November 30, 2006

Creation Speaks for Its Creator

We've been reading Holling C. Holling's "Minn of the Mississippi" as our family read-aloud while we learn about explorers and discoverers of the American West. We also watched a wonderful film about Lewis and Clark by PBS yesterday. I have been disapointed by the highly recommended Holling book mainly for ONE reason: the obvious evolution slant. Is it necessary when talking about a turtle's interesting journey down the Mississippi to talk about "ancient waters" that "for millions of years" were rained upon rock? Why can't we talk about the river that is there today since no one was here to see it millions of years ago. This is a children's book, for crying out loud! The propaganda about the turtle eggs was just as bad ("And, as though the Life had been given a definite, detailed task - 'THESE CELLS SHALL BUILD TO A CERTAIN PATTERN WITHIN THIS SEA' - all cells were busily obeying this magic, mysterious order"). The animation of the story and the lovely photos and informational sketches have been very nice, however. We stop and discuss the parts that have a slant as we go. I have found myself wanting to re-write this book because it is such a waste to have it full of evolution fluff. I wonder if his other highly recommended books are the same (no doubt).

Anyway, as the title suggests for this post, here's a little article forwarded to me by my homeschool buddy, Amanda. I've put a clip here, but do go and read the entire thing by clicking the title of this post. It is amazing to read about cellular respiration. God is awesome.

"In the final analysis, the inefficiency of Darwinian evolution seems to be a poor explanation for the efficiency of many of the processes found in the cell. There may be cases in which efficiency can emerge from inefficiency, but not to the degree of complexity present in cellular respiration.

Considering that respiration is just one process going on in the midst of hundreds to keep a single cell alive, it is evident that both the complexity and efficiency of cellular processes are highly indicative of an intelligent designer."

About the author ~ David J. Hill is an instructor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in biochemistry and at Colorado Christian University.

Note to commentors:
I don't wish to debate you on evolution, so please refrain from filling up my comment page with that sort of nonsense (it will be deleted). Save it for the author of the article (who's name has been provided in the credits section herein) or your own blogs! I am much too busy to repeat another one of
these types of posts.

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November 29, 2006

Geography... and Spices?


I just had to gloat a little. My seven year old continues to amaze me. Sometimes you think things are just NOT SINKING IN with her. Especially with a "blondie-lox" like my Morgan. She is a bubble of estrogen, that one. Kevin and I often stare at each other in disbelief over how dingy she can be (she gets it from his side of the family - his hair was WHITE it was so blonde during his childhood). He often says I have blonde roots under my scalp somewhere, but I can fool people since my hair has always been brown. Either way, I'm not sure even with blonde roots that I could ever have been as bubbly as my Morgan.

"Blondie-lox" is no dummy, however. She's a genuine smarty-britches (pants, that is... for you northern readers). The other day (over a month ago now), we were sitting in my room discussing a project that requires making "scratch and sniff" spice cards for our 'Other Senses' KONOS unit study. After you put the spices on the cards you are supposed to have a "smelling contest" to see who can guess the most spice names right.

Morgan (Blondie-lox) says to me enthusiastically, “We could even use your favorite spice, Mommy… you know….” Silence. She draws a blank. I didn't tell her what it was, because I figured she would remember in a second and blare it out. I just never figured HOW she would remember would be so interesting!

She then stands up and looks at our World Map on the wall next to her over my bed. She points her finger to French Guiana as she stands on my bed staring at our laminated Sam's Club Rand McNally World M Series Map. [French Guiana is above Brazil on the South American continent in case you don't know where to find it.] It dawns on me slowly why she's looking there. It is because she knows the capitol city of French Guiana is the SAME as my favorite spice’s name!!!!!
So…do you know my favorite spice? Morgan yelled it out to me and I clapped and cheered! Amazing how our brains work (the intricate network that forms our memory banks)! God is awesome. Homeschooling is awesome, too!

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November 28, 2006

DELL, Debt and Dumb Decisions

As a debtor, I have to say that living without credit is hard (especially as a debtor in a ONE-income family of 4). I'm being transparent here, so be gentle if you respond in my comments section. Kev and I just broke down and bought something on credit after two years of being "credit card free" (aside from Old Navy - which in our case is a necessity and rarely used). Most of our debt is in the form of vehicle loans (2), college loans (1), unsecured loans that we took out when it took 8 months to sell our home and my husband was commuting between cities (almost paid off now... just 500$ left), a government loan due to a flood (1), family loans (3), and of course, the Old Navy card. So, you see, most of our "plastic" debt has already been paid off. Our main debt, aside from transportation, is due to circumstances that were out of our control... and the lack of having any sort of "nest egg" to cover said circumstances. If you include the vehicles, our debt is a hefty number... and our monthly payments are outrageous. We've been nearly two years without adding extra to the debt pile (other than a few minor loans here and there from family)... until today.

Kev and I broke down and ordered a Dell Computer online. Kevin has been asking me to let him buy me a computer for over a year now. I am forever having trouble with the slow outdated one I use. This year alone, it has crashed two or three times. Now that I am running a Vista Beta version on it, it is slower than a snail. Even so, I almost couldn't force myself to click the button when it finally came time to apply for that Dell Preferred card. I shudder even thinking of it.

I've worked so hard to stay away from any more debt. For the past few years we haven't even bought any gifts for Christmas other than ONE for each member of our immediate family (4 total). I've worked so hard to finally tread water and see the scales tip in our favor. $800 more of debt is like waving the white flag of surrender to me. Maybe I'll feel differently once the shipment arrives and that brand new 20 inch flat panel and my super fast PC pops out of the box. No more waiting a few minutes between clicks for me. Imagine how much time that will save in my day! Our piles of PC junk, stacks of software, and ancient towers have finally seen their last daylight around here. I banish them to storage indefinitely!

So... when is it OK to fall off the bandwagon and use a little plastic? I wish I could feel OK about it... and actually enjoy the fact that a new PC is on its way down my "chimney". But I don't like credit cards and owing money - I see it as slavery, pure and simple. I also don't believe in filing bankruptcy... I believe you should pay what you owe - even to "evil" credit card companies. Somehow I just don't see that "Santa" and the "American Way" is really what Christmas is about... and all this prolific shopping and mall-scene stuff for the holidays really bums me out. I dream of cabins in the snow (far away from civilization) for Christmas. I wish there was a way to escape how commercial it has become.

Maybe I should post a debt ticker on my sidebar to keep track of how my debt is doing and keep me accountable. Do any of you have one like that? Am I the only debtor out there this holiday season? Hellooooooo out there?

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November 27, 2006

Homeschool Press and Heather's Holiday

What have I been doing the past few days besides beating my Mrs. PacMan Quest for the Golden Maze? We've visited family out of town, gone to church, ate leftovers, and yesterday I spent the entire day after we got home from church creating my annual Christmas book letter that everyone dreads looks forward to reading each year. Yes, if you are in my family and friend group... you get to know every mundane detail of our past year whether you like it or not. The good thing (for you), however, which separates this year and last year from all the ones that went before it... is that I CAN'T afford to actually PRINT the letter, so you can delete the email and PDF file rather than read it if you so choose. This fact has made forests everywhere rejoice. Save the trees is my motto; but really, if I had the money, I would print that sucker out... all 4 pages of it (in fine print)!

Since I'm going to be busy getting ready for the school week today, and we are off with Daddy today, I'll just leave you with a couple of articles:

Please stop in and read this article about homeschooling children with ADD. I am reading the most AMAZING book right now: "The Mislabeled Child", and plan to do a review on it soon. In case you needed some encouragement today, here's a snip from the article that I couldn't help but post here:

Successful homeschoolers come in all flavors. The United States and Great Britain have a long history of educating children at home. The practice has helped produce outstanding adults in many fields. Among United States presidents, George Washington, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Woodrow Wilson, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt benefited from homeschooling. Other well-known statesmen with similar schooling were William Penn, Winston Churchill, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin. Many great military leaders received some homeschooling, among them Robert E. Lee, George Patton, and Douglas MacArthur. Many successful composers, writers, and artists were given homeschooling: Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Irving Berlin, Hans Christian Andersen, Pearl Buck, Noel Coward, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, Helen Keller, George Bernard Shaw, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Claude Monet, and Andrew Wyeth. Great innovators and inventors have benefited from homeschooling: Alexander Graham Bell, George Washington Carver, Pierre Curie, Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Edison, Cyrus McCormick, Andrew Carnegie, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Albert Einstein, and Charlie Chaplin. Two particularly well-known women who received homeschooling were Florence Nightingale and Eleanor Roosevelt. The explorers Lewis and Clark were both homeschooled.
"Hey", my daughter said, "THAT's our UNIT!" (We're studying about Pioneers, Indians, Frontiersmen and the American West right now). Then she said to me... "But I thought Lewis met Clark at a school." Lewis actually met Clark in the military, where I'm sure a measure of training and educating must have taken place.

ABC also did a recent article about colleges coveting homeschoolers. Read the story below (as sent to me by my friend Amanda):

From ABC 7 News:
Colleges Coveting Home-Schooled Students
Location: COLUMBIA, Mo.
Posted: September 30, 2006 3:38 AM EST

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Bombarded by choices at a college job fair, Sara Kianmehr quickly found her match: Columbia College, a small, private school that didn't mind that her transcripts came from her parents. The college "was the only institution that didn't have a puzzled look and say, 'Home school,' and ask me a million questions," the 19-year-old junior said. "There was a big appeal."

With colleges and universities aggressively competing for the best students, a growing number of institutions are actively courting homebound high achievers like Kianmehr, who took community college courses her senior year of high school and hopes to eventually study filmmaking at New York University or another top graduate school.

The courtship can be as subtle as admissions office Web sites geared to home-schooled applicants or, in the case of Columbia College, as direct as purchasing mailing lists and holding special recruiting sessions.

"After years of skepticism, even mistrust, many college officials now realize it's in their best interest to seek out home-schoolers", said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

"There was a tendency to kind of dismiss home schooling as inherently less rigorous," he said. "The attitude of the admissions profession could have at best been described as skeptical."

"Home-schooled students - whose numbers in this country range from an estimated 1.1 million to as high as 2 million - often come to college equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in higher education", said Regina Morin, admissions director of Columbia College.

Such assets include intellectual curiosity, independent study habits and critical thinking skills, she said.

"It's one of the fastest-growing college pools in the nation," she said. "And they tend to be some of the best prepared."

The number of home-schooled graduates enrolled at Columbia College is small - about a dozen out of a full-time undergraduate population that hovers near 1,000. But they count among their supporters an influential advocate.

Terry Smith, a political science professor and the school's dean of academic affairs, home-schooled three of his four children in the 1970s and '80s.
Each of those children went on to graduate from college, with two earning master's degrees.

"All of my professional work has been influenced by this family schooling experience," he said. "We're all teachers and learners. They're just the apprentices, and we're the master learners."

The school's admissions standards for home-schooled students are identical to those for traditional graduates - minus the formal transcript requirement. Some colleges and universities, though, continue to require home-schoolers to earn a GED high-school equivalency diploma or take subject-specific SAT tests along with the standard requirements.

At Stanford, sympathetic admissions officers have helped make the university a beacon for high-achieving home-schoolers. The support can be seen on the Stanford admissions office's Web site.

"The central issue for us is the manner in which you have gone about the learning process, not how many hurdles you have jumped," the office advises home-schooled students. "We look for a clear sense of intellectual growth and a quest for knowledge in all of our applicants."

Jon Reider, a former senior associate admissions director at Stanford, said the school's pursuit of home-schoolers fits its academic and social mission.

He also acknowledged that Stanford and other schools now realize that home-school students are a prominent enough population that can only be ignored at a university's own peril.

"Part of it is driven by demographics," said Reider, now a guidance counselor at a private high school in San Francisco. "There's a surplus of college spaces" and attracting good students to them is important everywhere.

Magdalene Pride, a first-year Columbia College student, was a beneficiary of the school's aggressive recruitment of home-schoolers.

After earning more than 50 credit hours through a combination of community college classes near her suburban St. Louis home and online Advanced Placement course, Price was awarded a four-year scholarship to Columbia College that covers the school's $12,414 annual tuition.

Among those who helped sell her on Columbia College was Kianmehr, a student ambassador who spoke at a college fair Pride attended.

"They're so open to home-schoolers here," she said. "No one looks down on me, or treats me different. It's very accepting."

Hope those articles gave you your daily dose of homeschool encouragement. My encouragement came this week from five separate people over our holiday who told me that my children were so impressive (well behaved, kind, Christ-like, etc.) that they felt compelled to comment to me. One of these people told me they wanted to homeschool their own children as a result of being around my kids! It never hurts to get comments like that! Thanks be to God!

Well, I had better get over to Kinkos and get a copy of my Christmas letter printed and put it in PDF form. So, if you are on my regular email list, be watching your box (in case the size of the file fries your hard-drive).

Have a super week!

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November 24, 2006

Field Trip Foto Friday: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Even in the cold months, there are grasses and flowers in bloom somewhere in Texas. The weather is sure to change on a dime; and you never know if you'll be wearing a sweater or a tank top in the winter months. We Texans whine about the weather and wish for the cool fronts when the holidays come around (and even in the summer), but there is an UP side to the warmth. Most all of the year, you can take field trips - despite the weather!


The field trip in this Field Trip Foto Friday Spotlight was taken in April of 2005 with our homeschool co-op. It was a long drive, but worth the trip! There were hundreds of different wildflowers and photo opportunities galore! I have at least 50 photos from this trip and all of them are wonderful. It was so hard to pick just a few for this post. You'll have to check out the links at the bottom to see a few other shots that I've already posted on the blog previously that were also from this trip.


On the day that we went to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center they were offering a very interesting Lady Bug educational scavenger hunt and allowed us to do lady bug crafts in their education room after our hike. We had a picnic lunch before we started out and stopped along the path to smell the flowers (no picking, touching, or frowning upon them allowed). Most of the plants had identification markers so you could learn about them along the way. They had wonderful limestone rocked grounds, towers to climb (OH! The VIEW!), a small museum to visit, and clean restrooms. Over all, this was one of my favorite field trips of the year... just enjoying the beautiful outdoors and stopping to take pictures along the way!


Because of the mild Texas winters, the center is only closed to the general public on Mondays each week, New Year's Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, for a nominal fee you could technically plan a field trip there any time of the year. I would suggest going in the spring when you can take advantage of the lovely bluebonnets (like we did), however. It looked like they light the plaza up for the holidays from their website (very pretty!), so maybe a winter trip would be fun, too. Visit their website at the link above for more information (volunteering, native Texas plant information, field trip group rates, events, classes, etc). The website also has information about their magazine and gift shop, where I'm sure you can learn about Texas wildflowers even more!


This is one Texas hill-country field trip that you definately won't want to miss.

Quick Links:Bluebonnet Blues
Thursday Challenge: Golden

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November 23, 2006

What Thanksgiving Means to Me


Psalm 22:3 (KJV) ~ But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

I know there's a lot of water under the bridge in human history - people mistreating other people, war, sin, ugliness... but the reality of God's grace is no less spectacular shining in this self-created darkness. We see Him throughout our past reaching out in love and mercy to those who would seek Him. The Bible says that God inhabits the praise of His people. I pray that this Thanksgiving, we praise Him and (just as Lincoln says below) "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it". Lord knows we ALL need healing and helping (conservative and liberal, secular and Christian, "red and yellow, black and white").

This year as I sit at the table before a fragrant meal (amidst unfamiliar smiling faces since we are eating with the family of generous friends), I'll be praying for my country... my president... my loved ones... my friends... our soldiers, ministers and contractors overseas... those in prison... those who are hurting, hungry and lost... and even for those who would consider themselves my enemies. Let us thank the Lord for this day and pray He will forgive and heal us ALL. Let us pray He will continue to bless us; even though we are ALL sinners and wholly unworthy of His grace.

James 5:13 ~ Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

Besides leaving you with the actual wording of the famous 'Thanksgiving Proclamation', I also wanted to leave you with two links that I think are wonderful resources for this topic:

1. Please Convince Me's Thanksgiving Page

2. Presidential Prayer Team for Kids Thanksgiving Page (this one will change after the holidays, so click it while you can!)

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation
By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and
fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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November 22, 2006

Groovy Blogging Homeschool Thanksgiving Stuff

We visited an art museum today and had an early church service (Wed. night was moved up to tonight to make way for all those betty home-makers cooking up Turkey dinner tomorrow night!). My husband has been working the 12-9pm shift which has been difficult on our schedule. Getting in bed later has its disadvantages the following morning. I had better get in bed. Just wanted to leave you with these three links for tomorrow:

1. Ping-O-Matic

How can a blogger get by without this little gem? I love it!

2. Homeschool Carnival

Check out this week's over at Tami's blog.

3. Thanksgiving Menu

I posted my meal menu complete with recipes from last year's spread. This year I only have to make a few items because we are eating with friends. I hope your holiday is wonderful!

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November 21, 2006

Potato Volcanoes Project


I have long been promising to get a few of our fun projects up on the blog. This one was part of the 2004-5 school-year and pretty yummy. The children liked the way it looked much more than the way it tasted (you know how kids are about mixing things on the plate). This delicious "shepherd's pie" is shaped like a towering potato volcano, complete with red bell pepper and cheddar lava flows and tiny parsley trees along the mountainside. Under the "earth's crust" there is rock, waiting to be melted by the oven "core's" heat (meat). We enjoyed doing quite a few fun volcano projects during this time, but this one was by far the tastiest. I did a search for "potato volcano" on the net and found another recipe for a dessert (in case you have a sweet tooth), but Family Fun's version is not listed online. If you want to make the same one I did, you'll have to check out or purchase the archived magazine listed below (be sure to add garlic salt!).


There's a nice shot of the "mountain range" in the oven. Aren't they pretty? I hated to eat them. We made way too many for us to eat, so we gave a few to our friends. The other item on the plate is "Baked Macaroni and Cheese" (also from the same article in Family Fun). The two recipes were from famous restaurants which they were touring and reviewing for their readers (they were being visited because they had kid-friendly menu items). While I enjoyed this project, it was a LOT of work (especially the Mac-n-Cheese recipe). The sad part is that it is a perfect treat for elementary kids, but probably easier for the junior high tweenies to pull off in the kitchen. If you have some older kids, you might enlist them for a fun earth-science slash home-ec assignment and get the whole family involved!


Happy homeschooling and hope your little budding volcanologists enjoy!

Recipe and inspiration for "Potato Volcano" and "Baked Macaroni and Cheese" from Family Fun Magazine (October 2003 Issue)

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November 20, 2006

Tips for the Day and Holiday Bustle

I wanted to have a link here to the tips I wrote for The Old Schoolhouse's Company Porch. Most of these articles have not been published here on my blog. Check'em out if you have time.

On a personal note, I discovered that there are only between 12-14 school days left between now and Christmas Vacation! That means I'll have to blog less and get busy trying to cram the rest of our studies into a shorter block. With Christmas letters to write and mail, bags to pack for our pending Texas trip, holiday parties and Thanksgiving meals to prepare food for... and all the bustle of the season; blogging may have to take a back seat!

Don't worry... I'll do what I can to get you your fix of Sprittibee's homeschool blog. It may just have to come in smaller doses for the next few weeks!

Happy Thanksgiving Week to you and yours! See links to TOS below! Maybe one day when "life slows down" (some say that doesn't happen ~ you tell me!?), I can write for Tia at the TOS Company Porch again.

Homeschool Blogger TOS Company Porch ~ Tip of the Day Archives:
by Sprittibee

Columbus Day Links
Oct. 6, 2006

Rosetta Stone for Free
Oct. 5, 2006

Photo Storage Warning
Oct. 4, 2006

Answers in Genesis Newsletters
Oct. 3, 2006

Celebration of Thanks!
Oct. 2, 2006

Prayer Journaling
Sep. 29, 2006

Making Vocabulary Fun
Sep. 28, 2006

Baked Bacon
Sep. 26, 2006

Parent's Prayer
Sep. 22, 2006

Sweet Potato Bliss
Sep. 21, 2006

Homeschool Craft Planning
Sep. 20, 2006

Daily Grammar
Sep. 19, 2006

Drink to Your Health
Sep. 18, 2006

Rain Gutter Book Shelves
Sep. 15, 2006

Sep. 14, 2006

Security Alarm System
Sep. 13, 2006

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November 19, 2006

Arkansas: Comparing Homeschool and Public School Test Scores

Interesting news about test scores and homeschool politics in the state of Arkansas (where we currently live) is below. All highlighting within the article is my emphasis. My notes fall between broken sections of the article (in different font):

The Arkansas Home Scholar Online

Mike Beebe has said that he is not going to pick a fight with the home schoolers, but considering the story in Tuesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette you would think the fight has already begun. However, I wouldn’t blame Governor-elect Beebe for this particular slap at home schoolers.

On Monday the issue of home school testing was discussed at a meeting of the State Board of Education. What would normally have been a “ho-hum” approval of a stack of various reports from several departments within the State Department of Education turned into a long discussion about the number of Arkansas home schoolers who reportedly did not take the state-mandated Iowa Test of Basic Skills in 2006.

In among a stack of routine reports was a report from the state home school office indicating that about 3 out of 10 Arkansas home schoolers failed to take the state-mandated test. This represents about 2,000 students. Cynthia Howell, a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, covered the meeting and her story about the home school report and the Board’s discussion of it appeared on the front page of Tuesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

When questioned by the Board, State Education Director Dr. Ken James listed four or five legitimate reasons that home schoolers may not have taken the test. In addition, he pointed out that his office did not have adequate funding or enough staff to manage the increased number of home schoolers that are required to test and that they hoped to do better in 2007. However, most people who don’t know any better are likely to read the newspaper story and come away with a negative opinion of home schoolers.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions about the evil homeschoolers trying to skip out of testing... let me assure you, there are MANY more issues here that the state is not bringing up (for obvious reasons). Here's our inside and HONEST story about our testing adventure in 2006:

We moved to Arkansas after school began in 2005. Coming from a state (Texas) that had no testing laws due to the fact that it is a PARENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO EDUCATE THEIR OWN CHILDREN, I was very upset when I was forced to sign forms for the school district so that I could legally homeschool in Arkansas. I felt that this violated my privacy and God-given rights. Never-the-less, being the law-abiding and upright citizen that I am (as most homeschoolers are), I drove down to the superintendent's office and filled out my paperwork as soon as we got settled in our apartment. I was surprised that I never got any follow-up paperwork in the mail. If I had not been involved in homeschool groups that were receiving correspondence, I would NEVER HAVE KNOWN ABOUT THE TEST DATES. After a homeschool friend notified me that her letter for choosing a testing site had already been delivered to her, I CALLED the homeschooling office. I was assured that forms would be mailed to me. None came. My friend notified me that the date for her county had been changed and another letter had come to her. Since I still had not received word, I was not sure if my dates had been moved as well. Beginning to get concerned, (only weeks away from the testing date) I CALLED AGAIN. The nice man working for the state got my email address and allowed me to set up a testing site via email and apologized for the LACK OF ORGANIZATION.

A lot of my issues with the testing accusations in this article are not just from my dealings with the superintendent's office or even the Arkansas Home School Testing Office, however. To be fair, some of the blame may lie with the testing publishers themselves. After my child took the required tests, I was told that my results would arrive in the mail in six to eight weeks. Mind you, this was early April! I was hoping to get a look at them before ordering curriculum for the following school year. After months went by, I contacted the homeschool office for the state and was put off again. "Tests will arrive in June" they said. June came and went. In July, I called again. A few of my friends had their scores back already. They weren't sure what happened to my child's scores. Not only that, but there were many other parents who's children's scores were missing as well. I was told that my name would be put on a "list that the publisher and grader of the tests were - checking in to". After this, I found out that ALL of the tests had been graded improperly. Because the test was a "complete battery", the scores for math, reading, grammar, science and social studies should have been on the score sheets. Arkansas or the testing company had returned scores to MOST parents (I had not gotten mine yet) that only included grades for Math and Reading. All of the scores were then scheduled by the state to be re-calculated and re-sent to parents. I called again to make sure they knew that I still had not gotten my first set of test scores so they wouldn't forget to send the second set. By now, I'm sure they were sick of hearing from me. August came, and I began calling weekly after hearing my friends had gotten their second set of scores. Finally, in the last week of August (after public schools had already returned to full-time classes), my scores came (the second set). Some time during September, I got the first set of test scores with an improper address (forwarded to me by my apartment complex manager).

All in all, you could summarize my first testing experience in Arkansas as exasperating. If anyone else had the same experiences I did, I don't blame them for "skipping" the tests (assuming that any of them actually did).

2. While there may be a small number of home schoolers who refuse to take the state-mandated test, most home schoolers are doing a great job, otherwise how could home school students have outperformed their public school counterparts on standardized test every year for 21 years in a row?
Ok, now if you want to get down to the real nitty-gritty... here's the proof in the pudding of homeschool testing: THE SCORES. Homeschooling WORKS. This is why the lawmakers, school board officials, and public school advocates are trying to hard to enact laws and regulations... more testing, harder testing.... smaller and higher hoops to jump through. THEY are afraid homeschooling is going to continue to grow and funding is going to drop for their precious public schools. This, folks, is the REAL issue. Money and power for public school bureaucrats.

3. The State Board of Education and the Department of Education needs to concentrate on improving public education. Over half of our public school graduates who go to college have to take remedial classes and entire public school districts are in academic distress. Why focus so much attention on such a small number of students who receive no public funding?
FEAR, I guess. Jealousy? Doesn't make logical sense to anyone willing to really look at the issue and read between the lines, does it?

4. Ten school districts across the state have failed to meet even minimum state standards for the past two years. They face state sanctions if they don’t improve. Since we have entire school districts that are failing, why would the State Board of Education spend so much time trying to fix what may prove to be a mostly imaginary home school problem.

What You Can Do:

1. Pray for the success of home schooling in Arkansas.
2. Make a generous donation to the Education Alliance. We are working to protect your right to home school and your donations keep us in the fight. Click here to donate or mail a check to the Education Alliance at 414 South Pulaski, Suite 9, Little Rock, AR 72201.
3. Be prepared to call your state legislators and ask them to support home schooling.
4. Be prepared to come to the State Capitol to make your voice heard if bad home school legislation is introduced.
5. Forward this e-mail and encourage your friends and ask them to do the same.
Definitely pass this on to all of your Arkansas homeschooling buddies and anyone interested in the gritty facts behind tainted homeschooling media attention. See below for the liberal slant of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (notice that ugly title... just who's SHORT here?):

Here is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Story:


By Cynthia Howell
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Seven out of every 10 Arkansas home-schooled students in grades three through nine took at least a part of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills last spring as required by state law.

That leaves more than 2,000 test-eligible students unaccounted for in state records and potentially truant - unless they were tested by an agency outside the state, were exempted from standardized testing because of a handicap, moved out of state, enrolled midyear in a public or private school or couldn't take a test because there weren't enough tests for everyone last spring, state education officials said.
WOW. That's a long list of reasons why a person might be exempt. Funny how they don't do the research first before they accuse homeschoolers of being dirty handed and in danger of truancy violation. Maybe they should find out the specifics and do some research before printing an article in the paper!?

Arkansas Education Commissioner Ken James told the state Board of Education on Monday that officials are taking steps to refine the administration of the standardized tests to home-schoolers, but the home-schooling system in general doesn't legally provide for much state oversight.

"In terms of monitoring, there is very little monitoring," James said in response to questions from board members.

"We don't have a whole home-school unit. We have a very small operation. We contract out with one of the local education cooperatives [to administer the testing], and we are adding two support staff members to that cooperative to get better control of it. But we don't collect a lot of data, and that's really how this whole thing was designed."

As for who is responsible for finding registered homeschooled students who apparently didn't take the state required test, James said that's the role of superintendents.

"It does happen," James said at a break in the meeting. "It happens in places where the superintendents are pretty aggressive and stay on top of it. That's not a criticism of the rest of them, but it also gets to the point that a prosecuting attorney must weigh, 'Do I gear up and go after this with the other things I'm dealing with in terms of cases?' What are the priorities? Local superintendents have to push the local prosecuting attorneys."
Looks like they admit they are short-handed and not in control... maybe that is why my superintendent's office never sent me any paperwork to begin with. I agree that they need more staffing... if they want to continue to monitor homeschoolers - which in and of itself is not necessary.... see state laws in Texas and Oklahoma for example. Colleges eventually test students for entry, so why should the state feel responsible to test homeschooled kids when they are not the ones who are responsible for their education? HomeSCHOOL is the parent's responsibility... and who better to be responsible than the people who love the child most?!

I felt sorry for the guy who had to take all my phone calls when the ball kept getting dropped. It didn't seem fair to work those people so hard. I want everyone to know 'on the record' that of all the people I've been in contact with (including the superintendent of my district and the state homeschooling oversight employees), they have all been very polite and have tried to be helpful. I certainly do NOT have a beef with anyone personally, but rather how the media, lawmakers, and school board officials are treating homeschoolers in general. I don't see that in a FREE country, your children should be parented in any way, shape or form BY THE STATE. Government interference and strict regulations are destruction of my rights as an American, a parent, and a person.

After more than two decades of growing by hundreds of students nearly every year, the number of Arkansas' homeschooled students fell slightly in the last year, 2005-06, to 13,814 students.

"There is a slight dip this year, but it is too early to read anything into it," said Julie Johnson Thompson, a spokesman for the Education Department. "It could be a fluctuation or it could be the beginning of a new trend." The number decreased by 159 students from the previous year's count of 13,973.
If you go by my opinion, I'd say people left because they wanted to homeschool in freedom in many of the homeschool-friendly neighboring states. The housing market is over-inflated here as well (especially when the annual income average here is so low and the taxes are so high). Arkansas is the second highest taxed state population in America. I know that if I had the choice to move from here, I would. It has nothing to do with the nice people and lovely scenery... it has everything to do with surviving financially - especially in a ONE income family - like most homeschoolers are.

Home schools are defined in Arkansas Code Annotated 6-15-501 through 6-15-508 as schools primarily conducted by parents or legal guardians for their own children. Home schooling has been legally recognized in Arkansas since the early 1980s. Parents notify the state and their local public school district of their intentions to home-school, as well as follow state requirements for the state testing of their children.
I find it interesting that they say homeschooling has only been legal since 1980. I am sure there were scores of pioneers homeschooling their children here for many, many years - long before the term "homeschooling" was coined.

Refusal by a home-schooling family to abide by the reporting and testing requirements can result in the application of the state's school truancy law in which parents can be fined for failing to send their children to school.

In the 2005-06 school year, there were 7,056 home-schooled students in grades three through nine who, like their public school counterparts, were required to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

At least 5,028 home-schooled students took at least a portion of the battery of Iowa tests at the 42 testing centers and 22 alternate sites in March, Bill Ballard, state coordinator of home-school testing, said Monday.

The number of students tested, he said, doesn't include special education home-schooled students whose individual education plans preclude testing or students who arranged to receive their Iowa test from an outside agency such as Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
WAIT JUST A MINUTE! So... you have 7,056 homeschoolers in grades 3-9 that need to test. 5,028 turn up for testing. They say that 2,028 students are "in truancy violation" for not testing... yet they list a bunch of reasons WHY those students MAY OR MAY NOT be exempt from testing (even though they have not researched if any of the students were exempt), and THEN they say that the NUMBER OF STUDENTS TESTED (5,028) DOES NOT INCLUDE special education homeschoolers or those who arranged to take the test from an outside agency.

There you have it. The number of homeschoolers tested is not legitimate! I know of entire co-ops of students who opted to test through outside agencies! Those are large groups that would be added to the list of those who followed the law and tested like they were supposed to! All of the sudden, this article seems to be complete fiction, rather than unbiased fact.

The home-schooling tests are scored by the same company that scores the public school tests. The results are mailed to the parents of the home-schooled children, Ballard said. The state receives only a grade-by-grade summary and no individual results.

Ballard and the Arkansas Home School Testing Office are based at the Arch Ford Education Services Cooperative in Plumerville. That home-schooling office, which just expanded to a staff of three, has grown into the position of administering the test for the state's 14 other cooperatives and the three Pulaski County school districts.
Like I said, they are understaffed!

Until recently, the tests were given only in three grades and took one day, he said. Starting last year, seven grades were given the whole battery of Iowa tests, taking each student three days to complete.

"If a superintendent calls and asks for the record for his students - who tested and who didn't - our position is to let them know," Ballard said. "So far there haven't been many to do that, but we would let them know."

With the exception of third- and fourth-graders, homeschooled students who took the Iowa tests earned higher composite scores than their public school peers.

Sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders in home schools scored at the 58th percentile, which was six to nine percentile points higher than public school students. Fifth-grade homeschooled test-takers scored at the 63rd percentile compared with the 58th percentile for the public school students.

On the other hand, public school third-graders scored at the 62nd percentile, one point better than the home-schooled students. Both home-schooled and public school fourth-graders scored at the 61st percentile.

The 50th percentile is considered the national average on the Iowa test, which compares the performance of Arkansas students to a national sample of students who took the same test. A total of 342,284 public school students in kindergarten through ninth grade took the Iowa test last spring.

Home-schoolers are not required to take the Arkansas Benchmark and End-of-Course tests that public school students take. Those Arkansas tests are frequently given greater weight in the public schools because the results are used to determine whether a student needs an individual academic improvement plan and whether a school has met state achievement goals and can avoid sanctions prescribed in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Private school students are not required to take any of the exams mandated by state law for public school students, nor do parents have to notify the state of their child's enrollment in a private school.
Amazingly, third and fourth graders for the first time in 21 years actually were a point behind on average than the public schoolers (but of course, this average is not really a final average since there are many homeschool tests that have not been shared with the state - due to homeschoolers using outside testing agencies such as Bob Jones). It took them 21 years to finally get a class of homeschool students who scored as low as the public schoolers. And I wonder if my son's scores were included in the mix (since it took them until September to mail the first set of results to me and he scored in the 98th - national percentile for 3rd Grade).

Dr. Ben Mays, a state Education Board member from Clinton, asked James on Monday about making comparisons between public and home-schooled students' test scores.

"If a large portion of the home-school students don't show up to take the test, we can't give much validity to the results," Mays said.

What a joke. Again, this is a slap at homeschoolers and a lack of taking any responsibility for the poor management of the testing job the state has taken on. Rather than admit that their testing management was a flop, they say that homeschoolers are slackers (too lazy to show up) or criminals (refuse to test). Rather than find out what happened to the people who didn't test and review the records to see if they had other arrangements or were exempt, they offer fabricated numbers to the press in hopes of gathering public distaste. Believe me... there is an agenda here.

State board member Mary-Jane Rebick of Little Rock asked that the board hold a work session in the near future on issues related to home schooling.

Twenty years ago, in 1985-86, the number of Arkansas homeschooled children was 572. Ten years ago, the number had jumped to 5,755, and five years later it was up to 11,871. If the current number of home-schoolers comprised a public school district, that district would be among the state's 10 largest systems, bigger last year than each of the North Little Rock, Conway or Fayetteville school districts.
Arkansas has a sparse population. If you really look at the facts in the above paragraph you will understand that homeschooling is not a fringe group. In this state, homeschooling makes up a group of children that would rival a very large school district (in the top 10 as far as population goes). Even so, when the test scores come in and are compared, the officials are forced to come up with fluff for the press to explain away the consistent underperformance of public school kids when tested against homeschool children. Even without the extra 2,000 children testing... an adequate sample has been obtained to show that there is no reason for concern for the children who are being educated outside of the public school system.

Every Arkansas county and every public school district reported some home school students. Pulaski County reported the largest number, 1,730. That was followed by Benton County with 1,403, and Washington County with 1,007. Within Pulaski County, there were 990 home school students living in the Pulaski County Special School District, 596 living in the Little Rock School District and 144 in the North Little Rock district.

Click here to find out more about the Education Alliance

The Education Alliance
414 S. Pulaski St.
Suite 9
Little Rock, AR 72201

Phone: (501) 978-5503
Visit Our Website!
I hope that if you read this article, you will see that sometimes what you read in the newspaper or see on CNN is not exactly truth. Dig deeper and listen to both sides. Hopefully the rise in homeschooling numbers indicates that there really is a large number of imaginative and 'independent thinkers' out there in the America who desire to educate their kids to think for themselves. Test scores can't tell you everything, but they can give you a limited glimpse of the truth for comparison purposes. The problem is that some people don't want to make comparisons because their accusations and assumptions are incorrect - and the test scores SHOW it.

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November 18, 2006

"Stuff + Cats = AWESOME"

I know, I know... I'm always the last to find out about everything... so you probably have seen this book and this website already. I have to tell you that when we stumbled upon the book at the book store the other night, we were laughing so hard we could have been kicked out. It was hard to keep from spewing tea out our noses.

I am a big cat fan... and "if you can't have fun at a cat's expense, you really can't have fun" is my motto. So, even if you don't like cats that much... you'll enjoy these photos from STUFFONMYCAT.COM! You can imagine how much these furry felines enjoy some of the poses. Cats really are fun.

The photos below are not mine and are copyrighted by STUFFONMYCAT.COM ~ they are the result of my 30 minute browsing session of the site after getting home from the book store. These cats were my favorites (but believe me, there's plenty more where this came from). The book is awesome. Guaranteed to please your cat-loving family member for Christmas! I think I'm going to get one for Kev and I for Christmas! For more photos, visit the STUFFONMYCAT.COM site!


















I can't wait to try all these wonderful ideas on my own kitty! ;) Shhhh! Don't tell her. Yesterday we piled the laundry up on her. We're doing "stuff training" to get her ready for the fun shots! Oh, the wicked inspiration!


Ever feel like that? Buried in laundry? ...Speaking of.... I better go!

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November 17, 2006

Field Trip Foto Friday: Wild-Connections Butterfly Farm


In the sunny Texas Hill Country, nature is calling. There are wild flowers, butterflies, dry creek beds (and wet ones), ocean fossils (the Hill Country used to be under water), swaying pecan trees, and lots of interesting bugs and spiders... an endless list of things that kids can study and awe over.


We visited Wild-Connections in November of 2004 with our homeschool co-op. It was worth the drive, and the children really enjoyed it. I got some great butterfly shots with my digital camera. They even passed out fruits to the children so that the butterflies would land on them. They saw an educational video, had a lesson about Monarch butterflies and how to NOT touch or hold a butterfly and why, and got to see many other neat creatures.

Here's what the website for the site says:

Wild-Connections is a working butterfly farm dedicated to educating our youth about our native plants and animals. It is our hope that children become so intrigued with their experiences at Wild-Connections that they choose to explore the world around them and, in time, develop a sense of awe and empathy toward all life. We invite you and your family to come explore the great outdoors!

began as the idea to educate children about the wonders of nature. We opened in March 2004 as a butterfly farm and nature center. We are open for tours of the butterfly house, picnicking, hiking, and strolling through the gardens."

The history of the farm there is also interesting. It was originally owned by two Confederate soldiers who are buried there in a small cemetery donated to the Daughters of the Confederacy. They claim that the 56 acres that makes up the farm today is just "a mere shadow of the ranch it once was".


So if you want to get out in the sunshine and go explore some Texas Hill Country, visit an enclosed butterfly farm, shop in a pretty little gift store, see some neat wildlife, and have a picnic with your homeschoolers... Wild-Connections is the place to go.

Other Interesting Links:
Visit for
breathtaking views of the Texas Hill Country.
See a
butterfly I photographed on this field trip.
See the
list of field trips we took during the 2004-5 School Year.
Learn more about

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