Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homeschool Out of the Box Fall Semester Kick-off Party

Today we had a lovely party at our co-op to celebrate going back to school, one day a week, with awesome classes, good friends, and a loving family atmosphere. I don't have time for a proper post before I get the children into the tub, but I do have time for three pictures and three observations:

1. The Chess Table

2. The Drum Circle

3. The Food Table

1. I love the other moms at our co-op. I feel so lucky to have actual friends in a place where my children have fun and learn. These are people I would choose to hang out with even if our children didn't coincide. Nobody in our circle resembes the SNL caricature of the homeschool mom enough to prevent me from laughing at the skit.

2. When homeschoolers bring food, they bring food. The table was groaning under incredible offerings -- homemade baklava, glorious brownies, loads of veggies and tubs of melon, complex and subtle salsa, literate hummus, I mean it was ridiculous. We all ate all afternoon and there were mad leftovers. I have been in several "pot luck" situations in the last couple of weeks and no one, I mean no one, delivered anything like the homeschoolers.

3. Homeschooled children are delightful. I love how they're so earnest and interested in everything, how they're so full of vocabulary, how they joyously rush around, making up games to play, frowning over chess, giggling in stair wells. They play across gender lines, across age lines, they're funny and I LIKE THEM. I'm glad my children have these peers.

That is all. :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Am I a Violinist Now?"

Little Sadie played in her first concert. Her first time playing in front of people who aren't other moms and dads and kids in our tight-knit Suzuki community. She and Benny played with the STAHR group in the lobby at Chrysler Hall, a warm-up act for the Virginia Symphony and Jennifer Koh. It was AWESOME!

First, let's talk about Sadie. She had total calm, total poise, complete concentration on her instrument. She put her fingers down in the right spot, kept her bow hold exactly perfect, and when she got behind a little bit she caught up without showing distraction or worry on her face. Amazing aplomb, this girl has. I was so proud I could have exploded. Here she is warming up:

Then let's talk about Benny. The last time Benny played with STAHR at Chysler Hall, he engaged in a lot of bow-jousting and eventually lay down on the floor luxuriously and kicked his feet in the air to the rhythm of the other kids' playing. Not a good performance. Last night he was focusing on the word "unison." Syncing up with other kids does not come easy for Benny -- he has to work very hard to be an ensemble player. Last night he did his very best yet -- seeing his bow going up and down in concert with all the other children really made me swell with joy. Here he is:

Sorry the pictures are so bad -- all I had was my phone for pictures and video, as I seem to have lost my camera, along with my mind.

Anyway, I stood and cried all the way through it, just so proud of my tiny little girl and my smart big boy, both doing their very best in their own way. They just astonished me. It was a true delight.

Yesterday's schedule:

9:30 Leave for canvassing with Ahno.
10:00 Canvassing launch
1:00 Pick up kids from home.
2:00 Finish canvassing.
2:30 Drop off packet to organizers.
3:00 Grocery shopping to get food for pot luck.
3:30 Shoe shopping -- Benny's dress shoes were too small.
4:00 Home and pop focaccia in oven.
4:15 Arrive late at STAHR rehearsal and drop off children.
4:20 Home to get focaccia and concert clothes and whatnot.
4:40 Back at violin school, set out food, watch rehearsal.
5:00 Pot-luck dinner with Suzuki family including guests from Harrisonberg violin program.
6:00 Change clothes, change children's clothes, head to Chrysler Hall.
6:45 Arrive Chrysler Hall early, wander about, knit.
7:00 Tuning and warm-up.
7:30 Performance.
8:00 Go into concert hall to see the Virginia Symphony and Jennifer Koh performint Saint Saens' Symphonie Fantastique.

When I settled into my seat at the end of the day, I was exhausted, but in my mind were the voices of my children. On the way down the stairs from the dress circle after their set was over, I was raving about how proud I was of Benny and he said, "Mom, did it blow your heart?" Yes. And Sadie, looking up at me with glowing eyes, so revved up, so electrified by the performance, said this: "Mom, am I a violinist now?"

One more video. The tiny blob right in front of the teacher is Sadie Grace. Benny is behind the piano. I know the video is low quality but doesn't it sound beautiful?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama and McCain Presidential Debate #1: An Irreverent and Incomplete Recap

Debate! CNN has seriously, seriously, no kidding got an analyst score card for each of six analysts. No commercials, no pause for commentary, but dammit, the pundits are going to have their fingers on the smite button nevertheless. These score cards are displayed on the screen in glowing red and blue circles. The analysts can give positive and negative points to each candidate. Scooby Snacks will be tossed out by the moderator for every multiple of five a candidate receives. Water will be removed via a tube and valve from each candidate's drinking cup for each negative point.

Someone named Castellanos enters one negative point for McCain before the moderator finished the first question, causing a loud sucking sound in the veteran Senator's podium. There is also a bar across the bottom for audience reaction, and those in the special "audience reaction room" will be turning knobs for strongly disagree up to strongly agree. Their feelings will be reflected in a line graph at the bottom of the screen with the Repubs in red, the Dems in blue, and the Independents in green... whee! Graphics!

Question #1: What's up with this bailout?

Obama: "This is a final verdict of eight years of failed economic policies."
McCain: "Republicans and Democrats are working together to fix it."

Followup: But, do you like this plan? Or?

Obama: We have to look to why this happened in the first place and deal with the anti-regulation philosophy that led us to this point.
McCain: I am going to vote for the plan. But first I'm going to have to tell you a big long story about Eisenhower, who was my butcher. Listen, you! Lamb chops from Eisenhower's! Right after that, I'm going to hold those greedy bastards accountable.

Followup: Now, now, don't be shy. You two boys talk to each other! We put these podiums in proximity for a reason.

Both candidates politely refuse and make squinched up smile faces like they just smelled a ripe old lady.

Question #2: What would you do about this financial mess, as President?

McCain: We Republicans came to power to change government, and government changed us. Also, earmarking and pork barrel spending are bad. I will veto every bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names. I have a pen that is old, and that old pen makes it hard for me to make sure all my pronouns have antecedents. Sometimes I skip whole parts of my rehearsed answers, and just continue as if I had said them!
Obama: I'd stop giving tax cuts to the rich. Billion, million, 18, 300, 700. In his tax plan, you'd be selling your children to buy Trump a new helicopter.
McCain: The system of earmarking and pork barrel corrupts people. I didn't win Miss Congeniality in the US Senate. I didn't win golldarned Miss Congeniality in the thumpin-humpin US Senate!
Obama: Let's just be clear. Let's... just... be... clear.

Senator Obama looks odd in this much makeup. Both of them look kind of botoxed. McCain looks like he had a few spots removed. Tonight he's a smoother, stiffer, more exfoliated Senator, one with a completely immobile upper lip. Obama looks a bit like an action figure of himself. Obama seems like he's kicking McCain's smooth, exfoliated bottom on the whole tax cut issue. He loses me for a moment when he talks about taxing health care benefits. I get distracted by his enormous, hooklike thumbs and his white eyeliner. No spoolin' -- it really looks like he has white eyeliner on, like we used to wear in 1989.

McCain doesn't know what "walking the walk and talking the talk" means. Nor does he understand the meaning of the word "existential." Finally, he clearly wants to be known as "The Sheriff" but he's too shy to come right out and ask us to call him that.

Analyst Castellanos gives McCain a point for chuckling. Analyst Borger has apparently been having a quiet moment to himself in the bathroom up to this point, or else he's just profoundly unimpressed.

Question #3: Whichever rescue bill comes about, what would you do to pay for this?

Obama: It's hard to anticipate what the budget will look like next year. We're not going to be able to do everything that I think needs to be done, but there are a few things I think have to be done: alternative energies, health care, affordable education, and rebuilding infrastructure. There are things we have to do structurally to make sure we can compete in the global economy. GREAT answer. If I were an analyst with a scorecard, I'd make a nice fat tick on the blue side there and drop that guy a sandwich.
McCain: Obama is the most liberal member of the Senate [I thought that was Joe Biden?] and it's hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left. We have to do away with a lot of defense spending with fixed cost contracts. I know how to do that. I've been involved in these issues for many years. We have to scrub every agency of government.

Moderator: So neither of you has changed anything about your campaign as an effect of the bailout?

McCain: I want a spending freeze on everything but defense.
Obama: That's like using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.
McCain: Well I want nuclear power too -- 45 new plants, how's that for a hatchet? EH, JERKY? YOU LIKE THAT HATCHET?

Moderator: Are you going to acknowledge that the financial ruin is going to affect the way you govern the country in any way? Or what?

Obama: We'll have a smaller budget. And we have to prioritize based on our values and knowing who we're fighting for. We're not going to cut out our health care ideas to fund tax cuts on the rich.
McCain: I don't want to hand health care over to the federal government. I mean, the federal government is already carrying its keys, the banks, its purse, AIG, its umbrella, the mortgage industry... giving it health care also might make it drop its latte.

Question #4: What are the lessons of Iraq?

McCain: The lesson is that you can't let failed policies stand until they make you lose a war. After I hired a new general and invented the surge, we are now winning the war and in a couple weeks we will leave Iraq a beautiful nascent democracy and the envy of all the world.
Obama: I opposed the war in the beginning, mostly because we weren't done in Afghanistan.
McCain: He won't even go to Iraq much! He hasn't even met with the generals!
Obama: In 2003 you said there were WMDs -- you were wrong. You said we'd be greeted as liberators -- you were wrong. You said there was no history of violence between Sunnis and Shias -- you were wrong.

McCain: Senator Obama doesn't understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy. A tactic is like something that you vote for, but don't agree with. A tactic is like when you visit troops. See?

Moderator: Can you guys stop interacting? I know I said it was my special wish, but I take it back. I no longer wish it. In fact, can we get these podiums moved apart? Stagehand?

Question #5: Afghanistan?

McCain says, "You don't do that! You don't say things like that out loud! Senator Obama is trying to be a cowboy, but he has no hat -- do you get what I'm saying? No. Hat." Obama says something about Afghanistan too but I can't remember what he said. McCain seems to think that Petraeus is capable of parting the Red Sea.

Castellanos the analyst apparently thinks we're on a "Whose Line is it Anyway?" points system.

McCain scolds Obama for talking about bombing Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Obama brings up the fact that McCain sings about bombing Iran. McCain goes on for a very long time about his war experiences both in Viet Nam and in the Senate. They compare bracelets coming from troops' mothers. Obama reminds McCain that he said we could "muddle through" in Afghanistan. McCain reminds Obama that he hasn't ever visited Afghanistan.

Question #6: What is your reading of the threat in Iran?

Confession: Uh, I kind of spaced out for a while and wasn't paying attention, but I did notice that when McCain said "ACH-MEH-DINNAH-JHAD" very carefully, Obama said "That's a hard one" under his breath. In a not very nice way! Don't be a snooty patooty, now, Senator! Don't beat up on the old man!

Okay, I'm paying attention again. The kids are fighting over whether or not Kissinger said this or that. Dan just pointed out that McCain didn't wear his lapel pin. OMG! Totally breaking news! He's like not wearing a lapel pin! What an outrage and stuff! Let's like make this go super-viral because this is like wrong and bad. You have to wear a lapel pin and put a flag on your plane! Otherwise you like hate America!

McCain: "I looked into President Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters: K, G, and B."

Senator McCain, I look into your eyes and I see... no lapel pin on your retinas.

Question #6: Are we going to have another 9/11?

McCain: We've done a lot, but we need to do more.
Obama: I agree.

Obama goes on to illustrate handily how the Iraq war has wrecked everything for us, and even the Republican reaction line goes way way up over the X axis. McCain starts talking and the reaction lines plummet down under the X axis, until he tells us he loves veterans, at which point it goes up a bit. He delivered that line very well -- he should use it again.

At the end, the wives come out. Michelle Obama is wearing a busy print in kind of an Asian-style cut, and Cindy McCain was wearing some knock-yer-eye-out red.

Let's check in with our pundits: Begala has Obama winning by half. Castellanos has given out points like an old man in church giving tootsie rolls to the Sunday school kids. King has it as a flat tie. Donna Brazile predictably gives the win to Obama. The only person who has McCain winning (by 1) is William Bennett. Well bully for him.

My opinion: McCain came off as very very well-versed in foreign affairs and very assertive and confident. He has been everywhere and talked to everyone. However, he was kind of snitty, low on eye contact, high on irritation, and seemed pissy and unfriendly. Obama came off as very thoughtful, principled, and interested in sticking to the truth and coming up with real solutions. He is definitely presenting as the alternative candidate. He didn't really wow me on foreign policy, but it's not his strength and he mostly just had to hold his own in this debate. He came off as congenial and accommodating, more friendly to McCain and kind of amused by the experience. A little low on passion tonight but still tough enough.

I give it to Obama, but it wasn't a trouncing. One interesting point: Obama referred to McCain many times as "John" and McCain never once said Obama's first name. Kind of weird. That and the lapel pin thing.

Book Arts Bash: Last Weekend to Write

The Book Arts Bash is a literary contest for homeschoolers and their parents, where new writers can catch the eye of amazing judges -- from NYT best-selling authors to New York agents and editors, top bloggers, working directors, published homeschool moms and even one former US Poet Laureate. The deadline for this contest is fast approaching. All entries must be postmarked by October 1. We told you in July, and we told you in August. We even told you in September. Now we're telling you again: This is it! The final countdown! Tick tock! Get those entries in!

We have twenty categories with five age groups in each. Three finalists from each age group in each category will move on to our judges -- that means that 300 homeschoolers (or homeschooling parents) will get a chance to be read, seen, and analyzed by someone they've only seen on the bookstore shelves, read about on the internet or in Publisher's Weekly.

I can tell you that at this point some categories are quite underrepresented -- the multimedia categories for example: blogs, storytelling audio files, drama, and comic book. Here's one young author working on her comic book:

Another comic artist with his little sister, showing off a few of his titles:

Don't miss out on this chance to expand your creative horizons. Short stories, poems, picture books, novels... all forms of literary expression are welcome. We aren't having another one of these until Spring of 2010.

For a list of our judges, a full description of all the categories, an entry form to print and instructions for sending in your work, please visit the Book Arts Bash. We can't wait to see what you've got for us to read.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anyone Else Feeling a Bit Tired?

Last year at this time, Sadie was 3. This year, predictably enough, she is 4. Last year, she wasn't interested in school. This year she is.

Benny needs my almost constant attention when he's doing his school. Beyond the teaching of new concepts, he also needs help and encouragement in word and gesture as he's doing... anything. Put your finger under the next one Benny. What is this question asking you? Etc. He can't be left on his own to read a chapter of a book -- I have to listen and remind him to keep going. He can't be left to finish a page of math, or practice his violin. There are also a lot of things we're doing right now where I just need to be involved, like the elections class.

Now, I don't grudge him any of this time, obviously. I've tried rewarding him for working independently, I've tried setting time limits and natural consequences (if you're not done with this by 10:00 we can't go to the YMCA), and I've tried punishments for failure to perform (if you can't do this math on the computer, I'm taking away your Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 disk). I have just determined that it's not a decision he makes to be inattentive and unfocused, it's just what's going on in his head. The unfortunate thing about setting time limits and natural consequences is that Sadie then also gets punished.

Speaking of Sadie. She wants to do school this year. Desperately. She asks every day to practice her violin, do her math, read. I have her on Right Start kindergarten math, and we're doing phonics, and we're reading together. I need to be there with her when she's doing her lessons, obviously, because she's four.

So, I have two kids doing multiple lessons every day, and I have to be there to supervise all of it, and suddenly instead of "We don't spend much time at the kitchen table," we're spending a lot of time at tables, or next to each other on the sofa, or on the floor in the front room, or whatever -- doing school. This is not what I imagine for us.

The other new development this year, with Sadie a four-year-old and Benny an eight-year-old, is that they both have their own violin, they both have their own dance, they each have their friends and -- the "baby" is not just a tagalong anymore, she has her own agenda and activities and life.

I'm tired. I want them to have free time to play and chill. I feel like I'm drowning in school.

I need an unschooler to kick me in the head and say, "Step away from the lessons."

I need an experienced schooler of multiple children to say, "It gets easier and more normal and less time consuming."

I need someone to say, loudly, "Putting one of them in school is not an option."

I know that part of it is all the other stuff I've put on myself that's heavy -- editing novels for people, doing web sites for the dance studio, volunteering at church and violin, doing political work, this, that, and the other thing. I am trying to eliminate a few things -- the Bash will be over in a month, and I'm quitting the novel editing, and eventually the ballet web site will be done, and the elections class and canvassing will be over on November 4. Maybe at that point everything will just look more open. But then there's Nanowrimo and Christmas and, and, and.

Thanks for listening. Maybe I just needed to stomp around and yell about it so that I can take a deep breath and get on with it.

We have our house, our health, our gorgeous children, our glamorous interests, and we are never, ever, ever, bored. This is something to be happy about, right?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vote for Me: Elections Unit Study: Week 5

Good morning students! This lesson involves pulling a lot of the work you've done as a candidate into one media product: Your web presence. Your slogan, your poster, and now your video ad will all be part of your web ad. I've given you a very simple HTML template to manage it all, which you can customize and expand according to your comfort and abilities with HTML. You'll need a place to host your poster image and a place to host your video - if this gives you trouble, I can definitely help. I would love to see some of your videos!

Here is the PDF for this week's lessons: Vote for Me! Week 5: Commercial Break

Media: Analyzing Different Types of Ads

We want our students to be able to hear or see a campaign commercial and really break it down into its components, understand the agenda behind it, and analyze the way its message is being formed. The goal here is to make wiser, more savvy voters who think critically about what they hear and see on the radio and on TV. When you’re watching television, watch the campaign ads and discuss. It’s not necessarily that important what’s right and wrong in the ads, but that the students are learning to think about *why* various decisions were made in the ad’s production and what effect the ads are having on them in ways they may not have noticed.

Film-making: Filming Your Campaign Ad

This should be fun, fun, fun! If the child ends up reading the speech instead of looking into the camera, fine! If they end up having a finished product that doesn’t live up to their expectations, just laugh, congratulate them on their first attempt, and move on. It’s all about the process — all the little decisions and plans and putting it all together. They’re putting themselves in the candidates’ shoes to see what it feels like to try and sell yourself to people you don’t know who will be judging you on all kinds of things like your hair and the photos on your desk.

History: Famous Political Ads Throughout TV History (Online)

Thinking: Spin Worksheet

The purpose of this worksheet is to encourage critical thinking, to help the students to see how a fact can be skewed in different directions, and to again lead them to be more savvy as they absorb messages in the media. While the facts they’ll be spinning aren’t necessarily political, they’re good practice. When you hear or see examples of spin in the media, you might want to point them out. They might also benefit from exposure to a “Crossfire” type show on television.

Computer Science: HTML Template for Online Ad

Here’s a bit of code for developing your online ads, if you’d like to do that.

Individual PDFs to download, in case you don't want the whole lesson:

Analyzing the Ads

Filming Your Campaign Ad

Spin Worksheet

HTML Template

Previous lessons:

Week 4: A Poster You Can Believe In
Week 3: The Platform and the Stump
Week 2: Unconventional Conventions
Week 1: Let's Get This Party Started
Prelude Class: What's an Election?

Download the whole unit so far: Vote for Me

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vote for Me: Elections Unit Study: Week 4

Hi future politicians of this fine country! Is it just me or are you noticing the road sides covered with signs promoting the different candidates? Some of them just have the candidates' names, but some have slogans like "Peace, Prosperity, and Reform!" or "Yes We Can!". As we get closer and closer to Election Day, we will be seeing more and more of these posters, along with other graphics like t-shirts, bumper stickers, and campaign literature in our doorways, and we will be hearing slogans louder and louder. This week is about figuring out how these posters and slogans are made by making our own. As we notice what's happening around us, we'll be learning to analyze the messages we're receiving, and make sense of some of the visuals we encounter.

Here is the PDF for this week's lessons: Vote for Me! Week 4: A Poster You can Believe In

Graphic Design: Elements of a Good Poster
Here we examine campaign posters from various candidates to try and find the common elements and decide what makes a good poster. It is a great time to notice posters on the road side and compare and contrast the different decisions made by these various designers. Which ones can you read best? Which one on each corner draws your eye most effectively? If there’s any way you can get your hands on a wide variety of campaign material for them to examine and compare, that would really help.

Photography: Choosing a Good Image
This exercise will be lots of fun. The ultimate purpose is to have the students feel the pressure of expressing themselves through a facial expression, and understand better what the “real” candidates are going through as they pose for pictures. While it may seem superficial, a lot of time is spent on the candidate’s choices in wardrobe and hair and even the way they smile. The students will come away from this lesson with a better grasp of that.

Thinking: How Much Can You Remember?
This game demonstrates the need for slogans to be short in order to be memorable. However, the bonus section, where the students write their own gradually inflated slogans, can turn into a nice little grammar exercise too. Use all the opportunities when you see political slogans on TV or on posters around town to discuss how memorable they are, how effective they are, and what candidates they’re promoting.

Social Studies: Slogans Past and Present
Here’s a research exercise for the students, and an opportunity to develop their own slogans for their own campaigns. Whatever they come up with is great, though they should start being aware of how the slogans work as chants, how they look on a poster, whether they rhyme, and other rhetorical considerations. Again, finding real examples to look at will help.

Song: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Individual PDFs to download, in case you don't want the whole lesson:

Elements of a Good Poster

What Makes a Good Image

How Much Can You Remember?

Slogans Past and Present

Song: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

That's it! A lot to digest. Some pretty heavy thinking and writing going on, but keep it personal, keep it meaningful, and have fun with it!

Previous lessons:
Week 3: The Platform and the Stump
Week 2: Unconventional Conventions
Week 1: Let's Get This Party Started
Prelude Class: What's an Election?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Three Homeschool Classes to Consider in Norfolk

Mad Science classes are fantastic, and they are very interested in working out a time that would work for homeschoolers to have a fun, engaging science class with no mess at home and no prep for mom.

These teachers are very gifted, their classes are interesting and effective. My four-year-old daughter is still teaching me the lessons she learned about air currents from Jen and Heath at the science fair last year. She uses the newspaper wrapper to demonstrate. It really made a big impact! If you're interested in Mad Science class for your child, let the powers that be know what days work for you, what times are good, and what you'd like to see happen. Of course they can't accommodate everyone's schedule, but they need to get a sense of what most people want. They want feedback! Email jen@madscienceofhamptonroads.com with your suggestions and to register your interest.

Young Chef's Academy is a fantastic and fun way for children to get empowered in the kitchen. Again -- no prep and no mess for you, and the kids get to toss around flour and break eggs. Sarah Horne is planning a homeschool class. She has asked me to give some input on what days and times would be good for the homeschool community. I told her what I thought but I can only speak for myself and give info on the schedules and classes that I know about. Again of course she can't accommodate everyone but she's interested in providing a service to our community and access to classes during school time instead of the usual after school offerings. If you have input, email her: ghentva@youngchefsacademy.com.

Norfolk Karate Academy is planning a daytime class for homeschooled children. Again, Bill Odom needs your input on times and days. If he plans the class for Tuesday morning, when everyone is in co-op or at the YMCA or whatever, the class fails and we as a community miss out on a chance to get in our martial arts class in a smaller class size, before the after school rush, when our kids can get more individual attention. This is a wonderful karate school. My child has been involved for four years now and we've been impressed and amazed with the excellence in training and the character and commitment of the owners and instructors. If you'd like to be part of a homeschool karate class in Norfolk, here is your chance to give your input: info@norfolkkarate.com.

If you do email them, please let them know where you heard about the classes, and thank them for their sponsorship of the GUESS Homeschool Science Fair 2008.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Presidents of the United States Workbook Recommendation

Introducing the Complete Book of Presidents and States. I bought this book at Sam's Club when I was collecting materials to inform my elections unit production, because of the cool set of cards in the beginning of the book -- pictures of the presidents on the front and facts/trivia on the back, along with different game ideas for learning the names and order. That seemed like a great selling point, and it is. However, I've found that we're using this book a lot, and it has benefits beyond the deck of cards in the front. For example, there is *another* set of cards in the middle! Who knew?

After that first section, there is a page for every President, with a summary of their lives and the major events that happened during their presidencies.

1. Used as reading comprehension practice, it delivers short non-fiction pieces and varied, interesting little recall exercises like crosswords, fill-ins, and other puzzles. Not a lot of "why" questions but it is good practice for remembering facts and also locating facts within blocks of text.

2. I don't expect Benny to really absorb and remember which President bought Arizona or who was a Whig or whatever. But the information does give him a context in which to think of the current President and the candidates. Some were disliked, some were liked. Some only were President for a few weeks or months. It's definitely educational for *me* in the same way -- looking at the whole string of Presidents in a row takes a little significance away from any single one. It also gives you a sense that the country has really changed. I mean, obviously, right? But still, looking at the people and faces and the crises they faced, you really get that the country itself, the entity of the USA has morphed and changed in significant ways. Of course you can provide the "why" questions that the book does not.

3. Another cool thing about the book is that at the end of each one-page lesson there is an extension question for which the student has to do a bit of research. I've decided that Wikipedia is safe enough, or at least that the only danger comes from overly political pages on community organizing and not from X-rated pop-ups. So, Benny's been learning to search for things like what they used to call the White House, or whose father was a Congressman from what state. More exercise in scanning text for information, and also it's very satisfying to find the answer with research.

4. But wait, there's more. After the Presidents section there's a states section! Every state commands two or three pages of info and then cute little tests on that info. Of course you'll learn about the state bird (what an immortal waste of time state birds are, yo) and the capitol, but you'll also learn other things that are actually interesting and will lead you to discussions.

So, ding dong we hurry along. Benny knows the President song and the Electoral College song, so this week we're going to add another song:

James T. Polk by They Might Be Giants.

You can hear it in this movie from YouTube, accompanied by a video that someone made for a history class, which I find quite good. I have to write down the guitar chords, but here are the lyrics:

In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

I bought this book for $5.88 and it is listed on this web site for $14.95, so keep that in mind.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Aren't You Worried About What Will Happen to White People?"

Today we went canvassing in the morning. I left the children at home playing video games with Dan and took Ahno out with me. After picking up our canvassing packets at the launch, we found our target neighborhood, a middle class area with big trees, oldish houses, and some waterfront lots. The residents were a mix of black and white and Asian, old and young. Some had taken great care with their yards and homes and some had kind of let nature take its course. It was a very interesting place to knock on doors. Wonderful and also horrifying.

Of course we met some McCain supporters, but we met some Obama supporters too. We met a gay couple, newly moved to the neighborhood, enthusiastic Democrats. We met a small business owner who thanked us warmly for being out for Obama, and asked us for bumper stickers for his truck. Some wanted yard signs, some just offered to talk to their friends and neighbors about the campaign, be brave and show their support for their candidate. Most of the McCain supporters were polite to us, and we talked up Mark Warner, who everyone loves, and then asked them to just consider voting for Obama. They chuckled and agreed to think about it.

Then there was this one old guy. My sheet said he was eighty-six years old. He lived in a nice house, in this pleasant area, and answered the door politely. I asked him who he was considering voting for in the presidential race and he said he was leaning toward McCain. As I asked him more questions, I discovered that he was a lifelong Democrat, and planning to vote Democrat the rest of the way down the ballot.

So why was he not going to vote for Obama?

He said: "Well, I don't know about that one. Aren't you worried about what will happen to white people, once *they* get in power?"

My jaw dropped. I had only a second to think of a response.

I said: "I'm not worried at all, sir. I think Barack Obama is a wonderful person and I think he will do what's best for this country and for the whole world. I hope you'll consider voting for him too."

I think at that point I might have mumbled something about having a nice day and I stumbled off down the sidewalk. A real, live, bonafide racist. Yes, he had a lunch stain on his shirt and a few missing teeth, but he was mostly normal looking. He had no slavering fangs, no black shiny horns. He was wearing house slippers -- no cloven hooves. His yard was mowed. His car was clean. But he had looked at me conspiratorially and asked me if I was *WORRIED* about what would *HAPPEN* to *WHITE PEOPLE*!


I'm sure there are people out there canvassing in other places where they're running into this kind of thing all the time. But it felt, to me, as if there was a little pocket of rot in this nice little neighborhood. A pocket of rot right next to a house where a black couple offered us to come into their house and have a drink of water, a pocket of rot next to that small business owner, or the WWII veteran who told us he would consider Obama... a nasty little pocket of dreck in house slippers and wire glasses, looking at me *as if it were a perfectly legitimate question* and asking me if I wasn't worried, as a white person, about what would happen to me if "THEY" got into power.

I wish I had said, "Well, let me ask you: What are you worried about specifically? Are you worried you'll have to go live in a shack behind the house you currently own? Are you worried you won't be allowed to vote? Drive? Go to college? Are you fearful that you'll have to pay more for soup at the grocery store or that you'll have to sit at the back of the bus? I mean what exactly has you concerned?"

Probably that wouldn't have been good either. We're not supposed to get into fights with people. Plus, he was like a million years old. But, what would you have said? How do you respond to something like that? Here is a *lifelong Democrat* who has written off Barack Obama as a candidate because he is afraid of black people. Do old people get a pass on racist remarks? What argument can I offer, standing on the porch of this person, to counter eight decades of opinion? What do you say?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vote for Me: Elections Unit Study: Week 3

Hello candidates! Welcome to your campaign! Isn't this exciting? We have a little over fifty days left until the election, and things are rocking and rolling on the national scene. Now that we've had our conventions, it's time to hit the campaign trail. This week we'll be developing our platforms, polishing our stump speeches, and planning a five city tour of the country. If you live in an area where you can get out to see the "real" candidates doing their thing at a rally, that would be very cool! We've seen Barack Obama once, and yesterday we meet a candidate for Senate, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. We hope to see Sarah Palin on September 18th too. I would love to have the kids see all the main candidates in person, so we'll see how that works out! I will tell you that it's worth the effort to get out and experience some of this stuff first hand -- they learn a lot just from what they absorb in the situation, and it's way easier to show them than to tell them. Have fun!

Here is the PDF for this week's lessons: Vote for Me! Week 3: The Platform and the Stump

Thinking: Building a Platform
It’s important here to accept and encourage any issues and ideas that are truly interesting and important to your student. My guess is that they will not come up with health care and foreign policy planks in their platforms. It’s important that they care about their own issues so that they can make good stump speeches.

Writing: Writing a Stump Speech
The stump speech is a very basic five paragraph essay. I don’t believe in teaching a five paragraph essay in which the first and last paragraphs are a summary of the middle three. The introduction should truly be an introduction, not just a preview. The conclusion should truly be a conclusion, not a recap. There are added considerations when writing a speech, such as writing a great opener and a great closer. The best way for students to intuitively understand how to do this is to listen to and read some great speeches, readily available online.

Public Speaking: Delivering Your Stump Speech
The students will create before/after videos (or just do before/after performances for a very local audience) and in between they’ll learn some rudimentary principles of public speaking. Remember to lead by example — exaggerate your dynamics, your gestures, and don’t be afraid to be silly in order to break the ice for shy speakers.

Social Studies: Out on the Stump
This activity could be as involved as you want it to be. You could stop with considering a great choice of five cities to visit, finding them on a map and leaving it there, or you could get as detailed as per diem food allowances and finding places to entertain VIP donors. Go wild!

Thinking: Campaign Promises
This is hard to do without bias, especially when it comes to giving examples. Use whatever you believe in your own family to illustrate this lesson. What I want the students to take away is the struggle each candidate faces between being realistic and honest and pleasing people. Whatever our politics, that dilemma is universal.

Individual PDFs to download, in case you don't want the whole lesson:

Building a Platform Worksheet

Writing a Stump Speech

Delivering a Stump Speech

Out on the Stump: Planning a Campaign Trip

Campaign Promises

That's it! A lot to digest. Some pretty heavy thinking and writing going on, but keep it personal, keep it meaningful, and have fun with it!

Previous lessons:
Week 2: Unconventional Conventions
Week 1: Let's Get This Party Started
Prelude Class: What's an Election?

OR you can download the entire thing so far here: Vote for Me!

Mark Warner and Glenn Nye in Virginia Beach

Great guys. Inspiring speakers. Smart and dedicated. Plus, they look good next to a kid with orange hair.

Benny had made a sign that said "Mark Warner for Senate!" He had taped it to some newspaper and attached it to two pencils for handles, all without my help or encouragement. It was a cute sign and he was jumping around enthusiastically waving it when Mark Warner arrived at the pre-canvassing rally. Mark Warner reached down and picked Benny up, held him over his head and showed him around so everyone could see his handmade sign. It was pretty cute. Benny was very excited.

We listened to Glenn Nye, a very cool, very young foreign service officer who's served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is running for Congress against a Republican encumbent with a lot of support around here. I wish him the best. He sounded great, and I felt happy promoting him later when we were out in the neighborhoods pounding on doors for Obama.

Canvassing is not hard. Today there were a lot of chatty McCain voters. One of them had a Boston Terrier. He said in a friendly way that look, Democrats and Republicans can love the same dogs. And I said, in a friendly way, that if his dog could vote, she'd vote for Obama.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Surprise: Canvassing Is Not Hard

When I considered canvassing for Obama, I envisioned the following scenarios:

1. I creep up to a grey, weatherbeaten house with a dog on the porch and a chill wind whistling through the yard. Bits of torn paper and dry leaves spiral around in an eddy of breeze over a banging cellar door. A faded sign on the gate reads, "No libruls wanted." The dog bares its teeth as a voice whines from a broken upstairs window: WHO IS IT? And I say, "It's the Democrats!" And then the mouth of hell opens up beneath my feet and I'm immolated in a fountain of molten lava.

2. I stand on the porch of some smartassed Hannity listener in a sweater vest, getting asked to list three things Obama has done to qualify him for the presidency, while his preppy children sneer at me from their battery driven mini-SUVs. I forget the details of some minor policy point and am laughed out of the neighborhood. Support for Obama tumbles like dominoes as news of my shame spreads through the nearby houses.

3. I interrupt some kind of opium buy or domestic dispute or important television broadcast and am shot.

In other words, I was eskeert. I poured over my notes and Obama's web site, particularly Fight the Smears, and I prepared Benny to remain calm in the face of harrassment. On the way to the launch point, we roleplayed different scenarios, and he practiced thanking people for their time in response to everything from "GET OUT!" to "OBAMA IS A WEENIE!" That's right, I was taking my eight-year-old son on the canvassing adventure with me. Partly because he is learning about the elections process, and partly because I thought it would be interesting for him, but mostly because I thought people would be less likely to shoot/ignore/shout at me if I was chaperoned by a small cute child.

Okay. So it was not that bad. In fact, it was incredibly easy. I'll describe it for you, in case you are wondering if you can do this too. The answer, now say it with me: Yes, you can.

When we arrived at the launch, we met Leslie the organizer, and she gave us a handful of literature and a canvassing packet. In the packet was an interview script, a map to the neighborhood we were to be working in, a walking map of the streets we were responsible for, with little dots on it for the target houses, and a spreadsheet of info on each house. We had the name of the person to be interviewed, their age, address, and then boxes to check with the answers to these questions:

Who are you going to vote for to be president? Obama or McCain?
Senator? Warner or Gilmore?
Congress? Nye or Drake?
Do you consider yourself a democrat or a republican?
Are you going to vote in November?

That's it. There were other questions depending on those answers -- if they needed a ride to the polls or if they wanted to register to vote for example. We had voter registration forms and could register someone right then and there, turn in the forms for them and everything. There was no place in the interview for arguing, defending, promoting, hustling, or demanding. Mostly it was about figuring out if these people still lived at these addresses, if they were planning to vote for Obama, and if they needed help registering or getting to the polls.

At the launch we met up with Theo, who is the mom of another homeschooling mom I know, and the grandma of two of Benny's dearest little friends. She teamed up with us, and since she was an experienced canvasser, she helped me sort throught the paperwork and figure out how to start the conversations with people.

Here's a picture of Benny and Theo:

So, we did our thirty houses. We filled out our tally sheets. We turned in our spreadsheets. Benny was in charge of the interview questions on the houses we did, and he did a great job! People seemed to like talking to him. There were a lot of people who weren't home or were no longer at that address, and a few that wouldn't talk to us, but those who did were very nice.

Here's what I took away from the experience:

1. Canvassing is not necessarily personal. You're there as a volunteer for the Democratic Party and your primary purpose is to *get* information, not give it. This is not a situation where I, Lydia, am going out to meet Joe, the guy in this house, and have a political conversation. That's not to say that I was being mechanical or impersonal, I'm just saying, I'm there as a Democrat, I'm there on a specific mission, and the answers to the questions are what matters. I'm not there to defend myself or explain myself.

2. Canvassing is about finding Obama voters and getting them registered and to the polls. It's not about convincing McCain voters to vote for Obama. Those who answered "undecided" will receive a call from the campaign, and *that* person will help them with questions they have, try to convince them to vote for Obama/Warner, etc. My job as a canvasser it just to identify who these people are, where they are, and if they need to be pursued.

3. People don't know very much about the election. I talked to one guy who was pretty much unaware that there was an election going on. No one was up for a debate, no one had read up on the candidates, no one I talked to had gotten past the obvious, physical issues. Obama is black. McCain has a female VP. I wasn't called upon to discuss the finer points of health care. No one knew the names of the candidates for Senate.

Here's one scenario:

We walked up to a house and there was a lady sitting on the porch. I said, "Hi! I'm a neighborhood volunteer with the Campaign for Change, and I'm looking for John Smith. Is he here?" She asked what I wanted him for, and I said I was interested in his plans to vote in the election. She told me to go into the house. There in the front room was an elderly man listening to a football game, with the volume on very very loud. I said, "MR. SMITH?" He nodded, not looking at me. "MR. SMITH," I said, "ARE YOU GOING TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER?" He grunted at me that he wouldn't vote, had never voted, and that nothing could make him vote. I shook his hand and gave him a big smile, left some campaign literature on his end table, and told him I hoped he would reconsider, and vote for Barack Obama. Then I left.

Another scenario:

We had knocked on the door of a house where we were looking for two men, one 58 and one 18. There was no answer at the door, but as I was leaving I saw a young guy sitting in a car parked on the street. I asked, "Are you by any chance John Smith?" He was John Smith the younger. He was also registered to vote, an enthusiastic Obama supporter, and signed up to volunteer. I handed him a stack of fliers and told him he was officially a volunteer, and that his first mission was to hand those fliers out to all his friends at school. The campaign will give him a call with more chances to help. He was very excited.

There were good houses and there were not so good houses, but there were no awful houses. People are mostly nice. They mostly don't know much about the election. Some are willing to vote for Obama. Those are the people we need to find -- make sure they're registered, and get them to the polls. Now that I know what canvassing is like, and what it's for, and more importantly what it *isn't* like, I'm going to do it more.

Benny and I are going back out on Tuesday night and again next Sunday. I strongly encourage you to try this, whichever candidate you're supporting. It's a very interesting experience, and you'll definitely learn some unexpected things and see this election in a different way when you're done.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

How to Avoid the Lines at Busch Gardens

To avoid waiting in a line, choose a day for your visit that meets these criteria:

1. A school day. First Friday after Labor Day for example.
2. A rainy day. A light sprinkle won't kill ya. You're getting wet on all those splashy rides anyway.

And don't forget the most important one:

3. A day in which a hurricane is bearing down on the park like an angry Assyrian and all his gleaming cohorts.

Sure, everyone else is headed to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and food you don't have to keep cold. They're checking their generators and weather.com, speculating on whether tropical storm means losing power for eight minutes or eight hours. But you don't *care* about these things. You only care about getting straight onto any ride you decide to try, and riding as long as you want without getting off, because there is *no one in the park but you.* You may now cackle loudly, twirl your mustaches, and if you really want to, ball your fists and raise them to the sky in triumph. I mean, you probably have batteries somewhere, right? You have children after all. You can raid their toys.

There are three big roller coasters at Busch Gardens that Benny can ride: Big Bad Wolf, Apollo Chariot, and Loch Ness Monster. He rode none of them less than 4 times. Apollo Chariot he rode four times in a row without getting off. On Escape from Pompeii, we sat there debating whether we wanted to ride a fourth time or whether we were done. What a divine, excellent, blissful experience. Benny and Dad in the front row on the Big Bad Wolf:

Benny's analysis of the roller coasters:

Benny: "I like these non-fiction rides."
Me: "Non-fiction?"
Benny: "Yes, you know, the Walt Disney World rides are fiction and these are non-fiction."

Very astute, I think. I prefer the fictional ones, but that's predictable.

Sadie and I entertained ourselves while Benny and Dad were riding the big dangerous rides:

Here's Benny on the chair swing:

Here's Sadie on the chair swing junior:

Yes, the junior version was much less thrilling, but then again, someone had spectacularly hurled in a giant, radiating arc on the big one just before we were ready to get on it, so I decided... you know... to skip it.

Here's the ride that I puked on when I was a little kid at Boblo Island:

That's an actual picture of the actual ride -- the park is closed now but you can find anything on the internet, right? I puked in one of those red-flowered bushes, back in the 70s. Here's the Busch Gardens version of the pirate/viking ship, called the Battering Ram:

Dan and Benny were riding a 42" and up ride in the DaVinci area, and Sadie asked earnestly to ride the battering ram again, so I went on it with her. Fortunately she elected to sit in the middle and there were no eruptions. It was a little awful. Sadie told Dan, when they were riding it together, sitting at the rear seat, that the ride made her feel homesick. She also refers to it now, looking back, as having given her a homesick feeling -- I guess that's how she identifies the sinking stomach feeling you get. She loved that ride -- it was her favorite.

Here are the kids on some of the other DaVinci themed rides:

We had a solid four hours of happy sunny weather. The wind picked up while we were having lunch, and then the rain started misting down after 2:00. It got progressively stronger, and we retreated to the train and the Skyride... here we are in one of these little chairlifty buckets that go sailing around the park way up high on ropes. That lump in Sadie's hand is cotton candy made of garbanzo beans and agave nectar, with no artificial colors and flavors *WINK*:

The Skyride is a VERY cool way to see and understand the roller coasters from a different perspective. It even goes through the loops and very close to the speeding cars at one point.

By five it was too rainy to be cheery. Here's Ireland, empty, in the rain:

We went home happy, tired, having roller coastered the children into a state of complete exhaustion:

As for the "tropical storm," it was practically nothing. Hanna Shmanna Bobanna. A bit of wind, a bit of rain, the lights flickered once, and it was over. We didn't miss much by not frantically preparing on Friday. I'm glad we decided to live on the wild side and ride roller coasters all day.

One down side: While Dan was upside down over the lake, Dan's wallet plummeted to its death. While going past Loch Ness Monster in the Skyride bucket, we peered over and searched all the scaffolding -- we couldn't see it, so I'm pretty sure it's in the Loch. Of course, being Dan, he's already replaced all his cards and identifications. Without that one glitch it would have been a perfect day. A wet, heart-racing, laughing, rushing, upside down day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vote for Me! Elections Unit Study Supplement: Interpreting Promotional Media

Hello again! This lesson is about interpreting the videos created by the political parties to promote their candidates. I thought the videos used to introduce Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were particularly interesting in a compare-and-contrast way, and having had this conversation with my eight-year-old, I can tell you that he had observations that went beyond what I had already thought I was going to use in the lesson. So, here is the discussion. Some of these questions will again become relevant when we create our own campaign commercials:

Promoting the Candidate: The Biographical Video

Watch these videos first.

Barack Obama Intro:

Hillary Clinton Intro:

Discussion Questions:

Immediately after watching the Clinton video: List three things you remember seeing in the video.

Immediately after watching the Obama video: List three things you remember seeing in the video.

How would you describe the music in the Barack Obama video?

How would you describe the music in the Hillary Clinton video?

Barack Obama is the nominee for President from the Democratic Party. What is the purpose of this video? What were the people who made the video trying to accomplish by making it?

Hillary Clinton almost won the nomination instead of Barack Obama. Many of her supporters were really angry and were there at the convention. What do you think the purpose of this video was? What were its creators trying to accomplish?

The Clinton video had clips from comedy TV shows. It pointed out that she is a bad singer and has a funny laugh. Do you recall seeing any laughing in the Obama video?

Why might the Clinton video be more upbeat and funny, and the Obama video be more serious?

What are three moments from your life that you would want to include in a biographical video about you?

What are three songs you’d like to include?

Link to the PDF for this lesson: Interpreting the Promotional Videos

Link to the updated Week 2 set: Unconventional Conventions

Vote for Me! Elections Unit Study Supplement: Balancing the Ticket

Hello budding politicos! Are we having fun with these conventions or what? I am almost ready to say my favorite thing about them is watching for the most awesome hats. Today I have two more short lessons for you about the conventions. I'm actually going to post these as online lessons, also as PDFs, and I'm also going to repost the link to the Week 2 lesson plan with these included. While they can be viewed online and discussed in the context of online images, it's also important to print the PDFs so that you can cut them up, move them around, and mix them in with the kids' own drawings.

This is another tough week in terms of handling issues of race and gender. It's hard to present the historical importance of having a black candidate and a female candidate without presenting some difficult information on discrimination and oppression. For our family, we've decided to just present the facts, and let the enormous significance come later. I know that Benny is not going to realize how important these groundbreaking moments are, even if I try to persuade him with examples and info. Maybe I don't truly grasp it well enough either. All I can do is let him know the facts and recognize that the real understanding may come much later.


Look at the pictures on the previous page. Using the pictures and what you know about these candidates from watching the conventions, think about these questions:

1. List three things that are the same and three things that are different about John McCain and Sarah Palin. Think about physical appearance, identity, experience, geographic location, and personality.
2. List three things that are the same and three things that are different about Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Think about physical appearance, identity, experience, geographic location, and personality.
3. Do you think it’s more important to find a running mate who agrees with your ideas or a running mate who balances your ticket?
4. Do you think that appearance is important when choosing a running mate?
5. Try cutting out the pictures on the previous page and rearranging them. Mix and match. How would the tickets change if John McCain were with Joe Biden and Barack Obama were with Sarah Palin?
6. What would you think of a ticket with two women (like the Green party has) or a ticket with two men (like the Democrats)?
7. Sarah Palin is the first Republican woman to be on a presidential ticket. Why do you think John McCain chose her?
8. Draw pictures of yourself and your invented running mate. Mix and match yourself in with the candidate pictures you cut out on page 1. (You need the printed PDF for this.)

Link to the PDF for this lesson: Balancing the Ticket

Link to the updated Week 2 set: Unconventional Conventions

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Three Things and the RNC

1. How to get this hair style: Cut off all your hair. ALL. Say to the haircutting man, "Take off everything that's ruined and killed" and then watch as all your hair is removed, down to the shy little inch-long roots. Then do NOTHING for six months. After six months, get extremely annoyed and hack off most of the back of your hair in the bathroom mirror with school scissors. Wait one more year. You're done!

2. Sadie is a badass. She had to get three shots today, and she made ABSOLUTELY no sound, not even a peep, not even a gasp, as they went in. Even during the one the nurse said she was doing last because it was going to b-u-r-n (spelling it nervously) she sat there still as a statue, watching the needle go in. Is this good or bad? She is going to be one tough ninja someday. Notice Fluffy the Webkinz in her lap. The doctor examined Fluffy exhaustively while Sadie rolled her eyes.

3. Our rabbit is awesome. When we got this stupid rabbit, I thought it was a whim Sadie was having, and that she wouldn't really play with it or love it. She does both, constantly. I have to say "Put the rabbit up" before we can get anything done around here. She drags it around by its skin, playing dolls with it, riding it in the baby stroller, making it live in the Barbie house, and also just hanging out with it and patting it while watching TV. It is the most patient, dear, un-biting, un-complaining rabbit. I really do not like this rabbit, just on principle. But I'm starting to convert. Here's the rabbit, Giselle, getting a physical from the children.

RNC: Bring on Joe Lieberman! I'm ready to be whelmed. Whelm me, Joe.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Carnival and Blog Award Alternatives

There is a big, huge, homeschooling carnival, to which I often submit, and which I often read, that was started by the Cates at Why Homeschool. It's massive, has a long history, and its host blog rotates from week to week. My greatest interest in reading this carnival, which sometimes showcases gems of posts but also always includes stuff I don't really see as relevant to homeschooling, is to get a gauge on what people are interested in, in any given week, and what the authors of these blogs see as the best of their blog for the week. There's always something useful and thought-provoking, but the whole list is usually too much to digest.

Then there's the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers, now in its eighth edition, hosted by my excellent friend Shez at Homeschooled Twins. This carnival has a strong editorial presence, as Shez reads and comments on all the posts she includes, and illustrates the carnival with example pictures. Whereas the "big" carnival is too big for the host blogger to really read and analyze all the posts, and give a summary in her own words, the COCH (pronounced WOOHOO!) is definitely filtered through Shez's opinions, her judgment, and her selection process. So, the COCH (pronounced YEAH BABY!) is more like a magazine's edited pages, where the big carnival is sometimes more like classified ads. COCH (pronounced HA-CHA-CHA!) is smaller, more chewable, and lemon-scented! Read the eighth edition of this Homeschool Carnival.

Now let's talk about blog awards. The original Homeschool Blog Awards, which have obvious cache in that they own the domain name, have been rather controversial over their short history, as some have claimed they favor and focus on the Christian and right-wing blogs. Be that as it may, or may not, or really who wants to get in a shouting match over it, there is an alternative Homeschool Blog Award hosted by Alasandra at her Homeschooling Blog.

Yes, I'm nominated, and so is Shez, because we cleverly nominated each other! When the voting opens, please vote for us. Or yourself. And I will vote for you too. You can see who nominated who in the comments to the original list of nominees, and you can also still nominate yourself or someone else, because the list is still open here: Homeschool Blog Awards.