Category Archives: Books

Our First Homeschool Conference


Ugh, today has not been our day. Withteeth and I went to a homeschool conference today and I have to say I was not impressed. I should start by saying it was the first secular conference in our area, the rest are all fairly fundamentalist Christian. As such, I do think they need to be given some slack. It really just wasn’t what I was expecting.

The conference wasn’t really very well organized. It was supposed to start at 9am, but they weren’t set up and ready to go until 9:30. They didn’t really have anyone to round up all the people either, so every lecture/discussion began late. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but that was a positive thing. I would have preferred two sets of lectures, one for those just learning about homeschooling and one for those who already had an understanding of what they were doing, because, despite not actually homeschooling yet, I found the information to be too basic. There also wasn’t really any time set aside to network. I find it difficult to network at the best of times, but Withteeth find networking the best part of conferences. While he isn’t as into the whole homeschooling thing as I am yet (he wants to wait until it’s actually time to start homeschooling before he thinks about it), I know that he would have felt better about the conference had  we talked to people. I might have been more inclined to talk to people had I felt that networking had been intended, and had things been set up in such a way to make networking more comfortable. I was, however, impressed with the resources available. They had some workbooks and curricula available to purchase, but they also had a ton of catalogues available that offered various types of homeschooling-esk products available. Everything from classroom furniture to play stuff and games to art supplies and workbooks. I probably could have been happy spending the entire conference looking through the catalogues. I also enjoyed the documentary, Class Dismissed, that they showed after the lunch break.It definitely made me feel more confident about our wish to homeschool.

Have any of you been to a homeschool conference before? What did it look like? Was it worth attending? Why or why not?


How to Deal With Anxiety


This weekend Withteeth and I went to a writing conference. I haven’t talked about my writing in a while, but it is still something I’m pursuing. However, conferences are incredibly difficult for me. As such, I wanted to write a bit about the struggles with anxiety and how to deal with it both for people who have anxiety and for people who may have to deal with someone elses anxiety.

Before I get too deeply into this, everybody struggles with and deals with anxiety differently. There are different types of anxiety disorders, though I have the most common type. But my anxiety is caused by autism and ADHD, so I will not necessarily express my anxiety in the “typical” way.

People are a pretty common trigger for anxiety. Some people suffer from social anxiety, which means that any social situation becomes that much more difficult to handle. I do not have social anxiety, but people are still a pretty big trigger for me. A lot of this is simply due to my sensory issues and issues with reading people. Noise is awful for me. Most people can cancel out a lot of the noise that happens around them, but my ADHD makes it impossible for me to do that. That means that I hear everybody talking, that pen hitting the floor, the setting of seats and movement of paper, someone pouring themselves water, and the laughter in the other room at the same time. My ADHD makes it so I hear all that, but my autism makes that noise seem much worse. I explained it to my psychologist as being like a wave hitting you when you’re not expecting it. You know the water is moving, but you aren’t expecting the powerful force that suddenly slams into your back, knocking the air out of you while simultaneously threatening to send you under water. It’s difficult not to panic in situations like that, but there are ways to deal with it.

Generally, conferences are made up of various tracks of speaking events, sales tables, and social events. The noise issue works differently in each of those situations. In the speaking events, I like to find seating near the edges. It can be tricky to find a good spot as far as front or back goes, because my ADHD makes it better if I sit up front, but my autism makes it better if I sit at the back. When I’m at the front of the room, it is easier to pay attention to what the speaker is saying and I’m less likely to turn to look at distractions. But the front of the room also means that all of the noise is behind me. If I sit at the back, then I don’t feel quite so attacked by the noise. But sitting to the side gives me some breathing room. It means that I can get out of the room quickly if I need to, and it means one side of me is not exposed to the noise. From there, I can decide where I feel the most comfortable sitting.

Sales tables and social events are much trickier. At this last conference, my anxiety was bad enough that I didn’t even bother with the social events. Sometimes I can handle them, but other times it’s not even worth it to try. It’s really upsetting to me when I can’t make the social events, because those are the best opportunities to network, but anxiety is a balancing act. Sales tables and social events are difficult to gauge, the people aren’t sitting in one spot and the noise level changes. This is where other people-related anxiety issues come in. People aren’t great at paying attention to their surroundings, especially when they are in groups. When space is limited, people bump into me. Obviously they bump into others too, but I’m short and have a strong dislike of being touched. It gets my anxiety going. When I’m in a room full of people making noise, it’s a lot to handle, but when I’m in a room full of people who are moving around and making noise it can be enough to send me out of the room screaming, or, worse, cause me to freeze all together and be able to function.

While this weekend was particularly hard, I do have a number of coping mechanisms. The most basic of which is simply doing breathing exercises. When I first feel the anxiety coming, that is my go-to. But, as the anxiety grows, which is inevitable when I can’t gt away from the anxiety-inducing situation, I need another out. That’s where safe spaces come in. I need some place quiet to go where I can be alone or, at the very least, where I can be with few people. I think my anxiety got as bad as it did because I didn’t really have that option. If I needed to get away from people, I had to leave the conference all together. I had to make use of that a few times this weekend, which meant missing multiple speakers. But I know that sticking around would have been worse.

Which leads me to some advise for anyone planning a conference: keep mental health and developmental issues in mind. The conference that I went to had panels on diversity and various issues, including mental health and developmental issues, which was nice. But the panel on mental health and other related issues was on the last day at the last hour. That’s not really when you want to bring together a bunch of people who are struggling just to be at that conference. It was a nice panel to have, but it wasn’t organized with it’s target audience in mind. Were I to organize such an event, I would have put that panel at the beginning of the conference when people are feeling energized and relatively calm. The rooms were also quite cramped. The organizers obviously can’t really control the size of the rooms, but they could have utilized the space more effectively. I believe the organizers were too ambitious. The conference went on for three days and they had five tracks of events going on every hour. The lengths of the events were great, but it’s impossible to see everything you want to see when there is so much going on. I think they would have been better off to double up on certain events so that people could get to everything thy wanted to see, or maybe increased the room sizes (most of the rooms had removable walls) to accommodate more people. As it was, there were more people in a number of the events we attended than there were seats. They made the same mistake in the sales room by having way too many booths. It was difficult to walk through the sales area, especially as people would stop and talk. I thing they would have been better off to have half as many booths, even though that would cut down on sales. There also wasn’t actually any place quiet to go. I’ve never actually been to a conference that has a safe space, and I know that many people buy into the “there are no safe spaces in the real world” argument, but I think that a safe space would be great for conferences to implement. For one thing, a conference isn’t the “real world” in the same way a college isn’t (though, to be honest, the entire idea of what is and isn’t part of the real world makes little sense to me. My not living life the way my parents did is more a result of changing times than anything else). For another, all conferences will attract people with mental illnesses. They aren’t as uncommon as many people think. Keeping your audiences needs in mind is good both for the conference and for the attendees.

Overall, the conference was good, and I’m glad that I attended, but anxiety makes doing what I need to do to lead the life I want far more difficult than it needs to be.


How to Homeschool While Secular


One thing I’ve noticed since becoming interested in Homeschooling is that there really aren’t a lot of options available for non-Christian Homeschoolers. The pre-set curricula is all very Christian focused. Most science curricula are written by Creationists, the logic and philosophy that’s offered has an obvious Christian bias. History is from a Christian perspective. Even math is Christian! But what about the rest of us? English is easy: read books that fit your own lifestyle best. It’s also possible to buy workbooks that fit state/provincial standards. But that means fitting your child’s curriculum with the government curriculum. This doesn’t work for everyone.

This issue has given me two questions for everyone out their:

  1. For those secular homeschoolers out there, how have you dealt with this issue?
  2. We lack a child to homeschool now, but is there any interest in Withteeth and I doing a How-to series in secular homeschooling as we homeschool?

How Young is Too Young to Start School?


Since Withteeth and I are interested in Homeschooling, on thing we have to think about is when to start what. Generally, school starts between age 4 and 6, and there are a number of different theories about when kids are ready to learn certain tasks. For example, kids in Canada and the US tend to learn to read before anything else, and most kids start to grasp reading around age 6. However, many kids are ready to learn math before they are ready to learn to read. So why teach reading first?

Personally, I’m not sure I actually want our kids to start school. I want them to learn, but I don’t want them to associate learning with school. I want them to think of learning as a lifelong endeavour. You see, in my family it is commonly believed that the biggest issue with the world is that people overthink. Many of my family members are more proud of their ignorance than they are of their intelligence. I think part of this is due to the fact that they associate thinking and learning with school, and not with progress. But I want our children to think of learning in association with progress rather than school. So I don’t know if we’ll actually use the word “school” in association with our Homeschooling.

It’s guaranteed that we will Homeschool at least for a time. I’m not sure when we’ll stop Homeschooling, be it for Kindergarten, Grade 9, when they start University, or sometime in between, but we’ll likely start as soon as baby is born. We won’t be pushing the child to learn anything they aren’t ready for, but babies learn so much so fast that it doesn’t make sense not to consider the first few years as part of their education. I expect the first year will consist of us reading to baby, talking to baby, playing with baby, and playing music for baby. So nothing we wouldn’t do anyway. As baby gets older, colouring will become part of the curriculum. Hand-eye coordination is necessary for later writing skills, so it makes sense to get them colouring as soon as they can hold a marker. Plus, who doesn’t love colouring? We have decided on a no TV policy until our child is 2 and no video games until they are 6. This is simply because we feel such things are unnecessary, and enforcing such rules will get Withteeth and I away from our computers. As such, any early curriculum we do will be based around books, workbooks, games, what’s available in the community, and videos once they are 2 and older.

Me being who I am, I have looked quite a bit into various types of Homeschooling. We like the idea of playing lots of games and doing lots of hands-on activities for learning. We also like the idea of reading and listening to books. Since I have ADHD and tend to fail miserably at sitting still (seriously, I’ve gotten up like 6 times since I started writing this just to move around), I know that action based learning was best for me. But we don’t want to use just one style. Not only will our children learn differently from on another, but they will learn different topics differently. As such, we also want to use workbooks and documentaries/films as well. This means that we will be doing an eclectic style of homeschooling. My preferred styles are Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson (or Leadership), Classical, and Unschooling. I’m not quite sure how I’ll work all that together, but I have plenty of time for trial and error.

We also like the idea of Homeschooling all year round, and we like the idea of taking few breaks. Rather than doing four hours of Homeschooling a day four days of the week, we’d rather do little bits of school at a time. This may change as the children grow, but at least at first I think doing an hour of school work a day is best. After all, small children aren’t really that great at sitting still for long. And I still struggle to sit through hour long classes.  Withteeth also feels we should focus on on subject at a time. I’m not sure what my opinion is in that regard, but it can’t hurt to try. He also wants to focus on math first, which I agree with. We’ll figure out whether or not we’ll put the kids in public school as they approach school age. If they are ahead of their peers by then, I doubt we’ll bother. If they are behind or where their peers are, we’ll probably try public school and see how that goes. But, again, it depends on the child.

Now I just have to figure out how to make Homeschooling work while I teach. I should have my teaching certificate by the time baby is a year and a half. That should be a fun experiment.

For those of you with experience Homeschooling, what styles of learning do you prefer? When did you start Homeschooling and how often do you Homeschool? In general, what has worked for you?

Everybody else, thoughts? Opinions?


The Tomboy and Books


As a tomboy I have noticed that it is incredibly difficult to find good books to read. Most books that are written for women are romance novels. While I have no issue with people reading and enjoying romance novels, I am disappointed that there are so few options aimed at women. As an avid reader who loves fantasy I have found a couple wonderful authors who do write books aimed at women. And they have wonderful female characters. But most of the books that I like are written by men for men, and feature male main characters. They are awesome books with great story lines, and I love them, but they were not written with me in mind. This is problematic because I am part of a largely ignored group. I am sure that any author who wrote for my demographic would find themselves with a strong fan base who appreciates the attention. As a hopeful future writer I fully intend to write books for my demographic and I hope that others will do the same.


Writing for the Intellectual


Years ago I tried to read the Twilight series because people kept telling me how awesome it was. I was unable to do so. I found it poorly written and the story line lacking. Even if I could get past the sparkly vampires, I could not get past the grammar. To me, it reads as if it were written by a preteen.

Recently, I have heard two different arguments, one for and one against, in regards to that style of writing. The first is that the story was written for preteens, so it should be written at their level. The second is that most people who read are likely on the more intellectual side so books should be written with that in mind, rather than being dumbed down.

As someone who was an avid reader from a young age, I can’t help but agree with the second argument. Fiction is meant to be engaging and entertaining. A good fiction writer will capture the readers attention and draw them in. As such, a book for twelve year olds should not be filled with words that they do not understand. It should not pull them out of the story and constantly be sending them running for a dictionary. But what parent wants their kid to read a book that teaches them poor grammar? Books should still be written with grammar in mind. And a good book can be written in a way that teaches teenagers new words. I learned the word ‘glower’ by reading fantasy novels. I never learned it in school, but I was able to use the context in the book to understand the meaning of ‘glower.’ That is one major advantage of reading. Children learn a lot from the books that they read, and that should be considered when a book is written for a younger audience.

Because of how much of an effect a book can have on a child, I cannot accept the argument that bad grammar is acceptable because of the young age of the audience. I have to agree that books should be written for the intellectual, and for the intellect.


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