Category Archives: Parenting

Please Join The Bully Project!

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Today, I’m donating space on my blog to promote this film and this movement. Everyone needs to care about this…kids are bullied relentlessly all across this nation every day, even sometimes to the point where they end up taking their own lives. 

Here is the description of The Bully Project copied and pasted directly from their website….

“The Bully Project highlights solutions that both address immediate needs and lead to systemic change. Starting with the film’s STOP BULLYING. SPEAK UP! call to action, The Bully Project will catalyze audience awareness to action with a series of tools and programs supported by regional and national partners.

The Bully Project is a collaborative effort that brings together partner organizations that share a commitment to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society.

Help keep The Bully Project alive by donating to the film’s social action campaign through our nonprofit partner, Creative Visions Foundation (CVF). CVF is a publicly supported 501(c)3, which supports Creative Activists who use the power of media and the arts to affect positive change in the world.  All donations are tax deductible”. 

Click Here To Visit That Nonprofit Organization’s Webpage: Creative Visions Foundation 

A link to the film’s official trailer…Please Watch! 

Finally, a link to the official page for the movement: The Bully Project Please go there, donate your Twitter and Facebook status to the cause for a day, and share this with all your friends and family. 

A lot of attention nowadays goes to bullying of kids who are gay, and that has been wonderful for anti-bullying efforts. Although this is one group of kids who are bullied, it also happens to anyone who is different in any way…special needs kids included. Please care enough to get involved and take action to combat this very real problem! 

5 Great Children’s Book Series

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To foster a love of reading in children, there is nothing more effective than getting them hooked on a series. In fact, even as an adult, this is how I prefer to structure my own reading experience. I have especially enjoyed the adventures of private eye Kinsey Milhone in Sue Grafton’s “Alphabet Series” over the years. There’s something very comforting about revisiting favorite characters as the story continues on over the course of several separate volumes. The “can’t wait to see what happens next” series also helps in the reading motivation department for both kids and adults. Let’s face it, sometimes the lure of television and internet is great, especially when these activities are so much more passive and effortless than investing oneself in the activity of reading BYOI (Bring Your Own Imagination).

As a parent, I’ve always tried to encourage my boys to read, for all the same reasons I limit their treats and insist that they eat vegetables and fruit with every meal–because I know it’s good for them. My own efforts were an uphill battle until I discovered the magic of the series. Once each of them found a series they were interested in, with a main character or characters they could relate to, my work was done. Except for the energy expended driving them back and forth to the library, I could just sit back and watch them go…noses in books, vocabularies expanding, brains developing, right before my very eyes!

Parents today understand the value of reading, and this is reinforced by school systems and local libraries nowadays as well, with accelerated reading programs. My boys have been enrolled in our local library’s Excellence in Reading program for a couple of years now. They read books from a group selected by the children’s librarian, at their grade level, and take quizzes on the material in order to earn points and prizes along the way. This has provided great incentive as well for my kids to get into reading as a hobby and personal interest. These programs are fantastic! It is likely that your library has something similar, but if not, you should talk to them about starting one. You can also structure your own program at home, using internet programs such as the one available here: Book Adventure

But, when all is said and done, a great series will help children develop a healthy addiction to reading. Here are five of my kids’ favorite series, from very young to middle school age…If you have other recommendations (including some for high school aged readers), please add them below in the comment area. I need some ideas for future series myself! 

Biscuit, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

This series is recommended for ages 2+, and is all about the adventures of a little puppy named, you guessed it, Biscuit! You’ll read them to children at first, and the series also has several “I Can Read!” versions of Biscuit stories for older than 2, young beginning readers.

The Magic Tree House Series, by Mary Pope Osborne

I can’t say enough good things about this ongoing series, because it’s my absolute favorite for kids. This one has it all, folks…adventure, educational value courtesy of the stories themselves, and the accompanying study guides for practically each adventure with all sorts of factual information! Your kids, and frankly you too, will be delighted by brother and sister team Jack and Annie, who are whisked away to a different time and place in each book, courtesy of the magic treehouse in their own backyard. This one is rated ages 4-8 on Amazon.com As for reading level, it all depends on where your child is, skills wise, but my son got into it around the end of 2nd grade.

The Little House Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, of course

I read these as a child in elementary school. Of course, everyone has heard of this one because not only is it a classic book series, but it was a wildly popular television series as well. My youngest is reading his way through the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder now, so that is proof positive that it can appeal to boys and girls. My older son didn’t care for it much, but my younger one is more interested in history and the “old fashioned”. He’s riveted, and if your elementary schooler loves pioneer days tales, he or she will be too! The Little House books are rated at a reading level of 9-12 years old.

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

These volumes were written by C.S. Lewis as Christian allegories. If you prefer more secular reading materials for your child, please don’t let that stop you from giving this series a whirl! Just like the movie series inspired by these magical tales of adventures in Narnia, fully accessible from the magic wardrobe, these fantasy stories have a high level of appeal to children and adults of all faiths. The stories are what you make of them! The Chronicles of Narnia are suitable for kids ages 9-199. 🙂

Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordian

This is the only series I’ve mentioned here that I don’t know a whole lot about. My 12 year old found it on his own on the Excellence In Reading shelf at the library and can’t put it down. That’s good enough for me! It’s an adventure series, and the main character has ADHD, which might have been the initial attraction for my son, who struggles with that disorder himself. The best plug I can give you for the Percy Jackson Series is that it is the only book or book series that has ever caused him to ask if he can keep reading past his designated, Mom imposed, reading time. Wow!

I hope you and your family are having a great summer…. But, if you’re hearing that classic line, “I’m BORED” just a little too often…you might want to try a new book series. Sometimes, it’s the perfect solution!

Multiplication Rock–Still Rockin’ After All These Years!

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Math has never been one of my strong suits. Okay, let’s not mince words–I suck at math. So, when I was a kid, 3rd grade I think, I learned my multiplication tables by singing along to SchoolHouse Rock’s Multiplication Rock series. And it stuck because sometimes I still remember what times what equals what musically. Of course, the other customers in line at the bank do look at me funny when they hear me singing, “A man and a woman had a little baby…they had three-E-E in the family…yes they did…”

So, when my kids had trouble with their times tables memorization, I looked them all up on You Tube and have now made that a part of the daily routine–watch one Multiplication Rock video per day, three times. And it’s working! I don’t know what your experience was like, but back in the 70’s, my classmates and I were not allowed past 3rd grade until we knew those times tables. And it came in handy too, later on when we worked on finding multiples, factors, and beyond, with simplifying fractions and such.

Nowadays, it seems educators don’t put quite as much emphasis on that rote memorization, although they should in my opinion. In the modern era, memorizing the times tables is more of a suggested course of action, instead of “Boy (or Girl)  do not even think of darkening the doorstep of that 4th grade classroom until you know these tables off the top of your head!” Yes ma’am!

So, if your little person is having some trouble with the times tables, give Multiplication Rock a try. It’ll work, I promise! Plus, I am getting tired of rockin’ out in the bank line all by myself…

Here they are in all their glory, minus the Ones and the Tens, of course, because those are easy. Any number times one is itself, and any number times ten means add a zero. Even I can remember that, so how hard can it be?

The Twos

The Threes

The Fours

The Fives

The Sixes

The Sevens

The Eights

The Nines

The Elevens

The Twelves

“M” is for the Million Things They Gave Me…

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Mother’s Day is…

Homemade, Heartfelt Cards, Adorably Misspelled…

Kids Who Love to Make Mom Laugh…”Look! Mom! I’m Santa Claus!

Camp Crafts, Made Just for Me…

Tissue Paper Self Portraits…

Spending the Reading Points They Earned at the Library on a Bobble Head Doggie for Mom Instead of Something for Themselves…

“Real” Birthstone Christmas Earrings from My Firstborn That I’ve Carried Around Longer Than Anything Else I Own…

Boys Who Would Never Think of Coming Home From a Day at the Beach Without Pocketfuls of Treasures For Me…

Eerily Accurate Impromptu Impersonations of Mom…

Grandchildren!!!

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”.  ~Elizabeth Stone

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Homeschool is the New Black

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There are 2.04 Million K-12 Homeschool Students in the United States as of 2010 ~ National Home Education Research Institute


I never planned to homeschool my children—never in a million years. Frankly, it was just not something that appealed to me, nor did I ever dream that it would become absolutely necessary, but it did. I attended elementary school in the 70’s myself, suburban public school, and received a fine education there. So naturally I assumed that my boys, now ages 9 & 12, would have a similar experience—oh was I ever wrong. I think most of us can agree that, overall, the quality of public education in the United States as well as the overall environment of our schools is circling the drain and has been for a few years now. Causes of this are highly debatable, political and polarizing, and my mission statement for my blog (yes, like Jerry Maguire I DO have a mission statement) stipulates that I will write about topics in a manner which will appeal to a broad audience. In other words, I have my own opinions on causality, but I won’t share them here—it’s not the proper forum. That being said, if someone would care to comment below and give opinions, please let ‘er rip! As long as you play nice, and are respectful of the opinions of those who feel differently, I’ll approve your comment. There is nothing wrong with healthy debate!

At any rate, as I said, I never planned to be a homeschooling mom. I have noticed that a lot of parents choose to homeschool  for religious or moral reasons. This was not the case with me, and I have no objections to my kids learning about evolution, sex, etc. in a controlled classroom environment. Nor do I feel that I need to integrate daily religious education in with their grade level secular education. But, that’s just me, and if a parent does object to public school educational curriculum on religious grounds, that is their right and should be fully respected by all of us as Americans.

My personal decision to withdraw my 12 year old from 6th grade at our local public school this past January was instead an act of desperation—a last resort. He was failing every subject, and basically had been for the last couple of years, yet he was never held back, never recommended for summer school, and simply promoted along as if he had mastered the material for that particular grade. Now, in my day, (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say something like that) if a student was not cutting the mustard in one or two subjects, that child attended summer school. If they were failing the bulk of their courses, they were held back to repeat the next year in a total do-over. That’s just the way it was, and the way I assumed it would always be—again, boy was I wrong. Nowadays, it seems that the whole “No Child Left Behind” thing is being operationalized to include never holding any child back, even if it would be in their best interest. Somehow, I don’t think this is the “spirit of the law”. Nevertheless, this is what is happening out there in the trenches, folks! This is especially true for students who are categorized into the Special Education system, which these days can mean just about any sort of learning issue, from mild to moderate, to severe. My son has ADHD, making it extremely difficult for him to concentrate long enough to absorb classroom material, and this is especially apparent in math. Therefore, these days, in the public school system that translated into a team of teachers, administrators, and me developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which included “special accommodations” for him at school. This seemed fine, but again problems arose when all good intentions were operationalized. In effect, he was placed with children whose abilities were far lower than his, and his bar was lowered beyond belief.

The long and short of all of this is that he was being passed upward from grade to grade, bullied relentlessly by the other children due to his Special Ed status and inability to keep up in his regular classes with the very common “Inclusion Model”, and drowning in a sea of educational bureaucracy. School bullying is on the rise in our public schools as well, but that is another topic for another day. I had to do something I considered radical—I knew I had to bring him home to save him. Once I saved him, I knew I had to then help him to understand his own worth and life potential. I truly believe that our story, sadly, is not uncommon nowadays. I am extremely fortunate that I live in the state of Florida, and we have free access to Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which is a fully online, fully accredited, high quality K-12 educational delivery system. The content is truly phenomenal! There is an impressive amount of interactive multimedia in each course, which are closely monitored by a licensed K-12 teacher. Make no mistake though—an adult must be present and maintain a high level of involvement at home. In other words, this is still homeschooling, just a good way to source and deliver grade level curriculum to your child, and have the whole experience overseen by a licensed professional educator. This program has been very successful and popular here in Florida. It basically amounts to a pilot program for this type of educational option which, hopefully, is being watched closely by other states and will soon be duplicated in a widespread fashion all across the U.S.

I’m about three months in now with my homeschooling experience and what a difference 90 days has made!!! My son has gone from failing everything, but inexplicably being passed anyway, to 2 B’s and one A in the three core subjects he is taking at FLVS. That A was celebration worthy, lemme tell ya! Math has been more of a challenge…Due to his experience and the damage that was done in public school, he was behind—way behind. In fact, I had no idea until I began to work closely with him at home, but he was actually at least two years behind grade level in Math. So we went back for some corrective action…I sourced some math curriculum from another vendor, Time4Learning, and we’re taking corrective measures now so he can learn the math I thought he already knew in order to catch up to the grade level he’s at with his other core courses. And he’s learning….so much! He randomly spouts facts to us now about science, ancient civilizations, and the short stories he’s reading and analyzing in his language arts course. And, aside from all of that, I have begun to see life and light in his eyes again…illuminated by his own realization that he is not a throwaway kid after all, and he can achieve a future of his dreams built upon a solid basic educational foundation. He’s even started talking about “when I go off to college”…WOW!

I sat down with my laptop this morning to write a very different blog about homeschooling…but this is what came out instead. I have read a lot of articles and blogs on homeschool lately, and none of them are really communicating these ideas in this way. The face of the American homeschooler is changing—and changing rapidly now. Stereotypes of homeschooling parents and homeschooled kids are crumbling as this practice moves into the mainstream…the typical, rather than the exception to the norm. This is my new reality, and my son’s as well. I am now thinking very seriously of bringing my other son home to school once he reaches 6th grade too—in his case by choice, not necessity. And that, I can assure you, is something I never thought I would ever do!

Most Common Reasons Given for Homeschooling (Source: National Home Education Research Institute):

  • customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
  • accomplish more academically than in schools,
  • use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
  • enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
  • provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
  • provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
  • teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.

Do you homeschool or wish you could? Do you disagree with educating children at home? Why or why not? Feel free to comment below, but like I said, play nice. This is a very emotionally charged topic, and the other guy probably feels just as strongly as you do!

For more information on Florida Virtual School, please visit the FLVS website at: http://www.flvs.net/Pages/default.aspx

To learn more about education policy in the United States, including No Child Left Behind, and Individualized Education Plans, visit the U.S. Department of Education website at: http://www.ed.gov/