Happy Birthday, Mom

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on November 28, 2012.

This week my mother is turning 72 years old, though if you ask her, she might say she’s 75.  That’s right…her way of thinking is that if she tells you she’s older, you’ll say, “Wow! You look great for your age!”

Now that I’m a mother, I can look back on my childhood and appreciate the sacrifices and unconditional love my mother has given me.  My mom loved dancing, and she taught young children how to dance before she married my father.  She has never stopped loving dance, and she taught Dancercise when I was young, but mostly, she stayed home and took care of her home and children.

I don’t know if she ever had aspirations outside of family life, but I do know she doesn’t regret her choices.

If you had asked me when I was twenty if I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps and be a stay-at-home mom, I would have said, “No way.”  There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but having children was not high on my priority list.

Now, I credit my mothering ability partly to the example she gave me. Perhaps I can also credit my storytelling abilities to my mother.  My grandmother told me how as a child my mother would tell her friends outrageous stories.  For example, she told one of her friends that a man used to drive through Athens with a big truck, and he would pick up little children and take them to the river and drown them! My grandmother got a call from the friend’s parent for that one.

I can’t remember my mother telling me outrageous stories, but I can remember her tickling me until I fell off the bed and singing with her as she played the piano.  I remember her playing games with me to pass the time on long road trips, and I remember the prom dresses she spent too much money on to make me happy.

Growing up I had friends whose mothers were less than exemplary, and I could see that while sometimes I butted heads with my mom – probably because we’re alike – I was lucky to have her.  She has always been my biggest fan.  I’m certain that she’s the only person in the world who has read every word I’ve ever published.

I don’t have the words to express my deepest gratitude for that.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my mother it’s that I need to pay attention to my children. I need to want to know what they are willing to share.

My children will learn soon enough that the rest of the world cares very little about their needs, desires and the minor details of their lives. Though I hope they’ll find a community who supports and uplifts them, I plan to be the one who will always be there, no matter what.

I am lucky that I have a lot of people in my life who love me, support me, and would help me if I needed it, but my mother has been the one person whom I always knew I could turn to immediately, if I needed it.  There were times in my life when I lacked a community – I traveled and lived outside the country twice – but I always knew I could reach my mom at any moment.  That’s a feeling of security that every person deserves to have.

Happy birthday, Mom.  I love you, and I’m grateful everyday that you are my mom.

Worthy Reads


The Value in Mistakes – Interest-Led Learning

What About Socialization? – Homeschool.com

Homeschooling works – the star online

Homeschooling a better choice for some – Franklin Park Herald, Chicago Sun-Times

Nova Scotia would be ‘worst place in Canada’ for homeschoolers if gvmt heeds new report – LifeSiteNews.com

Kenya to outlaw homeschooling? – One News Now


Want to succeed in STEM? Listen to the experts! – Innovative Educator

ECE (Preschool) is no good for 4, 5 and possibly 6 year olds, expert says – Home Education Foundation – In some ways, I agree with this.  I think children benefit more from being at home with their parents during their early years, if their parents provide them with a stimulating, loving environment.  I don’t think kids need the kind of “socialization” that many people think they need at such a young age. Forming bonds with their family and possibly a close network of extended family and friends is ideal. However, I have read that preschool does benefit children from lower income families or families who cannot provide the a loving, engaging environment.  And I think shunning preschool altogether can hurt many families who have no other choice but to put more energy into their work than in their family life in order to survive.  What we need is to get our society to walk the walk and not just talk the talk about promoting family values!

Homework: It fails our students and undermines American education – SmartBlogs – I agree!  Kids are in school all day, and they have to do homework at night. When are they supposed to play?!

Schools Are Ruining Our Kids – Vanity Fair – Perhaps a little extreme, but it’s thought-provoking.


Giving a Child Permission to Be Miserable – Motherload Blog, NYTimes.com

Four Hours of Screen Time? No Problem – Motherload Blog, NYTimes.com

Limit children’s screen time, expert urges – BBC News – I have already written about our T.V. viewing, but this makes me tempted to write a another post. I think many good parents read these kinds of articles and then freak out about their kids having any screen time.  But in reality, these articles are for the parents who aren’t involved enough in their kids’ education and individual interests.  Do you read books to your kids? Do you have conversations with them? Are your kids involved in activities outside the home? Are you doing projects together? Getting out into nature?  What kinds of programming are your kids really watching? I doubt it’s harming them.

Educating Boys

Educating Boys – ABC Sydney – Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Though this sounds like a good school, I don’t agree with the statement that boys are different because we nurture them differently. They are just different!  And we nurture each child according to his/her needs.

Why You Should Care About International Men’s Day – Blogging ‘Bout Boys


30 Storytelling Tips for Educators: How to Capture Your Student’s Attention – InformED – I was asked to share this article with you, and while I think it’s great, I also think it may overwhelm the novice storyteller!  Remember, to tell stories, all you have to do is begin… I am planning to write much more about storytelling for parents.  Trying to find the time….!  I hope you’ll bear with me.

The Junior Ranger Program

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. 

Ever since I learned about the Junior Ranger Program, I’ve been looking forward to when my son could participate.  Any child age 6-12 can participate, and it’s a great way to get outdoors, explore nature and learn about Georgia’s history.  It’s also a good way to teach about setting goals and working toward something.

In order to participate, all you have to do is pick up a copy of the Junior Ranger Activity Book at any Georgia State Park or Historic Site office.  You can also download the book online in pdf format at http://www.gastateparks.org/JuniorRanger

The book has a series of activities for children to complete, and a checklist for an adult to initial when they complete each activity.  Adults can help children with the activities.  There are three levels, and upon completion of each level, children will receive a junior ranger badge to display proudly wherever they want.

Level 1 is recommended for ages 6-7, and they must complete seven of the activities.  Level 2 is for ages 8-10 and requires 10 activities to be completed. Level 3 is for ages 11-12, and they must complete 14 of the activities.  Children may use the same booklet for each level, and the activities they did for their first level can count towards the next, if they want them to.

There’s information in the booklet for parents to read to the children so that they’ll become aware of things to stay away from when they hit the trails, such as poison ivy and venomous snakes. It tells you how to prepare and be safe while exploring the wilderness.  After this, there are several pages of activities for the children to complete.  Each page gives separate instructions for each level of participation.  My son is working on his first badge, Level 1, so the activities are fairly easy.

Some of the activities my son has done so far are identifying Georgia pine trees, taking a guided walking tour, observing wildlife, and visiting a historical site.  He only needs to complete three more activities to obtain his badge.

There are plenty to choose from.  He might identify plant and animal life in a body of water, or go fishing, go on a plant scavenger hunt, visit one more historical site, observe the night sky, or identify at least two nocturnal animals.  If my son isn’t into any of that, there are some other choices too.

With 63 sites statewide and a site 50 miles of every Georgia resident, it should not be hard for any child to participate in this program, especially since participants can take as long as they need to complete the activities.  You don’t have to do the activities in a state park either, although some of the activities such as visiting a historical site might require that.

When completed, all they need to do is present their checklist at any Georgia State Park or Historic Site office, or there’s an address in the booklet to mail the page to.  Participants who mail their page in will receive their badge in 2-4 weeks.

Occasionally there are Junior Ranger day camps or workshops that participants can attend.  These usually happen in the summer, and will be listed on the Georgia State Park and Historical Sites calendar of events: http://www.gastateparks.org/events.

Recently they have also started a Get Outdoors Georgia Gopher Badge too.  This is for kids 7-14 years old, and there’s a separate list of fun requirements for this badge too.  You can download the requirements for this badge here: http://www.getoutdoorsgeorgia.org/downloads/JrRangerGopherBadge.pdf.

If you are interested in this program, you’ll also want to subscribe to the Junior Ranger E-newsletter.  My son receives it at his own e-mail address, and he has fun reading about wildlife, viewing photos and doing some of the suggested activities.

For families able to travel, there’s also a Junior Ranger Program for the National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm.  I don’t know when we’ll get a chance to visit a national park, but my son has had fun using their on-line Junior Ranger program.  Children can play more than 50 games and learn about our national parks, monuments and historic sites. The website also tracks the children’s progress.

Whether you have some Junior Rangers in your house or not, I hope you get a chance to get outside and experience the healing qualities of nature this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving

{Thanksgiving Wreath}

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!  

We’re having a cozy Thanksgiving at home this year, and the only true activity we did besides cooking, eating, and reading our Thanksgiving books was make this autumn wreath out of cotton, natural items from our yard and natural items that my son’s cousin sent him last year from his yard in Colorado (a very cool X-mas present)! My son arranged these on some cardboard I cut in shape of a wreath and glued them down himself with a hot glue gun. (This idea and the cotton was courtesy of Dotty at the William Harris Homestead – thanks, Dotty!)

For more autumn and Thanksgiving activities to do with young children, you can read the post I wrote last year: November & Thanksgiving Activities With Small Children.  If you have any activities you want to share, feel free to post a link in the comments section.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I want you to know how thankful I am that you have taken the time to read my blog. I hope you are warm, safe, loved and happy.


Gift Ideas for Home Educators

Someone’s first Christmas

{Gift Ideas for Children} {Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers} {Gift Ideas for Anyone!}

This is a post I wrote last year, and I’m referring to it as I try to decide what to buy for the children on my list. I thought it might help you too as you get ready for this holiday, gift-giving season! Enjoy!


Do you have homeschooled children on your gift list this holiday season?  Or some precocious children who love to learn?

Homeschooling can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on how much parents decide to invest in it.  Curriculums can cost a pretty penny, but a lot of homeschoolers do without and use materials that they can find at the library or in thrift stores.

Still, the best way to get a child to learn is to lay some interesting materials around the house – a book on the coffee table, art supplies in an accessible bin, a game on a low shelf.  If they think that they are discovering it themselves, they are more likely to want to know all about it!  So homeschoolers will appreciate any extra help they can get to offer fun, educational tools to their children.

Here are some ideas they might love:

  • Family Memberships– What venues do they like to go to?  Most museums, zoos, aquariums and other centers have family or individual memberships that will allow a family/person to have free admission and/or discounts at the facility for a full year.  If you know that the family lives close enough to such a place, it might be perfect for them!
  • Art Supplies – I’m not talking about crayons and markers that you can buy at any grocery store (though kids love and need those too), but real art supplies that you can buy at art stores can make a wonderful gift.  If you don’t think it’s worth buying children good quality art supplies, I suggest you read this post at Camp Creek Blog, “In Praise of High Quality Art Materials.”
  • Ask what they need – You may just want to ask what they need.  Do you know what kind of teaching method they are using?  You may find a store that specializes in it.  In addition, for homeschooling families who purchase curriculum, they may appreciate it if you could chip in on the cost because some curriculums can be quite expensive.  Or perhaps there are certain books or other resources they want but aren’t able to afford.
  • Let’s not forget books, especially if there’s a subject the children are interested in or studying.  And remember, gift certificates will be appreciated too!

Here are some cool online stores that may help you find that perfect gift:

Are you a homeschooler with a wish list?  Please tell me what you would like to receive for gifts this year! Or do you know of another cool place to buy educational items?  Do you make them yourself?  Let me know!

Ft. Yargo State Park

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on November 15, 2012.

Autumn is the perfect time for getting out into nature, and we residents of Barrow County can’t forget the treasure that is in our own backyard: Fort Yargo State Park.  At least 400,000 people visit Ft. Yargo every year, and aren’t we lucky to have it so close that we need travel only a few minutes to get there?  It’s located one mile south of Winder on Highway 81.

We love exploring Georgia’s various state parks and outdoor recreation areas, but as the boys grow up, I intend to make sure they feel at home in Ft. Yargo.

I went on one of my first dates with my husband to Ft. Yargo, and even before we had children, we would sometimes go there and hike to the fort, which was tucked away in the back of the park.  Now it has been moved to a more accessible location, and the Ft. Yargo Living History Society has begun fixing up the blockhouse, and according to their website, they will be building a blacksmith’s shop, hunter’s cabin and enlarging the cookhouse.

The last time we went by the fort was on a Saturday, and we were lucky to meet the living history demonstrators. (They are onsite the 3rd Saturday of every month.) The demonstrators, who were in period dress, were heating up the mud oven to bake bread, and there was a pot of venison stew simmering on the stove.  My picky boys weren’t eager to try it.

Back in the day, Fort Yargo was located in the border area between the Creek and Cherokee nation.  According to the Georgia State Parks website, “The state of Georgia contracted with the Humphrey brothers to build a string of four forts across north Georgia to protect white settlers from Indians.”  Fort Yargo was one of them.

According to roadsidegeorgia.com, “The western push of settlers from the Georgia coast had slowed during the Revolutionary War, but not long after the war ended, settlers once again began to encroach on Creek land. Near the Creek town of Snodon settlers created tiny Jug Handle, essentially a tavern and inn at the intersection of a heavily traveled north-south Indian Trading Path and an east-west trading route.  To protect the settlers from the Creek Indians, Fort Yargo was built in 1792 by a Virginia settler…Captain Joseph Humphries.”

You can read more about the history and legends associated with Ft. Yargo at the Living History Society’s website: http://www.fylhs.com/history_and_legends_.html.

Today the park encompasses 1,816 acres, and has a beautiful 260-acre man-made lake with fishing, boat ramps, swimming and a beach open during the warmer seasons.  There are 18 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers, and events take place there throughout the year.  Campsites, cottages, and yurts are for rent, and there are at least three playgrounds, picnic shelters, tennis courts, disc golf, basketball and so much more.

Fort Yargo is an oasis in Barrow County, and I’m so thankful to have it nearby. My boys don’t need most of the amenities that it offers, though.  We go there to walk on the paths and sit by the water while they throw rocks and twigs into the lake. I’m not sure there will be any more pebbles left on the shore by the time they grow up.

Another perk to having a state park so close is that my son can easily participate in the Georgia Junior Ranger Program, which is recommended for children ages 6-12. I’ll write about that in my next column.

Go to http://www.gastateparks.org/FortYargo to learn more about the park and plan your visit, but take note that it will be closed to the public on Dec. 4-5 for managed deer hunts.

What is your favorite state park?

Worthy Reads


In Berlin, Global Homeschooling Leaders Unveil Historic Declaration – The New American

Home-school proponent (Susan Bauer) well-versed in controversy – The Norman Transcript

a few rules for homeschooling and life, the marvel edition – Wonder Farm

The Year I Went to School and Why I Left – Huffington Post Teen – a very down-to-earth commentary from a 16-year-old homeschooled student

Am I Living it Right? (is the wrong question) – FIMBY – An inspiring post for any homeschooler.


My View: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted – CNN Schools of Thought

Harvard Wants to Know: How Does the Act of Making Shape Kids’ Brains? – Mindshift

My View: An open letter to George Lucas – we need your independent vision – CNN Schools of Thought

Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful? – Smithsonian.com

Revolt against high-stakes standardized testing spreads – Washington Post Answer Sheet

My view: Kindergarten redshirting different for each child – CNN Schools of Thought – I would have held my son back for Kindergarten if we were not homeschooling, but as this writer notes, it is not necessarily the right thing to do for every child. I am glad I’m homeschooling so that I don’t have to worry about it because surely there would be pros and cons to doing it.

Historian David McCullough: No ‘professional teacher should major in education’ – Washington Post Answer Sheet

Why ‘Googling It’ Is Not Enough – Mindshift


How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World – Brain Pickings – I e-mailed this to the six-year-old, and we enjoyed looking at our globe while looking at these photos.

Why Daydreaming Isn’t a Waste of Time – Mindshift