I’ve owned my Miele Titan Canister Vacuum for 2 years – do I still love it?

It’s now been almost two years since I spent an enormous sum of money on a Miele vacuum, and I’ve been meaning to do a review of it for awhile now. Here you go: a review of the Miele Titan vacuum after two years of ownership.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve realized that I have spent a lot of money on stuff because it was cheap, but been totally unhappy with it. This includes everything from clothing to furniture to vacuum cleaners. I’ve been working on training myself to make do or do without until I can afford quality items, and incredibly, I’ve found that I’m almost always quite happy with more expensive purchases because I really took the time to evaluate whether or not it was worth the money I was spending. My Miele vacuum is one of those super-expensive-but-never-regretted-it decisions.

I went with the German-made Miele brand after doing a fair amount of research online and browsing in the store. We vacuum a lot – I’m not exaggerating when I say we vacuum daily – and I wanted one that was going to keep doing its job for more than a year or two. I wanted a canister vacuum so it was easy to tote up and down stairs, and I wanted something that would work well on hard floors, since we planned to replace our main floor carpet with wood floors and I didn’t want to use a broom and dustpan every day.


miele-titan-attachments

I bought the Miele Titan and I love it. It works as well today as it did when it was new, and we’ve only had one minor problem with it. (The brush attachment broke, so I took it into the shop where I’d purchased it and they gave me a new brush right then – I didn’t even have to wait for it to be shipped.) It is light, easy to maneuver, and actually pretty fun to use! I mean, who wouldn’t like to wind up the vacuum cord when all you have to do is push a button and it pulls it in?! (That mechanism works great, by the way.)

I upgraded to Miele’s Powerbrush so I can’t say how the default carpet attachment for the Titan works, but I really do love the Powerbrush. It has five settings for different types of carpets, and it actually works – this is the first vacuum I’ve ever had that you could actually tell adjusted for different heights! I have found that the pedal to adjust the height setting tends to catch for me and I have to push a little harder than I feel like I should, but Jeremy never has that issue so maybe I’m just too lightweight. ;)

The handle on the Titan has a button where you can choose to turn the brush on or off, so it’s easy to switch from carpet to hard floors using the Powerbrush. Also, the Powerbrush stops spinning when you accidentally get the corner caught on a throw rug, so it doesn’t burn the belts or whatever causes that awful smell when normal vacuums get caught on something.

miele-titan-cord-windup

The Miele Titan has different levels of suction, and you can just turn the knob on the canister to adjust the amount of suction. We almost always keep it on the highest suction, but it is nice to be able to decrease it when I’m doing stuff like sucking dust off artificial floral stems. (If you leave it on high, you’re likely to lose a few flowers!)


One thing that took some getting used to is that the vacuum doesn’t really have a stick like most of the other vacuums I’ve used, so if you need to reach higher than the hose will allow it to reach, you have to lift the canister up, which isn’t a big deal because it is pretty light and easy to handle.

I also had to get used to the fact that the power switch is on the canister, and not on the part you hold – it’s actually great, but it took me a long time to stop feeling around for the on/off switch on the handle!

The handle is also really easy to adjust for different heights of vacuum-ers, so we can let it all the way out for Jeremy (who vacuums almost every night) and pull it all the way in for the kids. It’s also really easy to attach and detach the Powerbrush, parquet floor tool, and attachments.

miele-titan-review

Now that we finally have wood floors, I can actually say how it works on hard floors: great! The parquet floor tool works well and it slides under the furniture quite well – much easier than a regular vacuum or a broom.

miele-titan-canister-vacuum-review

One drawback to the Miele Titan is that the bags are kind of expensive – about $4-5 per bag, and they are not terribly big, either, because the canister is small. The boxes of bags also come with pads for the two filters on the vacuum. I think we end up changing it once every month and a half or so, and it would be more often for people that have pets. The bags are really nice, though – very thick and I have no doubt that they hold the dust in better than the cheap bags in other vacuums. But, it can be a case of sticker shock if you don’t realize how much the bags are!

I’m totally happy with my Miele purchase and would do it all over again in a heartbeat! I’m also glad that I bought it at a local store so that I have a place to take it if there are ever issues, like when the brush attachment broke.

This is an unsolicited review of a product I purchased. It contains affiliate links.


Big Family Problems

1. Your refrigerator isn’t big enough to store a week’s worth of groceries.

In particular, you definitely do not have enough room in the produce drawers.

2. No stores have shopping carts big enough to hold all your children and all your groceries, too.

So you become a “two-cart family” and put kids in one and groceries in the other, but sometimes you worry that the store manager might revoke the license of the second cart-driver, who is seven years old and can barely see over the handle.

3. Toothbrush holders that hold more than five are rare.

Our kids are young enough right now that we still supervise their teeth-brushing, so all of our toothbrushes are in the same bathroom.  Yeah.  Try finding a toothbrush holder that holds more than four or five toothbrushes.  (We are currently using a short, oval vase from Hobby Lobby in lieu of a real toothbrush holder.)

4. Cars that seat seven passengers don’t allow for five of those passengers to be carseats.

The minivan may be the quintessential mom-mobile, but just because it seats seven doesn’t mean you can have five kids in it.  Fitting five carseats in a minivan requires hours of research and testing to figure out the right combination that will allow you to fit three seats across the back and two in the middle.

5. You can’t find a highchair for every highchair-sized kid at most restaurants.

And if you can, there’s rarely room to put more than one at a table.

6. Your dishwasher won’t hold one meal’s worth of dishes.

We are only beginning to happen upon this problem on occasion, but I forsee it becoming a regular occurence in the future.

7. You must run four pancake griddles simultaneously to get everyone fed in less than two hours.

If we ever do a total kitchen renovation, I’m figuring out a way to put a restaurant-style grill/cooktop in.

8. A standard-sized kitchen table is more than cramped.

When child #5 started sitting at the table recently, we realized that we are soon going to have to either get a bigger table or find more narrow chairs so that we can fit three on one side.  And while I eschew the idea of a formal dining room, I can see that someday we are probably going to want one just for the size!  (Maybe then I can turn the eat-in kitchen into a commercial grill and dish pit.)

Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney (To My Fellow Conservatives)

To my fellow conservatives:

Mitt Romney was not my first choice for president.  I didn’t vote for him in the 2008 election, and I didn’t vote for him in the 2012 primary.  There are a lot of areas in which our opinions would differ; however, I will be enthusiastically voting for him in November and would implore you to do so as well.

I realize that there may theoretically be a minor party candidate (out of the 16 choices on the Colorado ballot) who holds to views more closely aligned to my beliefs, but I’ll still be voting for Mitt and not a minor party candidate.

Here’s why:

The choice this November is either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

Even those planning to vote for a minor party readily admit that the next president will be Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

Some vote for a minor party because they think doing so is the only way to make a difference in America’s future. Everyone understands that America is currently a two-party system.  Yes, new parties will rise up and perhaps in a few election cycles, we won’t be deciding between Republicans and Democrats, but you will start to see those new parties rise up in smaller offices first.  There aren’t “Cinderellas” when it comes to the presidential final.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t ever vote for a minor party?  Definitely not.  At some point, new parties will rise and it will take your vote to get the new party candidates into office.  But again that’s something that is going to start long before the presidential election, and on a much smaller, less noticeable stage.

Before the Golden Delicious party can get into the Oval Office (yes, I just made that up as I’m staring at apples on my countertop), there will be Golden Delicious state legislators, Golden Delicious senators and representatives, and Golden Delicious governors.  The Golden Delicious party will start out with one small state office, and then two, and then there will be a Golden Delicious governor, and then maybe someday, there will be a Golden Delicious president.

If you don’t like the parties right now, then in the years in between the big elections, get to work getting your Golden Delicious party candidates into offices in your state.  Or, work hard to influence your local major party’s platform and get good, conservative candidates into your state offices.  You may also need to work hard to educate your fellow voters on why they should vote for more conservative candidates, because an awful lot of Americans don’t like government interference unless it helps them personally.

Get the candidates you really love past the qualifying rounds and then someday they’ll make it to the quarterfinals, then the semis, and then the big final.

I’m wary of untested candidates.

Many lesser-known presidential candidates look good and seem to be perfect only because they have not been placed under the magnifying glass that is used so often for major-party candidates.  The dirt has not been uncovered and twisted in attack ads and sound bytes, but it is there.

Minor party candidates often have little to no record to speak of.  All that you know about them is what you see on their own website, and if you’re willing to vote based on the candidate’s own website, Mitt Romney would probably look pretty good to you, too.  Minor party candidates often have never demonstrated how they will actually govern, or if they can even effectively lead a group of people that have vastly different beliefs.

If a person cannot get elected to a high-level public office, how can you expect them to be elected to, and capable of responsibly holding, the highest office?

A Romney presidency will help your congressional leaders pass legislation you agree with.

Perhaps you don’t agree with Mitt Romney on an issue, or two, or twenty.  But perhaps you do agree with him on some very important issues.  And as a conservative, you probably disagree with Obama and the Democratic party on just about everything.

You’ve worked hard to elect senators and representatives that represent the values most important to you, but by not voting for their party in the presidential election – which in turn helps the other party get elected – you have made the job of the senators and representatives you’ve been so enthusiastic about very difficult.

Your pro-life, limited-government, fiscally-responsible congressman will have a hard time passing any legislation that you agree with when they are trying to get it past a president that disagrees on every fundamental issue.  Look at the past four years!

Mitt Romney may not be the ideal conservative, but he will sign the laws that the members of his own party pass.  It would be political suicide not to do so.

We are electing a president, not a pastor.

Do I agree with the major premises of Mormonism?  Absolutely not.  But we aren’t electing a national spiritual leader; we’re electing a national political leader.  If you look to your president as a spiritual leader, well, we need to talk.

Does a president’s religious beliefs affect how he governs?  Absolutely.  So, frankly, I feel comfortable electing a Mormon to the presidency, since members of the Mormon church tend to hold traditional values pretty strongly.

What if Rick Santorum – a Catholic – had been the nominee?  Would you have voted for him even if you disagreed with the basic tenets of the Catholic faith?  For most orthodox evangelicals, the answer is yes.

I don’t think it’s the President’s job to convert a nation to orthodox Christianity, and I don’t think Mitt Romney will try to make the Mormon faith the state church of the United States of America.  I simply want a president who understands the principles of liberty and will allow Americans to worship in freedom as we have for the past 200 years.

I’m comfortable electing a Mormon as president, just like I would be fine with having a Mormon as my boss or as my employee.

I’ve heard several Christians say they don’t want to vote for the “lesser of two evils”.  Frankly, unless you plan to write Jesus Christ himself in, you will be voting for the lesser (of 16, in Colorado at least) evils.

The time to affect a change in our country’s leaders begins long before November.

Though it may appear this way to some, a serious presidential candidate does not simply “walk on” to the ballot.  Getting candidates on the ballot and into office begins long before November.  It begins at your local political meetings; your neighborhood’s caucus; your races for mayor, state senator, and governor.

If you want to see a different type of candidate in office, then you must put forth effort to get those people elected to other offices first.  You must attend your caucus, research the candidates in the big and small races, become a delegate, serve as precinct leader, become part of your local party’s steering committee, or volunteer on a campaign.  Frankly, the real election happens the few years before the actual voting takes place.

If people cared as much about who they have to vote for in their statewide races for legislature, you’d have a much different ballot come time for the presidential election.

A conservative vote that’s not cast for Mitt Romney is a vote for Obama.

Mitt Romney will need the vote of every single conservative and quite a few unaffiliated voters to beat Obama in November – especially in crucial swing states like Colorado.  A conservative vote for a minor party is a vote for Obama and his agenda.  My previous points have demonstrated that this is true.  Is that how I would chose to have it?  Not necessarily, but you can’t change reality.

Conclusion

Fellow conservatives, I’ve stuck my neck out with this post – something I really prefer not to do.  I hold strong opinions, but also hate conflict, so I normally choose to stay quiet.

I’m writing this – and will be sharing it often – because I’m concerned about the damage that my conservative, well-meaning friends could do by voting for a minor party.  I know that there are some valid reasons to not vote for Mitt Romney, but I write this in the hopes that those conservatives thinking of voting for a minor party will realize that the Presidential election is not the place to protest vote. 

It won’t do anything but re-elect the party that you couldn’t possibly disagree with more. 

It will send our country further down a path that will make it even more difficult to get conservative leaders in office in the future.

As laid out above, electing leaders that will uphold your beliefs starts long before the presidential election.  Voting in the presidential election is important, but if you really want to impact change, you will need to do more than check a box every four Novembers.

I feel strongly that this is a pivotal election for our country.  Our country’s economy, national security, and morality cannot take another four years of Obama’s careless policies.  Please consider casting your ballot for Mitt Romney.

All About Spelling: Reflections As We Finish Level One

I’m beginning what I think will be an ongoing look at All About Spelling – I plan to keep posting about it as we progress further through the curriculum.  *Please note: I’m an affiliate for All About Spelling, though I did purchase the curriculum on my own and this is not a compensated review.

All About Spelling Level One

I purchased All About Spelling partly based on reviews I’d read online and the samples that I viewed.  I’m not exactly sure what my homeschool style is yet, but I do know that I hate curriculum that:

  • Is cluttered, uses Microsoft Word-style clipart, and features five different fonts and six different font sizes on a page.
  • Requires the teacher to spend extensive time in preparation to teach it “their way”.
  • Is strongly tied to a one-lesson-a-day schedule.

I picked All About Spelling because it seemed to avoid all three of those, and so far, it’s met my expectations.

  •  Curriculum Layout & Design

Maybe I shouldn’t care so much about what a curriculum looks like.  We’re supposed to be teaching spelling/reading here, not graphic design, right?  But, I think that a clean, simple interface is conducive to keeping a student and parent focused on the content instead of the fluff around the page.

All About Spelling is laid out in a very clean manner and is modern-looking.  I’ve never once been annoyed at their poor formatting or inconsistent styling.

  • Teacher Preparation Time

I find it easy to simply open the All About Spelling book, read through it once (usually a 1-2 minute process), and then teach.  Obviously, we are dealing with simple first grade phonics so it shouldn’t be too complicated anyway, but I know that the other phonics programs I looked at did manage to overload the teacher with tons to read and no clear direction as to where to start or what to do.

All About Spelling gives step-by-step instructions that can basically be read as a script.  I find this to be very easy to follow without making me feel like it’s holding my hand.

Here’s an example:

Set the tokens aside and put the following letter tiles in a row in front of your student: a, r, t.

(picture of tiles set out)

“Today you will spell a word using the tiles.”

“I will say a word and you will repeat it slowly, one sound at a time, like you did with the tokens.  Instead of pulling down a token for each sound, you will choose the correct letter tile and pull it down.”

The instructions are brief and clear enough that you can read them to the student without them feeling like you are giving them a half-hour lecture.

  • Lesson Schedule

One of the things that I love about All About Spelling is that I feel no pressure to complete a certain number of lessons each week.  It seems that some curriculums say “OK, these are the things that we need to teach in first grade.  There are 180 days of school in the year, so let’s average out all of this stuff so we can sell this curriculum as a full year of lessons.”

Yes, you can do more than one lesson a day, but it really seems like that gets tedious when half the lesson is review.  One of the reasons I’m homeschooling is so that my kids can learn at their own pace, be that faster or slower or with more or less review than a curriculum dictates.

All About Spelling Level One has 24 steps, in which each step is a chapter each.  Each step or chapter basically focuses on one phonics rule.  There really is no indication as to what pace you are supposed to go; the curriculum encourages you to move as quickly or slowly as it takes, simply making sure the student has mastered each step before moving on.

Some weeks, we go through one step; other weeks, it’s two or three.  We completed Level One in about six months with my first grader (and probably could have gone faster if I wasn’t pregnant and tired!).

Spelling or reading?

I’ve not been homeschooling for long enough to know the nuances of what makes something spelling curriculum or reading curriculum.  Though it’s not technically marketed as such, we are using All About Spelling as our reading program and it seems to be working quite well.

I suppose that if I was only teaching how to read and not how to spell, we could move a little faster and my first grader would be reading more advanced words.  However, reading and spelling really go hand-in-hand and I think I might feel as if we were backtracking if we jumped way ahead in reading words that the student had no idea how to spell.

I do have to remind myself not to compare what we’re doing to what others are doing.  We just began to learn what causes a vowel to make its long sound at the end of Level One, something I know most reading curriculums teach much faster.  But, my student can correctly spell every word he can read, and can explain why it’s spelled that way, something that I don’t think is as common with other programs.

Three types of learning

All About Spelling does a pretty good job of equally incorporating auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning.  I love that it’s not tied into one method; some days, we only use the auditory exercises, other days, it’s only the visual or kinesthetic. And some days, we use all three.

The variety of exercises (letter tiles, tokens, flashcards, verbal exercises, and writing) help keep the student engaged even when reviewing the same concept over and over, and it also allows me to give the student a choice in how we do the day’s lesson.  My first grader loves to write some days and some days he hates it, so often I’ll let him choose if he wants to spell with letter tiles or spell on paper.

Things we used to supplement

All About Spelling has no workbook or worksheets included.  I found it helpful, especially at the beginning, to simply make my own worksheets where the student fills in the beginning or ending sound of the word for an object, for example.  Though it would be nice if it included some worksheets, I enjoyed making my own based on what the student needed to review and I already admitted I think a lot of clipart is cheesy so I’ll probably continue making my own even if they added some sort of worksheets.

All About Spelling is not technically a reading program, so it also has no reader included.  However, they have recently come out with All About Reading, which has a workbook and reader.  We went through All About Spelling Level One without a reader, and just supplemented with the Bob Books (Set 1) and, I admit it, we printed out the sample PDF for the All About Reading Level One reader.

We ordered the All About Reading Level 2 reader to go through as we enter All About Spelling Level Two (the spelling book indicates which chapters in the readers correspond with the lesson), and if I didn’t try to go through Spelling Level One relatively quickly, I think we’d have ordered a Level One reader, too, since most other easy readers have a lot of sight words and All About Spelling has no sight words (at least not in Level One).

An ongoing journey with All About Spelling

We’ll be continuing to use All About Spelling as our primary reading/spelling program for the forseeable future.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

You can click here to visit the All About Learning website to find out more about All About Spelling and All About Reading.

Practicing Letter Formation With Toy Trains

This morning we used our Melissa and Doug train set as a learning tool for language arts!  We formed letters using the tracks, and then practiced proper letter formation by driving the trains around the letter tracks.

Miss Preschooler definitely benefited from this, and though First Grader is pretty good about proper letter formation, even he had to think about how to drive the train around the track properly, making me think this is a great way to reinforce letter formation even if you think you know it!

Why We’re Learning American Sign Language

We’ve recently begun incorporating a foreign language into our homeschool agenda: American Sign Language.  I never particularly thought we’d be doing a foreign language in first grade, but several months ago, I felt God laying it on my heart to refresh my knowledge of ASL and begin teaching it to my kids.

In short, I don’t particularly know why I feel that God wants us to learn (or in my case, re-learn) ASL.  Will our next child be deaf?  Will there be an accident that causes one of us to lose our hearing?  Will someone enter our life that is deaf?  Are we supposed to reach out to the deaf community?  All of those thoughts swirl around in my head as we learn ASL, and I have no idea which one may be true, or if any of them will ever be true.

Immediate Benefits of Learning ASL

But for now, we’re learning ASL and I’m seeing some immediate benefits to both me and the kids:

  • Thinking about different cultures.  I’ve been able to to explain that deaf people are normal, they just need a special language to communicate.  It’s been valuable to even briefly consider what it might be like if we couldn’t hear or if someone in our family couldn’t hear.
  • Coordination and attention to detail.   Most ASL signs require somewhat precise finger positions and motions.  Careful that you sign orange and ice cream just right or you might be saying something totally different than you think!  This is helping all of my kids with their finger dexterity and preciseness.
  • Non-verbal communication.  ASL seems to depend a lot on facial expressions to properly communicate.  If you’re asking a question, you certainly want to have a questioning look on your face.  If you’re signing “angry”, you wouldn’t do it with a smile on your face.  This comes naturally, as most people use their facial expressions to reinforce what they’re saying in any language, but it’s been a good reminder for me and my kids to be expressive with our body language as we sign (or speak).  Secondary drama class, perhaps?
  • Understanding English better.  ASL doesn’t have a sign for every single word in the English language.  As a result, you either fingerspell (slow!) or otherwise translate the English word into a word that ASL does have a sign for.  I’m now much more tuned into the songs we sing at church, thinking about what the words really mean and how I would translate them for a deaf person.

What We’re Using To Learn ASL

We’re not using a formal curriculum for learning ASL: the kids have really enjoyed watching the Signing Time DVDs from the library and it’s piqued their interest enough that they frequently ask what the sign for ________ would be.  (I usually do a Google search for the word + ASL on my iPhone and find a video of the sign.  SigningSavvy.com is one of the first sites that usually comes up and their videos are great!)

At some point, we will need to start learning more of the “grammar” of ASL and become better at understanding others when they sign.  I may be looking for a more formal curriculum in a year or two, but for now, we’re having a blast learning signs and communicating with each other in sign language!

“Partial RSS Feeds Always Make Me Unsubscribe!”

Mention partial RSS feeds to another blogger and you’re likely to send them off on a tangent about how they always unsubscribe to a site that doesn’t publish a full feed and they would never use a partial RSS feed on their site.

Partial RSS feeds are annoying – most of the time.  But there are good reasons to use them, too, and I believe that, if used correctly, you can utilize a partial feed in such a way that neither annoys people nor causes unsubscribes to your RSS feed or newsletter.

Why you’re annoyed by partial feeds.

Here’s a few reasons why partial RSS feeds are annoying.  Don’t skip this part: understanding why is crucial to learning how to use partial RSS feeds wisely.

Most partial RSS feeds feature just the headlines plus a very small excerpt of the article.  The excerpt is usually unformatted, without paragraph spacing or images – and sometimes, it even strips the excerpt of links (yuck!).  The feed rarely gives enough of the article to pique the reader’s interest and entice them to click over, and even if the first few words seem marginally interesting, many readers will abandon the post because it’s hard for the eye to track a six-line paragraph (which is probably not a paragraph on the site itself).

Some partial RSS feeds utilize an actual excerpt, where the writer of the post crafts an excerpt to be published in the feed.  This could be OK, but rarely does the writer take the time to write a catchy excerpt after having taken the time to write a gripping title and a quality post.

Most partial RSS feeds don’t include any sort of a link to read the full post – instead, you have to click on the post title.  Problem is, people’s eyes will scan the title and then the excerpt.  They might click a “read more” link at the end of the partial feed – if there was one there – but there’s nothing to click and most people won’t revert back to the top to click on the post title.

Some sites publish truncated feeds of very short articles, so that when you click over, you realize there were only about five words left that weren’t included in the feed.  Annoying, and this very much discourages people from ever clicking through again.

It’s these things that I believe make partial RSS feeds so frustrating to so many.  Now that we know why people hate partials, we know what things to avoid when we are creating a partial RSS feed that doesn’t annoy.

Here’s how to do that:

How to use partial feeds without ticking anyone off

First, set your feed to publish in full – you may need to check your WordPress settings, as well as your feed service, such as Feedburner or Feedblitz.  Most of the problems outlined above are caused by automatic generation of partial feeds.  You want to truncate your feed in a way that makes sense to humans.  No human would ever choose to end a partial feed mid-sentence, but that’s often what happens with the automatic partial feed settings.

Then, I recommend using the RSS No More plugin that’s on WordPress.org.  This will allow you to choose to cut the feed wherever you want.  It will leave your links, images, and other formatting intact so that you can give your subscribers enough of a preview to be interested enough to click over, rather than being annoyed at not knowing whether or not the article is worth it.

You can choose to cut your RSS feed at the more tag or insert the shortcode [rss-cut] wherever you want to break the feed.  If you already use the more tag on your site, you’ll probably want to set the plugin to cut the feed with the shortcode since you’ll sometimes want to break the feed in a different place than you might put the more tag.

You can also customize what appears at the bottom of your partial feed – I would recommend using a call to action such as “Click here to read Name Of Article” and even inserting the arrow character (→) to draw attention to the link.

Where to cut the feed

I love the fact that you can choose to use or not use a partial feed on posts with the RSS No More.  If you publish a short post, you can do nothing and it will publish the full post in your feed.  When you publish a longer post, insert the proper tags after the first paragraph or two and an image.  This is much less likely to annoy your readers when you only use a partial feed some of the time.

You can also use the plugin to cut the feed to make people click over for functionality that doesn’t work properly in RSS.  For instance, my sites of Denver Bargains and Springs Bargains using a printable grocery shopping list feature that doesn’t work in RSS – you have to visit the site for it to work.  So, I’ve chosen to truncate my RSS feed after my intro paragraphs so that people aren’t frustrated by trying to use a feature that will never work in their RSS reader.

Using custom text to let users know about functionality that's not available in the RSS feed

I also truncate my RSS feed before giveaway entry forms.  Periodically, companies will sponsor giveaways on my sites and I use an entry form that I’ve designed in Gravity Forms to accept entries.  I publish the post in full in RSS until you get to the entry form, and then manually truncate the feed using the RSS No More shortcode [rss-cut]  to require that people click over to complete the form to enter the giveaway, which solves a whole host of problems.

If you have a particular functionality that you want people to click over to the site for, you can customize your link at the bottom of the RSS feed to say something like “Click here to continue reading this post and create your printable shopping list!” so that they understand that there’s a very specific reason they need to click over.

Partial feeds can be used wisely

Partial feeds don’t have to be annoying.  They can engage readers rather than turning them off if you understand why people are usually turned off by partial RSS feeds.

A few minutes of setup with the RSS No More plugin (or a similar one, if you can find it – though I’ve been unsuccessful at finding any other options) and you’re on your way to preventing content theft or driving RSS readers to your site without frustrating anyone!

My Homeschool Education: A Homeschooled Homeschooler

Well, I’m now a homeschooled homeschooler.  Somewhat of a “pioneer”, I think: mine seems to be one of the first generations of those who were homeschooled who are educating their own children at home.

I never really thought about it much until we started getting closer to the point of having school-aged children, but I really love that I was homeschooled.  It was all I knew at the time, and though I never disliked it or wished to do anything else, I didn’t realize what a unique opportunity I was given or how I would benefit from it later in life.  Now that I see the lessons I learned, specifically as a result of opportunities I had as a homeschooler, I’m becoming passionate about educating my own children at home.

I once thought that I primarily wanted to educate my children at home in order to teach them from the perspective that all truth comes from God.  The more I consider my own homeschool education, the more I realize that learning that all truth is God’s truth was a great benefit of being homeschooled, there are so many other “non-religious” reasons that I believe homeschooling is the best way to prepare my children to live in the uncertain world in which we live.

Here are some of the things that I feel were great benefits to being homeschooled, and benefits that I hope to be able to give to my own children.

An abundance of time

Our actual school day truly took very little time – perhaps three or four hours.  (If I was doing school after lunch, it seemed like pure torture.)

Because the actual bookwork took so little time, I had lots of time to be able to do other things: whether it be reading (I loved to read), creating items to sell at my parents’ craft fairs, building websites, working part-time jobs, or a host of other things.  I had time to develop skills and talents in areas that I was interested in – time that most other students spend in the classroom or doing homework.

I want my children to have plenty of time to devote to the things that interest them, to build their own creativity and develop their own dreams and ideas.

Lack of age segregation

Very little about our homeschool was segregated by age.  Even in activities with our homeschool group, we were divided into groups of elementary and high school, so I learned to interact with other kids of all ages.

Because I had opportunities to work in my parents’ business, I learned how to relate to adults.  I often played tennis with my grandpa, and we had a weekly lunch outing with my grandpa, so I was comfortable with the elderly.

I certainly generally preferred doing things with the people my own age, but because I was often in situations were there were a variety of ages, I learned how to respect those who were older and lead those who were younger – and learn from all ages!  I want my children to know how to act among people of all ages, just like they will need to for the rest of their adult lives.

Self-directed learning

As I’ve written about before, there wasn’t a lot of class time in our homeschool: my parents taught me how to teach myself.  They guided me along the way, and made sure that I was actually learning, but I primarily went through my schoolwork independently.

Just like everyone else, there were gaps in my education, but I have no doubt that should I ever need or desire to learn more about biology, I would be able to do that because my parents taught me how to seek out knowledge on my own.

In today’s constantly changing world, we can no longer be assured that the skills we learned in high school or college are the skills that we need to thrive twenty years from now.  I want my children to be equipped to know how to learn more about anything they desire, without having to take a class or be assigned a lesson.  I want them to be able to decide they want or need to learn something, and just do it.

Well, that’s my homeschool background.  It wasn’t perfect, but I firmly believe that my parents gave me the best education possible for me.  I can’t hope to perfectly educate my own children, but I can strive to equip them to be prepared for the rapidly changing world in which we live.

My Homeschool Education: My First Websites

High school was busy for me.  Between teaching piano and working a waitressing job, I still helped out with my parents’ business, and was also very active in our church’s youth group.

There were organized homeschool sports in our city, but I never had a huge desire to spend four mornings a week at practice and three nights at week at games.  Our homeschool group had a volleyball class on Fridays, which was one of my favorite extracurricular activities.

During my senior year in high school, I took two classes at a community college: Introduction to Macromedia Flash and College Algebra With Review.  I didn’t learn much in either class, but I now have eight hours of college credit so I can now answer “some college” on surveys.  It was my first time being graded on a curve!

On a whim, I figured out how to create a website.  This was back in the early days of the internet, when most of us were on AOL. I used AOL’s website builder to build a site of my own with links to some of my favorite websites, and then I decided it would be fun to create a site for my church’s youth group.  Hello, black backgrounds and white text!

Around this time, I started chatting online (remember AIM?) with a friend from youth group – who later became my husband.  He was thinking of starting a web design business and wanted to know if I wanted to be his graphic designer.  It sounded like fun, and I happened to think he was a great guy, so we collaborated on a couple of sites.  I purchased Macromedia Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash, and taught myself how to use those programs.

September 11th happened, and somehow a friend (now my husband Jeremy) managed to purchase September11.net in the hour or two following the attack.  We created a site and updated it frequently for the next couple of months as new information was released about what had happened.

Social studies may not have been the strongest part of my homeschool education, this event and the work we put into researching what had happened was a crash course in current events.  It was not official part of my homeschool assignment in any way – it was just our response to what had happened.

I was thrilled when I discovered the site, which had long since been let go, has been archived in the Library of Congress’s September 11 Web Archive Collection.  It’s kind of cool to see something you did on a whim in high school be considered significant enough to be archived by the Library of Congress!

My Homeschool Education: A Real-World Job In The Restaurant Industry

About halfway through my stint as a piano teacher, I began working as a server at a local restaurant.  As strange as it may seem, I really liked this job, and continued working there for over two years (a long time in the restaurant industry!).

Though there were always those people that never tipped, or tipped poorly, I found that serving was performance-based pay, and I was motivated to serve better so I could make more.

The restaurant that I worked at was a locally-owned chain that was, frankly, dying.  (I didn’t actually quit; the restaurant closed and I didn’t want to transfer to a new location.)  As a result, they kept as little staff as possible, so we were almost always busy.  We often served sections of five to ten tables at a time, and I learned a lot about multi-tasking!  The staff was usually limited to two or three servers, a manager, cook, and dishwasher.  We prepped our own salads, desserts, drinks; and bussed our own tables.

The restaurant had a lot of regulars, and I enjoyed building relationships with these mostly-older people.  Seniors tend to be very particular about their food – it must be the exact same way it’s been for the past thirty years – so learning their likes and dislikes and who was easygoing and whose order you did not want to mess up was a big part of making your shift go smoothly.

I never felt unsocialized or cut off from the real world during my homeschool education, but my life primarily revolved around church and homeschool activities, so working in the restaurant industry was an eye-opening experience.  There were an awful lot of words I’d never heard before, some of which might have been nice to know what they meant so I knew whether the remark was funny or nasty, but overall I’m glad I wasn’t constantly exposed to vulgarity growing up.

I was offered a manager position at one point, but knew I didn’t want to work the crazy schedule of a restaurant manager so I kept waitressing until the restaurant closed.  I certainly never had trouble communicating or getting along with my coworkers, and was well-respected by those I worked with.  They knew I was different, but that was primarily due to the fact that I was a Christian and acted like it – not really because I was homeschooled.