Tag Archives: goals

The very best home school curriculum available.

24 Feb

You Don’t Need This Book
…or any other book for that matter!

As an educating expert I get a lot of families asking me curriculum. What kind do I recommend, which ones do I use, how to find the best one. At the risk of losing out on many opportunities I am going to be extremely blunt. You don’t need them. I have seen too many people spend loads of money on special curriculum for each child (hundreds to thousands of dollars) only to find that school work becomes tedious, home schooling becomes a drag, and tensions between parent and child escalate as the child passive-aggressively battles the system that the parent has unwittingly brought into the home.

Curriculum is a billion dollar industry

Don’t get me wrong. I love curriculum. I am also very skilled at writing curriculum. A copy of my curriculum, written during my senior year of college (A+), is sitting in the art ed resource room at SIUE to be used as a reference and example for other aspiring art teachers. But the fact remains that you don’t need them. This point really hit home for me when I was browsing a bookstore one day. And there on the shelf in prime location was a preschool workbook on learning how to use scissors. Yes, some big wig curriculum publisher was selling this book. Incredulous, I picked it up and looked through it. It was full of thick black lines, straight lines, curved lines, dotted lines, some shapes. And the child would take a pair of scissors and cut along the lines. That was it. $15 dollars for a workbook that would be cut to pieces. It was mindboggling. And to think of the damage I was inflicting on my children by giving them a stack of scrap paper and bills to “shred” with their tiny scissors. Right then and there “You don’t need this book!” screamed through my brain. I even got the brilliant idea to write a book talking about this. I never finished it because it seemed too ridiculous to write a book you really don’t need talking about all the educational books you really don’t need.

Home schooling should be something different

Many of you started home schooling because of the failings of public school. So why bring that failing system into your home? All you have done is transplanted the same problems and frustrations from the classroom to the living room.

I was talking to a parent a couple of months ago. He is trying to home school his teenage daughter. He invested almost $500 on some nifty computer interactive curriculum set. But she never used it. Half the time she stayed at her mother’s house to avoid the school work. “What is she interested in?” I asked him. The simple question that most of us so often forget to ask. “Well, she likes cosmotology.” I then proceeded to launch into an explanation of how cosmotology could be the basis of all her learning from the history of makeup and hair and how it affected the world to the science of shampoo and hair dye. Every relevant “subject” could be covered using her main interest of cosmotology. I am afraid I might have scared him away, because I haven’t heard from him since then. But my point is, you don’t need fancy textbooks, computer programs, curriculums, or gizmos. You are better off using that money to invest in information or tools that are geared specifically to your child’s interest.

Home school groups are another tricky subject. (Especially since I am the founder of Pomegranate Gardens School). There are dozens of home school groups and schools out there. Sure, join up. I would love people to join me at Pomegranate Gardens. But think about what you want and need. If you are looking for a play group, do you need to pay membership fees for that? If you are wanting social connections there are numerous avenues for both parent and child. Please, think about how you are investing your time and money. If you want and need some real advise and support, get it. I offer most of my advise freely and generously, much to the detriment of PG’s educational consulting program. If you want serious guidance and support be willing to pay for it, but make sure you are paying for something that is worth the investment.

Kids and chores – the never ending battle to get things done

11 Dec

three-year old sweeping

When is a child too young to start helping out around the house?

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

sit... stay... go get it... good girl

four-year old measuring pet food

Well, naturally, that depends on the child. But my observation is, if they are old enough to ask if they can help, they are old enough for you to let them help. The key here is that you, as the parent, need to LET them. Oftentimes, we would rather just get it done. It takes too long to watch them struggle through it, we don’t like having to clean up the mess that follows in the wake of their “cleaning”, and they might break something.

fourteen-year old washing dishes

seven-year old shredding cheese

After having four kids the amount of housekeeping required to sustain even the barest minimum of cleanliness consumed almost all of my time. That’s four kids, one husband, myself, and numerous pets (at the moment, one dog and one cat, but we have had as many as two dogs, two cats, and a pair of birds all at the same time).  And why should I be the only one cleaning up after the masses, afterall, I’m not the only one making a mess. So the new regime began – even for the youngest.

three-year old cleaning lint trap

three-year old helping with the laundry

One could make the argument that learning such menial tasks as laundry, cleaning, and washing is counter productive to successful living. This could be hired-out work. Most wealthy and successful people rarely spend their time on housekeeping but hire someone else instead so that their own time and energy can be focused elsewhere. But I firmly believe that everyone should have a basic understand of how to do such menial tasks. At the very least it fosters respect for the work entailed (would you belittle and abuse your housekeeper if you truly understood how difficult the work was). And if you are in dire straights, at least you now how to keep your shirt clean. Taking care of chores is also a great way to foster independence, strengthen self-confidence, and encourage pride in a job well done.

youngest "supervising" the seven-year old cleaning the litter

master "chef" in training

The nice thing about starting out early is that eventually the kids reach a level of proficiency that requires very little oversight and correction. Plus, with so many of them, they help each other out and teach each other.

I finally drew up a little chore chart. But we rarely ever use it because they have already been trained on what needs to be done. The chore chart merely acts as a reminder so that they are able to double check their work.

chore chart

youngest “supervising” the seven-year old cleaning the litter

What is real education – What do your kids REALLY need to know

10 Dec

Are you raising thinkers, or are you raising fact crunchers?

This is the most basic question every educator and parent is trying to understand and what every school is trying to implement. There are thousands of different curriculum available – all claiming to be the best, most efficient, most effective learning material out there. There are millions of schools claiming to offer  (or struggling to achieve) some vague ideal where students excel and can then go out into the world to become fabulous success stories. The fact of the matter is most education is just a compilation of facts, figures, and accepted beliefs that we then expect our children to consume and regurgitate on command.

I propose that to truly do right by our children’s education we teach our kids to become thinkers and develop wisdom – even if this means they reach a conclusion that goes against societal norms or what we have accepted as truth.

Also something to think about… technology is advancing so rapidly that some of the “facts” we are teaching now will be obsolete by the time they are of an age to use it. So why do we wast their time forcing them to memorize? Time to move on.

What do young ones REALLY need to be able to do then? I have broken it down into three basic components.

1. Set and achieve goals. This is hard for a lot of people. How many of us are competent goal setters? But that is of no matter. We do not need to be an expert to teach. Regardless of what the goal is, the steps to follow are the same. There are a lot of really good resources for setting and achieving goals. Michael Masterson has a really good outline. But I swiped the following bullet points from Dr. Robert Anthony’s How to Make the Impossible Possible.

  • SPECIFIC – the goal must be absolutely clear and measurable otherwise it is just a wish. For example, I could say “I will learn Spanish”. But what does that mean. Nothing. How about “I will be able to read Don Quioxte in the original Spanish by the end of 2012″. Or how about “I will be able to have a 10 minute conversation in Spanish with a native speaker by Summer 2011.”
  • MODELING – sure you can muddle through life trying to figure things out on your own. But why try to reinvent the wheel. Find an expert or study someone who has achieved a similar goal and copy them.
  • ACTION – Well, this is a no-brainer. And yet, this is where we often screw up. I will never be able to read Don Quioxte if I don’t actual get down and do something about it. Even if I got so far as purchasing a foreign language program. That’s only one step. I’ve actually got to break it open and use the program. Then I need to practice. Then I need to… well, you should be getting the idea by now. I need to actually DO something. Find ways to motive yourself to action. Write down WHY you want to achieve this goal. In the words of Yoda “Do.. or do not. There is no try.” Or how about Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid, “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do ‘yes’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so,’ just like grape. Understand?”
  • RESPONSIBILITY – I am totally responsible for my own results. If I don’t learn how to read Don Quioxte it is not because my teacher was lousy and didn’t like me. It’s not because my kids wouldn’t give me the chance to study. It’s not because my husband accidentally deleted my language program from the computer. No. I am 100% responsible for my own life choices and my own results and consequences. If what I am doing is not working, I just need to find another way to do it. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Or how about how Albert Einstein defines INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  • TIMING- Set a time frame for you goal, but be realistic on it. If there is no time frame, you goal will always be off somewhere in the future. But take things one step at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

2. Get help when you need it. Yeah, this one is important. There are great resources out there in the world. We need to learn to use them. Even us parents and educators. How many times have you been stuck in a bind but were afraid to ask for help. Now, by help, I do not mean having someone else do the work for you. I saw this a lot in school and even right here in my own home with my own kids. We hear, “I can’t do this” or we watch someone struggling and we swoop in and do it for them real quick. Then we justify it with a “See, that’s how it’s done” teaching moment. Sure, the butterfly needs to struggle out of his cocoon. But there are times when we all must seek outside help, be it a master, a counselor, a coach, or whatever.

3. Work hard – fully and completely. Yeah sure. We think we all do this. We are always spinning our wheels. Sometimes I feel like a hamster running inside a plastic exercise ball. But I am not talking about unproductive busy work. I’m talking about when my son does the dishes, I expect him to do them efficiently and cleanly. If he spends 2 hours at the sink, sure he feels like he’s been working hard, but the dishes are still dirty and the water and soap have been wasted. Do your work so you can be proud of it. You’ve spent your time and energy on it. Why waste that effort? How many of us are sitting behind our desks at work just doing enough to look proficient. Just imagine what a different world we would live in if every one always strived to give their best… everytime. So, take some pride in your work.

That pretty much sums it up. Those three basic skills. Everything else can be learned when and if you need it. Is this what we are teaching our kids? And if not, why not?

Here is an interesting story of Henry Ford, who was often ridiculed by intellectuals for being uneducated.  He was asked to submit to a test by so-called smart people from the world of academics. On the appointed day, a group of smart people came in to give him an oral test. They wanted to prove he was ignorant.

The test began by one scholar asking him a question such as, “What is the tensile strength of the rolled steel you use.” Ford, not knowing the answer, simply reached for one of the many phones on his desk and called his vice president who knew the answer. The vice president came in, and Ford asked him the question. The vice president gave him the answer the panel wanted. The next smart person then asked another question and again Ford, not knowing the answer, called someone else from his staff who knew the answer. This process went on until finally one of the smart people on the panel shouted, “See, this proves you are ignorant. You don’t know the answers to any of the questions we ask you.”

Henry Ford reportedly replied, “I don’t know the answers because I do not need to clutter my head with the answers you seek. I hire smart young people from your schools who have memorized information that you think is intelligence. My job is to keep my head clear of such clutter and trivial facts so that I can think.” At that point, he asked the smart people from the world of academics to leave.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is. That is why so few people engage in it.” ~Henry Ford

2008 Resolutions

6 Feb

All right, I know that it is February and that most people make their resolutions on the first day of the year. I don’t normally make resolutions because I thought they were silly. What was the point of making a resolution that wouldn’t be kept.

But I started thinking about it a different way. If I am a work in progress, then the point is to continually strive for self-improvement. Sometimes I fail; but I get up and try again. That is why I have decided to make my resolutions this year. Maybe this will be the start of a new me.

I decided to make my resolutions very specific and detailed, included time frames where I thought they were needed. I also made them in 5 different categories (based on the recommendations from Early To Rise.

My Goals for 2008



Improve diet

  • Eliminate synthetics from my diet (including MSG, corn syrup, and preservatives)

  • Reduce or eliminate processed carbohydrates

  • Increase amount of all natural and organic foods and grass-fed/free range meats

Exercise daily

  • Step 1 – Stretch daily

  • Step 2 – Strength training 3X week

  • Step 3 – Interval training 3X week


Increase income

  • Get interview for better paying job

  • Develop websites for income generating potential

  • ~~Blankets 4 Babies (active site by April 13th)

    1. Write copy and plan layout

    2. Implement design

    3. email registration and donation link

    4. develop support materials

    5. gifts for donors and to purchase available on site

    6. make contacts w/ other agencies to distribute blankets and support materials

  • ~~Everyday Parent

  • Complete Shamus McChan’s business plan to approach lenders

Pay off debts

  • Grandma Helen

  • Song’s Martial Arts

  • bills

Personal Development

  • Learn Spanish (be able to hold a 5 minute conversation in Spanish w/ native speaker)

  • Study 15minutes daily using Rosetta Stone

  • Learn how to knit (make a sweater)

  • Write daily in P&E blog (365 posts)

Social Development

  • Look everyone I encounter in the eye

  • Through B4B, support other young mothers in need