Friday, January 17, 2014

     Isn't it a fascinating that we are hardwired to learn? To me it's one of the many ways I know there is a loving God who values light and intelligence. Learning is like a kaleidoscope.With just a twist of the hand new patterns and colors emerge. Likewise with a change of pace, scenery, people,  or location we can learn new patterns in our own lives as well. In truth the kaleidoscope of learning has endless variations and patterns just like the eternities.

     I think about this analogy and reflect back on our homeschool week. A new work schedule means we now have three mornings a week free from scheduled activities. From this vantage point I can now see that my kids learn better in the mornings. There's time to wake up, eat and talk.  I'm not running around stressed trying to be at work by 9:00 AM. I have some breathing room which means happier kids.

     We twisted the kaleidoscope and realized my five year old, "Scout", isn't ready for formal academic work and likes to try things out on his own. Giving him the space he needs to try something and fail helps him learn and understand the world around him. His determination to pour his own cereal and milk resulted in a Froot Loop bath for the dog. He took charge of his situation by cleaning up the mess himself and asking for help. 

   I discovered that Scout really likes school time because it's one on one time with me. He's into playing around with letters, numbers and writing. He's ready for concentrated academics in small amounts of time. Anything longer than a few minutes and he gets frustrated and surly resulting in exasperation for me and a distaste for school for him. Taking things at his pace is a much better idea.
This guys has his own ideas about things.
  Another glimpse into our kaleidoscope showed me that writing needs to be relevant to my nine year old. In public school "Pen" wrote essays that amazed her teacher and principal. Pen even had one of her pieces read at staff meeting. A poem she wrote about home touched her second grade teacher so much she was in tears at the parent teacher meeting. I fully anticipated that with Pen's love of reading and gift for writing her true abilities would be unleashed with homeschooling. However despite the purchase of numerous journals, lots of pencils, and topics I thought she'd love to write about I could barely coax a paragraph out of her.

Yet, she was writing all the time. She made up recipes for the cat, designed word games for her friends and crafted a business plan for her dog washing station. While I can teach the mechanics of writing I can't force or make inspiration.
Pen is full of ideas that she may or may not write about.
One last glimpse into my Kaleidoscope revealed that I don't make learning happen. I can provide opportunities, I can guide, and I can motivate. Just like I can't make it rain or the wind blow I can't make my kids learn. Hmm, I guess I'm not as awesome as I thought. 
Smiling and hoping that Pen and Scout are learning something at the museum.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Walker Academy of Rockets and Excellence

     Welcome to the Walker Academy of Rockets and Excellence!  We officially opened our doors Monday, August 26th 2013 with a full enrollment of two students!  We have two full time faculty/administrators and four school pets.
     Our school name was chosen by the students. We are most certinally aiming for excellence and are working towards the rockets. So far homeschooling has been a great experience.  We are still working out schedules and the "rhythm" of school at home.  We knew it would be an adjustment and are giving ourselves plenty of time to adjust.
     So far we have discovered two really great facts about homeschooling.  First, any concern that the kids would not have enough social interaction was blown out of the water within the first week. We are part of a weekly homeschool history group that has 12 or more kids in attendance each week.  The ages range from two to 13 and there are plenty of kids to learn and play with.  In addition our students are also involved in dance class, piano class, church groups with the possibility of a drama group and martial arts class.  In the first two weeks of Walker Academy our students have learned, played and socialized with more kids of diverse ages than they have all summer.  The trick, we've discovered is not a lack of socialization for homeschoolers but making sure that all the activities that are available don't overrun school and family time!
     The second great fact we've discovered is that since school is at home learning happens all the time. Learning numbers is really fun when you're entering the time on the microwave for your oatmeal.  Literature discussions like comparing and contrasting personal attributes of book characters like, Harry Potter, Worm Tail, Ralph Moody of "Little Britches" and Edmund from "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" can happen impromptu at the park in the middle of the day.  We've learned that there are some subjects that have to be taught one on one but there are far more subjects that can be learned together regardless of age or academic ability.
     Now, some of you may be wondering about WARE's new headmistress and teacher, Mrs. Walker.  She has spent the past summer in several intensive courses preparing for her new role.  She will be the first to admit the new role has been stressful at times. The academy which also serves as the family dwelling is not as tidy as it was when the students attended public school.  Dinner was burned twice and now there is a constant stream of toys AND school supplies that need to be corralled on a daily basis.
     However, Mrs. Walker also recalls last year when both student attended an excellent public school in the area.  The house was a good deal cleaner, laundry was mostly done in a timely manner and dinner was rarely burned.  There was ample time for  part time employment in Mrs. Walker's profession. Shopping was no longer harried and she could wheel the cart freely throughout the store with out four extra sets of feet and hands hanging on the basket or dropping mystery items in the cart.
      Yes, she did enjoy the new found freedom how ever as the year went on Mrs.Walker found her home very quiet and still during the day. Sometimes it felt very empty and she was thankful for the pets that kept her company. She noticed a little burst of joy in the carpool line as she saw her two students waiting in the school lobby.  She was so glad to see them. She loved hearing about their day and the neat things they were learning at school. When she really thought about it Mrs. Walker knew the majority of her children's day she would never really know about, participate in or even see.  The school teachers and administrators were kind and wonderful but even they could only really offer a sample of the learning and growing that were taking place in the from of a conference or holiday assemblies. Weekly folders sent home with crayon drawings, completed worksheets, and essays on Egypt or dogs only offered the end of some learning never the actual process.
     So, yes there have been some who believe that Mrs. Walker is some kind of saint to want to be with her children all day.  There are even those who feel that she is too overprotective or could make better use of her time by attending to full time employment in her chosen profession.  She is fairly confident that the closest she has ever been to sainthood was the few times she placed a spider outside of the house instead of squashing it with her shoe.  As for the other comments, Mrs. Walker has long felt the pull of schooling at home.  Really, she says, she has been called to it. One can only ignore their  life's calling for so long.
    In light of all this Mrs. Walker and Associate Vice Headmaster, Mr. Walker are very pleased with WARE and will be sharing all of our learning adventures here on the blog.
First Day of Walker Academy of Rockets and Excellence

History Group, settling of the west.
Even cowboys and little ladies need a refreshing swing.

Studying native american tribes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Is Marriage Dead?

     It's seems the question to "pop" isn't "will you marry me?" but "do we even need marriage?". If you've heard five minutes of a news report the past few days we've heard about a famous and powerful political couple calling it quits after 25 years due to numerous alleged infidelities (on his part) including one affair that resulted in a child. Of course this isn't the first high profile couple to have their marriage woes made public and there are numerous articles, blogs,celebrities and even therapists griping that marriage has outlived its purpose.  Scientists state that our biology is not made for monogamy. Sociologists state that "family" is now a fluid definition no longer centered on a married couple with children.
      I recently read an article by a famous psychologist who said that marriage is the chief complaint of most of his clients and it causes more stress and unhappiness than any other problem that walks through his door. He stated that as a "healer" he can no longer condone marriage and that we, as a society, need to find something else to replace marriage. He, of course, as a by thought added that naturally any children born of the new replacement-of- marriage-thing would be financially provided for by the parents. Hmmm...
     As a Christian I believe that marriage was ordained of God, between a man and a woman and is and essential building block to another much maligned institution, the family. Over time, like many things God Given, man has taken marriage and changed it to suit his purposes. However, I know that many people don't believe that God is keenly interested in marriage or that he even exists. Our culture tends to look at marriage as a contract made between two people about the kind of relationship they will have "until death do us part".
         What I have noticed is missing from this new philosophy of personal freedom and happiness  is any shred of personal responsibility. Blaming marriage for our stress, heartache or feeling personally unfulfilled is like blaming the sun for the rise in skin cancer when no one bothers to put on sun screen. I know in our culture we like to have a fall guy other than ourselves. It's so much easier to say that the unrealistic confines of marriage are the chief reason why we cheat, lie, let ourselves go and shoot our spouse to get a payout from the life insurance instead of looking at these things as issues of integrity.
     So, if we won't even attempt to keep promises made to a husband or wife why should we keep promises at all? Why is fidelity in marriage so different from Fidelity in a business deal, or confidences in a friendship? Do we really think that by ditching marriage we will all be happier, healthier people? Will we see a dramatic rise in honest politicians and CEO's once they no longer have the shackles of marriage hindering their rise in power? Will we now have scads of well adjusted children who grow into well adjusted adults because they were raised by adults who put their own sexual and personal happiness ahead of all else? Call me skeptical but I doubt it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheating Our Kids

     I recently read an article in "Reader's Digest" by a professional "paper writer". He worked for an internet company that wrote papers and completed class assignments for college students. Shocking as it may seem that people make scads of money doing something so unethical even more shocking was the large number of students across all majors paying upwards of $2000.00 per paper to cheat their way through college.
     Mr. Professional Paper Writer even shared some e-mails from his clients and quickly demonstrated why he was hired. The e-mails were a mixture of texting shortcuts, grammatical errors, and misspelling so horrendous I couldn't even understand what the students were saying. They were illiterate, at least in their written expression.
     Just like any social issue this one, in my opinion, has many facets. We could debate the quality of our schools, or conditions of the family, cultural ethics and morals, personal responsibility all which, again in my opinion, contribute to a twenty something graduate student who can't write a literate e-mail. However, I want to focus on what I think is the psychological junk food of "Katie can do anything or be anything and she's entitled to it."
     We start while our kids are young. Trophies for everyone. No one looses. Things that were once considered privileges  TV, computer games, phones, lavish vacations are all now considered essential to good parenting. We teach our kids to expect that life will provide six figure income jobs and a spouse that will answer their every  need simply because they are entitled to it. And on the occasion when reality might come a little too close to home, like having to write an actual thesis for your graduate program, you can always pay someone else to do the , uhmmm, what's that word?? Oh, yea, WORK!
     There's nothing wrong in encouraging our kids to reach for the stars. This is , after all, the American Dream. But we are doing a great disservice by not teaching them that hard work and personal responsibility are just as important as the dream. Personal integrity is a must. A nursing student my pay someone to write her case studies but what happens when she's on the emergency room floor? Will the MBA who bought a pre-made thesis have any qualms about embezzling money from the company? Scary stuff for sure!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Girls Gone Wild Tours it's Positive Message Via RV Bus

I was travelling 81 South outside of Winchester , VA last week on my way back from a visit to NY.  Rumbling along beside me was a huge marketing RV for the raunchy "Girls Gone Wild". The entire RV was covered in giant , scantily clad "women" with size DD busts blown up to make the 50 Ft Woman look small chested. In addition to the lager than life porn-on-the-side-of-a-bus the people at GGW also included a few headlines from their self titled magazine like "How to get your woman to do dirty stuff in bed". As a side note I wondered if that article included suggestions like "pick up after yourself", "do the dishes" "go one week with out asking, 'what's there to eat?'
     So, did I mention that I was traveling with Grace and Marshall? At the exact moment when the trashy RV was about to pass and I was pleading to God that there be someway my kids be spared looking at that stuff Marshall hit Grace. Thankfully, the siblings pounding each other kept them so occupied they didn't even notice porn on wheels go by. Whewww!
      I do, however, want to thank the producers and models and all those that planned the slick marketing RV. Without people like you how will my daughter know that her express purpose here is to be sexual entertainment for men? How will she know that she should hate her body and pay doctors to surgically alter anything that doesn't fit your defined definition of sexual beauty. How will my son learn that relationships between men and women should be based only on sexual gratification?
     The RV was brilliant! I know how difficult it must be to get your message out!  The market is saturated with "adult" content as it is. But this way you take your message directly consumers no matter how young or old they might be. Classy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Keeping it Local and Reusable bags actually work!


 With gas prices continuing to jump with every little hiccup in the world I'm doing more and more of my shopping right here in Pulaski. The other day I needed some garden supplies and was pleasantly surprised when I found most of what I needed less than two miles from my house at Magic Mart. Magic Mart also carried my brand of printer cartridge as well as a new battery for the riding lawn mower. So, glad I didn't have to hike to Radford or C'burg. In fact I'm trying new stores like tractor supply and dollar general in an effort to find stuff without having to go into C'burg. Sometimes I pay a little more but I think I'd pay a little more to save gas and time.
     Also loving the Dollar Tree, again less than two miles from home. The other day I found Fruitables drink boxes in packages of 3 at the Dollar Tree. I pay 3.69 for nine at Kroger. Also stumbled upon a 32.oz bag of rice for 1.00 compared to 1.79 at Kroger.
     I've discovered the joy of reusable bags! Personally, I've always missed the days of paper bags. Funny how back in the late 80's paper bags were seen as environmentally unsound and plastic was the wave of the future. My family always saved the paper bags to use for garbage, crafts, and book covers for school. Anyway, one day I had enough to the wimpy plastic bags and bought two reusable bags. Wow! Not only were they sturdy and roomy but not one ripped open on me! We're not over run with bags after I unload the groceries. Luv it! Just don't expect to see a Smart Car in my driveway anytime soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Parents are Stupid and That's Why We Need The Center for Science in The Public Interest

I was browsing through the editorial section of the Roanoke Times yesterday (yes, I still get and read a daily paper) when I stumbled upon an interesting article called "The dark side of bright colored food" written by David Schab, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
     Schab and Jacobson start their giant four column rant on food dyes by comparing the super market to a "fun   house of hues" and aisles that "feature riotously colored processed foods". I knew exactly where these two scary food clowns were headed. The article was incredibly frightening claiming that popular food dyes have been shown in studies to cause cancer and affecting behavior in children. The "bad guys" known as Red #3, Red#40, yellow #5 and yellow#6 need to be banned by the FDA according to Schab and Jacobson who claim that scientific studies back up their assertions.
     Particularly insulting to parents everywhere was this lovely paragraph "Despite those concerns parents continued to serve up meals and stuff their children's lunch boxes with more and more processed foods colored with dyes, stoking a fie fold increase in the per-capita production of food dyes over the past 30 years."  First, I'm not sure the last time Mr. Schab or Mr. Jacobson have been to an elementary, middle, or high school but the vast majority of kids buy their lunches at school on  a regular basis. When I drop my daughter off to her kindergarten class room in the morning there are usually only 3-5 lunch bags on the packers table out of her class of 14 students. In addition, as a food purchaser and  packer of my daughter's lunch I can assure both gentlemen that I neither "serve up" process loaded meals or "stuff" her lunch bag with deadly toxins. Again, if Mr.s Schab or Jacobson have done any shopping lately they'd find that buying processed convenience  foods is generally more expensive than non processed stuff. Let's take crackers and cheese. It's much cheaper to buy a box of crackers and a block of cheese than to buy the handi cheese and cracker snacks. Buying a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter is cheaper than a Lunchable. You get the idea.
      Now, let me also say that I have bought handi snacks, Lunchables and boxed Mac N Cheese. I buy chips and gasp, cookies. My kids have been know to drink a Capri Sun or two.  Mondays at our house are the busy days. Work ,School, music class,  and dance class usually mean a quick dinner of sloppy joes here. But key here is that we don't eat that stuff every day. Simple common parental sense tells me when it's OK for my kids to have a treat and when to say no. I've only had nutrition in seventh and eight grade Home EC so how do I avoid Big Foods attempt to "manipulate" my perceptions with fancy and colorful food dyes? I'm savey enough to know that brightly colored foods and packageing don't always mean a better product. You get this way if you shop for food regularly.
     Let's address Mr. Scab's and Mr. Jacobson's claim that dyes cause cancer and behavior problems. I went to the Center for Science in The Public website and looked up the bad guy dyes. Surprisingly most of the studies were either done many years ago with no follow up study or the results were questionable at best. In addition Schab and Jacobson claim the the FDA released a study a week ago that concluded that synthetic food colorings do affect some children. Well, the link on the website puts you to a mammoth government document that states this:

 In summary, based on the data reviewed in these publications FDA concludes that a causal 
relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general 
population has not been established.  However, for certain susceptible children with ADHD and 
other problem behaviors, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to 
a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, artificial food colors.  Findings 
from relevant clinical trials indicate that the effects on their behavior appear to be due to a 
unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties.

     OK, so artificial coloring MAY affect some kids that have ADHD. That's sounds different from the dire warnings sounded in the Schab and Jacobson article. Additionally, the FDA says that if there is a connection between dyes and behavior it maybe a "unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties."  Schab and Jacobson call for an outright ban on these food dyes simply based on some inconsistent testing and this report from the FDA.
     I don't support food dyes, junk food or children gorging on nutritionally deficient foods. But I do support your right as a parent to determine what you feed your family. I'm glad that we have people who study nutrition and consumer advocacy groups that work to make products safe for every one. However, I'm wholeheartedly against using questionable science and fear mongering into scaring parents into supporting political causes.

Oh, by the way, here is the link to CSITPI website listing all kinds of chemicals found in foods and what kind of nasty things can happen if you eat them. Look for Yellow #5, and #6 Red 40 and #3 .