Friday, April 30, 2010

Blogging 'Bout Boys

The challenge for any blogger is blogging consistently. It's one thing to have ideas -- and quite another to commit to keying them in via the keyboard.

So I've once agained signed up for the WordCount Blogathon. If you were around last year, you may remember the May blogathon as the time I posted most frequently, the time of guest posts or the time Ron Doyle posted a photo of a chimp on my blog. If you weren't aroud last year, let me explain.

The Blogathon is a combination challenge and committment. Participants agree to blog every day -- every day! -- during the month of May and to encourage other participants to do the same. The idea is to get into the habit of blogging, but if last year's blogathon was any example, the benefits go far beyond that. I discovered some wonderful new blogs and forged relationships with other bloggers. I was inspired by their writing and they, occassionally, were inspired by me.

So I'm getting back up on the horse. Busy schedule or not, I'll be blogging 'bout boys every single day in the month of May.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Can I Help You?

I'm at the annual conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors in NYC. (Yes, I caught a show. "Next to Normal" is fabulous!)

Social media is a hot topic this conference, and I've thought about this blog a lot. I haven't exactly been a reliable blogger over the past month. I need to recommit. And I'm going to follow the advice today's keynote speaker, Peter Shankman, and ask you what you want.

Why are you here? What kind of information are looking for when you visit Blogging 'Bout Boys? What do you like? What do you hate? What would you like to see in the future?

Peter also recommends asking how your readers prefer to get their information. I'm a writer -- a words guru -- so this blog has been text heavy in the past. Do you like straight text posts? Would you prefer more pictures? Video? Podcasts? Tell me what you'd like. How can I help you parent your sons?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Boys & Business

What do your boys know about the world of business?

Most boys (mine included) are excellent consumers, thanks to the miracle of television ads. But what do they know about the other side of the transaction? Do your boys have any idea what it takes to develop a product, start a company or sell to other people? It's not a crazy question. As Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, points out, your son will never get rich working for other people.

I understand that "rich" may not be all you hope for your son. Most of us want our sons to be happy, healthy, well-rounded people, despite the size of their bank accounts. Understanding the basics of business, though, gives your son an edge in today's economy, no matter what. There's something to be said for understanding why your boss does what he does. There's even more to be said for knowing how to land on your own two feet when your job is yanked out from under you. Which brings us back to business.

Son #1 is blessed with an entrepreneurial bent. At the age of four, he picked a handful of dandelions and asked to sell them in front of our house. I almost said no. I mean, people pay people to get rid of dandelions! Moms and grandmoms have been oohing and aahing over dandelions for years, but that doesn't mean they'll pull over to buy some.

I didn't say no, though. I bit my tongue, helped him make a sign and carried a table out to the front lawn for him. Before I knew it, my boy was in business. People stopped! The newspaper came and splashed his picture across the front page. (Yes, we live in a small town.) One woman even sent him an anonymous card a week later, saying how much he reminded her of her sons at that age. She enclosed five dollars.

My son, to say the least, was thrilled. I was dumbfounded. My boy learned some important lessons about customer relations, and I learned to keep my mouth shut. My role isn't to squash my boys' dreams; my role is to support and facilitate.

Fast forward eight years. Son #1 is now 12 and known around town for his business sense. He's been selling produce at the local Green Market for six years; for the past two, he's purchased his own space. This weekend was his annual tulip sale, an event he started almost six years ago. (The 40-odd bulbs he originally purchased and planted in the garden have multiplied, bringing him $40-$50 each year. Not a bad return on investment, eh?)

Our boys have sold everything on the front lawn, from flowers to pumpkins to sweet corn and tomatoes. (It helps that we live on a safe, well-traveled street.) Son #3 purchased an MP3 player this weekend -- with money he made selling cookie bars out front.

But enough about my boys. Have your boys started a business? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Snapshot Sunday: First Demonstration Speech

I love 4H. Beyond giving kids an opportunity to explore multiple interests under adult mentors, 4H stresses public speaking skills from an early age. In our county, every 4H member, from first-year Cloverbuds to practically-graduated high school seniors, must give a demonstration speech every year. This is Boy #3's first year in 4H, and at the age of 6, he was more than a little nervous at the idea of talking in front of a group of people. But he did it! His "How to Make Nachos" speech was a huge hit.

Interesting side note: While he gave his speech, Boy #2 was at home on the couch with the neighbors, with what we'd later learn was an inflamed appendix. Life!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Myths of Gifted Education

Gifted boys have it tough. Being smart is still not considered cool for a boy. (Or a girl, for that matter.) But beyond the social stereotyping, far too many gifted boys and their parents face a host of myths about gifted kids and education. Too many teachers, administrators, community and family members still believe that gifted kids will do fine with no help whatsoever.

The truth is that gifted boys, like all kids, need help to reach their full potential.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Needs Textbooks?

This is the box of crackers I bought for my boys, for no other reason than A) they love them and B) the crackers were on sale. (If I'm honest, I'll have to tell you that Reason B trumped Reason A. Reason A is true all the time, but the only time the Cheez-Its show up at home is when Reason B is also true!).

Turns out it was the best $2.50 I spent all week.

A couple weeks ago, a sensationalistic headline lamented the lack of appropriate, non-biased textbooks for homeschoolers, a headline and story that fed the fears of every American who ever wondered how in the world homeschooled children learn anything, surrounded as they are by questionable parents and questionable materials. At the time, I and many other homeschoolers argued that there are plenty of resources available, including secular texts, the public library, community classes and more. I forgot to mention Cheez-It boxes.

Never in a million years would I have planned a unit study around Cheez-Its. Never in a million years would I plan a lesson with a Cheez-It box as the text. But that's exactly what happened.

I was eating breakfast with my youngest two boys when Boy #3 began reading words off the box. He recognized the word "it" and "win." We talked about how "win" can become "wind" with the addition of just one letter. (At that point, we were using the magnetic letters on the fridge behind us to enhance our impromptu lesson.)

Boy #4, meanwhile, became very intrigued with the big, bold letters. At 4, he's just beginning to recognize certain letters. He pointed to each one, asked what it was and traced the letters with his chubby, not-quite-baby fingers.

By then, Boy #3 had moved onto the side panel, the nutrition information. What's s-o-d-i-u-m, he asked? Sodium, I answered -- salt. He read the nutrition information, the percents posted on the side, and we talked about why your body needs sodium (salt) and why too much (of anything) can be a bad thing. We talked about calories as a source of energy. We talked about vitamins. And we had a lengthy discussion about the food pyramid.

For almost 20 minutes, over a casual breakfast with my boys, we studied phonics, language arts and science in a completely natural, unhurried manner. My boys were asking for information; they were ready to learn. I answered their questions, before I even realized what I was doing. The Cheez-It box, that lowly orange-and-red cardboard casing, had become our text.

Non-homeschoolers often wonder how homeschooled children can learn anything outside a structured classroom. Veteran homeshoolers often shake their heads at such queries. To us, the answer is obvious. Children learn all the time, whether you want them to or not. Children ask questions, adults answer and learning occurs. Children express an interest, adults help them find resources and learning occurs. Mom buys a box of Cheez-Its, children ask questions and learning occurs.

Sometimes, it really is as simple as that.

What non-traditional material has become a "text" at your house?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Snapshot Sunday: Reluctant Reader?

That's Boy #2, a self-possessed hater-of-reading -- independently reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid during breakfast.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It's been awhile, hasn't it?

First, life got busy, then blogging got hard. You know how it's hard to go back to the gym when you've been away awhile? Seems blogging is like that too!

But tonight, my Mom and Dad returned from their winter home in Arizona. They're back home -- and I'm back, blogging 'bout boys.

Mom and Dad brought back a ton of presents and as the parents of four boys (and two girls), they know boys well. The boys' gifts included three bags of huge marshmallows (if you don't think this is cool, check the link), some wrapping paper tubes (which the boys promptly began using as swords), a Bob the Builder video and a set of four paint-your-own, wind-up monster trucks. To say the house was noisy after supper is an understatement!

The boys' Uncle T -- aka The Broker -- was here too. Uncle T, an accountant by day, has introduced my boys to the world of finance. Boy #3 was thrilled, because months after discovering that his first Christmas ornament was actually an ounce of silver, Uncle T was finally going to buy it from him! #3 has been tracking silver prices for months, just waiting for an opportunity to sell. So when Uncle T ran out to the car to get a $20, tucked the money into my son's hand and told him to "keep the change," Boy #3 simply grasped the money and smiled. He knew the going price for silver was only about $18. He knew he'd just gotten a deal. Until he realized that the bill in his hand was a single, not a twenty! Uncle T strikes again -- and the boys learn one more lesson.

What's up with you? I'd love to hear what's been going on in your lives!