Modern Homeschooling A Lunch Community <![CDATA[ Oh, the Books You can Read!]]>
That may sound like a common statement, but in my case it's quite a generous compliment. I'm one of those heartless, evil libertarians rightists keep saying are unpatriotic and leftists keep saying are racist. (And no, I'm not especially unpatriotic or racist. I can see the angle on the first one because I think nationalistic traditions are given far more relevance than they need and I hate the idea of needing papers to travel or live in the country. But I consider the latter a form of libel and WILL sue anyone who seriously applies it to me.) That means I want my taxes as low as possible and have a deeply rooted streak of government distrust, so I take even the policies I agree on with a grain of salt.

Public libraries are of of the very few aspects of government I accept without question. I credit my parents with encouraging me to read and teaching me to do it well, but it's public libraries which are the unlimited source for me to actually read just about anything I want. I write a small independent blog about baseball literature called Lit Bases (, and I cull nearly all of my material for it from libraries. I wish the libraries would get the new material faster, but I otherwise have access to a lot of titles and hard to find books on baseball.

Yes, reading a ton of baseball books definitely leaves a little bit of burnout on the subject, which is why it's also important that I can grab books on virtually any other subject. I read a lot of classics - Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, Updike, Vonnegut - all authors whose work I schooled myself in through expansive use of libraries. In the main branch of the Chicago library system, there are various quotes by certain people espousing the virtues of reading. One of them by a person whose name escapes me says the Chicago Public Library is his alma mater. That is a well-spoken statement, and one with which I completely agree, except mine would also include the Buffalo library system.

Having used two different library systems, it amazes me that this simple concept can differ in so many little ways. In Buffalo, I can accrue fines up to ten dollars before they shut down my account. In Chicago, your account will be shut down if you're just a single day late with a few cents of a fine to pay. In Chicago, they let you borrow music CDs for three weeks. In Buffalo, you get them for just one.

CD's. That's another thing. You can borrow CD's from libraries, and movies too. You do have to be careful about them, though, because they often carry much heavier fines than the books. Also, they tend to be scratched up a lot sometimes, which always amazes me because I don't think a journey from a case to a player is a particularly difficult one which would result in injuries.

There are more books on this planet than there are libraries, so it's not merely possible but in fact quite likely that a library may not own any copies of a certain book. In this case, you can order the book you're looking for from a different library and have it sent to the branch you usually visit. I like this idea because it ensures a constant flow of reading material that interests me.

Yes, libraries have their problems, but it's foolish to consider anything perfect. Public libraries perform a valuable service. Without the wealth of reading material I've borrowed from public libraries, I probably wouldn't be a libertarian. How's that for irony?]]> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 11:54:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Dual Enrollment]]> As a homeschooling family, we have opted to have our high-school age children dual enroll at our local community colleges.  While some homeschooling families might consider this a non-option (since it is public school), our feelings are different.  If a child shows the maturity necessary and feels up to the challenge, why not let them get a head start on college?  Our eldest daughter finished her Japanese studies at city college, and also completed a drawing course and a self-defense class.  Our 11th grade son recently completed Pre-Calculus, and took Spanish 3 (counts as Spanish 4 in high school) along with his 9th grade brother.  So far, the kids have had no complaints.  That is if, "Mom, the Spanish class is easier than your Spanish classes were!" does not count as a complaint.  And therein lies one of the major "negatives" to dual enrollment:  that the coursework is sometimes not as challenging as one would hope.  Nevertheless, for our students that are ready academically and socially to dive in, dual enrollment allows them to acclimate to a college classroom while completing a high school requirement in one semester rather than one year.  One last word of advice if you feel your student is able to tackle college while in high school:  be aware that any grades they receive at college will be counted 2.5 times on their high school transcript.  So the "A" they earn will be weighted 2.5 times in their GPA; conversely, a "C" will be weighted the same way...definitely something to think about before enrolling in a class that might potentially be too difficult for a student.  With some preparatory thought and a motivated student, dual enrollment can be a positive adjunct to a homeschooled student's academic experience. ]]> Sun, 23 Jan 2011 00:56:20 +0000 <![CDATA[Public Libraries Quick Tip by objective1]]> for new books, movies, TV shows on DVD, etc. Then go to the library site and reserve the ones you want. Some take weeks to get delivered if they are popular, while others are available in a couple days.]]> Fri, 27 Aug 2010 17:29:53 +0000 <![CDATA[Public Libraries Quick Tip by Count_Orlok_22]]> Sun, 11 Jul 2010 21:34:44 +0000 <![CDATA[Public Libraries Quick Tip by hawthorne82]]> Thu, 1 Jul 2010 00:41:17 +0000 <![CDATA[Public Libraries Quick Tip by acs518]]> Tue, 15 Jun 2010 15:47:09 +0000 <![CDATA[The Underground History of American Education Quick Tip by EcoMama]]> Mon, 24 May 2010 20:50:30 +0000 <![CDATA[Homeschooling Quick Tip by EcoMama]]> Mon, 24 May 2010 20:48:34 +0000 <![CDATA[Socialization Quick Tip by EcoMama]]> Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:19:10 +0000 <![CDATA[Museums Quick Tip by EcoMama]]> Tue, 27 Apr 2010 21:03:18 +0000 <![CDATA[ Adelante Spanish Curriculum from Vista Higher Learning]]> Vista Higher Learning ( publishes a variety of foreign language study textbooks for the romance languages.  The homeschool extension school (Biola Star Academics) where I teach Spanish 1 and 2 made the switch to Vista's Adelante brand this academic year.  The curriculum is wonderful.  There was a steep learning curve in September for the students due to the extensive use of online homework exercises; however, once the students adjusted to the new method, they made rapid progress.  The curriculum has a colorful layout, engaging graphics, and detailed grammatical explanations.  Consumable workbook pages are included at the end of each lesson; very effective online exercises corresponding to each section of every lesson complete the curriculum.  Students can do online homework (automatically graded and tracked for teacher convenience), listen to audio exercises and respond (with a headset/mike  if the student has set up the system for this), and view various video clips corresponding to each lesson (culture, geography, and grammar/conversation).   I currently use this curriculum in classroom situations for Spanish 2 and 3, and will be using the level 1 next year.  While the curriculum is not specifically designed for homeschooled students, due to the rich online components, I imagine it could easily be used effectively for home study.  In my experience as a homeschool mom and high school teacher, I can say there are a few subjects that are perhaps better taught in a group setting:  literature, orchestral instruments, and foreign language.  However, if a homeschooled student were motivated, I feel the Adelante curriculum would lend itself to self study. ]]> Sat, 13 Mar 2010 07:29:32 +0000 <![CDATA[ Highly effective phonics and reading curriculum for homeschool]]> Sat, 13 Mar 2010 07:02:20 +0000 <![CDATA[ Public libraries are the ultimate reusable resource]]> Even in this age where reduce, reuse and recycle are three ideas that are on the minds of many, one place may get overlooked for it's green services. I'll give you a hint ...Shhh... if you enjoy books, like to save money and are an eco-conscious person look no further than your local public library. Instead of purchasing a book, see if your local public library has it in stock. As you probably know, when you are finished with the book, just return it and repeat the process.  The best part is that is that all of this is free. Now public libraries not only carry books, but also audio-books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and more.

By using the library you are saving on the cost of the book and you are reducing the unnecessary clutter on your bookshelf at home. You may also be helping to reduce the amount of paper needed to create new books. Some libraries will even accept donations of old books and magazines in good shape.

Did you know that  most public libraries now offer free internet access?  They do.  So you can search the world wide web and the enormous amount of books they carry all for free. You may be surprised by all that your local public library may offer. Many libraries also have children reading programs and other events to get the community involved and create a even better library.

Public libraries are such a fantastic asset that everyone needs to recognize. Support your local public library by getting a library card and check out some books.  You'll be spoiled in no time and who knows what you may learn.  If you take care of books you'll be rewarded for years to come.  For a list of public libraries in the United States, go to

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<![CDATA[ One thing that government does exceedingly well!]]> public library is an absolutely indispensible part of any thriving community,  Libraries serve people of every age group in a variety of ways.  You might think that here in the digital age public libraries may have become less relevant.  Exactly the opposite is true.  The fact of the matter is that public libraries are busier today than ever before.  I must give the devil his due.  Libraries are usually something that government does very well.

In my community the public library has a central branch  and 4 or 5 satellite locations.  As you might expect the central location is by far the most popular and offers the widest variety of services.  It is here that I pick up a good many of the latest non-fiction titles that I read and review online.  The price is certainly right.  Likewise, my wife and I take full advantage of the thousands of movies that are available on both VHS and DVD.  We are fans of flicks from the 1940's and 1950's and find that the library is the best place to grab the films we enjoy the most.  Likewise, the library maintains a vast collection of audio CD's.  This is a great way to sample the music of artists that I am not at all familiar with.  Another extremely important service offered by our local library is the computer room.   During these tough economic times more and more residents are using  these computers to create resumes, search for job openings and do research for high school and college projects.  Meanwhile,  the library offers a variety of reading programs for youngsters.  There is also a community room that offers lectures and art shows among other things.  And on any given weekday you will find dozens of seniors perusing the vast collection of magazines and periodicals.  The public library helps to keep these folks engaged and interested. 

Here in the digital age public libraries are now able to offer services that just a decade ago were absolutely unimaginable.  In doing a bit of research for this piece I happened upon the website for the New York Public Library.  Here I discovered something called 'The NYPL Digital Gallery".  This site provides "free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the New York Public Library's vast collections.  Among the images available are illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more."   I tried typing in the term "Uncle Sam" and discovered dozens of government posters featuring this personification of the American government.  Very cool!   I imagine that libraries offer many more online services that I am not even aware of.

So there you have it.  I cannot imagine what life would be like without public libraries.  They have always been an important part of my life.  I have found that the people who are work at libraries are among the most dedicated and helpful government employees around.   They are generally not in it for the money and it is quite apparent that they love what they do.  When drawing up a list of priorities in my community I would always put the library near the top of the list.    Very highly recommended!]]> Wed, 23 Sep 2009 15:36:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Tackles the U.S. state of education right on!]]> Have you recently had a conversation with an average twelve or fifteen year old who spends a good part of his day in a public school? Even better, have you heard the conversations of children that age talking to each other? What I have heard from school age children is proof that the public school system is doing what it was designed to do - even if it was not deliberately planned by someone.

I came across this masterpiece type of book that would be wrong not to share. It gave me clear insight into why my years in the American public school were spent educating the teachers instead of getting an education. They were great at giving assignments but most (not all) of them never taught their pupils to think on their own, and when someone dared to have their own ideas and opinions they were caught off guard. I don't mean to blame the teachers, I have had many that are great people but they were just as much victims of a failed education system.

This book is a must read for anyone who has any connection to the public school system (that would be everyone). It is not an expose of some conspiracy theory, neither is it an attempt for education reform. Suddenly things will make a lot of sense, things like why the literacy rate in this country was higher in 1840 than it is now. As John Gatto would say "what is wrong from a human perspective is right from a system perspective". We would not have the workforce this nation needs if children were raised individually (not as a herd) and inspired to think, to invent, to dream. They are now taught to think and be like everyone else, to be productive, and to conform to the image of this decrepit society. I am not surprised that homeschooling is growing at a fast rate in this country, and those who home school are usually adults with higher education who at one point decided to think for themselves. The uneducated don't question the status quo.
A few words from the author:

Here are a few quotes that might compel you to pick up this book: "The great destructive myth of the twentieth century was the aggressive contention that a child could not grow up correctly in the unique circumstances of his own family. Forced schooling was the principal agency broadcasting this attitude."(chapter 10 summary)

"Spare yourself the anxiety of thinking of this school thing as a conspiracy, even though the project is indeed riddled with petty conspirators. It was and is a fully rational transaction in which all of us play a part. We trade the liberty of our kids and our free will for a secure social order and a very prosperous economy. It's a bargain in which most of us agree to become as children ourselves, under the same tutelage which holds the young, in exchange for food, entertainment, and safety. The difficulty is that the contract fixes the goal of human life so low that students go mad trying to escape it." (chapter 16 summary)

You can actually read the book online (see wiki), but I recommend sparing your eyesight and getting it at the local library.
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