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Monday, January 31, 2011

Leaving boys behind

Sometimes it seems funny to me that I've been getting an education(pun intended) on the subject of how boys learn/are taught. It's not something I ever considered until a few years ago.  I could have told you a few things about how girls are generally shortchanged.  But life is sometimes strange, and here I find myself the mother of three-maybe four-boys!  So I pay attention when I come across things like this TED talk by speaker Ali Carr-Chellman called “Gaming to Re-engage Boys” about how schools today are leaving boys behind. I have not listened to it yet.  But the points mentioned below make sense to me:

"Think I am exaggerating? Consider that boys will soon account for just 30% of college students.
Among the reasons she gives for “why boys are opting to zone out” are:
Zero Tolerance for Boy Toys, such as toy guns and violence–including the inability to even write about subjects they might be interested in such as a favorite video game.

Fewer Male Teachers (93% of elementary teachers are female–sending the message that school is for girls, not for boys)

“Kindergarten is the New Second Grade”–serious curriculum compression harmful to all active children (not just boys)

The talk is just 12 minutes long. While I don’t agree with all of her next steps (she advocates more inventive and engaging educational video gaming among other things), she is dead on in identifying the problem with the culture.
She also says, rightly so, that video games are not the cause but the symptom of a long period of turning off to education.
What can we do?
Her advice:
Design better games ( most educational games are glorified flashcards, not engaging)

Talk to teachers, parents, school board members, and politicians

Find more money for game design

Look at teacher attitudes

Found via the Daily Riff (great site for education issues)"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sharks, Why?, and Gas.........boys and poetry

The older two boys and I were reading poetry last night from the book Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by Elise Paschen, and some of thier favorites were:

*About the Teeth of Sharks by John Ciardi -not surprisingly, they liked a poem about sharks and shark teeth.  I love that when we read this Justin immediately began telling me about how many teeth sharks really have! 

*Why by James Stevenson-this poem was about a child who wonders about things others usually don' what it would feel like to jump with bare feet into a box of jelly donuts.  We pondered that idea out loud and then today Justin drew pictures of donuts, inspired by last night's reading. 

*Gas by C.K. Williams-This was by far their favorite, Justin did not stop laughing the entire way through.  This poem was about the fact that gas is outlawed in France and what one could do about this problem.  (They particularly liked the suggestion to blame it on your brother)  As soon as we finished it, they cried out, "again! again!"  Sigh......boys!    
 :  )

Dora and Curly

One night I found Curly curled up on Dora's leg. Couldn't have been too comfy a postition for Dora, but Curly was quite content. 

New friendly library

We finally found something we like here in this city of E...........the children's section of the library!  We finally got there this week.  It unfortunately will be hard to get there (it's a very long, uphill walk).  I do miss the less than 10 minute walk to our old library.  And I fear the selection is much smaller.  But it is a kid friendly place (meaning if a child gets loud or forgets and runs or a baby cries it won't earn you harsh stares or a warning from a librarian).  Thank God for that, I say!  That never made sense to me, the kids who have the most trouble staying quiet and following strict library rules are likey the ones who most need to spend time at the library.  The ones who easily adjust to that environment are the ones who are more likely to visit the library or read on their own anyway. 
I was excited because they have a train table and a table of blocks to keep kids too young to be quiet entertained.  Jacob went back and forth between the two, which allowed me to look for books for the kids with him in my sight the whole time (and he was quiet!).  He had so much fun building a tower.  They also had a puppet stage with puppets, felt food and grocery bags all of which Timothy played with happily.  Justin liked that there were giant stuffed animals that you were allowed to play with.  Though I don't know that we'd use it, they also have a preschool computer.  And although the adult section librarian who got my library card was not at all friendly; Leanna and I liked the really friendly librarian who took the time to show us where everything was after she patiently set us up with three kid library cards! 
The boys absolutely loved having thier own cards!  And checking out their own books!  They were just getting to the point where they would have been able to get their own cards in our old place, so this was a new experience for them. 
We took out quite a stack of books!  Between the   (relat     ively few) books I picked out for the kids, the books Leanna chose for herself, the books Leanna chose for Jacob, the books Justin and Timothy picked for themselves......we couldn't have carried them all home!  I actually called Tom to ask him to meet us to put them in Jay's truck (he was working with Jay that day) so we didn't have to try to carry them all.  And Leanna ended up putting some of hers back and giving me a few to check out for her because she was embarrassed by how big her stack was! 
I love that Leanna's first choices for books were biographies on John Quincy Adams and Abigail Adams (though she later put them back because they were too big to carry with all the other books) and that she chose books on Rome, Egypt, and pyramids along with "little" reads like the Horrible Harry books. 
And it was so cute to hear Justin say to Timothy, "Timothy!  I'll show you where the cool books are!"
Awwww.....that's what big brothers are for!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

For those of you with a facebook account

Please consider becoming a friend of Henry’s Fund on Facebook. And if you are willing to help spread the word, that would be great. Just post a link to Henry’s Fund on your own Facebook page, Twitter account or blog, and ask your friends to join us in raising funds for addiction treatment for kids ages 12-20 whose families can’t afford the help they need.

Service to Others

An important part of the story of WWII, this article tells the story of a museum dedicated to telling the story of those who willingly risked their own lives to help hide the Jews.  It points out that it wasn't just the wealthy or well connected who did this, but ordinary-compassionate-people as well.  Something we would do well to remember!

An excerpt:

"........the story of Alice Lowenstein, who hid her daughters in Weimar after two hiding places in Berlin fell through; the younger daughter, barely out of toddlerhood, had a dangerous habit of telling strangers about the men who took her father away. In the summer of 1944, the girls, then aged 4 and 6, were denounced. A piece of period notepaper from the Landesarchive in Potsdam describes how the Gestapo dragged the girls back to their old building in Berlin, asking each of their neighbors if the girls were Jewish. All said no. And then, as they walked away, the building's concierge ran after the SS men and told them, "These girls are Jewish." At the end of the war, their mother returned to fetch them from Weimar, only to discover that her children had been murdered in Auschwitz.
"We wanted to present this in order to show that there are not only happy ends. That hiding often meant other family members didn't survive, and the survivors had a burden on them," said Kosmala, as I struggled, ineffectually, not to cry. A daughter born to Alice Lowenstein after the war donated
photos, a doll once owned by her murdered sisters, and a diary her mother kept while on the run."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Though it shouldn't, this one kind of surprised me.  An article on how banks collect information on you and your spending habbits and how they use this info.  One of the more interesting aspects (I thought) was this:

"Credit bureau Experian, for example, touts its Collection Triggers program with the tag line "When nonpaying customers resurface, be the first to know." The program offers daily monitoring of credit reports for a customizable set of triggers including new contact information or indications of increased ability to pay debts, which can help subscribing lenders "be the first to the (debtors') door for wallet share" -- in other words, the first to ask for repayment."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Right Now.........

right now, I am ...

:: wanting More sleep!  More energy! Less stress!  A better life in general.
:: loving how incredibly affectionate my children are, no matter how frustrating they can be, they are always full of love.

:: thinking about the impending birth and wondering how it's all going to work out. 
:: feeling grateful for the people who care about us and have been trying to help us in one way or another.
:: enjoying some fresh hot blueberry muffins made tonight.

:: smiling at the video from Jacob's birth that we watched today.  In such a short time we'll be there all over again!  

:: planning what little I can.  Very little is in our control at this point.
:: wishing everyone a lovely start to your week!

Hat tip to Soulemama, as I borrowed the idea from her blog. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Anybody Need Work Done?

Want to make a change around the house?
Don’t want to spend a lot of money?
I have the tools and over 15 years experience to get the job finished in a timely fashion.
 registered. PA 037089.

Call Tom for a free estimate at 484-201-1384 or email me at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interesting tidbit

We've recently discovered that Jacob really likes black and white movies/tv shows. 

Tom's been putting on a lot of old movies, lots of 1930s type stuff, and Jacob will sit there and laugh!  He actually watches and really gets into it.  It'll be movies with adults and stuff he wouldn't understand, yet he seems facinated. 

I think I need these!

Omigosh!  That's adorable!  Ninja cookie-cutters

Child's Play

And again, someone's mentioning a disturbing trend-banning recess and not letting children play.  Play is different than organized sports or video games or tv/computer.  This is talking about play directed by children, without adult rules.  Imagination galore!!  Read about Efforts to resore children's play.

Another homeschooling list

some are old, a few good ones, I like number five!  (I had a link for the original page, but one of the kids restarted the computer and I have no idea where it came from now).

Top 20 Advantages to Homeschooling

1.Your kids never tell you that you’re a lot dumber than their teacher.

2.If you can’t find matching socks for your child first thing in the morning, who cares?

3.Cleaning out the refrigerator can double as chemistry lab.

4.Your kids have good reason to think they might get spanked in school, but no reason to think they’ll get beat up by a gang.

5.If the principal gives the teacher a bad evaluation, she can stick her icy feet against his legs at night.

6.You can post the Ten Commandments on your schoolroom wall and won’t get sued.

7.You never have to drive your child’s forgotten lunch to school.

8.Your child will never go to their 20th high school reunion, meet an old flame, and recklessly abandon their marriage.

9.You get to change more than diapers—you get to change their minds.

10.If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you’re having a PTA meeting.

11.It’s better to be slightly concerned about socialization than very concerned about socialism.

12.Your child will never suffer the embarrassment of group showers after PE.

13.The only debate about the school lunch program is whose turn it is to cook.

14.You never have to face the dilemma of whether to take your child’s side or the teacher’s side in a dispute at school.

15.If your child gets drugs at school, it’s probably Tylenol.

16.Your child’s braces will never set off the security alarm.

17.Your child may get called names by a sibling but not a stranger. But you can punish the sibling.

18.Your honor student can actually read the bumper sticker that you have on your car.

19.If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.

20.Someday your children will consider you to be a miracle working expert and will turn to you for advice.

Oh I've so been there!

LOL, oh I can soooooooooo relate! 

From Akward Family photos!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why is that Fish in a Tree?

I found this post/quote and had to post it.  Makes so much sense!  And as she says, can be applied to adults, as well as a homeschool situation:

"Why is That Fish in a Tree?

I recently stumbled upon this quote and instantly loved it. Ready? Because you need to get ready for this quote...cuz it's awesome. Here it is:

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

— Albert Einstein

Now if that's not something to print out and tape to your forehead, then I don't know what is. And of course my first instinct was to apply it to my kids. Isn't that one of the big positives of homeschooling? That the kids avoid being pigeon-holed and labeled if they don't fit into the "right" mold? Absolutely.
But the more I thought about it, I started to realize that this quote applies to all of us grown-ups as well. How many times have we beaten ourselves up, or judged ourselves harshly because we thought we weren't as good as someone else? Because our house isn't as clean as hers. Or we're not as patient as she is with her kids. Or our hips aren't as thin.
Each one of us has gifts and talents that make us a genius. Precious qualities that God chose just for us. Something that equals greatness if we will only develop and use it. But how often do we neglect to use (or even fail to prayerfully discover) that which makes us a genius because we're too busy dwelling on the things we can't do... all the things we think we should be able to do, or should do better, or wish we could do. We get so caught up in fitting into, or more often failing to fit into, a mold the world has created to be seen as "successful," we forget that the only standard of success that matters is God's. And He has given us exactly what we need to meet it.
We see other people climbing trees, so we think we have to climb a tree. Those successful or pretty or smart or admired people are all in trees so we tell ourselves "I have to climb a tree too if I want to be successful or pretty or smart or admired." Never mind that God gave you fins and flippers for a reason. Maybe God didn't choose you to be a tree climber...maybe He wants you to swim through His glorious oceans. Maybe He chose you to fly. Maybe He destined you walk the highest mountain peaks.
If you have fins, don't waste them on trees...dive into the water God created for you. Stop trying to be the person the world tells you to be, and be the person God wants you to be.
Hmmmm...has the metaphor run it's course? Yep, I think so. But you get my point.

Posted by Michelle at 7:16 AM "

Counting animals, pipes, badges, and Playmobil

 Counting animals are fun to play with and fun to play numbers or sorting with too.  We got ours at Becker's. 
While his brothers counted, Jacob was busy with pipes.  He's been sort of obsessed lately with pipes and water, and where the water goes when you flush a toilet. 

Leanna's badges earned at Girl Scouts.  I'm not entirely sure how she got the cookie one though, since she wasn't in this troop last year and cookie sales for this year start tomorrow.  I have to ask about that one. 

Justin and Timothy playing with playmobil people.  We've had a lot of Narnia play around here lately, in addition to when they play "Tom and Jay" or baby cat, and other games they've invented.  They played with some moon sand they got for Christmas and it feels really neat.  They made scultptures but it's also really fun to just squish between your fingers!  Great for stress relief.

Weekend baking and colonial times

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake


Bread Machine Bread
A weekend of baking-Laura came over and we made several batches of cookies and I made coffee cake and bread as well.  My machine makes a very tiny loaf of bread though, it was gone in a heartbeat!  Doing a lot of baking is much more fun with someone else to share the work and talk with while it's being done.  I can see the wisdom in the days when men would get together to raise a barn, or women would get together for a quilting or sewing bee.  Work is done much quicker and is less "work" when you have someone to share it with. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


This applies:

"My Lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better."

George Frideric Handel

(Though to be fair, I am entertained by many things about my own parents, so maybe that just comes with the territory). 

Recent pictures

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Alerting Santa

Four Year old calls 911 to report that his dad was being bad (to Santa).  There are no details unfortunately on how Dad was bad.  I know from experience that may mean that Dad wouldn't let him go outside without a coat on, or Dad wouldn't let him watch tv or he wouldn't let him put beans in his nose or something along those lines.    : )

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just finished

An interesting read, though a work of historical fiction it seems to stick fairly closely to known facts.  I really liked that the author included a section after the book that explains where she departed from what it certain about Alice's real life.  I also liked that there is a section explaining that some of Charles Dodgeson's (Lewis Carroll's) actions are viewed very differently through a modern lens.......the aspects that so shock and intrigue us today would not necessarily have been seen the same way.  She also draws an interesting parallel between modern child stars and children who have served as literary inspiration.

Sharks, Cars, and mini-wooden furniture

Justin painting his sharks after we had cast them.

Timothy carefully painting his car after the wheels had been glued on the axel.

Leanna painting her doll furniture. 

The painted Sharks-the black one's tail broke.

The finished car with stickers added!!
We're always big on painting here! 

New Year's Cake

The only picture from New Year's Day-a collarborative effort. Chocolate cake made from scratch.  Leanna measured and added the ingredients, I mixed them and baked it, and Laura made the iceing and put it on.  It was delicious, you can see how much Jacob loved it.  The poor gingerbread cake was even missing a foot by the time I took the picture! 

In the digital age, writing by hand is important

Just found this interesting:
How writing by hand makes kids smarter is an interesting article about why it is important children learn to write.  Here are some reasons listed:

*important for brain development and cognition — helping kids hone fine motor skills and learn to express and generate ideas.
*Writing by hand can get ideas out faster
*Writing increases neural activity
*Good handwriting makes you seem smarter

Interestingly someone points out in the comments that children with dsylexia do NOT write faster by hand though, and it appears to be different for different people as well.  At least for me, it depends on the type of writing, different things work better in different formats. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More presents

 Justin got a really really cool shark book!
 The kids got a joint Polar Express Book-they love the story and movie!  (Hint, next year the movie would be a great present)

Tom got a new T-shirt from his kids, and we added a mini hand for the baby. 

Some interesting presents

Curly enjoys Tom and Justin's electric blankets-or as Justin calls them, power blankets

A spur of the moment gift decision that paid off-a Cowboy Nutcracker for Justin that he can take with him when he leaves home.  Until then it will add to our Christmas decorations every year. 

Laura gifted our family with an initial ornament for each member.  We'll be needing another one next year though!

Jacob wearing his new Christmas gift pjs that night, playing with his trains and Timothy's playmobil sets.  I don't know why he put a hat on. 

Leanna scared herself silly reading a new Nancy Drew mystery that night. 

Belated Christmas pictures

Coming down the stairs on Christmas morning

Opening Christmas stockings

As in the past few years, lots of educational/craft gifts. 

We didn't take a lot of pictures that day-while I was cleaning up the Christmas mess and making the dinner, someone set the camera down and I didn't know where it was.  My parents, Laura, Claire & her new boyfriend, and Tony and his family all came over in the late afternoon/evening so there was a flurry of activity.  When Tom wanted me to take a picture of him in his new Superman Snuggie, then he told me where the camera was (apparently he'd known the location all along and didn't think of mentioning it until then).  So there really aren't a lot of pictures from Christmas day.  But the kids had a great time visiting with everyone, Noah and Justin kept us all safe from the Pilsbury Doh Boy (I had no idea he was everywhere!), Leanna and Gabby put together a puzzle, there were various spy missions, lots of dessert, and Tom and Tony talked plumbing (His wife said, if he's drawing pictures, then they're talking plumbing!).  A very busy, tiring but happy day! 

Monday, January 10, 2011


$5.00/year for more storage for photos. This was a test to see if it worked yet.  (It did)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Bit Late, I know, but too cool not to post.....

Another quote

I need to keep this in mind.
a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

Friday, January 07, 2011

Stronger Leg Muscles

Interesting......a new study shows breastfed babies seem to have stronger leg muscles as adolenscents.  It makes sense that benefits would last beyond infancy. 

"The study authors also found the kids who were breastfed, either exclusively or in combination with formula, were more likely to jump higher than kids who were fed only formula, regardless of factors like sex, height, weight or current amount of muscle mass.

The study revealed even kids who were breastfed only for a few months after birth benefited more than their formula-fed peers. The kids who breastfed for three to five months performed just as well as the kids who nursed for six months or more."

Just a sweet moment

Last night I drifted off for a bit on the couch. I woke up to Jacob climbing on my lap and saying, "I so much love you, Mommy!" 

Huck Finn and the "N" word

I'll just go on record as saying I am against the change to the classic, particularly because Mark Twain purposely used the "N" word-he wanted it to jarr you as you read the novel.  It's appropriate in the context of the novel and I am against sanitizing everything people might misconstrue. 

Qoted from

"Huck Finn Gets Politically Correct

In a move that has already begun to stir up rafts of controversy, publisher NewSouth Books announced that, in February, it will release a new edition of Mark Twain's classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" with all 219 instances of the N-word removed. The new version, edited by Auburn University Twain scholar Alan Gribben, subs in the word "slave" for the racial slur.

On the one hand, this reeks of censorship and feels completely wrong to the truthfulness of a powerful work of literature (the new edit removes hateful words that, by many interpretations, Twain –- a well-known abolitionist –- purposely used to make a point on civil rights). But Gribben told Publisher's Weekly that he created the new edit in response to educators who told him they'd love to teach the book, but couldn't because of the racially-charged language ("Huckleberry Finn" has long history of being banned by schools). Also, kids have been marketed abridged, simplified, and "retold" versions of literary classics for ages. Is a sanitized Huck any different than, say, a modern-language "Romeo and Juliet?" Well, with the history of racial relations in this country being what it is, many would say yes.

So, is the hubbub over a P.C. Huck Finn too much? Or wholly justified? Whichever side of the argument you fall on, there's probably much to be learned from this debate.
As a side note, the new Twain edition, which contains "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" as well, also removes all occurrences of "injun."

The gov.t is admitting they're miscalculated!

The government is now admitting that there is too much floride in our water, since it's been causing spots on kids' teeth.  Personally I'm not convinced it's safe at all, but it's good to know they're at least willing to admitt they've been giving our children too much. 

Monday, January 03, 2011

Overheard in PA (my house)

Overheard today:

Timothy: "Let's have a pizza party!"
Justin: "No!  Guys, we can't......everyone doesn't have a pizza.  Remember Toy Story!  No one's left behind!"
Timthy: "Yeah, no one's left behind!"

(Jacob could not have the mini pizza as it wasn't Jacob-safe)

Check out this great MSN video: Happiest Penguin Ever

Check out this great MSN video: Happiest Penguin Ever

Really cute, reminds me of my kids in the snow!