Dec 19, 2012

Is the attitude toward "homeschoolers" changing?

Since we decided to take KM out of school 5 years ago, all I have heard is "Homeschoolers don't need a diploma, they just need SAT/ACT scores and a transcript to get into colleges." There was of course the catch all "make sure you check with the admissions office at the school of choice to find out what they specifically require of homeschoolers," but NO ONE mentioned the need for a GED or accredited diploma, in fact it was repeatedly stated that these were not necessary. This bit of information is often the biggest concern for parents when they take their kids out of public school and for years I have been one of those who have said there is no need to worry!

After posting information about the changes coming to the GED in 2014 to a number of home ed yahoo groups, I was shocked at the return posts about the increasing number of colleges that are requiring an accredited diploma or GED as part of their admissions process. I have been on a number of homeschooling through high school lists and seen all the schools that have accepted homeschoolers, yet had not heard how the requirements were suddenly and severely changing. These changes are taking place at both private colleges and universities as well as state schools. At a time when the number of families that are choosing home education is multiplying at an unimaginable rate, why is it getting harder for them to be accepted into college? How will this effect  the future of the home education movement?

Dec 14, 2012

How many tries does it take to reach an epiphany?

KM was having a very difficult time understanding the concepts of valence electrons and therefore covalent bonds, so I have spent a lot of time sending her links, videos, and explanations to try to make it clearer. Last night I sent her this ONE and she finally got it. "You should have shown me this one to begin with. I need pictures, Mom, I NEED PICTURES!!!"

The question that I then presented to her was "Did you understand it simply because of this picture? OR Did you understand the picture because of all the reading and videos that you watched on the subject?" She was a bit shocked and moved on without answering me, but really how will we ever know?

Dec 13, 2012

Changes being made to the GED starting in 2014

Since I first posted about KM needing to get her GED in order to attend cosmetology school I have received many questions about the test and the process of prepping and taking it, so when I heard that the test would be changing in 2014 I thought I should share some of what I have learned. 

Although colleges and universities will accept home educator's transcripts, if your child is thinking of attending any sort of trade school they require - with no wiggle room due to their licensing procedures - that the students have a recognized accredited diploma or GED. In 2014 the GED test will be significantly changing - content as well as presentation of testing - so for anyone who is thinking ahead to their child(ren) taking the GED test I wanted to share the following information I received in an email correspondence I had with the GED Testing Service - 

----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: ? regarding 2013 testing

Thanks for your inquiry. Because the 2014 test is significantly different in structure from the current 2002 test, test-takers who have not passed the entire battery by the end of 2013 will need to start over and retake all content areas beginning in 2014. As a result, it is extremely important for test-takers who have started the test battery to complete it prior to 12/31/2013.

Publishers are currently working on materials that will support the 2014 test, and those should begin to be released in 2013. For insight into what is changing on the test, please visit our web site and click on any of the links for the 2014 test. In particular, you might want to take advantage of the content comparison document that we have created, which shows the main differences in content between the two tests. That can be downloaded from the following link:


Martin D. Kehe
VP, Products
GED Testing Service


Good Day -
I am curious how those who take the test in 2013 would be effected if they fail a portion of the test?
For instance a student takes the test in the fall of 2013 and passes the science and math, but fails the social science and english portions, would they be grandfathered into the old test or would they have to retake the social science and english in the new format?
When will the 2014 test prep materials be released or is it not enough of a significant change in materials to warrant any concern in this area?
Thanks for you timely response.


This could make a large impact on those who are planning ahead and I will be sure to update as more information on test prep resource become available.

Here are some links that explain some of the new information -

Dec 9, 2012

Dr Moku Helps Learn Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

KM is trying this out and really likes it! Big surprise considering I don't think we have found a single Japanese related thing that she doesn't like!!!

Dec 7, 2012

Is More of the Same Really a Good Idea?

The news outlets have been a buzz this week with the story of 5 states piloting extended school days in the fall of 2013. Most want to add 300 hours of time to the school calendar - an increase of 1/3 of the time elementary aged kids already spend in school here in Massachusetts. This is not a new idea, it has been bounced around and is even in place in more than 1000 schools across the nation, however there is no proof that this will benefit the children, their education or test scores in anyway.

Many of the articles out there keep reiterating the fact that teachers feel there isn't enough time in the day - isn't that something that we all feel? Should we make a movement to extend our 24 hour day to a 32 hour one or arbitrarily decide that we no longer need sleep in order to function so that we can work more hours and our kids can learn more? Essentially this is what is going on here as many studies have shown that less hours of instruction, class time and homework are all keys to kids increased performance.  ~ I am not going to touch the whole standardized test topic here, but I plan to in a later post. ~  On the other hand quite a few teachers' organizations are lobbying against this movement due to compensation concerns. Several districts across the country that have attempted extended days, but had to abandoned them after just a year or two because the tax payers were not willing to provide the extra funding.

Education reformers are also seem conflicted on what exactly they will be doing with the extra time. Some feel they need it in order to increase academics, while others want to increase extracurricular offerings that many families have been forced to outsource because of budget cutbacks.....yup you heard that right. I am sure it is not the first time you have heard of the cutbacks - the first things to go are always the arts, but now suddenly there is more money for more school hours? Where oh where is this funding coming from? Our school district's budget for this school year (2012-2013) took five months to pass and was ultimately cut by $380,000. Washington Associated Press reports - "A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state's existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools."  How will they suddenly have more money? Where is the federal government getting the money for grants?

So I ask is MORE really better? More spending, more time, more coersion - is any of it really worth it? Each of the 5 states in this pilot program are have already been granted waivers for not meeting the strict improvement guidelines of No Child Left Behind. If these states haven't been able to make improvements yet - and in most cases have actually seen a decrease in acceptable academic rates by NCLB standards - how can more time in this antiquated system improve the situation?

The home education community seems to be deafeningly quiet on this topic. Yet I am curious to see how this will effect the home education requirements in each of these states?  While Connecticut has no required hours for home education instruction, Massachusetts case law eludes to meeting minimum hours and New York, Tennessee and Colorado have clearly outlined days and/or hours that are required. Anytime someone goes sniffing around the legalities and requirements of home educators we must stay on high alert, so that there is no chance of them slipping some other arbitrary ruling or control point on to the books.  

More articles on this proposal - HereHere, and Here.

Dec 4, 2012

The Holidays at our House

Things are very different in our house this holiday season - with KM getting older, me working outside of the house more, CJ gone for work so much and our families ever evolving beliefs we are vastly downsizing on many levels.

The last few years we have had our family celebration on the winter solstice - or as close to it as we can when CJ is home - and then celebrate with our extended family on Christmas eve and day. We do presents, have a yule log or bonfire, and eat a fabulous feast. We do save the stockings for Christmas morning, as this was one tradition that none of us was willing to move past. This has made the time so much more enjoyable, giving us the quiet family time, before the amped up craziness that is the holidays with all the little ones running around our family.

Since it was only KM and I decking the halls, we decided to go with the small tree - that is usually set up in her bedroom - the stockings for the mantle and a few odds and ends. We are not religious in any way, so over the last few years we have done away with most of the Christmas specific decorations and kept the more secular winter decorations.

We have also been cutting the holiday spending and this year we are seriously limiting the gifts to just a few things for each of us and one thing for each of my nieces and nephews. We will be baking a lot and making a few other items for very close friends and some extended family. These are the types of gifts that we love to get - sweet treats, touching trinkets and homemade items.

Speaking of gift giving I have been struggling with a lot of questions around this lately. Why do we make our kids or ourselves wait for one or two designated days a year when we are allowed to get what we want or need? Why do we feel as though we must tell everyone exactly what we want? Why do we HAVE to get gifts to everyone? Why do we expect to get ONLY things that we have included on our "wish list"? Why can't anyone think of something that someone else might like? Why do we spend money on grab gifts that we have no idea if anyone will like or want as we have NO idea who will actually get it? ~~~~ I don't have the answer to any of these but they have really pulled me into a very different mindset this holiday. I would love to hear what others think or if you are doing anything different this year.

Nov 30, 2012

A Month in Pictures - November

Since things have been so crazy around here, I figured I would try something new and start posting a slideshow at the end of each month with pics from some of the things that have been going on around here is the first one -

November - create a slideshow

Nov 28, 2012

History for Music Lovers --- Very Interesting Resource

Stumbled across this incredible You Tube Channel - History for Music Lovers - and thought I would share! It could be a really helpful resource for some of those reluctant to ordinary history presentations.

You can follow them on Twitter - 

amyb herbm


2 kooky teachers making history-based pop music parodies; have been called gloriously dorky; check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page

Nov 22, 2012

A Day of Contemplation

For our family Thanksgiving is a day to think about all the things that we are grateful for, to remember all those who have touched our lives and to reach out to those in our lives to express how much we appreciate them. So many people come in and out of our lives on a daily basis that it might be hard to see at first why they were put there. Some people are in our lives for a long time, while others just a brief passing. Some seem to be placed only to aggravate or annoy, while others only to bring joy. When we recognize the age old theory of yin and yang, you can begin to realize just how important every interaction is, so make your interactions count and be thankful for every little thing that you have on this day!

Nov 21, 2012

The Chocolate Fix Tournament - FREE Math Counts Event

The Chocolate Fix Tournament is a 4-Week Event… so even if you don’t get started on Monday, November 26, it certainly is not too late! On each Monday a different challenge will be released, and high-achieving students will earn great prizes each week. Additionally, students who perform well during the entire 4-week event are eligible for additional prizes and recognition.

Get a Sneak Peek

To check out the different types of challenges students will be tackling during the event, click here. You and your students are free to practice (and get hooked on!) these great puzzles.

To learn more about the entire Chocolate Fix project through ThinkFun’s BrainLab, check out this video:

Nov 9, 2012

Always Questioning

It seems that I am always questioning our direction around here. Any of you long time readers of my blog are sure to be aware of the numerous changes that we are always making to our schedule, curriculum, and/or lesson plans in general. KM will make comments like "I could just be unschooled, ya know!" or she will seem as though it is just another chore to get things done, which will lead me to days of wondering, questioning her, questioning myself, and until I have totally and completed over-thought every aspect of our life. I never want her to feel disdain for her education and she always says that she is only joking with her comments, but often truth is said in jest. She has a huge say in all that we do and since her goal is to attend cosmetology school all things are focused in that direction. However every time I think we have found our balance the innate worry of whether we are doing the right thing sets in, often as a pendulum swing of "Are we doing enough?" to "Why are we doing so much?"

I think a lot of my questioning stems from my own haphazard education. I would beg my mom to buy me those super cool workbooks at the drugstore every time we were there, but I loathed being in the classroom so much that I would fake illnesses to get to hang out in the nurse's office. I loved books and would beg the librarians to let me take out just one more book because it was just too hard to choose which had to stay, yet I managed to miss 94 days in my 8th grade year and somehow had B's in all my classes - except P.E. where of course the only requirement was to be there and participate. By the time I was in high school I was missing more days than I was there and three weeks into 11th grade, just days after turning 16, I was DONE! I signed myself out and my mother consented, worn down by the years of fighting to get me to school. I took the GED just weeks later and passed it with perfect math and science scores. I then proceeded to tutor high school students until my class graduated and I was finally eligible for financial aid to start college classes. I loved learning so much I even started out on my college path to be a math teacher, I hadn't understood that it was SCHOOL that I HATED! Luckily I had KM during that first year and decided, upon returning, to change my major to behavioral sciences. I then took a child psychology class in which I did a paper on various educational methods and was astonished at the wide variety of options that were out there. That paper is what began my understanding of learning styles and led our family down the twisty path which brought us to home education. 

Five years into this home education thing, I still question myself and our choices all the time. I create a list of literature titles that I think are important and that KM will enjoy, only to find that she hates most of them - why did I spend all that time scouring lists and hunting down copies of the books? KM will get stuck on a math problem that I can tell her the answer to and how to complete the formula or where she went wrong, but not why that is the answer - only to be left wondering, why do I even know that? While working on chemistry she has to create a graph that shows the electronegativity of a period of elements -  will she ever need to figure that out in her life? Since it is nearly impossible to ever know what a child will retain, be inspired by or be utterly bored with, I think it is truly important to be flexible, explore a wide berth of topics, and be open to anything! I am always astonishing at the rabbit holes that can be found when you simply let the learner take any and all twists and turns that might pop up along the way.

So basically I think questioning is good! Question everything, don't take anyone's word for it and allow your learners to question things as well - even if that something they are questioning is you!

Nov 1, 2012

Sometimes things get in the way and you learn SOOO much more!

We got an unexpected opportunity to add some little critters to our family this morning!

Freddy - The Daddy
Bernard - The Son

Lessons and plans for the day went out the window in lieu of learning all that we could about how to care for these little guys. We have had hamsters before, but not gerbils so we spent hours acquiring as much information as we could. During our search we discussed many other things - from geography of where these critters come from to logically discerning contradicting resources. The beauty of home education is never knowing where your day will take you and having the flexibility to YES whenever we want to!

Oct 30, 2012

A little storm won't bring us down, but it will bring us together!

We live in New England so are very prone to wild and crazy weather and we would never let a little something like the recent "Superstorm" Sandy get in our way! We are fortunate to not have been in any of the devastation near the coastline and having grown up here I know what to do to get ready for things like this because you never know when mother nature is going to call your bluff. 

We took some time on Saturday and Sunday to get the yard prepared and I baked some treats to hold us over. I always have KM's lessons prepared ahead of time, so when we lost power on Monday afternoon I felt pretty okay with it. She had put off her morning routine to get a few things done on the computer before the internet was gone - a very difficult blow for any teenager!!! - so she got to work on her chemistry and applying algebra while I got the last minute things together before it got dark. About an hour and a half in it started to get chilly so we built a fire and nestled up with Hakim's A History of US Book 7, which KM still likes me to read aloud to her. It was so nice to just snuggle up with the book and learn about the reconstruction of our nation after the devastating civil war. 

When we were finished with that KM decided to play some solitaire, she has been quite addicted to the computer version lately, but she busted out the real cards this time. After a winning a few hands in a row, she asked if I wanted to play something. Generally we play Go Fish or War, as she has never really had the patience to learn other card games - too many rules that I have to keep on her about because I can't always remember them all -, but I decided to push my luck and see if she wanted to learn to play rummy. Four games in and she had the hang of it and didn't want to stop playing! 

At about 7p we decided to get the generator going so that we could get the fridge on, make something for dinner and watch a movie or two. I had picked up The Lost Boys & Lost Boys The Tribe to watch on Halloween, but since we had watched every other movie in the house about a billion times we decided to bump these up a bit. CJ and I had a hard time not giving away the storyline in The Lost Boys, but KM has gotten used to that with pretty much every 80s movie we watch - along with giving up on the hope that CJ won't start belting out the lyrics to each and every song! We had a great time and the evening flew by until still without power we shut everything down and headed to bed sometime around midnight.

I awoke in the morning to the hum of generators throughout the neighbor and realized that we still didn't have power...well this is a new experience, I hadn't been without power for more than 8 hours since Hurricane Gloria in 1985 when it was out for 4 days - I was only 7 and remember more from stories that others told than actually remembering it myself. I started the day with getting the generator running and making pancakes on the electric griddle. Shortly after KM got up I realized that we had some ground beef in the fridge that needed to be cooked ASAP, so we discussed what we could make with it. CJ piped up that he really would love american chop suey....UGGH OK, but we have no stove...KM suggested the crock pot, but with no internet access I had no idea how to get that one done right....HMMM what to do, what to do. We put our minds together and realized we could cook the noodles and ground beef using the side burner on the grill and then throw the veggies, sauce, and everything into the crockpot to get it to meld together nicely. KM and I worked our magic and  about an hour later had everything done - sometimes you just need to use some problem solving skills and team work!!! 

The rest of our day went along pretty normally, with KM doing her lessons and adjusting where needed - like swapping her chemistry experiment and videos out to work on her cosmetology. She dropped what she was doing to help with whatever was needed and was really great about it. After lunch we were all getting a little stir crazy and feeling a bit electronically deprived, so we decided to take a ride to library to collect our emails and maybe see if we could find some movies to watch if the power was out much longer. While there we ran into a few of KM's friends from around town - two home ed buddies who had met up to play Pokemon on their DSs and one of her bowling league teammates who was catching up on some schoolwork - schools were closed for the second day - they chatted and discussed their own highlights and disappointments with the storm.

I also ran into some acquaintances who were discussing their experiences over the past 24 hours and I was shocked at many of the comments, scenarios and complaints that I heard. I often don't allow myself to get sucked into these types of discussions as they never turn out well. I heard the usual myriad - "Oh I HOPE school is back on tomorrow!", "[child's name] is driving me CRAZY!", "All [child's name] has been doing is complaining", "[child's name] won't do anything I ask them to," and "I had to pay [child's name] to get the yard ready for the storm and now I have to pay them again to clean up from it." I tried to politely nod and stay out of it, but I was standing in line to check out our items so I couldn't avoid it.When I was asked how things had gone for us in the storm, I smiled and said "No real problems. KM helped me make dinner, we hung out and had some really great family time together." The other people just stared at me for a second, as if they were waiting for the punch line, but there was none. That is all that happened. No arguments, no bribing, no hassle, no real inconvenience at all on our end. 

I try very hard to not have the so common elitist/better than "homeschool" family mentality, but there are just some situations that make me so very, VERY grateful that we choose this path. We have an incredible family, we are connected in a way that was not there 5 years ago before we regained control of our lives. We can adapt, solve problems and deal with whatever comes our way TOGETHER. My daughter knows that being part of this family means that we work as a team - none of us is more valuable or less valued than the other and we all need to do whatever it takes to make OUR lives content and comfortable.

On our ride home, I relayed the conversation to KM to see what her take would be. She had heard the same types of things from a number of her friends that she had been texting with throughout the storm. I asked what her biggest drawback had been with the storm and she said "It would have to be that I only beat you once at rummy!" 

Oct 25, 2012

Changing Planet - Past, Present, Future - FREE Lecture from HHMI

Register early and get a free poster in the mail!

HHMI's BioInteractive - Holiday Lectures on Science:

Has Earth changed over deep time? How did Earth shape life and life shape Earth? What does Earth's climate in the distant past tell us about the future?
Modern humans have lived on Earth for only the past 200,000 years—not even a blink of an eye in the history of a planet that is about 4.6 billion years old. Scientists have discovered a rich fossil record of animal evolution going back more than 600 million years and a much richer one of microbial life starting almost 4 billion years ago. Throughout this time, the geologic record reveals that dramatic changes have occurred to Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, climate, and land forms, which match major biological transitions. In concert, studies in biology and earth science are providing incredible insights into the forces that have shaped, and will continue to shape, life on our ever-changing planet.
Andrew H. Knoll of Harvard University, Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego, and Daniel P. Schrag of Harvard University will guide us on an exciting exploration of the history of life on Earth and discuss present-day concerns about climate change.

Webcast Schedule
November 15 & 16, 2012

9:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m. ET
11:30 a.m.—12:30 p.m. ET
10:00 a.m.—11:30 a.m. PT
12:00 p.m.—1:00 p.m. PT

'via Blog this'

Oct 23, 2012

Civil War - Reenactment

We finished up our Civil War unit last week and it just so happened that our town's 300th Anniversary Committee conveniently planned a Civil War Reenactment for the exact same weekend - wasn't that nice of them!!!

This was not the best reenactment, but it was entertaining and we got a close up look at the weaponry and "camp life" of the time.