Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Chuck Norris says, "Start Reading Now"

Book One.  
When trying to decide which book to read next from my pile of books that I'm attempting to read this summer I was surprised to read a forward by Chuck Norris in one of them.  Apparently I didn't notice his name on the front cover. 


Chuck Norris is both admired and feared by many.  Chuck Norris jokes are's a few:

If you spell Chuck Norris wrong on Google, it doesn't ask what you meant. It simply comes back as RUN. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.  Chuck Norris ordered a Big Mac at Burger King, and got one.  Chuck Norris can divide by zero.  Chuck Norris doesn't mow his lawn, he dares it to grow.
I started reading Do Hard Things and I'm thinking of reading it out loud to my teens so we can be encouraged by it together.  The first story about a young teen, who was quiet and timid, captivated my attention.  She did amazing work for a political election.  Work that 24 year old adults may, or may not, be capable of doing.  She did the work because someone thought she was in her 20's and gave the work expecting her to do it.

Chuck Norris wrote in the Foreword that there is only one way to get to the place where God wants us.  That is to do hard things.  At the end of his Foreword he wrote, "Start reading now."  So I did. 

Next book.
 With a 4 year old constantly saying, "Mom.  Mom." I don't get much started. I finish even less. So I picked some easy-to-read books for the summer.

If you wonder if heaven is for real.  Read this book.
If you've had a miscarriage.  Read this book.
If you aren't sure if Jesus is real.  Read this book.  

I think Chuck Norris would agree. 

There is also a version written just for kids.

And...the third. 
My 9 year old daughter is a gymnast.  A few days before we moved to Germany, we visited a bookstore in the United States.   Trying to encourage my daughter to read more, I suggested a few Gabby Douglas books when I saw them there.  Great idea!  She found two.  I already knew that Gabby's mom was a single parent, that Gabby moved to another state and lived with a host family while training for the Olympics, and that she gave all the glory to God.  How did all of that happen?  I wanted to know. 

Her words are simple.  They are real.  She is sweet, faithful, tough, and the first US gymnast "to ever receive both the team gold medal and the individual all-around gold medal in a single Olympic games."*  Chuck Norris never did that. 

The way she found a host family to live with while she trained was...a miracle?   Possibly.  

If you are the parent of an athlete, especially gymnast, read the book.  And Gabby's mom.  A heroine. A role model. 

One more.  
In December I wrote a post about a high school curriculum we were using I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.    The authors of that curriculum recommended this book.  

" In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to get in the driver's seat, keeping any conversation moving with thoughtful, artful diplomacy." (

I'm going to actually cogitate while reading this book, so I've been putting it off...

My 13 year old daughter wanted to read the Hunger Games.  I didn't want her to.  A book about kids who have to kill each other?!  Really?   Why weren't there adults standing up against this?  After speaking with numerous family and friends who liked the book I decided to read it to see if I would let my daughter read it.  Although it was well written and suspenseful,  I still despise the theme.  I'd love to hear your opinion on whether you think this is appropriate reading for a 13 year old. 

Have you read any of these books? 

From Grace, Gold & Glory My Leap of Faith, by Gabrielle Douglas

Saturday, July 20, 2013

You Know You've Lived in a Hotel Too Long When...

Day 47.  It's not really that long.  I mean, normally when we move it takes an average of three months to get into our new home from the time we left the last one.  So 47 days isn't that long in comparison.

But, this time our temporary home is a hotel.  An Army hotel in Germany.  Usually we stay in a short term furnished rental home, or sparsely furnished "temporary quarters" which is like a combination of an apartment and a hotel.  This is new...different.  Long.  Small.

Since we've been here we...

Spent 5 weeks locating a house to move into and another week or two negotiating the contract in German and English.

We bought a van and got our car that we shipped from the States and got a free 1991 car that needed new brakes.  Since it's the last one we got, we call it our "new" car.

Went to a local German emergency room after my 17 year old accidentally broke his nose.  Treatment:  surgery.  The night before his appointment for a second opinion from the American doctor, his brother  elbowed him in the nose while he was sleeping and crunched it back into place.  No surgery required.

Found a local swimming pool with a 10 meter (about 30 feet) platform diving board...which all my kids, minus my 4 year old, jump from.  My 4 year old tries to keep up by jumping off the low dive and showing off his swimming skills by getting back to the side of the pool.  The young German boys ask, "Wie alt bist du?"  How old are you?  Because most of the German kids that age are still learning to swim.  "He's 4."  They smile!

We've managed to survive easily on the items we packed in our suitcases... back in May.

Ten ways you know you've lived 
in the hotel too long during a military move:

  • When you know the housekeeping staff by their first name and you miss them when they go on vacation.
  • You know the address of the hotel by heart because you have to put "your local address" on every form you fill out when you move to a new place.
  • Tears come to your eyes when you are in the lobby as yet one-more-family stands in the lobby saying a tearful goodbye to their friends they may never see again who came to their "home" to say goodbye. 
  • You've seen 100 cats in their airline cages coming or going to the airport.   Those sad, scared eyes looking through the wire cage door.
  •  You go to the lobby in your slippers for the free breakfast.
  • You cook dinners in the crock pot since there is no oven.  Every. Single. Night.
  • You give out the hotel's business cards with your cell phone number scribbled on it when you meet someone new.
  • The housekeeping staff knows your daily routine and asks how many miles you ran today when you come back from your morning run.
  • The other people in hotel are your "neighbors" because they "live" there too while they are PCSing (moving from one duty station to another).
  • You go to the lobby in your pajamas.  I mean, it is your home.

Two more weeks until we move into our "permanent" home.  Our "temporary-permanent" home.  In three years we'll most likely be in another temporary home looking for our next permanent home.  I prefer to think of it as going on sequential 3 year vacations!

 Genesis 12:1 
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you."

Hebrews 11:9
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country. do you define home?  

...Where you currently live?
...Where you grew up (military "brats" can't do that)?
...As one of my college professors said, "Where you go for Thanksgiving"?
...Where your parents live?
...Or, something else?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

College Visits (Part 2): What to do during the visit

During the visit.  
What to do/not to do.

Parents.  This is mainly your child's visit.  He leads, you follow.  You can make suggestions when necessary, but your job is to be his cheerleader.  A rather-silent-cheerleader during the actual visit.  To read part one of this series, click below.

Think of the time that you are at the college as an interview.  You are interviewing them, they are interviewing you.  It works both ways, but assume they are watching you.  Either turn your cell phone off or don't bring it.

When you meet with Admissions, Financial Aid, Coaches, ROTC, etc. walk up to them,
 look them in the eye, shake their hand and introduce yourself.  
Be yourself. 

Wear  comfortable, casual, modest clothes.  For boys khaki pants or shorts, depending on the weather/time of year, and a collared shirt.  For girls nice pants or casual skirt.  Comfortable shoes for walking around the campus.

Get business cards. Ask for a business card from everyone you meet.  If they don't have one, write their name and title down and ask for their phone number and email address.  Make sure you note which school they represent. 

What to bring.  
1.  Transcript and a resume.  

The student can bring a copy of the transcript and a resume to give out. One Admissions Counselor was very impressed with the format of my son's transcript.  It was in a "normal" format so it was easy for him to read/understand (put in the "accepted" pile).  A great source for how to prepare a transcript is Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). HSLDA transcript examples. 

The resume should highlight academic achievements like Honor Society, athletic achievements like Team Captain, and extra-curricular achievements like Eagle Scout and mission trips.  The National Honor Society does not allow homeschoolers.  HSLDA has a list of Honor Societies that homeschoolers can join.    National Honor Societies.

I'm sure art and theater type students need to bring portfolios but I'm not familiar with that so if you have any helpful suggestions about that please leave them in the comment section below. 

2.  Questions.  
Below are some bullets with questions.  These are some of the questions that my son asked on visits.  Before we went on the first visit I gave him a long list of possible questions to ask each of the representatives that we would meet:  Admissions, Financial Aid, ROTC and Coaches.  I had my son put 2-3 questions for each rep on a 3x5 card.  During our meetings he pulled out the card and asked some or all of the questions.  I'm sure other students wouldn't need the cards, but it worked well for him. Prepare questions in advance.

Admissions/Financial Aid Office/Professors
Admissions Counselor.   Normally you check in at the Admissions Office.  Since we planned our trips in advance we either received a schedule via email before our visit or when we arrived at the Admissions Office.  I was overwhelmed with amazement at how welcome every Admissions Office made us feel.  Like royalty.  They put the student's name on a special parking space- loved it!

When you arrive you can ask if you can eat in one of the campus cafeterias.  Often the school will give you free lunch passes if you take the tour.  Cafeterias really differ from campus to campus so it's a good idea to check it out.
  • Are you planning to introduce any new majors in the next year or two?  This was one of the best questions.  It really created an open dialog and revealed plans that we would not have known about otherwise.
  • What does your student population look like?  It's like asking, "What type of student attends this school?" 
  • Does your school offer study abroad?
  • Do you have internship programs?  Are any of the internships paid positions?
  • At the end of your meeting it is perfectly fine for the prospective student to look the counselor in the eye and ask, "What are my chances of getting admitted to this school (and you add your particular major if you know it)?"   Then wait for the answer.

Campus Tour.

"On campus visits parents should hang back and let the student take the lead. Let him walk ahead of you into the admissions office to introduce himself and fill out the various forms. Let him ask his own questions, because teens have their own set of issues that matter to them.
On the tour, though, parents can keep a watchful eye for details that may not matter as much to the student, such as campus maintenance and clues about how the school is spending its money.
Make college visits fun. Don’t give your child the third degree after the tour, but walk around the college town or city and browse in the shops or have a relaxing lunch and maybe even take in a game or cultural event on the campus. 
Finally, don’t use the word “we” or “our” when referring to the application process; it’s a dead giveaway that you’ve become too involved!"  Source: The Washington Post

Financial Aid. I find the financial aid portion of the visit sort of tedious and often repetitive at this point.  That's probably just me.  However we met with the Financial Aid Representative at each school and it was worth it.
Ask about scholarships and grants.  
  • Do you have work study programs and other ways to reduce the cost of college?
  • Are you a Yellow Ribbon School?  If you aren't familiar with that I discussed it in Part 1 of this series. 
  • Will you waive the application fee since I came to visit your school?  Some colleges will. 

****One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools 
will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school.**** 
So, they gave grants for homeschooling families.

Professors.  You can arrange in advance with Admissions to meet with faculty and to sit in on a class.  Try to arrange this as much in advance as possible so that you will be there on a day that this is available. 

 Coaches.  It was so exciting to meet with these college coaches.  My son already had emailed with them and/or spoken with them on the phone. 
  • What is your coaching philosophy?  The coach's response to this question was key.  It gave a great picture of the coach and how he likes to play. 
  • What is your schedule like for players year round? 
  • Do you have housing set aside for athletes?
  • Do team members room together?  Some schools have separate dorms for athletes. 
  • Do you have study hall hours?
  • What is an average day like for the team?  They will normally explain the training program during the season and the off-season.

 Army ROTC.  (BTW, I was commissioned through Army ROTC and spent 20 years in the Army.  One of my jobs was with the ROTC program.) 

  • What percentage of cadets get active duty?  This changes every year, but you can ask for the stats for the previous few years to get an idea.  Some cadets who want to get active duty only get a Reserve assignment.
  • How many cadets are in your program?  We visited one school that had no cadets on campus and any cadets who would attend would have to find rides to and from the campus that held the classes which was a 30 minute drive up and down a mountain. 
  • How often do you have PT (physical training)?
  • Are your classes on this campus or another campus?  This is easy to find out before you go, but sometimes the Professor of Military Science (PMS) is creative and even though the campus you are interested in is not the campus where classes are normally held, he/she can make a deal with the school to have some classes on the local campus to make it easier for the cadets.
  • What extra-curricular activities does your program have?   Ranger Challenge, etc.
  • Would I be able to lead PT?  A former  PMS told me that he would jump out of skin, out of sheer joy, if he had a prospective cadet ask that.  When my son asked ask it, I wouldn't say the PMS jumped out of his skin, but it shows that the student is interested in physical fitness and is not afraid to lead. 
  • What type of schools/camps do you send your cadets to during the summer?  This is a great question.  There are some international camps that cadets can attend and some PMSes are more proactive about sending them than others.  There are typical Army schools like Airborne, Air Assault, etc. and cadets can compete for a slot.  

Send thank you notes.  I can just feel the potential resistance from the teens here.  I had my son email them when we went to the hotel at night so it wasn't overwhelming when we got home from the entire trip. I'm sure a hand written note would be best, but we chose the email version.

 Finally, have fun!  I got to spend time with my son in Colorado while looking at schools and then another 5 days with him driving around the East Coast in a little rental car listening to every 80's song ever produced.  It was a special time.  He did a great job talking to a gizzilion adults about majors, money, soccer and the Army, etc.  

This summer my son will be applying to colleges.  
Do you have any suggestions for him?


Friday, July 5, 2013

College Visits (Part 1): Before the Visit

 How do you arrange a college visit? 

I'm sure this differs for every child and every family.  Some students will conquer the entire process by themselves.  Others do virtually nothing;  and some are a combination of the parent and child working together.

My son is considering playing soccer in college and enrolling in ROTC.  He also wants to attend a college where he can mountain bike in the area.  After narrowing down colleges that met the above the criteria plus a few other criteria, we looked at what majors the schools offer.

I think many people start with looking for colleges that have the major the student is interested in pursuing.  My son isn't sure what he wants to major in, so the schools had to have numerous majors to choose from or, at least, majors that he would potentially like.

Here  are some website I like to help find colleges:

College sports add a whole additional dimension to the application process.  (Read that:  A lot of work!)  Each college with sports teams is a member of an athletic association.  The National Collegiate  Athletic Association (NCAA) is perhaps the best known.  There are other Collegiate Sports Organizations other than NCAA;  ie:  National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes and National Christian College Athletic Association.

The NCAA is very helpful and friendly if you call with questions.  Ask for the homeschool representative if you homeschool.  If you homeschool, you will have much more to do for the application process than you would if your child attended public school.  Not insurmountable, but more.  You will have to provide information about each of the classes your child took/takes in high school.  The public school has a list of courses they offer and they send them to NCAA for their students;  homeschoolers have to submit their own.   The NCAA is familiar with many of the curriculum providers so they will have few, or no, questions about the ones they "like."  For example, they know Tapestry of Grace and will readily approve courses from them. 

Register with the NCAA and other athletic associations.  If your child wants to play Division I sports I recommend that you or your child starts the registration process with NCAA during the sophomore year as that's when coaches will start looking at them;  of course the coaches may even scout them earlier than that.  For Division II, register sometime in their junior year.  NCAA registration site. 

Find out what athletic association the colleges your child is interested in belong to and then have your child register with those associations.

Each college has a link for prospective athletes.  Have your child complete this form for any school he/she is interested in attending.  Students need to be proactive in getting recruited.  Do not wait for coaches to recruit.  This is especially true for homeschooled students who don't play on a local high school team where the coach may help the student get recruited. 

 Arranging the visit. 

1. Admissions/Financial Aid Office
  •  Admissions Counselor
 This is the part of the process that I worked on while my son concentrated on the subsequent two:  coaches and ROTC.  After determining what colleges we planned to visit and when we were going, I contacted the Admissions office either by phone or by email and requested a tour and a meeting with Admissions and Financial Aid.  Some admissions counselors also scheduled meetings with ROTC- you can ask them to do that.  They will also schedule meetings with professors and arrange for the prospective student to sit in on classes in his/her intended major.

If you are driving around  looking at colleges there is no problem calling the counselor the day before, or even the day of your visit, and telling them you are coming.  They will normally go out of their way to accommodate you.  Of course, you can even just show up at the school and take a tour.  A tour is best way to find out about the school.
 If you will be at the school at lunch time, let Admissions know and ask if you can have lunch in the cafeteria.  If possible don't miss this chance to check out the food.  Your child will potentially eat two to three meals a day on campus for four years (or more).  Often colleges will give you free tickets to the cafeteria.

  • Campus Tour.  You can schedule a campus tour over the phone, via email, or some colleges have an online campus tour registration link.

  • Financial Aid
Here is a pearl...One financial aid counselor told me that some private schools will lower the cost of tuition for families who have children in private school, AKA:  homeschool. 
When you arrange your visit with Admissions, ask to meet with a Financial Aid representative.  You may here a similar spiel from each of them, but they are the ones who know about scholarships from their school, deadlines and institutional policies like the one I mentioned above. 
 If you have GI Bill benefits ask to speak with the Veterans Affairs Representative (or a person with a similar title) during your visit.  I found the Financial Aid office is not very familiar with this program, but the Veterans Affairs Rep for the school should be extremely knowledgeable about it.  Also find out if the school is a "Yellow Ribbon"  school.  If they are they will pay the difference for the actual tuition and the amount the GI Bill pays.  It's a great deal. 

2.  Coaches 
After completing the Prospective Athlete form on the school website my son emailed the coach to let him know he was interested in playing on that team.  Once we knew the date we planned to visit the school my son asked to meet with coach during our visit.  The NCAA has very specific rules about coaches and athletes communicating with each other- learn the rules.  We had already looked at the team roster and their wins and losses for the past few years.  We knew who was graduating and what positions the coach would need to fill.  Sending the coach video clips is a standard recruiting tool.  So, charge up your video cameras and, use a tripod.

Many colleges offer summer camps for the purpose of recruiting.  Consider sending your child to one of those.  My son went to one, had a great time... and got a really cool t-shirt.  He was able to check out the college a little during that time too.  (I got the bill.)

Here's a website with more details on what parents should do during the meeting with a college coach during a campus visit. Parent's role during a campus visit.

 3.  ROTC
Some Admissions offices have a great working relationship with the local ROTC units.  When you call/email Admissions to arrange your visit you can ask them to set up an appointment with any of the ROTC units on campus.  I prefer to make my own appointments with the ROTC department.  But that's just me...I  was commissioned through ROTC and worked in an ROTC job while on active duty so I'm familiar with the program.

If you have a friend or a family member who has a child one year ahead of your child, pick their brain about the college process

My next post will be about 
"What to do/not to do during your college visit."