The Upside Down World

Friday, April 28, 2006

Stuff to look at

I'm sure all my faithful minions are heartbroken that I haven't been blogging more this week, but packing must continue. So in the meantime, I'll direct you to some fun stuff to look through:
The Pig's Tales: A 4th grade teacher blogging about life, school, kids and an outrageously terrible principle. I recommend starting here and wandering through older posts (the stuff on her main page right now isn't as interesting as some of her older stuff, IMHO).
Generation Me: A new book which just came out about people born in the 70's, 80's and 90's based on lots of research which looks at the good and the bad of this generation. I'm going to blog about this at some point, but I just don't have the time right now. Check out the author's blog - older posts are better as she's been very busy out promoting her book the last few weeks. I don't agree with everything she has to say, but there's a lot of good stuff to think about. (Site appears to be down right this moment, but hopefully this is temporary.)
Go Fug Yourself: Pictures and critique of terribly dressed celebrities. OK, this is not very Christian and actually down-right snarky, but I must share that there have been times when at the end of a very long, hard day I look at this sight and see something like this and laugh so hard that life seems a little easier to take. And the girls who do the website, while perhaps not using their talents for the highest purposes, are great writers whose commentary is often funnier than the pictures. And in their (and my) defense, they disapprove of people walking around half naked just as much as my mother.
There you go. Grab some coffee and browse. I'll be back soon. I hope.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Let's go to the carnivals!

I'm still busy packing, so I'm not going to have much time to post over the next few days (which doesn't mean I won't indulge anyway!), but I wanted to let everyone know that the Carnival of Homeschooling is up over at the Common Room. The Carnival of Education is up over at Education Wonks. Browse, mingle, talk among yourselves, have fun!

Monday, April 24, 2006

The state and your children

I sometimes wonder if parents realize how much control they are handing to the government when they enroll their children in government schools. I'm guessing that many parents do not realize that not only are they not choosing what specifically their children are taught, but they do not have the legal right to have their children exempted from lessons which they may find objectionable or immoral. This came to light again last week in Lexington Massachusetts after a 2nd grade teacher used a book called "King & King" to teach children about different types of marriage. (Story here.) The teacher did not inform parents ahead of time that a book depicting marriage between two men would be used (and he is under no legal obligation to do so). When parents objected, the school's response was predictable:
"Lexington Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said Estabrook has no legal obligation to notify parents about the book. ''We couldn't run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed . . .' "
Last year a father at the same school who refused to leave school grounds until he was allowed to have his son opt-out of lessons which included teaching about same sex marriage was arrested for trespassing. We saw a similar demonstration of state power over our children in a case decided in California last fall where parents were found not to have the right to prevent a school from requiring their children to participate in Islamic practice's including prayers to Allah. (Story here.) This is the power of the state when it comes to educating children - they can choose what to teach them AND the parent has NO right to have their child exempted from lessons and activities which they find objectionable (exceptions for sex ed are allowed in most places).
Right now this is primarily a problem for those with traditional values, but it could just as easily turn against those whose values are in the minority. It's not hard at all to imagine a situation in a part of the country which is less amiable to the idea of same sex marriage where a lesson may include a statement such as "No society in history has ever recognized marriage other than between a man and woman (or women) because it has long been believed that homosexuality is unnatural and children entrusted to such couples would grow up twisted and unable to participate in the functioning of the society." Obviously, such a statement (while perhaps factually true) would be offensive to a same sex couple and might even cause real harm to the psyche of a child being raised by a same sex couple. However, parents simply do not have any right to insist that their children not be exposed to something which the state or its officials want them to be exposed to. When a child is enrolled in a government school, it is the state and the state alone which decides what that child is to be taught. What is so crazy about this situation is that we often hear from pro-government school apologists that the public school system is the foundation of a functioning democracy. In fact, a mandatory state run school system which claims sole responsibility for the ideas a child is exposed to while in its care in order to maintain a society which functions according to that state's vision of proper is a defining characteristic of dictatorial, fascist and other non-representative freedom killing regimes. How is it that so many people have accepted the idea that in a democracy the government should take on such a role? Call me cranky, but it really is the idea that it's perfectly reasonable that parents hand over their right to educate their own children to the government which bothers me much more than any particular thing which is or isn't taught in schools. To me giving the state the right to indoctrinate my kids as they see fit, without my input or control, runs contrary to the sort of radical freedoms our nation was founded on.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Forbes magazine on why your kids should think about skipping college

Over on they have an article from Forbes Magazine titled "Five Reasons to Skip College" (click link above) which I think every parent and teen should read. The article points out that while there is a correlation between a college degree, particularly from a top school, and earnings, this should not be taken to be a causative relationship. If you're smart and ambitious enough to get into a top school, or even to pursue and complete a degree from a more run-of-the-mill college, you're smart and ambitious enough to be successful without a college degree. As the article points out:
"in truth, most professions - journalism, software engineering, sales, and trading stocks to name but a few - depend far more on "on-the-job" education than on classroom learning. Until relatively recently, lawyers, architects and pharmacists learned their trade through apprenticeship, not through higher education.
Certainly some jobs - medical doctors and university professors - require formal education. But many do not, and between the Internet and an excellent public library system, most Americans can learn pretty much anything for a nominal fee."

Of course without a degree, one needs to do something else in order to demonstrate proficiency and competency. This is one of the areas where homeschoolers really have an advantage. Since our kids aren't constrained by the demands of a typical high school career, they can do things like start a small business, create portfolios, volunteer, internships, even devote themselves to solving some problem in a particular field or any number of other things which involve actually practicing a particular endeavor. The frightening thing about it is that many employers use college diplomas as screening devices to weed out weak candidates, so the fear is that one will never be able to get an employer to take you seriously without a degree. However, it does seem to me that our slavish devotion to getting our kids into and through a college degree program might be worth taking a second look at.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Uproar over teacher's blog

In today's Chicago Tribune, there's an article about a teacher's blog which is apparently creating such a fuss and out-cry that the teacher has stopped coming to school out of fear for his safety. The school in question is Fenger High School , one of Chicago's worst public schools. On a blog he called "Fast times at Regnef High", the teacher wrote about the chaos he saw there:
He labeled his students "criminals," saying they stole from teachers, dealt drugs in the hallways, had sex in the stairwells, flaunted their pregnant bellies and tossed books out windows. He dismissed their parents as unemployed "project" dwellers who subsist on food stamps, refuse to support their "baby mommas" and bad-mouth teachers because their no-show teens are flunking. He took swipes at his colleagues, too--"union-minimum" teachers, literacy specialists who "decorate their office door with pro-black propaganda," and security officers whose "loyalty is to the hood, not the school."
Apparently students, teachers and parents found his language too sharp and were upset that he didn't preface every negative comment by paying heed to the few kids, teachers and parents who were working hard and behaving properly. However, I find it very telling that this article is written as if the teacher imposed the label criminal on his students and even put the word "criminal" in quotes as if this were simply his assertion. Last time I checked, stealing, dealing drugs, destruction of government property and having sex in public were all illegal behaviors and people who do illegal things are called criminals. It's hard to get a handle on exactly what is going on here as the blog has been taken down due to the angry, often threatening comments which were being left there. It's possible that this teacher's comments were really so over-the-top that the average student or parent reading it would reasonably be insulted. However, when one looks at the school's performance, it's pretty clear that this wasn't a minority of students he was talking about. (Info on test scores here, info on graduation rates here, violent incidents here - go to "related charts" halfway down the page, click and look for Fenger.)
What I think is so interesting about this is that no one seems to be denying the that what the teacher said was true, although they think he was too sweeping in his pronouncements. What people seem to be upset over is that he talked about it and did it in a way which was not couched in niceties or excuses for people's poor behavior. How is it that the day-in day-out reality of the sorts of behavior this teacher talks about are treated as just a reality of life, not worth getting riled up over, but someone actually talking about it is something to be upset over?
The article ends with the sort of comment which probably goes a long way to explaining how this can be:
"Although many of our students adopt tough facades and insist they are grown, they are still children: sensitive children who still crave guidance, encouraging words and positive reinforcement," wrote teacher Gina Miski. "Was the author present when students, having read the blog, dejectedly hung their heads with pained, angry tears stinging their eyes?"
You know what - if my children behave abominably and are brought to shame and tears when confronted with their actions, that's not a bad thing. That's the time for saying, "OK, you don't like what's in the mirror - what are you going to do about it?" What is so damaging is when kids aren't treated as if they are capable of doing and being better but are instead told that it's someone else's fault that they feel bad. Then the kid is left with a sense of shame about themselves which they don't know what to do with combined with a sense of entitlement to never be judged or held accountable for their behaviors.
When I was in college, I worked with teenaged boys in Illinois state prisons - some of whom no doubt came from this school. They had horrible lives and had been dealt a raw deal from the beginning. Almost to a child, they needed healing from abusive and traumatic experiences in their lives. However, in order to move forward they needed not to be coddled and given "encouraging words and positive re-enforcement" - they needed to start doing things which could be encouraged and displaying behaviors worth re-enforcing. We have done a great disservice to many kids, but especially to inner-city kids who already have such a rough road to walk by emphasizing feeling good about yourself just because you suck air with the rest of humanity instead of building competency and the idea that respect is earned through positive behaviors and accomplishments. When brought up in an education system which says "we respect you even if you take a piss in the corner and beat up your teachers", it's no wonder kids and parents get upset when confronted with their own poor behavior.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mind over body

We have a mean flu bug working its way through the house. It hit my 6 year old pretty hard today. He's been running a fever and this afternoon, he fell asleep for a couple of hours on the couch. When he woke up, his temperature was about 102. I asked him how he felt. He looked up at me with his flushed face and fevery eyes, swallowed uncomfortably and said with a suprising amount of feeling, "I feel great, mom! Thanks."
Either it's the power of positive thinking or he's inherited his father's extreme distaste for taking medicine. :)

Update: The motrin has kicked in and he just came to me and said, "I bet if you took my temperature now it would say 'P' for 'perfect' " LOL

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What does the state need to be able to do to "their" kids?

I read an article today about homeschooling in VA where apparently there are some rather onerous requirements for assessment. Fortunately, there's also an out: a religious exemption clause which allows parents who are homeschooling for religious reasons to do so without interference from the state. Now some people are wondering if the law should be revisited due to the large number of homeschoolers claiming this exemption. Any how, what woke me up was this quote from former State delegate Jim Dillard who wrote VA's homeschool law:
"It goes back to the idea of an enlightened electorate," he said. "In order to have society function as a democracy, the state needs to be able to inculcate certain values in its children, in order to prepare them for citizenship and to have a meaningful role in society."
Hello!?! The state's function is to protect rights, maintain law and order, create a climate for commerce to function, not to "inculcate certain values in its children"! And this certainly isn't the role of a democracy - only in fascist regimes like Hitler, Soviet Russia and our current batch of Islamofascists is indoctrination of children seen as a proper role of the state. Our founding fathers would be appalled.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This week's carnival of Homeschooling is up!

Week 16 of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up over at about homeschooling. If you haven't seen a carnival before, be sure to head on over. It's a sampling of what homeschoolers on the blogosphere are talking about and can be a great way to find new, interesting blogs. My post "My kitchen table's under-used (and I think I'm OK with that)" is included in this week's batch. I'm in the middle of packing to move at the end of the month and I've sworn I wouldn't spend too much time on the computer for the next couple of weeks, but goshdarn, it really looks like a great collection of posts that Beverly has put together!
Hopefully you're not packing and can grab a cuppa coffee or tea and head over to take a look. I may have to cheat - "once we get 4 more boxes packed I'll just go read one article". Have fun!

Friday, April 14, 2006

What if they learn without doing the worksheets?

Over at the new blog "Robin's Blue Skies", there is a wonderful post about how kids learn in the real world vs. workbook learning. I know people who are "school at home types" and I know that some of them think the idea of not having the kids sit down to do their school work for several hours every day seems crazy. However, if my son knows how to read, does it matter that he never struggled with "learning phonemic awareness"? If he never does a unit study in his life, but becomes an expert on prehistoric life just because it's what he spent time learning about on his own, does that make him less well educated? Quite often before having my kids sit down to do some sort of school work, I try to remember to ask myself, "is this actually what he needs to do in order to learn something? Is this a skill or knowledge he's going to acquire whether he does this or not? How often does he actually need to be doing this to master it?" I've learned to put it away unless it's actually something that they aren't going to get another way.
A few years ago a friend called to complain about her 6 year old's homework. The school had sent a worksheet designed to help the kids figure out how to choose books which are likely to have information you want about a specific topic. Aside from the fact that this is one of those things you learn by doing, normally without much thought, the worksheet was unnecessarily confusing. There was a list of titles and list of subjects which the child was supposed to match up. All of the titles and subjects were about clothing and costumes. I doubt if I could have matched up titles and subjects to their satisfaction because the meaning of the subjects was so vague and the titles so similar. So now something which should have been completely natural is presented to a child as a difficult skill they may not be able to master!
I think that a lot of what we make our kids do is like that. There are thousands of lesson plans, curriculum, worksheets, unit studies and what not out there to teach our kids things which they would have to be walking around with their eyes closed bumping into walls while plugging their ears not to learn in the normal course of life.
I'm not saying there's never a place for formal study in the life of a child. However, especially for younger kids, I think that most of what people do to teach kids is done for the benefit and comfort of the parent rather than because it is needed for the child to learn. Of course, we have been so indoctrinated to equate school work with actually becoming educated that it's amazing any of us questions this at all. And the fact of the matter is that the style we use to teach our children must be one we as parents can live with. I would hope that a mother who is forcing her children to do things which only lead to rebellion, frustration and thwart learning will in time seek another way. However, a mother who is profoundly uncomfortable with unschooling, but attempts it anyways is unlikely to be successful either. But, that's one of the advantages of homeschooling - there's no one way we must do things.

For Good Friday and Easter

Yesterday on, the blogger Chattering Mind asks if we need to/should accept Jesus' literal resurrection as fact. She seems inclined to the Borg train of thought in which one makes up something more suitable, albeit without any supporting evidence besides one's own conjurings like Jesus being alive in our hearts, rather than physically alive. I was going to leave a comment, but I couldn't figure out a way to say it succinctly and decided to leave it to God. Today on, Rev. Chloe Breyer offers a wonderful explanation of why we can believe in Jesus' physical resurrection and why it matters that he was physically resurrected.
I would add just a bit more to her essay. I think it matters that Jesus was resurrected because it matters so much that he shared suffering with humanity. It is a wonderful comfort that our God does not just sit on high, but stooped low to experience the same struggles and sufferings which we have in this life. We can know that we are understood, that we can go on, that God does not turn away from our suffering spirits, but embraces them. However, if that was all that he did, God would be no more than a rich man who sloughed off his lifestyle for a while to live with those in the gutters. All good and well, but what does that mean for those left in the gutters who do not have a mansion and nice clothes to return to? Because Jesus rose in the physical state which he chooses to share with us, and not just in some spiritual-metaphysical state of glory we do not share with him, we know there is hope for us. Paul teaches that because we share in Jesus' sufferings, we will also share in his resurrection. We know that our lives too can be a miracle, that death cannot and will not triumph over us either, that the suffering we see on the cross is not the end of the story. It is hope that the resurrection gives us. It is hope for the person who will never escape their miseries in this world. We know that even if we never escape or rise above the suffering of this world, there is resurrection - real life - that we have to look forward to with Christ. One of the first bible verses I ever committed to memory was Jesus preparing his disciples for his impending death by telling them, "I tell you these things that you might have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) While these are nice words, it is the reality of the resurrected Jesus which allows us to live in the peace he desires for us, knowing as he did when he spoke these words that there is more that awaits us than suffering and death and the memory of nicely words spoken.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

In honor of the protests over illegal immigration . . .

Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel tonight examined the myth of a gigantic slingshot used to fling people through the air and across the border. There's one way to cross! Of course they're too nice/smart to get too embroiled, so the imaginary border they created to test their gigantic slingshot was the US Canadian border. But not too nice, and definately smart enough to put the episode into heavy rotation for the next week. It was a pretty darn funny episode. (And no, you can't really use a slingshot to get someone over the border.)

Help needed: building a website

My 10 year old wants to make a website about dragons and I need help in getting him started. I'm afraid I just don't even know how to start this and would appreciate any resources/instructions you might be able to offer. Mostly, I'd like him to be able to work on this pretty independantly. Like I said, I haven't the foggiest notion of how to start and everytime I've tried to learn I get about 2 sentences in to where they say something like "HTML is a language used to . . . " and it looks like "HTML bonk bleep gubble gorp blech . . ." to me! If anyone knows of something to help us out, please either leave a comment or e-mail me at Thanks!

My brain is going to explode

A few minutes ago, I sat down to read an article on criticizing some column David Brooks wrote about the Duke lacrosse team scandal (don't really care about it, but the headline writers at slate are so good, they make you want to see what an article's about). Apparently David Brooks had been complaining about the race/class lens being used to look at the story and he thought it should be looked at as a moral issue and a sign of the lack of any attempt by our culture or schools to indoctrinate our youth in morality and chivalry. One Stephen Metcalf at slate didn't care for the column and as part of his response wrote this:
When a sociologist—someone like C. Wright Mills, for example—hears the word "chivalry," he doesn't hear the language of personal responsibility but its dark underside, the language of self-blame. There was a time—surprisingly coterminous with the heyday of Brooks' chivalry—when a black stripper who had been raped by white college boys would never think of going to the cops. Totally unaddressed by Brooks' nostalgia for "the 1920s," when "you can actually see college presidents exhorting their students to battle the beast within" is whether the best aspects of that bygone era (decency in public manners) could be resurrected without the social apparatus that sustained it (white Anglo-Saxon hereditary elitism). Brooks doesn't mention it, but one way to return university presidents to the language of inner beasts is to once again exclude women, blacks, and Jews from universities.
So chivalry and a moral education cannot exist withracismcism, religious bigotry and the oppression of women? And returning to the days of such things would be a prerequisite to a return to chivalry and morality?
As I sat at my computer, mouth agape trying to figure out if I read that right, the NPR program I had turned on early crept into my consciousness. The father of John Lindh (the American young male picked up with the Taliban back in 2001) was speaking. He was telling the story about how his son had been mistreated, not given a fair shot at justice, blah, blah blah. Someone asked if he thought his son had done anything wrong. His dad responded (paraphrasing here): "not at all. Going back to the 80's Reagan called these people freedom fighters. John just got caught in the crosshairs when America switched sides, rather suddenly in the wake of 9/11, and began backing the Northern Alliance. What John was doing was admirable. We want our kids to go to other countries, lenewnewe things, learn about other cultures, get involved." HELLO - your son was hanging out and "learning" with people who cut off women's breasts, killed their husbands, dropped boulders on the heads of suspected homosexuals, made women prisoners in their homes, left widows to starve, cut off people's hands, wouldn't allow little girls to go to school, ripped out the fingernails of women for wearing nail polish and on and on and on. But we're suppose to think he was just off learning about other cultures like some sort of exchange student? What was he going to do - come home and share the proper technique for whipping a woman in the street with a cat-o-nine tails?
Two displays of such reality-free immoral thinking so close together is just too much for me. I think my brain is going to explode.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

15th Annual Canival Of Homeschooling

This week's Canival of Homeschooling is up over at Tami's Blog. For those of you who may not be familiar, the Carnival is a weekly round-up of what homeschooler's are blogging about. It can be a good way to find out about what homeschoolers in the blogosphere are doing and thinking as well as a good way to find blogs which might interest you.
I especially like this week's submission from Dena's Deliberations about letting your child work at his own pace and the blossoming which occurs when a child is ready to learn rather than being forced to learn on some schedual.
Denise in IL has a post outlining how to solve complex word problems whihc I think I'm going to try with my son.
Henry Cate has an interesting examination looking a education vs credentialing and the effects of "credential inflation" over at Why Homeschool.
I make my Carnival of Homeschooling premire this week with my post on Christian Homeschoolers challenging us to examine how we deal with each other.
There's lots more, so wander over and take a look!

Christian Response to Illegal Immigration

Yesterday, I posted about illegal immigration and was rather harsh about the hardships which would be faced by many people and families if they were unable to work and support themselves here in the U.S. Basically I said, "that's life. Life is hard." Without the context of who I am and what I think about life outside of government actions, I suppose that seems really, really mean and uncompassionate. I had to think about this after reading this article on about how Christians engage in cultural issues. I agree with about 90% of what the article has to say - Christians should not be harsh, should demonstrate love towards those who are different than us, should understand the difference between Christian faith and the Republican Party, etc. However, I had to stop and think when the author turned to the current discussion of illegal immigration. Examples he gives of Christians comparing illegal immigrants to bugs and vermin, referring to them as "those people", and an excessive desire to protect "our lifestyle" are obviously out-of-bounds and not compatible at all with a Christian heart. However, then he says this :
"For Christians to say we should deny health care to immigrants can only grieve the heart of God. How can we be so selfish when we've been given so much? Have we missed the point of the Good Samaritan: that our neighbor is anyone in need? Certainly we need to help illegal immigrants become legal. But deny them health care to force them back across the border? The bible is clear: "Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Ex. 23:9)."
I pretty well advocated such a position in my post yesterday. Am I taking a position which as the author puts it, "grieve[s] the heart of God"? I had to think about that one. In the end, I don't think so and here's why.
First of all, I see a big difference between the role of the government in doing God's work and my role as a Christian in doing God's work. If it were suddenly impossible for illegal immigrants to find work here, I would expect that I and other Christians would set up ways to help feed those in need, counsel them, listen to them and help them make wise decisions about what to do. I can easily see situations where churches might choose to assist people in returning to their native homes and support their visa applications from there. However, I do not think that this sort of charity is particularly they job of government beyond what is necessary to maintain some sort of order in the country. I actually think that part of what is wrong with our society is that we are too comfortable with the idea that the government will take care of people when it's our job to take care of people. We don't look out for the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the elderly and disabled the way we should, in large part because we think the government should take care of it. I'm pretty sure that Jesus told us to do such things, not to set up a government system which we pay into which will do that hard work for us. So I don't think this is a case of being selfish or refusing the stranger help. I just think that the government has a proper and legitimate role in setting rules regarding access to our country. The person sneaking over the border is no more deserving of access to our healthcare system than a poor family struggling for survival in some other part of the world. If providing healthcare is our goal, we should seek to do this around the world, not just for those who happen to have been able to figure out a dishonest way to physically get here.
The other problem I have with illegal immigration, especially at the levels we see it today, is that it is depleting other countries of their best and brightest and helping to prop up corrupt governments. While it may seem to be compassionate to help someone who is here illegally, how compassionate is what they're doing to those in their native countries who could benefit from their courage, work ethic and smarts? What about the fact that many more in their home country are suffering from continuing poverty and lack of freedom because the money being sent back by expatriates masks the real effects of corruption, lack of opportunity, etc? We have this modern notion that people should avoid conflict pretty much no matter what. There are real changes which need to happen in the parts of the world which many illegal immigrants are coming from. As frightening as potential conflict is, wouldn't many illegal immigrant's homelands, families and future generations benefit far more if the sort of passion, organization and solidarity displayed in the demonstrations we've been seeing here was applied to forcing changes at home? Of course, the fact is that protesting and organizing here is not dangerous in the least, while the same actions back home could well get you killed. I do not mean to be callous to this fact, but I am the wife of a black man and we owe the very existence of our family to those who fought and died in the civil war and in the civil right's movement. There are things worth dying for. Many people die every year just trying to get across our border. Wouldn't their willingness to sacrifice be better spent on changing things in their native countries than in trying to cross our border? As it is, the possibility of a fairly easy pay-off for being in our country illegally is simply enabling corruption and poverty in parts of the rest of the world. There is a bigger picture at play here than just the individuals involved.
So, the bottom line is that I stand by my original position, although I see a need to flesh it out more fully. While I do not think our laws should enable illegal immigration, I do think what we as Christians are called to help those in need, including those for whom our laws cause hardships. I also think that there are issues far beyond the lives of individuals and even individual families which need to be considered. It has always really bothered me that I would be born in such a prosperous country facing my own problems, but certainly not matters of life and death while so many others live their entire lives with nothing. However, God didn't just say about me or my countrymen or people living in developed countries, "I know my plans for you. Plans for peace and not for evil." It wasn't only to the privileged he promised, "I will cause all things to work together for good for those who love me." This is His promise to a child who will live only days or months somewhere in Africa and to his mother as well. I do not understand it, but I trust God. C.S. Lewis makes an important point in The Boy and His Horse. Aslan is explaining to the boy Caspian why things which had seemed to have no purpose but misery had to happen to him. Caspian wanted to know about a servant girl who had been whipped, but Aslan told him, "that is her story. I am telling you your story." I don't know why so many people face such difficulties and have been born into corrupt countries where there is too much suffering. However, I do know that their lives are part of a story God is working out for His own glory. So, it's not that I am callous or selfish in supporting changes and better enforcement of our laws, but I do see things a little differently, I suppose.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Update on John Stossel's "Stupid in America"

A while back I blogged about John Stossel's report on American schools and the lack of competition which he says is leading them to be so mediocre. (You can read my previous post here.) The teacher's unions had a hissy fit and showed up outside his office to protest. (You can read his account of the protest, including some of the really dumb things the teachers there had to say here.) During the protest, the head of the New York City teacher's union challenged him to spend a week doing a teacher's job. Mr. Stossel said, "OK." After many meetings, manipulations and hedging, the schools backed out. Apparently the the thought of Americans being able to see so clearly into even one of their very best schools was too much for them. I mean, it's not like Americans are the ones paying for this whole thing - oh wait, we are paying for it! Now, tell me why?

I know how to fix our illegal immigration problem

Here's a juxtaposition for ya: two columns about immigration one by Juan Williams and one by Mark Steyn.
Juan Williams actually claims that the pro-illegal immigration rallies we are seeing are comparable to the black civil rights movement. A couple of facts perhaps Mr. Williams failed to consider: the black Americans who fought the civil rights movement were here because their ancestors were forced here against their will and forced into perpetual servitude. Illegal immigrants are here because they CHOSE to break our laws in order to make money and gain access to our way of life. Black Americans who fought the civil rights movement were full American citizens fighting for the rights guaranteed to them by our constitution. Illegal immigrants are not U.S. citizens and have no rights guaranteed to them under our constitution, but think they should be given such rights simply because they are willing to break our laws and demand them. Black Americans were routinely murdered, disfigured and terrorized if they did something which met with white disapproval. Illegal immigrants are routinely given jobs, medical care, and education for breaking our laws. Black Americans faced (and sometimes still face) actual hatred and racism. Illegal immigrants face legitimate law enforcement. It is a grievous insult to those who fought and died for the rights of black Americans to compare their fight to the demands of people who break laws and face not death, but jobs and social services for it.
In contrast Mark Steyn points out the incredible ineptitude and inefficiency of our legal routes towards immigration and compares that with rewarding someone for coming into the country illegally and acquiring false documents.
Here's the bottom line: there is not a right for non-native people to be in our country. We have an immigration system which should be overhauled and fixed post-haste, but this does not mean that we have a moral obligation to accept that anyone dishonest enough to break our laws in order to get into the country should automatically be granted a spot at the table. Over at the Corner on the National Review Online, John Derbyshire talks about a friend from Egypt who over stayed his visa in England for a year. The man nearly starved. Here, we give you a job and after awhile say, "oh, why don't you just stay?"
Here's my fix for immigration:
1. Fix our legal immigration system. Make it easier, more respectful of families and common sense. Reduce the time, paperwork and hoop-jumping. Make it easier to move in and out of the country with a legal visa in order to accommodate those who really do only want to be here seasonally. Heck, increase the number of visas available. Stop punishing those who are willing to come into the country legally.
2. Require all companies to run the social security numbers of new-hires through an easy to use database of legal social security numbers. We have these things called computers - it's about time our government figured out how to use them. Divert the money we'd spend on building a wall or whatever towards putting this together and towards drastically increasing enforcement and penalties for companies who hire illegal workers. Once people who come here illegally see that they must either go home or starve here for lack of work, both the existing population of illegals and any considering coming here illegally will lose their incentive for breaking our laws.

We keep hearing that this is a complicated problem and therefore, we must contort ourselves and the law in order to fix it. However, whatever complication there are belong to the individuals who have chosen to break our laws and their families and to the companies who have allowed themselves to become dependant on breaking the law. It is not the government's job to fix or accommodate the problems created by those who have broken our laws. It is the government's job to create common sense rules governing the right to reside and work in our country. If this makes things difficult for a company, well it's a free market system where laws of supply and demand rule even in the sphere of jobs. If your company can't navigate a free market system, you probably need to take another look at your business model and adjust. If a family has illegal, legal and citizen members, as hard as it may be should our lawmakers ever grow up and fix our laws, they are going to face hard choices. That's not punitive, unfair or immoral. That's life. Life is hard. Ask the black Americans who fought a real civil rights movement 50 years ago.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I wonder if spinning so hard makes them dizzy

We've heard a lot lately about boy's lack of success in our education system. However, in today's Washington Post, writers Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Chait Barnett say, "hey, don't worry - the boys are fine." According to them, we shouldn't worry because the only boys who aren't doing well are the poor, minority, rural and urban boys. The boys who really matter, you know, white suburban boys, are doing just fine. Since it's just the insignificants whose boys are struggling, there's really no need to introduce dangerous notions about the inherent differences between boys and girls into our educational system. Uh huh.
Too bad even this isn't true. At the bottom of this page, you can see a table listing the percentage of undergraduates who are male broken out by race and income group. When one looks at the data, the only way to make Rivers and Barnett's proposition fit is if one assumes that all white, suburban males come from families with incomes of $70,000 or more. (They claim that among white, middle class boys, the gap between college attendance is very slight - 49% male vs 51% female - a statistic which is only true in the above $70,000 income bracket.) Since approximately 85% of white households earn less than $70,000, this seems highly unlikely. Basically what they are arguing is that the boy crisis is a myth because the approximately 12% of the United States population which is white and has a household income of more than $70,000 a year isn't seeing this so-called boy's achievement gap. Gee and to think we were all so worried! Of course white males from homes making less than $30,000 are outpaced 42% vs 58%. Those from homes making between $30,000 and $70,000 are outstripped by their female counter-parts 43% to 57%. I dunno, it sounds to me like this "boys in crisis myth" has some substance to it.
While the authors would have us believe that all of the gaps we are seeing are simply the result of race and income, what is striking about the actual data is that the gap in gender achievement for middle and upper income blacks and hispanics is nearly identical to that for whites. It is only low income blacks (and to a lesser extant hispanics) who show a significantly greater gender gap than their white peers. Of course, Madams Rivers and Barnett have made it clear that such people don't count, so let us not dwell upon unpleasant facts now.
Of course, the source of the author's incredible spinning of statistics isn't hard to figure out when you look at the rest of the column. The authors insist that there is more difference between individual boys than there is between boys and girls. (Try telling this to a classroom teacher.) They dismiss all of the brain research which has documented differences between boys and girls by comparing it to theories from the 1800's that men were smarter because their brains are bigger. They completely ignore the astonishing facts that boys account for 90% of all ritalin prescriptions and that 1 in 10 ten-year old boys is on medication for ADD. Then there's the fact that boys are stuck in special education classes at much higher rates than girls, are responsible for most disciplinary problems and on and on. Basically, since the boys who really matter (rich, white, suburban) are doing just fine, we should continue to mindlessly accept the outdated, disproven notion that differences between boys and girls will never be anything other than manufactured societal constraints.
Don't they have fact checkers at the Washington Post? This sort of amateur statistic spinning really doesn't deserve a prominent spot in a prominent newspaper.

Homeschool Prom

Here's a nice little article about a homeschool prom held outside Chicago. I loved this:

"I don't know how these people learned this," the Elmhurst teen said, motioning toward a huddle of other students bouncing to the beats of a Ciara CD. Freshman Michael Naskrent, a home-schooler whose dervish-like twirls set his loosened necktie flapping, later whispered his secret to looking so good his first time out: "I asked my mom how to dance."

LOL :) Now there's a lesson which probably doesn't have a place in most teen's schooling - learning how to dance from mom!
I thought this was telling as well:

Although some schools now require parents to attend pre-prom information sessions or mandate Breathalyzer tests for attending students, all the home-schooled teens interviewed said they had never considered drinking before the event.

I'm guessing none of the girls showed up dressed like this either. I wonder what the state of homeschooling will be when my baby girl is old enough for prom. I hope it is going strong and still fairly isolated from the problems which too many teens face and succumb to.

Theology and Truth

There's a very interesting (although slightly technical-language heavy) essay on theology and search for truth at Focus on the Family's sight for college students. The author, Michael Bauman, makes a point which I have often thought/observed myself - that too often Christians become servants of their theology to the point where they are unable to acknowledge or deal productively with anything which is contrary to what they already believe. These are people who measure truth against their own theology, rather than measuring their own theology against truth. If something doesn't fit into their understanding, then either it is simply incorrect, no matter the evidence to the contrary, or if what does not fit is from scriptures, then that scripture is manipulated, pushed, pulled and explained until it can be made to fit. Mr. Bauman puts forth his prescription for avoiding this all too common trap:

In short, we ought to be biblical, skeptical, objective and tolerant. That is, while we have the record of the very revelation of God in our hands, we must remember it will always be interpreted and applied by our own fallible minds. The Bible itself is infallible and indefectible; we are not. We try to walk and talk according to our Bibles - and we should. But, we are lisping and lame.
To such guides as we have proven ourselves to be, the best response is to be skeptical about what we hear advanced as truth and open-minded and loving toward those who advance it. We ought to listen carefully to what we are told and to evaluate it according to the best workings of our mind and senses. But, in so doing, we ought never to lose our love and appreciation for those whose words and ideas we so carefully scrutinize.

I especially like his advise about how we approach those with whom we disagree:

Theological exploration is a difficult, even dicey, matter at best - one that we must not complicate by constantly shooting at other explorers. Giving aid and comfort and modest advice to fellow travelers is one thing; to treat them like the enemy is another. This is not to say we have no enemies. We do. A lot of us just don't know who they are, and we begin to shoot at anything that moves, or at least that moves in a way different from our own. We have forgotten, apparently, that not only does our enemy move, but so also do our friends and fellow travelers.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Jobs American Senators Won't Do"

Glen Reynolds has a post up about the illegal immigration boondoggle going on in Washington. I thought this was a great idea:
maybe I should just sneak into the Senate chamber and start voting as an "undocumented Senator," one who's willing to "do the jobs American Senators won't do." It could be fun...
Where can I sign up?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My beautiful, darling, sweet daughter . . .

began our day by throwing a major fit because I gave her a cup of milk rather than juice. Silly me. A few minutes later, she climbed into my lap with her blankie and spent 5 minutes cuddling and sweetly cooing at me before toddling off to wreck havoc throughout the house. Life with a young toddler! :)

My 6 year old's math problem

The other day, I realized that I had a problem with my 6 year old's math. You see, a year ago, when I ordered a pre-algebra workbook for his brother, he asked for his own workbook. So I got him the first Miquon Math book on the recommendation of a reasonably like minded friend. Collin loves his math workbook because he can flip through and say, "look at everything I've done." The problem is, that I just realized that it's been a year, we're not done with the book (which is supposed to take 6 months) and what is being taught is completely irrelevant to Collin's math knowledge. I couldn't even tell you what the book covers as it seems to touch on a little of everything without ever going too deep. In the meantime, Collin adds 2-3 digit numbers in his head, figures out speed and time while we're in the car. He figures out how much money he'll have left in his allowance account if he buys something. He is forever figuring out how many days until his birthday, Easter, the baby's born, Halloween, his eighth birthday and so on. He probably spends at least 10 minutes a day figuring out how long it will take him to save enough money for some toy, given that he gets $4 every 2 weeks for allowance. And what if he gets a twenty dollar bill for his birthday? He figures out how long it is until some TV show he wants to watch, what time it will be when dinner's ready if dinner is 15 minutes away and it's 6:20 now. He takes money from the coin jar, sorts it, counts it, adds dimes to nickels to pennies to quarters and then tries to convince me to let him keep it. He figures out what year something happened if it happened so many years ago and even has use for the occasional fraction. I really think he devotes a good 30 minutes a day just to figuring out various numerical problems. In the meantime, a couple times a week I hand him a workbook which is having him use "greater than" or "less than" signs to indicate which number is bigger for 6 pages. Why am I wasting my kid's time like this? I think I'm going to leave the darn book in a corner somewhere. If he really wants it, he can get it, but I'm not pulling it out again. While I know he enjoys having a workbook, I think that next time he asks about his math, I'll just offer to teach him something new without it. Now I remember why I never wanted to bother with a math curriculum with my oldest son. With him, we just sat down anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week, learned to do various math functions and moved on once he got it. Sometimes if he got stuck, we'd just not do math for a while. When he was almost ready to move into pre-algebra (a couple months into 4th grade), we spent time just practicing in order to help him memorize his math facts and get better at paying attention to details. It seemed to work just fine for him, and certainly was more useful than that goofy workbook I got for Collin!
Oh, I also figured out why we're not done with the darn thing yet - you're supposed to do it every day! Duh! Now why would I want to do that? ;P

Words of wisdom from Steve Jobs

This is almost a year old, so perhaps some of you have already seen it, but if you haven't read Steve Jobs' 2005 graduation address at Stanford, you should. His brief description of dropping out of college to learn seems especially pertinent for those of us who are homeschooling our kids. My favorite part though, because it speaks to where my family is right now is this:
"you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
We've all been taught to "begin with the end in mind" which is generally good advise. However, this presumes that we actually know what the end is. Sometimes we just need to do what we know to be right today, even if we cannot see how things can possibly cometogethere in the end.

TV and learning

Earlier this evening I had a very interesting conversation with my 10 year old son in which I was forced to flesh out and defend my ideas regarding the television as an educational tool. I thought I would share what I came up with here. First of all, my 10 year old son LOVES television and always has - it's one of the things he inherited from his dad :P I think that watching television makes brain cells drip out your ears. However, I must admit that my son learns a lot from watching documentaries on the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, History Channel, National Geographic Channel and such. In order to maintain complete control over their television viewing, I have every single channel and show locked and nothing can be watched without my husband or I putting in the code to unlock it. Tonight, my son came and asked if I could just unlock the educational channels, since he learns so much from them and it's a hassle to have to convince me to unlock something for him every time he wants to see something.
I told him no because while the shows he watches are educational, they are only one way of learning things, and not even the best way of learning things. He responded that he thought they were a great way of learning lots of things very quickly so I should be happy to have him watch a lot of documentaries. To explain to him why this was not so, I used the analogy of an athlete training for his or her sport. An athlete follows a well-rounded program of conditioning rather than spending all of their time simply practicing their chosen sport. If they spent all of their time just practicing their sport, or just doing aerobics or weight training or whatever conditioning techniques they use, they will not perform as well as someone who does all those things. The same is true of different ways of learning. When one watches television, one is passively taking in information. However, unless we also spend a lot of time learning how to work with information, apply it to problems, understand how it relates to other things, how to use it to create something new and so on, the information isn't anymore useful than water sitting in a bucket. In order to know how to work with the information, we need to read, write, solve problems, make things, experiment, create theories, talk to other people about what we think, argue, defend our ideas, explore and so on. Time spent watching television, while it may have a limited role in education, takes away from time spent doing all these other, more productive endeavors.
I almost had him, but he wanted to know how reading a book was any different than getting the same information from a television show - after all, I never put limits on his reading. So, I explained how reading a book is different than watching a TV show about the same subject. With a book one has to visualize what is being describe. You can skip over parts which are not interesting to you or flip to another part of the book to find exactly what you want. You can put one book down and pick up another on the same subject to fill in any gaps or get another perspective. With TV there's no ability to stop, check another source, skip over parts, re-arrange the order in which the information is taken in and so on (we don't have TiVo, obviously). When watching TV, one can't do anything other than take in whatever the show's producers decided to put into the show, from their point of view, or walk away.
I'm not sure I completely convinced him, but I did stump him, so he dropped it. Of course, I think that even if I could scientifically demonstrate that watching TV really did cause brain cells to drip out your ears, he would still want to watch as much television as possible, so convincing him was probably never a realistic goal. In the end, while I do know that my son learns a great deal from the documentaries he does watch, I'll not be unlocking whole channels anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Christian Homeschoolers

I went to a church once where a pastor told a joke about two ministers who happened to be seated next to each other on a plane. After settling in, they introduced themselves and discovering their shared profession, set about discerning what their seatmate was all about. Down the list of topics they ran, "bible: inerrant or not, salvation: grace or works, baptism: full immersion or sprinkling" and on and on. The ran through dozens of potential problem spots of the faith and became more and more excited as they discovered that they were in agreement on them all. Finally, one proffered, "lectern: wood or Plexiglas." "Plexiglas," replied his neighbor. "Heathen," the first man muttered and turned away.
Being a homeschool mom I run into many religiously oriented people. Unfortunately, this joke could well have been told about many of the moms I run into rather than about ministers. One almost hates to open one's mouth about anything remotely religious, even when your Christian faith may be the thing dearest to your heart because inevitably, you will express an idea or opinion which doesn't pass muster with such people. Just try walking into a religious homeschool support group and saying that you do not see the teachings of evolution and Christianity as being incompatible. Odds are, your children won't get many playdates from that group. Then tell them that you don't think the "sinner's prayer" is the key to opening the door of salvation. At best you'll have many people working to ensure that you are "saved". I can come up with dozens of examples of things which can and are used to write you off as not believing the right things and therefore, not safe to spend time with or just not someone to take seriously.
I know that these dynamics are at work in many parts of our society, but I think they are amplified in the homeschooling community. Many people choose to homeschool specifically so that they can transfer their specific belief system to their children. Obviously, such people attach more significance to their belief system than others who may believe essentially the same things, but don't see the need to take such a radical step as homeschooling in support of it. Also, some churches have cultivated a real community of like-minded homeschoolers and may actually encourage their members to homeschool. While this is wonderful, it does create a social pressure not to fall out of line with the common thinking - since it is the common thinking which brought you together, getting out of line can almost inevitably leave you out of the group, bereft of the support system which made the leap to homeschooling seem do-able to begin with.
While I really do understand the different dynamics which can foster unease and division between homeschoolers who hold different doctrinal beliefs (many more than I've spoken of here, BTW), I think this habit is problematic spiritually, communally and practically. The spiritual problem is, in my opinion, the most serious one. The message Jesus actually communicated more than any other was, "don't be afraid." However, many Christians live in fear. They are afraid that their children will be poisoned by any contact with the corrupt aspects of the world we live in (I'm speaking of contact with, not immersion in) and end up not knowing what to tell their kids when a relative or babysitter does something which is immoral as they don't even think their kids should know such things happen. They cannot tolerate those who believe different things than they do and feel that they must always choose right and wrong and shun wrong (and the people who believe "wrongly"). The idea that each of us is responsible to God alone and that God alone can judge takes a back seat to the need to "know right and wrong" as Adam and Eve sought to know right and wrong. What is missing from all of this is a trust that God is big enough to handle whatever dangers we may come across. God is big enough to protect us and our children. That God can and does do what he promises and will "work all things together for good", even if the path gets a bit scary at times. It's like many Christians think they must stand alone in the spiritual wars which plague this existence and are only rewarded with God's presence and approval upon the successful completion of battle. That's not what God says. Jesus tells us, "In this world you will have troubles, but be brave, for I have [not will , could, would like to, might if you make me happy] defeated the world." He says, "I will be with you until the end of the age." God is not sitting on his throne, waiting to see if we do a good job, using the tools He provides us. Paul says, "In Him we live and move and breathe and have our being." We are not fighting these battles, "It is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me" - and it is Christ who has already won these battles. Why the fear, people? Why the need to fear and shun and judge? Is this really a reflection of faith in the mighty work God has done for us? He did not die and win the battle so that we could go out onto the battlefield of life to fight for his approval!
Then there is the point where our spiritual well-being meets our need for community. Because we know that we will be judged and either welcomed or feared based on our beliefs, many people are driven to demonstrate that they do, in fact, hold the correct beliefs in ways which run contrary to scriptural instructions. The people Jesus criticized most harshly were those who exercise their faith in ways which are meant to be seen by others in order to gain acceptance or admiration. If you look around a group of homeschool families, you are likely to see explicitly religious shirts, hear scriptures quoted in casual conversation (complete with chapter and verse) and a fair amount of name dropping of respected church members or Christian teachers. This is not to say that one cannot be open about one's faith, but come on - when was the last time someone came to the Lord because of someone's t-shirt or bumper sticker? If anything, many people have been repelled by such things. Most of these explicit displays of religious belief really are more about affirming one's self and letting people know, "I'm one of you" (or conversely, "I'm not your type, so please keep your distance").
Finally, there are practical problems. We are called to be salt and light, yet when even those who desire good, want to teach their children, want to reject the sorrid culture around us, know they are likely to be judged and rejected, we are like the stagnant water God will spit out - not refreshing cool waters or useful soothing warm waters. We are doing a disservice both to the kingdom and to the important work we are doing in creating alternative communities for people to find sanity and safety for themselves and their children in when we approach one another with fear, judgment and rejection. So, my plea to those in the homeschooling community would be to be more aware of how you are handling yourself and conducting yourself as you move about in the world. When people who are not part of your "group" see you, are they afraid or attracted? Is your need to separate good and evil greater than your instructions to love? When meeting someone who doesn't believe what you do, do you automatically fear this person's beliefs or are you secure in knowing God can handle it?
I think that the homeschooling community is doing really important work for our children, for society, for our families and even for the kingdom. However, I think we could be doing so much more if we would let go of our fears and need for judgement and approval. God is too big for us to try and constrain him like that.

"generation 9/11"

Over at the Phi Beta Con blog on National Review Online, Guy Benson who is a student at Northwestern University recounts a very interesting anecdote:
In a literature class last month, one of my professors asked our class to think of a moment or event that most defined our generation. The very first response from a student was, "9-11." The professor was caught off-guard. "I hadn't thought of that," she admitted. "How many of you would have said 9-11?"Almost every hand in the room shot up.
Perhaps I'm just looking at things through rose-colored glasses, but it seems to me that more and more pressure is building on academia as a result of out-of-control tuition increases, lefty-professors and a concern over quality. I think that this sort of disconnect between the cloistered world of professors and the rest of the universe may well prove to be their undoing. If you are not aware that 9-11 is the defining event of the last 20 years, then you are already obsolete and irrelevant. What is left for the rest of us is to figure out ways to usher this generation of moribund, immoral unseeing folk out the door. Then again, perhaps what's funny is that I see the undoing of academia as a good thing!

Daylight Savings Time and Homeschooling

One thing about Daylight Savings Time and homeschooling is that there just isn't much external pressure on us to adjust to the time change. So now our schedule's an hour behind. That's kind of a problem since we tend to run about an hour and a half behind the rest of the world anyways. Lunch at 1:30 and dinner at 6:30 are one thing, but lunch at 2:30 and dinner at 7:30 seems to be a bit much. I suppose we'll have to resort to using an alarm clock for a week or so to re-set our schedule. Ah - the struggles of being a homeschooling family :P

Monday, April 03, 2006

One for the "Duh!" department

On, they're reporting on a study which found that "Sexually charged music, magazines, TV and movies push youngsters into intercourse at an earlier age". They think this is because being surrounded by such media influences create a "norm" of early, frequent, fun and consequence free sexual activity in the minds of young people. Gee - ya think?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Raising independent kids

Just last week at the YMCA, I watched my 14 month old daughter wander away from me to greet people walking into the building (and maybe figure out an escape route) and I joked with my friends, "It's so sad how kids never learn to become independent unless you put them in daycare." I, of course was being completely sarcastic. Unfortunately, there seem to be some people who actually think this is true. Over at the Washington Post, there is a blog about working and stay at home moms by Leslie Morgan Steiner who just wrote a book called "Mommy Wars". In today's installment, she actually writes that only a stay at home mom could coddle her kids enough to prevent them from becoming independent based on a conversation she had with a friend. Apparently her friend who is a stay at home mom is a complete freak who thinks that by telling her daughter that she will put her to bed every single night for the rest of her life she will ensure that the child never ends up in therapy. Obviously, this is both a bizarre claim to make and completely not typical of stay at home moms. Ms. Morgan Steiner, however, takes this one odd ball and declares her life as a working mom superior for creating independent kids because in the chaos of their lives, she can't be as controlling over her kids as us control freak stay at home moms. Isn't it well past time that this ridiculous stereotype was put to its proper death?
There are two problems with this stereotype. The first is that it's simply not true. If anything, because we're not scheduled to death, my children are responsible for large portions of their own time. They have to figure out what to do with themselves without the constant structure of schools and after-school programs and lessons, practice and what not in the remaining few hours of the day. One of our objectives in homeschooling is that our kids will be the sort of people who can figure out what they want to do and how to get it done rather than people who wait to be told what to do. Having the freedom which me being home and us homeschooling allows us gives them a chance to learn just this.
The second problem with this stereotype is that it completely ignores the high price of having kids who are not supervised reasonably. Research has found that kids who are so "independent" that they are left alone after school are far more likely to use drugs or alcohol, be sexually active, and have other problems. (For a good review of how our daycare-make 'em independent of parents-latch key kids mentality is hurting kids, check out Mary Eberstadt's "Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes ".)
Another thing I have noticed about these "kids with stay at home moms are clingy and overly dependent" conversations is how callous people often are to the legitimate needs of children. 30 years ago, a kindergarten teacher knew that for the first few days of school she would be dealing with a class full of unhappy kids who wanted mommy. This was seen as a perfectly normal "right of passage" and dealt with. Today, the kindergartener with the stay at home mom who is unhappy about mom leaving him/her at school is used as an example of how having a stay at home mom creates clingy kids. How is it that we are so callous towards the needs of our kids that a very small child, a good 13 years away from adulthood, is seen as flawed if he/she hasn't gotten over being left by mommy at the ripe old age of 5? When my son was in a government school for kindergarten, some teachers actually said they preferred kids who came from a daycare setting because they were used to being in a more institutionalized setting and not being able to do what they wanted. Sure it's easier for the teachers, but what about the kids? And I'm sorry, but I don't think either being able to leave mom and dad at a very young age without any distress and accepting another person controlling your time are traits which are real conducive to becoming well-adjusted adults who are leaders and in control of their own lives!
Yes, we all want our kids to grow up and be independent. However, let's not pretend that kids aren't kids and don't need their parents around to raise them. People sometimes ask me how I can homeschool 2 kids, care for a baby, and keep the house running (however feably) and have time to blog. It's really because I have independent kids who I don't need to spend 100% of my time "interacting" with. I'm here when they need me, and I'm aware of what's going on so that I can step in when they need help or correction, but they are perfectly happy to spend a good part of their time doing their own thing. They don't need to be clingy - they know I'm here if they need me, will step in and make them do things when they don't want to and that it will be the same tomorrow. That's the reality of stay at home moms raising independent kids!

Funding Higher Ed

In the past, I have posted about a column proposing that colleges no longer receive funding directly through the government, but that money be given directly to students to purchase educations and about the state of Colorado's attempts to do just that. While I'm sure there are still many, many hurdles left, it appears that this may be an idea which has a chance of catching on. On the Phi Beta Con blog over at the National Review Online, Candace de Russy reports that in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the President of Miami University proposes privatizing public schools and providing government funding directly to students as a way of addressing "the deep structural problems in public universities." Ms. de Russy also reports on a similaproposalal by a member of the secretary of education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. All in all, I think this is a good idea. However, my one concern is that it might be easier for the government to cut funding to individuals or put onerous income qualifications on funding, which would be counter-productive. I'm not generally a big one for government programs, but after WWII and pretty well through the 70's and early 80's, government funding of colleges (particularly through student aid programs) played an important role in the rise of a strong American middle class and opportunities for economic mobility. I think that proposals to give students control over the spending of government support of college educations would put market accountability into our crumbling higher education regime as well as allow the government to play a positive role in supporting economic mobility and the strong middle class which our country depends on. Perhaps it's time to start agitating for these ideas before the forces that be on college campuses catch wind of this and snuff it out before it can get going.

I really shouldn't wade into this . . .

There is the most unbelievably ridiculous column up on the Washington Post today by Kevin Phillips who is promoting his book "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century". I read the Washington Post everyday, but they really demean themselves by giving a forum to such nonsense. I'd hate to see them go the way of the grey lady and become a newspaper only foaming at the mouth lefty crazies care about. This guy actually starts his column by saying:
"the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews."
Now, let me say up front, I don't like G.W. Bush. There are a whole variety of reasons for this, but his excess of religious motivation (I think too many evangelicals allowed themselves to see what they want in him and doubt he's really "one of ours") is certainly not one of them. So, I'm not come at this as a Bush apologist. However, just to show you how unbelievably stupid Mr. Phillips' premise is - his book is being published at the point where more and more religiously motivated people are becoming disillusioned with President Bush for a wide variety of reasons. Many, many people are coming to the conclusion that religious folks were never more than pawns for the president to use to get in office and whose views will always take a back seat to powerful business interests. But never mind reality - Mr. Phillips and those who are going to take his red meat herring certainly aren't ones to let themselves be swayed by little things like reality.
All in all, it is abundantly obvious that Mr. Phillips knows no real-live religious folks other than the caricatures he sees on TV. There are just so many things wrong with his premise that it would take more time than it's worth to deconstruct how ridiculous his thinking is and how completely and utterly removed from reality it is. Kathy Shaidle does a rather nice job of poking fun at Mr. Phillips over on (ack- religion! the religious right is taking over the internet - be afraid, be very afraid), so I'll just quote from her March 22 column:
American liberals have been predicting the rise of "Theocracy USA" for more than 25 years, since Ronald Reagan won the White House with considerable help from the "Religious Right". (Odd how an honest-to-God "born again Christian" Democrat's occupation of the Oval Office during the previous four years didn't inspire similar concerns...)
It's 2006, and still no sign of concentration camps for homosexuals (you'll find those in Cuba, actually). Yet nothing can dampen the Left's feverish "Handmaid's Tale" delusions of persecution . . . It's awfully sad to watch otherwise intelligent people caught up in such misguided, not to say self-absorbed, terror: the fear that somehow, someday, in ways never clearly articulated, the paranoid individual's sacred right nay, their very duty to abort fetuses, smoke pot, watch porn, get sex change operations, and marry their hamster might just might be challenged, never mind abolished, by somebody, somewhere. Theocracies do exist, of course. Attempting to escape an imaginary one, an American author stumbled upon something like the real thing. Gay journalist
Bruce Bawer was so horrified by the "Religious Right" that he fled New Amsterdam (Manhattan) for the European original. Yet the enlightened, tolerant, multicultural liberal paradise of Bawer's imagination turned out to be a seething hotbed of Muslim fundamentalism. In various European nations, he and his boyfriend were gay-bashed, politicians were murdered, terrorists were cheered and women were regularly "honor killed" in broad daylight--and, incredibly, not one of the perps was a "right-wing" Christian or white supremacist skinhead. Funny, that. Bawer's flawed, infuriating, but invaluable book about his experiences, "While Europe Slept," will receive far less attention than "American Theocracy." The chattering classes don't wish to have their strangely comforting dreams of impending doom disturbed by anything as tedious as the truth.
The fact of the matter is that Mr. Phillips and his ilk have No idea what a theocracy is or looks like. The very reality that he can make such ridiculous and demonstrably false claims, get a publishing deal and be subjected to nothing worse than people like me ridiculing him is a demonstration of how far we are from a theocracy. The fact that he can apparently move about in a world where there are no actual right-wing Christians and he must watch Jerry Falwell on TV like the rest of us must watch lions on the National Geographic Channel shows how out of touch with reality this guy is. Having a president who is a Christian doesn't make us a theocracy. Having our laws reflect the values of the majority of the country (ie Christian) makes us a democracy, not a theocracy. I'm sure it can be frustrating to live in a culture where your worldview is a minority POV, not embraced by most of your countrymen or even your president. Mr. Phillips can write a book claiming that the planet was seeded by pink aliens to harvest organs from, if he so chooses, however, what is really disturbing is that a the Washington Post would provide a forum for such flawed, illogical thinking. I would have hoped that their standards of fact and logic would be higher than that. Then again, this is a paper which brought in a plagiarist to represent a conservative POV (because there just wasn't anyone better, ya know) and was attacked by readers for providing the blog as a sop for the right. Because , well, liberal columnists exist for all of our benefit, but conservatives columnists are merely a sop. When are they going to start teaching logic in schools again?

Unschooling Blogs
Previous | Next