instruction. Others will get poor or minimal instruction. Obviously it will vary by parent," he said.

Even the cliche that the majority of homeschooled children are evangelical Christians is outdated, if it was ever true.

The movement remains overwhelmingly white and middle class but it is growing fast among black and Hispanic families and becoming more politically and religiously diverse as well.

Some parents follow an educational philosophy known as "unschooling," where the children are encouraged to follow their own interests rather than adhering to a fixed curriculum.

Laura Derrick, president of the National Home Education Network, has followed this philosophy with her 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.
"My son learned to read before he was 3 and I realized then we were working better than any school program ever designed," she said. "Children are born wanting to learn."

Lisa Dean, who was a lawyer before she became a mother, said homeschooling her children was tremendously rewarding but also very exhausting.
"It's a long day with the kids. I look forward to when my husband comes home," she said.

She also has backup from a local group of 70 homeschooling families who organize group field trips and extracurricular activities. Her children both take lessons in Celtic music on the fiddle, play soccer and basketball and have tried classes in art, hip-hop dancing and kick boxing.


Websites we've bought from

Here's a few websites I've bought stuff for my kids from this past year. Hope it helps someone looking for that special gift.

Greenacre Workshop
Tobin's Lab
Learning Games

Raise Children with a wild streak

I've had this article saved to share here but I forgot about it and just found it again. I enjoyed the whole article except this part;

"Surround them with books, not video games".

I think it should be "Surround them with books AND video games". :-)

Raise children with a wild streak:
Many `ideal' students lack inventive, restless and self-reliant spirit

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics stresses the importance of childhood playtime. It reinforces my own belief that many young adults have been cheated by years of excessive schoolwork and teamwork, too many extracurricular activities, and a straitjacketed "just say no to anything risky" upbringing. I am convinced that modern childhood generally does not build enough independence and thirst for knowledge.

For the past few years I helped interview high school seniors seeking scholarships to come to Appalachian State University. These applicants come from all over the state. They play instruments and sports, participate in church and charity, and work in diverse jobs.

They also display remarkably similar accomplishments. They are at the top of their high school classes and possess generically good manners. They lead teams, groups and clubs. They are smart, solid and hardworking.

They might be surprised to learn that I, like many college professors, yearn for rarer traits -- curiosity, passion, a wild streak. Yes, teamwork and leadership skills will help your child to implement someone else's ideas, and extensive extracurricular activities will foster responsibility. What your child really needs, though, is an inventive, self-reliant, restless spirit.

The key questions

For me, the heart-wrenching interview moment is when we ask these teenagers what they would choose to do on a day spent alone. Many say they never have the chance. Worse still, some have no answer at all. This should disturb and sadden any parent.In the end, my scholarship votes ride on two questions: Is this someone that I'd be excited to have in my class? And is he or she open to being changed by my class? Class rank and extracurricular activities are less important than genuine individuality or enthusiasm. It matters not whether someone is bold or shy, worldly or naïve. Is there a flash of determination, a streak of independence, a creative passion, an excited curiosity?

We need more students like the ones who leave after graduation to work as missionaries or in the Peace Corps. More like the ones who start successful businesses while in school. More like the ones who find the courage to go overseas for a summer or a semester because they know their own worlds are far too small.

Some students are team players and high achievers, but I'd trade them for stubbornly creative iconoclasts. Some students as children were taught to color inside the lines, watch Barney the purple dinosaur, and always ask permission. We need students who found out what Crayons tasted like, loved reading "The Cat in the Hat" and paid little attention to rules -- students whose parents encouraged their children's curiosity.

Something's missing

The irony is that many students begin to perceive late in college that they've missed something along the way. They regret not taking risks with difficult professors, unusual courses or semesters abroad. They berate themselves by equating self-worth with grades, and they are saddened by the realization that they have only glimpsed the breadth of the university. They begin to grasp that their uncomfortable sense of passivity has its roots in the highly controlled existence foisted on them.

Parents: love, guide and support your children, but don't insulate them, control them or let them be too busy. Independence, confidence and creativity come from freedom, risk and a good measure of unstructured solitude.

Encourage studying but make them play hooky, too -- partly to learn what it feels like to be unprepared and partly to foster spontaneity, irreverence and joy. Study chemistry together, then blow up a television in the backyard.

Foster camaraderie and connectedness through group activities (especially family ones), but be unyielding in your commitment to teaching them to love doing things entirely on their own. Make each child plan and cook the family's dinner on his or her own once a week.

Surround them with books, not video games. Raise a garden or build a deck together. Send them on solo trips.

However you choose to do it, give your children, their teachers and society one of the greatest gifts of all: Help your kids become creative, independent, curious, interesting people.

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