All Ag Online

Archive for category Mary Leppert

Crosswired Science – Intelligent Science For Every Child

By Michael Leppert


The lack of scientific academics in American school children is well-known and often commented upon. Don Miller’s Crosswired Science is a curriculum company that believes that part of the reason for the decline in the number of America’s science-oriented students, is the delivery of the information. Crosswired teaches all sorts of science subjects with a definite objective to show kids & parents how incredible everything is.


Crosswired is a team of credentialed teachers (California) who are trying to present a complete spectrum to students. The average graduating senior knows little or nothing about science. Currently, students receive biology instruction in 6th and 10th grades, and someearth and physical science in betweenbut the average high school grad has little grasp of science or its value in our lives.


Mr. Miller takes this approach:  As the Crosswired student develops, Miller’s program teaches the same topics, but the information expands greatly and bridges to other content areas. CWS might present something in September, then again in November and April amplifying the concept topic each time around. As the child grows older, s/he can understand more of the depth of what is being taught.


Mr. Miller offers 25 teaching tips. One is to build great concepts instead of memorizing arbitrary facts. A lesson might center on the polarity of water (the molecular attraction of water to itself) then talk about how this plays a critical role in water being able to exist in a liquid state on earth.  The lesson would then gravitate to the importance of this molecular attraction in the transpiration of water in plants. Next, the material would teach that a newborn’s lungs have surfactant in them that is made by lung cells that breaks the polarity of water. Without this chemical being exactly in the right place, the newborn’s lungs would be sealed shut and no baby could survive. This progression of concepts, and many more elements in the lesson, establishes the concept of water polarity and how important it is to living things and how dangerous it can be too.


Crosswired offers great experiments that relate to the concepts that are fun and interesting. These help the students to understand significant concepts and how they relate to all sorts of cutting-edge inventions and machines.


Crosswired builds memorable concepts using the best resources available. CWS links to videos, animations, apps and websites that are already excellent for teaching.


The PAK has a value of $400 alone.  And you get a complete video curriculum for two years too.


Crosswired Science offers two websites – a Christian site and a public school site This way, parents can be assured that the material will not conflict with the family’s beliefs or a school’s guidelines, and every child can access the CWS lessons. There are 72 units available currently. CWS can be used as a supplement to another science course or on its own. Visit either of their websites for much more information and help your child develop a solid and very exciting science foundation. MjL


, , , , , , ,

No Comments

Past, Present, & Future of Homeschooling A MINI HISTORY LESSON

By Martin and Carolyn Forte,

The modern homeschooling movement has been a very successful educational alternative for over thirty years and continues to grow in popularity and acceptability. The majority of you who are reading this article probably have no idea what it was like to be a homeschooler in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the decades which represent the birth of the modern homeschool movement. Let’s take a few minutes and discuss the progression of homeschooling through the decades starting with the “pioneers”, progressing to the “settlers” and ending with the latest members of the homeschool community, the “refugees.”

As with any successful movement, it all starts with the pioneers. These are the individuals who had a vision, were willing to blaze the trail and take the arrows in the back. The original pioneers were composed of two very distinct groups. The first group was composed of hippies living off the coast of Big Sur or the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas and was basically very happy smoking their happy grass and skinny-dipping. They really were interested in just doing their own thing and bringing their children with them. This resulted in a rather isolated group with very little organizational power or desire.

The second group, formed mainly of Christians and those with similar goals, was highly influential in setting the direction of the movement for the next decade or so. This group homeschooled primarily for religious and academic reasons, as well as to protect their children from the ways of the secular world. During this time period, not only prayer, but nearly all references to Christianity were removed from public schools and in the mind’s eye of the Christian community, the progression of secularism was of great concern.

The early homeschoolers in both these groups were pioneers in every sense. They had only sketchy guidance from the few trailblazers of the decades before them. In many cases they were completely on their own, unaware of the few individuals and organizations that offered support or advice to homeschoolers. The pioneer homeschoolers had no conventions, state or national organizations, organized and knowledgeable legal defense, or curriculum support. To make life even more difficult they usually operated outside the then-current law, while trying to duck under the radar of local truant officers. There are documented cases where some parents actually spent time in jail for homeschooling their children. These were families who believed passionately in what they were doing and were willing to make sacrifices to give their children a better life. The methods and philosophy of the early pioneers varied enormously, but they found common ground in their commitment to raising their children free of government interference.

They did the best they could with whatever materials were at hand. As few text books were available, most homeschoolers of the late 70’s and early 80’s used the public library as their primary source of written materials. As these pioneers were forced to develop curriculums free of text books, they soon discovered that they had a tremendous advantage over classroom-educated children. Those who stuck with it concluded that far from being necessary for learning, formal texts actually slowed down the pace of learning. Occasionally, we were given a discarded reader or social studies book only to find it was boring and useless. We didn’t know at the time that we had discovered what Diane Ravich wrote in her book “The Language Police” that virtually all elementary text books are purposely designed to be bland, boring and obscure, an insult to the native intelligence of children. Far from being a handicap, the lack of formal texts propelled pioneer homeschoolers into real study and research using real, or as Charlotte Mason put it, “living books.”

This new awareness, combined with the teaching of Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore who introduced the concept of physiological maturity determining academic readiness in their publication “Better Late Than Early”, allowed the pioneers to determine their own educational timeline or as the educational community would refer to as “scope and sequence.” Before his passing in 1985 John Holt left a very large foot print on the heart and minds of the pioneers. His “unschooling” concept that allowed for more “interest-led ownership” by the children provided a tremendous amount of freedom from the less-than- successful structured educational model of the class room school system. If you were to ask most homeschoolers in the late 70’s and 80’s who the true pioneers of homeschooling was they would reply the Moores and Holt.

Because the pioneers did not have conventions, the internet or other supportive vehicles, they relied on their own research and reading. They were hungry for knowledge on the various avenues they could pursue in successfully teaching their children. This is why most pioneers became eclectic homeschoolers, blending the teachings of Moore, Holt, Mason and the concepts represented in the classical education and Jeffersonian models. Encouraged to follow their interests, free of artificial schedules and fabricated lists of facts to be memorized, our children learned to inquire, experiment, observe, learn from failures, digest information, analyze and create their own conclusion that was either verbally communicated or written. In other words, our children were given the opportunity to learn how to learn, as well as teach themselves. When we asked our older daughter what aspect of homeschooling provided her with an advantage in college, her immediate response was: “I have the ability to teach myself.”

Gradually homeschoolers began to find each other, forming groups and organizations to share information, support and legal defense. The latter was no trifling matter as parents were threatened, harassed, jailed and in at least one case died for the right to homeschool. The mid 1980’s found homeschoolers organizing on every level: Local park days, private schools for independent study, county, regional, state, and national support organizations as well as specialized support for ethnic, religious and handicapped children. Seminars and conventions brought homeschoolers together in large numbers attracting vendors and publishers who scorned individual homeschoolers only a few years earlier. All this material and organizational support that was the result of the persistence and sacrifices of the pioneers, resulted in a homeschool community that was safer and more secure. At this point the pioneers had succeeded in their job and created a safe and secure community.

As with every successful community, its success attracts a new class of individuals which we call the “settlers.” It is important to remember that the “settlers”, for the most part, homeschooled for the same reasons as the “pioneers”, which basically can be summarized as educational excellence or faith-based reasons. Like the settlers of the old west, these new homeschoolers worried less about attacks from outside than the pioneers had. Their numbers and successes began to afford them an increased sense of security and protection. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a complacency that might prove to be detrimental to homeschooling. This, combined with the reality that they didn’t have to be totally self-reliant in terms of devising a program of learning — let alone develop an educational philosophy — has changed the attitude of some homeschoolers. In fact, the trend among many settlers is to buy their educational philosophy instead of developing their own unique style.

With the advent of so many publishers and authors convincing the homeschool parent that they have the golden bullet, the convention- or seminar-attending homeschooler has become confused, if not controlled by this influence. How many times have you listened to a dynamic speaker and left the seminar knowing that you have found the answer, only to discover six months later that the promises just seem to be as elusive as ever? While the homeschool community can get some great inspiration and information from these great speakers and vendors, the settlers must always be on guard not to lose sight of their original intent and the effect on their children of any curriculum or program you might subscribe to. We bring this reality to your attention only because we have seen so many settlers burn out and send their children back to the classroom.

Another trend within the community is the increased support system of classroom options. This basically started with the “Friday School” concept where homeschoolers meet one day a week for classroom instruction. The primary purpose here was to provide a source where a parent could find a teacher to teach a subject that they were uncomfortable with or lacked confidence in. An example would be the teaching of higher math or a biology lab classes. Some individuals have actually formed businesses with the whole purpose of teaching classes to homeschool students. In southern California, a company called Science-2-U provides complete science instruction from elementary levels through high school lab science classes to literally hundreds of students in the Los Angeles area. Today you can find classes from basic elementary levels all the way through Advanced Placement (AP) classes. While this is a wonderful development, the homeschool community should be careful to not lose sight of the original “homeschool” concept and not get caught up in the “alternative” school direction. This is an easy trap to fall into.

The homeschool community has also discovered the community college as a great source of instruction through the concurrent enrollment programs. The benefit here is that once the homeschool student has entered into “college” level classes, they gain not only high school graduation credits, but they also are receiving college credit for all classes successfully taken by the homeschool student. This has become such a great option that in some cases, we are seeing homeschool students graduating with their high school diploma and their Associate of Arts degree from the community college.
Through the massive buying power the settlers represent, major book publishers and vendors—large and small—have discovered the profit potential in this niche market. Small, family-operated bookstores and Independent Study Programs have flourished in the last 15 years. A very large portion of the settlers have become very computer and internet savvy which has created a very strong internet community. A homeschooler today can find literally thousands of internet sites covering every aspect of homeschooling. The internet has also been a great news source for the community. With the various sites, almost anything positive or negative occurs within the homeschool community it can take a very short time before the entire community is informed.

As we can see, the settlers have made wonderful strides in the homeschool movement. Their success with homeschooling has resulted in an annual growth of approximately 20%. This is a very successful growth rate regardless of what industry you are looking at. The settlers have been very influential in the normalization of homeschool and the acceptance of society as a whole, in recognizing homeschooling as a viable and legitimate educational option. Today, due to the success of the settlers, homeschool graduates are accepted by industry and all post-secondary institutions from community colleges to Ivy League universities and the military. Everyone is very excited about the success of the settlers with the exception of high schools, who seem to put up road blocks for those homeschoolers who want to transfer back into the public high school system. With this exception, we can proudly say that the settlers have done a wonderful job in creating a very positive impression for homeschooling.

This leads us into the third and newest member in the homeschooling community: What we refer to as the “refugees.” While the pioneers and settlers were primarily motivated by faith-based reasons or wanting a better quality educational option for their children, the refugee is entering the homeschool community as a last resort. The primary reasons for entering into this community is that the parent wants a safer environment, the child is failing in the classroom, the child has violated a zero-tolerance rule or the child has been expelled from the public school system. The parents in these cases have exhausted all classroom options and are left with the last option, which is homeschooling, until compulsory attendance requirements have been met. The transition into the private school option is in many cases outside the affordability of the family and they will default into the homeschool choice. The major problem for the homeschool community is that the parents in most cases really do not want to homeschool, but they feel trapped into this option. Part of the reason for this trapped feeling is that these parents just do not feel they are qualified to teach. This is going to become a great challenge for the settlers to do their best to welcome these new refugees and provide a safe and encouraging environment. Up to this point, the performance of the general homeschool community has been very positive with our students performing very well on standardized tests and post-secondary schooling. If we do not pay attention to the refugees, we will see a decline in the overall performance of the homeschool community. These refugee families in many cases come into the homeschool community with very low grade point averages and attitudes lacking a success motivation.

While it is true that many of the refugees will stay just that, there is also the great reality that many of the refugees will want to transition into the settler community with the hope of succeeding as true homeschoolers. The settlers will have to exercise some extra patience with the refugees, but if done properly we will see some fantastic results. We know of many cases where a refugee has successfully transitioned into the settler class in the homeschool community. We know of one case where a refugee with less than a 2.0 GPA and no future, entered into the homeschool community scared and confused only to graduate from an Independent Study Program with college credits and entering into a college path to become a minister. When this particular student had been asked where he would be at age 25, his response was either dead or in jail. Now, he is headed into a profession that will help countless number of troubled teens. The reality is that if the settlers spend a little time with these families and help build a dream as well as increase their confidence, these families and students will have a positive future. The sad part is that this particular homeschool student was rejected by a large number of exclusive ISP’s before he found one that accepted him and provided him and his family the tools to work with. How much better can it get when a community accepts all of its members, helps them create a dream and does what is required to make them a success? This will be the greatest footprint that the homeschool community can make, the taking of refugees from the classroom environment and providing them the pathway to success. MF & CF■


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

What Is It With Homeschoolers & Money?

By Diane Flynn Keith,


Throughout my homeschool journey, I have donated many hours of labor and many dollars from my own pocket to further the cause of home education. I organized lots of events for my local homeschool community — some for free, some for a fee. I have had interaction with homeschoolers from every socio-economic background imaginable and I have yet to understand what seems to be a collective thought about money — that homeschoolers don’t have any. Not only that, but because there is a belief that homeschoolers don’t have any money there seems to be an underlying assumption that resources, information and services should be provided dirt cheap, if not for free. Why? What is it with homeschoolers and money?


My observations are based on my personal experience and conversations with homeschool parents, support group leaders, field trip organizers, and homeschool activists and authors. In doing a little research, I also found that responses to surveys by various homeschooling organizations do NOT support the prevailing myth that homeschoolers don’t have money. In fact, one 1999 survey reported the median household income of homeschool families as $50,000-$75,000 per year, a little higher than the national average. In a 2003 homeschool conference exhibitor brochure I found demographics showing a wide income range from $20,000 to $90,000 and up, with 44% earning $40,000-$70,000, 10% earning $70,000-$90,000 and 16% earning $90,000 or more!


You can see that as a group we cannot be defined as poor. So why is there a preponderance of statements, presumptions, and behavior to the contrary?


In fact, based on these statistics there appears to be a sub-group of elite homeschoolers who have discretionary income to spend freely on their kids’ education. If these people exist in homeschooling they sure maintain a low profile.


Actually, I do know one affluent homeschooler (who doesn’t flaunt her wealth) and she confessed experiencing prejudice and resentment from fellow homeschoolers who snubbed her with callous remarks whenever she shared information about opportunities that her family had experienced. Over and over again she was the recipient of comments like, “Well, that’s fine for you – you can afford it,” or “It must be nice to have money,” or the hard-hearted, “You’re not really homeschooling – you’re just buying an education for your kids.” Ouch! What would possess homeschool parents to behave so badly, so insensitively?


I know I’m going to irritate some people with this next comment, but there even seems to be an “entitlement” mentality that is alive and well in the homeschool population. Some parents seem to think that things related to education should just be given to them gratis. They complain about the cost of curriculum, textbooks, workbooks, lessons, field trips and everything else related to educating their kids. They bargain, barter, haggle, whine, and demand discounts or freebies. Don’t these penny-pinchers realize that discounts and freebies aren’t always feasible? Do they understand that decreased revenue (and/or the inability to just recover costs) for suppliers will discourage them from offering future opportunities and products? A desire to gouge the profits of big corporate businesses (you know, textbook publishers) may be one thing, but I’ve seen these cheapskates nickle-and-dime homeschool businesses and support groups that have slim (if any) profit margins. I’ve actually seen them complain and harass the homeschool mom who offers a field trip or a co-op class for a fee. Don’t they know that if she doesn’t get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses she may feel resentful and be discouraged from offering future opportunities? I just don’t get it.


Is it the self-sacrifice of homeschooling our kids that makes us feel like we have given enough and should therefore be rewarded for our efforts with freebies? Do we resent the fact that we have opted for the restrictions of single-income-living in order to educate our kids at home? Do we feel entitled because we pay taxes that support public schools and reap none of the “benefits”? Why do you suppose we have the idea that education should be free? Is it because we have for so long been dependent on government public schools? Have we grown so accustomed to this educational welfare that we believe we are entitled to educational resources even if our kids don’t attend government schools? I wonder if the government has devalued education by making it “free” (albeit with strings attached) – and by making it a function of the government village to raise and educate our children.


The education of our children (and the resources that facilitate it) have fundamental value. We should be willing to pay for it.


I understand the reality of homeschooling on a single income. I am extremely appreciative of the creativity that families on very limited incomes bring to their homeschooling endeavors. I absolutely believe that all you really need to homeschool is a library card — and maybe the free admission days at museums. I relish the free resources available on the Internet. I am not one to encourage people to mindlessly spend their hard-earned dollars on every educational gadget that comes along. I applaud grassroots volunteers who selflessly contribute hours of their time to answer homeschool hot lines, moderate online discussion groups, and conduct free homeschool information presentations. I like free. Free is good. Free is my favorite four-letter word. But let’s face it, not every good thing is free. And just because something that will enhance our homeschooling costs money doesn’t make it bad, or useless, or unimportant, or unnecessary. Nor should paying a fair price for value received cause people to feel contempt or resentment.


I understand that money matters are relative. What’s cheap for one may be considered expensive to another. But even here, I find an enigma that I just don’t understand. Let me give you an example of what I mean. A homeschool mom I know organized a series of ten, l.5 hour homeschool science classes. The classes were conducted by an engineer, who was not only a terrific instructor but one who offered lots of hands-on activities backed up by solid scientific explanation. The mom offered the series for a fee of $80 dollars per student — that included materials. Would you believe that some parents gave her grief that the classes were too expensive? Before complaining did they consider for a minute the costs of paying the instructor, purchasing the materials, and renting the facility where the classes were to be conducted? Did they place any value on her time to organize the class, not to mention her costs for related telephone calls, as well as photocopy costs for fliers and reservation forms? Did they bother to break down the cost of the series to determine the amount per hour of instruction? If they had, they would’ve discovered that it works out to $8 per class, or $5.33 per hour per student – and that included materials! We’re talking about the cost of a “Happy Meal” or a Starbucks’ Mocha Latte and a biscotti. Is it worth it? Is a Yu-Gi-Oh! pack of cards worth $5.00 or more? I leave it to you to decide.


I have given the subject of homeschoolers and their attitudes about money a lot of thought. I wonder about the common assumption that homeschoolers don’t have money or expendable income. Is it true, or is it a myth? It calls into question our beliefs about money in general — how we earn it, spend it, save it, and invest it. Our culture is rife with platitudes about money, most of them negative: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” In my quest to understand, I came across a book with the unlikely title of Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh. Here is an excerpt that I found particularly relevant to this discussion:


You carry a thought around that money is bad. You also carry a thought around that God is good…Therefore in your thought system, God and money do not mix… This makes things interesting, because this then makes it difficult for you to take money for any good thing. I mean, if a thing is judged very “good” by you, you value it less in terms of money. So the “better” something is (i.e., the more worthwhile), the less money it’s worth.


You are not alone in this. Your whole society believes this. So your teachers make a pittance and your stripteasers, a fortune. Your leaders make so little compared to sports figures that they feel they have to steal to make up the difference….


Think about it. Everything on which you place a high intrinsic value, you insist must come cheaply….

This having-it-all backwards is a propensity with you, and it stems from wrong thought.


The wrong thought is your idea about money. You love it, and yet you say it is the root of all evil. You adore it, and yet you call it “filthy lucre.” You say that a person is “filthy rich.” And if a person does become wealthy doing “good” things, you immediately become suspect. You make that “wrong.”


The author goes on to say that there’s only one way to change all of that: You have to change your thought about money. The book contains a wonderful explanation for how to change your thinking for those who are unhappy about their money situation. It seems to me that many of us are unhappy with our money situation. Perhaps that is why we complain so much about the scarcity of money and longingly express our desire for it.


Another book that I found relevant to the whole question of money is the popular, Rich Dad, Poor Dad – What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not by Robert T. Kiyosaki. He says, “The main reason people struggle financially is because they have spent years in school but learned nothing about money. The result is that people learn to work for money…but never learn to have money work for them.” The author contends that this leads to years of financial struggle for most people and that it sets them up to experience anger, resentment, frustration, and disappointment over money. He goes on to show parents why they can’t rely on the school system to teach their kids about money and explains what parents need to teach their kids to ensure their future financial success. The step-by-step recommendations are easy to understand and implement and cannot help but change one’s actions, and as a result, one’s thoughts about money.


I’m not sure that there is one answer or solution to the question of, “What is it with homeschoolers and money?” But I think I’m on the right track. Changing our behavior and deeds as they relate to money and education will change our point of view. Our children learn their attitudes about money from us. They learn how to manage their money based on how they see us earn it, spend it, and invest it. As homeschooling parents we need to ask ourselves if we are modeling behavior with money that will benefit our children as they become adults. Are we raising our children with the financial savvy to experience abundance and have the ability to well-afford what they need? Or are we perpetuating an endless cycle of resentment about earning and spending money — and entitlement with regard to education — that will cause our kids to one day balk at the idea of paying $5.33 per hour for a science class for our grandchildren? Copyright 2006, 2014 by Diane Flynn Keith All rights reserved ■


, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Picking a Writing Program

(written by the late Dave Marks, the creator of the award-winning Writing Strands series. This essay is excerpted from Writing Strands: Essays on Writing, National Writing Institute, Denton, Texas.)

When I talk homeschooling parents about teaching children to write, they often mention how hard they find it. It’s like there’s a huge empty space out there called “Teaching Writing” and there are no clear rules written anywhere to explain how to do what they know has to be done.

After 30 years teaching writing in schools and 15 years working with homeschoolers, I’ve been exposed to a few ideas that work and many ideas I know don’t. There may not be just one way to teach anything, but there are some ideas which, when examined, are ineffectual.

Acknowledging that teaching writing is very complicated, you’d have to agree that a simple solution to such a complicated problem can’t work. This should eliminate in your mind all those programs that tell you learning to write is easy or it’s simple to teach kids to write. It’s not.

There are some teaching programs it might be wise to ask questions about before you adopt them:

1. You should look at the ideas that suggest kids can teach each other to write. In public school they call it peer reviewing, or group learning or co-learning. Examine the principle carefully before you adopt it for your children. What it says to you is if you take two or more children who don’t know how to write and have them help each other, they’ll learn together. The big question is, of course, where does the expertise come from?

The children who are older or more experienced or better at writing might be able to tell the younger, less experienced children some things, but who helps the older ones? What experiences do the older children have at teaching that will assure the right information gets passed on? Do the more experienced children give to the younger ones their misconceptions and mistakes, thereby compounding problems? And, why aren’t all children entitled to the help of adults? Each child trying to learn to write needs the careful consideration by an adult in the evaluation of the effort.

2. You’ve heard the proposal that kids should have the fundamentals of language before they begin to write. You may have read that it’s like a foundation for a house: “If the foundation isn’t sound, the house won’t be strong.” The problem with this idea is you’re not building a house, you’re teaching a child to put his or her thoughts on paper for someone else to read. The analogy to building houses just doesn’t work.

There’s much research on the place of grammar in the training of children to write, and all of it shows the naming of the parts of speech doesn’t help. I like to use an analogy that makes this clear.

Suppose you were to want to teach your child the complicated skill of riding a bike and you were to use this principle of starting with a foundation—like it is suggested you do in teaching writing—and you were to decide your child would first need to learn the foundations of bikes. You would say to your child, “I’m going to teach you to ride a bike. So, the first thing you have to learn to do is to identify the right peddle by underlining it with one line in these pictures of a bike, and when you get really good at that, I want you to draw two lines under the left peddle. You’ll do this with all the parts of a bike, and this will teach you where those parts go on a bike. You’ll learn about sprockets, spokes, peddles, frames, axles, gears, wheels, rims, brakes, grips, bearings, nuts, washers, and you’ll even learn to spell the parts. Then you’ll draw a diagram of all those parts of a bike, showing where each part fits. You’ll memorize the definitions of the parts. Then I’ll put you on a bike and you’ll be able to ride like the wind.”

You recognize that would be silly, but this principle used with the bike is the same one used with the study of grammar with young writers. Kids know the grammar rules that govern the language they use or they couldn’t talk and make sense. What they don’t know are the names of the parts of speech, and they don’t have to know them to write well.

Your children must learn to use standard English, but that is best taught in conjunction with their writing and not in abstracted exercises in grammar workbooks.

3. Some programs might present you with the idea that there is such a thing as a three-sentence paragraph, a five paragraph essay or a seven sentence story. Before you buy such an idea, think about the concept. How many sentences are there in a story? Are these people talking about a plot line, the structure of a paragraph or a paper outline? Everyone knows stories don’t have seven sentences. They come in all sizes. All storytellers take a different number of words to tell a story. There are no formulas for this. This may be an attempt to tell you that a very complicated concept and process can be taught with a simple means. It doesn’t work.

Sure, sentences, paragraphs and stories have structure and so do essays, but they don’t have a specified number of sentences. That’s just not a reasonable way to teach children how to think about communicating ideas.

4. There are people who might propose a program that suggests if kids keep journals they’ll learn to write. Journals are useful for two situations: Professional writers use them to record scenes, characters, situations, experiences or thoughts they want to save for future use, and professionals use journal writing to break out of writing blocks. They force themselves to write every day in journals until the words flow smoothly again.

Most teachers who teach journal writing do so because it’s easy and the kids produce lots of paper, and they think they’re teaching the kids to write. Most proponents of journal writing suggest the journals not be corrected. “The students should not feel inhibited by the pressures of form.” So what are they learning about writing? They’re really just reinforcing their errors week after week. They’re learning nothing about techniques of communication. They might as well be copying words out of some novel and calling that writing training. In fact, in many schools, that’s what the kids do; they copy page after page and turn them in. Since their work isn’t graded or corrected, who cares?

In order to learn to communicate, students needs to have goals, an audience, and a person more adept than they are at word use who can look at their efforts and advise ways to improve them. It’s easy to tell your child, “Write in your journal,” but what does it teach your child?

When you’re about to adopt a program for your children to learn anything complicated, you might ask yourself some questions first. The answers to the following questions should eliminate some methods that may not work for your children.

1. What goals do I have for my child in teaching this ability or concept? Do I want my child to be prepared for university work if he or she chooses to attend? If this is the case, you can eliminate those programs that teach things like letter writing and story telling. Colleges and universities won’t ask for that type of writing. They will expect their students to be able to write explanatory and argumentative essays. This means you must choose a program that will teach your children the skills they will need to be able to learn those types of essay writing when they’re in their high school years.

Examine any suggested program for its end results. Make sure you select a program that will carry your child through a complete course of instruction, right up to college or business entrance. A program advertised as a “good way to start and then switch to a program which is more sophisticated” may be just wasting your child’s time and your money.

2. What method does the offered program use to give my child the skills needed? Does the program talk to me or to the child? In other words, who is being instructed? Are you expected to be a writing teacher and teach your child, or does the material assume you haven’t been trained that way and the material gives the child all the needed information?

Most of the textbooks used for both public and Christian schools assume there will be a trained teacher there who will have experience teaching the subject. If you don’t have that experience, use care when selecting those programs. In this case you need a program which contains all the information your child will need to assume the skills taught.

3. What about the process of evaluation? Does the proposed program assume that you’re so well trained you don’t need help with this, or you’re so inept, you need answer keys for checking your child’s writing? You must realize there are no answer keys that make sense when you’re checking for the efficient transmission of ideas in writing. If there are keys for answers, check what your child will be learning and see if it’s in a skill that will be called for.

4. Writing well is very complicated but is one of the most important skills you can give your child. The ability to give ideas to others with clarity and precision is so important that universities tell us that if students have this ability, they will be able to teach them the rest of what will be needed, but if students come to them not able to do this, those students will have trouble in almost all classes.

So, when faced with programs suggesting your child will learn to write by writing reports about other subjects, think about it carefully. Is a knowledge about Egyptian pyramids what your child needs or is the ability to write about them important? Where is the training in writing coming from as your child is doing such a report? What will the child learn about writing from such an experience?

To organize this complicated teaching job is to break it down into parts that make sense. Think about what is involved in communication and how the skills are given to young people. Examine any program carefully before you select it. Do the people offering it give your child identified skills in controlled increments culminating in planned abilities which will be required, or is a fun-sounding idea being offered? DM


, , , , ,

No Comments

Answer the Phone . . . Speak!

By Emerson Sandow

For some reason unfathomable to me, it has become fashionable to (1) not answer the phone and (2) not return phone calls. This is especially true in business, where somehow, people who make a living from communicating to others and being communicated with, think that they can just ignore phone calls and messages ad infinitum.  Such an ignoring of phone calls places many businesses in a precarious position, since their e-mail programs – not they, themselves — often determine what is “spam” to be rejected — and what is not. Therefore, many people who try to communicate with a business will not be able to do so. I make it a habit to never patronize a business that does not have substantial contact information available and where someone answers the phone, at least on my second attempt. Those who do not answer the phone do not provide proper customer service, so I will not become a customer.

But, this same strange tendency to avoid contact is also rife in personal communications. We all have become so insulated with our little worlds of texting and Internet voyeurism, that we see human interaction as an interruption!

For those of us who grew up in a world of human interaction and personal contact, not only is this phenomenon perplexing, but somehow, it is not fatal. . . the foundation of our personality is built on interaction with other people and often intimate contact with them. However, for the upcoming generation, this intentional isolation may prove very harmful. Imagine if a massive, long-range power failure occurs. These isolated individuals will break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of having to speak directly with someone. They won’t have texting to rely on, so they might actually have to say “be right back” not “brb”. Will they even know how to utter such brief statements? These same people might have to sit in a group without constantly checking their phones for trivial messages and photos of a friend’s next meal. Que horrible!

The converse of this phone-phobia is true in the worst possible instances — in the customer dis-service that one finds in many retail stores and restaurants. You may be standing in line, waiting to be seated or to pay your bill or to have your purchases rung up, and the phone rings. Now, the employee conducts an animated, often very long conversation with the caller. Or, it may be a business-related call, but that is what the “Hold” button is for. Base-line etiquette dictates that the live people, who were in line before the phone call, should be served first.

Possibly this same sort of issue arose when the printing press made books available to the masses and suddenly, most people began to live in their heads more than they had before. One’s own thoughts can occupy much time within, but reading the thoughts and opinions of others fills the attention reservoir very quickly. It may also contribute to mental health. Too much time “alone” and inside of one’s head can be unhealthy for many people today! Parents have a responsibility to educate their children on proper behavior in these regards and hopefully, at least homeschooled children will not be electronically socialized to the extreme that other children are. . . hopefully. ES


, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Turning Vaccine Exemptions Into Class Warfare

Turning Vaccine Exemptions Into Class Warfare


[Ed. Note: This article is from 2012. However, the heated vaccine debate continues, with a piece in the L.A. Times recently, reflecting much of the anger and ugliness Ms. Fischer refers to, that is coming from the pro-vaccine world. We offer the article to you as a service to aid you in drawing your own conclusions. Visit the NVIC website for current news.]


By Barbara Loe Fischer, President, National Vaccine Information Center,


It is getting uglier and uglier out there, as angry, frustrated doctors inside and outside of government, work overtime to foster fear and hatred of parents’ making conscious vaccine choices for their children. The latest political dirty trick is to brand parents, who send their children to private schools, as selfish and a threat to their communities because some private schools have higher vaccine exemption rates.


Take pediatrician and California Assemblyman, Dr. Richard Pan, for example. He is angry that many parents and health care professionals opposed AB2109, a bill he authored and pushed through the California legislature this year. [1] Dr. Pan misled his colleagues into believing that that forcing parents to pay for a doctor’s appointment to beg a hostile pediatrician [2] or medical worker to sign a personal belief exemption form is all about education.


Educated, Articulate Parents Defending Parental Rights


Medical trade associations that helped Dr. Pan lobby the state legislature included the California Medical Association, Health Officers Association of California, California Immunization Coalition and the American Academy of Pediatrics.[3] In public hearings this year, educated, articulate mothers and fathers stood up to these powerful medical groups and defended their parental and informed consent rights.


In a syndicated Associated Press article, Dr. Pan lashed out at families sending their children to private schools and accused them of becoming too educated about vaccination. Dr. Pan said: “In private schools, these are people who have money, who are upper middle class, and they are going on the internet and seeing information and misinformation.” [4]


Vaccine Information & Vaccine Exemptions Should Be Free


Dr. Pan is correct about parents “going on the internet” to learn, for example, how he refused in his bill to allow local pharmacists to sign a personal belief exemption form because he wanted to force all parents to first pay for a medical office visit. AB2109 clearly discriminates against parents, who cannot afford to pay a doctor to sign the form. [5]  Why doesn’t Dr. Pan post information he wants parents to have about vaccination on the Department of Health website so parents can become educated for free? [6]


Instead of admitting his bill is more about coercion than education, Dr. Pan attacked parents, who send their children to private schools. It looks like what doctors and medical trade groups really want to do is bully and punish parents, who hold sincere religious and conscientious beliefs about vaccination, no matter how much money they have or where their children attend school.


Doctors Engaging in Class Warfare


The same week that Dr. Pan publicly played the “class” card, he was joined by vaccinologists Dr. Saad Omer and Dr. Neal Halsey, who echoed Dr. Pan’s bigoted accusation in the same news article. Just like Dr. Pan, Drs. Omer and Halsey put the blame for higher personal belief vaccine exemption rates at private schools, such as the Waldorf Schools, on “wealthy” parents.


Dr. Omer has published a series of medical journal articles profiling parents taking non-medical vaccine exemptions and criticizing state laws that allow parents to take exemptions. [7] [8] [9] [10] According to the

AP article, Dr. Omer said he “surmised that more private school parents are wealthy and have the time to spread five shots over a series of years and stay home should their child get an illness like chickenpox.”


Dr. Halsey, who I debated publicly in 1997 about informed consent to vaccination, [11] told the AP reporter that “parents who choose private schools are likely to be more skeptical of state requirements and recommendations.”  With that grossly inaccurate generalization, Dr. Halsey attempted to politically stereotype parents filing vaccine exemptions in order to explain why children attending private schools that respect parental rights and health care choices -,like Waldorf schools – have vaccine exemptions.


When doctors politicize vaccine exemptions in order to engage in class warfare, they are crossing a line that reveals more about who they are than the families they are trying to stereotype and marginalize. Dr. Pan, who has assumed the mantle of lawmaker, and Dr. Omer, who enjoys six federal vaccine research grants funded by the CDC or NIH, [12] and Dr. Halsey, who has funding from SmithKline Beecham and the Gates foundation,[13]likely are not struggling to pay the rent or pay for groceries.


Doctors Want Fewer Medical Exemptions, More Power


Drs. Omer and Halsey are now calling for doctors to deny even more children medical exemptions to vaccination because they are unhappy that states with stricter non-medical exemptions have a higher rate of medical exemptions! [14] [15] [16]


So let’s get this straight – what Drs. Pan, Omer, Halsey and medical trade groups really want is for state legislatures to grant doctors police powers to force parents to violate their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs in addition to doctors having the power to deny medical vaccine exemptions to children, many of whom are already vaccine injured.


That is a lot of power. That is power without accountability or liability.


Could it be that doctors with financial ties to medical trade associations, vaccine manufacturers and government health agencies are lobbying so hard to severely restrict or get rid of all vaccine exemptions because, every day, there are more and more Americans, who know somebody who was healthy, got vaccinated and was never healthy again?


Informed Consent: A Human Right


The human right to informed consent to medical risk taking is a universal ethical principle that should be respected by doctors in every nation, especially in America, where we have a long history of respecting the right to self-determination.[17] Doctors refusing to protect children from vaccine injury and death because they do not want their authority questioned [18] should not be given the legal power to force anyone to violate their conscience or religious beliefs.


Parents, who have witnessed their children regress into chronic poor health or die after vaccination, belong to every class and every race, religion, philosophy and political party in America. Today, they are joining hands with parents of healthy children and fighting to protect medical and non-medical exemptions that it looks like doctors will try to gut or completely take away next year in states like Arizona, [19] Connecticut, [20] Maryland, [21]Oregon, [22] [23] Colorado, [24] New Jersey [25] and many more. [26]


Please sign up to be a user of NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal at and volunteer to work in your state to defend the human right to make vaccine choices for yourself and your children.

It’s your health, your family, your choice.

[1] Richardson D. CA Bill Restricting Personal Belief Vaccine Exemption Heats Up. NVIC Vaccine E-News July 2, 2012.

[2] Wang S. More Doctors ‘Fire’ Vaccine Refusers. Wall Street Journal Feb. 16, 2012.

[3] California Immunization Coalition. Director’s Update: AB 2109 Moves on to Senate. May 30, 2012.

[4] Dreier H. Private School Vaccine Opt-Outs Rise. Associated Press/USA Today Sept. 9, 2012.

[5] Richardson D. NVIC Statement Opposing AB 2109. June 20, 2012.

[6] ONeill S. Bill Would Make It Tougher for Parents to Exempt Their Kids from Vaccines in California. KPCC Public Radio (S. CA). Sept. 13, 2012.

[7] Omer SB, Pan WK, Halsey NA et al. Nonmedical exemptions to school immunization requirements: secular trends and association of state policies with pertussis incidence. JAMA 2006; 296: 1757-1763.

[8] Salmon DA, Omer SB. Individual freedoms versus collective responsibility: immunization decision-making in the face of competing valuesEmerging Themes in Epid 2006; 3: 13-15.

[9] Omer SB, Enger KS, Moulton LH, Halsey NA et al. Geographical clustering of nonmedical exemptions of school immunization requirements and association with geographical clustering of pertussis. Am J Epidemiol 2008; 168: 1389-1396.

[10] Omer SB, Salmon DA, Orenstein WA, deHart PM, Halsey N. Vaccine Refusal, Mandatory Immunization and the Risks of Vaccine Preventable Diseases. N Engl J Med 2009; 360(19): 1981-1988.

[11] You Tube. Live debate with Barbara Loe Fisher and Neal Halsey, M.D. on ”The Today Show.” NBC March 1997.

[12] Saad Omer, PhD, MPH, MBBS. Grants.

[13] Johns Hopkins Advanced Studies in Medicine. American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference Satellite Symposium Oct. 17-22, 2011. Activity Faculty: Neal A. Halsey, M.D.

[14] Moyer CS. Medical Vaccine Exemptions for Children Not Always JustifiedAmerican Medical News Sept. 10, 2012.

[15] Stadlin S, Bednarczyk RA, Omer SB. Medical Exemptions to School Immunization Requirements in the United States – Association of State Policies with Medical Exemption Rates (2004-2011). J Infect Dis Aug. 29, 2012 (published online).

[16] Salmon DA, Halsey NA. Keeping the M in Medical Exemptions: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children. J Infect Dis Aug. 29, 2012 (published online).

[17] Fisher BL. The Moral Right to Conscientious, Philosophical and Personal Belief Exemption to Vaccination. National Vaccine Advisory Committee May 2, 1997.

[18] NVIC. Vaccine Freedom Wall. Public reports of threats, coercion and sanctions for making informed choices about use of one or more vaccines

[19] Fehr-Snyder K. Immunization Exemption Rates on Rise Among Arizona Schoolchildren. The Republic Sept. 12, 2012.

[20] Cuda A. Vaccine Exemptions on Rise in State. Connecticut Post Sept. 3, 2012.

[21] Asaithambi R. Time to get tough on vaccine refusal. Baltimore Sun April 11, 2012.

[22] Seaman AM. More Oregon Kids on “Alternative” Vaccine Schedules. Reuters June 18, 2012.

[23] Anderson J. Religious Exemptions Tilt Immunization’s Balance. Portland Tribune. Feb. 16, 2012.

[24] Stobbe M. Colorado Second in Vaccine Refusals. Associated Press Nov. 28. 0211.

[25] Berk H. Vaccine Exemptions for Religious Reasons May Face Stricter Guidelines in New Jersey. Parentdish Mar. 16, 2011.

[26] IDSA. Increase of Religious Exemption to Immunization Requirements in New York State. IDSA Conference Poster Presentation Oct. 20, 212.


, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments