Happy New Year!

OK, so I’m a little late. I’ve got a good reason for that: I’ve been busy!

I’ve been quilting, writing, and reading for pleasure most of the time. Yes, I do still cook and clean and spend time with my family, but now that I’m not homeschooling, I can embrace my freedom, and I do!

So if you’re tired after a long day of working with your children, and you still have all your other tasks waiting for you, please know that your day will come: lesson plans will be just a good memory, and you’ll be able to pursue your interests. There really is light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. Guess what? My Stages of Homeschooling eBook series can now be read for free at Amazon.com! Learn more HERE.

When Kids Use the Internet for Research

When I was in college, one of the so-called advantages of the Greek (fraternity/sorority) system was that its members had access to the completed tests and essays of past members. Thus they could memorize test answers instead of learning what was presented in class, and re-type the essays of others instead of writing their own.

This saved those students all sorts of work; we who were not “Greek” felt it was an unfair advantage. But the bottom line was that these students didn’t learn anything because they didn’t have to read the assigned books, nor did they learn via the process of assembling information and giving it back to their professors in the form of essays.

I imagine that frat-house filing cabinets are collecting dust now that college students have access to the Internet. There are sites where they can go to find pre-written, high-graded essays that they can pass off as their own, thanks to the cut-and-paste function.

And for the times when they actually have to do their own research and writing, there are sites like Wikipedia. Savvy teachers probably check Wikipedia’s take on the assigned topic before they correct the essays so that they can tell who’s been playing cut-and-paste there. But this doesn’t solve the problem, which is that kids are wasting their time and not learning anything, at least not much that’s accurate.

Teachers will tell you that this also occurs in middle and high schools. One solution would be to require kids to write their essays while in the school library or classroom, using the books and materials available there, with no Internet access.

For homeschoolers, this is much simpler. We can supervise our kids more easily than a teacher can keep tabs on thirty kids. By requiring our kids to use only printed matter for research, they’ll learn the material and develop writing skills in the process, because we’ve removed the temptation of the Internet.

But printed matter can be dated, and we’ve become accustomed to the immediacy of the Internet. Isn’t there some way to take advantage of that immediacy?

The good news is that there is. By requiring our kids to use primary sources and reputable secondary sources, we can avoid the problems that occur when kids are allowed to use Wikipedia and other sites that have sometimes proven to be inaccurate.

On the Internet, primary sources are sites where the information is first generated. For example, for the activities of our president, kids can visit www.whitehouse.gov. Further government info can be found at www.usa.gov. For government statistics on employment and information on the labor market, go to www.bls.gov.

Secondary sources are trusted entities that access primary sources. A large city newspaper like The New York Times or the Chicago Tribune is considered a secondary source. Newspapers are not as trusted as they once were; recent cases of lying reporters have tarnished their image, and budget cuts have forced them to reduce the number of editors who check on the sources used by reporters. Still, quoting a large newspaper should be considered fairly accurate, and certainly much better than Wikipedia, where anyone can post information or change what’s there.

This is not to say that Wikipedia is not useful. I allowed my teen daughter to use it as a jumping-off point, as it gave her a quick briefing on a topic. But she was then required to back up what she found with research from trustworthy sources.

For younger children and preteens, there’s a wonderful website that teaches children to be careful about believing information they find on the Internet. It’s called “All About Explorers,” and it’s more than what it first appears to be.

The site was cleverly designed by a group of teachers. It includes pages about several famous explorers, including Christopher Columbus. Here’s an excerpt from the page about him:

Columbus knew he had to make this idea of sailing, using a western route, more popular. So, he produced and appeared on infomercials which aired four times daily. Finally, the King and Queen of Spain called his toll-free number and agreed to help Columbus.

Note that this is the third paragraph of the essay. The first two paragraphs did not include such obviously erroneous information. You’ll be able to tell very quickly if your child read the entire page or not by his reaction (or lack of one) to that third paragraph. Meanwhile, the child who merely lifted the essay from the site for pasting into their own essay is in for a surprise!

Also note that there’s a link at the bottom of the page which will lead your child to accurate information about the explorer in question (the teachers have already checked that information), plus printable activity pages and other features to aid in learning.

The All About Explorers site also includes a page with lesson plans for teaching kids about Internet research. This site is a great tool for busy homeschooling parents, and it will help children understand why they shouldn’t believe something just because they read it on a website. Once they understand that, their future research will be more accurate, and they’ll not only learn more, but be well-prepared for the writing involved if they go to college.

Your Kids’ College Competition Can’t Write

Do you worry that your kids aren’t good enough writers?  Are you concerned that by the time they get to college, they won’t have the skills to write papers that will help them pass their courses? If so, don’t worry.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t teach your kids to write well. It’s an important skill to have. But maybe you shouldn’t worry so much, because according to this writer, the competition isn’t too tough. In fact, he says that unless they have a lot of money to pay term paper writers, the competition can barely put a sentence together.

This man writes term papers for a living. College students buy them from him and claim them as their own. He says it’s big business, and that many, many students pass their college classes this way.  How depressing is that?

By the way, he claims that college students in one specific course of study provide him with more work opportunities than any other:

I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it’s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I’d say education is the worst. I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)

Remember that the next time you hear someone say that only parents with teaching degrees should be allowed to homeschool…..

An Ordinary Girl

The last day of 2009…..wow, where did the year go?

When 2009 began, I had no idea that we’d be living where we are right now.  We knew we’d probably be moving in August, but didn’t know where. And right up until the week we moved, nothing was definite. In my youth, I wouldn’t have been able to take such uncertainty. But God’s grace does what we can’t do.

How about you? Was it a good year for you? Or are you eagerly awaiting 2010, hoping things will improve?

I look forward to 2010. We have some big plans for Cardamom Publishers, starting with a great sale (stay tuned) to celebrate the beginning of a new year. God willing, we’ll also publish a few new titles for homeschoolers in 2010 (again, stay tuned!) And of course we’ll keep plugging away at homeschooling our youngest son (yes, both Mom and Dad are homeschooling now!)

In the meantime, I want to share with you a lovely story about a self-described “ordinary girl” who has lived 102 years, so far. I especially appreciate how she begins each day:

“Each day I get up in the morning and say Lord, tell me what you want me to do and whatever comes to me, I do.”

An amazing story of a Christian woman, and in the Chicago Tribune, of all places. Enjoy!

P.S. Happy New Year!

If Mom Goes Back to Work

Lately I think about whether I should go back into the workforce.

After all, I’ve got only one child (age 16) still at home during the day now, and a husband who’s also at home. If my husband homeschooled our son, I could get a job.

However, according to this article, “Studies have found that for every two years a woman is out of the labor force, her earnings fall by 10 percent, a penalty that lasts throughout her career.”

Hmmm. I’ve been home with my kids for 26 years. 10% X 13 equals 130%. That’s quite a drop! That statistic is not referenced, however, so I can’t check to see if it’s legitimate. Just as well. If it were true, my paycheck amount would be a negative number!

That’s assuming I could even find a job. Somehow I don’t think potential employers would be impressed that I’ve spent the past 25 years raising children and homeschooling them. I doubt that homeschooling is one of the keywords they look for when they scan resumes.  8)

Looks like it may not be worth all the upheaval to be a “relauncher,” as women returning to the workforce are now called. Maybe I’ll stick to being a modestly paid but happy work-from-home writer for as long as I can.