Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Thoughts EXACTLY!

I want to share with you something I read today.  It is the speech given by Valedictorian Erica Goldson from Athens, NY at her high school graduation.  Not only do I give Erica a standing ovation for her wisdom-beyond-her-years and courage to speak the truth, but you see, Erica and I have something in common. 

I also graduated as Valedictorian of my high school.  I was voted 'Most Likely to Succeed' by my fellow classmates as well.  Over the years I have gotten compliments about how smart I was in school (along with how I was a 'brown-noser' and a 'goody-goody').  Regarding the brown-noser comments, that's easy to explain.  Many of the kids my age irritated me with their immaturity and I simply got along really well with all of my teachers. 

Anyway, I have made the comment over and over to my husband through the years that I really wasn't as smart as everyone thinks I was.  I simply did what I was told and actually turned in my assignments.  Sure I was pretty good at some things, like Algebra and Home Ec and singing because I actually ENJOYED those things.  But when it came to English and Geometry and actually reading music... forget it!  I didn't understand it, I didn't like it... but, I tried really hard to get the right answers and usually succeeded, eventually, whether that meant asking someone else for help, finding a near-exact duplicate problem already worked in my book and guessing on how to get the right answer, or cheating off my best friend, who, by the way, graduated as Salutatorian.  (Doesn't she have the prettiest red hair?)

Smart?  Me?  Maybe in some things, but smart enough to earn that spot as Valedictorian?  No way.  Not even close. 

But I never really could put my thoughts on this into words... until now.  Thank you Erica, for saying EXACTLY what I've been trying to say for the past 17 years!  This is a long read, but I promise you, it is well worth it.  (I have highlighted the areas I feel like Erica is speaking my exact thoughts.)

(The following was read as the valedictorian's speech at Coxsackie-Athens High School in recent weeks, creating quite a stir among administrators, to great applause from students and many of their parents)

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master: "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen?" The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." (The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast - How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" (Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Erica Goldson

Athens, NY

I completely and totally, 100% agree with everything Erica says here and this is the EXACT reason we homeschool our children!

Erica has also encouraged me that when I allow myself to get nervous and worried about whether our children are doing 'enough' or are 'on level' with their public schooled peers, all I need to do is remember these words:

"We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation?"

Oh, and about that 'Most Likely to Succeed' thing... I look at my home and my family and I know I most definitely lived up to that one!  I LOVE my life!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Showin' Off My Babies!

Quilt Squares: The Latest

Here are the latest quilt squares I've received.  With only a few left to arrive, we're nearly ready to start working on peicing them together!  I'm excited to see them all start coming together.

This butterfly heart is from Shay Christie.  The picture doesn't show it, but the material is all sparkly!  What little girl doesn't love all things sparkly?!  I love it.

This unique square was made by Ami.  I have never seen a square made like this but I like it!  It's different and fun, and I love the color combination.  Nice job Ami!

Isn't this precious?  This one was made by Marsha, who was also the recipient of a FIAR quilt full of love a couple of years ago.  She said, "I thought any little girl would love her initial on a blanket."  I agree Marsha.  I love this, it's so pretty!

Lisalyn made this square and it AMAZINGLY represents the book, Very Last First Time, her very favorite FIAR book.  Have you seen this book?  I can't believe how much this square looks like the illustrations!  Awesome job Lisalyn!

Isn't this one pretty?  Lis in MA made this one.  What creativity to make the heart like that.  The colors are so pretty.  Nice job Lis!

These next three squares will be the center squares for each of the quilts.  Barb Cash has become our center-square gal for any quilts we make and I think these pictures will make it obvious why.  Thank you for putting your heart into them and making them so special and personal Barb.

And these last three AWESOME squares were made by Kendra AU.  The first two represent the FIAR books Grandfather's Journey and The Bee Tree, while the third one is for Fran's husband Ed's quilt.  See the breast cancer symbol in the middle of the butterfly?  I can't get over how beautiful each of these squares are!  I don't know how she did it, but I want to quilt like Kendra when I grow up!

My Review of TOS's June 2010 Module

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given the opportunity* to review their June 2010 Module, Travel the World.  (If you're wondering just what a module is, it's simply an optional,  downloadable add-on for The Homeschool Planner, which you can read about here.  You do not have to own the planner in order to use the modules.)

Having read about but never laying eyes on a TOS module I was interested to see just what all the hub-bub was about.  It seems every time I get on-line I read something, somewhere about these modules (which says a lot about TOS's advertising!).  To be completely honest, my initial thoughts were that it was going to be either just another e-book I didn't have time to read or a bunch of 'twaddle' geared toward kids younger than mine that I really didn't have the time nor desire to fool with.

Well!  I am very happy to report that it was nothing of the sort!

This module is FULL of information on the geography of the earth!  From lines of latitude and longitude to information on each individual continent, from puzzles, coloring pages, and internet links and games to lapbooking, recipes, and copywork, there's more than enough here to easily use this for, dare I say it, a whole semester of geography!  Possibly even an entire school year if you take your time and expand on each individual continent.  (You must remember, we are an eclectic, unit-study, follow-the-rabbit-trail kind of homeschooling family, so for us this module could last us anywhere from a week to the entire school year depending on how deep we choose to go with it).  There are so many opportunities to expand the lessons and build upon what's already there, and with geography being one of those subjects most students won't be doing 5 days a week, this one module could easily be all you need to teach your young students all about the world around them.

I had planned on finding something to teach geography to our 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th graders this fall.  I believe I may have found it!  TOS has even included high school expansion ideas and while I plan on supplementing with other books here and there, especially for our 9th grader, this June 2010 Module will be the spine of our geographical learning this next school year. 

For only $7.95 you simply can't go wrong with this awesome resource.  Now that I know what a treasure these TOS modules are I most definitely plan on looking into what else I've been missing with these modules!  You can find the June 2010 Travel the World! module along with all of TOS's Schoolhouse Planners and modules here.

(*I received this product free of charge as a crew member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  In exchange, I agreed to give my most honest opinion of the product.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For Sale!

Ok ladies, I am cleaning off our shelves to make room for the new school year's books!  Not only does this help make room for the new stuff but also helps buy next year's curriculum.

So, here's what I have for sale.  Let me know if you see anything you are interested in and I will give you the total cost with shipping.  Everything is in like new condition unless otherwise noted.


Complete How-to's, Project Ideas, and Reproducible Templates to Help Kids Showcase Their Research in a Dazzling Way

Includes Reproducible Templates!

Following the step-by-step instructions students can create dazzling three-dimensional, pop-up reports that display what they've learning in a fresh and engaging way. Includes complete instructions, report planners, and reproducible templates as well as project ideas for American history topics, including Colonial America, immigration, pioneers, the Civil War, and more.
$4.00 (plus shipping)

Everything you need to connect reading assessment to instruction. Loaded with scoring rubrics, skills checklists, spelling inventories, and much more. Includes easy-to-use reproducible survey forms and record sheets.

$4.00 (plus shipping)


Inspire your students with the beautiful award-winning art and timeless, powerful stories found in Caldecott books. This rich resource uses Caldecott winners as springboards to provide lively, literature-based learning experiences across the curriculum.

$4.00 (plus shipping)

Everything you need to teach the research process in a way that's fun and engaging. Mini-lessons are designed to take students from selecting manageable, meaningful topics, to navigating references, effective note-taking, learning to paraphrase, organizing materials, and writing research reports that really show what they've learned. Includes a chapter on 10 creative projects.

$4.00 (plus shipping)
$4.00 (plus shipping)

$4.00 (plus shipping)

3 pages done in Book A, 2 pages done in Book D.

$3.00 each or $5.00 for both (plus shipping)


The interesting stories and poems included in this volume, most of which are by well-known writers and poets, have been selected for their emphasis on character. Many selections deal with seasons and holidays--especially Christmas. Others are about family life, great men and women, young people who have accepted a challenge, and legendary heroes.
Victor Hugo, O. Henry, Charles Lamb, Louisa May Alcott, and Stephen Vincent Benet are among the prominent authors represented. Some of the selections are excerpts of longer works--Don Quixote, A Christmas Carol, Robinson Crusoe, and Pilgrim's Progress.
Mine has a different cover, but was just bought last year and is in excellent, like new condition.  Retails for $23.50 plus shipping from Abeka website.

$15.00 (plus shipping)
(will include Answer Key that goes along with the book for free!)


Rod and Staff English 6 student text, teacher's manual, and will add in worksheets book.  It's been used some, but has most of the worksheets remaining.

Retails for $41.30 (not including worksheets) from R&S website.

$28.00 (plus shipping)


Rod & Staff English 2, student text only.  In new condition.  Retails for $12.90 on R&S website.

$8.00 (plus shipping)


Rod & Staff English 3~ student text, teacher's edition, and two worksheets books (both only worked through worksheet 4).  All books in like new condition.

Retails for $33.15 (including two worksheets books) from R&S website.

$24.00 (plus shipping)


Abeka Health 7th Grade.  Retails for $14.00 (plus shipping).

$8.00 (plus shipping)


Beautiful Feet~ Early American History primary study guide.  Like new.  Retails for $13.95 on BF website.

$7.00 (plus shipping)


Writing Strands Level 3~ three pages have erasing, the rest is like new.

$7.00 (plus shipping)


Explode the Code 2 ~ like new!

$5.00 (plus shipping)


*A Child's Geography~ Explore His Earth
Adventures Around His Globe for the Inquisitive Child.

This is the first edition, copyright 2005.  I printed it all out and put it in a 3-ring binder with the front and back covers of the book in the slips on the front and back of the binder.  It's in very nice, new condition.

$10.00 (plus shipping)


From Answers in Genesis.  In new condition.  Retails for $18-$22 on different websites.

$12.00 (plus shipping)


Mine is the first edition, copyright 1991.  The cover picture is different but seems to have the same content inside.  In very good condition.

$8.00 (plus shipping)


*Abeka Exploring God's World (Science) for grade 3
Student book and Test/Quiz/Worksheet book (only first 3 quizes done)
Retails for $18.75

$13.00 for both (plus shipping)


Abeka American history for grade 8, student text, quiz book, and quiz key.  All in brand new condition.  Retails for $38.00.

$25.00 (plus shipping)


*Abeka United Sates history for 4th grade.  Student text and two Tests and Quizzes books.
Cover of student text has slight wear to it.  Test/Quiz books are brand new.

$18.00 (plus shipping) for all.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Latest Quilt Squares

Here are the latest of Fran's family's quilt squares I have received...

This one is from JavaJackie.  One of my favorite hymns!  Yes Jackie, His grace IS amazing and I believe Fran would agree.

This next one is from Michele.  It represents The Story of Ping.  I love the chinese-writing background and find it amazing just how much the duck looks exactly like Ping himself!

LynnDinKY made these squares.  The first one represents the book, Peter Rabbit.  Pink being my favorite color, I love the second square and think it represents Fran's efforts to raise awareness of breast cancer beautifully.

And lastly, this square was made by Leslie Nelson.  It is for the book, The Clown of God.  We love it!  What a fun way to represent this much-loved Five in a Row book!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free US History 17th Century Lapbook Unit with Study Guide!

This free US History Lapbook unit is a wonderful resource for any home with children entering into the 2nd - 8th grades. Published by A Journey Through Learning, this 78 page download includes the following U.S. History topics:

Native Americans-The First Americans

Who was King James

Who were the Puritans

Who were the Separatists

The Pilgrims Come to America-Jamestown

Capt. John Smith Saves Jamestown

Pocahontas-Indian Princess

The Puritans Come to America-Mayflower Journey

The First Laws-Mayflower Compact

Squanto Helps the New Settlers

First Thanksgiving-Celebrating the First Year

Pequot War-Settlers and Indians Fighting

King Phillip’s War-More Settlers and Indians Fighting

The Quakers Come to America

William Penn Settles Pennsylvania

The Tragedy of Salem Witch Trials

Colonial Families

Colonial Housing

Colonial Clothing

Colonial Trades

Colonial Money

Colonial Crime and Punishment

The Thirteen Colonies

Blog Walking: Weeks 4 & 5

Busy, busy, busy.  What homeschool momma doesn't always have something a million things to do?

Once again I am a bit behind on taking my weekly blog walk through my fellow crew members blogs.  But, in my defense, I am currently sitting outside ROASTING in the heat and humidity hoping and praying someone, ANYONE(!) will come along and buy take away everything we have sitting here in our yard sale!  Seriously, I feel like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy throws the water on her.  "I'm M-E-L-T-I-N-G!"  Except someone throwing a bucket of water on me right now would actually be just fine!

Here are some more blogs of those on the Homeschool Crew this year.  And guess what?  I'm one of the featured blogs this week!  Yay me!

Blog Walk, Week 4:
-King Alfred Academy
-Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
-Curriculum Reviews from Oak Creek Farmhouse
-I Can't Decide
-My Life on a Taffy Pull
-Losing My Tale
-Made in His Image
-Serenades and Solace
-Our Village is a Little Different
-SisterTipster's Tell'n It!

Blog Walk, Week 5:
-Buckaroo Days
-Our Homeschool Reviews
-Reed, Party of 6
-Training Hearts at Home (*YaY*)
-Along the Way
-I Love Science!
-Through the Calm and Through the Storm
-Created for Home
-Tractors and Tire Swings
-Guiding Light Homeschool

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Quilt Squares

The kids and I look so forward to seeing the mail lady drive up each morning, hoping we receive another quilt square to 'ooh' and 'awww' over.  Yesterday we had FOUR waiting in our mailbox for us!  Here are the latest ones we have received...

This square is from Ginger in OH.  I love the smaller hearts inside the bigger hearts.  Very fitting for this whole situation I think.  It feels all homey and comfy.  Just what Ed and the girls need!

This square is from Paige Poland.  It represents the book Follow the Drinking Gourd.  Such an awesome job Paige!  This is one of our family's favorite Five in a Row books!

And isn't this one just so precious?  Rachel Jane made this one for Ed's quilt.  Sniff.  I love it and I know Ed will as well.  Beautiful RJ.  Simply beautiful.

These two are from Katie and her daughter Lydia.  In fact, I believe Lydia has a very special quilt made with this same fabric, so it is very much straight from the heart.  I think they are beautiful!

And this one is from Holly Jean.  You can't see it in this picture but scattered throughout are the words believe, sing, wish, play, create, and imagine.  How very fitting for this quilt.  I absolutely love this fabric.  I may just have to find some for my girls and find something to make them with it!  Perfect choice Holly!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homeschooling Through High School

Naturally we only desire God's perfect will for each of our children's lives, but, if He allows, it is our desire to continue homeschooling our children throughout their high school years.  Here, TheHomeschoolMom sums up our thoughts and reasons perfectly!

FREE Patriotic K-12 Social Studies/History/Civics lesson plans!

This looks to be an amazing resource from the American Heritage Foundation!  I just ordered my free CD and thought I would pass the info along to you.  You can also download any or all of the grade levels you wish. 

Here's more information on it:

-Includes Elementary, Elementary Spanish, Middle & High School Volumes

-Supplements and enriches all curricula

-Emphasis on primary documents

-Aligns content with Advanced Placement and National Standards tests

-May be modified or taught in segments

-Provides activities and assessments from group projects and simulations to individual tasks, essays, visuals and more

-Develops civics skills in critical thinking, active listening and problem solving

-Improves understanding of Freedom, Unity, Progress and Responsibility

-Award winning design and presentation

-Tested and proven to raise social studies test scores

America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty is a tested lesson plan resource and supplement for Kindergarten-12th grade teachers of social studies, U. S. history, U. S. government, political science, economics, geography, speech, and/or related subjects. Written by fellow teachers, the resource consists of age-appropriate and modifiable lesson plans grouped into three separate books according to level: elementary, middle, and high school. Each elementary school lesson plan correlates practically with the nationally applicable Core Knowledge Skills (grades K-6) (national edition). Each middle and high school lesson plan correlates with the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) standards (national edition). All lessons emphasize one or more themes of freedom, unity, progress, and responsibility. The resource aims not simply to present historical facts but to provide opportunities for students to explore and understand the factual and philosophical significance and meaning behind events, causes, and effects—the whys—relating to and influencing the early history of the United States.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What a Blessing!

I can't believe what a deal we got yesteray when we went to Lowe's to pick up a Weeping Cherry tree!  We didn't find the tree we were looking for but we did find Golden Delicious trees for only $4.69 each!  They had been $24.98 each but yesterday were on sale for 75% off so we bought five of them!  Our side yard meets our neighbors back yard so we are going to plant them there as a nice little divider.  Our kids love apples and can't wait to be able to 'reap the harvest'!
We also picked up some shrubs and double knock-out roses for 50% off so if you have a Lowe's nearby you may want to make a trip to see what you can find!