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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm Either Totally Cool, or a Major Heathen

For about three years now I've been promising my son a tattoo for his 18th birthday. He doesn't turn 18 for a few days yet, but he is processing for the Navy this week, so we HAD to get it done a little early.

Only problem is here in California, you HAVE to be 18 period, even with parental consent. We had a heck of a time finding an artist who would be willing to bend the rules. We finally remembered that we have an old family friend(actually he's quite young, we've just known the family forever, and some!) who is a very good artist and was willing to help us out on such short notice too!


I'm glad we remembered him, because not only did he do us this huge favor, but he is quite talented and his shop has to be one of the nicest ones I've ever been in. I will be calling him when I am ready for my next and what should be my final one.



I am finding people's response to this birthday gift quite interesting. It seems I either get the cool mom points or people think I am some sort of heathen for doing such a thing. The fact is, he would be getting a tattoo no matter what once he turns 18. I'd rather take him somewhere reputable and clean, with a talented artist rather than him go somewhere on his own where the work may not be quality, as he will be wearing this for the rest of his life. I learned that lesson the hard way myself. I was stuck with a terrible piece for 18 years before I had the money to get it corrected.



Tattoo's are so mainstream now, and most if done properly are truly works of art. If well thought out they usually mean something very significant to the wearer and memorialize a part of your life. I just don't understand peoples negativity and objections, I really don't. There's a big difference between getting a skull and cross bone which may seem cool at 18, but not so cool at 45, versus a well thought out piece of art that has a significant personal meaning that is going to be as appropriate later in life as well as enjoyable now.



My son has had this design picked out for three years now. It is our family's crest:


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why I Wont Buy a Product Which I Love...(or...can I please speak to an AMERICAN??)

I really like Dell computers, all but one of my many computer purchases have been Dells. I feel they are a good product at a reasonable price, so why wont I buy another? Customer service or lack there of!!

My hard drive needs replaced, I paid for an extra extended warranty, so I am thinking....no problem I will call and get that warranty honored.

So, I dial the 1-800 number, which seeing as we only have cells in our home, doesn't really make any difference. First a nice young man answers with a very strong Indian accent. I love India, the country, culture, people, especially the women's clothing, how I long to wear a sari...in fact you could say I am almost obsessed with India. Other than Haiti, India and China are the two places I long to be and they tug at my heart.

The only problem is it seemed that not only was he Indian, but I think the call was actually placed IN India as the connection was bad and I could barley hear the man, that combined with the thick accent, we could barely understand each other. I am explaining to him that I needed technical support, and from what little I could gather it seemed he was trying to sell me a printer. "No thank you Sir," I explain to him, "I just need technical support." So he transfers me, or so I thought.

Nope, not technical support. This time a Indian woman with an even stronger accent and a worse connection. I again explain my problem to her and rather than transfer my call as requested she attempts to sell me a software warranty package. Okay, now I am starting to get a little mad, but I try to not let it show, after all she is only doing her job right?

She goes on to explain the perks of this package, not only will it protect my software, BUT the nicest perk is my calls will go directly to the U.S. offices and I wont have to spend extra time or money on the out of U.S. calls. Okay, now I am fuming and not trying to hide it! First, I bought this product in the USA, I paid for it with US money, earned in the USA, why should I have to pay extra, per month, to have the privilege to speak directly with someone in the USA??

Apparently at this point she could tell I was mad and when I demanded I immediately be transferred to Technical Support, she said she was going to have her supervisor speak with me! What??? "No, I want Technical Support please!"

So, the supervisor gets on the phone and he was actually rather friendly and said he understood my frustration and rather quickly put me through to tech. support.

I wont go into details of that call, it was rather routine and rather useless and I ended up having to hang up and call back several hours later when his suggestions failed. When he gave me the number to call though I asked him, "Is this a direct line to Technical Support, or am I going to be calling India and having to be transferred 2-3 times, each time trying to be sold something I don't want or need?" His response? "Yeah."

So, when I call back, surprise, surprise, I am once again on the phone in India. This ladies accent was much less thick, and she was rather friendly, but what did she offer to sell me? For $6.00 or so bucks a month I could have my own "personal technician in Florida." First, I don't live in Florida, second I refuse to pay extra for something that I should already be getting!

Once transferred, I got the first truly helpful person of the day. A technician who knew his job and wasn't just reading out of a manual. He got my problem resolved and is shipping out the needed part.

I can understand it is cheaper to hire overseas help, but when dealing with customer service matters I really feel it is much more helpful to have someone who can easily be understood, and at the very least have a clear connection so both parties can be heard. I was so frustrated at this whole experience! The icing on the cake though was being bribed out of my money to be allowed the privilege to speak to an American!

With all the job shortages and unemployment problems, surely a big company like Dell could afford to hire some English speaking U.S. citizens. How many jobs could be filled if all companies did just that? How many happier customers would such companies have? I know I am one unhappy customer and wont be placing my regular Christmas order this year. I sure hope Dell considers changing it's practices as I do like my Dell products, but I refuse to pay extra money to speak with a customer service person who can speak English well enough to be understood, and I absolutely refuse to spend another four or so hours going through something like this again!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Whatever Happened to Educational Integrity?

When I was in school, the grades we got on our report cards were the grades we earned, plain and simple. The classes we took were the classes we belonged in based on performance and academic ability. If we weren't academically up to par with our classmates we were held back, regardless of what that may do to our social status. A high school diploma meant we passed our courses and in most cases were prepared for college or the workforce.

These things don't necessarily ring true today, not only in public school which I have wrote about on here several times, but sadly and embarrassingly, in home schools as well.

We have all heard the stories of students in public school being passed on through the grades and in many cases graduating not knowing how to read or write very well. I recently have personally experienced some of this first hand. I've played Scrabble with high school graduates who otherwise seem and speak rather intelligently, yet can't come up with the vocabulary to form a three or four letter word, but alone spell it correctly! This coming from one of the finest schools in our county! I have heard students who are taking upper level math courses comment on how they don't know the math, but keep getting passed on anyway.

But unfortunately, this doesn't happen only in public schools. Our recent experience of trying to get our son into the military as a home school graduate and other recent experiences have taught me a thing or two. The person we've been dealing with in the Navy's education department shared how many students are kicked out of public school or drop out, then decide they want to join the service and "say" they are/were home schooled, when in fact they weren't. They try to use homeschooling as a way to gain entrance they'd otherwise be denied. Worse yet their parents and sometimes recruiters aid them in this deception, which in the long run damages "true" homeschoolers reputation and chances of enlistment.

But it doesn't stop with the "phony" homeschoolers. I wish it did. I have recently come across homeschoolers who have graduated with "college bound" diplomas who couldn't pass the basic entrance test for regular classes at community college.

This one upsets me more than any other. See, my son didn't earn a college bound diploma. He has a "general" diploma. Sure, as a private homeschooler who takes complete control of my child's education and documents I could have given him any diploma I desired. I could have put anything I wanted on his transcript, I could have awarded him any grade point average I desired, graded on any curve I could imagine, etc... but I DIDN'T.

My sons grades and scores are what he earned based on his knowledge of the subject matter and the quality of his work. He didn't have a 4.0 grade average, he didn't take "honors" or "college prep" classes nor did I claim he did. What good would that do? So, I give him a "college bound" diploma and he goes to take his tests to get in and it shows he needs remedial classes and the college admissions are going to think either homeschoolers are liars or completely ignorant. Unfortunately, this will effect these peoples perceptions of all homeschoolers.

Many of us pull our kids out of the public school system to avoid this type of stuff from going on. Most of us hope to not only do as well as public school but hopefully better. Let us do better than, not just lie and say we do! Many homeschoolers claim to homeschool for religious reasons, what example are we projecting of our religion when we lie?

This sort of falsehood doesn't only hurt your own child when the truth is known, but my child and every other homeschooler. Please fellow homeschoolers, lets not only do better than the public schools academically, but morally and ethically as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breathing That Sigh Of Relief

I think I can finally shout VICTORY!! Last Thursday someone from the education department of the Navy called and apologized up and down for the "misunderstanding" in regards to allowing my homeschooled son to enlist. He assured us that the paperwork on his end would be completed by the end of that day, and my son was now deemed eligible and qualified.

I hesitated to post sooner though as the recruiter who was once being very friendly and helpful is now being a bit aloof and distant. He finally called last night with appointments for my son to finish some paperwork today in the recruiting station, followed by his MEPS appointment next Tuesday and Wednesday where he will take the full ASVAB, physical and swear in.

So, it seems for now the only thing that would hold my son back from seeing his dream become a reality is if he doesn't do as well on his ASVAB as he has done on the practice ones, which seems highly unlikely.

To all homeschoolers everywhere: PLEASE if your child wishes to enlist in the service and is rejected the first time, please, please, don't just walk away and take no for an answer. Contact HSLDA, and help to educate these recruiters. While I was screaming discrimination, and really felt like that is what was going on, and perhaps there was a little of that, I really do believe it was mostly ignorance on the behalf of the recruiters. This wasn't one recruiter, it was several, in several states. You will not only be doing your child a favor, but in the long run helping all homeschoolers who wish to enlist.

I also have learned about how many dropouts claim homeschooling to gain military entrance, when in fact they weren't homeschooling at all. This caused me to take a closer look at homeschool integrity, which I will share more on later, but it seems not only the public schools are doctoring grades and test scores.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Victory??

Wow!! The recruiter just called and said that "headquarters" just called them and told them they were to re-submit my sons paperwork and it appears he may qualify after all!

Due to them being over-manned he will have to DEP and it may be anywhere from one week to one year before he goes off to boot camp, but the important thing is that he will be treated like any other high school graduate, which is all we were asking for.

I am 99.9% sure this is all a result of my conversations and letter writing with HSLDA yesterday. I didn't expect anything to happen this soon!

I really am not expecting any further difficulties but am still not breathing a sigh of relief until we get the final phone call at the end of the week telling us he DOES qualify and to make his appointment at MEPS.

This is just one small example(although quite big to us!) of the kind of work HSLDA does on the behalf of homeschoolers everywhere. Just a small reminder to consider becoming a member if you aren't already. One always hopes they will never need their services, but you never know when you will. I certainly didn't think it would be AFTER my son graduated! Your membership dues and donations go to help fund for services for others when they are needed. Well worth every penny I've ever spent these past twelve years and will continue to spend to keep my membership active for these next 14 years I have left to go!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We're NOT Giving Up!!

We have moved on to the next step in regards to getting my son into the Navy. After a call from HSLDA this morning we wrote a letter and got it sent off. We are hoping this will end the matter, but either way we are in this for the long haul. We are not giving up just because each hoop they are making us jump through gets more difficult.

This isn't only for my son, but for all the other homeschoolers out there who someday may come up against this as well. I already have heard stories from other homeschoolers who were rejected on the same grounds we were, but they just gave up. Maybe they weren't HSLDA members or just didn't know they had rights. But while I understand why one may find it easier to give up, in the long run I believe it does more harm than good, not only to themselves but for all homeschoolers who want to join the military.

I will update here each step of the way. Hopefully the next step will be going in and signing him up!

I humbly ask all homeschoolers not already HSLDA members to prayerfully consider becoming one, as doing so helps all homeschoolers. If you are already a member, take the time to read all the email updates and newsletters that get sent out as well as their magazine as they are full of helpful information, legal issues, updates and more. It is vitally important for all homeshcoolers to be educated on their rights, and the legal issues facing homeschoolers. The more informed you are the more armed you will be to handle issues if they arise, or to help and educate others.

It is a small amount(about $100.00 a year) to join, but is is well worth the peace of mind it brings, not to mention help only a phone call away if you find yourself needing it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homeschoolers Being Discriminated Against?

Well, the battle continues on. After talking to or visiting several recruiters from several branches in several offices, even several states, we are still coming up against a brick wall in regards to getting my son enlisted in the service!

We presented the recruiter we are working with a document written by the Department of Defense stating that homeschoolers are to be enlisted as tier one candidates and yet even after having it forwarded to their education department, they are choosing to ignore it or make excuses as to why they don't have to honor it! They are blaming being overmanned and because of that they set tighter requirements.

I understand they may be overmanned, and my son may have to go on a wait list, I am fine with that, I am not asking for special treatment, but he is to go on a wait list as a tier 1 candidate NOT a tier 2. As a tier 2 he will never get called up anytime in the near future. Why should he be a tier 2 when he passed their test with flying colors?

Today we went as far as calling several recruiting offices in our state and got the same answer every time. We even went as far as calling a office out of state! My son wants to serve his country so bad he was willing to travel several states over in hopes of finding a recruiter who is knowledgeable of homeshoolers enlisting in the military, and has of yet to find one. We have found a few who like to recruit homeschoolers, but admit they have a very hard time getting them in.

We haven't given up hope yet, we are working with HSLDA and I am confident we will get what he deserves. He worked hard to earn his diploma, it wasn't given to him, why should he be treated like a second class citizen simply because he was homeschooled? We asked the recruiter we are working with locally if there was any other reason at all that my son is being considered a tier 2 candidate versus a tier 1 other than being homeschooled and were told no. Sounds a bit like discrimination to me...

Here It Is In Black And White..

As a homeschooler I have often heard that schools twist the truth a bit when it comes to test scores. I believed it but hesitated to comment much here about it as I didn't know for a fact, I couldn't find proof. I had heard from several current and former public school teachers that test scores are creatively altered, but lacked actual proof. Well, HERE is an article that talks about just that in Texas schools which is where one of the teachers I spoke of formally worked.



Please take the time to read this. While this may not be your state, I can almost guarantee something like this is happening in yours!



This upsets me for several reasons, not all of which I will go into here. I will share why this upsets me most personally. As I have shared here several times, we are having a great struggle to get my privately homeschooled son into the armed forces. It appears they are still hung up on this "accreditation" issue I have blogged about frequently as of late.



As I have shared, my son without studying, scored rather high on the ASVAB(their standardized test to get in) Generally a score of at least 35 is needed to be allowed enlistment for my sons desired branch of service. My son without studying went in and scored about double that. Meanwhile we personally know several public school graduates with accredited diplomas that flunked, some of them more than once, and after studying for some time. We even know of one homeschool mom who has been tutoring a young public school graduate who before he sought her help had flunked this test twice!



Now, where I get upset is that my son who easily scores to get in, can't because my diploma isn't accredited. Meanwhile these kids who had to take the test 3-4 times to get in and finally barely pass are allowed entrance, while we are having to fight to get in. Clearly my child is more well educated, but that is not what the military seems to care about, they are concerned about that accreditation.



What exactly does accreditation mean these days, when schools are allowed to skew test scores the way they do? Thanks to No Child Left Behind children are passed on through the ranks, whether or not they know the material. Children are given passing scores when in truth they didn't pass.



I wonder, do the parents or children ever find out they didn't actually pass or are they too told they passed? If this was your child wouldn't you want to know? Parents, YOUR tax dollars are going to pay for these schools, you ARE paying for your child's education, are you getting your money's worth?



I've often wondered how these public school students graduated with an accredited diploma yet can't pass this rather simple test to get into the military, and now I know. It is just sad. I know in my homeschool my students don't pass until they know the material. For one that meant he was held back a year, for another that meant we did Algebra 1 every year for three years until I knew without a doubt he KNEW Algebra 1. Sure, that means on his transcript his math only goes to Alg 1 and he will have to take extra math if he chooses to go to college, but he KNOWS Alg. 1. I now am sitting here wondering how many kids have transcripts that show Alg 1, Geometry, Alg 2, and they hardly know their basic math facts? Sound far fetched? It's not, I assure you.



I know everyone will be shocked and appalled at this article, but I am sure every one's thinking, "not at my school." Think again, it's happening, all over, how can you be so sure it's not at your school? There are bad public schools and good ones. Likewise there are good homeschools and bad ones. I really believe even if the worse of schools, students can still get a quality education if they're motivated and mom and dad are involved and on top of things. If mom and dad are sitting down and looking over homework and school work they will know what their children are doing. So this isn't about bashing public schools, this is just trying to open eyes to what is really going on, and to once again point out the injustice I am feeling about having to fight so hard to get my clearly well educated son into the military simply because my school isn't accredited. I may not be accredited, but my grades, test scores, etc.. are not fudged or doctored up, they are what they are and the fact that my son can easily test in the upper half of this enlistment test is all the proof I need!

Monday, July 6, 2009

REAL Food!

Our garden is finally starting to produce! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have fruit and veggies that actually taste like what they're suppose to taste like and not water injected, knock offs!
Here are a few before pics on planting day:


If you recall we plant in containers due to a horrible rabbit problem. We have been able to grow most anything we desire quite well in these.

Here is our garden as of this morning:




And here are some of the yummy fruits of our labor!We're just waiting for our tomatoes, fruits and peppers to ripen! It is great to taste "real" food again! Even if you live in an apartment or other small area, you too can grow in containers! It's actually much easier than growing in the ground and the results are just as yummy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

That Annoying "Accreditation" Issue....Again

Once again my son contacted a recruiter about joining the military(Navy this time) and once again this whole non-sense about "accreditation" was brought up.

I call it nonsense for a valid reason, here's why: many of my sons friends who graduated from public schools with "accredited" diplomas barely(and I do mean barely) passed the required score of 35 for enlistment. The Marine recruiting office next door(who GLADLY accepts homeschoolers by the way!) was full of young men studying for the test who had failed it the first time. I am assuming most of these were from accredited schools as well. My son, who is nothing more than a undesirable homeschooler with an unaccredited diploma signed by his mommy got more than double the required score, without much more than a glance in a study book to see what may be on the test! We are told he will most likely test even higher on the full test, and even higher if he studies.

Yet they are still concerned about this whole accreditation thing??? I don't get it? Whose diploma is more worthy or valid? Mine where my student easily passed with a decent score on the military enlistment test, or these so called accredited ones where the students are barely passing and many aren't?

My son took all the same required courses these kids did, and some extra. He is easily passing this rather simple test, that these other kids are struggling with, and yet they still are hung up on this whole accreditation thing?

They sent our papers to their education department and we are waiting for an answer back on Wednesday about whether or not they will let him enter without going to college for 15 credits first. Why should he have to go to college to prove himself when he already did that on their test? Why aren't these kids with those coveted accredited diplomas who are failing or struggling to pass the test not required to go to college first? Clearly they're the ones lacking an appropriate education!

When I found out last Tuesday night this may once again be an issue I got mad, and started panicking, thinking perhaps I should enroll all my children in an accredited program as quickly as possible to avoid this sort of thing in the future. This was before I found out how many young people were struggling with this test! When I heard that, I wondered if a substandard education is worth that stupid accreditation? I think not!

Our program and diploma may not be accredited, but who cares?(the military apparently)but I know plenty of private homeschoolers in the military, so I think it is just a matter of educating the recruiters on homeschooling and homeschooling laws in our area, which we have followed to a tee! I may have a student who struggles in math now, or one who didn't read till fourth grade, or another who while quite brilliant has a difficult time writing legibly, but I think my end result speaks for itself! And those ones who are struggling, even with those struggles, tested at 90 and 95 percent of what they would be learning for that school year the one year(for five weeks) when we did enroll in an accredited program! What a waste that year would have been!

Accreditation, who cares? If you're homeschooling or thinking about it and the whole accreditation issue worries you, don't let it. What is more important? That some agency readily accepts your diploma or the actual education being taught and learned? Me? While we may have a struggle ahead of us yet with military enlistment, I would not trade my students level of knowledge and education for anyones acceptance or approval, and that also includes the approval of doubting family members or friends!

Week One Done, Starting Week Two..

I finished week one of P90X yesterday. I am really enjoying it so much I find myself getting up earlier without the aid of my alarm clock as I am so anxious to start.

It's only been one week, but I've lost 2 lbs 2 oz! That is pretty encouraging.

I am looking forward to week two starting tomorrow, but have to admit to enjoying my "rest" day today!

So far I really only have positives to say about the program. The instructor like many can at times border on being annoying, but he is annoying in a likable way.

I really like the counter bar at the bottom of the screen during each workout. Not only does it count down the minutes until you are done with the whole workout, but it counts down each individual segment, and tells you what exercise is coming up next. I really think this is a great feature!

You will find the time flies by pretty fast on all of these workouts.

The instructors cues are very good and he shows modifications for most all of the exercises. There are usually two, if not three ways to do each exercise based on your level of ability.

I will post reviews of individual DVDs as time permits as well as weekly updates and monthly photos.

For anyone interested in P90X I highly recommend the Beach Body website and "club" as there are lots of great tools there such as workout sheets for the program, tools to help you find your target heart rate, body fat calculator and more!