So How Does a Child Become Self-Propelled?

October 31, 2012

Great question!  How DOES a child become self-propelled?

The answer is gradually and steadily.

Think about how you teach a child to ride a bike. Initially, you may take your baby or toddler for rides via a child-size seat on the back of your bike. But once the child is capable of learning to ride a bike independently, you offer him his own little bike as well as support in the form of training wheels. The child rides around the garage, around the driveway, and maybe even around the block with training wheels on his bicycle. Those training wheels are what support him, what keep him upright at that stage.

You also begin to teach him the rules of the road, right? You are going to make sure that the child understands the basics of bike riding. Learning safety rules is essential. We don’t expect the child to learn those on his own; we make sure he is well versed in safety and cycling rules before he is allowed to proceed to the next step. Before long, the child is ready for the training wheels to come off probably long before you are ready for the training wheels to come off!

Once the training wheels are off, the child needs to develop his own sense of balance. He has had a small taste of balance with the training wheels on, but the ultimate test comes once they come off. When the parents and child feel he is ready, off they come. How exciting! However, before the child learns to totally balance on two wheels, Mom or Dad needs to hold onto the bike seat and walk (or run) beside the child as he learns to balance on his own.

Before long, though, he is ready for you to let go.

You do.

He wobbles a little, but off he goes on his own. There may be a fall in the near future, but hopefully not many. You trust that he will obey the rules of the road, and you watch to be sure that he does so when he is within sight. Once he is out of sight, you have to trust him.

You begin to allow him to ride further and further from home, as you are confident that he is able to ride safely. You will make sure he is out of high-traffic areas as he begins to ride independently. He will not have the endurance yet to ride for long periods of time or to ride up long hills that require focus and greater athletic ability than he possesses initially. All that will come later with time and experience.

When you let go of that bicycle seat, your child becomes truly self-propelled!


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


A day in the life of your family

October 28, 2012

Ah! Sunday mornings! Peaceful, restful, and refreshing here at the Calderwood hovel.

We take our day of rest seriously. Not legalistically, by any means. But the day has a distinct rhythm to it that is slower and calmer for my kids, especially.

Isn’t there something that just feels different about the weekend?

I, however, am busiest on the weekends. This is when I check over essays and write personal notes to all of my VLA students. I happen to enjoy it, but it is still something on my plate. But because Sundays are days of rest for the rest of the household, the environment is peaceful. Unless the Titans are losing. Heh heh. Just kidding. We’re used to that by this point in the season.

How do your weekend days compare to your weekdays? Every family is different, and I completely respect each household’s design. It is the very nature of our society that weekends are usually more laid back. I hope you have some laid-backness in your weekend. We all need downtime.

The truth is that Monday is just around the corner though, peeking its head into our thoughts even on the weekend. I don’t know about you, but my weekdays are really not much different than the weekends in tone.

Tomorrow I will have completed another weekend of working with my students, but then there is the specter of 40 more pages of vocabulary pages to design by Friday.  Monday means back to it, as it most likely means for you. But what will your household FEEL like tomorrow? Will it have an easy, relaxed-ness (not a word, I know, but it is now) to it? Or will you hit the ground running when your alarm rings Monday morning?

If you have young children, your life is pretty much controlled by their needs, right? 🙂  Yes. I remember those days. They can be trying, for sure. But you can also stay in PJs if you like. I remember trying to see how many days in a row we could stay at home without having to go anywhere. Why? Because there is just something peaceful about being together at home. When the rhythm of life is slow and steady, unmarred by the exclamation points of Mom’s voice hollering at everyone to get their stuff together and be ready to go out the door in ten minutes, everyone is much more peaceful.

Sure, we do have to venture out into society. As a mother of  a lot of young children and as a mother of four girls, ages 10 to 16, I like to be at home as much as possible.

There is a season for being gone from home a lot ~ for us it was volleyball season ~ but hopefully there is also a season for being home a lot.

Children should be able to entertain themselves and each other without constantly having to go see this or that movie, or go hang out with this or that group of friends. Friends are wonderful, and socializing is a fun part of our lives as a family. There are special times when the girls visit with friends, of course. But being together as a family ~ just you and your family ~ shouldn’t be the “special time” part.

In our society, so many have lost the feel of a solid home life. Do your children know what that feels like? All families are different, but all humans have a need to belong. The family is the primary place for receiving  a sense of belonging and acceptance. A family is a group that respects each member, yet there is a structure of order and authority that brings peace. Sure, there are times when corrections to behavior must be addressed. That happened here yesterday. But once the corrections were made, peace quickly returned.

Tomorrow is a school day in our home, but not much will be different about the environment. I will engage with my girls regarding their school work as needed, but they don’t really need me to be engaged very much these days. They are self-propelled. Sure, they prefer having days without studying because school work is still work, but they will do their work and move on to something else: chores, reading, hanging out outside, cooking something, etc. One daughter has a piano lesson in the afternoon, and another daughter will most likely volunteer to drive her. Other than that, we’ll be here at home working together and enjoying each others’ company.

The one thing we do as a family at some point during the week is that we’ll go hang out at my married daughter’s house with her and her husband. I love the way all five of the girls enjoy being together! What a blessing that Lauren and Brandon live so close by.

And of course there certainly are things that pull us from home during the course of the week, but for the most part, we are home as a family more than we are out and about, pulled this way and that way with our family all chopped up day in and day out. Having a husband who works from home with me is a beautiful blessing, but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, it has only been since July of this year that he’s been home. But the peace of God can reign in the home regardless of your situation.

I just want to encourage you to take the pulse of your family and see if you are enjoying each other in your lives together, or if you are more content being off doing your own things are family members. I also want to encourage you that it is okay to say NO to outside activities if you are feeling overwhelmed by activity in your family’s life right now. We all have choices to make on a daily basis in order to protect and nurture the family God has given us. We’ve said NO to a lot of really good activities including church activities. The good is the enemy of the best.

Do what you have peace to do as a family, and don’t let others hound you about being more involved here and there. When your children are grown, you will have plenty of time for outside activities. If you want to be the major influence in their lives when they are young, then you have to say NO to those things that you feel hinder your calling as a family. Trust the Lord to show you and your spouse what things are edifying to your family in this particular season of life.

If you were to take a typical slice of your family’s time together, what would it look like? Are you happy with the overall flow of your family life? If not, call a family meeting and prioritize. Talk to your spouse; chances are he or she is feeling the very same way. Be as busy as you CHOOSE to be or as you choose not to be.

Children LOVE when Mom and Dad are relaxed and peaceful. Be it a weekend or a weekday, may your home atmosphere be relaxed and peaceful.

Food for thought. Blessings to you and your family! 🙂


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Asian Families Got It Goin’ On!

October 27, 2012

I should know better than to read the NY Times while trying to wind down and drift off to sleep.

In the wee hours of this morning, I read an article in the Times that discussed the success that a high percentage of Asian students have on the exams that qualify them to get into NYC’s best high schools.

Know what freaks me more than just a little? The fact that there is an outcry regarding test bias. WHAT? Just because one particular demographic performs extraordinarily well on an important exam that weeds out the smart from the not-so-smart, the not-so-smart cry foul?

Where is the America that supports hard work, excellence, and achievement instead of crying & whining like a bunch of babies because a large percentage of Asian kids worked harder than their kids did and achieved more than their kids did. Yeah, these are ADULTS getting mad because Asian kids are performing better than their kids are, and as a result, are earning the top spots in NYC’s most elite public high schools.

I’ll let you read the article for yourself.

Or if you don’t want to plow through the entire article, here are some reasons why Asian kids perform so well on their high school entrance exams:

“They cited their parents’ observance of ancient belief systems like Confucianism, a set of moral principles that emphasizes scholarship and reverence for elders, as well as their rejection of child-rearing philosophies more common in the United States that emphasize confidence and general well-being.

Several students said their parents did not shy away from corporal punishment as a means of motivating them. And they said that rigorous testing was generally an accepted practice in their home countries, with the tests viewed not so much as measures of intelligence, but of industriousness.

‘Most of our parents don’t believe in “gifted,”‘ said Riyan Iqbal, 15, the son of Bangladeshi immigrants, as he and his friends — of Bengali, Korean and Indian descent — meandered toward the subway from the Bronx High School of Science one recent afternoon. ‘It’s all about hard work.’

No student, they said, was off the hook. Riyan, the son of a taxi driver and a Duane Reade cashier, and his schoolmates said their parents routinely plied them with motivational tales about the trials they endured back home, walking to school barefoot, struggling with hunger, being set back by floods and political unrest. “You try to make up for their hardships,” Riyan said.

The summer after sixth grade, Riyan spent most days at a small storefront “cram school,” memorizing surface area and volume formulas. In seventh grade, he was back there on Saturday and Sundays, unscrambling paragraphs and plowing through reading passages. The classes cost his parents $200 a month.

“I knew my parents would still love me if I didn’t get into Bronx Science,” he said. “But they would be very disappointed.”

Jerome Krase, a professor emeritus in sociology at Brooklyn College, and one of the editors of “Race and Ethnicity in New York City,” said that a growing number of Asian immigrants in recent years had experienced serious adversity in their home countries. “The children hold the honor of the family in their hands,” Professor Krase said. “If they succeed, the family succeeds.”

Yeah, FAMILY MATTERS! EXPECTATIONS set by family are what propel students toward excellence.

According to an article in the Times back in 1971, Stuyvesant High School was mostly white, 10% black, 4% Puerto Rican or other “Spanish-surnamed,” and 6% Asian.

Forty-one years later, in 2012, Stuyvesant High School is 72% Asian. Less than 4% are black or Hispanic. Surely there must be test bias, right? What else could possibly explain this massive surge of Asian success?

I have to applaud Mayor Bloomberg for standing up to the NAACP’s pressure to change the way students are selected for the elite NYC high schools.

“You pass the test,” the mayor said last month, “you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is.”


“The city began offering a free test-prep program several years ago for black and Hispanic students, but after a legal challenge, other ethnic groups were granted the same access to the course. Today, 43 percent of the students in the program are Asian. Three years ago, Ting Shi was one of them.

There goes the NAACP’s argument that only families with money could afford $200 test prep.

One of my favorite quotes from this article: “…the N.A.A.C.P. ought to be pushing parents to get ‘more involved in their children’s education.'”

I applaud Asian families who have expectations and enforce them! It bothers me terribly that others are ANGRY with Asian students for taking up all the spots in the good schools. Wake up, America!

You don’t get somewhere without discipline. Parents are the ones who need to be teaching their children to be disciplined, not tearing down others who ARE disciplined and as a result are rewarded with success.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


How to Up ACT or SAT Scores

October 25, 2012

In August 2012, I began offering to the public the very same program that enabled my first four (and counting) high school students to radically defeat their college entrance exams. They blew them away! (Now I’m not going to throw scores out there because if you’ve been following my story, you’ll be tired of hearing about perfect scores, so I”m not going there.)

The program I used with my own kids I now call Virtual Language Alive. It is now offered virtually to motivated students, and I have a variety of students from fifth grade up through eleventh grade.

Recently I got an email from a young man with whom I’ve been working for about nine weeks, and he happily related that he’d taken the ACT and scored four points higher on the English portion of the test since we began working together! I was elated for him because he worked hard for those four points. And four points is a rather large jump forward when it comes to the ACT.

Within the past month I did a teleconference entitled The Underwhelmed Mom’s Guide to College Prep. On this call I had my four high school graduates, two of whom are now college graduates, and two are currently in college. All are on scholarship or were on scholarship. I asked them a LOT of questions about test prep. One of the most popular questions I received before the event was “How can my student be ready for the SAT (or ACT) by the next test date?”

So I threw this question out to my young adults. I will not be giving you their verbatim answers since I have the memory of a camel, but I will provide you with an accurate representation of their answers.

One student pretty much said that you really have to prepare over a period of time via reading, doing logic problems for fun, and increasing your vocabulary. That is definitely true.

One of my young adults advised not to try to cram for this exam. Two agreed that if time is limited, start at least three weeks before the exam and use a test prep book available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and etc. These books usually cost about $30 to $40 bucks, but the insight they provide into the exam itself coupled with taking the practice tests they contain is invaluable.

So if you are short on prep time for the college entrance exams, get the College Board’s test prep book, read about the test, and then take practice tests. Same thing with the ACT except purchase the book put out by the ACT folks, read about the test, and then take timed practice tests.

Time yourself, of course, to get into the flow of taking these things under time pressure. Simulate the test environment as much as possible.

All four of my young adults recommended a more long-term strategy: READ a lot. Write down words you come across that you don’t know, look them up, and keep them in a notebook for reference. Yes! Vocabulary building is important for the college entrance exams!

Do logic problems. Purchase just a book of logic problems from a bookstore or online bookstore and hone your thinking skills. A ten-year-old should be doing this as well as a 17-year-old! The earlier you begin, the better.

Write regularly. Write for fun.

The language program my own students used and continue to use–for the four girls still at home–plays a huge part in developing language skills. It combines the necessary reading, writing, and vocab-building exercises that are self-teaching so student can work at their own speed. With Virtual Language Alive, students are immersed in SAT and ACT prep a little each day. It is not the purpose of the program, but it certainly has been the outgrowth of it.

If you have a student who will be taking the ACT or SAT in a few years, make sure they are reading at least an hour per day. AT LEAST. If necessary, remove distractions so that reading is an attractive activity!

Make sure your student is consistently learning harder and harder vocab words. Make sure they are manipulating these words so that they have an opportunity to use them in sentences. Otherwise, they will be memorized and forgotten by next week. Using the vocab words in their writing is the best thing you can do to help them commit the words to memory. Encourage them to use their new words in daily conversation!

Reading, writing, and logic/math skills are the basics. Too often we parents give our kiddos WAY TOO MUCH TO DO academically instead of allowing our children to build a firm foundation in the basics. Reading, writing, and math make a valid, effective school day in the early to middle school years.

To build your child’s smarts, focus on reading, writing, and math.

How did my 9th grader score almost perfectly on the ACT when he had not even had advanced math or science yet in high school? He read well, he was a self-learner so he was used to thinking logically instead of yelling for help on his work, and he could express himself well. He had an excellent grasp of the English language by 8th grade. Kids like this test well because they are, quite simply, smart. It didn’t happen accidentally! it came through a daily dose of English language via reading and writing, plus logic via mathematics problems.

Oh, and this was before Wii and computer games and cell phones and other such distractions. We had books and legos. And the great out-of-doors.

Kids today are handicapped by technology. How so? Their attention is constantly being focused on stuff besides sitting down quietly with a good book, or walking around outside just thinking about the nature they see, or taking things apart to see how they work.

Upping one’s college entrance exam scores can be done by focusing on the basics. Take the exams, and continue working to beat your scores, taking time in between to study vocabulary, mathematics, and do a whole lot of reading for pleasure.

And see if Mrs. Calderwood has room for you in her Virtual Language Alive program. It works.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

The Results Project

October 24, 2012

I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately about helping children with ADHD. I’ve read some really amazing things about ADHD studiies, but I do not consider myself an expert by any means.

I do, however, have a go-to-guy to whom I direct people with ADHD questions. His name is Steve Plog. He has ADHD himself.

Years back when I was writing my first book, I came across Steve’s stuff online, and it was such insightful, real help that I asked him for permission to repeat a portion of a study he did. He quite happily granted permission to use his material in the book. That book is out of print now.

If you or someone you know struggles with ADHD, I want to recommend an excellent resource for solutions and helps along the way.

Take a peek at The Results Project:

Steve is not against medication, just a warning. He is all about being SURE that you or your child needs the medication you are on.

The thing I like most about Steve is that he calls children with ADHD  “Quick Start Kids.” If you read his website, you’ll see why. ADHD kids are GIFTED!

Feel free to pass Steve’s Website on to those who can benefit from his insight and experience.

Know what? I’ve always suspected that I am ADHD. Turns out after studying Steve’s materials, I realize that I’m right. I am. And here I just thought I was weird! Oh, to have had such insight when I was a kid. If you suspect that you are ADHD, check out The Results Project and see if you’ve been right all along.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.



Ten Thou$and per Child, per Year?

October 22, 2012

How much does it cost to educate a child in America, per year?

This is the question that was going through my mind while watching the last debate of the 2012 presidential race. Throwing more money at education ain’t gonna do a da*n thing to improve it. Pardon my fren*h.

The most recent study I found compares costs from 1961 up through 2008.

Current expenditures per pupil in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: Selected years, 1961-62 through 2007-08
School Year Current expenditures in unadjusted dollars Current expenditures in constant 2008-09 dollars1
1961-62 $393 $2,808
1970-71 842 4,552
1980-81 2,307 5,718
1986-87 3,682 7,105
1990-91 4,902 7,857
1995-96 5,689 7,904
1996-97 5,923 8,002
1997-98 6,189 8,214
1998-99 6,508 8,490
1999-2000 6,912 8,765
2000-01 7,380 9,048
2001-02 7,727 9,309
2002-03 8,044 9,482
2003-04 8,310 9,586
2004-05 8,711 9,754
2005-06 9,145 9,865
2006-072 9,679 10,178
2007-08 10,297 10,441

So then I did some figgurin’.

My son, Nicholas, was born in 1989. If we had sent him to kindergarten, he would have started in 1993. Do you know–roughly–what the government would have spent to educate my child for me over the course of 13 years?


Know how much my husband and I spent educating him ourselves over the course of those 13 years?

$2,500.00, maybe.

What is wrong with this picture? It shouldn’t cost the government $112 THOUSAND dollars to educate a child through 13 levels of school. Keep in mind this was years ago as well. A child entering kindergarten today can expect the government to pay closer to $140,000.00 for his education by the time he graduates, and IF he graduates at all.

This is insanity.

What adds to the insanity is the fact that many students fail to make it to high school graduation, and a high percentage of those who do make it to graduation still read at a low level and cannot problem solve at a ninth grade level!

The problem of education is so freakishly complex, that it is going to take a miracle to solve the issues plaguing the System. I agree.

In the meantime, I’m not waiting for the government to solve its education crisis. I’m very happy that my kids can read and problem solve at a very high level. Without ever entering a classroom. Without a penny of government assistance.

And their Mama ain’t even that smart! Logic? Are you kidding me? I’ve got precious few logic skills!

But I set expectations for behavior and enforced them. Moms do that sort of thing; it’s not unusual. If I can raise kids who can read and problem solve pretty darn well, anyone can.

Nicholas grew up to be a perfect SAT scorer. For less than $2500 COMBINED expenses throughout his 13 years of schooling. Accidental? Not at all.

I know what it takes to raise smart kids. Most teachers know, too. But they are hamstrung in the classroom situation. They CAN’T MAKE kids learn. They desperately  need the help of parents. Many parents, however, can’t even control their own kids. How can teachers control kids whose parents can’t control them? This is insanity!

What is the general attitude of students today towards their own education and attending school? Positive or negative? As goes the attitude, so goes the student.

But Wait.

If we plugged in mastery learning when kids are mentally mature enough to handle presented concepts, they would ALL have an equal chance at success. One size does NOT fit all in the realm of education, but America is all about educational OSFA.

Give early elementary school teachers liberty to present concepts to children as they feel each child is ready, not when the textbook says all children should be ready. Restructure this system and enable students to start young building success upon success upon success. Mastery learning completely eliminates failure in young children because the teacher doesn’t move the student on until the current lesson is truly absorbed and understood. This takes time and teacher discretion, something that is not currently built into our system of schooling.

Give me a child and $2500. I’ll give you a student who reads well and can problem solve at a high level within 13 years or less. I can do it if the parents are supportive. If the parents work with their children at home. If the parents set high expectations for success for their students. If the parents encourage reading at home. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to educate a child outside of the politics of the school system.

I will always salute the classroom teacher. But he or she is crippled without the assistance of motivated, involved parents. But parents have to be teachers as well. They have to model the kinds of behaviors they want to see in their children.

Parents who are involved in their children’s education ensure that the government reaps a marvelous ROI. Thank you to those parents. America needs you now more than ever!


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

Self-Propelled: Even “failure” Can Be Success

October 21, 2012

The Self-Propelled Advantage is all about giving your kiddos (and yourself) a new MINDSET. It is a Yes-I-Can attitude which should permeate everything about their lives.

Entrepreneurs also possess a Yes-I-Can attitude which propels them in the direction of their dreams.

Then there are the Wantrepreneurs who lack the vital focus and the Yes-I-Can mindset which has the power to keep them going, propelling them further along the pathway by the passion of the dream and perhaps just a bit of stubbornness. If they had been given it.

Albert Einstein said this of himself: “It’s not that I’m smart, I just stay with problems longer.”

Why did Einstein stay with problems longer? Most likely because he was passionate about his subject matter.

Self-propelled kids have the time and the inclination to pursue their passions! There is no need to motivate them to move forward, although sometimes they can become consumed with their passion(s) and need to be reminded that there are other things that need attention sometimes….like stopping to eat lunch.

I want to share something I read on my smartphone last night while tucked in bed but unable to sleep. (Incidentally, the NY Times always puts me to sleep.) It is an excellent piece of writing, so I hope you will go to the entire article via the link at the end. But what I want to share with you concerns the failure of an artist and the resulting success which resulted in a radical change to our society itself!

Here is an excerpt for you:

Around 1831, Samuel Morse was frustrated. He had given his life to be a painter—even traveled to Paris in pursuit of that dream. As historian David McCullough recounts in his book The Greater Journey, painting had been Morse’s dream since college and he had set his heart on that and that alone. But later in life, and after a series of setbacks, he finally abandoned it. The crushing moment was his losing the appointment to paint a historic mural at the Capitol in Washington. With that lost, he gave up painting entirely and turned to an invention he’d been toying with called an “electromagnetic telegraph.”

The impact of the telegraph and eventually a language called Morse code, literally changed the world.

Read more:
How cool is that? Even failure in the life of Samuel Morse because raving success.
I hope you will be encouraged to live the self-propelled lifestyle of education and discovery, and set your children free to do the same.
You or they may just change the world, be it via success or failure!

About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

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