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Monday, July 4, 2016

Summer sports that will help your kids survive the zombie apocalypse

Are you having trouble motivating your kids to get outdoors and move their bodies this summer? It is awfully hot outside, but we know that kids need fresh air, exercise and play! The trick to getting your kids moving in a healthy way over the summer, besides scheduling outdoor time during the cooler parts of the day, is to provide them with the right sort of motivation.

I'm thinking, surviving the zombie apocalypse ought to do the trick! What better motivation is there than the very survival of the human race? Now, there may never be a zombie apocalypse, but even the CDC has done its part to prepare us for a world infested with zombies, so we should encourage our kids to engage in activities that will help them to ultimately overcome the onslaught and survive.

To that frightening end, let’s figure out the best summer sports your family can focus on to train for battle with the flesh-eating zombies who used to be your friends and neighbors. And remember, you don’t want to start a panic in your neighborhood, so don't feel like you have to tell anyone you are in training to survive the zombie apocalypse. Just take comfort in knowing that your family's efforts at mastering the following sports may mean the difference between life and death… or undeath, as the case may be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Let them talk! They're building language skills

I've never been a proponent of the idea that children should be seen and not heard. Sure, kids should learn manners, and as they grow they should figure out when it is appropriate to use their inside voices, or maintain a respectful silence, but in general, I am a big fan of allowing children to talk, both to one another and to adults.

I will, however admit to wanting to pull my hair out on occasion and scream, "Okay, enough, I don't care to hear one more word about Five Nights at Freddy's, thank you!" That's because I have an 8-year-old who is going through her motor mouth phase, and she never, ever seems to shut up.

But this past weekend, I was speaking at the Tulsa Homeschool Expo, and I had a chance between my sessions to sit down and listen to some of the other speakers, and one of the things I heard really struck me. 

Andrew Pudewa, in a session about building language skills, said that little kids need to hear themselves talk. Hearing themselves say words out loud is a crucial building block of language development. 

Okay, then! According to Mr. Pudewa, language building expert of the homeschool community, my instincts were right to not only allow my kids to talk freely, but to encourage them to do so. That is, of course, except when we're in heavy traffic, when it would be inappropriate for anyone to rattle on, or when mama is down to her last nerve.

I've come to realize that the motor mouth phase only lasts a few years, as my older kids have grown into teenagers and their tendency to talk on and on, even when no one is listening, has waned. They still talk to me, and to each other, but more purposefully now. They don't seem to talk just to hear themselves talk. 

But now that I realize that's exactly what they were doing while they were younger, developing language skills by listening to themselves saying words out loud, I am so happy that I let them jabber. That, along with reading aloud together and other things we did as a family, helped them build strong vocabularies and become confident speakers and writers. 

So, let your kids talk... and talk, and talk, and talk, and talk! 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Register for free for the 2016 Digital Homeschool Convention

Have you heard about the 2016 Digital Homeschool Convention? It's not like other conventions. You can curl up on the couch in your pajamas and watch all the sessions for free at your own leisure during the convention while the workshops are streaming. During and after the convention, videos of the sessions will also be available to purchase in case you weren't able to catch them all. And of course, there will be a virtual vendor hall with lots of great deals on curriculum and resources!

I am thrilled to be one of the speakers featured in this year's Digital Homeschool Convention. I'll be presenting a workshop based on my new book, Homeschool Bullies: Dealing with Mean Kids, Cliques and Mama Drama. Make sure to register for free so you can see all the workshops that are scheduled. There will be up to 40 in total, on a wide range of homeschool topics.

There are so many reasons to check this out, not the least of which is that you can listen to speakers you might not have a chance to see anywhere else, and you can do it for free during the convention. You can't beat that!

(affiliate links included)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Foxes in the neighborhood

I live in a small town in northeastern Oklahoma. It's not unusual to see a variety of urban wildlife around here. A few years ago, authorities had to remove a young black bear from a tree near the college campus, and deer have wandered down our main street. Raccoons, opossums, skunks, armadillos and groundhogs are frequent sights even in the middle of town, and frankly I could do without the digging in my yard.

But it's the foxes that have inhabited a green space in our neighborhood that have us enthralled. We have seen up to half a dozen of them, hanging out at night near the edge of a stand of trees, watching the cars that turn down the street with caution, but not alarm.

All through the spring, we've spotted them if we've driven past slowly late in the evening. One night I happened to have my camera with me, and one of the foxes stayed out, not minding our presence at all as I snapped several shots from inside my van.

I told my kids that it is important, even though the foxes seem quite tolerant of people, that we not approach them or try to tame them further. They are, after all, wild animals, and it can only end badly for them if people start feeding them and trying to pet them.

Two years ago, they made their springtime home in the same location, then disappeared, probably following the creek through town, down toward the river as the summer got hot. I'm guessing they've left again, now that their kits are old enough to travel. I haven't seen them in more than a week. But I am glad I got a few pictures this year!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Don't miss the strawberry moon!

My daughter just came to remind me that we need to check out tonight's full moon. Tonight's moon is a strawberry moon, meaning the full moon in June, that happens to fall on the same night as the summer solstice. It's one of those events that happens just once every 50 years or so, with the last occurrence happening in 1967, and the next one not coming until 2062.

You can read much more about tonight's full moon/summer solstice event on EarthSky, and learn all about other astronomical phenomena, too. Don't miss the meteor shower guide, with dates for all the major showers all year long, including the Perseids coming up in August. That's my favorite meteor shower of the year!

Interview with Sam Sorbo, homeschool advocate and author of 'They're YOUR Kids'

This week, I had the privilege of doing a short interview with Sam Sorbo, actress, author, talk show host and homeschooling mom of three. I heard about her new book, "They're YOUR Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate" and asked to review a copy for my readers. After I finished the book, she took the time to answer a few questions and talk some more about homeschooling, a topic she is passionate about.

Sam and Kevin Sorbo are not unlike many other celebrity parents who have chosen homeschooling as the most beneficial option for their kids. And in her book, Sorbo explains that one of the reasons they chose to homeschool their three kids in the first place was because it fit their lifestyle better and allowed them to more easily travel to film locales as needed.

What sets Sam Sorbo apart from other homeschooling celebrity moms, in my opinion, is that she not only chose homeschooling for her own children, she put herself out there as an advocate for homeschoolers and as a support for those who may be weighing their options with regard to school. And she pulls no punches when she challenges public schools as they exist today.

I think we all realize that public schools are in trouble, but Sorbo uses an analogy that illustrates the problem so vividly, it's hard to counter her position. She asks readers to consider a tall, refreshing glass of clear, sparkling, ice cold water on an oppressively hot day. And as you are about to take a drink, you see a tiny bit of poop floating in the glass. Noting that things like Common Core new sex ed standards in public schools are akin to poop in the glasses of even the most sparkling local schools, she asks, "How much poop in your water is okay with you?"

And so, she speaks out, not just for her own family but using her celebrity status to open doors not available to all of us, she advocates and works to inform and educate every family about their options. "The best cure for Common Core, which is a name now associated with the entirety of what ails our education system, is to arm parents with accurate information," says Sorbo. "Once they understand what the government is teaching their children, they may well consider alternatives such as home schooling."

Sorbo realized that no one loved her children more than she did, and no one was going to be more dedicated to giving them the highest quality education than she was. In writing this book, she set out to encourage other moms and dads that they're YOUR kids, not the state's, not the school district's, not anyone else's. You have the right to decide what's best for them.

But it was her honesty and openness about her own insecurities and doubts as a fledgling homeschooler really struck home. How many of us have not experienced the same emotions, wondering whether we are qualified to teach our own kids or whether we are doing the right thing? According to Sorbo, that feeling of self-doubt is not our fault.

She wrote, "Our entire society has been brainwashed to believe that teachers have cornered the market on education, that institutional education is the best way to accomplish - what, exactly? Conformity and indroctrination."

In her book, Sorbo explains how she overcame every doubt and insecurity, and grew into a confident homeschooling mom. I asked her if she is facing any new insecurities as her oldest moves into the high school years.

"Home schooling always invites insecurity. I’ve decided that this is because the school system built into us an inherent opinion that we are inferior to it," she replied. "I’m enjoying learning the various subjects alongside my child. I do not fear divulging to him that I don’t have an answer. He knows that I was deprived of a proper education, and that he benefits from a better one than I had. So we learn together."

I also asked if, as a high profile author, she has received any backlash for her book. Sorbo answered, "I did recently experience some backlash for my criticism of the public schools. However, the very idea that public education cannot withstand criticism betrays just how fragile and failed the system is."

And Sorbo shared these final thoughts, which she also went over in her book, but merit even further emphasis. "Children need, first and foremost, LOVE. That’s a dwindling, if not non-existent, commodity in our schools. I dare not deprive them of love, most of all, and that, of course, is the number one motivator for home education. Love on your children. You teach them everything until they go off to kindergarten. What transformation happens to the parent when the child turns 5 or 6, that makes the parent unfit to teach them anymore? The funny thing is that a lot of parents go through a kind of withdrawal, turning their children over to complete strangers at the door to the kindergarten. It feels bad to them, but they fight that uneasiness, because of peer pressure, tradition, group-think, societal expectations, whatever. I say, go with your gut. If you don’t want to let the child go at that tender age, no one should force you to."

Wise words from an intelligent woman. I'm glad she's on our side.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

How Wyoming engineers make snow plow itself

As we drove across the vastness of Wyoming on Interstate 80 last week, my kids and I were struck by the beauty of the landscape, the abundance of antelope and other wildlife, and most of all, the hundreds of miles of fences.

After driving through what seemed like hundreds of miles of giant windmills in Kansas and Colorado a couple of weeks before, we first thought that the fences might be banks of solar panels, similarly harnessing renewable energy resources. But before long, it became clear that the fences were simply made of wood, and not connected in any way that would keep animals in or out, even though cattle seemed to enjoy lying in their shade.

What were they? Why were they there?