A future trip…

2794715363_0a65217e29_oSeveral years ago, Deanna and I visited Washington DC. It was an awesome trip. I’d love to take my teenagers there. Obviously, my medical condition, as it now stands, makes it quite a while before I can do it. But you know me, I look far down the road, dream a little, and start planning.

Without my ability to drive, I’ve already been thinking about places to visit, once allowed by my medical team, where I won’t need a car. San Francisco jumps out quick. Public trans rocks, and it’s not far away.

And since y’all know I’ve fallen in love with Amtrak, I may just go that route. It’s more expensive than flying, but I’m sure I’ll be clear for the train before a plane, since I’m already taking the train for clinic visits with approval. So off I go, planning away!

This would be our route, on Amtrak. Why not a straight shot? Well, the northern route, via Chicago, is the “straight” shot. We’d us sleeper cars, the whole back and forth. But, the path back has us stopping for a night in New Orleans, then taking a bus to Shreveport, to spend the weekend with our Texas family, then back on the train, home to Guadalupe, that’s where the Santa Maria station is located.



Academic pricing

You all know we homeschool. You all know I love photography. You might also know that our daughter, The Princess, is quite creative and has tagged along on many photo-adventures through the years.

Recently she expressed an increased interest in all things creative. She’s wanting to make real efforts at learning a few mediums for her artistic expression. It was a no-brainer for her to ask for more photography opportunities. When it comes to gear, we’re set. I have acquired a decent arsenal of Nikon gear, that she’s mostly free to use and play with.

On the software side, I’m an Apple Aperture user, which simply works the best for me. As she grows, if she chooses a different route, we’ll help her as best we can. I’m not “that” kind of parent. 🙂

Since she’s homeschooled, and she’s planning on pursuing photography for more than just documenting things, I want her to have all the tools necessary to make a nice photograph. This obviously works out well for her, since she’ll get to use all the same tools I have. In spite of this I set out to see if there were any other tools that would help her out. That’s when I stumbled upon Nik Software’s plugin set. I’ve used them in the past, and already knew that they are irreplaceable  I love their workflow, especially Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro. Great tools!

Like most software developers, they have academic pricing. Awesome! But as I read closer, it became clear that they don’t seem to offer a method for homeschoolers to get access to that great price. So I did what any geek would do, I found the pertinent email address and asked away.

In response, I got copy and pasted text from their website and…

To qualify for academic pricing please provide the qualifying documents listed above prior to your purchase. You can email the documents to supportus@niksoftware.com or fax it to 619-374-7339. Upon approval you can place your order over the phone.

If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or call our Customer Service Department toll-free at 1-888-284-4085 (+1-619-725-3150 outside of the US). Our office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm PST.

Best Regards,
Zach Petschek

Nik Software, Inc. | Photography first®

7588 Metropolitan Drive | San Diego, CA 92108
Tel – 619.725.3150 | Fax – 619.725.3151
supportus@niksoftware.com | http://www.niksoftware.com

Bummer, was the first response. Clearly, they don’t do much for homeschoolers, nor do they offer any means by which to have a human decide that homeschoolers are worthy of the awesome discount. So I replied, to clarify…

So, Zach, you’re saying that you don’t provide discounts to homeschooling families? These requirements would disqualify nearly every homeschooling family in the US.

Are there no ways for someone with the necessary authority to consider an alternative for homeschoolers?

My final response from Zach at Nik Software…

Dear Trevor,

Our academic discount does not apply to homeschool students or teachers. I can recommend watching one of our Live Training sessions at http://www.niksoftware.com/learnmore. We offer a couple a day about 5 days a week. I recommend this because at the end of every Live Training session they offer a 15% coupon code that you can apply to your purchase.
If you have any further questions, please reply to this email or call our Customer Service Department toll-free at 1-888-284-4085 (+1-619-725-3150 outside of the US). Our office hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 5:00 pm PST.

Best Regards,



Zach Petschek

So, homeschoolers, go home. The 15% coupon code he mentions above would allow me to get the $299.95 Complete Collection, Lightroom and Aperture, for $254.96. Better price, yes. But that’s not nearly as nice as the $149.99 they offer the same product to students and teachers, (some students and teachers).

I guess we’ll shop elsewhere. Anyone have any similar plugin suggestions?


After recommendations from the comments and social media, I took a look at OnOne’s free presets, which lead me to google around for even more Aperture Presets. I found a ton, and am enjoying playing with them.

But the real good news was when I contacted Topaz Plugins for their possible homeschooler discount. Here’s their response:

Hi Trevor,

Yes, absolutely. Eduction is education right!? 🙂 And I’m sure your daughter will love it!

You can use this 25% academic discount code at topazlabs.com/store on any and/or multiple products.

Discount code: XXXXXXXXX (redacted for security purposes)

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Best Wishes,

Stephanie Griffin
Marketing Associate
Topaz Labs LLC
4100 Spring Valley Road, Suite 103
Dallas, TX 75244, U.S.A.

Yeah for companies that get it! Topaz Labs will be getting my business, even if their plugins were 3x the cost. I love to vote with my dollars!

In the court of the King

My PrincessRecently, the wife and I have become a bit frustrated over some behavior manifesting in The Princess, our 9 year old daughter. She’s our oldest child and our only daughter. Her reactions to her brothers’ sinning against her could make Rosanne Barr take notice.

Of course we love her, and we passionately want to raise her to be loving and respectful. We also want to raise her to know God as the forgiving and sovereign Lord we know Him to be. So, often it’s more difficult to simply get her to respond to us with obedience. A long time back I remember Deanna teaching our kids the idea that they are expected to “obey, right away.” Over time, I know this will pay off, teaching our kids to obey us first, and then seek understanding or context.

Anyway, back to the Princess. She will often respond to her brothers, after one of them has sinned against her, with a “freak out episode” that is sometimes more puzzling than angering.

I’ve recently sought some alternative methods for getting her attention. Of course, there are times when some behavior just merits a consequence that sucks. Sometimes we all just need a swat. (If you desire to debate the merits of spanking, I welcome your thoughts. Just not here. Use the Comment page.)

However, there are also times when the consequence merits a lesson that teaches more than the immediate results of pain.

I was listening to Mark Driscoll recently when he described the methods they use in his home for discipline. Without going into all the details, they simply illustrate the Gospel, and highlight sin and our role in it. I took note.

On a recent afternoon, after I woke up, the Princess exploded on the Sniper. I got her attention and immediately I was reminded of the lesson from Pastor Mark. I took the teachable moment and began explaining that she had sinned against her brother. I exhausted the idea, and a light bulb went off! It hit me that in her daily tasks for homeschooling, she sits and copyrights a Psalm each day. The Word of our Lord is already entering her heart, even if it’s slow.

So I told the Princess to get her notebook, loaded with a third of the Psalms, and instructed her to read through and find at least one verse that she could learn from, based on the conflict she had with her brother. Of course, she returned quickly, insisting that Psalm 3 was it. Well, maybe it was, however I insisted she go back and give it a stronger effort.

She returned much later with a clear change in heart. She read me…

“For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” Pslam 5:12

She went on to explain that when we do the right thing, God protects us. His protection isn’t the reward for doing good, it’s the end result of choosing His path, which is righteousness. (Those are my words for her thoughts.)

I was blown away. She had taken the redirected time to spend time in God’s Word, and came back touched by it.

It’s so cool, being a parent.

At The Getty, with The Princess

A week back, I really wanted to hit The Getty Center with my daughter, The Princess. We lost our shot, and so I rescheduled for this week.

DSC_9362A View of the Grand Canal: Santa Maria della Salute and the Doana from Camp Santa Maria ZobenigoDSC_9263Architecture at The Getty

Yesterday, we drove down to the parking structure, adjacent to the 405 freeway, just down the hill from The Getty. If you don’t know about The Getty Center, it’s possibly one of the best and largest collections of art in the Southern California region. It opened a few years ago to some huge fanfare and has been busy ever since.

You have to pay $8 for parking, but getting into the museum is free. Yeah, free!

I actually wanted to take public transportation all the way down there. Unfortunately, public trans in LA is a joke. There are several different organizations operating different parts of the system. So, we’d have to get on a borrowed seat on the Amtrak train out of Camarillo. Technically we’d be traveling the Metrolink. However, they don’t have enough trains, or something, and they rent seats on Amtrak. Then we’d connect with LA’s MTA for a bus to the Sepulveda/Getty drop-off. Here’s the catch. It’s $18, per person, one way. So, the two of us would be paying $72! That’s more than two tanks of gas in my little commuter Scion. We opted to drive. If urban communities want to help people contribute to helping the congestion, they need to be cheaper than driving. Even with today’s high gas prices, it’s a joke to think that I’d choose a 2 hour trip down and then 2 hours back, for more money.

OK, back to The Getty.

The Princess and I had a great time. We arrived around 11am and headed straight to the first building. We basically wandered from one to the next, covering every inch of each building. In one of the paintings exhibits, the have this really nice room with several large pieces on the walls and a couple of sculptures. They are all very typical museum pieces. Then, in the middle of the room they have several tables and drawing easels set up. The point is for anyone to wander up and sketch your own interpretation of the art on display. There were many people of varying ages that wandered in and out as we were there.

Will you hold still!Well, The Princess is a very good artist. So we took the time so that she could sketch something of her own. She sat down at the table and looked around for a bit. Then she sorta grunted an “OK, I’m ready.” She leaned down and began to draw. It took me a few minutes to realize what she had chosen as her focus. She was drawing a young woman a few feet from her, who was in turn drawing one of the large paintings. It really was surprising to me. I was even a little emotional as I considered what she was doing. I wondered how many accomplished artists would have considered to draw someone drawing.

I could not pass this chance up, so I shot off a few frames. As you can see, she did a splendid job.

We took a break for a late lunch and then continued into the Photography exhibit. It was there that I discovered that they want to show you photographs, but don’t really like photographers.

Don't take pictures in here!Let me clarify. No one really gives me a hard time. I don’t let them. Also, the average security guard is intellectually scared off when you start using 3 or more syllable words. I engaged him with a short diatribe about copyright, and derivative works. He didn’t follow. I allowed him to leave, and I shot my one and only rule-breaking-shot. “This one’s for Thomas Hawk,” I thought to myself.

It's too bright!When we finished there, we decided to head home. We didn’t have time for the beautiful gardens, nor much more than one quick stop to enjoy the view. I promised her we’d return once more. Possibly for a group photowalk, this summer.

Above all, I had a great time with my daughter, enjoying some beautiful artwork and taking picture together. She’s a lot of fun. Oh yeah, BTW, that was her school day.

Homeschoolers need another resource

Recently, the wife and I started using a homeschool forum. The curriculum we use, My Father’s World, is a great resource and we love the whole package. For homeschoolers who want to interact with other homeschoolers you need to consider the two best venues.

  1. Local support group
  2. Online forum

I won’t go into all the value and details of joining or starting a local support group. I will state that it is extremely important for all homeschoolers to join one. This helps in ways you can’t even see right now.

Additionally, participating in an online forum, dedicated to homeschooling, can expand your support group. Generally speaking, a forum will help connect you with other homeschoolers, increasing the chance that you will find someone with a very similar situation.

The possibility of a single-dad homeschooling, finding a local group of homeschooling single-dads is pretty slim. But, hitting the internets, that dad is going to find a whole assortment of dads, in need of wisdom, and willing to share their own.

So, where do you start? I suggest that you start with either looking for an online group that fits your unique make up; ie. single-dads. Or you can start with your curriculum.

That’s where we started. Our curriculum is not the largest. In fact, many have not even heard of it. However, with the ease of installing an open source (read: free) forum, even the smaller curiculum companies can afford to adminstrate a forum.

The My Father’s World Forum is great. Deanna is able to find encouragement from other moms who are using the same text books that we are. She is able to seek advice from moms who did exactly what she is doing now, last year. It’s great!

I even signed up with an account and have taken the opportunity to encourage a couple of exhausted homeschooling moms.

But, sometimes, we homeschoolers need a bit more. Sometimes we are separated from the simple things that can limit our kids’ opportunities. Years ago, homeschoolers had to play in community leagues if they wanted to compete in organized sports. But now, many private schools and even public ones, have programs in place to allow homeschooled kids to participate. That’s just one example of how, over time, we’ve been able to solve one of the simple issues.

Well today, the fact that our homeschooled kids can’t have a “.edu” email address can be limiting.

Just a few days ago, a local Fox affiliate in Austin, TX, reported that homeschoolers are being kicked off of Facebook because they don’t have an “.edu” email address. Facebook says that in order to verify that these minors are in fact minors, they need an “.edu” email address. They are concerned about predators getting into communication with our kids. Hey, I have no problem with Facebook working hard to keep their place safe for children. I think they should be applauded for doing so. However, Facebook is one of those great tools that our homeschooled children can use to their benefit for many things.

I briefly tried to find out how to purchase an “.edu” domain name. I could not find anything.

However, I, alone, would not have much power to influence Facebook, if I were handing out “.edu” email addresses. But, a national homeschooling organization could do this. They could at least offer up an email address for each of their own members.

So, I’m challenging the HSLDA, the nation’s largest homeschool advocate, to establish an email address system for all of its members. This would allow our children to have that coveted “.edu” email address.

It may seem like such a small thing, but for a homeschooled child who properly uses the internet for opportunities to expand their homeschool experience, this is very necessary.


Facebook addressed this issue, and I missed it. Sorry for not being on top of such an important problem.

Is homeschooling under attack?

So, many California homeschoolers freaked out when we learned of the recent decision. Then, we started reading more, and working to understand what really happened…

First, it should be noted that homeschoolers have been legally educating their children. The 1953 decision didn’t ban homeschooling, including those without credentials. In fact, California law currently allows homeschoolers to register with the state as a private school, only educating their own children. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association provides good information for all interested in the legalities of homeschooling in all states. Here’s the options for Californians.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that this recent decision not only wasn’t clear enough to forbid the currently legal homeschools, but it doesn’t change things today or tomorrow for those of us legally homeschooling here in California.

And to those ignorant enough to think that the government’s certificate is enough to make one qualifited to teach, you should ask your own children’s public school teachers if they ahve any cohorts who shouldn’t be in the classroom.

I don’t mean to be so defensive, and I know that my observance of successful homeschooling and my own homeschooling is a limited experience. However, it should be noted that the majority of homeschool students achieve significantly higher in everything thrown at them, including college admissions, SAT scores, and even graduate school admission.

Taking a short investigation of the US’s history, you’ll find that many great American’s were homeschooled. Abraham Lincoln, Sandra Day Oconner, John Quincy Adams, John Rutledge, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, John Jay, Thomas Edison, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Stonewall Jackson, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Booker T. Washington, Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington are all the “victims” of homeschooling. If any one of my kids turns out half as accomplished, they’ll be blessed to have been homeschooled. You’ll also find that homeschooler statistics even support the idea that homeschooling generally produces better human beings.

Just one more article that helps us understand some of the modern history of homeschooling in the USA.

I know that we all “know someone who was homeschooled.” Usually that statement includes socially limited kids who are horribly deficient. Let me tell you that those kids are not the norm, nor are they even very quantifiable in today’s modern homeschooling environment.

Feel free to comment below, and join the conversation! If you’re interested in learning more about homeschooling, shoot me an email, and we’ll chat even more.

I’m taking the leap, the Leapbuntu, that is…

OK, you’ve read me talking a bunch about Ubuntu, and my desire to get a nice install up and running at home. Some time back, I mentioned that I wanted to build a simple machine, dedicated to serving up my family’s media, printing, and files. Well, the budget always trumps ideas like that. Some day, I’ll get that going again. In the mean time, we had the chance to get a couple of Mac mini’s. Sweet, now the old family computer, the first rev LCD iMac, is going to be dedicated for use as a kid’s computer. Right now they mostly play a few online educational games. As they progress in school, I know they’ll be doing more work with it. So now we don’t have to share. Now, if only Adobe made a Linux(PPC) flash plugin, I’d dump OSX on that machine and run Ubuntu there. I know that it would run faster, but without flash, there’s no way the kids could play those online games. They’re all flash.

So, back to the Mac minis. Mine is an Intel 1.66, duo core, 1gig ram. It’s used for my photo processing, eventually podcasting again, and the random processor heavy app.

The family Mac is the same machine with only 512mg ram. MISTAKE! OSX needs more than that to run smoothly. Since we can’t budget to double the ram right now, I’m considering dumping OSX entirely there and running Ubuntu exclusively. It’s Intel, so no flash issues. I’ve been thinking this through for weeks now, and the only deal breaker has been our massive iTunes Store purchases. There are no tools around for converting, (read, dropping DRM), on the most recent iTunes version. So, I’m left with burning each album to  CD, and reconverting to MP3. I’ll keep a back data-DVD of all the files, and I know I’m loosing some quality, but I really have no choice.

For future music purchases, we now have the DRM-free Wal-Mart online store. And since DRM-free music is catching on, I think that we’ll see more options birthed soon.

So, what do you think?

I bet you didn’t know…

DSC_0212DSC_0212 Hosted on Zooomr

I bet you didn’t know that Big D and I homeschool our kids. Yup, we do!

Of course that really means that I provide the emotional, motivational, encouraging, and financial support and Big D does all the work. The Princess is in 2nd grade and has been homeschooled since Kindergarten. The Padawan started this year, Pre-school. When the Wookie is old enough, he’ll join his brother and sister at the kitchen table, and the same goes for the Baby. (Side note: I’m gonna need a new nickname for the “Baby”, since he’ll not be a baby, eventually.)

You got questions? Do you think I should have added something specific in this post? Well then, put it in the comments and I’ll add it, or do a follow up post.

Last week, when we hit the garden park in Ojai, the Princess and I took a bunch of pictures. I called it a photowalk, and put the photos up on my Zooomr site, here. The photo at the top is the Princess actually working on her schoolwork. She’s practicing composition and lighting techniques with her school-only Polaroid. I’d also like to point out that many of my own subjects in my shots were chosen by the Princess. Enjoy.

I bet you also didn’t know…

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Thomas Edison
  • Douglas MacArthur
  • John & Charles Wesley
  • Albert Einstein
  • Charles Dickens
  • Booker T. Washington
  • Patrick Henry
  • Winston Churchill
  • Daniel Webster
  • CS Lewis
  • Ansel Adams
  • Andrew Carnegi
  • Sandra Day O’Connor
  • Benjamin Franklin

…were all homeschooled.