Consistency Is the Best Diet
- Tuesday, August 25, 2009
It's crazy. Almost every day another publisher, TV talk-show host, or radio station is pushing some new diet fad that thousands—if not millions—will feel compelled to buy. A stroll down the aisle in any grocery store reveals enough choices to make your head spin. As my wife and I were shopping the other day, I noticed some age-old diet books, resurrected from their shallow graves and marketed to a younger generation of diet-fad freaks. There were also Beach Diet books, Industrial Rubber Band Workout and Diet packages, Stop Eating Now! diet dinners, a Purple Pants diet, and Eat All You Want AND Lose Weight Diet kits, complete with book, size-0 t-shirt, and encapsulated amoeba (just kidding).
My imagination got the best of me as I began to ponder all the ways the homeschooling community could be bombarded by this type of marketing insanity. Either I ate too much before I went to bed that night or my brain was mesmerized into temporary lockdown, but I had a terrifying nightmare that my wife and I were being assaulted by a barrage of homeschool "diet" programs. One infomercial after another played out until we finally were forced to make our decision.
Minds of Steel: All it takes is three minutes a day for sixteen weeks! The disclaimer reads, "Consult your state and local officials before starting the program. Some parents have experienced hair loss, numbness of limbs, twitching of eyes, and prolonged cerebral paralysis. Do not use if you are currently expecting a baby, are thinking of having another baby, or know anyone who has ever had a baby."
Super Maximized Academic Retention Training (SMART): For only $19.95 a month for 20 years, you get 14 sets of flash cards, four binders with reproducible color pages (hours of fun), three ridiculous sing-along cassette tapes, one pre-owned Walkman, an authentic oriental kazoo (made in Hong Kong), one disposable laptop computer complete with disposable software, a collectible "You only THINK you're SMART" t-shirt (the color of your choice—as long as it's white), one package of No. 2 lead pencils, and a six-page instruction guide on how to memorize an entire set of encyclopedias (encyclopedias not included).
Powerhouse Homeschooling! Drink 12 ounces and learn all day long. This ultra-infused energy concoction contains exorbitant amounts of caffeine and sugar. Great mahouts in Cuene, Africa, fed this as a supplement to their elephant herds and found they could learn up to 26% faster (the mahouts or the elephants?). Undocumented case studies reveal that three Brazilian coffee-bean harvesters learned to recognize ripe beans with 99% accuracy—that's up one whole percent over previous studies. Certain restrictions apply.
NiftyStart, NiftyStartPlus and NiftyStartAdvanced: Burn off all your homeschooling fears by following our nine-month NiftyStart educational system (government approved and backed). Tell us the age of your children and we will place them into special segregated buildings and classrooms where our specialized instructors will take full responsibility for the indoctrination of your children's sponge-like minds. You are free to go back to work and earn all the extra money you can or stay home and do whatever. Additional fees, activities, counseling, therapy and/or medication may be required for you and/or your children. Although this may sound a lot like public school, it is not. You will be required to spend two to four hours with your child each night, doing "homeschool work" in an intense and often unsettling environment. We repeat, this is not public education. We suggest you purchase the 12-year limited warranty—for whatever it's worth.
Learning Made Easy: This comes with 143 hours of detailed instructions, 16 critical-thinking workbooks, and a 680-page educator's manual. After you receive your initial shipment, you will receive 12 new DVDs every two to three weeks. Each DVD contains 10 hours of additional instruction. You may cancel for a full refund at any time—if you can locate the company address, phone number, or Web site. Automatic payroll deductions are required for a nominal monthly fee.
The Home Education Patch: You can always tell when children are on this homeschool diet. They look like they're trying to cover up a blemish. A single, non-reuseable adhesive patch (which looks exactly like a Band-Aid) is placed on the student's face, preferably on the temple or forehead. Each patch contains an easily absorbed compound derived from pulverized textbooks and is practically harmless . . . to most people.
The package instructions insinuate that multiple subject patches may be used at one time, providing they are compatible with each other. For example, the M-Patch (math) can be used with the SS-Patch (social studies) or an SP-Patch (spelling), but not the CW-Patch (creative writing). Incompatible compounds tend to cancel each other out. Because each child is different, the manufacturers suggest that parents utilize the trial and error method. My Personal Patch Representative said that as long as you follow the guidelines, there should be no problems or side effects—provided the student is not on any medication and is under the constant supervision of a licensed HEP physician.
Homeschooler Diet Card Systems: This entire kit is contained in a lovely black leatherette (aka vinyl) case about the size of your checkbook. Each case holds 12 Subject cards, 24 Elective cards, and three Freebie cards in the left-hand side pocket. On the right side there are 10 Alternative cards. Each morning you will choose the subjects, the intensity level, and the length of time you will commit to homeschooling for the day. Locate the cards on the left which apply to your situation and the individual needs of each child. Throw those cards in the trash can. Now choose three or four cards from the right-hand side and follow the instructions on them to the best of your ability.
Let me tell you, this program sells itself. The best part is the Simple Trade Off Program (STOP)—the Alternative cards on the right side. Each color-coded card suggests a particular subject and its appropriate time constraints. If you follow the plan, you will achieve the corresponding results, guaranteed. It's that simple. For example:
• One hour of geography yields a two-hour headache.
• Complete one book report = feel as if you have been riding Space Mountain for two days.
• Four hours of science = one kitchen disaster that takes eight hours to clean up.
• Give one advanced level spelling test = enjoy a nervous breakdown.
• Thirty minutes of home economics = organize schoolwork by the amount of whining it creates.
The Freebie cards work like the Get Out of Jail Free card from your Monopoly game. The directions read, "Stay in bed for one day, relax, watch TV, drink coffee. Read a good book while listening to the kids argue. Understand that a day off makes your children's brains lose significant amounts of fresh valuable information. Tomorrow you will start the entire year from scratch and therefore end up going to mid-July because you just ‘had to have a day off.'"
With all these choices, promotions, promises and sales pitches, I was beginning to wonder if this was a nightmare or if I was suffering from a bad case of deja vu. Is there really a simple way to homeschool? Can my children learn faster by switching to another curriculum? Is education supposed to be easy? Do I need to panic and reevaluate my homeschool every time something new and promising comes out? Don't consistency, familiarity, and predictability have any merit? Aren't the effects of homeschool diet-hopping detrimental to a family's mental health? Won't a regular, nutritious diet and exercise plan achieve better results than living through the vicious cycles of buying into a new fad and then becoming discouraged again in three weeks when I discover "it didn't work for me"? Isn't God capable of using my current resources and finances to fulfill His will for me and my children?
By the time I woke up from my dream, I was soaked in sweat, and a twisted bed sheet was wrapped a little too snugly around my neck. My wife was already in the kitchen, and three of my children were sitting quietly at the dining room table working in their familiar, time-tested books. As I made my way to the coffee pot, my wife kissed me and asked, "Did you sleep well, honey?"
"Just fine," I replied. Then I grabbed my ball, hat, and coat and headed for the gym.
Pastor Timothy Palla and his wife Jennifer have been homeschooling since 1993. They live in southern Ohio with their five awesome children: Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. You may contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug '09 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Visit www.HomeSchoolEnrichment.com for more information.
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