Monday, December 23, 2013

How to Keep Porn Out of Your Child's Hands

In two days, tweens and teens across the country will be receiving all sorts of electronic devices under the tree which their parents barely know what they are capable of. For some, it will be their first ever experience with porn. Why? Because if it's not a laptop or PC, many parents have absolutely no clue that the device they just gifted to their children has direct access to the web, with no filters, granting them direct access to pornography.

Before I continue, I'd like to share a video I saw at church recently. This is actually a secular video, showing the problem is NOT just something that Christians are concerned about.

We Need To Talk... from Fight the New Drug on Vimeo.

My awareness of the porn problem was heightened when I learned recently that a teen instructed his friend on how to disable parental controls on his phone AT CHURCH. So it's very important to start the conversations earlier than you think, and for reasons you may not expect. And don't forget to talk to your girls... they are doing unimaginable things and getting addicted to pornography as well. 

With gaming systems, your best bet is to use the appropriate built in parental control tools as well as monitor your child's use (and make sure they didn't disable the controls). These systems will likely be installed and kept in your home. How about your children's friends' homes? Have a conversation with these parents to see what the level of acceptance is and you might be shocked to find a parent that is completely oblivious to the gaming system's capabilities. Even worse, you might discover a "boys will be boys" mentality that makes you want to run for the hills. They are out there. Trust me.

In my opinion, the worst offenders are the mobile devices that kids can take with them wherever they go, without you over their shoulders to make sure their use is clean. THAT is where things get dicey. That's where Covenant Eyes comes in. While it can still be used at home on Windows 7, Vista, and XP PCs, as well as Mac computers, it can also be installed on iPhone®, iPod touch®, iPad®, and Android™ phones and tablets (like Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD).

Covenant Eyes is a popular product used by many Christian men to hold themselves accountable. Once it is installed, a friend, wife, parent, or mentor can receive emails showing everywhere the user went on his system, and everything s/he searched for. You can use this same product for your children's devices, and make yourself his/her accountability monitor. I have been receiving emails every three days (you can set the frequency) about my son's internet usage and it is very thorough. It will even detect if your child has attempted to navigate around the system.

Perhaps your child wanted that iPod touch® SO bad so he could listen to music. Just because their intent is innocent does not mean that giving them that tool can't turn into a disaster rather quickly. What if your 10 year old takes his to church where he encounters a 12 year old who wants to show him what it will do? Just because you are having conversations with YOUR child, don't assume everyone is. MOST are not.

The porn problem is going through the roof. If we don't protect our children while we have them, they ARE getting access to pornography. Addictions usually start at an early age. Talk to your kids, let them know the expectations, and do your best to prevent porn from getting onto their screens. Also, if your child has a school issued laptop or iPad®, don't assume there are any parental controls installed. I found out the hard way that ours had NOTHING installed when we used a virtual homeschool for two years.

Here is more info you might be interested in:
The Porn Problem sermon at Riverlawn Christian Church
Covenant Eyes 2013 Pornography Statistics Report

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Why I Allow My Kids on Facebook

I did not allow my kids on facebook for quite a while. I saw some of the things that came through on my wall and some of the things that the tweens and teens tend to post, and figured they could wait. I finally let them have their own facebook accounts when my son was almost 12 and my daughter was 10. They had numerous friends through sports and theatre productions that they wanted to keep in touch with and since they don’t attend school, I figured it would be the best way for this to happen.
I gained a lot of insight about the kids of today through monitoring my children’s facebook accounts. As a matter of fact, facebook has allowed me to know things that I otherwise would not have known. This is because when kids are alone, they will talk to one another differently from the way they would if I were in the room. Their language changes, the topics change, and they are cruder with one another.
The first thing I learned is that too many parents have no clue what their kids are doing on facebook. Well, perhaps they know, but they are WAY more lenient than I am. Either way, I’m saddened by the behavior I have observed. Since other parents aren’t monitoring their kids on facebook, these kids assume no parents are. It’s like stepping into their world and being a fly on the wall. (Keep in mind part of this is because children have profiles that aren’t private, or aren’t set that only friends can see what they post.) Also, when your child has a friend with some questionable “friends,” anything those “friends” post will be visible by anyone who reads the thread. I’ve seen cursing, bullying, sexual innuendos, fishing for attention by “drama queens” (and kings!) and general unbecoming behavior that all parents think that others’ kids do (not THEIRS!)
My son has friended people he’s met through friends, and when I saw some of the things they discuss on facebook, I unfriend them. One example is a girl talking about beating someone up. This is just gross. I don’t know why girls feel the need to act this way, but they aren’t going to do it on my son’s facebook page. This girl was not talking about someone she *wanted* to beat up (although she had done that as well), but she told about someone she had beaten up, like it was awesome. My son doesn’t need to start thinking this behavior is okay or normal. It’s not.
I also have a problem with kids talking publically to one another on their pages and saying gross things like, “Goodnight, baby…” Or, “I love you so much…can’t wait till tomorrow,” blah, blah, blah. I mean seriously, they will have a new girlfriend or boyfriend every week! Let me point out that there is NO doubt in my mind that the same kids being all gross with their girlfriends and boyfriends on facebook are the same kids sexting and participating in child porn when they send sexually explicit pictures back and forth. They are at least asking for them. They get away with it, because if parents aren’t monitoring facebook, do you really think they are checking phones?
So why do I let my children on facebook? So I know what’s going on. So I can learn about their friends and which ones I need to monitor better and which ones are more trustworthy. They all act nice to your face, but what are they like behind your back? I’m lucky so far in that my kids think the same behavior I point out above is tacky, gross, and not okay. Because I know what’s going on “out there” I can engage in dialogue with my kids and learn about their thoughts and ideas as I share my opinion of appropriate behavior.
I know my kids are not saints. I know my son is just like those other boys who act differently when their parents aren’t around. I know this because I monitor his phone and see some of the things he has texted. We have talked about setting an example for friends and being the one to pull others up and not being the one pulled down by negative behavior. I can’t make my kids turn out to be great people, but I can sure try my best and stay in contact with their world. It is not fun, but it will be worth it in the end.
Facebook can be your friend. Embrace it and use it as a tool to help your children react appropriately when you aren’t around. You know…when they’re adults.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reading List for Boys 9-15

This is a great resource! As a single mom of a young boy, I depend on Google to help me out in certain areas. Finding great books to steer him towards is important. He likes reading, and the video games are starting to take over his reading time, so I've got to act! Anyway, here is a great site recommending books for boys ages 9-15. Also, make sure you read the comments, where readers add their own favorites as well!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Siblings Who Fight

Do your children fight?

Okay, stop laughing. I know, I know...

But how often do they fight? And to what extreme? What is "normal"? As a homeschooler, my children spend a lot of time together and get on each other's nerves. They sometimes enjoy pushing each other's buttons. It's SUPER aggravating. I just can't stand to listen to the bickering. But on some level I know that their bickering comes from their own aggravation, some of which is caused by me.

If your children are literally beating the crap out of each other, you might have a bigger problem. I don't think this is major news for anyone, but I've come across people who aren't alarmed at all when their kids physically fight. So maybe this is a wake up call to someone out there who doesn't have a grasp on "normal".

Sibling Aggression Linked to Poor Mental Health

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Stretching Is Important for Athletes

I remember a few years ago being really irritated that my son's soccer coach didn't have them stretch before practices and games. I didn't know if I should say something and be one of "those" parents. So I told my son that he should stretch anyway, and then sort of forgot all about it. Then, I noticed he did not sit quite right on the floor. It literally hurt him to sit up. I also noticed that when his entire Tae Kwon Do class was "touching their toes" his was the only back that was curved, with his shoulders pulled forward. Soon after trying to correct this, he was running in the yard playing tag when a pain hit his back and he could not move. Also, for a while, we noticed his ribs were not matching on both sides, but I kept thinking it would correct itself.

I got him under chiropractic  care, where we learned that his spine was not straight (hence the ribs being "off" and the pain in his spine). Soon after, the knee pain began. My son (12) plays sports year round. The knee problem came up during soccer, so we got online to see what might be going on.

That's where we found out about Patellar Tendonitis, "Jumper's Knee", and Osgood Schlatter's disease (or syndrome). I immediately made an appointment at the chiropractor, and the doctor spent 30 minutes explaining how to take care of the problem.

The tell-tale symptom that narrowed down the diagnosis was that I knew my son's hamstrings were incredibly tight. You can read why this causes knee problems online. There are even stretches you can have your child do daily at home. I am not here to tell you what to do, as I'm not a doctor. But I'm telling you to have your child athlete stretch before performing sports! The problem is also common during adolescent growth spurts, especially in athletes.

Ironically, the next day at his soccer tournament, I noticed that every player (and referee) with a knee brace on had it on his/her right knee. The chiropractor had said that the prominent knee is the one most affected. How funny I'd never noticed that before!

Anyway, years of not stretching properly, a growth spurt, and his crooked spine all led to tendonitis in his knee. I'd also like to say that as an athlete, and a coach who stretches with my players, it just feels good to stretch, and everything feels better afterwards.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Common Core State Standards

If you haven't heard yet of "Common Core" then you need to dig yourself out from under that rock. Even as a homeschooler, I have learned about this on Facebook, as well as it being printed on the new Singapore math textbooks. Aren't you SO glad that the math curriculum meets Common Core standards?! Because, what you were teaching before was just rubbish, right?

If you go to "the website" (which I'm not going to link) you will find their mission statement:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Then it goes on...
Building on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid, the Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education. It should be clear to every student, parent, and teacher what the standards of success are in every school.

Now, I don't believe that it matters AT ALL what the standards actually are. Because the truth is, there have always been standards. You can tweak this or that; you can totally revamp something, but it will not make ONE DENT in the outcome of American students. The "system" is still missing the point.

First, did you catch this, "The Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education." Really? This is the FIRST step? What have you people been doing for decades, then? What are WE paying you for, to use our kids as guinea pigs?!

If that wasn't bad enough, it seems that the "system" thinks that we are stupid enough to believe that changing this or that in "standards" is the solution to our poor educational outcomes. "If we can just fix THIS, all our problems are solved!"

Well, I hate to tell you this America, but the crappy teachers who hand out worksheets every day and text on their phones 24/7 aren't the problem. The math teachers who can't do fractions aren't the problem. The administrators who act like tyrants aren't the problem. The problem is ACCOUNTABILITY. It should not come from the top down, it should come from the parents up. The problem is that the schools have convinced the parents that their input is not necessary or wanted, and they have told them, "We are the professionals; we know what we are doing. Trust us."

TRUST US. Trust our mountains of paperwork, hours of testing and test prep; trust that we know when your child should eat, or run, or urinate... Trust that your child is learning what he should. Trust us when we feed your kids these GMOs and crappy food, and reward them with colorful candy. Oh, and trust the fluoridated water in our fountains, probably laced with lead from old pipes. And trust that we got a great education in our crappy school systems and know everything we need to know to teach your child.

The problem, parents, is you. Start using your voice and paying attention to what your kid needs to learn. Stop complaining about all the testing and stop sending your kid to be tested! Stop believing the fallacy that you are not integral to your child's success and WAKE UP and make it your priority. Go to your kid's school. See what's going on. If something is going on that you need changed and you can't get through the red tape or political nightmare known as the school board, then GET YOUR CHILD OUT.

Do not hand your child over to the system and cheer because they have discovered this wonderful new toy known as the Common Core. It means absolutely nothing except that the system is taking control of our states and our children, and they "know" what's best for them. Better than the parents. TRUST THEM.

God bless those teachers who work themselves to the core, who care for the children in their care, and who love what they do despite the lack of appreciation from the kids AND parents. It's time to work together instead of against one another. I know some amazing teachers. I also know some who aren't. Do you know which one your child has?

More about Common Core and how the Feds are involved...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Growing Veggies

I blogged in January about starting a garden. It is now April, and I know what you are thinking. I flopped, right?

Wrong!! Sometimes I blog to hold myself accountable, and sometimes I do it because I know I will do what I say I am going to do. This is one of those times that I needed accountability. It helped that my neighbor started this journey with me, but I have to admit, it's hard to learn something knew and stay motivated knowing in the end, everything could die. Here is what I've got so far:
I've got three tomato plants, three bell peppers, and six banana peppers. Many did not "take" because I learned too late that they did not receive enough water. It's not too late for others, and I can always buy starter plants from the farmer's market to plant in my garden. For a first time, I feel like I'm doing all right. Here's the best part, though. My son and I built our own Garden Rack. Lowe's cut all the pieces for us, but we put all the pieces together using the plans, and it was actually not too bad! It was a great starter project for us. My son is almost 12, and got his own drill for Christmas. I enjoyed working on this project with him. We learned how to read plans as well as use tools.
Now if only the weather would cooperate and we could get our veggies planted outside. Yesterday was below freezing with freezing rain, and I'm glad my plants are still inside. Although, with the Garden Rack, I could always bring them back in, I suppose! I will keep you updated on our gardening adventure. Why don't you start your own?

Subway at Home

I love Subway. Well, I loved it more before getting a reminder recently about their inferior meats and pesticide-laden veggies. I mean, I never really thought a truly healthy sandwich could be made that cheaply, but figured they were making the real dough on sodas and chips, so... Anyway, I decided to save the gas money AND make a better sandwich at home!
This is how I do it. I use these awesome plastic "lunch" containers and fill them up with all our toppings. (You can see I need to get more lettuce!) Meat, cheese, and mayos/mustards are separate, but I could easily do a meat/cheese container. I keep ham and turkey on hand, as well as cheese, and numerous "sauces" such as Miracle Whip, mustard, dijon mustard, and chipotle mayo. I get the meat from the deli, fresh cut, and replace everything as necessary. This makes sandwich making much easier for kids who are too lazy to get out everything themselves. I replenish the veggies as they get low, usually as I'm making my own sub. These are super healthy foods for kids to eat daily. Not everything pictured is organic, but the cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper is.

Since I follow a "mostly no bread allowed" diet, I use a wrap for my sub instead and it is just as yummy. Think about setting up your own system before summer arrives and you will have well-fed kids and spouses all summer long!

Examples of Horrible Coaches

We've had our share of bad experiences over the years, in numerous sports and different towns. Bad coaches are everywhere. It is sad, really, and being a coach myself, I know how the parents who are often unequipped, or let's face it, LAZY, will judge every move we make with their kids. Nobody is perfect, but I respect the coaches who try. Here are some who just don't make the cut...

1. The screamer. They scream at the kids, call boys "girls" or "sissies", and obviously aren't happy until someone is crying. They believe they are coaching future pro sport athletes and if they don't scream at them, the kids will never reach their potential! Kids quit playing sports when they get tired of getting yelled at. True story. Ask a few kids who gave up a sport...

2. The cheater. Or the Liar. They are usually one and the same, and will not only cheat whenever possible, but will lie to cover it. They will lie to cover just about anything they need to in order to make themselves look good. The rules don't apply to them and they will bend them whenever possible. This teaches kids situational ethics. It only applies when it works in their favor. As parents, these coaches should not be tolerated.

3. The griper. During quarter or half-time breaks, instead of being constructive and moving forward with a plan, this coach complains about all the bad calls made previously, and how the referee must be out to get them. They dwell on the injustices and give nothing positive to the athletes about to take the field or court.

4. The pro. This coach expects everyone coming to him or her to have all necessary skills required for the sport and they are not about to teach any fundamentals to your child. If s/he doesn't have them already, too bad. On the first day of practice, kids are segregated into "starters" and "the rest" and often, not correctly. The "starters" get the "coaching" while "the rest" are turned over to the assistant coach who does "whatever" with them. But it's not skills. Just shoot the ball, it doesn't matter how...

5. The blind. These coaches are usually the ones who play their child (or other relatives) over other, more talented players. As a matter of fact, they usually don't see the talent that other players have because they are more concerned with building the team around "their" child and not taking stock of the many talents of the rest of the team. I literally watched one of the best players sit the bench for half of a game so that the two relatives of one coach could play almost the whole game. The blind coach also doesn't take stock of the strengths of their weaker players. If an athlete can't do "X," they write him off, even though he can do "Y" exceptionally well. This often happens at the team's peril. It does nothing for the child's self esteem.
The blind also fails to see the positive because he is too busy seeing the negative. He is mad at the rest of the team for letting that player get so far down field.  He grimaces at the one who stopped him, instead of recognizing that child's accomplishment. This coach is often a screamer as well.

Well, there you have it. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Now you may be wondering, what DO parents expect? As a coach, my goal is to teach as much as my team can handle. But individual children have different starting points and you have to adjust. It's okay to get frustrated without yelling. And kids want to have fun, but they would also like to win some games. My attitude is this: I don't care if we lose every single game, as long as we get better each time. Coming down on kids because they lost a game does nothing. Building the skills and helping them gain confidence is much more positive for the kids and the team as a whole. I've coached four sports now and some really awesome kids. I can't imagine being a miserable coach who only cares about winning. What do the children really learn?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Single Parent Homeschooling

“How do you do what you do?”

The question took me aback. I didn’t know what he meant… “Oh…you mean how do I homeschool?”

“Yes,” he said, as he looked at me in amazement.

My chiropractor had just commented on how I should sleep at night, and when he mentioned my “husband” I had to tell him I wasn’t married. I had forgotten I had told him that my son, who had been a patient of his for a month, was homeschooled. I also had forgotten how strange my life must seem to others.

I told him that I work from home and have an internet business. He was impressed. I left that day with the memories of our seven years of homeschooling swimming around in my head and began wondering myself how I do what I do.

It’s pretty simple, really. I take one day at a time. But of course, what people really want to know is how I can afford to. After all, married couples with two incomes “can’t do it,” so how could a single mom?

I’m very fortunate to have started an internet business when I really didn’t need to. As a matter of fact, at the time I did not know why I was doing it. I just knew I should, and so I did. So by the time I needed it for income, the income was there. It now supports us, but God provides. Sometimes I receive child support, but when I don’t, God increases my business. It all just works out, just as it always has, as far as I can think back.

If I had not started my internet business, I would still find a way. There are so many things you can do, such as tutoring, cleaning houses, babysitting, or if you have a career skill like programming, accounting, or copywriting; these are all things you can do from home.  For a time, I took in two other homeschoolers and received a small amount of money for teaching them, and I also babysat two others daily in order to make ends meet. For one year, we lived in a two bedroom duplex that looked like it would collapse with the next heavy rain. Strangely, that was one of my favorite years!

Since we do not have any family in the area, it is also my responsibility to drive two children to activities almost daily. We have participated in swim team, baseball/softball, basketball, football, cheerleading, dance, gymnastics, Taekwondo, musical theatre, soccer, and don’t forget the homeschool co-op! Our schedule is crazy, and it’s all on me to get kids SOMEwhere, sometimes at the same time. (Did I mention I also coach soccer and softball?)

In about ten years, both of my children will be on their own career paths. They may be out of my home. Those ten years are going to fly by even faster than my past forty-one have. So while I have them in my care, I feel it is my job to allow them to spread their wings, try new things, and explore God’s world and all it has to offer. They are hindered from this if they are in school all day.

How do I do it? I just do.

I’ll have time to rest later.

This composition was sitting on my desktop, waiting to be edited for over a week. I read it over and laughed and cried at the same time. A few days after writing this, my children's father called to say he had quit his job. In one fell swoop my income dropped tremendously. I had been here before, but I had gotten comfortable at our income level and forgot to watch the pennies and nickels for just this scenario. I have been in a panic for the past week. Will things work out? How will they? What will we have to give up? All I know is that we will carry on and God will sustain us UNTIL. And that's all I really need to know...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Read a Novel With Your Teen

Last week I wrote about Honey for a Teen's Heart and I've been enjoying it so much. I can't believe I've just now come across it, and I can't stop talking about it and sharing it. In my reading last night, something occurred to me.

As a student, as a teacher, as a parent, and as a para in the junior high, not ONCE have I ever heard of a teacher or school encouraging a parent to read a novel with a child.

I'm not talking about the little ten page books that teachers send home with first graders to prove to the parents that their child can read. I'm talking about fourth grade and up, when the books are thicker and concepts about world views, and not so much silly kid stuff anymore. Most parents have no clue what their children are reading at school. They might see books that a child brings home, but what about the books assigned to the entire class?

Think about it...they send home plenty of math homework, don't they? Why don't they send home a book and require reading ten pages aloud each night with a parent? This would allow a bonding time with parent and child, discussions over characters and plots (and another viewpoint aside from the teacher's), and the parent will actually know what is being taught through the child's literature program at school.

What values come with literature, and do they match your own? Literature can be interpreted many ways. Do you want your child's literature interpreted only by his or her teacher? What if you don't agree with the teacher's world view? I don't even feel that you can trust a fellow Christian's world view if you are a Christian. There are plenty of disagreements within the Church, some minor and others huge. If you are pretty well educated and awake, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Back to the you even know what books your child is assigned? During my year as a para, I was assigned to a "language arts" class where the teacher chose to read out loud to seventh graders. One thing that bothered me was that there was no open discussion between classmates. There were worksheets that had questions, and you either got the "right" answer or didn't. The bigger problem for me was the novel that was chosen. The worst was White Fang. I'm a sensitive female and animal lover. I cringed through most of the reading. What if there were students just like me? Did they have a choice? If I were a student in the class, I would have failed all the worksheets because I could not stay focused on the reading. I literally fought tuning it out, and I'm an a adult! It was simply to violent for me. If the teacher had allowed discussion about the novel, she may have discovered that some in the class may have needed a different option. But their voices were insignificant, which destroys the whole purpose of reading literature, doesn't it?

The school also had a separate "reading" class which was a time for kids to read their choice for about 45 minutes or so. I don't understand why this reading couldn't have been required at home with a parent or guardian. This reading was for "fun" and there was no testing to make sure the kids understood what they read or if they even read it at all. Why not allow them to read with the parent, encouraging them to bond at home over literature and the discussions that would follow? That allows more time for math to be done in class...math that kids aren't getting during the normal hour. This will take care of the kids going home with math homework and having no clue how to do it. I saw this as well. The math teacher was AMAZING, but kids came to class every day having done homework that they got ALL wrong. They just needed a little more time and instruction, but instead were reading books (or were they?)

If you are a parent of a tween or teen, start asking these questions. And get Honey for a Teen's Heart so you can really get what I'm talking about. If you think reading out loud with your young adults is a waste of time, don't wonder why you don't understand them down the road. If you don't want to stay connected, neither will they. And the best way to stay connected is through sharing literature and the ideas that come from it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reading Together with Teens

In a quest to develop a "middle school" literature curriculum for my children next year, I came across a book suggestion. I had never heard of Honey for a Teen's Heart and now that I know about it, I must urge you to get a copy for yourself! After reading the introduction, I was so inspired that I wanted to sit down with my 10 and "almost" 12 year old and start a novel. I am not much of a reader anymore. I have to admit that I got turned off from reading in college, when I was forced to read something I wasn't interested in and we had WAY too many pages to read each night, and after four years of this, I didn't pick up a novel for at least a decade. But Honey for a Teen's Heart reminds parents of the bonding affect of reading together. I won't even try to put it as eloquently as authors Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton put it. Just hop over to Amazon and read the sample and you will see what I mean! This book is a must-have for your collection, especially if you are looking to develop a reading list for your literature curriculum.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Hardest Job in the World

I remember reading an article many years ago about whether or not the statement, "Being a stay at home mom is the hardest job in the world," was accurate. Of course, there is no definite answer. It depends on many factors and there is no cut and dry quantifier to determine the subjectivity of what is "hard" or "harder" to accomplish. There are pros and cons to both being a stay at home mom as well as a mom who works outside of the home. No question, being a mom is hard work. That is, if you work hard at it.

There are "moms" who sit at home all day and do absolutely nothing except watch TV and yell at her kids. That's not the "mom" I'm speaking of.  I'm speaking of the mom who makes sacrifices when necessary, to provide the best life possible for her child(ren). She also disciplines and corrects when necessary, loving and teaching her child to grow and become independent. This is the mom I strive to be.

For many years, people have marveled at what I do. They gasp when they ask, "How do you do all that? You must be exhausted!" And then I realize I am.

It has finally hit me that what I'm doing can only go on so long. Lucky for me, my kids are hitting the ages where my collapsing from exhaustion will not harm them, and they are very independent in their care and schooling.

I am a work at home mom. I also homeschool my two children. Did I mention also that I'm a single mom? I have no family near, and the kids' dad is around "some." Thankfully, we have great neighbors and the kids have friends on our street. I get lots of breaks. But when I do rest, there is always a feeling of guilt. I should be spending the time with the kids....or doing laundry...or growing my business...or cutting the grass...or grocery shopping. Oh, I forgot to mention...I'm also a health freak and super conscious about food. I don't feed them chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs every night. We actually cook here! But I feel guilty for not making my own bread... I guess there's always something. Anyway, the thing about what I do is that it's not physically exhausting. It's mentally exhausting.

There always seems to be decisions that need to be made, a schedule to keep up with, children to listen to, questions to answer... ALL DAY LONG. Yes, I'm exhausted. Yes, it is hard work. But as I crash periodically, I go down thinking it is all worth it. I love my life and I love the freedom to do what we want and to choose not to do something if necessary. I don't have a set work schedule, I don't have to deal with ignorant co-workers and their egos, and I don't have to be told what to do and when. This freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Is being a stay at home mom harder than a mom who works outside the home? I don't know anything about that. But I know we each need to do what we are capable of to make our children's lives fulfilling, fun, and educational. The better job we do, the quicker they can take care of us in the future. And that future for me is coming fast...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Amazon Kindle Increases Reading for Kids

I put off for a long time getting into the electronic readers, or "gamepads," as I call them. They were just another ploy to get consumers to purchase another piece of electronics. That may be so, but I read somewhere that an electronic reader actually increases a child's daily reading time. That is one of many reasons that I finally purchased the Kindle Fire for my family, and that statement definitely played out immediately. Of course, they were into the games, but even better, we could search for a book, download it (sometimes even for free!) and read it immediately. If we brought the Kindle along on a trip "for the games," it also included the book my son was currently reading, and he didn't have to have the forethought to lug the actual book with him. So the literature is almost always with us.

Another thing I like about the Kindle is that it can be read in a dark car. It can also be read at night, and since my son doesn't have a lamp to read by, he would always have to get up and turn off the light when he was done reading. Now, if he falls asleep reading, his light isn't on all night.

I'm already planning for school next year, and I see that at least one book is available on the Kindle. I wonder how many trees we are going to save...

If you think a gadget will encourage your child's learning, go for it. In addition to your child's increased reading, you might discover it saves you money on textbooks in the future.

Also, we did purchase "Amazon Prime" and it has been worth the money already. We get lots of free movies and books. Definitely think about that as well!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Computer Programming for Kids

Today my son, 11, received a book from his father called "Super Scratch Programming Adventure! " You can read all about it at Amazon, but I just want to share this because I had no clue anything like this was out there. It is for children 8 and older who want to learn computer programming. My son has been wanting to do this for a while, and he LOVES this book. He dove right into it and had his "Scratchy" doing all sorts of things.

I see that there are other books out there that he will probably own one day on programming video games and I'm really glad now that we just got a Kindle Fire from Amazon. It should save us a few pennies. You can get this book for the Kindle if you want to have immediate access to it!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Grow Your Own Food

For too many reasons to count, if you are a stay at home mom, you should grow your own food when possible. I am making the commitment this spring, and must get started soon. In the fall, I was collecting all the leaves from the yard and had the idea to start a compost, which then led to the idea that it would be useful for the garden that I should grow... I mean, I'm at home...why wouldn't I garden? Well, I could think of a couple of reasons, but now that my kids are older and can help me, I don't have that excuse anymore. Also, I what if I move? Then I came across Garden Rack. It solved all my problems. Not only does it remove the back breaking work I was looking at, it made my garden removable! If you have a small space or ground not conducive to growing food, this is the perfect solution. Or if you rent your house and don't want to put work into something you might end up leaving, Garden Rack is what you need.  I am working on this project and will post updates as I move forward into this "new world" I am entering. Join with me, and grow some food for your family!

 Shed Plans

Why Our Children's Life Expectancy is Lower than Ours

Our children's life expectancy is lower than ours, which is ALL OUR FAULTS. Yes, mine, too. Every negative food choice that goes into your child's mouth is your fault. Every positive food choice is your fault. You cannot blame it on trends, friends, or schools...your child is yours and you make his/her choices. Until s/he makes his/her own, and then what you taught them hopefully sticks...

I'm bringing this up following a trip to Home Town Buffet a couple of weeks ago. It has bothered me ever since. It started when I was in line to get chicken, where I was behind a mom helping her son fill his plate. Already on the plate was a pile of french fries and macaroni and cheese. In front of her were (overcooked) green beans and carrots, and what does she say? "Do you want some mashed potatoes or corn?" WOW. (By the way, in my book, corn is NOT a vegetable, nor is mashed potatoes!)

I don't know what ended up on his plate, but we ended up sitting at the table next to this family, who ended up being what appeared to be two parents, two grandparents, and two kids. The second kid sat closest to us, with the rest of the family to his other side. He may as well have been sitting at another table, because not one word was said to him during the meal. He was somewhere between 9 and 11 years old, I guess. When we sat down, he had a HUGE pile of mashed potatoes, and something long and fried, maybe cheese sticks. He then proceeded to make THREE trips to the dessert bar. I happened to glance over just in time to see him look down, grab underneath his belly, and jiggle it. No joke. He then got two icees. When it was time to go, he got up with the family and started to leave with the cup, halfway filled with icee. The first thing I heard anyone say to him was..."You can't take that cup, you have to leave it here."

The first kid I saw in line was skinny. But give him time. He will be supersize before you know it, I guarantee it, with the parenting that I saw of the larger child. At first I wondered, "Why would Hometown Buffet put french fries out when they know it's family night, where parents are going to bring in their kids, because they eat for $.99?" I quickly realized you can't blame the restaurants. But you CAN blame the parents. Maybe it's just me, but when we go to HTB, it's because we can all choose something different to eat, without getting fast food. I know the quality of food is definitely not as good as mine at home, but it's not as bad as fast food. It's a night off of cooking, not a time to load up on desserts and starches and fried crap.

The biggest problem is that parents are eating crap. And whether or not they expect their kids to eat better, if what a parent says doesn't match up with what a parent does, the lesson is lost. Put some veggies on your plates, parents. Limit junk and eating out. Give some choices, but make them healthy (and learn what healthy is!) And start early. The earlier you provide variety, the less likely you are to have a picky eater. Do it for your kids. Their life DOES depend on it!

Museum of World Treasures

Yesterday we visited Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, KS. I had never been there, although my daughter went with my mother about four years ago and had a great time. My daughter and I went with one tour group, and my son went with another tour group with children a bit older. I really enjoyed the visit, but my daughter did not. At all.

The museum is FULL of artifacts. From dinosaurs to mummies to war memorabilia...I don't think anyone would leave disappointed. Leave that to my daughter! I had a great time, and could have stayed longer, reading the plaques on the wall and seeing all the things you can certainly catch a glimpse of online, but this was RIGHT front of you...bringing history alive! And therein lies the problem.

My daughter is ten years old. Even at home, she turns away from any negative images on tv, or something that might give her nightmares. I commend her for being so intuitive to realize that what she is exposed to can have an impact on her, and then self-regulating that. I did not expect the museum, however, to have such a negative impact on her. The tour began with the dinosaurs, which she felt a little icky and probably scary, the way they have them set up and the size of the T-Rex. Next came the mummies, which apparently started the thoughts in her head, and it got worse as the tour progressed. She was feeling "sick," had a headache, "not well." When we were in the simulated "bunker" she told me how she disliked it also when she was six. She did enjoy getting to hold some of the artifacts, but we were in a room set off away from the main part of the museum and it looked like a meeting room with big round tables. I didn't get to stay in the museum as long as I wanted. The tour was 1 1/2 hours, but we still had time to look around ourselves. She was ready to get the heck outta there!

I remember when I was younger, and I was just like her. When I was 22, I saw Forrest Gump in the movie theater and had to leave during the war scene! There are actually a lot of kids like this, but we tend to ignore it or write it off. These kids are VERY intelligent and VERY intuitive. That said, I had to tell my daughter why it is important for us to learn history. Too many Americans bury their head in the sand and ignore what's going on. Many have no clue what really happened in our past because they either were never taught, or they have forgotten because they don't care/don't want to know. I explained how we can't see history repeating itself if we didn't learn the history to begin with, and that is why it's important to have the knowledge. She accepted this. But I'm pretty certain she will be learning her history from books from now on, as being around artifacts was overwhelming to her and made her too sick to learn the information.

One thing that I always look for in museums is whether they provide a creationist perspective or evolutionist perspective. We were on a tour with our Christian homeschool co-op. So the tour guides did a great job, especially considering that the dinosaur information was definitely not from a young earth perspective. If you are a diehard young earth creationist, you will still enjoy the museum. The plaques for the dinosaurs were the only part I noticed with "millions of years" and there was another reference that was a little bit off referencing 10,000 years, but I'm not going to be too picky about that. If you are studying presidents, there is a great exhibit with general facts for each president. We also got to see the Declaration of Independence (not the real one, but a really old copy!) They also have a great section on World War I and II. I admit this part was a little overwhelming for me as well, but from a creationist perspective, these parts are not affected, and will definitely bring alive history for your students studying the US or wars.

One of my favorite parts is the piece of the Berlin wall. I was able to share with my daughter how her grandmother grew up in East Germany and snuck over to West Germany on "vacation." She never returned. Well, not until the wall came down, and then she returned to find everything virtually identical to the way it was decades before. I think everyone can find their own little piece of history at World Treasures. Just keep in mind, it might be too much for some. But it won't stop me from returning on my own!

Here is a picture of a great map I took that you might find useful. I love how they combined current and past place names.

Single Parents Dating

Yesterday, I found a horrible clog in my vacuum cleaner that had practically stopped the suction completely. As I vacuumed, I convinced myself it was all in my head. I mean, it WAS sucking my hand in when I covered the tube, but just didn't seem to pick much of anything up. I had already washed out the canister and filter, and had cleaned out the part of the hose I could easily see and get to. I just couldn't imagine there would be anymore clogs in the hose, so I kept convincing myself it was all in my head. Finally, I undid the hose and found the problem. As I was cleaning it out, I thought, "So THAT'S why the house is so dusty even though I've been vacuuming regularly." I couldn't figure out why dust was everywhere, which is unusual. (Thanks to our guinea pig that throws hay out everywhere, the vacuum is more prone to clogging. Lesson noted.)

I also thought about how funny it was that the vacuum was barely sucking, but I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that bad. Once I got it working, I realized the HUGE difference and wondered how in the world I didn't realize it was so bad. And then it hit me.

Incremental changes go unnoticed. The clog didn't just appear all of a sudden. It slowly got worse and worse, going unnoticed, until it practically didn't work at all.

I relate this to another lesson I learned recently. I just ended a long term relationship. It lasted close to two years, starting when my son was 9. I did not notice along the way, incremental changes in my son. He did not verbalize anything, did not complain, did not dislike my boyfriend, and I figured his change in behavior was puberty. Maybe it was, but he is still in puberty, and he has changed completely...for the better. And as soon as I ended the relationship, my son was back. It wasn't a gradual change, it was immediate. And so it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was able to look back and pinpoint the incremental changes. But while in the thick of it, did not notice that my dating affected my son. Of course, my daughter verbalized every thought she ever had, so I knew exactly how she felt. My son was quieter, but even when asked, couldn't verbalize why he was angry/emotional/upset. I realized that if *just* dating can affect children this way, how horrible it must be for children who watch their parents in abusive relationships!

I no longer feel single parents should date. Not in front of their kids. Kids need their parents, not some other dude. That is ironic because the first thing parents tend to do after divorce is replace the ex. Men look for a mother figure for their kids, and women look for household income for their kids. (Generally... check out stepparenting forums if you don't believe me!) I just like the companionship, but didn't realize how it would affect my kids. It is not their fault that their parents' marriage did not work out, and dealing with divorce is probably enough trauma for their childhood. I only have about 8 more years left being their Mommy and that time will zoom by in a flash. I want to make the most of it.

So. Incremental changes go unnoticed. Check out your own kids and see if there have been changes that you have been too busy (or selfish?) to notice. We think kids will tell us everything, and sometimes what they tell us isn't verbal. Make sure you are "listening!"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Video Games for Future Engineers

Most parents probably think of video games as mindless activity, but if you pay close attention, you can see that kids are doing a lot of thinking in them. If your kid spends a lot of time playing Runescape online, you might wonder what he is learning, but I can attest to my child knowing things simply because of the fact that he played it a lot. And they were educational things, NOT the "other" things you worry about! If you think you might have a future engineer in your family, here is a list of 8 Video Games to Get Your Kid Into Engineering. I apologize in advance for the webpage and how this article is set up. Just click on each small image to see another game...and ignore the ads. Hopefully it will be worth it and you will find a new game for your child!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Algebra Teaching Tool

A great teaching tool for teaching algebraic concepts is called Hands-On Equations. I was trained in using this system in 1994 when I taught 6th grade math. Years later, I purchased my own system to help my stepdaughter who struggled with algebra. Then I used it for my son a couple of years ago when he was 9. We were just working on some math today and a word problem came up that was best solved using an algebraic equation. My son got a worried look on his face, and I decided to re-write the equation using the Hands-On Equations "pawns." He got it immediately. I suggest this system to ALL parents, whether they are homeschooling or not. You can start it as young as 3rd grade, and there is no upper age limit, so if you struggled with algebra yourself, it might help you re-learn (or learn) it. You can learn more about the system at the Hands-On Equations website. I was able to use just the Learning System for $34.95, but I did have previous training in it. You may or may not need to purchase more in order to really understand how to use the system. I would say that the worse you are in math, the more you may need to purchase. But, if you are determined, you should be able to use just the system I purchased. (The more broke we are, the more determined we must become!)
Also, if you do get the system and then have questions, they will answer them for you, and I will, too!