2017 Adventure Camp

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This year, we sent both children to Adventure Camp in Georgia, at Cohutta Springs Conference Center. It was strange to be without children for five days and five nights, but we were so busy that we almost did not miss them. Almost.

Cohutta Springs Youth Camp

Our daughter (second from the left) with some of her new friends

Adventure Camp is for boys and girls who are 7-9. Our daughter is seven and our son is nine, so this was the first year they were together at camp. He has been there twice before. This was her first time. They missed us and got homesick, but they did not cry. Continue reading »

They had a blast. This camp is on the side of a lake and they have a lot of water activities. Also, they have a gym for rainy days, where they play dodgeball and other games. There is an indoor climbing wall, too. They have horses to ride and a swimming pool. They do archery, BMX, and arts and crafts. Lots and lots of fun.

Boys doing crafts

Our son (in the foreground) working on a craft at camp

With four activities in a day, three vegetarian meals, one hour of afternoon quiet time, morning roll call and evening camp fire, it was a full schedule. They really enjoyed it. Although my heart broke thinking about how independent my children have become, I was glad to hear they missed us and looked forward to coming home.

In fact, the night before their departure, my daughter cried a bit thinking about being without me for five days. I told her missing home is a great thing. It means you have a loving home, which many people do not. She is a blessed little girl for having a loving home to miss. I am not sure she got it, but at least I left that thought with her.

While at camp, she made a friend who was interested in becoming a pen pal. They exchanged mailing addresses with the help of their counselor, who has access to their files. And they look forward to seeing each other again next year. This is the kind of pen pal friendships with which I grew up and I like it.

Which brings me to socialization. The only reason I was OK with sending my children away for five days so others can take care of them and entertain and nurture them is because I know they screen their staff carefully. Also, this camp is through our church conference. Their social interactions are monitored carefully and no bad languages is allowed. They are to keep their hands to themselves at all times. There are rules about boys and girls interacting with each other. Especially for homeschooled children, camp is a great opportunity to flex the socialization muscle and learn how to be in a group setting.

Our children are growing fast and we are growing with them. Hopefully.


SNL Writer Mocks Homeschoolers

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In less than 140 characters, Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich managed to mock Barron Trump, homeschooling, and school shootings all at once in a Tweet that has since been deleted.

Barron Trump, Melania Trump, Donald Trump

The First Family during the Inauguration

Many are now asking for NBC to fire Rich. It’s one thing to disagree with President Trump’s policies. It’s another thing altogether to attack his 10-year-old son. Most of us will never understand the pressure this child has been facing for the past 18 months, since his father decided to run for the presidency. Imagine what it will be like for him for the next four or even eight years to pretty much grow up in the White House.

Continue reading »

I have a nine-year-old son and I can tell you what I have discovered: he is a child. My son looks older because he is really tall for his age. He already wears size 12 pants. But his mind is still the mind of a child. Bathroom humor seems really funny to him. He wants to play all day. Practicing his violin takes some convincing on some days, as he cannot control his impulses and wants to do what comes easier, which is anything but build more skill on the violin.

There is a lot of pure joy in him – the joy of childhood innocence. I can only imagine a 10-year-old is almost the same and, with hormones starting to kick in, slightly more confused. Why would anybody attack an innocent child?

And why put Barron Trump in the same sentence with homeschooling? He is not even close to being homeschooled. Instead, he attends an expensive private school. That’s the reason his mom decided Barron should stay in New York through the end of this school year. When he moves to DC, he will probably attend another private school.

My speculation is that the SNL writer is as liberal as it comes and liberals do not like homeschooling. They think homeschoolers are awkward, weird, unsocialized, deprived children. Since Barron looked a little detached, awkward, and bored during the proceedings, she probably made the connection with the homeschoolers of her own imagination.

Most homeschoolers I know are polite and articulate. They relish public speaking and competitions. They work very well in group settings and go on to a rewarding college experience and successful careers.

Last but not least, that Tweet mocked school shootings. One of the reasons why people homeschool is because public schools are not safe anymore. The increase in bullying and violence in schools has convinced many moms to put their careers aside and keep the kids home, where they can be educated in the safety of their family’s nest. I am one of these moms.

I am glad to see that the American public is reacting to Rich’s Tweet enough that she has had to delete it, then make her account private, and finally suspend the account altogether. Here’s hoping that SNL and NBC will do the right thing and fire this bully of a writer who is not very funny after all.


Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy

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Last spring, Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy started operating in Gatlinburg, at the multi-million dollar facility known as Rocky Top Sports World. It costs $100 per child for ten weeks. The practice is one hour on a weekday. They have no games over the weekend.

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy - players and coaches

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy – my son’s group of players and coaches

The main coach is a teacher and a soccer coach in the public school system and he said, “I believe weekends are for the family. Plus, I need my weekends off. I’m a teacher.” I could not agree with him more. Continue reading »

This is actually an answer to prayer because my husband wanted the kids enrolled in a team sport and it was virtually impossible to find anything that did not involve weekend hours. We also like to keep weekends for the family and not for sporting activities per se.

Personally, I think children can develop very well even without a team sport. This is not about preparing them for a career. This is more about fun and physical education.

But I have seen a lot of character growth in my children from being involved in soccer. As always, my husband has good instincts. This reminds me of one of the early dates he and I had. When he was telling me how he dealt with a delicate business situation, I remarked that he was probably the most humble and amazing leader I have ever met.

Soccer coach and young players

Coach Zach Schrandt and my daughter’s age group

So I asked him, “How did you get to have such an amazing character?” He replied simply, “Football.” I teared up right then and there, in the middle of a restaurant. My then boyfriend started looking around, hoping that people will not think he said something horrible which made me cry. So I burst out laughing, because he was just so worried about me first of all and then about himself.

Of all the crazy things people say about football, this rough, manly, tackle-them-down, tough sport, I had never heard this one. My husband is a gentle, gentle soul. And he learned his gentleness in football? What am I missing? That is why I was crying. I had been taught by conservative Christians that football and any other competitive sport is against the gospel message. That we should shun such activities like the plague. And here was proof positive that football, like anything, is what you make of it. Such a breath of fresh air!

Since then, we have decided that soccer at Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy should be part of our homeschool for several reasons:

  1. It is closer to home than driving to Berean Christian School for their soccer practice on Wednesdays.
  2. Adidas sponsors the program. It may be small now, but is has potential for growth.
  3. The coaches are all certified by different national organizations.
  4. It is good exercise for the kids.
  5. They get to interact with other children.
  6. They receive guidance from somebody other than mom and dad.
  7. They spend time in fresh air and sunshine.
  8. They play games. Especially my daughter’s group, the youngest players, they pretend they are sharks or elephants or whatever and they run after the ball a certain way, they control the ball so the other sharks don’t get it etc. It’s a lot of fun for the kids. I could not provide this kind of fun in my backyard. I just don’t have the energy to learn about this and implement it.
  9. They learn soccer skills. You see, they don’t just give them a ball and say, “Now go play soccer.” The coach to children ratio is very low, 1:4-1:8. They learn to dribble and control the ball through very closely observed exercises.
  10. Soccer scouts come by regularly. A soccer scholarship does not interest me as much as a National Merit Scholarship, I will be honest with you. But you never know what children like to do when they finally grow up.

Since spring, we have done a Soccer Camp at SMSA and now we just enrolled them for the fall. It has worked out beautifully with our schedule. Things have a way of working out.


Back-to-School Walmart Commercial and Socialization

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During the Olympics, Walmart ran a back-to-school commercial using “Here I Go Again” – a song from the 80s by hard rock band Whitesnake. As I listened to the lyrics, I could not believe my ears. Walmart was making my point for me: going to school is a lonely road. You are alone even though you may be surrounded by a group of children. What ABOUT socialization?

Walmart back-to-school campaign

School socialization is focused on clothes, loneliness and pairing up.

Socialization is used as an excuse by many parents who send their children to school. In fact, I heard it put this way: “For the rest of their life, they will live surrounded by people. So we must send them to spend several hours a day in a place where they are surrounded by people.” The French go as far as sending their babies to daycare at three months in the name of “living in a collective.”  Continue reading »

This song perfectly explains how lonely it feels to go back to school and, apparently, cool clothes from Walmart will help you deal with that issue. Seriously?

Let’s see what the song says first:

I don’t know where I’m goin’
But I sure know where I’ve been
Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
Here I go again, here I go again

Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time…

The Walmart commercial does not go any further than this in the song, but if you read the rest of it, you would know it is a song about heartbreak. Singer-songwriter David Coverdale wrote this song as he was dealing with his divorce from his first wife. I feel for the man.

One of the things I don’t appreciate about socialization in schools is the peer pressure to pair up and have crushes. It starts early, folks. Really early. This summer, my son attended soccer camp with some public school kids and the girls teased him mercilessly about having a crush on a particular girl. The thing is, he did not.

Boy starts third grade

My son wore a gray T-shirt on his first day of school this year.

The girl did and she asked her girlfriends to tease him in order to find out how he felt about her. My poor innocent eight-year-old son was so confused and even angry. Not fun. It only reminded me why we stay away from these buildings called schools. So yes, Walmart, you got school socialization pegged: it’s all about pairing up and breaking up, just like the song you chose for your back-to-school campaign.

“I don’t know where I’m going” starts the song. Well, what can I say? Nobody knows the future. But it sure would be less scary for a child if he knew where he was going and if he did not have to face new teachers and classmates every fall. It would be so much easier on a child to know that he is at home with people who love him and his teacher is his mother (or father) – a person who loves him infinitely.

The commercial’s theme is “Own the first day.” It’s all about clothes. Yeah, some school supplies get two seconds of face time, but everything else is about clothes. You know children compare each other’s clothes and feel the pressure to wear specific brands, right?

Thanks, socialization in schools, for transforming us into robots programmed to keep up with the latest fashion trends and for making us feel that our bulging-at-the-seams closets do not contain anything worthy to wear unless we have what is deemed hot by the fashion experts. That’s why Walmart is trying to break that (otherwise bad) concept and market their merchandise as cool (even though it is not).

“On my own,” “like a drifter” and “alone” clearly paint a sad picture: going to school is a lonely endeavor which requires closing oneself up. God forbid that you should show your true self and expose yourself to merciless teasing and bullying. At the end of the day, a child who goes to school faces life’s challenges alone. Thanks again, Walmart, for making my points for me.

Last but not least, the grammar in this song reminds me that going to school is not a guarantee my children will learn better English than if they were homeschooled. Great choice of song, Walmart! Homeschoolers around the world thank you for telling it like it is. Going to school is not socialization. It is over-socialization which stresses out the kids and confuses them and their parents, sometimes for life.


Wonderful Wednesday – Planting a Veggie Garden

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Every spring, I buy some vegetable plants and start another garden in my 4’x8′ enclosed patch in the backyard. The whole thing started when my son was one. I felt inspired to teach him where foods come from. He is six years old now.

I have learned a thing or two every year from working in the garden. About gardening and, also, about my own character. Lately, about homeschooling, too.

This year, I have already gleaned two lessons:

1. Don’t (trans)plant too early. We planted our veggie garden in mid-April. A week later, hail and snow killed it, even though we covered it with a sheet. When it’s cold, it’s cold.  Continue reading »

Plus, the rule of thumb is, plant outside after Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May). But we got in a rush…

Children are like plants. You take children out of the warmth of their home and they freeze up in the cold of school buildings.

Pepper plant shriveled up in my first garden this year, after hail and snow damage

Pepper plant shriveled up in my first garden this year, after hail and snow damage

If you don’t wait until they have had all the mothering needed, well, you will suffer some consequences. Wait for Mother’s Day – the symbol of nurturing.

I have had several parents tell me how their warm and bubbly five-year-old child went to kindergarten and became a cold, withdrawn person as the weeks went on.

Everybody is asking, “What about socialization?” from us homeschoolers. I think we should ask these same people the same question about their children, who meander the jungle of social interactions all alone, for seven hours a day, five days a week. No wonder children are exhausted by the time they come home. No wonder so many of them become peer-dependent. No wonder the family unit has become a joke in most cultures these days.

2. Don’t water inappropriately (while the sun is still shining). The day we re-planted the garden, at the end of May, I watered. It was around 5pm. I thought it would be late enough in the day. It was not. The sun was still shining and it was 77F. A lot of the leaves got burned by the sun, due to the magnifying effect of water on the leaves.

In my rush to get the project done and checked off my list, I forgot to take into consideration the conditions I was working with.

How do I apply this to homeschooling? Well, in our zeal to make our children Ivy League-ready, we might teach them too much, too soon. Absolutely we must quench their thirst for knowledge. Sure, we must challenge them. But too much knowledge, too many demands, too early will lead to burnout.

Vegetable garden in a small enclosed area

My second garden this year.

I have trimmed the burnt leaves. Many of the plants seem to be doing fine, but some will be lost or not produce as much. The same goes for children who get burned out with too many worksheets.

In case you are wondering, I planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon.

Here’s hoping that my garden will survive and thrive.


5 Quick Points on Socialization and Homeschooling

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The other day I took my son to his science class, organized by our local aquarium specifically for homeschoolers. As I sat there looking at PowerPoint slides of bones and muscles, I also glanced occasionally at the students sitting on the carpet. They interacted well with each other and looked oh, so socialized.

And yet, public/private school parents still believe homeschooling produces social misfits. Mainstream parents also equate schooling with socialization. Generations of parents have been lead to believe that children belong together in age-segregated classrooms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are 5 thoughts that hit me that afternoon during my son’s science class:

1. Introverts will be introverts. My Myers-Briggs profile is INTJ – Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment. I attended public school and, before that, I was in day care. I have friends and I enjoy public speaking, but I will always be an introvert. Personality does not change. Shy children will be shy no matter where they went to school.

2. Public school is not the real world. When I was deciding on educational choices for my children, some people encouraged me to send them to public school because “public school is the real world.” Nonsense. Where else in your post-college world will you spend seven hours a day with 25 other people your age?

The best way to socialize a child is by exposing her to different age groups and different social situations – and homeschooling affords that as we take our children to different co-op classes, orchestra events, 4-H groups, mission trips, nursing homes etc. That’s the real world.

My extended family dining together

My extended family having breakfast together

3. Do not underestimate the mommy factor. Dr. James Dobson talks and writes frequently about the importance of the mother in the lives of her children. Research shows that children who grow up in the care of somebody else other than their mother show more aggressive behavior and disobedience than those raised at home by their own mom.

4. Socialization is a non-issue. If anybody asks you “What about socialization,” they simply show their ignorance about all the research on the matter. By the way, here are 7 ways to answer the socialization question. Sure, there are some homeschoolers who de-cry their parents’ way of socializing them, but we all know social misfits who attended public school. Homeschoolers will have some bad experiences just as public/private school students will have bad experiences.

5. Spending long periods of time with peers does not lead to higher intelligence. Madeline’s eleven peers wanted their appendix out, too. They saw Madeline, a popular kid, show off a scar as a badge of honor. They also saw the dollhouse and gifts Madeline’s papa sent while she was in the hospital. They did not think about Madeline’s pain. They wanted surgery because Madeline had surgery and she got all that. It’s called peer pressure and not thinking things through – the modus operandi of traditionally-schooled children.

While deciding to homeschool, I struggled with many questions, but socialization was not one of them because I had read the Smithsonian Institution’s recipe for genius and leadership from “The Childhood Pattern of Genius” by  H. McCurdy:

a. Children should spend a great deal of time with loving, educationally minded parents;

b. Children should be allowed a lot of free exploration; and

c. Children should have little to no association with peers outside of family and relatives.

Far from producing loners, homeschooling provides a platform for raising leaders and thinkers. Quod erat demonstrandum.


7 Ways to Answer the Socialization Question

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“What about socialization?” If you homeschool, you have been asked this question at least once. And that’s OK.

Here are 7 ways to deal with the socialization question:

1. Congratulate this person for having the courage to ask. Homeschooling one’s child is like wearing braces after 35. Even though it is legal and more accepted than ever, it remains a bit of a stigma. Most people think they embarrass you if they ask questions about it.

2. Ask them to define socialization from their perspective, so you understand their background. It also helps with figuring out the emotion behind the question. Are they open-minded and curious? Or angry and closed-minded? Give information to the curious and don’t argue with the angry ones.

3. Mention your children attend [insert activities outside the home], where they have lots of opportunities to interact with people of different ages and walks of life.

4. Tell them people have socialized their children in the context of home for millennia. Ask, “Do you think American children were ‘unsocialized’ before 1852, when compulsory attendance was introduced for the first time?”

5. Smile. Ask: “What do Jesus, George Washington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Tim Tebow, and Will Smith’s children have in common? Homeschooling. As far as I know, none of them has/had problems interacting with others.”

Too Cool for School

6. Using a meek voice, tell them:  “Socialization in a school environment is self-taught and unsupervised, i.e. children learn to socialize between classes or during recess and lunch. No adult takes the time to teach them the proper way to interact with each other because adults are not welcome in their circles at those times. Adults only intervene when things get out of hand. This type of socialization has more to do with being cool and fitting in than with manners, team work, and being polite.”

7. Last but not least, use this: “Personally, I have a problem with the quality and quantity of socialization that happens in schools. Spending 35 hours a week in a classroom with 30 other children is not socialization. It is over-socialization.”

However you answer the socialization question, be gracious and patient, not snarky and sarcastic. People are on different journeys. The last thing they need is to be snapped at by a homeschooling mom.


Junior Ranger Program

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This summer, DS was finally able to take part in the Junior Ranger Program organized by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One must be at least five to start in one of the age groups available. I have been looking forward to this program for about 3 years. Yes, I like to plan ahead.Jr. Ranger Booklet

We bought the booklet and worked our way through the requirements:

1. Complete eight activities in the booklet. It took us three fifteen-minute sessions over a month. We stretched it out especially because we were busy with family visiting from overseas.

2. Attend one ranger-led program. We attended three. Just because. Plus I wanted my Not-So-Junior ranger badge, which one can get after attending – you guessed it! – three programs.

Our first event was Bear-mania. We learned there are 1,600 bears in the park, 2 per each square mile, which is a really good density. We got to touch a bear skin. I was OK with touching the fur, but my son invited me to feel its paws and claws. I hesitated. Then, I went ahead and touched those parts anyway, trying hard not to shudder. The things we do for our children…

Our second event was Retiring the Colors, a touching presentation on the Stars and Stripes which taught the children how the flag came about, how to fold the flag and what the stars and stripes stand for. They got to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, they all ligned up and folded the flag. And what do you know? My children knew how to stand in line – proof positive that they don’t need to go to school to learn that particular life skill. We practice at the supermarket every week, don’t we? I digress. The good news is that since this program both my children have been spotting the American flag everywhere we go.

Our third event was Yukky Animal Stuff, a hilarious presentation on scat, skulls, and scents. When the ranger asked for volunteers to come upfront and read the Scat Rap, DS volunteered. DS stood in front of the class, alongside six others, and followed directions. What was that question about socialization again? He even read along with them from the laminated piece of paper he received. (He reads on third grade level, but that is a topic for another post.)

In all honesty, I feel the what-in-the-world-am-I-doing-with-this-homeschooling-thing fear now and then. The fear that I am “messing up my children,” “handicapping them for life,” or “ruining their education and their ability to socialize normally” – all words said to me or my homeschooling friends by well-meaning family members and friends. But then I attend events like those just mentioned above and I relax. My children interact well with people of all ages and they are not afraid of public speaking. Breathe.

Picking up litter3. Pick up one bag of litter. We walked around our neighborhood and picked up trash from the ditches or the road itself. It took about 30 minutes. We filled up two shopping bags, especially from the ditches around overnight rentals. People like to party and throw their beer bottles in the ditches – that’s one of the lessons of the day. Besides discussing hygiene and proper trash disposal, we talked about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Again.

4. Take booklet to a Smokies park ranger at any visitor center. DS was so excited to get his badge! He got sworn in and received a certificate, as well.

As we walked away from the Sugarlands Visitor Center toward the car, my son asked me: “Did I earn it, mommy?” pointing to the certificate in his hands. We have been talking with him about how fun it is to receive gifts and how it is even more fun to earn things. I reassured him he earned it and that mommy was proud. Because I am.