Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Keyboarding

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I have to think back a bit to remember my beginning keyboarding days.  It was called “typing” back in the day, and there were about eight of us in the back of a classroom listening to our instructor over the whir of the electric typewriters.  “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” A-a-a-S-s-s-;-;-;-L-l-l 

(zzzzzzz…)

But it worked, I suppose.  I took to typing quite well, and can easily break 90wmp when I’m on a roll.  My kids, however, learned typing QUITE differently.  And yet, even their techie keyboarding tools are quickly becoming outdated.  So I’m going to share with you a mixture of my favorite tried-and-true programs, along with some cutting edge tools that are in store for THIS generation’s typists.

  • Read, Write, and Type – – my absolute fave multisensory, multi-learning-style phonics program for kids!  By combining hearing sounds, typing keys, and writing words, in my opinion this is one of the best programs out there for young readers and keyboarders.  It’s also now available online!
  • If you are REALLY serious about having you or or child learn to type, you might consider a device made just for this purpose.  Both my boys perfected their keyboarding skills by using  The Writer
  • Another no-nonsense program I’ve heard great things about is TypingWeb.  You can even be “certified” by the Typing Institute of America (hey, sometimes those things matter to people!!)
  • If you have a dedicated typing program, but just want some fun practice, I highly recommend the keyboarding games at LearningGamesForKids.
  • If you, like me, aren’t sure keyboards are going to look very much like they do now in the next ten years, then you might want to have your child also focus on some skills for the very near future…touchscreen typing.  Think I’m kidding?  Check out this technology that could leave us key-tappers in the dust:
    My other question is…can accurate voice-directed typing be far behind??  In fact, maybe this whole POST is basically obsolete!! (((sigh))) I’ve never felt so useless in all my life…

 

To view ALL the Fridays’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints posts, click here.

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April Giveaway at SecularHomeschool.com

cooltext454244746 Just launched the April giveaway at SHS.com today, so head over and enter if you have (or will have) a child in 2nd-5th grade and would be interested in winning a secular-based homeschool chemistry curriculum from Pandia Press.

Putting Real Life on Hold

This is the week.  The week of the school year that always makes me cringe and make scrunchy faces and feel like taking more than one shower a day.

This week is STANDARDIZED TEST week.

Hmph!j0439533

Our state is BIG on the standardized testing.  I mean it’s REALLY  important here, for some reason.  I’m pretty sure that if every other child in America got “left behind” the ones in our state would stick their tongues out at them and deride them for not being able to fill in those little circles correctly. 

In our public schools here, they start teaching “Testing Skills” in kindergarten.  I’m not exaggerating even a little when I tell you that recesses were shortened so that kindergarteners could get in their Testing Skills practice daily! (And our state legislature can’t for the life of them figure out why there is so much growth in homeschooling here in the last five years.  I guess standardized testing doesn’t necessarily guarantee brilliant politicians??)

But sadly, homeschoolers are not immune to the testing fetish here either.  Our state homeschooling regulations include a requirement that homeschoolers take a nationally standardized test annually.  As much as I have always detested high stakes testing and all that it represents, I admit that this year it has bugged me more than ever.

Probably because we are in such a terrific relaxed-learning groove.  In fact, neither Uber nor H-T has taken anything close to a “test” this entire school year.  And yet now, they are supposed to stop what they are doing, halt their enthusiasm for whatever it is they are learning at the moment, and prove their knowledge by sitting at a desk for two hours at a stretch and filling in little circles with a specifically numbered pencil. 

I remember back in my public school days when we would have a half day of testing-prep followed by a whole day of testing.  And I’ll never forget one of my science teachers getting up the next day and opening up our text book and saying…”well, let’s get back to real life, shall we?”  The teachers knew better than anyone that what we had been doing for two days was completely ridiculous, highly political, and a huge waste of time.  They knew, and yet they were required to do it anyway.

I feel so helplessly in the same shoes today.  Heaven only knows how anxiously I await “real life” to resume again.

R-T’s Man Crush

I’m not a naturally jealous person.  Well, at least not in the sense of checking the hubster’s collar for lipstick stains, or foraging through his pockets for any stray hotel matchbooks. (I guess the mere fact that I used such clichéd examples of jealous wives shows that I’m not even green-eyed enough to figure out what it is wives are supposed to do these days when they suspect infidelity!)

However, even my unsuspecting personality has been on slightly higher alert the last couple weeks.  I mean a woman just KNOWS these things, whether or not there is any substantial evidence.

And R-T has been feeling slightly depressed ever since his doc temporarily quarantined him from his favorite hiking haunts.  So, I guess it’s not that surprising that he would seek out someone to make him feel alive again – – virile – – dangerous.  When one name started to come up more than once or twice a day in conversation, I admit my ears perked up.  Even worse, I actually caught him watching video covertly in the bedroom not once, but twice.

Finally, I just decided to confront my questions head on.

“Do you have a man-crush on Bear Grylls?”

Like any man, he avoided the question altogether at first.  “Did you know that he has skydived onto every continent on earth??  And was one of the youngest Britons to ever climb Mt. Everest?? And that was AFTER he broke his back in three places and doctors weren’t even sure if he would ever walk again!! Is that not freakin’ amazing??!!”

While I stood there with my mouth open, not able to find the words to respond, R-T got up the nerve to confess everything.

“I’m thinking of sending in an application to join him on his show.  He’s asking people to send in letters and videos and explain why they deserve to get to go on an adventure with him.  I really, REALLY want to go with him.  I think I would be the perfect candidate! Don’t you?”

Instead of breaking down or lashing out, though, I started trying to rationalize my husband’s disloyalty.

It had to be the pain medicine they gave him for the broken ribs – – that, and his recent restlessness and despair.  He’s hallucinating, of course.  Thinking that I would EVER let him go on an adventure with Bear Grylls – – he’s moved past depression and is now in full-blown psychosis!!

Rationalizing only gave me so much comfort, though.  Especially after I discovered the letter he wrote to Bear.  I’m including it, here, in case you had some lingering thoughts, dear readers, that perhaps I was paranoid and just imagining my husband’s man-crush.

Dear Bear,
I believe you should pick me to be your guest on one of your televised survival adventures. Americans have this whining thing down to an art form. I have no doubt you will be inundated with letters from this side of the Atlantic by very noble people who have selflessly overcome many challenges and probably deserve a chance to go adventuring with you. That stuff might work on Oprah, but not on someone like you who eats raw maggots from the rotting intestines of mountain goats. Let me be blunt. I don’t deserve it at all. Consider this: How would you feel if one of those noble, selfless candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize ended up croaking on one of your wild survival treks? Could you really live with that guilt? Why not take an ordinary guy like me and not risk years of emotional self-flagellation if I slip through one of those ice crevices? Instead of boring you with some really sad story about why I am the most deserving contestant I am going to cut right to the chase and appeal to your ego. Obviously, you have a massive ego. Anyone who breaks his back in two places and then goes on to become the youngest British person ever to climb Mt. Everest in order to write a book about it has to have an ego to match that lofty summit.
In trying to appeal to your ego, let me first just say what a cool name you have. It’s right up there with Crocodile Dundee. Americans rarely get named after ferocious animals and when they do it’s usually just a golfer named Tiger (although I recently heard he changed his named to Cheetah) or someone like that. Also, I must add that you have single-handedly restored my faith in British masculinity. Before Man vs. Wild, my opinion of your country had been largely formed by my wife’s obsession with Jane Austen’s Victorian England and those Notting-Hill-Love-Actually-Bridget-Jones movies that she is always watching. Based on those, I used to think that all British men ran around like Hugh Grant speaking in a posh accent while fretting over paper cuts or getting exercised about the bread crust on cucumber sandwiches. Then you came along, biting through the spinal cords of raw fish with your teeth, eating worms and drinking your own urine. Wow! You taught us what it means to be a real Brit of a man by showing us that when some of you say “bloody” it’s not just an expression, but an adjective that is going to describe supper on tonight’s episode of Man vs. Wild.
I also happened to notice that before you parachute out of planes or paraglide off the side of a helicopter you make the sign of the cross. So I suspect that if you are a religious man living in England that you must be an Anglican. What good fortune it is that I just happen to be an Episcopal clergy person. Having me on your show would help strengthen the Anglican Communion. There’s no question that it could use some of your survival skills. Now to be honest, those of us who are in the Anglican Communion really have no idea what that is other than to use one of our favorite phrases: “It’s a profound mystery.” However, like all good Anglicans, we believe that if it is really old then we must somehow work to preserve it. That is where you and I come in. Countless Archbishops and ecclesiastical hierarchs have held numerous conferences and drafted endless parliamentary resolutions seeking to ease the strain on the bonds of the Anglican Communion, but what it really needs to jump start the process is for an Episcopalian and a member of the C of E to go out and leap over a pit of rattlesnakes together or make our own zip line through a rain forest somewhere. I do not know the Archbishop of Canterbury personally, but I cannot help but think that you would earn some good will within Lambeth by doing your part to foster the Communion. You could even rename our joint episode and call it, “Man of the Cloth vs. Wild”.

Thank you for your consideration.
R-T

So, as you can see, I am completely justified in my jealousy.  I am not sure what recourse to take, at this point.  Do I give him an ultimatum??  Wild Man or Topsy??  or do I take the if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em tactic and offer to go ahead and move with him to the mother country for the sake of the children??

Think of me, will you, as I ponder these things in my heart?  Who knew that a few broken ribs could also lead to a wife’s broken heart??

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

So I haven’t blogged about the hubby in a while, and after this week, I think it just may be high time. 

That’s because this week, Resistant-Techie has come front and center of the Topsy drama.  To explain why, though, I’ll need to backtrack just a bit and give you a little history.

Not only is R-T not the techiest tool in the shed, but he is actually quite proud of it, you see.  He makes it known far and wide that he don’t need no stinkin’ flashing lights and beeping sounds in his life.  No sir!  He is a man of the great outdoors!!

So, in keeping with his character, he has made it his life’s goal to see every known (and unknown) waterfall within a 100+ mile radius of where we live.  And let me tell you – – that is no small feat.

R-T hikes in good weather and bad weather.  Alone or in company.  He doesn’t care.  He just wants to explore falling water and take photos of his finds.  Right now I could basically keep every calendar company from here to Nantucket in business with all the incredible waterfall pics that are sitting on our hard drive. 

If R-T doesn’t get to hike at least once a week he gets antsy.  No, no, I mean really antsy.  Trust me…I love the man and he has definitely still got it and all, but I’m all for the hiking, capisce??

Anyhoo – – the hubster often has to hike alone.  That’s because if he always waited for the geek squad to join him, he would be twiddling his thumbs until he had a nasty case of carpal tunnel. So he heads out on his own.  The only requests I make of him are that he please let me know the general direction where he is going and that he please stay on the trail.  That way, if he does run into the inevitable bear, and ends up as Resistant-Techie pellets, I will have the DNA to produce for the life insurance peeps. 

But last week he got cockier than usual when his spidey-senses told him that there was an as-of-yet undiscovered waterfall just over the ridge from the trail he was on.  He WAS in the general direction where he told me, so I suppose he figured one out of two wasn’t bad. 

But it was.  Bad. And now I feel guilty because I should have been there.

Had I been with him, he would have never gone off trail.  And had I been with him, he would have never convinced himself he could walk across a log to get to the other side of a creek.  And had I been with him, he wouldn’t have slipped off that log and landed with his side slammed against it.  And had I been with him, he wouldn’t have a broken rib and three detached ones.

And now, poor hubby has been forbidden by his doc to go out traipsing through the woods for at least 2-4 weeks.  I’m figuring that is going to make him one ANTSY camper.

And me?  Well, let’s just say I SHOULD have been there.

Why We Homeschool…The Sequel

So.

Where were we?

Oh yeah.  Deciding whether or not to send my little guy back into the world of mass-market learning.  Well…I spent the whole summer before Uber’s 1st grade year studying my options…

  • Private school?  Not even an possibility.  Therapies and doctors visits had already put our rears in arrears.
  • Public school? Scary.  I’d heard horror stories from local moms about how their kids with special needs were mercilessly teased and how services for kids with IEP’s or even worse – – giftedness – – were basically non-existent.
  • Charter school?  Hey, there’s an option. So we went for it!

But no one told me that the brand new charter school which was getting such rave reviews had a waiting list about three miles long. (and btw, Uber could’ve probably done the unit conversion for that to kilometers in his head at that age!)

So we homeschooled again the next year.  And the next.  And it was a rousing success. But when H-T’s time came along, would you believe I STILL couldn’t quite give up the dream?  That’s right, H-T’s cute little five-year-old tushie was marched right into kindergarten. 

And yes, I got to be a homeroom helper.  And wait in the drop-off/pick-up line.  And even bring cupcakes for his birthday.  The whole kit-n-kaboodle!!  Yet when his teachers sat down with me for his first conference and told me they suspected he might have a learning disability, the very first thought that came to my mind was…

“Well, I’ll just homeschool him then.”

So I did.

And except for a short bout of Uber wanting to try his wings in school during sixth grade and part of seventh, that is exactly what we have done. 

Not because I didn’t believe in the public school system – – far from it.  But because I believed it was the best choice for my individual kiddos.  And I still believe it…so much so that this year I’ve even trusted my kids enough to put the bulk of the responsibility for their education into their own hands. 

And when they sit in their therapist’s office twenty years from now, and regale her with tales of how they are in the crappy mess they are in because their mother didn’t “socialize” them properly, I will STILL believe I made the right choice.  (and probably also that my latest facelift makes me looks a little too much like Charo)

But those are the breaks, kids.  All I can do is what I think is best for my boys, who I say I “love” when “love” doesn’t even begin to cut it. 

Here’s hoping they’ll think so too someday…

Beyond the Ditto…Why We Homeschool

The other day I wimped out and lazed my way through the topic of why we homeschool by basically just “ditto”-ing Pioneer Woman’s terrific post on the subject.  But today, I’m feeling a slight pinch more wordy and thought I would follow up with an actual post for those of you who just might be wondering.

I certainly didn’t start out as a slighty-tech-crazed, work-at-home, mom with a pseudo-unschooling bent.  Far from it.  That has all been a LONG and convoluted process.  In fact, as the child of two former classroom teachers I had nothing but chalkboard fantasies for my offspring.

I pictured myself attending PTA meetings (do they still HAVE those??), being a homeroom volunteer, and bringing cupcakes to all my kids friends on their birthdays (I KNOW they don’t still have that!!)  I was ready to embrace the 180 day routine – – lock, stock and barrel.  UNTIL…

The spring before Uber started kindergarten he began having tics – – just mild ones like sniffing too much and scrunching his shoulders up, and chewing on his shirt collar.  And then the day after his five year vaccinations (don’t get me started!!!!) the tics became suddenly violent, and were joined by dystonia and choreiform movements.  Suddenly our little guy was unable to eat by himself, walk in a straight line, or even talk intelligibly. 

Our pediatrician sent us to the state childrens hospital where Uber was diagnosed with “Sydenham’s Chorea,” an autoimmune disorder.  He was in the hospital for about five days, and then in occupational, speech, and physical therapy for a full two years after.  It left him permanently with both motor and vocal tics, and a later diagnosis of “Tourette Syndrome.” 

His kindergarten year was spent mostly in therapists office, so homeschooling was sort of a “given.”  But as I worked one on one with him – – despite all the incredible physical challenges he was having to overcome daily – – the kid was eating up knowledge as fast as I could dish it out. (like I said, this was long before my understanding of “interest-led learning, when I thought you still had to spoon-feed education to children).  By the end of what would have been his kindergarten year, he was reading on a fourth grade level, was doing second grade math, and writing full paragraphs. 

The next year, I was quite hesitant about sending my ticcing little brainiac back to a regular classroom.  I had to think long and hard about what we would do for first grade. You would think that I would have been completely convinced about homeschooling and its benefits by this time, but socialized education was in the very fiber of my upbringing and it was going to take some more convincing before I was ready to completely chuck my yellow bus fantasies…

STAY TUNED FOR THE CONTINUED SAGA OF THE TOPSY’S FORAY INTO HOME EDUCATION…