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 rent...so 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 THERE...in 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!

Tom Woods