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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Few, The Proud, The Rejected???

I am trying to figure out when exactly proudly serving your country went from being an honor, something to be proud of to being something to be avoided at all costs or looked down upon?

My oldest son for as many years as I can recall has talked of nothing other for a career choice than serving his country. Sure, his branch of choice has changed a time or two, and his career choice within those branches has changed although always pretty similar.

We have always encouraged him no matter what he chooses and will be proud of him no matter what he does in life, but are quite pleased he wants to serve his country. We just naturally assumed family and friends would feel the same. Apparently not.

With exception of some older generation veterans and those currently serving we have come across alot of negativity. When we told friends he may not be able to enlist right upon graduation the response was "well isn't that a blessing?" Well, no it's not, not to him or us.

Instead of encouraging him in his nearly life long dream, friends and family have done their best to discourage him from enlisting. Several people tell him, "why the hell would you want to do that?" when he shares his desires.

Why would he? Let's see...maybe to protect YOUR freedoms, like the freedom of speech to degrade and insult those who are offering their lives for that freedom.

People of this generation look up to and even worship sports heroes and icons, many who probably shouldn't be looked up to. I personally do not think my heroes should be using drugs or abusing animals or their wives and spouses. Yet, those men and women who are willing to lay down their lives for yours are not given even an ounce of the respect they deserve.

When a young person comes to you sharing with you that they want to serve their country, do me, and them a favor and instead of trying to talk them out of it, thank them. Thank them for being willing to do what many are too afraid to do.

It's one thing to discuss their motives and make sure they've really thought it out, it's quite another to call them stupid, or tell the their throwing their lives away and try and talk them out of it.

Do me another favor, consider writing a letter, or sending a care package to someone serving overseas. At least consider stopping and shaking a service members hand and thanking them for what they do. These are our heroes. These are who we should have our children looking up to, NOT the pop star who can't remember to where underpants, or the sports star who abuses animals not showing any regret.

Our military is completely voluntary. These men and women willingly CHOOSE to serve for YOU, at least show them the respect they deserve.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ladies, This is NOT Attractive!!

Please spare those of us that actually have to view this, the trauma and keep your britches pulled up! PLEASE.

Perhaps seeing as it's your back end, and you can't see it, you have no idea how appalling it actually is. There is nothing attractive about it. I'm sure you remember being a little girl and laughing at the plumber whose butt crack would peek out his pants whenever he bent over. It is just as unsightly when it's your bottom end!

I fell victim to the torture of having to endure someones bottom end practically in my face last weekend, and it was far from pleasant. I was sure at first the poor girl wasn't aware her hinney was hanging out and was going to discreetly alert her before she embarrassed herself, but upon closer inspection it seems it was an intentional act. She had actually rolled her pants down to expose parts better left off well hidden!

I know, I know, why didn't I just not look right? Well, as I explained to my husband, it was like a horror movie, where you're afraid to look, yet you can't help yourself and look anyway, then regret it...

Please ladies, this isn't an attractive fashion trend at all. If you insist on these low rise styles, at least do yourself and the general public a favor and wear undies!

Favorite Moves

I just picked up two Tae Bo videos from the library this week and was disappointed that one; Total Body Fat Blaster really needed the Billy Bands to be used effectively. I watched it and decided while it looked like a good workout, without the bands, it seemed kind of senseless.

The second video Billy's Favorite Moves looked kind of silly when I just watched it. There were some silly dance type moves which I am not a big fan of. I almost didn't try it as like most things in life, I take my workouts rather seriously, and didn't care for the silliness of it.

This morning, which is a cardio day for me, I was not really in the mood for my usual tape, so I tried this one just for a change of pace. I am glad I did! Yes, the first ten minutes or so were rather silly with some of the moves, but once it got to the punching and kicking it was fun and serious! I broke out into a fairly good sweat and felt like I got a pretty good workout.

His cues and instruction on this tape were much better than the other I reviewed a few weeks ago. I really like that this was all cardio, no toning. While I love toning the best, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I like to do pure cardio and with the exception of my regular tape, have a hard time finding a challenging cardio tape with no toning. This one fills the bill just great!

At only 45 minutes long, it allows me to follow up with a good yoga workout with the time I have in the mornings. While it moves pretty fast and is challenging, I think an advanced beginner and up would do just fine. Allow yourself a few runs through to get the hang of all the moves.

I will be adding this one as well as the Boot Camp series earlier reviewed to my collection and regular workout!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Ultimate Challenge??

I was very excited to receive Baron Baptiste's Level Three Power Yoga in the mail from DVD Swap the other day.

It is a pretty good workout, but the name "The Ultimate Challenge" is a little misleading. I thought, level three would be harder or a level up from level two. Not necessarily.

I wouldn't say it is really any harder or more challenging than the previous level, actually about the same, but a little different. It is a modified and much shorter version of Ashtanga Yoga. While this may be a "beginners" course in Ashtanga Yoga, I am not sure I would recommend it for a brand new to yoga beginner. If you can do level 1 of this series, you will be fine in this. You will be fine if you've had any experience and are familiar with alignment and such.

What I do really like about this is it is short! 45 minutes. Before adding in cardio and circuit training recently, I used to practice Yoga 5 times a week for 1-2 hours a day. With these new workouts, I just don't have that time to commit any more and like to keep my yoga workouts under an hour, three or so days a week. This tape is perfect for that as it includes most of the basic stretches and poses and adds in some back bends and shoulder stands, rounding it out quite nicely in a short amount of time.

For those interested in a true Ashtanga Yoga I highly recommend David Swensons tapes. But this tape is just fine for those who are newer to this style of yoga or who like me are a bit short on time yet want a complete body stretch.

I didn't see this new on Amazon, but it can still be bought used or traded for at DVD Swap.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just Do It!

I can't tell you how many mornings I get up and just really don't want to exercise(like nearly every morning!) Some days I really have to force myself, as I really try and talk myself out of it. Either I am too sore from the day before, or I didn't sleep and am too tired, or a million other excuses I can make up.

I almost always force myself to just go and do it promising myself that if I don't feel anymore motivated after ten minutes or so I can just quit then. You know what? I never do quit! Once I get started I feel so good that I keep on going.

I never once have regretted getting in a good workout, but how often do you not workout then totally regret it all day long? I'd rather have no regrets, so I just do it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

SamuraiBoy4's Balancing Act

SamuraiBoy4 for some weeks now has been stacking things to balance on:(of course here, maybe he was just trying to "stand on the word of God" , top to bottom the books are: The Bible, Lutheran Hymnal, and A Bible History)
Or standing on the edges of furniture to balance:I missed the photos of him balancing(and falling from) the seat of his 3-wheel bike, chairs, and numerous other things. I figured perhaps it would be best if we just gave him what he seemed to want: A balance beam!He was a little nervous at first....But now he's a pro:

Indoors:And outdoors!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Conversations Overheard...

My husband and son came home from running errands this morning and shared a conversation they overheard, which for some reason struck my funny bone....

I'm sure you've all heard snobbery of one sort or another before. You know, the "I only wear designer jeans", or "I'll only shop here or there" type stuff. Seems everyone wants to be better than everybody else and where you shop, what you wear or what you drive proves just how much better you are!

Well, today's conversation overheard was a new one to me: Tattoo Snobbery. Yup, you heard me right. A guy and gal were comparing and talking about tattoos when the guys asks, "where did you get yours done?" To which the girl replies "at a shop here locally." The guy then responds by telling the girl he "only gets his done overseas and by the very best of the very best of artists." He "would never get a tattoo done locally, as there just aren't any "real" artists." Gee, I sure wish somebody would have told me that BEFORE I got mine done!

Now, I can see if he was in the military and liked to collect body art to represent all the places he's been or something like that, but this was clearly a case of, "well, mines better and more expensive than yours!"

I mean really, is there anything at all left that we don't have to try and one-up each other on?

It's That Time of Year Again!

We always have a late freeze and frost where we live, so we don't plant outdoors until after mothers day each year. Yesterday my husband did all of the hard work for me, and we are just about done!

We have to plant in barrels and other high containers due to a huge rabbit problem we've never been able to get under control. We've had great success with the barrels though, at many peoples surprise. We have in the past been able to grow cucumbers, strawberries, squash, radishes, carrots and green onions. This last year we had tomatoes coming out of our ears, something we had never been able to grow well before.

This year we are planting all of the above, plus red and green bell peppers. I didn't plan ahead as usual, and start seeds indoors, so once again we had to purchase plants from the nursery.

Here are just a couple of our barrels with plants in them. Once they get going I will post more photos of all of them. It is quite a sight to see them all lined up overflowing with greenery and fresh veggies.

Our fruit trees we planted years ago are coming into maturity, and we are having hit and miss luck with them. Our peach tree has been faithfully producing for about three years now, although the birds seem to get more of the fruit than we do.

Our pear tree has only given us about three pears a year, but has always appeared rather healthy, but this year, it isn't looking so hot....

I really have no idea what happened to it, but I am not giving up, as two years ago my apricot tree got ate by one of my goats and was just a dead looking stick in the ground about 6 inches high and check it out this year:

It's even bearing some fruit! I had given up on it, and my husband insisted it was still alive. I am glad now that I listened to him!

We have a plum tree, which like the pear tree, looks okay, but has never given us any fruit.

I think the problem here is the late freeze. They bloom out in early April, and in late April/early May we get a snow or deep freeze killing all the blooms.

We have a little more planting to do today, then we have fresh fruit and veggies, that actually taste like what their suppose to taste like to look forward to! I can't tell you how many times lately I've bought fruit or veggies and they tasted like water, not fruit!

A big part of our garden is to save money, but the added benefit, is the taste! I will be back with photos as we start to see it produce!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Homeschooling on a Budget

Other than the "what about socialization" issue and parents who just think they could never homeschool their own children, the next biggest concern is "how much will it cost?"

While I hear the averages are about six hundred dollars a year per student, I know it can be done, and done well for near free with a library card or even an old set of encyclopedia. THIS story is a perfect example. Whether or not you homeschool, or are even considering, at least take time to read the article. It is amazing.

This year and looking forward to next, I find myself on a pretty tight budget for homeschool materials. I find encouragement in the above article whenever I question if I can do this well with so little. The above article could probably teach the government ran schools a thing or two as well. They spend thousands to over ten thousand per student, and yet many students aren't passing the state standardized testing even close to the 50% percentile. Meanwhile this little girl who should be in seventh grade is testing at a twelfth grade level and has never had any formal learning beyond that set of old encyclopedias.

I have used Sonlight Curriculum for years. It covers our History, read a louds, and reading/literature. I have strayed a few times, only to return back. It is a rather pricey program compared to others which offer textbooks or worktexts. But with Sonlight not only are you getting a high quality education, but building your own home library with books that will be enjoyed over and over again. Years I have had to sell some of our Sonlight books for much needed money and the kids have actually cried!(I wont EVER do that again, Lord willing!) I highly recommend if you can to buy the whole package, as it really is much simpler to have all the books there when you need them, and in the long run usually much less pricey than buying them one at a time from another retailer....BUT, I have found myself this year and next unable to do just that. Not willing to compromise on another curriculum, I have found a way around this, although I will be honest and say it is difficult at times.

The library and Paperback Swap. I have bought/try to buy the instructors guide either used or straight from Sonlight, then I use paperback swap for as many books as I can, and fill in the rest with the library. Is this the way I'd like to do it? No, it's not perfect, but it allows me to use the curriculum that works best for my family in a way we can afford.

I also use both the library and Paperback Swap for extras and videos to enrich our curriculum.

For math for one child I use Math U See and have yet found a way to get it any other way than full price, but the cost is reasonable. For another child we use the ACE Paces, and because money is tight, we only buy three paces at a time. This makes it rather affordable!

Science and English like Math, we buy what we need to, haven't found much way to save. With Science you can use the Internet, do nature studies, or pick up some inexpensive workbooks from Evan Moor and add your own experiments with ideas from the Internet.

For handwriting and spelling, I have been making our own lessons for the past couple of years. For handwriting we use a software called Startwrite. I really like this because for one low price you have a custom made curriculum to last for grades K-12 for not only hand writing but copy work assignments and more. This program is one of my top picks for sure!

For spelling I make a list of 10-20 words per week, then on Monday they take a practice test and write each word. Tuesday they look each word up in the dictionary and write the definition out on their paper. Wednesday, they write each word properly used in a sentence. Thursday they find the word in a word search(I found a free download years ago) Friday is test day! Each day they have practiced with a software program as well. In the past I have used Spelling Made Simple and been quite pleased. I plan on trying another soon called SpellQuizzer and will review it here when I do. These programs look similar although with the one I have yet to try, it appears much more customizable. I know with the other, it makes quizzing and drilling the kids so much easier than just practicing with them ourselves, plus they seem to enjoy it very much! All the extra practice really helps the words sink in and stay in their memory.

For Bible we use a very unusual idea....we use the Bible!! I see no need to spend tons of money on a fancy pre-made curriculum that may or may not even line up with your families personal beliefs. We just start at the beginning and work our way through, when we're done, we start over again. We do use Children's Bibles for the younger children, just because I prefer the wording for some of the more sensitive areas. We do also use Luther's Small Catechism and study a new hymn each month, using the hymn for our copy work assignments.

As money permits we add in extras for enrichment such as Evan Moors History Pockets or lap book kits from Hands of a Child that match what we're studying in History.

As the story in the beginning proves, homeschooling can be done for free or even much less than I've laid out here. These are my bare essentials for where we are now financially. If things stay as they are or worsen, then I may have to cut back more. But homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive at all to be effective.

If you're ever feeling discouraged that you can't homeschool well on a tight budget, print out that article and read it! It really keeps me motivated and encouraged, if he can do all of that, homeless with nothing more than some encyclopedias, we can all certainly do well with what we have been blessed with!

Biggest Loser Power Sculpt

I am so thankful for my library, as I feel it has saved me lots of money by letting me check out these tapes and "try before I buy." This particular DVD is a case where I am very thankful as it totally did not live up to my expectations at all!

This like many of the Biggest Loser tapes is broken up into three segments or levels. It is suggested you start at level one and add in another level each week or two until you are doing all three for your workout.

The warm up was a little lacking in my opinion, but it was ok. Level one starts off with Jillian Michaels leading. You all know by now I am a HUGE Jillian fan. Her DVD's have done more for me in a few short weeks than years of other programs. But....I was most disappointed in her segment(maybe because I had the highest expectations from her?) I didn't feel the least bit challenged and was quite bored. Also I'd recommend using 5-10 lb weights here. I normally use 3 with her No More Trouble Zones tape, and am challenged due to the high reps, but this segment of the tape had very low reps, so I'd recommend going higher on the weights.

Level two was Kim(I don't know her last name, never saw her before) the workout was okay although rather short. I found her to be rather annoying though. Too perky to the point of annoying. I wouldn't say the workout was great or even good, it was okay.

So far I'd give this DVD two out of five stars.

The last level was Bob Harpers. Again rather short(level one is 20 minutes with levels 2-3 being 10 minutes each) This segment definitely belonged as level three(where as in another tape, the level three was the easiest!) this level was the hardest, and finally made me break out in a sweat! I wish it could have lasted longer! Because of this level I give this tape three out of five stars!

Why so low? Well, first off it just wasn't very challenging at all. While a negative for me, this would be a plus for someone just starting off, but I am still not sure it is worthy of more stars. The whole thing, even each separate level felt choppy and unorganized. While I understand it is three separate levels, who that is serious about exercise and staying fit is really only going to workout for one ten minute segment? You really need to do the full 50 minutes(five minutes each for warm up and cool down) and each segment has several repeat exercises from previous segments.

I am finding on many of the Biggest Loser tapes, they are very big on lunges and squats, both of which can be great moves, but in my opinion highly over done on these tapes. Even on Bobs Boot Camp tape which I gave a much better review on, those moves were pretty over done, although not nearly as much as this tape.

Let's face it...most of us who are going to be trying the Biggest Loser tapes are either a bit older than the usual 20 something group that tends to buy and use exercise tapes, or pretty heavy hoping to lose pounds. Neither group in my opinion should have that much pressure on their knees. I will say that I've always had weak knees and was concerned about making them more sore than they already are(I am thin, but in the older category, nearing 40 in a few weeks, YIKES!) but I am finding since learning to do these move correctly, and doing them regularly, my knees are actually getting stronger and feeling better. Normally Jillian is great about reminding us of proper form for a lunge or squat, and Bob does pretty well too, but I felt while there were some cues and reminders in this tape, not enough, making it potentially risky for heavier exercisers or those with bum knees.

If you are already Shredding with Jillian Michaels in any of the three of her tapes I have reviewed here, definitely leave this one on the stores shelf. It will be far too simple for you and boring.

If you are a new exerciser or heavier, I think I'd recommend Biggest Loser Boot Camp over this one.

On a positive note, while on the Boot Camp tape I complained about the contestants being sloppy and using bad form, on this tape all the leaders did a great job of correcting them from any mistakes they were making, there for helping us too, to use proper form

Overall though, this isn't one of the better Biggest Loser tapes by any means. There are some good to great ones made by them or their trainers, this just isn't one of them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Billy's Boot Camp

I've had Billy's Boot Camp DVD on hold at the library and got the chance to try it out this morning.

I did the Basic Training video. I didn't have the recommended Billy Bands but he says that's okay, you can still get an effective workout without them. I did however choose to use my 2lb hand weights. I found several of the moves quite difficult with those and got a very good workout!

He does a complete warm up which I often find lacking in other workout videos, so it was refreshing not to have to pause and add more myself as I often find myself doing in other tapes.

The moves overall are fairly simple to slow mode, but once he speeds it up I found myself struggling to stay coordinated and on cue. I think after a couple times of doing this video though I would catch on.

I really would like to try this with the Billy bands though. I think it would add more to the leg segments that using hand weights just don't add much to. It does look like it may add to my coordination issues though, so we'll have to see.

Not being familiar with the Tae Bo style workouts myself, I can't comment on how this compares to his other workouts. From what it sounds like this is the intro tape into his other tapes in the series. I am interested and considering buying the whole package deal which includes all the DVD's and Billy Bands along with some extras. It seems reasonably priced at $39.99.

After the segment with the bands he moves into some basic floor exercises such as push ups(these are actually done several times throughout the video) lots of ab work, and a nice cool down.

This was a nice change from my regular workout, and I am really considering adding it into my regular routine. I do have a few complaints though. One is when he starts moving faster, or is preparing to, he starts talking so fast it is hard to understand him. Also the music seems a bit off sometimes. The pace of the music picks up when the exercises are slowing down and vice versa. Not too big a deal, but for those that really pay attention to music as I know some of you do, it may bother you, as such things I rarely notice, and this was annoying enough that I even noticed it

Other than those items though I give this pretty high ratings. Four out of five stars. I suspect though that once the basics in this are mastered, it would get boring, and you'd want to move on to the next level in the series, so because of that, unless you are purchasing the whole set, I'd recommend borrowing this level from the library or Netflix rather than buying.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Next Best Thing....

So, what if after my last post you're all excited to attend a homeschool conference or convention, but either there isn't one coming your way anytime soon, or finances just don't allow for you to attend this year?

Well, the next best thing is the audio of the great speakers! I found Best Christian Conferences recently and was impressed! They have CD's or MP3 downloads of many of the best conferences and speakers! The prices are quite reasonable in my opinion.

Whether you homeschool or not, but are just looking for advice on Christian family living and world views let me recommend David Hazell and Voddie Baucham. You can search the site by speakers name or the conference they spoke at. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Very Insightful Homeschool Article

I found THIS article last week and found it very insightful and encouraging. I highly recommend newer and more seasoned homeschoolers alike go and take the time to really read it. It is an interview with John Taylor Gatto who is a former New York state teacher of the year and now a well published author.

Every time I read anything by him I feel affirmed in what I am doing and encouraged to continue on!

This Keeps Sounding Worse and Worse

This whole UN Rights of the Child thing just keeps sounding worse and worse the more I read about it. It really does seem to affect many aspects of not only child rearing, but life in general, and seems to strip Americans of more and more rights and freedoms. Check out THIS article on how this treaty/convention could affect our rights to private gun ownership!

New Photos of SamuraiGirl!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Should You or Shouldn't You?(homeschool confrences)

It's that time of year again, all over America in many major cities and some smaller ones too, homeschool conferences, Expos, fairs, book sales and more are sprouting up! The big question many of us, new and more experienced alike ask, is...should I go? What does it have to offer?

Well, my perspective is a bit different than it may have been in years past, but I'll share it with you none the less.

We are finishing up our 12th year of homeschooling, and until this weekend I had only attended one convention, our states largest. That was in about our 6th or 7th year. My husband and I enjoyed it, but I think it was more because it was the first time we had been alone with each other without children in 15 or so years of marriage at the point! It was great to get to look at alot of the books and materials before buying and talk to the vendors.

I don't think it made too much of an impression though as for the past six years or so, we've never made any serious attempt to attend another.

This year I got flyer's and emails from both our large state Christian convention as well as a smaller semi-local Christian Expo and was excited beyond belief with some of the speakers, one in particular.

We went to the smaller one this weekend, and I must say I have come back feeling completely recharged, refreshed, and encouraged to continue on!

The main speaker, Voddie Baucham ( let me suggest going to youtube and checking out his videos if you aren't familiar with him)was what perked my interest and made me consider going, and he lived up to everything I hoped and some. A true man of God who isn't afraid to share what he believes and speaks with such a passion as I've ever seen. But as much as I thoroughly enjoyed each time he spoke, it was the whole conference, all the speakers, and the atmosphere I enjoyed.

Even though I've homeschooled as long as I have, for the most part we've been pretty isolated due in part to where we live, and due in part to our hectic schedule we used to maintain with our martial arts training and such. Just to be around and fellowship with other homeschoolers, and Christian homeschoolers at that was a rare treat! To be around others who are homeschooling for like minded reasons and who are committed to continue to educate their children at home all the way through was quite encouraging.

To get that encouragement, get updated on legislative news, and an unexpected treat of hearing and getting acquainted with a new to me musician/artist Stephanie Wojnicki made the whole experience totally worth it for me! I am now anxiously awaiting our big state conference in July, as Voddie Baucham will be there again as well as some other speakers I am excited about too!

I highly recommend that all newbies to homeschooling attend your local conference/convention, and even some of you veterans who like me really could use some encouragement after several long years of doing this on your own without alot of outside support. Of course anybody in between could benefit as well, and if by any means you have a favorite speaker you haven't seen in person, make all attempts to attend, it is quite a treat to see him or her in person!

So whether you are just hoping to see some of the materials you're considering, hands on before buying, or need some extra encouragement, or are hoping to learn from those who have been doing this for years, consider going this year. Let me suggest, while it is great fun to go with your girl friends, kind of like a grown up pajama party, consider taking your husband. Especially if you have a speaker such as Voddie Baucham, you will both be highly encouraged and blessed!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parental Rights in Danger!

I have shared about this issue here in the past before, but I really feel we need to be very proactive in getting the word out to everybody we know.

This weekend while attending a local homeschool convention I had the opportunity to hear Mike Smith from HSLDA speak on this issue, and it is quite frightening.

Today I found this video on the same subject over a THIS blog I like to visit often.

Watch it, then forward it to everybody you know. This could affect our ability to raise our own children how we choose, whether it be about education, discipline or religion. We're not talking about abuse or other protections children already have. We're talking about simple day to day parenting decisions.

I don't understand how the government feels children, lets say age 13 or so, aren't mature enough to choose how to vote, drink alcohol, drive a car, or enlist in the military, yet they should be free to take parents to court over such issues as church attendance or schooling methods. My 17 year old needs me to sign a paper for him to have dental work done or a tattoo, but yet I can't choose how often we go or don't go to church or whether I will homeschool, or even ground my child for dangerous behavior.

I HIGHLY recommend you check out this website: Parental Rights. Learn all you can, and tell others!

Random Acts of Kindness

Today , me and my family were the recipients of a "pay it forward" or "random acts of kindness" moment and it totally caught us off a good way.

After church we went to the local AM/PM mini mart for our weekly indulgence of soda and candy treats and my husband and youngest son were at their turn at the register and after the lady rung up their order, they then discovered that the ATM machine was down. Not having cash, my husband was unable to complete the purchase.

As he was returning to the car I saw a man following him. The man announced that he paid for our items. My husband said he couldn't accept it, that it was just some candy and stuff, thanks anyway. About that time the gentleman's wife came out carrying our items!

We very humbly accepted them and thanked them many times. You read or hear about things, and sometimes even do them yourself, but let me tell you, being the recipient is quite a pleasant surprise! It sure can make your day!

If your ever fortunate enough to be the recipient, enjoy it and be very thankful. Even if you're not, consider doing a random act of kindness for someone else, it sure will make their day and perhaps even yours!

And to that fellow in Anza who picked up our tab, thanks again, you DID make our day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Biggest Loser Boot Camp Workout

After doing a variety of Jillian Michaels videos for the last several weeks and getting some amazing results(only 2 lbs lost, but lost 2 inches on hips and an inch and a half on waist, and pants that were tight just weeks ago are loose!) I wanted to add to my workout collection, as I get bored pretty quickly.

I just tried Biggest Loser Boot Camp this morning. I have only recently watched Biggest Loser and only have seen half of two episodes now so I really am not familiar with Jillian or Bob on the show or their workout styles(obviously I am now quite familiar with Jillians) so I didn't know what to expect, but thought it would be similar and on the same level as Jillians videos.

It was is some ways, but in some I was also disappointed. This workout has three levels. It is recommended you start at level 1 for two weeks then move on to level 2 for two more weeks before adding in level 3. It is expected by then you will be doing all three levels as your workout. Seeing how I have been doing Jillians workouts just fine for weeks now I thought I'd do the whole thing today, and I am glad I did. If I had done only level 1, I probably would have given it away or traded on DVD Swap.

The warm up was a little more involved and longer than Jillian's, I think this is a good thing. It really warmed up ALL body parts quite effectively.

The first level didn't even cause me to become the slightest bit out of breath or even break a sweat! It was pretty basic. While this was a negative for me, this would be a plus for someone just moving into this style of workouts, so don't completely brush this one off. The style of workout was a bit similar to Jillian's combining strength training with cardio. Unlike Jillian, most of the time in level 1 only one body part was being focused on. While you may be holding weights while doing a lunge, you weren't moving your arms, combining the two, also increasing the cardio part. There were a few exceptions, but for the most part, you were either working your arms or your legs, but not both. I was somewhat bored and ready to give up on this one and figure I wasted my money(of course it was only 8.99 at Amazon, so not a huge loss)

Then it moved into level 2. This was challenging!! I actually was pouring sweat and got a little breathless. This used weights the whole time, but it was challenging and did utilized both the upper and lower body at the same time. I was bummed this portion didn't last longer, this was by far my favorite part of the workout. Of course I love weights, so that may be why I loved this part so much, but this segment alone, makes this a keeper!

Level three was the final portion before moving into the cool down. This level uses exercise bands. I happened to have some, although mine don't have handles like theirs, but they worked fine. If you don't have bands, don't worry all but the leg presses can be done just as effectively with your hand weights. This portion was okay. To me, it was kind of like the cool down before the cool down. I don't know if that is how they intended it and that is why it is level 3 or not, but as far as difficulty, this is more like level 2 or possibly level 1. Not very challenging.

The cool down was really nice. It used several basic yoga poses. I have always felt yoga is the best way to cool down and help prevent the after workout soreness we all experience. I really liked that he added that for a cool down! I am considering buying his Weight Loss Yoga to add in to my workouts as well.

One thing I've seen mentioned in other reviews is that the Biggest Loser contestants working out are sloppy, not doing the move correctly, and are a bit of a distraction. I have to agree here. Some had terrible form, that went beyond just trying to modify a difficult move, a couple were totally doing their own thing, even after Bob corrected them. If you are unfamiliar with some of the moves and are looking to them for proper form you might be in trouble. Ali was doing them correctly, so you may want to keep your eye on her! Bob did very little of the workout himself, which doesn't bother me as long as someone else is doing it correctly. While I like seeing former contestants working out, I would much prefer one or two people doing it correctly like Jillian has. It is refreshing though to see people of all ages and sizes working out instead of all ready perfect rock hard twenty somethings.

For me, without level 2 this would get 3 out of 5 stars. But because of level 2 I am giving it 4. I wont be doing this as often as my Jillian Michael's tapes, but I will be adding it in for variety.

I do plan on trying some of the other biggest loser workouts to see if they can add something to my workouts and I will share here my thoughts. I also have some of the newer Tae Bo workouts on hold at the library that I will share here as well as I get to try them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Whole Accreditation Issue

In my last post I was pretty upset and really re-thinking how we homeschool. Not homeschooling itself, as that is just how we see best to educate our family, and after all these years I don't think that will change anytime in this lifetime. It really did leave me questioning me the whole accreditation issue though.

I personally just think accreditation isn't all it's cracked up to be. I often hear people brag that their child's school is "accredited" and I think, so what? No disrespect intended, I just never have thought accreditation is all that it is held up to be.

This whole military enlistment issue though left me wondering if perhaps I should enroll in an accredited program just to cover our bases. The thing is with most accredited programs, you have to use a prescribed curriculum. That kind of takes away one of the beauties of homeschooling, being able to cater to each child's individual needs. Or what if I wanted to study Ancient History in a year that I am suppose to teach American History? To me, as long as they get taught everything they need to be taught, what matter does it make what year I teach it in?

The good news is, at least for the military, it seems this whole accreditation issue really isn't an issue at all. I contacted HSLDA this morning(for those not familiar this is Home School Legal Defense Association, and well worth the eleven or so dollars a month we pay for it!) and they advised that the Coast Guard is most likely more concerned with the "legality" rather than the "accreditation" of our homeschool. With the proper documentation, which in our case is the last four years of our private school affidavits, a professional looking diploma and our transcripts we should be fine.

As it turns out, my son is now seriously considering college first anyway as this left him a little upset, and with those credits he will have all he needs as well. It seems a good year or two at most community colleges takes care of most of the accreditation issues for not only the military, but major universities and government jobs as well.

So, barring any of the children wanting to enter a public school after ninth grade it does not appear this whole accreditation issue is something I need to waste anymore time worrying about. I feel I have given all of my children a quality education and have no intention of changing anything at this time.

I do think good advice though is to seriously consider all of your children's possible career paths as they are preparing to enter high school, and make sure you have all of your bases covered in regards to record keeping and even the issue of to enroll in an accredited program or not. For most cases, it seems there are ways around that as I have mentioned, but best to be forewarned and prepared of any possible snags or setbacks based on those issues well before you need to be so you're not caught off guard like we were!

What I Wish I Had Been Told

I've been homeschooling since my oldest son was in 1st grade. I am graduating him next month. For years people thought it was a phase I'd outgrow and many more questioned the validity of our schooling. I got all the usual questions; What about college? What if he wants to enter the military? What about a diploma? I always answered those questions with what I had been led to believe by all the so-called "experts" out there. My homeschool diploma is just as valid as any other diploma, and many big named colleges and the military actually actively seek out homeschoolers.

Now, twelve years later I am feeling a bit let down and disappointed and perhaps even misled. My son has spoken of nothing else for the past ten years or so other than joining the military. Sure, his branch or MOS has changed a time or two, but there was never any doubt that he would in fact join.

I do know of several homeschoolers who have gotten into the military so I never had any reason to believe we would have any issues. Well, yesterday we had the shock of our lives when the Coast Guard recruiter told my son due to the fact that he is privately homeschooled, he cannot enlist unless he obtains 15 college credits. Not only that, but they wont even speak to him any further until he has those!

Now, getting those credits isn't a big deal in the long scheme of things. My son is quite bright and I am sure he would do fine in college, but that's not the point. What I am fuming mad over is I know many high school graduates with a "real" diploma that can barely score well enough to even enter the military, yet my son scores well enough to not only qualify for enlistment, but to qualify for most any job he is interested in, yet because his diploma is from a private homeschool, non-accredited, he has to jump through extra hoops that others with a "real" diploma don't, even though his level of education is not only equivalent to theirs, but probably surpasses it.

We're not giving up, we're calling Home School Legal Defense Association to see if they can offer assistance, and we're calling different recruiters to see if we can get a better answer. I am sure whether or not my son has to go get those credits, he will enlist sooner or later as his desire is to serve his country, always has been, but this whole experience and a few others has left me wondering.....

Would I be better off enrolling my other children in a public or private ISP with an accredited diploma for their high school years? As homeschoolers we are always told accreditation doesn't really mean anything and we needn't worry about such things. I tend to agree in the sense that I know several students who have graduated with "accredited" diplomas that can barely construct a proper paragraph or properly answer basic comprehension question after reading a brief paragraph. Yet these same barely literate students have more doors open to them thanks to that "accredited" diploma than my students who have studied things such as Latin, and score in the high 90's on the English portions of the ASVAB. So clearly while that accreditation may not mean much in terms of what the students actually have studied or retained, it does mean something in the eyes of the military and certain colleges.

Another incident we had was when my son was in 10th grade he hesitantly decided to enroll in public school because he wanted to be in the ROTC program, no other reason than that. Well, we called THREE schools and were told seeing as we weren't enrolled in an "Accredited" program his credits for those three semesters of school were not valid and he'd have to enroll as a ninth grader! Needless to say, he didn't enroll.

I am really feeling let down and disappointed, not only in the Coast Guard and their response to us yesterday, but in all of the experts out there who didn't warn us of such things. We were always told not to worry that our diploma is valid, which I still believe it is, and it is just a matter of talking to the right recruiter, but I really wish we'd been warned about the possible difficulties we may face.

Nobody ever talks about the difficulties, only the praises of homeschooling and the success's of those graduating from homeschool. I am still an avid homeschool advocate, and intend to continue to homeschool my other boys, but I am really rethinking this whole accreditation thing. While I don't put much stock in the whole process, apparently the military, certain colleges, and even some potential employers do.

So, here I am sharing with you, that which I wish someone had shared with me. Yes, I still feel homeschooling is the best option for most families. I really do believe 100 % that the education your child will receive at home in most cases far surpasses what he or she would receive in public school. And while for those of us that are Christians, our first priority should be to raise a godly generation, and that is more easily obtained in the homeschooling environment, the truth of the matter is students will still need to follow up that godly education in the real world with a job, college or military, so academics ARE important, and it seems that also that accreditation we are too often told isn't important, seems to be as well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Perhaps We Have More To Learn From Them...

People often ask me why on earth I want to go to Haiti so badly, and I don't have any clear answers, other than to say I truly do feel led to go there. Of course a big reason I even started thinking of visiting Haiti was to visit two of my sponsored children, Islamine and Sarafina.

The more I read about Haiti, the more I am fascinated with those who live there. It just isn't Haiti really, it's anywhere where there is such extreme poverty and yet at the same time a faith and hope we just don't often see anywhere else.

Many people plan mission trips to help or minister to those living in developing nations such as Haiti, but I wonder who really has more to learn from whom?

I have read over and over of the churches of Haiti being so overflowing that people are literally standing in the doors, sticking their heads in the windows, doing whatever they can to hear the Word. I ask, where in America do you hear of such a thing? Maybe my small rural community is just different than the rest of the country, but we have eleven or so churches, and I guarantee you they are not overflowing by any means! I can promise you can not only find a vacant seat or two on any given Sunday, but most likely several vacant rows!

Why I wonder? We claim to be a Christian nation, but do we act like one? Church for most of America seems to be a drudgery, a chore, or perhaps even a duty, not something we actually want to do. Most would much rather be at the beach or a ball game or anywhere really but at a boring, dull church. Perhaps that is it.....See in Haiti and other such places church is a celebration. People still dress in their Sunday best, there is singing to the Lord in praise, and dancing and joy! Here, it seems it is either a dull going through the motions with little joy or any other emotion, heaven forbid someone says the wrong part of the liturgy at the wrong time, or the wrong candle gets lit or something not in the proper sequence. Or on the other hand when there is singing in dancing in church it is more to entertain the goers than to praise the Lord.

Perhaps that is why I want to go to a place like Haiti, to see a real living faith in action. These people depend on God for everything down to each days meal. Here we are so blessed and have such an abundance of everything, that I feel many feel like they don't need God. Have you noticed that those who have been out of the church for a while will briefly return when going through a crisis? Or after a horrific event such as 911? I suspect as the economy worsens we will see more people filling up the pews as well. Then things go well again, and those seats become empty once again.

I wonder how those in places such as Haiti would feel if they saw us, we who sent money or went on missions to teach them about God, saw our faith in action? What would they see? Would they see anything beyond our Sunday morning obligatory worship? What would they see the rest of the week?

Yes, I know we have lots of things we can teach them, but I wonder what we could learn from them if we didn't let pride get in the way and had open hearts and minds?