Losing a Canine Companion

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 29, 2012.

Last week my family had to say good-bye to an old friend.  Millie was one of two dogs my husband owned when I met him.  She was a pretty, medium-sized mut with long brown and black hair.  She was my husband’s first dog, and she helped him through a rough time in his life, so I know losing her was especially sad for him.

My husband loves to tell the story of how he got Millie at the Barrow County Animal Shelter.  She was one of a litter of puppies that someone had thrown over a fence.  (I will refrain from expletives here.)  Fortunately, Millie did not have injuries from that, though some of her siblings did.

When my husband picked her out, she was taken to the vet for a thorough examination, and it was discovered that she had parvo.  Parvo, or canine parvovirus, is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs.  It can be especially fatal for puppies that are not protected by maternal antibodies or a vaccine. Though the outcome looked grim for Millie, my husband told the vet he would like to wait overnight to see what might happen.

My husband’s gamble paid off because Millie quickly recovered while all the dogs at the shelter had to be put down to stop the spread of the disease. My husband took her home, and she became his little buddy.  It wasn’t long after that, however, that my husband thought Millie needed a friend while he was at work all day. So he adopted Samantha or “Sam” as we called her.

Sam was slightly bigger and a whole lot smarter than Millie, so Millie had to assert her authority in order to stay the number one dog.  Poor Sam.  She had to endure a lot from Millie, but she remained subservient and a loyal friend.  Despite Millie’s occasional growls, they became good companions until Sam died shortly after my first son was born.

Millie and Sam both had to endure the addition of my cat and me, though I think my cat would claim to have the raw end of the deal in this new house that we all moved to almost nine years ago so that we could call ourselves a family.

It was a sad day when Sam died, and Millie took it hard.  Sam was the adventurous one who took her on pilgrimages around our backyard everyday.  After Sam died, Millie just sat on the ground and did nothing.  So we didn’t waste much time in getting Banjo, our young dog who is now alone and missing Millie.  He kept Millie on her toes, and I believe his energy and companionship helped her have a good quality of life these past few years.

Unfortunately, life has its cycles, both good and bad.  Millie got old and sick.  We knew she was ailing, so her passing was not completely unexpected, though it did happen on our three-year-old’s birthday, which we weren’t expecting.  Fortunately, he was too young to fully grasp what was happening.

My six-year-old, also, was a little too young and lacked the memories of Millie that we have, so for him, the whole ordeal was one that elicited more questions than sorrow. Fortunately for my husband, he also wanted to help him with the process of burying her in our backyard.

My husband was proud of the six-year-old.  For the first time he helped his dad with a difficult project, and he stuck with the work until it was finished. The red clay was hard and dry, but they dug it together.  We were all together as we covered her up and said good-bye.

Marty Tousley, a bereavement counselor, writes, “With their constant presence, availability and devotion, pets are our best source of unconditional love, becoming for many of us the ideal child, parent, mate or friend. They listen without judgment or reproach, and never give advice. They accept us exactly as we are, regardless of how we look or feel or behave. They forgive us readily and never hold grudges against us. No matter how much change we must endure in our unpredictable lives, our pets are always there for us.”

We certainly feel a hole in our lives now that Millie is not here.  She was a sweet, loving dog, and we’ll miss her.

GA HB 39: Georgia Homeschooling Law Changes Beginning 2012 / 2013 School Year

{How to Homeschool in Georgia}

Since the deadline for submitting a Declaration of Intent to Homeschool is September 1st, I thought I would repost this column I wrote earlier in the summer.  Last night I submitted our Declaration of Intent to Homeschool on the Georgia Dept. of Education’s website, and it could not have been easier!  Please note that since this is our first year, I have not had to submit attendance forms yet. I sent a query with some questions about that form. I will write more about this and our “back to homeschool” (starting next week) in an upcoming column.

I understand that some homeschoolers are concerned that this online form requires the child’s birthdate. The law states we only have to give their age.  I have read in a Georgia homeschooling e-mail list that the Georgia Dept. of Education should be updating the form at some point to reflect this.  Let’s hope so.


UPDATE: Since writing this column, the Georgia Department of Education has updated their website.  All the instructions and online forms (which are very simple!) can be accessed by clicking here.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on May 30, 2012.  For information on the homeschooling law for kindergarten in Georgia, see this post.

Some changes have been made to the homeschooling law in Georgia, and they will go into effect July 1, 2012. There are two major changes that homeschoolers need to be aware of.  The first is that they will no longer turn in their paperwork to their local school districts.  Now they will report directly to the Department of Education.

The second major change is that homeschoolers will only be required to turn in attendance forms once a year to the Department of Education.  Currently homeschoolers have to turn in a monthly attendance form to their local school district.  This change will no doubt come as a relief to many homeschooling parents.

I called the Department of Education (DOE) and a spokesperson told me that they hope to have all the instructions and forms on their website by mid-June. (UPDATE: The Department of Education’s instructions and online submittal forms are posted here.)  They will try to make the process as easy as possible, and the forms will be available on their website to submit electronically.  There will be other options for turning in the forms as well.

I’ll wager that the DOE will make the process easy because it’s in their interest to do so.  In the 2010/2011 school year, there were 107,509 homeschooled students in Georgia, and that number may increase in coming years.  This coming fall, my eldest son will be added to that number for the first time.

The spokesperson said they would also find a way to help students who require proof of attendance to apply for a driver’s license at age 16 so that they won’t have to wait until the end of the school year to do so.

With these changes in mind, the following are the requirements that parents or guardians must follow in order to homeschool in Georgia:

  • Parents or guardians of homeschoolers are required to submit a declaration of intent to homeschool within 30 days of establishing such a program and thereafter by September 1 each year.  Compulsory attendance is for children between the ages of six and sixteen, but any child under seven who has been enrolled in public school for 20 days or more will need to submit a declaration of intent to homeschool.
  • The declaration needs to list the names and ages of the students, the address of the home study program, and a statement of the 12-month period that is to be considered the school year.
  • Parents or guardians may teach only their own children, and they must possess at least a high school diploma or GED, but they can employ a tutor who holds a high school diploma or GED.
  • The law states, “The home study program shall provide a basic academic educational program which includes, but is not limited to, reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science.”
  • The home study program must provide instruction each 12 months to the students equivalent to 180 school days with each day consisting of at least 4.5 hours unless the child is physically unable to comply.
  • Attendance records must be kept and submitted annually to the Department of Education.
  • The law states, “Students in home study programs shall be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered in consultation with a person trained in the administration and interpretation of norm reference tests…” beginning at the end of the 3rd grade and every three years after that.  The spokesperson at the DOE recommended that parents use a nationally recognized test.  Homeschoolers can find a list of such tests here: http://www.ghea.org/pages/testing/standardizedTests.php. Note that a parent can administer the test after consulting with someone at the test’s publisher, or they could ask a local teacher to administer the test.  The results of the tests do not need to be shared with anyone, and parents need only retain them for their own records.
  • Finally, the home study program instructor needs to write an annual progress assessment report which will include her assessment of the student’s academic progress in each of the subject areas listed above, and parents need to retain these reports for at least three years.  (These annual reports do not have to be submitted to anyone either.)

The spokesperson also stated that the exams and annual progress report are important for homeschooled students because they may be needed in case that student ever needs to enroll in public school (though several homeschoolers have told me public schools have not required these items upon enrollment of their homeschooled child), or they may be used as part of a portfolio for applying to college.  He said that homeschooled students who are considering college should look at the requirements of the colleges they will be applying to and consider those requirements as they proceed in their course of study for high school.

See the following links for more information.

Georgia House Bill 39

Department of Education

Since I’m writing what was related to me by the spokesperson at DOE, I welcome any comments from seasoned homeschoolers Re: their experience homeschooling in Georgia and compliance with the law.

Gardening Experiment Success

{Growing Pinto Beans In a Jar}

Remember the pinto beans my son sprouted in a jar?  Well, we planted a few of the sprouts in our garden, and a couple of them have been growing well and are giving us beans!  Unfortunately, they have caterpillars eating the leaves right now, so that means we’ll have to learn a lot more about organic gardening in the future.  But I’m tickled pink that we got something to grow!  My six-year-old is very happy too!

UPDATE: I just found these instructions on how to harvest pinto beans!

Happy Birthday Six-year-old

a little wet after playing in the fountain at the Chicago Botanical Garden

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 22, 2012.

In a few days TODAY the “five-year-old” becomes the “six-year-old.”  In a flash he has grown taller, more able-bodied, and smarter.  And if those first two sentences sound familiar, that means you read my column last week. (Thanks!)  Yes, my two boys birthdays are one week apart.

I didn’t plan it, and when I first learned it would be this way, I was a little disappointed.  Would it be birthday overload, I wondered?  Fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem at all, and it’s actually been convenient.  For one thing, my younger son was able to inherit a lot of his older brother’s clothes – they were weather appropriate.

It’s fun to have them close together because it makes for a joyful time of year.  Having them right before September makes a nice end to the summer and mark of a new school year.

The first year we had a dual birthday party, but ever since, we’ve had a low-key, family celebration for each on their respective special days.  I don’t want them to feel like they have to share their day, and it is not much problem since I only have to decorate once and leave it up for a week!

This is the first year I’m having a bigger party for the six-year-old.  Six seems like a good age, and I couldn’t resist letting him have a party at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia.  They do a 45-minute program of our choice, and of course, we picked “snakes,” which is his current passion.  He can’t wait.

Speaking of the Nature Center, I give the staff there credit for helping my five-year-old blossom this past year.  This time last year we began taking their various classes (some for homeschoolers and others not), and he started off a bit reluctant and shy.

But nature and animals are his passion, and seeing them up close, especially snakes, opened him up.  Whenever the class took him on a hike through the woods, he would stay right next to the instructor, wanting to see and hear everything she had to say.  Now at the end of the year, he doesn’t even need me anymore.  He willingly participated in their summer camps and had a blast.

I can’t thank “Miss Sarah” enough.  On one of those first days of the knee-high naturalist class, my son asked her about the rattlesnake that he didn’t see in the center anymore.  She explained he was feeling poorly, so the staff moved him to the inner offices.  But she brought my son and I back there to see him, and she spent twenty minutes with my son, answering his four-year-old questions about the snake.

Over the year, I have watched my son become confident and outspoken in the classes.  Outside of those classes, we have made friends in the homeschooling community, and when he meets them, he runs off to play.  Like I said, he doesn’t need mama anymore.

Five-years-old has been a truly wonderful age.  No more temper tantrums, no more clinging, but plenty of hugs, questions, and an expanding mind that is soaking up all the new things his world has to offer.  I’d be lying if I said it was always easy with him.  He has his whiny moments, and he can battle with is younger brother at any moment, but at five-going-on-six, he’s easy to reason with and explain things too.

He is usually helpful, kind and his imagination knows no bounds.  Just today he showed me a “habitat” he made inside his Frisbee for a toy ant.  He filled it with soft dirt, grass and moss.  When I see him walking or sitting in our yard by himself, I’m happy that he has the free time to develop his creativity.

It must be this age that so many veteran parents tout as the opportunity to relive our childhoods, though I’m quite sure my son is teaching me more about the world than I ever learned growing up.  I can barely wait to see how he’ll blossom this coming year and what wondrous things he’ll invent and learn.

Happy Birthday Three-year-old

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 16, 2012.

In a few days TODAY the “two-year-old” becomes the “three-year-old!”  In a flash he has grown taller, more able-bodied, and smarter.  When my eldest was this age, I thought this must be the cutest and most frustrating age of young children.  My youngest is not disproving that theory.

It’s been wonderful to see two boys grow.  They are alike in many ways, but they are extremely different too.  A year or so ago I started to read Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, and though the author stated that you probably couldn’t assess a two-year-old’s learning style yet, I had to chuckle when I read some of the characteristics of a kinesthetic or tactile learner.  I could check off every single point for the two-year-old and then some.

He likes running and climbing.  Though my five-year-old loves to run and climb too, the two-year-old has shown an agility unprecedented in my older child.  And he seeks out every opportunity to climb whether it is on the arms of our sofas or the rails at a museum.

I have a photograph I took of my five-year-old at the Museum of Science and Industry, and the two-year-old is in the background climbing some equipment.  I sent it to my family and said that is typical:  an attentive five-year-old and a climbing two-year-old. At two, my five-year-old never climbed like his brother.  He has always been more cautious.

The two-year-old touches everything.  Everything.  Children like my two-year-old are the reason someone invented hand sanitizer.  My step-mother told me my father is like this.  They might be somewhere you aren’t supposed to touch things, but even at seventy-six years old, my father can’t help it.  So maybe my son takes after grandpa.

My youngest son is also much more affectionate than his older brother, and family members know that he’s practically attached to my hip.  Sometimes he follows me around with his palms up and open, lightly feeling the soft fabric of my cotton shirt.

Another characteristic for kinesthetic learners is that they like to play in the dirt, sand, and they don’t mind getting dirty, but heck….what child doesn’t mind those things?  I have noticed, however, how much the two-year-old likes to build with blocks, and how he enjoys the toy toolbox.

At two, my five-year-old loved blocks, but he didn’t want to build anything himself.  Instead, he wanted to watch me build.  This is more of a characteristic of a visual learner.  He’ll only try things after he has watched enough and feels confident he can do it on his own.

The two-year-old just plows into building and creating on his own, but if things don’t stay in place, he’ll scream until he thinks it’s right.  And this brings me to the less desirable side of this age: temper tantrums.  He wants to do everything on his own, but he can’t.  It’s frustrating for him and exasperating for me.

Fortunately I have been through this age once before, and I know it’ll pass. It’ll go quick too.  So I’m keeping my wits about me, and I’m welcoming all the hugs I can get.  Happy Birthday, my sweet, energetic boy!

And I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog in the right hand margin because in the future I’ll be trying to learn about kinesthetic learners as well as auditory and visual learners (which is my older son), and I’ll be sure to share what I find out with you!  ————>

Worthy Reads and Blog Business

taken on our recent visit to the Chicago Botanical Garden

It’s been a busy summer, and Worthy Reads is long overdue.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few worthy reads too, so if you have any interesting articles about homeschooling, education, parenting, storytelling, or something else you know I should read, please leave them in the comments!  Below are my Worthy Reads. (Keep in mind that I don’t always agree with the commentary in these articles, but I consider them worthy to consider or be aware of.) I also have a little bit of Blog Business to share with you.


The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Large Survey – Psychology Today

What Leads Families to “Unschool” Their Children? Report II – Psychology Today

The Challenges of Unschooling: Report III from a Large Survey – Psychology Today

Some Fascinating Facts About Homeschool vs. Public School – Homeschool World

How Homeschooling Helped a Young Engineer/Entrepreneur – StateImpact.npr.org

With technology, face of homeschooling changes – SFGate

My View: Homeschooling: Marching to the beat of a different drummer – CNN Schools of Thought

Why More Black Families Are Leaving Public Schools – NewsOne

Home schooling: Why more black US families are trying it – BBC News

The questions, the answersAvant Parenting

Homeschooled Students Well-Prepared for College, Study Finds – Huffington Post

Home-school Happenings: Making it work for all families – Citizen-Times.com

Some negative media on homeschooling:

Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids – AlterNet

Homeschooling needs either tighter regulation or to be banned Denialism BLOG

Anecdotes About Horrible, Sexist “Quiverfull” Families Probably Proof That Homeschooling Needs More Government Oversight – reason.com

Homeschooling Ideas

Nature Journaling with Kids – Simple Homemade

how do kids REALLY learn to write, 2.0 – Wonder Farm


My View: Let preschoolers, kindergarteners play to learn – CNN Schools of Thought

Are introverted children hurt by classroom focus on participation and group activities – AJC Blogs

Bright students ‘cannot write essays’ say Cambridge dons – The Telegraph

Freedom Within Limits: Montessori education thriving at Newnan’s Carolyn Barron SchoolTimes-Herald.com

Highly educated, deeply in dept – Philly.com

Living near good schools will cost an extra $200K – CNN Schools of Thought

Report: Test cheating may be widespread – CNN Schools of Thought

The high stakes of standardized tests – CNN Schools of Thought


Mom’s love good for child’s brain – PsyPost


Jonah Lehrer on How to Be Creative – WSJ.com

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter – The New York Times Sunday Review

Blog Business

  • Earlier in the summer I tweaked the header on this blog as well as the menu and right-hand menu options.  I hope you find this blog easy to read and find information.  I welcome any suggestions that may help you.
  • I added a “No Disclaimer Needed” page because I want my readers to know that I am not given any compensation to promote any products or services.  If I recommend a product or service it’s because I happened to buy it, or it was given to me as a gift. Read this page for more information.
  • I have added pages to make it easier for you to find my posts related to project-based homeschooling, storytelling, resources for Georgia homeschoolers, and, of course, I continue to update my general Table of Contents with my posts that are specifically about homeschooling.
  • I have also added a Contact page (don’t know why I didn’t sooner!) because I want everyone to know that I’m available to offer homeschooling support and encouragement to anyone who might need it.  I am also open to ideas on what to write about!
  • Speaking of what to write about, I do have plenty of ideas, and some of them I’ve had for much too long.  I hope to cover these topics in the future, and I hope you’ll stick with me and offer your comments!

The Museum of Science and Industry

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 8, 2012.  You can view it on the newspaper’s website by clicking here.  Attention Homeschoolers: You might find useful information for your home education program on this museum’s website!

Since my family and I made a trip to Chicago to help celebrate my in-laws 50th anniversary, we thought we might as well stay awhile and take advantage this wonderful city.  Yesterday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  My husband had been there many years ago, but I’ve never been, and I think it’s now become my favorite place in Chicago.

I felt just as giddy as my children as we toured this museum, which, according to its website, is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere.  It’s “home to more than 35,000 artifacts and nearly 14 acres of hands-on experiences designed to spark scientific inquiry and creativity.”

Our first tour was of the “Silver Streak: Pioneer Zephyr.” This train was one of America’s first diesel-electric streamlined passenger trains.  In 1934, it was the fastest train in the world, traveling between Denver and Chicago in about 13 hours.  It cut the previous travel time (by steam engine) in half!  It was also the first train to ever have air conditioning or refrigeration.  For the first time, passengers could be served ice cream.

After the Silver Streak, we found the room with several airplanes suspended from the ceiling, a real steam engine, wagons from the old days, and a United Airlines 727 to tour.  But my boys spent most of their time at “The Great Train Story,” a model railroad with 30 trains running on 1,400 feet of track.  The trains wind their way from Chicago to Seattle and pass through the Midwest, Plains States, Rockies and Cascade Mountains.  The size and detail was stunning and according to the museum’s website, this railroad was the largest of its kind when it opened in 1941.

We enjoyed watching “Tornado Alley” at the Omimax Theatre where we followed scientists and photographers into the middle of a tornado.  It was my five-year-old’s choice to see the movie about the tornados, but I was relieved to hear him say afterward that he never wanted to chase tornadoes!

After the movie we went to what became my five-year-old’s highlight of the day: touring the U-505 Submarine, the actual German U-boat that the U.S. Navy captured on June 4, 1944.  He took the tour with this grandfather while the rest of us enjoyed the exhibits and memorial outside the vessel.

The story of the battle is quite remarkable, and you can read all of it on the Museum’s website.  What I found fascinating is how the nine-member boarding party saved the vessel from sinking or exploding.  They re-secured the cover to a sea strainer and yanked the wires to several scuttle charges, or time bombs, which the German crew had set before they abandoned the vessel.

Then there was the seemingly impossible task of towing the vessel to Bermuda.  On August 15, 1945, The Saturday Evening Post printed these words written by Captain Daniel Gallery: “…[Commander Earl Trosino] spent hours down in the bilges, crawling around in the oily water under the engines, tracing pipelines and closing valves to make the boat watertight…. Thanks to Trosino’s uncanny instinct for finding the right valves, and his total disregard of his own safety, we succeeded in saving the U-505.”

And thanks to Captain Gallery, who was a native of Chicago, and this Museum, the U-505 was preserved.  Its journey to the museum is another great story, but I’ll let you read about that on your own.

The Museum had so much more to explore.  We visited the Idea Factory, which was almost like a children’s museum for children 10 and younger, and we visited “YOU! the experience,” which was about the human body.  I was awed and had somewhat mixed emotions at their presentation of a developing fetus, from conception to full term, using real babies that for various reasons had never been born.

We only explored a small fraction of the museum.  If you are ever in Chicago, I highly recommend you stop by, but if you can’t travel there, please visit their website.  It is full of wonderful images, stories, a blog, podcast, and online activities.  It would be time well spent for children or adults who are interested in learning about science and industry.  www.msichicago.org