Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recess Research

We got back from our indoor park day today to find a link to this article about experts agreeing that recess improves children's behavior and academic performance. Which left me scratching my head thinking, well, duh!

I felt like calling up the experts and saying really loudly, 'how would you like it if you were allowed no time to stretch your legs or breathe the free air all day?' I mean, is this a surprise to anyone, that kids need recess to be at their best?

While I had those experts on the horn, I'd also mention my concern that they seem to think that kids ONLY need recess to behave better, perform well academically, or "resolve conflicts" on the playground, as one expert helpfully points out in the article. What's the matter with kids having recess because it's FUN and they are KIDS?

That may be my biggest beef with public education today: nobody's allowed to do anything just for the fun of it. Everything must have some higher purpose, some lesson learned, some Important Point. Do the experts not realize that kids at their creative, curious, problem-solving best got that way by either daydreaming or enjoying something so much that they just had to know more about it?

As you may have noticed, this is a topic that I feel passionate about; kids are KIDS, not robots that can be programmed to behave or perform.

From The Stone Age Techie

Saturday, January 24, 2009


One of the best parts of homeschooling is that it gives us time to do what we want, when we want - so yesterday, we took advantage of the excellent, 40 degree weather to get outside!

Here are some pictures from yesterday of our park day group, out in the sunshine:

From winter 08 09

Although we brought five sleds, it's way more fun to try out others'; Luke loved this inflatable tube brought by a friend.

From winter 08 09

Our sled hill happens to be part of a playground/skateboard park/ball field, giving kids lots more to do than just sled. It makes me smile, though, to see them choose rocks, trees, and the big hill over fancy equipment. Kind of like toddlers playing with the box more than the present that came in it!

From winter 08 09

Food always tastes better outside.

From winter 08 09

So does double-strength Hoth Chocolate, a little concoction from The Star Wars Cookbook.

From winter 08 09

One of the kids in our group brought a friend - made out of special cards, and soooo cool.

Back in November, with temperatures still in the 40s and 50s, we parents kind of groaned at the thought of getting together in wintry weather. Yesterday, though, with temps back up to 40-ish from the teens and single digits, the air was full of celebration. It was good fun to get outside, and it's a safe bet that everyone slept well last night.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Music

Like many Americans, we here at The Stone Age Techie felt that yesterday was a really, really great day. Relatives sent e-cards expressing sentiments such as "Today, I feel like I'm finally dating a great guy after dating one for 8 years who took all my money," and "Now we can stop pretending we're Canadian!" On Facebook, status updates read "So it is 'nuclear' then?" and "Aimee is eating her first apple of the new administration."

In our house, we sat enthralled through the oath, the speech, the benediction - "when tanks are pounded into tractors!" - and all the wonderful music, by Yitzak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, and the military orchestra, and all the bands and troupes performing for their new President.

All the excitement made us want to dance, too, so we put together an Inauguration Mix; very eclectic but fun nonetheless. It's got Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," "Superman" by REM, Fatboy Slim's "Praise You," Me Phi Me's "Revival" - but the song on it that, to me, has come to symbolize these last 8 years and this transition of power is an Irish one, "Red-Haired Mary."

This song is about two Irish traveling people - tinkers - heading to a fair. Tinker #1, whom we'll call Barry, offers to carry a lovely lady tinker, Mary, on his donkey to the fair. When they get there, who should step in and claim Mary as his own but Tinker #2; he needs a name too, so let's think of him as George.

George and Barry have an epic battle for Mary, in which they lose teeth, get shoved through doors, and brawl through many verses. Finally, Mary steps in and chooses her man - and it's Barry that she chooses (how could the song end any other way?)

The last verse is the best: "Now through the fair we rode together/ my black eye and her red hair/ Smiling gaily at the tinkers/ And by God we were a handsome pair!"

Such a good metaphor for what our country's been through, and where we are now - banged up, maybe, but full of hope and happiness.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ban on Resale Children's Products Update

Anyone who read this post two weeks or so ago will know the panic I felt about how the ban on lead in children's products - a good thing in and of itself - was translated into secondhand, resale, and thrift stores being obliged to toss anything that might contain lead and be for children under 13 or risk prosecution... under the new law for the ban on lead in children's products.

Well, it doesn't look as bad as it did at first; here is information specifically about how this law will treat resale and thrift stores.

The clarification states: "The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold." So far, so good, right?

But then: "However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties."

I guess this will stop most of the clothing intended for children from hitting the nearest landfill. But what is 'likely to have lead content'? Books or toys that talk or play music? Video consoles or handheld games? CDs, DVDs, vidoetapes?

And, if I'm a resale or thrift store owner who could face the 'civil and/or criminal penalties' if something I'm selling turns out to have lead in it, how likely am I - really - to put it on the shelf?

I wouldn't take the chance, if it was my butt on the line - I'd put anything suspicious in the trash.

I wonder how many actual thrift-store owners will?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Homeschooling By the Fire

It is 12 degrees outside, and both my darlings are sick. I mean, stomach bug and fever kind of sick. We have not left the house in six days.

This isn't exactly a recipe for happy children and great home learning, but somehow they have managed both - at least, when they are not running to the bathroom or swooning at 103 degrees.

Here is how we have been getting along:

From winter 08 09

First, behind that lovely plastic supergate is our woodstove. Today, we gave up on the couches as too far away from the stove's warmth, and took our amusements to the floor - much, much cozier.

Second, we are loving The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookie Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes; you can see it there on the left. If you want to make some tasty eats with a Star Wars theme - our favorite so far is the Princess Leia Danish Buns - then here is your book. Plus, you can warm the place up a bit by using the oven!

Third, and certainly most important to Luke, is the card game that finally, finally came in the mail - Mythmatical Battles. If you don't know about these cards yet, and you have a child obsessed with Greek (or Celtic, Norse, or Egyptian) mythology, you need to find out about them. You play a game with them that's a lot like the Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh card games, but with an added challenge: you must solve multiplication equations to know how many defense or attack points you have. It's really fun, even for adults like me who have not loved the magic-card-game craze.

From winter 08 09

You're seeing a special happening up there in that picture: Owen is writing his very first letters. Ever! He's been taken with the T, X, and V lately, and will turn nearly any straight thing he comes upon - race track, pencils, whatever - into these letters. But today was the first time he placed chalk to chalkboard and actually wrote.

Kind of cool, to be there for somebody's first-ever effort at written communication.

Really cool, actually.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling

Once again, The Stone Age Techie has a post in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. If you're not familiar with the Carnival, it takes place at a blog (that changes each week, just like a real-world carnival moves from town to town), and homeschooling bloggers contribute posts, often about homeschooling but also about other concerns or joys.

My post is about this freaky lead-resale-consumer-protection-act thing, but most of the posts are more closely related to homeschooling...

Next time I submit a post, it will be about homeschooling - promise!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We Must Do Something

According to The Columbus Dispatch, starting on Feb. 10, 2009, when the new law banning lead paint in children's toys will take effect, there will also be a ban on resale of any children's toys! (Go to the article link here.)That means, no thrift shop, resale store, or garage sale will be able to sell pre-owned toys, and may also be taken to mean resale clothes and books, anything that may contain lead and end up worn or used by children.

If true - and I can't find any evidence to the contrary - this will have profound implications, not just for the families who depend on 2ndhand goods, not just for the stores that carry said goods, but for the earth, too. Can you imagine the amount of excess in landfills when these toys, clothes, books, etc. become junk, by order of the US Government? It boggles the mind.

From winter 08 09

Originally, this post was reserved for connections between literature and imagination - Owen is posing as The Headless Horseman up in that picture, and spends most of his spare time "reading" our library's graphic-novel copy of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow - but for now, I want you to take a good look at Owen's horse.

Purchased last week, from a fantastic thrift shop nearby, for 50 cents! A month from now, unless something changes in the law, that horse would be bound for the junkyard.

Or, put another way, unless you and I do something. Right now.

But what? This link will take you to a place where you can send an email to your congresspeople, and if that's your choice then it is a good choice. I'm going to find out who my rep in the US Congress is, today, and call him or her (and yes, I know how inexcusable it is not to know that already... mea culpa!) and ask that something be done.

Because, if not me, then who?

Please, please help.

Update: Here is a Los Angeles Times article about the problem.

Update #2: I now know who my Congressperson is: Richard Neal, of Massachusetts' 2nd District. The woman I spoke with in his office here in MA was wonderful, and while I called with trepidation - it's nerve-wracking to call a public official, at least, that's how I felt - my concerns were heard and responded to with warmth and respect. Maybe next time, I won't be so nervous! Anyway, according to his office here in MA, Congressman Neal is aware of the implications in this law for the resale of children's toys, clothes, and books, which is a good start. Where this will go from here depends on you:

Please find out who your Congressperson is, and either pick up the phone or follow the link above to send him or her a letter about this issue. And thanks!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Play Dough

Are you feeling the need for something new and different to do with your kids?

Check out my Food and Family column for a few good play dough recipes, and reasons to play with it -

as if you needed any others besides, "Amuse the kids. Now!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

When All is Right With the World

A handful of times in my life, this feeling has come over me that I describe as the feeling that all is right with the world.

It's deja-vu-ish, and has come on in settings as diverse as in a bar in Colorado listening to Jim Saelstrom, to waiting at a stoplight in our town. But the location doesn't seem to matter quite so much as the people I'm with: in the bar, it was with my husband, brothers, sis-in-law, and parents. At the light, it was with Ben and Luke, when Luke was tiny. It happens when a seemingly ordinary moment becomes filled with light and joy, and I can feel my heart soaring. Suddenly, I love the ones I'm with so much - and I'm so, so thankful to have them in my life.

It's been a while since I've had one of these moments, and I'm not sure why. I'm as happy as I've ever been, homeschooling, writing, blogging, living... but last night, I had one.

I was putting food away, surveying the wreckage that was our kitchen, and then I walked out into the living room to Hurricane LukeandOwen, and instead of flipping out about the mess, I... got this feeling of rightness. Ben was surfing the net, one kid was buried in books on a couch and the other was 'being' Santa, delivering toys to us from a sack and ho-ho-ing around.

It just felt so perfect - all was right with the world.

I don't know why I get these, or if anyone else does, but they are so cool! The 5 or 6 I have had over the course of my 37 years have caused me to remember some fairly mundane moments as what they really are: snapshots of ordinary, wonderful life.

They are a reminder to me of what's really important, and I am grateful for that.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Holiday Gifts IV

Here's to a peaceful, happy, productive and FUN 2009.