May 30, 2013

Quarterly Reports: New York State

You've submitted your LOI and received your packet from your school district.  You've penned your IHIP and sent it in.  Now what?

After they receive your IHIP, your school district must send you notice within 10 days that your IHIP either meets the State's requirements or is deficient.  (Don't worry!  If you follow the example I've given, you don't have to worry about being deficient.)  They'll probably send you a packet of forms they want you to use for your Quarterly Reports and Annual Report, but you can toss those.  You are not obligated to use them.

Once you receive the school's notice, CONGRATULATIONS!  Home school away!

But don't forget about your Quarterly Reports!  On each of the dates you indicated in your IHIP, you must submit to your school district a written summary of that quarter.  This is another area where I err on the side of caution and provide much more information than the State regulations require.  To me, the extra work is worth not having a run-in with the school district down the road.  Plus, it helps me realize just how much we've done in such a short amount of time.

All that New York State requires in your Quarterly Report is the number of hours of instruction completed in the quarter, a listing of the material covered in each subject, either a grade (number or letter) or a written narrative evaluating your child's progress that quarter, and, if you covered less than 80% of the material you expected to cover during that quarter, an explanation of why must be included.  But, since you are the decider of what constitutes 80%, that shouldn't be an issue.

If you think you'd prefer a shorter version of the Quarterly Report to base your own on, take a look at the sample shown on Cityschooling, a blog by a New York City seasoned home schooling mom.  However, if you're like me and want to cover all your bases to satisfy your paranoia, you can follow my example, shown below:

Date:  November 15, 2012
Student’s name:  Jonnie A. Doe
Quarter beginning and ending dates:  8/15/12 – 11/15/12
Hours of instruction this quarter:  300+

Description of materials covered in each subject area:  (See attached form for grades assessed).

ARITHMETIC:  Place value to the 100 billions; number forms; comparing and ordering whole numbers; decimals; place value through thousandths; comparing and ordering decimals; rounding whole numbers and decimals; properties; multiplying whole numbers; multiplying decimals; variables and expressions; rules and patterns; solving equations.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE (including reading, writing, and spelling):  Jonnie has read several fiction books, and he has completed several reading assignments in various other subjects.  He has written several stories and short essay assignments.  He has studied capitalization and punctuation, grammar skills, dictionary skills, sentence types (imperative, declarative, interrogative, and exclamatory), subjects and predicates, and independent and dependent clauses.  Jonnie’s spelling and vocabulary words are taken from each subject we study, and he is tested weekly on those words.  He practices cursive penmanship weekly.

SOCIAL STUDIES (including U.S. history, and geography):  Jonnie has studied early explorers, early settlements, colonies, Ben Franklin, War of Independence, Revolutionary War, democracy, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  He participated in a field trip to the Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY to supplement his study of colonial life.

SCIENCE:  Jonnie has studied cells, unicellular organisms, cell growth and reproduction, classifying living things and plants, seed-bearing plants, flowering plants, cone-bearing plants, spore-bearing plants, invertebrates, protists, egg-laying invertebrates, vertebrates, and egg-laying vertebrates.  He also took part in field trip to the NASA Glenn Space Center and Science Museum in Cleveland, Ohio and the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.

HEALTH/SAFETY:   The habit of wellness – health and the whole person, health basics, building fitness.  Jonnie also studied dental hygiene and the reasons for tooth decay in preparation for having a tooth pulled.

MUSIC:  Jonnie began weekly piano lessons this quarter.  He is learning finger placement, keys, notes, chords, and beginning simple melodies.  He practices his lessons daily.

VISUAL ARTS:  Focus on pen and pencil sketching, specifically, contour line drawing.  Completed several art projects, including a still life continuous line contour drawing.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION:  Daily outdoor play, seasonal activities (swimming, biking, hiking, etc.), instruction in aerobic activity and the importance of health and fitness.  Jonnie participated in a week-long basketball camp this quarter.

BIBLE:  Believers in God, life of Abraham, life of David, servants of God, life of Paul.

SPANISH:  Jonnie has been learning beginning Spanish, with a focus on vocabulary and word recognition.

As mentioned at the beginning of this sample report, I also attach a "report card".  I use Homeschool Tracker Plus, which is record-keeping software where I input grades the boys earn in each subject and can generate a report of their grade averages quarterly.  I simply print off that report for each boy and attach it to the Quarterly Report. 

Really, you can make your Quarterly Reports as long or as short as you'd like, and if you don't hear a peep from your school district after submitting them, then you know you're doing it right.  They'll only contact you if they feel you are deficient in some area.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Coming up... Annual Assessments

Individualized Home Instruction Plan: New York State

After you submit your LOI and receive your packet from your school district, you need to prepare and submit your Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) within 4 weeks, or no later than August 15th. 

This step freaked me out the most my first time around, but a thorough reading of the New York State Dept. of Education home instruction regulations coupled with some samples I found on the internet helped me figure it out.  Even so, I erred on the side of caution, and my IHIPs are much more detailed than they need to be to meet the State's requirements.

Really all you need to include is your child's name, age, grade level, a list of the main resources you plan to use in each subject (a list of required subjects can also be found in the regulations), the dates you'll be submitting your quarterly reports, and the names of who will be teaching your child (i.e., you).

But, since I didn't want to run into any problems with the school district down the road, I went a little further than that.  I included a paragraph describing our approach to education and some of the resources we'll pull from, as well as a brief summary of the topics to be covered in each subject.

Below is the IHIP form I submit to our Superintendent:

We are creating an integrated, interest-based curriculum using a hands-on approach to learning.  As such, materials and activities listed in one subject area may also apply to other subject areas.  In addition, we believe that one of the great strengths of homeschooling is the flexibility to individualize the child’s learning experience so that skills and knowledge are learned at the time the child is most ready and motivated.  In keeping with that belief, the materials we will use may include, but not be limited to, the following list as well as the resources listed under each subject heading below:  reference materials (including atlases, dictionaries, maps, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, videos, DVDs, CDs, magazines, newspapers, and internet resources), classic and contemporary literature, workbooks, worksheets, journal/narrative/poetry writing, creative thinking, fact gathering, music, hands-on activities, experiments, projects, field trips, group activities, art supplies, free play, conversations, Christian Service Brigade (similar to Boy Scouts), and real life.  We provide a rich and varied educational environment at home for Brandt and also take advantage of the many library, community, and internet resources available.
ARITHMETIC:  Place value, adding, and subtracting; multiplying whole numbers and decimals; dividing with one- and two-digit divisors; data, graphs, and probability; geometry; fraction concepts; fraction operations; measurement; measuring solids; ratio, proportion, and percent; introduction to algebra.
Primary Resource:  Scott Foresman – Addison Wesley Mathematics for grade 5.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE (including reading, writing, and spelling):  Penmanship (Zaner-Bloser cursive writing), vocabulary, grammar, spelling, listening skills, telephone skills, creative writing, written and oral book reports, dictionary skills, silent and oral reading, poetry, and short stories.
Primary Resources:  Alpha Omega Horizons Penmanship Curriculum for Grade 5; Scott Foresman’s Reading Street for grade 5
SOCIAL STUDIES (including U.S. history and geography):  Exploring the New World; Colonial American life; 13 Colonies; new lands; the U.S. becomes a world leader; transportation and communication; the U.S. – one nation, many regions; our Southern neighbors; Canada.
Primary Resources:  Alpha Omega Monarch curriculum for Grade 5; Geography through Art, by Sharon Jeffus and Jamie Aramini.
SCIENCE:  Cells; plant life cycle; animal life cycle; balance in nature; transformation of energy; flood; fossils; geology; cycles in nature.
Primary Resources:  Alpha Omega Monarch curriculum for Grade 5.
HEALTH/SAFETY:  Building healthy habits, taking care of your lungs (effects of drug, alcohol and tobacco misuse); relationships; adolescent changes; being part of a family; emergency first aid; food and nutrients; patriotism and citizenship; highway safety; fire safety.
Primary Resources:  Alpha Omega Horizons Health Curriculum for Grade 5; How We Learn, How We Grow, How Our Bodies Work, and How We Learn, by Joe Kaufman.
MUSIC:  Study of different types of musical instruments, both modern and historical.  Jonnie will also begin piano lessons this year.
Primary Resource:  Music, by Eyewitness Books.
VISUAL ARTS:  Introduction to various genres and artists will occur in numerous other subject areas and through genre-specific art lessons and projects.
Primary Resources:  Geography through Art, by Sharon Jeffus and Jamie Aramini; Kids’ Art Works!, by Sandi Henry.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION:  Daily outdoor play, seasonal activities (swimming, biking, hiking, snow sports), sports camp, little league, and fitness education.
Primary Resource:  Ultimate Homeschool Physical Education Game Book, by Guy Bailey.
BIBLE (NOT REQUIRED):  Living for God; Angels; the presence of God; Bible methods and structure; proving what we believe; authority and law.   
Primary Resources:  Alpha Omega Lifepac Bible curriculum for Grade 5; Holy Bible, New International Version.
SPANISH (NOT REQUIRED):  Elementary Spanish.           
Primary Resource:  Alpha Omega Monarch curriculum.

Primary instruction to Jonnie will be provided by Jane Doe and John Doe, his parents.  Supplemental instruction will be provided by others, as necessary.

Jane A. Doe

Again, you don't need to go into as much detail as I do in order to meet the State's requirements, but if you tend toward paranoia, like I do, you might find it reassuring.

My school district sends us a form to fill out for the dates on which we'll submit our quarterly reports.  I just use their form, because it's straightforward, and doesn't infringe on any of our home schooling rights (something that is important to me).  You can choose any 4 dates you desire, but I find it simpler to use the dates suggested by the State (November 15th, January 30th, April 15th, and June 30th).

They also send a form for the entire contents of the IHIP, but, if your school does the same, you are NOT obligated to use it.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to leave them in the comments. 

Coming up... Quarterly Reports

Previous post... Letter of Intent to Home School

May 29, 2013

Letter of Intent to Home School: New York State

After we decided to give home schooling a shot, I spent the majority of time researching the ins and outs, dos and don'ts, rules and regulations for home schooling in New York state.  I'm paranoid of not covering all my bases and having to battle with our local school Superintendent over something little that I forgot to turn in.

I gleaned a lot of information from four main sources:  Cityschooling, a blog by a New York City home schooling mom who's been at it for many years; The Journey Mom, the website of another seasoned home schooling mom; the Home School Legal Defense Association; and the New York State Dept. of Education home education regulations, found online.

Many other internet resources assisted my research, too, but those are the main treasure troves of information that I found most beneficial.

Since this blog is about my family's home schooling journey, I thought I would include samples of the documents New York State requires home schoolers submit, beginning with the Letter of Intent to Home School (LOI).

In New York State, home schooling parents must notify the school, in writing, of their intent to home school their children no later than July 1st of each year.  Yes, it must be done each year.  But, don't worry.  It's super simple. Below is the letter I submit to our Superintendent: 

        John and Jane Doe
             123 Linwood Ave.
             Schoolville, NY  12345

June 25, 2012

Maxine Delevan, Superintendent
Schoolville Central School
12 West Main St.

Schoolville, NY  12345

Dear Ms. Delevan,

We are sending this letter of intent to home school as required in Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education.

We intend to home school our son, Jonnie A. Doe, who will be entering grade 5, for the
2012-2013 school year.


Jane Doe
Within 10 days of receiving your LOI, your school district must send you a copy of the State home instruction regulations and a form on which to submit your Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP), which sounds scary, but if you know the regulations and do your homework, it can be simple.  I'll talk more about the IHIP in a separate post.

So there you have it.  The LOI.  Easy peasy.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Coming up... Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP): New York State

Reading: learning to love it

I didn't read to my boys much over the years.  When they were small, between birth and maybe 3 years of age, my husband and I would read to them.  They had favorite books that they requested be read over and over and over again.  I don't remember when it ended, though.  I remember feeling, "I'm just too tired tonight."  And "I'm just too tired tonight" became a habit, unfortunately.  I regret that.

Some of my favorite memories of my own childhood center around curling up with my mom or dad on the couch while they read my favorite stories to me.  The Poky Little PuppyThe Monster at the End of this BookMother Goose Nursery Rhymes.  And many more whose stories I can picture in my head but no longer remember the titles of.  I believe the time my parents spent reading stories to me as a child helped instill a love of reading in my as I grew up.

So, I'm sad that I didn't spend that kind of time with my own boys.  Now that they are 8 and almost 11, neither of them likes reading.  You'd think we submitted them to some sort of mafia torture, like chopping off fingers or holding their heads under water until they nearly drown whenever we suggest they read a book.

My oldest asked me why in the world I like reading.  I tried to explain how delving into a good book carries my mind off into another world.  It sparks my imagination and makes my brain jump into action.  A really good book can break me of a bad mood and launch my creative spirit.  To me, the feeling is similar to receiving accolades from a person who I love and respect.  I feel good about myself.  Reassured that I can do anything I put my mind to.  Because, after reading a good book, I want to create.  Whether it's writing, or drawing, or photography, or even baking, an engaging story makes me want to show my own creativity and ability to others.  Kind of like paying it forward.

He didn't understand that.  He just said, "But reading is boring!"

Maybe it's too late now.  Maybe my boys will never know the kind of love of reading I know.  It's a gift I neglected to give them.  

Have you helped your kids learn to love reading?  What's your secret?  Share your suggestions in the comments.

May 28, 2013

Boys to Men: what makes a man "manly"?

What does it mean for a man to be "manly"?  I think many people understand it to mean a man who participates in activities that require muscular strength, sweat, anything that doesn't imply any sort of femininity.  A manly man is one who feels strong and proud about the things he does and the things he owns and who feels that other people looking in on his life view him as strong and manly.  A manly man hunts, fishes, hikes, camps, chops wood, walks with a swagger - head high, shoulders back, grows a beard, drives a pickup truck with a motor that growls (in a good way) and in which he hauls lumber and the carcass of the dear he shot in the woods. And on the weekend, he loafs on the sofa with chips and soda while watching football or baseball.  At least, that's what many people think.

My husband doesn't hunt.  He doesn't fish.  He doesn't hike or tent camp in the wilderness.  He doesn't lift weights.  He doesn't chop wood or dress deer or walk with a swagger.  He doesn't like sports at all.  And he's perfectly content to drive a minivan.

Does this mean he's not "manly" enough?  Do you think these things cause him embarrassment or make him feel emasculated?  Do I, his wife, think less of him?


My husband is, in fact, the most "manly" man I've ever known.

He may not hunt or fish, but he can fix and build anything.  Ever heard of MacGyver?  My husband is MacGyver.  Car not running?  He can fix it.  Computer on the fritz?  He can fix it.  Water main broken and spewing water all over the house and yard?  He can fix it.  Tractor won't start?  He can fix it.  Need a new porch?  He can build it.  Swing set for your kids?  He can build it.  Wall reconstruction?  Yep.  New electrical system in your entire house?  That too.

But, that's not what makes him manly.

He may not lift weights, but the strength he has amazes me every day.  He literally can lift a vehicle.  When need be, his strength is super-human.  I don't know where he got it from, but I can tell you that I never fear for my safety when he's around.

But, that's not what makes him manly.

Driving a minivan doesn't make him feel like a soccer mom.  He isn't emasculated by the type of vehicle he drives.  He owns a truck, and he drives it more often than the minivan, but he's never ducked his head in embarrassment while driving the minivan past other men who might see him in it.  Maybe it's because he knows he can drive just about any vehicle you put in front of him.  Truck.  Tractor.  Ambulance.  Back hoe.  Excavator.  Motorcycle.  RV.  You name it, he can operate it.

But, that's not what makes him manly.  Frankly, a man who prides himself in any of those things, thinking they make him more manly, isn't, in my opinion, very manly at all.

My husband is a strong, "manly" man, because he lives according to Biblical principles.  He strives to be a Godly man, and (more often than not) succeeds.  What makes him a manly man is how he teaches our boys, by word and by deed, to follow Christ and live their lives in a way pleasing to Him.

My husband is a manly man, because he puts others ahead of himself.  His wife, his children, his parents and siblings, his friends, and even strangers.  He does everything he can to make life better for those around him.  He works so his family can have not only what they need, but also much of what they desire.  He helps so his friends and their friends and their friends' friends will see Christ through him.

My husband is a manly man, because he loves me, his wife, in a way I've never felt love.  His love makes me feel not only desired, but also needed and important.  He is a manly man, because he speaks highly of me to others, even when I'm not there to hear it.  He uplifts me.

My husband is a manly man, because he takes care of his wife and children.  Everything he does is for the purpose of caring for his family both now and looking toward the future.  He anticipates and plans for our needs.  He keeps us safe.

And my husband is a manly man, because his manliness isn't tied up in things or circumstances.  It isn't tied to what he drives or the hobbies he enjoys or the amount of hair he grows on his body.  He isn't concerned with doing things or owning things that make him seem more manly in the eyes of other people.

He's the manliest man I know, and I wouldn't have him any other way.

What is your idea of what makes a man "manly"?

May 23, 2013

More Than Words: Showing Love

A lesson I hope my husband and I are teaching our boys is to show love, not only to say it.  The words "I love you" can give a warm fuzzy feeling momentarily, but, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

For the purposes of this post, "works" refers to the byproducts of our faith – the fruit of the spirit.  For example, charity, hospitality, loving kindness, etc.  
"Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'… But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?… You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
          ~James 2:17-26

 Works.  The fruit of the spirit.  Without them, our faith is useless, meaningless, dead.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."
          ~Galatians 5:22-23
"So then, you will know them by their fruits."
           ~Matthew 7:20

On my iPod is the song More Than Words by Extreme.  Each time I listen, it catches my attention.  It's a secular song, but listening closely to the lyrics, it strikes me that if God had a theme song, this could very well be it.  I don't mean to make a trifle out of God by any means, but this song, when viewed through the eyes of faith, speaks the heart of the message – that there's more to our relationship with Christ than just saying with our mouths that we love Him.  He also wants us to show Him our love for Him through our works.

More Than Words: by Extreme

Saying I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It's not that I want you
Not to say it, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me
'Cause I'd already know.

What would you do if my heart was torn in two
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away
Then you couldn't make things new
Just by saying I love you.

More than words.

Now I've tried to talk to you and make you understand
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don't ever let me go
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me
'Cause I'd already know.

What would you do if my heart was torn in two
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away
Then you couldn't make things new
Just by saying I love you.

More than words. 

In what ways do you show your love for others and for God, beyond mere words?

May 22, 2013

Why We Home School: Part V

Why We Home School:  Focus

Public school classes have a truck load of topics and information they must cover before the school year's end.  In order to fit it all in and still have time for all the other sundries such as lunch breaks, recess, band, assessments, interventions, field trips, etc. for a class of around 20 kids, not much time is able to be spent investigating any one topic in depth.

If a couple kids in the class don't fully understand how to multiply fractions, there's no time to linger.  Sure, those kids can come in after school for extra help, but how many of them really take advantage of that?

Or, if a study of life cycles really fascinates a class, and it's clear they are thirsty to learn more, there's no time to put off other subjects to dedicate more time to the study of life cycles.  Sure, those kids can go home and Google more information on their own time, but how many of them really take advantage of that?

With so many kids, so many subjects to cover, and only about 40 minutes a day to dedicate to each subject, it's difficult, if not impossible, to really engage the minds of curious kids who desire to learn more.  After all, there are state tests looming on the horizon and lots of preparation left to do.

Home Schooling offers the ability to focus.  If we find a particular topic that our boys really sink their claws into and devour, we can spend as much time as we like researching, investigating, experimenting, studying and digging into the meat of it.

One of the beauties of home school is unit studies.  Though we have not yet utilized the unit study method, many home school families love it!  Every subject - math, reading, spelling, history, science, etc. - is wound around a single theme, linking them all together and really engraving the topic into the students' minds.

For our first year of home schooling, we decided to focus on the Civil War.  We didn't follow a unit study, but we did relate everything we could back to the war.  For our language arts, our oldest boy read The Red Badge of Courage, and our youngest read Billy and the Rebel and the Children's Civil War Alphabet Book.  Our spelling words were taken from the reading.

While the history aspect is obvious, we also took the boys to both a Civil War reenactment weekend and a living history museum's Civil War day, which immersed them into life in the 1800s, as civilians and as soldiers.  They witnessed how people lived day to day, the differences compared to modern day living, and they watched a Civil War battle recreated.

For art, the boys created their own Civil War journals using photographs we took at the reenactment weekend and facts they learned during our studies.

We didn't spend our entire school year learning solely about the Civil War.  All told, we probably spent about 2 weeks on the topic.  But throughout the year, opportunities arose to relate new topics and facts back to what we'd already studied about the war.

That kind of focus demonstrates the advantages of home schooling.  We didn't have to spend just a couple days reading from a history textbook and memorizing important names and dates to be tested on and hope the kids retained some of the info because the next day we had to move on to a different topic.  We had the privilege of immersing ourselves in the rich details of history and relating back to other subjects, which, in my opinion, is about the best way for a person to really learn anything.

Below are some photos we took during the Civil War reenactment weekend we attended.

How do you approach learning?  Do you think it's enough to spend just a couple school hours on a subject, or does the idea of immersing students into a subject and relating other subjects back to it strike more of a chord with you?

Previous post... Why We Home School: Fun!

Coming up... Why We Home School: Foundations

May 16, 2013

Weird Home School Kids

I never realized how much flack home school families received, until we became one.  For the most part, our friends and family are supportive.  But there are a few who just don't get it.  Like one mom who sends her kids to public school because she wants her kids to "fit in".  And another who asked a home schooling friend of mine, "Why do you home school?  Do you want your kids to be weird?"

Insert "aghast" emoticon here.  (Is there such a thing?)

Granted, some home school families fit the stereotype.  Pants hiked up to their armpits.  Coke bottle glasses.  Skinny, pale, carrying books about astrophysics.  A mom who wears a denim jumper and a dad who wears a pocket protector.  The kind of folks who (unfortunately) get labeled as geeks or dorks.  They sew their own clothes, have chickens running free in their yard, and spend more time at the library than anywhere else.  You can spot them a mile away.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Even if it were accurate (which it isn't), should we care that some people think home schooling is equivalent to social suicide?  Does it matter that some people think our kids are going to be just plain weird?  And, how do we react when people say such things to us or about us?

When I tell other home schoolers this story, their jaws drop to the floor as they gasp in disbelief, and, even if they don't actually speak the words, you can hear them running through their heads... "Oh no she di-int!!!"  

It's an understandable reaction.  We don't want people telling us our kids are weird.  We don't want people implying that what we're doing is somehow wrong or inferior.  While we know how untrue those things are, hearing someone else say it stings.

But before you get twisted up about such comments, ask yourself, what is it that non-home schooling families find weird about home school families?  More often than not, they think home schooled kids will turn into dorks or geeks or nerds or whatever other euphemism you can think of.  They think our kids will no longer be able to interact in a "normal" way socially - what they refer to as "unsocialized".

Now, remember the facts.

Home schooling works.  In the most recent nationwide study, Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics, as in all previous studies of the kind, home schooled students show significant academic achievement beyond that of their public schooled counterparts.  You can view a summary article about the study, or visit the website of the researcher to learn more.

As far as socialization is concerned, non-home schooling families who think our kids will be weird and unsocialized generally believe that a child's socialization must take the form of a public school classroom.  However, as written by Isabel Shaw on the website Family Education, "What kind of socialization occurs when 20 or 30 kids of the same age are placed in a classroom together day after day? Peer pressure is enormous. Kids feel like they need to look and sound and be like everyone else, at the risk of forgetting or never discovering who they really are. This results in rivalry, ridicule, and competition - hardly the environment for healthy socialization."

If being "weird" means that my kids will, in all likelihood, be well-educated, independent-thinking kids who don't base their social interactions on peer pressure, then, well... count us in for the long haul!!!

Have you ever faced comments like these from non-home schoolers?  How did you respond?

May 14, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII: Life Lessons

Did you watch Super Bowl XLVII? Silly question for most, I know. I watched it. In the comfort of my own living room, with my husband and two sons. We’re not a football loving kind of family, but we like to put on the big game every once in a while, so we can know what everyone around us is raving about, and because we like to see all the new creative commercials and the half-time spectacle.

In the past, my boys never showed interest, but this year curiosity got the better of them, and they asked to watch the game. Of course, that meant an endless slew of questions. “What’s a kick-off?” “What’s a down?” “What’s a quarter?” “Do they have to get a certain amount of points to win?” Growing up, I learned enough about the game to be able to answer their questions, because my father never missed a game all season long, and I had no choice but to watch.

However, their curious little minds quickly switched gears, and instead of asking, “How do they get those ‘4th and 10’ signs to pop up on the field all the time”, they began to ask different questions. Questions that no 8- or 10-year-old should have to ask. Questions like, “Why are they kissing like that?” “How come she’s half naked?” “Why is that guy trying to take that girl’s shirt off?” “What kind of dancing is that?” “Mom! That guy only has on his underwear!”

After the game ended, and even the day after the event, comments and opinions run rampant. Most people thought the game was entertaining. San Francisco could have won it in the last 2 minutes, if only they’d pushed past the Ravens defensive line into the end zone. It was so close! The opinions of the half-time show were pretty split between loving it and hating it. Some thought Beyonce’ blew it up. Some thought she bombed. Many people felt the commercials were subpar this year. Not quite as funny or creative as previous years. Except maybe for the Doritos goat. And the car commercial where the robot woman beat up the guy who kicked the car’s tires.

What I can’t believe, though, is the lack of comments regarding the over-sexualized content of some of the commercials, and the half-time showing of Beyonce’ wearing one quarter of an outfit that nearly showed her hoochiechoochie and a neckline that plummeted down to her belly button, coupled with her blatantly sexual pelvic gyrations and hand gestures.

What Cro-Magnon man thinks the only people who watch the Super Bowl are single men with nothing better to think about than football, beer, and sex? Families watch the Super Bowl. Families with young, impressionable children…. boys, especially. MY boys watched the Super Bowl. My boys, who never knew anything about the game of football, and have never watched a game before. Do you know what my boys learned about football while watching the Super Bowl? They learned how to make out. They learned that it’s normal to wake up in bed with some girl who’s wearing your shirt (“but why is she wearing his shirt, mom? And why is he trying to take it off of her?”) They learned that it’s okay to look at pictures and videos of people who are in their underwear but are not your husband or wife. And, last but not least, they learned how to dance, complete with a succession of pelvic thrusts, a hand to the crotch, and a throaty moan.

What baffles me is not many people are talking about that. There are plenty of “What a great game!”s and “Beyonce’ rocked it!”s and “I can’t believe the lights went out”s. But no outcry against what our children, who so looked forward to watching the biggest football game of the year, were subjected to, without warning to and without consent from us parents. Even friends of mine, both past and present, who I know to be people of good moral character, and many of whom are Christians, proclaimed the awesomeness of the battle between the Niners and the Ravens, but seemed to pay no heed to the not-so-subtle introduction of hyper-sexualized “entertainment”. As if it was a non-issue. As if it was perfectly normal and acceptable. As if they no longer notice the lack of morality permeating mainstream media that we’re not only allowing but also inviting into our homes and into our minds.

My boys and I learned a lot during Super Bowl XLVII. None of us know much more about football now than we did before watching the game. But my boys’ innocent little 8- and 10-year-old minds learned how the world views physical relationships, and they learned how to bump and grind. And I learned that my family won’t be watching the Super Bowl again anytime soon.

Did you watch the Super Bowl?  What did you think of the half-time show and commercials this year?