Does Your Baby Prefer Frontline or Nova?

Sometimes I get totally fascinated by the most boring subjects.

Like learning styles, for instance.

I’m sure that reading about the way people learn would be lower than say – – watching an infomercial at 2 a.m. – – on some people’s priority scale, but I find it perfectly absorbing.

If you don’t know a lot about learning styles, then I’ll give you my super-condensed Topsy-Techie primer.

Visual Learners  – -  if your kid would steer his baby walker to the tv at age 6 mos., and stop to watch anything on – – even the Newshour on PBS – -  then you might have a visual learner. (Yep, H-T was a huge Newshour fan as a babe)

Auditory Learners – – if your kid talks  non-stop, repeats back everything other people say, or sings from morning till night – – then you might have an auditory learner. (Uber has to discuss EVERYTHING before it takes hold in his head.  He will readily admit that most anything he has retained has been because he has had a conversation about it with someone)

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners – – if your kid has built two Lego castles and one Lego moat before you could finish reading one chapter aloud of his favorite King Arthur story – – then you might have a kinesthetic/tactile learner. (my boys each have kinesthetic/tactile as their secondary learning style)

Now you might be saying…”Topsy is such a genius. Look at all she knows about learning styles!”  And I would reply…”I’ll send you the 20 bucks via Paypal." But the truth is…I had to learn this stuff the hard way.  By slamming into the brick wall of curriculum choice vs. learning style. 

Early in our homeschool career, I desperately wanted to use Sonlight.  I LOVED the idea of reading aloud to my kids all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  I couldn’t possibly imagine a more lovely way to learn.


That was me hitting the brick wall of reality, when my boys became bored – quickly – – with me reading to them all day, and discussing good literature, and doing projects based on what we were reading.  “This is LAME,” I heard, more than once. 

Impossible!  I couldn’t figure out why this lovely, perfectly educational curriculum wasn’t working for us.  And then I read about learning styles, and how some homeschool materials and curricula are better suited for certain kids, based on HOW they learn.

One cool resource I recently discovered was the Homeschooling Books website, which lets you search for homeschool materials by learning style, thinking style, personality, and expression.  Now THAT’S a good idea!  Understanding the uniqueness of your child and using an eclectic assortment of resources to help him or her learn best. (For more info on eclectic homeschooling, check out my post on Home-School Online today.)

What about you?  Does your child(ren) have a noticeable learning style?  How does it play out in their homeschooling?

(Note: Homeschooling Books has a decidedly Christian slant, but offers secular resources as well)

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I’m Not Talking To Myself…I’m Having A Parent/Teacher Conference!

Having been a homeschooling family for pretty much all of my sons’ educational careers has left me with a few nagging questions.

There are certain “quirks” my kids have that I never know whether to chalk up to their individual personalities or to the fact that they haven’t had the opportunity to have those idiosyncrasies teased, mocked, or beat out of them on a daily basis.

One in particular that is starting to cause me some consternation is H-T’s constant need to talk to himself.  He started this trend as a toddler.  He would repeat any and all dialogue from whatever TV show or cartoon he was watching.  H-T was late to talk, and required no small amount of speech therapy in his early years, so I actually thought his little habit was not only cute, but productive, as well.

The “little habit”, however, stretched out into most every moment of every day – – playtime with his imaginary friends, bath time with his floating tub-buddies, deep discussions at bedtime with whatever companions were busy helping him keep the monsters under his bed at bay.  Still, I knew he would grow out of it, and simply smiled at his vivid imagination.

But…fast forward to the present time, where a very-tall-for-his-age 13 year old is having full-blown conversations with the computer in his room and I begin to wonder – – just possibly – – if we might have a problem, Houston.

So to make myself feel better (and less guilty for aiding and abetting a serious personality disorder), I’ve begun making lists of jobs where talking to oneself might actually be a plus.

  • Truck Driver – staves off loneliness AND keeps one awake during long shifts
  • Telemarketer – even when you aren’t selling every appliance warranty in your catalog, your boss at least thinks you are
  • Businessman – I know that’s a pretty vague job description, but  one thing I’m certain of is that you are required to wear one of those Bluetooth thingies on your ear and are always talking to someone invisible anyway
  • Psychiatrist – So I’m not saying that I have any personal experience with this, but when psychiatrists talk all day long into those personal voice recorders, they definitely seem professional
  • Coach of a Professional Sports Team – Have you ever noticed that coaches ALL talk to themselves?  Yeah, I know that supposedly they are talking to the refs (who are across the field) or the players (who can’t possibly hear them over the cheerleaders), but they are actually just talking to themselves, aren’t they? 

So there is hope for H-T, right?  The fact that I have basically let him become his own radio DJ hasn’t turned him a into a total freakcase, has it? 

You WOULD tell me if it had, right?? 


A Thousand Words Thursday



I promise you that it wasn’t that long ago that I was smiling about this…


instead of worrying about this…

The times, they keep on a’changin’.  (sigh)

Has Keyboarding Ruined My Children For Life?

So I’ve found one sincere downside to the big wide world of high-tech homeschool.  My children’s handwriting is ATROCIOUS.  Think : second grade essay without lined paper.  That’s my boys.

Actually, I can’t blame it ALL on the constant keyboarding.  Uber’s neurological issues have always given him the unfortunate side handwriting effect of hand tremors and insufficient fine motor skills.  And H-T’s dyslexia has always made writing anything a chore.  There might also be a genetic component…I had award-winning bad handwriting as a kid.  Every report card I got in elementary school was full of back-handed compliments like…”she has such promise as a young writer, if only her work weren’t so damn sloppy.”

Ok, maybe I added the “damn” for effect, but that was basically the way my mom read it, based on how hard she would come down on me afterward.

My handwriting didn’t seem to improve, either, as I edged closer to middle school, until one day when I went to visit my dad (my parents were divorced and I visited my dad often on weekends and summers).

Dad was one of those classic guilty divorced dads who tried to buy me things to make up for his absence.  Only problem was, he was always dead broke, so instead of picking me out the latest Bloomingdale treasures, he went thrift shopping for me. Dad was a regular fixture at every flea market, yard sale, and thrift store within a 100-mile radius of his house.  He would take hours each week scouring through other people’s cast-offs to find the very things he thought I would like.  And doggone if he wasn’t usually right on the money!

Well, on the day in question, when I showed up at my dad’s, he had spread across his kitchen table a gorgeous used calligraphy set.  It had a wide assortment of pens, and nibs, and papers and colored inks.  Granted, some of the inks were half empty, but do you think I gave a hoot?!  Having never even seen anything like this before, I was fascinated.  I pored over the instruction book as if it were my Teen Beat for the week.  And in two days time, I had conquered every pen, nib, and technique it had to offer, and was begging for more.  Dad let me take the stuff back home with me, and I became a die-hard calligrapher for about six months.

I guess you can see where this story is going.  When next  semester’s report card rolled around, my teacher had nothing but glowing praise for my handwriting.  “’Bout damn time!”, it probably said.   And I’ve been getting compliments on my handwriting ever since.

So, Topsy-Techie is considering this low-tech solution to her current remedial handwriting crisis…what do you think?  Calligraphy class for boys? Will it be successful, or bomb as flat as all the other “it-worked-for-me-so-surely-it-will-work-with-my-boys schemes”?

Sound off below, you moms of boys with bad handwriting…

It Smells Like Boy Around Here

The testosterone fairy has been here again.  He has absolutely no compassion in that winged little body of his, because he forgets that aside from the black lab, we have only one female representing around here.  It’s lonely at the boys club sometimes.

Anyway, the testosterone fairy feels the need to remind my guys in their sleep that clothing strewn around on the floor is much more manly than in the hamper.  And that it is perfectly ok to make whatever bodily noises and smells you feel like as long as no one gets hurt. 

He convinces my hubby that the more revolting the joke, the more opportune it is for the dinner table.  And if ANY of my guys forget, the testosterone fairy makes sure that the milk jug gets put back in the refrigerator completely empty.  Every time.

testosterone fairyThanks to the testosterone fairy, the toilet paper holder  is perpetually empty, there is shaving cream decorating every part of the bathroom sink, the laundry room smells like a marine latrine, and we are ALWAYS out of potato chips!!!

Even more significantly, the he-fairy felt it apropos to convince my youngest son that he should ask for an air rifle for his 13th birthday.  And if that weren’t enough, he whispered in the ear of one of our close friends that a hydrogen-powered rocket would be another perfect gift.

So here I am, the lone voice of reason, in a house full of stinky, sloppy, greasy-fingered boys armed with air rifles and hydrogen rockets.  Anyone know the number of a good testosterone fairy exorcist?


Commemorative Stamps For A Childhood Passed

As of tomorrow morning at 5:43 a.m., my baby will be a teenager.  I’m not sure exactly all the emotions that a mother is supposed to feel at this moment, but whatever they are, I’ve been feeling all of them.


I feel so sad about losing the cuddlebug who used to twirl my hair in his fingers to be able to go off to sleep.  Who sucked his little toes like they were covered in brown sugar.  Who laughed at the tiniest things like they were the biggest joke he’d ever heard.


I feel happy for all the incredible childhood memories I have of him digging in the backyard for dinosaurs, dressing up as whatever ninja, knight, or superhero had his current fancy, climbing trees, playing with his dogs, and building legos like his life depended on it.

teenpicI feel proud of the young man he is becoming who cares about everyone around him, keeps his family in stitches, adores the outdoors, is passionate about science, and still occasionally finds it not totally uncool to cuddle with mom for a few minutes.

My baby is turning 13.  And that is simply worth commemorating today.

“The Talk”

Well, Uber and I had “the talk” this week.  I know its strange, but up until now, he hasn’t shown much interest.  And at 14, I was kind of hoping maybe his friends had filled him in on most of the details already.  I don’t care how many public service announcements you see, you still don’t think it applies to your kid.

I’m talking, of course, about illegally downloading music.  (You people jump to way too many conclusions, you know?)

Uber got his first MP3 player this past week as a cool gift at a Christmas party he attended.  I know that some kids probably have MP3 players built into their cribs, but Uber has just never shown much interest in music until now.  As music obsessed as I am, I’m footsies thinking maybe he was accidentally switched with some other kid in the hospital nursery.  There was this one baby who looked like he was tapping his toe in time to the heart monitor.  Poor kid.  He’s probably trying to figure out how the heck he got stuck with a family that doesn’t even know who U2 is.

Nevertheless, I’m kinda attached to the sprawling teenage geekling now, so . . . no hard feelings.  

But in the past couple of months, even Uber has started taking a bigger interest in bands, musical genres, and the like.  And strangely enough, right at the crux of his burgeoning interest, an MP3 player magically appears.  You would have thought he had gotten the golden ticket.  He was beside himself with excitement, and by the next morning he was exclaiming over all the great music he had found online, and how cool the bands were, and how easy it was to download, and how frustrated he had been at first when he realized his player wouldn’t play certain songs because they had this stupid DRM-thingie on them, but that thankfully he had discovered this awesome free online program that removed the DRM from the files, and…

In my morning fog, it took me a minute to register that last bit.  Dang.  Can’t a girl even finish her bagel before she has to go into full parent-mode?? 

Uber was crushed when I explained that music doesn’t just grow on trees.  He was mortified to discover that this brand new hobby of his was actually going to tug at his purse strings.   It was very hard for him to comprehend that artists don’t offer their music on a sliding scale, with 14 year old jobless teens being in the most desperately needy category.

But after long philosophical discussions with both myself and his dad (Uber’s very favorite kind!), he gets it now.  He said it makes sense that if you really like a band, you are willing to support their efforts to continue making music.  I’m very proud of him.  He has learned something really important this week, and has matured yet a little more.  He is changing daily, right before my eyes.

I’m definitely planning to keep him.  Now that he’s finally “got rhythm”, that other stupid U2-free family probably wouldn’t want him anyway.

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