Friday, November 17, 2006

Misogyny in Candyland

This has bothered me for awhile. We are the happy owners of two versions of Candyland and a while ago I noticed a discrepancy between the versions. In the first version we received, there were characters Princess Lolly and Queen Frostine, in addition to King Kandy, Lord Licorice, the Professor and Mary-Ann...whatever.

Well, in the newer version we received, there have been strange political changes. Lolly has been stripped of her princessness and Queen Frostine has been demoted to Princess. So whats the deal? She was one married to King Kandy and now is his daughter? What kind of sick-reversed-Oedipal-twist is that? Maybe its so the line "hey, little girl, want some candy?" works better.

I must admit, I haven't noticed any change in the men. And Grandma Nutt looks goofy as always. So whats the deal? Women are only young and nubile or old and senile, but never equal in power to men?

I think Chess is a better game for my girls. While the King is the most important player, the Queen is the most powerful.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I thought Barbie was bad -

- and I've really got nothing against Barbie other than recognizing that my penchant for wearing tight clothes and my hair long and blonde is directly attributable to her.

I saw this link on a homeschooling list I read. It shows a model's evolution from being a real flesh-and-blood woman to being a billboard picture. The hair and make-up was a no brainer and I knew about the miracles of air-brushing. Years ago, I saw Jenny McCarthy on the Rosie show and she was drawing in stretch marks and pimples that had been air-brushed out of a poster for her. She ended up autographing it for Rosie. It was awesome. Anyway, I didn't realize that the beauty propagandists of today actually restructure the face, lengthen the neck, make the eyes bigger.

Guess we can all look like Disney princesses. Yay.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Shifting Paradigms Through Books

this is an article I wrote for the community blog, Life Without School.

Because there are so many books about school or set in school, I wanted to share books with my daughter that showed other ways people learn and have learned over the years.  School has been the norm for a long time, but it hasn't always been that way and there are others even today who choose a different way to educate. Some of the books we've enjoyed are listed [in this post]. 

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Feminine Angst?

Do you have that embarrassing "not so nice" feeling about men given recent headlines despite the fact that the men you've chosen to surround yourself with are wonderful, kind, humane, and supportive?

Nothing will make you feel more "fresh" than viewing one or all of the following movies:

Kill Bill, Vol, 2 has the most cathartic message and hones in on the male villians a bit more than Vol. 1. However, you'll need Vol. 1 in order to fully understand the story; Vol. 1 has its moments, like what happens to the orderly who pimps the coma patients at the hospital.

Dogville -- you'll have to be patient with this one, but if you're looking for catharsis, this will deliver.

Hard Candy -- "Was I born a cute vindictive little bitch or... did society make me that way? I go back and forth on that... "

Angry at Life? Angry at God?

Thats what the news says. Not buying it, try "angry at women." Its sick enough to go out and kill people, still sicker to drop your kids off at a school bus stop and go to another school and kill other people's kids -- but to release the boys and kill the girls execution style? This guy wasn't angry at life -- he could have killed the life he helped create instead of putting it on a bus. His anger at God was strangely targetted at girls -- who really don't seem to play much of a part in the major monotheistic religions.

Its disturbing enough that there have been school shootings -- worse that there have been several in the past week. But I'd love to read about the particularly misogynistic strain of killers who pick off the girls (Linda Hirshman, this means you, I know you're not busy at home taking care of your kids so you probably have the time to write up something).

Sure makes the concern that institutional schooling is feminizing our boys seem overblown when some of these schools are death-traps for our girls.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

New Class for Homeschoolers

After reading an article in The Washington Post Magazine about the efforts required to get your child into preschool and reading the class listings in my county's recreation guide, I've come to the conclusion once again that its all about money and prestige, it has little to do with what is best for the child (other than assuming if everyone else is doing it, it must be best for the child). Really, preschool, it seems, is necessary because who can go to the trouble of making playdates?

Throw into the mix all the Back to School advertisements focusing on 'fashion-musts' for the institution-bound and I'm inspired to provide what has been lacking for homeschoolers for too long.

Plans are in the works for a new Social Trauma for Homeschoolers class. Topics addressed will include: Negative Body Image; Owning Your "Loser" Status for those who have been placed in the lower tracks; and Its Not Who You Are, Its Who You Date (And What You Wear). There will be a special "Back to School" night so that parents can be take part in the social trauma as well. There will even be a silent auction because nothing says status like showing how much you're willing to pay for an item you don't need or want.

The classes for the kids will begin with putting large groups of children on buses and ostracize and torment many of them. Those not tormented will be deemed 'popular' and they will have to conform to peer expectations or face ostracism. Just like in the 'real world', in Social Trauma, even the winners are losers. We will move on to a simulated cafeteria environment in which snubs and mockery rule -- fear of being different will be the focus of additional exercises. At the end of the year, we will have a Prom, for which we will prepare the entire year, focusing on fashion, dating, and how to secure a hotel room for teenage drinking and sex. Learning will be done at home, as it usually is.

I enjoyed school, the work is easy if you're aural/visual and quick to grasp the lessons and there is a lot of drama to keep you from getting bored. I really did learn more at home, though.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Competition Makes Us Sick

I've been saying this for a long time and I just saw an article in the Washington Post, Sick of Expectations by Sandra Boodman, which says the same thing. Oh, how I love myself.

Boodman is reviewing a book, The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine.
...Levine says that over-involved parents who pressure their children to be stars -- in school, on athletic fields, among their peers -- have created a generation that is "extremely unhappy, disconnected and passive." Unabashedly materialistic and disinterested in the wider world, they are both bored and "often boring," she writes. A large number suffer from depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
I totally buy the pushy parent part -- I've seen plenty of discussions about this on blogs and have addressed the topic in mine. The results on the children are not surprising, actually, they were predictable.

The article continues with excerpts of a Q&A with Levine, who says:

I do think the parental over-involvement and level of anxiety are new. A friend showed me the Yale alumni bulletin and said they used to write about who was appointed to the Cabinet or started a company or became head of a hospital. Now, it's whose kid made the select soccer team.
Someone should tip off Linda Hirshman that she can make a case that those elite women who have let her down to stay home with the kids are actually ruining them, so these women might as well go make lots of money and ostensibly help the women's movement.

In the article, Levine points out that the parents are unhappy and that they spend their time trying to perfect their children. I cannot help but wonder why the parents don't put that time into perfecting themselves and leave the kids alone (did someone turn on Pink Floyd's The Wall? I once wrote on this blog "hey, parents, leave those kids alone" but I think I edited it out. Sometimes I can be extreme.)

From the article:
Kids aren't having the experiences that are mandatory for healthy child development -- and that's a period of time to be left alone, to figure out who you are, to experiment with different things, to fail, and to develop a repertoire of responses to challenge. They have no interior life. It's all about performance -- and performance is not real learning.
Others have said similar things -- I wrote about David Elkind in one of my posts, saying:
his point is not that kids should be sitting around 'playing' all day (the horror!), its that overcompetitive parents may actually be harming their kids when they pressure and overschedule them and don't leave them time to play, think, and dream.
I once read an article about a young boy who was stressed out because everywhere he went, people told him what to do -- at school, at extracurricular activities, even at Sunday school. He was less than a double-digit age and he was stressed because he had no breathing room.

Back to parental unhappiness, Levine goes on to talk about the lack of community support these days.

Now, people wouldn't think of going next door for a cup of coffee or to discuss a personal problem. You have to make a date first. There's nothing like that fluid interchange of support and help that our mothers had.
She's right, to some extent. But you have to be the change you want to see. If you buy into the system that kids need activities galore and must have all moments accounted for, then no one will be around. Even if you buy into the system because you're looking for people because "no one is around." If you want people to be around, you must be around first. Then you deal, or you could play with your kids (I don't, but you could). Personally, I hang out at homeschool park days, and that is the closest I have seen to a fluid interchange of support. You have to make a date and be there, but then you just be.

One thing I enjoyed in this article is when Levine starts to identify a healthy parental attitude, calling it the "involved" parent. Here is an example of the best kind of parent of the three she identifies:

Say the kid comes home and says he has a math test. The involved parent says, "We want you to do well on that test, so you need to study between 7 and 8 after dinner for an hour."
Come on, "We want" is good parenting? How about not imposing your expectations or desires on your kids? How about, "if YOU want to do well on the test"? This example even has the parent controlling WHEN the child studies. So that is what a good parent looks like, a control freak, but less controlling and abusive than the others. Seriously, read about the "intrusive" parent she describes, that's not instrusive, its abusive (I think). At the least, its highly critical.

At the end of her article, Levine asserts,

Kids should never, ever, be paid for grades. Real learning is about effort and improvement, not performance.

A good start for the mainstream, I suppose. When you're ready for it, go see what Alfie Kohn has been saying for years.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Or as my husband said, "sometimes a case can be made for canceling our subscription to The Washington Post."

I'm am greeted this Saturday morning to my darling girls working with their daddy in the kitchen to make a bowl of pancake batter. I make my coffee and oatmeal and sit down to the paper. Suburban bliss, I'm okay with that, when I lived in the urbs, life was pretty similar. Anyway, what do I see on the front page of the Style Section but a cartoon derivative of Roy Lichtenstein of a boy and a girl embracing, with her thought bubble "This summer, maybe..." Oh no. Yup, unfold and its an article about girls losing their virginity in the summer with mid-life reminisces. Can't read it. Won't read it (not past the jump, at least). Glorifying the loss of virginity as a teen is irresponsible and pointless. I really don't want to read about some woman in her 40s who lost it at 16 to a guy with a Trans Am. Ick, I need a shower.

So, while I'm not reading the article, I will fill my time with some better thought bubbles of what the girl should be thinking instead of "This Summer, Maybe..."

"Should I really, knowing that he is probably at his absolute worst right now?"

"Will I embarrass myself with the memory of his Trans Am in a major newspaper in my 40s?"

"This will really get my dad back for being a jerk!"

"This will really get my mom back for being a witch!"

"I can't wait to tell all my friends so they'll think I'm cool."

"I wonder if lying and sneaking around in order to have sex when I'm so young with someone so undeserving will have harrowing repercussions for the rest of my life."

At least this article is on the front-page of the Style section (the section which includes the comics) with an eye-catching cartoon. We wouldn't want this generation of young women missing out on the victories of the sexual revolution. And what better way to let our teen daughters know that its time for them to have sex?

Monday, July 17, 2006

She Knows How Its Done

Stephanie has an awesome post over at Life Without School on her response to the oft-heard remark by non-homeschoolers "I don't know how you do it." I did a post of my own on the same subject last year -- not as good as Stephanie's, but then, not as long, either ;-)

If you read the comments on Stephanie's post, you'll see me shooting my mouth off to "take the red pill." No, I'm not telling anyone to vote Republican, its a reference to the movie The Matrix.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Deep Thoughts at Trader Joe's

Why did they change the name of their banana-vanilla yogurt from "banilla" to "vanana"?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why School Is Wrong

Okay, maybe this will only appeal to homeschoolers or unschoolers, but its my blog. Its called Animal School. I'm having trouble with my computer playing it all the way through and this post will be a nice reminder for me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

What If I'm Not Wasting My JD -- Part 2

I updated and expanded my post and posted it over on Life Without School. I got a bit more radical this time.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Issue of Play

Do you ever read something, like an article, and then think about other things you've read that respond to it, argue against it, support it? I do, maybe because the issues important to me are so few and I read infrequently.

Today's Washington Post has an article, Kids' Game or Animal Instinct?, about play -- animals playing, humans playing -- and why its important. Of course, I love these articles because I always find support in them for my homeschooling decision. Do I need justification or do I just post these things in hopes that someone understands me? Dunno, don't care; posting to my blog keeps me off the streets.

In light of concerns about homeschooled children getting socialization, I found this particularly interesting:

So important is play in learning how to fit in with others that some studies -- of orphans tied to cribs or kittens deprived of play -- show that they are more likely to become social misfits.

There was some study that came out of Stanford months ago that suggested that kids in daycare may suffer from lack of social skills. Interesting, you'd think they would play a lot in daycare, maybe they are tied to their cribs? Dunno.

The other article I think of as I read about the importance of play are articles about schools and the battle over getting a minimum amount of recess time set as county policy. Shrinking recess in elementary school really upsets me -- kids need to run and play. Oh well, I've addressed that problem in my family, recess lasts the entire day.

Finally, have I ever mentioned that Mr. unclimber read Jonathan Frazen's The Corrections a couple of years ago and always comments on the parallels between the educational system and prisons?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

How Do You Like Teaching?

I was asked that by some parents I met on the beach while on vacation. Their daughter will be attending a private school for kindergarten for which she had to pass some test. Poor thing is going to their fourth-choice school, she failed the group interview at another one because she didn't talk. She's 5 and her lack of desire to speak in a group situation with strangers dings her from the private school. Well, I suppose some lessons are best learned early. Exactly what that lesson is, I will leave to the reader to determine.

As a homeschooler, how do I like teaching? I don't. Not that I don't like teaching, I don't teach, at least not the way I remember my teachers teaching. If there's an analogy, but I can't find it. I sort of exist around my children, watching. They constantly amaze me with their learning, especially the oldest. She has figured out that when she wants to spell a word, she simply has to recall where she read it, find the book and the word, and viola, she can copy the word. I didn't teach her that. Or did I? I think I mentioned that process a year or so ago, so either she remembered or figured it out on her own.

Suzanne came and told me that 16 plus 16 equals 32. I asked her how she knew that and she told me she figured it out on her toy abacus. Oh good, because I can't figure out how to work that thing despite several internet searches. Its probably better I didn't find any usage tips, I might have tried to teach her to use it.

She has also figured out that if she wants to use her Learning Wrap Up of states and capitals that she needs to get her U.S. map placemat to find out the capitals of the various states. Thats learning without teaching. Well, maybe I suggested that to her a few months ago as well.

So maybe I am teaching, I really never noticed. She is definitely learning, though, I notice that all the time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What if I'm Not Wasting My JD?

At a homeschooler's park day yesterday, I discussed the Washington Post piece I blogged about yesterday, with a friend. She was talking about the underlying article in the American Prospect but I haven't read it. When I went to the link this morning, I quickly bailed on the article -- there is just not enough time to blog about the minutiae in my life and read an article by a feminist scholar. Yup, and I sold my volumes of Camille Paglia at a used book store last year to buy a homeschooling book. Thats right, go ahead and cry.

As I alluded to in my comment on my last post (if I don't talk to myself, who else will?), I wonder if this view of women wasting their education and careers by being at home misses an important point. It seems the argument is that women should buy into the current corporate paradigm of power. We must work at jobs while our children are young so that we can be the power brokers of the future. Only in achieving conventional success, will we be a success, the theory seems to say. There are some nice political words for this which escape me because I've filled my brain with such trivia as my DH's preferred orange juice (Tropicana Pure Premium Original, aka, no pulp). What is the term? Subscribing to the male dominated power structure, accepting the current paradigm, what? Something about accepting what others have decided without deciding it for yourself. Maybe Linda knows.

My point is, perhaps its possible that these rich, overprivileged, educated women are looking for something better than what the corporate world has to offer. Maybe they are wrong, but maybe they aren't. Maybe these at-home mommies are the real risk-takers, betting that their careers and their lives are better off for the path they are taking (not to mention how they feel about their children).

An example: I worked as an attorney for a government agency for three years before having my first child, after which I stayed home to be with her. Now, I'm a homeschooler, a completely unanticipated turn of events for me (I always thought they were religious fundamentalists and I am not). I've only been asked once if I felt I wasted my degree. Reflecting on that conversation, the only thing I felt I wasted was the time spent talking to that person.

Anyway, what if in 15 years or so, I move on to a completely different career? What if my "time at home" helps me craft a new path because of the volunteer work I'm doing now for causes I believe in far more strongly than whether a particular imported item should be duty-free under NAFTA. Oh, I may never get my GS-14 which I may rightly deserve, but is the women's movement really worse off for that? What if I become an executive director of an organization that helps abused women? What if I become a lobbyist on children's issues? Am I a failure because my salary isn't as big as it could be?

To me, working while my children are young isn't about career advancement or social movements. Its about material acquisition and consumerism. (In a earlier blog post, I wrote about an article that suggested that at-home moms should thank working women for making the world a better place. The article was written by a woman who used to market Splenda in South America. And she thinks she was a hero of the women's movement?) I'm happy with what I have -- I am spoiled enough, I don't need more. So what if I spend my time with my kids. Whats it to you? If career achievement is blooming, can't you tolerate a late-bloomer?

And trust me, I plan to do something with my JD, even if its only to spout off at the male attorneys at the top of the current domination system. Actually, I do that now, so maybe I am a working woman.

Note: I polished this up, tried to de-inflame it a bit and posted it to the Life Without School community blog.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Concept -- there are no Mommy Wars

Being an unclimber, I'll never be the first to reach the top (okay, I won't reach the top, period). This is my explanation for the lack of timiliness of this post. A friend of mine told me about a Washington Post Outlook piece, Everybody Hates Linda (that was the headline in the print edition). I missed this on Sunday but read it today. Interesting and thought-provoking. It made me think that I'm glad I didn't post my 1996 wedding in The New York Times. Now there is a statistically meaningful sample for trends in the U.S.

Anyway, what if there are no Mommy Wars? I know many would be disappointed, but I see it as an extension of who is sitting where and with whom in the high school cafeteria. Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

If it takes a village, we are in sorry shape, folks. The village is empty.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Homeschool at Home

What a concept. Seriously, I'm doing some soul-searching about the future of our homeschool. Suzanne has just finished her kindergarten year. That sounds so odd to me -- "finished" and "kindergarten year." We never finish learning and the whole "kindergarten year" goes out the window because we don't 'do' anything as unschoolers. (Don't let that frighten you, Suzanne actually knows a lot more than if she had attended school). I let her call herself whatever she likes. She decided that 6 year-olds are first graders, so according to her, she began first grade last month. If she says shes a high school junior next month, thats fine with me.

Anyway, we've been busy this year with activities. Well, maybe about three activities a week with only one or two free days, which I view as busy. Of course, I have some friends who average about two activities a day. I'm trying to decide what we should do next year, especially since we're dropping some activities and I'm wondering if and how we'll replace them.

My husband keeps warning me that my second daughter, who is tempermentally similar to himself, is going to need a lot of attention next year. He's basically advising me not to overbook our activities.

I'm currently walking around in a muddle about my feelings regarding community, learning, and solitude. Just when I think I've got it figured out, it turns out I'm wrong. Suzanne decided she didn't want to go to a homeschool park day today. Fine, I thought, she wants more time at home. Only she then told me that she wanted to go for a walk outside and find some kids in the neighborhood with whom to play. Problem -- most kids are in school (and will be in camp once school ends) or in some form of childcare. If we want to do playdates, we have to pre-arrange them. Thats why I thought a homeschool park day would be fun. Maybe I should write the suburban mom's version of Catch-22.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bicycles and the Homeschool Dad

I was recently tipped off to this blog, Racing Union, by a homeschool mom. Her husband is part of the union, and one of the authors of the blog, I think (thus, the homeschool dad tie-in). Though the union is comprised of homeschooler and non-homeschoolers -- so anyone who is interested ought to check this out.

Why do I find this website amusing? Its posts like these....

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tough Times for Preschools

Today's front page of The Washington Post (below the fold), warned of dire space shortages at area preschools.

For years, I have heard and read about parents jockeying to get their kids in a good preschool -- sleeping in cars to ensure their place in line on registration day. This article focuses on the lack of space for preschools more so than the competitive drive of the parents. This article focuses on the immigrant population, the quotes at least come from parents not born in the U.S.

The article makes a few comments about the need for preschool --

Local officials attribute the crunch to a soaring demand for preschool, fueled in part by immigrant parents who live inside the Beltway, tend to have larger families and have become more aware of the benefits of preschool. Studies have shown that children who attend preschool generally have higher success rates in elementary school and beyond.

and this

She said the families she works with have high birthrates and are increasingly aware that preschool is an investment in their children's future.
"But when the family gets that awareness, they turn around and
there's no center," she said.

Why is preschool necessary and why are immigrant populations becoming aware of its necessity? Is it possible that someone is bullying them into thinking that they are inadequate to teach their children colors, numbers and letters? I don't know, but personally, I like William Raspberry's approach better.

But I am convinced that all the other things we do will have limited impact unless we also undertake to enhance the competence of our children's first and most effective teachers: their parents.

He has started a small program that focuses on the home:

Baby Steps, I call it, and the major aim is to help parents understand the critical value of what they do at home. We try to do it by teaching parents of young children -- birth to age 5 -- some of the tricks for getting them ready for learning and for life. And we try to make it fun.

Back to the preschool article -- it continues to address potential solutions to the dearth of preschools:

Some states have begun to consider universal preschool: Georgia has it, and Florida is working toward it.

I'm not sure how Universal Preschool will solve the problem of lack of space for preschools. Maybe the government takes over and can use imminent domain to force the reticent churches to give over their space for preschool?

Hmmmm...I wonder how those universal preschool efforts are going in Georgia and Florida? I don't think everything is hunky dory and in other states considering it, there are some serious fights going on. Certainly, universal preschool is not a magic bullet.

What goes on in preschool that is so important?

On a recent afternoon at a center on Mount Vernon Avenue, one of the two that will close, children called out numbers and colors with a teacher as their mothers looked on.
I always thought that an involved parent can cover stuff like that at home. Read about preschool and see what goes on at a typical preschool -- its not that big of a deal. Certainly not worth sleeping in a car, if you ask me. (And if you want to read about what is wrong with preschool, I wouldn't stop you) As to 'socialization' (assuming you don't examine the issue and decide there is a greater downside to preschool socialization than there is an upside), there are always playgrounds where your child can get sand thrown in her face or pushed over for a shovel.

Morena Parada, a Salvadoran immigrant who is an assistant at the center, said that enrolling her daughter Diana, 4, there has enabled her to work and has taught her daughter to get along with others.
Aha -- its a daycare issue. Lets call it what it is. An ancilliary issue -- if the government took over and provided Universal Preschool, standards for teaching and assisting would follow and if this woman didn't have the time or money to get the required credentials, she could lose her job. So much for helping the immigrant population.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Educational Philosophy from the Rafters

The Washington Post leads today's edition with a front page story on an 'alternative' high school in Maryland. Its a 'free school' in which kids aren't compelled to do anything -- no tests, no mandatory class attendence, no gold stars. And the kids are hanging from the rafters -- seriously, they put a big picture on the front page, above the fold. (If you want to see that picture, you need to click the link to the article and then click on the picture of the little girl looking at the snake and it will take you into the photo gallery. Whats up with the little girl and the snake? The print addition leads with kids hanging from the rafters and the on-line version shows a little girl looking at a snake -- how Biblical). Anyway, I'm detecting the message "If you don't compel kids to learn, they will be hanging from the rafters." The horror, the horror.

I don't see anything in this article worthy of a diatribe and that is a bit disappointing. I would like to add a bit of information about this type of school. While the article does trouble itself to mention the Sudbury School in Vermont from which the Fairhaven School, featured in the Post article, derives its educational model, it fails to mention A.S Neill's school in England and his book about it (hey, if its not American, why discuss it, right?).

Summerhill give a lot of background about this educational philosophy and even troubles itself to discuss why its not always successful with teens who have been in conventional schools all their lives. Basically, some are so trained by the stick and carrot of conventional school, that they have lost their internal motivation to learn (this can be overcome, but often it takes years of deschooling to get there. I guess it took me at least 8 years after law school.) Anyway, for those who want to go beyond the in-depth reporting of the Post to learn more about this philosophy, I'll provide a link to the Summerhill school's website, and some links to my own posts about the book, here on unclimber.

Interesting, seems Sudbury sees some differences between itself and the Summerhill school, so maybe my links miss the point. (The Sudbury School website allows for searching, which I briefly did, using the term Summerhill). Regardless, I think Summerhill makes for an interesting read.

Excuse me while my children and I climb the walls.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Homeschooling Support from Unexpected Places

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which a couple of dames try to dismantle the myth of 'The Boy Crisis,' I have found statements that I think are supportive of homeschooling, though I doubt they were meant to be.

To demonstrate the timelessness of the concern over boys in school, the authors cite a quote from the early 1900s:
In Congress, Sen. Albert Beveridge of Indiana railed against overeducation. He urged young men to "avoid books and in fact avoid all artificial learning, for the forefathers put America on the right path by learning completely from natural experience."

Well, I certainly agree, though I extend this to girls as well -- my own, in fact.

This piece does make me giggle. I don't pass judgment on whether there is a boys crisis or not, I have girls, what do I know? I have seen a lot of posts on homeschool lists about the negative effects school has had on all students (of course, that is why they turned to homeschooling). I don't think life is easy for any kids in school.

Anyway, the authors question whether there really is a crisis.
The boy crisis we're hearing about is largely a manufactured one, the product of both a backlash against the women's movement and the media's penchant for continuously churning out news about the latest dire threat to the nation.

Personally, I think its just filler until another hard-hitting, news article about the Mommy Wars is written.

The opinion piece goes on to allay any fears that parents of boys may have -- turns out that white suburban boys are just fine (phew!), its the inner city and rural boys who are having the problem. No solution is offered for their problems, it seems it is enough to know that if you're white and living in the suburbs (like perhaps much of the paper's readership), then you really don't have to worry about the boys crisis. I think I'm overly sensitive, but it strikes me as offensive that the authors suggest there is a problem and then don't address it. I'm being unfair, they simply frame the problem differently -- they see the problem as white suburban parents worrying about their sons and the solution is not to worry.

The opinion piece rounds to its point, that boys-only institutions are really not needed to address the boys crisis, because there is no boys crisis (for suburban white males).

Have you ever talked to a feminist about the value of single-sex education for females? I used to be very against the idea, feeling that society is comprised of both men and women and its good to have them together in class because you'll have to deal with them together in 'the real world.' A friend of mine (a Smith alumna) sold me on the benefits of women-only colleges -- I'm not a proponent of them, but I no longer disagree with the concept philosophically. Of course I can't, I'm a homeschooler and my old argument could be turned against me -- why don't you put your kids in school, they'll have to deal with other people throughout life? (of course, as homescholers, we deal with other people everyday, just not agemates in a cell block). The argument doesn't really work in a homeschooling context because adults generally don't act like elementary or middle school students. We may have to put the kids in high school though, since adults do tend to act like high schoolers.

But, I digress. I don't know if the authors consider themselves feminists and even if they do, they may not think that single-sex education is good for women. And even if they do, they still have a right to think its not a good idea for boys. I guess I could read their book.

The piece ends with a ringing endorsement of homeschooling (albeit unintentional):
Obsessing about a boy crisis or thinking that American teachers are waging a war on boys won't help kids. What will is recognizing that students are individuals, with many different skills and abilities. And that goes for both girls and boys.
And that is why I homeschool.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Homeschool Field Trip -- Potato Chip Heaven

We had an awesome field trip on Saturday to the Route 11 Chip Factory. (My DH found this by perusing a website that lists factory tours available across the US). Odd that its listed on the factory tour page since it expressly says on its own page that it does not offer factory tours. But you can watch guys stir big potato fryers with a rake and sprinkle salt over a trough of freshly fried chips (the bottom picture pretty much sums it up).

Of course, you could also sample different flavors of potato chips. As I asked my DH when he proposed the trip "so we're going to take a one hour car ride to go eat potato chips?"

The factory was a bit underwhelming, but its good to get out and we eat lunch at a restaurant down the street, the Wayside Inn. I impressed the maitre'd by asking if a particular piece was a linen press or a book press (thank you, DAR, for the docent training). He offered to let us see a few of the rooms after our lunch. Of course, he was hoping to sell the place to us for a future stay, but I like to think he was impressed by my interest and knowledge in Colonial period home furnishings. The building was rather neat and we got to see a well from the 1740s.

After leaving Middletown, we headed for Sky Meadow State park and walked up a hill. It was good exercise after eating all those chips, but DH took the brunt of it because Gabrielle wanted to be carried. I think it lifted his spirits when I started to hum the theme from Rocky, though I was not thinking of the running through Phildelphia scene from the first, but the dog-sled pulling training he did in the fourth. I'm sort of disturbed that I'm this familiar with the Rocky franchise.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kudos to the PR Princess

Awesome press coverage -- on the front page of the Washington Post's Style section I got a treat with my breakfast this morning, an article about Club Libby Lu. I've blogged about Club Libby Lu before, first expressing my uncertainty and later my horror over the implications of such a place.

I really can't believe this picture, in the print edition, it was three columns wide and equally tall (i.e. it was a large, square picture), above the fold on the front page of the Style section. Do the parents not realize that a pedophile would think they hit paydirt with that image for their own personal use? If they don't actually have the newspaper, its comforting to know they can find and buy the image on-line. Yuck.

Am I being overly sensitive here? Maybe my long-ago interest in becoming a sex crimes prosecutor has made me overly cautious. But there are monsters out there who like little girls, I really don't think its a good idea to be dressing your kiddie up and urging her to shake her thing in the store front of a local mall. Don't prostitutes in Amsterdam have store fronts? I wonder if they dance.

Sometimes people walking through the mall gather by the windows at Club Libby Lu to watch the spectacle of little girls: all that pink and glitter. All that flesh, too.
A woman passing by says to three blondes in tight outfits, the youngest of whom is 4: "If you're wearing those kind of clothes, you gotta shake your booty."
At least the parents are paying a lot of money for this.

They come here for the makeover parties, which start at $21.50 per girl, and they stay at least an hour, and they buy.
Well, what else are the kids going to do anyway?
Is this business of pretend headsets and pants so low the waistbands of little girls' underwear shows -- is this business a girl's fantasy or is it a marketer's fantasy? Would little girls be as satisfied to dress up like 19th-century frontier women?
Maybe. It might be worth a try. There are plenty of places where kids can wear historical costumes and learn or play. Granted, you won't find them in a mall.
Turns out that Club Libby Lu is really providing a service.
In some newspapers, Blaizgis says, Club Libby Lu has been the victim of a "feminist backlash." She says articles have suggested Club Libby Lu is "forcing girls to grow up too quickly." What she hopes to get across is the store's "sense of fun."
"We are about fun and play and pretend," Blaizgis explains another day.
Well of course Club Libby Lu is not forcing the girls to grow up, the parents are willingly paying lots of money for this. And what about those feminists, don't they realize how fun dressing up is? Are they just jealous because they have aged out of Club Libby Lu? They need not worry, why across the mall is a large Victoria's Secret where they can indulge in their own "fun and play and pretend." Likewise, when the Club Libby Luers outgrow the store at age 13, they too will have a place to go.
I just hope they don't run into any pedophiles in the meantime. I know, I'm no fun -- I guess dressing up at home with your friends doesn't hold the same thrill. And its free, so no one knows how much money you are able to spend on your child's birthday party.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

From Our Favorite Libertarian

Here's a link to Crippling Competition by the unclimber's favorite libertarian homeschooling dad and former General Assembly candidate. We have enjoyed many conversations about education on the grassy plain while the children ran free.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Homeschooling Preschool

This is a post I wrote for the community blog, Life Without School. It may be a bit repetitive of some of my posts here and I notice the post has many links to this blog. But I wrote it and I want to link it here.

From the preschool books I read, I learned about circle time and finger play and snack time and arts n' crafts and the various areas within a preschool -- dress up, kitchen play, the 'members only' block corner, etc.  None of these things seemed beyond me.  

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Homeschooling Blogs

I haven't figured out how to do a blogroll on here yet and the one time I tried a couple of years ago, I failed.

Anyway, I want to recommend a couple of new homeschooling blogs. One is my friend, Shay's blog, Anecdotal Evidence. The other is a group blog which includes Shay, Stephanie of Throwing Marshamallows, and others (including me).

Many thanks to Robin who is both mastermind and workhorse of this project.

Worthwhile Political Causes

My husband saw this bumper sticker:

Stop Continental Drift

Opera for Kids

I'm interested in learning about opera. That means my kids are, too. Well, maybe not interested, but it means I collect kids' opera materials and strew them about my house (thats the reason its such a mess). Opera has historical, story-telling, and EQ value.

I've previously mentioned my love of the Classical Kids CDs. Many in the series focus on composers of symphonies, though a couple touch on operas, like Mozart's Magic Flute, which has two CDs to its credit. Though, Mozart's Magic Fantasy, follows the story of the opera more so than Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, which includes more historical background of Mozart's life. Robbo over at the Butcher's shop shared his thoughts about Mozart's Magic Fantasy and its relationship to the original opera.

We also have World's Very Best Opera for Kids, which I've enjoyed. We don't listen to it much, though. For those who may feel thats a dumbed down version for kiddies, I will simply note that I decided to take a pass on the Beethoven's Wig series. That and I'm dealing with a husband who whenever he hears Largo Al Factotum from the Barber of Seville asks me if it makes me think of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Small steps over here at the unclimber basecamp.

We've looked at a number of picture books for kids that tell the stories of famous operas. I can't say my kids have shown much interest, but I like to have them around. I picked up a beautiful book, At the Opera, for what seemed like a bargain from Daedalus books ($10), but, alas, its sold out now.

Other books we've looked at from the library:
The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera
The Random House Book of Opera Stories
Sing Me a Story

If opera doesn't float your boat, several of those publisher's put out similar books of ballet stories (Barefoot books, Random House, Dance Me a Story). Speaking of ballet stories, we like DK's book and CD set.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How Did She Make It Through High School

-- and why does she continue to re-live it?

I can't help but wonder this about the writer every time I read another Mommy Wars article in the media. The most recent article, Moms at War, comes courtesy of The Washington Post. As I looked at the headline, my first thought was "not another article on this tired old subject." Then I looked at the author info at the end and saw that the article was adapted from an anthology. This issue is so old they are compiling anthologies on it. They probably have college courses on it in Women's Studies. Imagine the syllabus.

The author of article and editor of anthology, Leslie Morgan Steiner, is on sabbatical from her current job as an ad exec with The Washington Post. Interesting. The anthology is "Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families." Isn't this just sort of dressed-up cat fights for the intelligensia?

Back to the article, her hand-wringing is mystifying to me, she admits to a nice work arrangement and life and motherhood seem to be going just fine for her (hey, the preschool teacher compliments her on her mothering -- alleluia!). She seems to be crucifying herself on the opinions, real or perceived, of others. This is where high school comes in -- surely all her encounters in high school could not have been positive and supportive of her -- her academic standing, style of dress, extracurricular activities, choice of friends, boyfriend or lack thereof, etc. High school is a great place to learn and practice how not to care about what others think. One would think she would have evolved to the point where, as an educated, self-determined woman, the opinions of other people matter very little to her. The people whose opinions seem to strike her most deeply are not those of her loved-ones and friends, they are her neighbors and the other moms at the preschool. Where is her perspective?

What I know for certain, because I see it almost every day, is that working and at-home moms misunderstand and envy each other in the corrosive, fake-smiling way we women have perfected over the eons.

Real nice, feminist view of women there. Ironic because later she picks on men as having undesirable traits:

Aren't moms ultimately united in our quest to stay sane, raise good kids, provide each other with succor and support, and protect humankind from the overly aggressive, overly logical male half of the species?

I'm not seeing how this author's portrayal of the behavior of moms is preferable.

Motherhood in America is fraught with defensiveness, infighting, ignorance and judgment about what's best for kids, families and women.

And where would we be without the suggestion that we adopt groupthink?

Wouldn't we be far better off if we accepted and supported all good, if disparate, mothering choices?

Couldn't one also argue that should all support Bush in the war on Iraq? Wouldn't we be far better off if we accepted and supported all good, if disparate, efforts to promote democracy and end terrorism? I suppose what is "good" is a matter of personal determination, in foreign policy as well as in mothering.

She describes herself saying, "[i]n one day, I rocketed from damning the holier-than-thou stay-at-home moms to damning those snotty working ones." If this kind of instability is indicative of how moms feel, I question her assertion that working moms can change the world.

At-home moms might arguably appreciate the working moms staying late to get the big promotions, fighting to increase women's presence on company boards and the front page of the Wall Street Journal and campaigning to win elections.
A thought-provoking argument, to be sure (as in "what the hell is she talking about?"). Are most working moms accomplishing this? Another consideration -- there may be working women doing this, but there are also a lot of at-home moms who also do their parts to contribute to "campaigning to win elections." They may be more suited to grass-roots efforts because they may be able to incorporate it into their daily routines more easily.

She continues:

Without the money, the power and the loudspeaker that successful careers bring,women will never have the collective bargaining power to make the world better for ourselves, our children and all the women who can't leave abusive husbands, the ones who wear veils, the moms who earn less than minimum wage cleaning houses and don't have choices about birth control or prenatal care or any other kind of care.

There is just so much wrong there. How did women ever win the right to vote if they weren't in the workforce? Of course I need to review my history here, but I'm wondering if the working moms were the women most intrinsic to winning this right. Perhaps the author could have been a bit more sensitive to the feelings of people other than herself with the comment about veils. I'm sure she was referring to women who are forced to wear veils, not those who choose to do so out of religious devotion. As if marketing Splenda in South America is accomplishing this lofty goal anyway. I'm not sure what her point is about the moms who earn less than minimum wage cleaning houses, I guess working women help them because they employ them (and I know plenty of at-home moms who also employ them).

I suppose this snippet occurred during a break from making the world a better place:

I ran into another working mom in the hallway and spent 10 precious minutes commiserating by the water fountain. The conversation went like this:
"How are you?"
"Well, I was up at 3 a.m., nursing the baby and writing a PowerPoint presentation for the VP group that I have to give in 15 minutes. How are you?"
"Oh yeah, no sleep here either. Last night Morgan kicked me all night, Tallie peed on me, and when I woke up at 5 a.m., Perry wanted to have sex."
Sounds to me that she, just like many others (women, men, moms, dads), is simply trying to survive her busy life. I remember the working moms from my office, they seemed to spend a lot of time talking about daycare and browsing the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. These government attorneys did not free a single woman from oppression while I was watching.

Ultimately, the author's anxieties seem to all come down to a couple of statements she makes at the end of this very long article (which I ignored my kids to read -- at-home moms can be preoccupied too, only I'm the idiot who is not getting paid for it)

What puzzles me is that despite the fact that I've crafted a pretty ideal work/family situation, at times I'm still envious of the trust stay-at-home moms seem to have in their husbands and in life, a breezy Carol Brady confidence that they will always be taken care of. Some days I'd kill for a dose of their faith that neither my husband nor life will leave me stranded, destitute, unable to protect myself and my children without the independence conferred by a job and paycheck of my own.
Those are some intense feelings. She has a solution, though, right before that quote she says what should be the end of the entire issue for her:

I have to work. I wouldn't be myself if I didn't. My job (most days) makes me feel energized, important, successful -- a happy mom to my kids.
Earlier in the article, she says something similar

I have no doubt that my life, as well as my family's, is immeasurably richer due to my decision to combine work and motherhood.
Why isn't this enough for her? She has made her decision and seems to be confident in her choice.

There are millions of women in America keeping me company as I fight my internal mommy war, and very good company they are.

Internal -- bingo. Why should she be internally conflicted? She seems to be doing just fine on her own. She has examined the issues and made a decision she says is the best one for her family. End of story. Why should she care what the other moms or writers think? It seems to come down to a lack of self-confidence. I guess if you don't have it by high school, you never will. She'd do better to work on healing her own issues instead of worrying what others think of her.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Best Thing About Blogging...

is the archive feature. It is time for me to revisit Winter Weight Gain. We must stem the tide and hold fast or we will gain 15 pounds in a decade of annual pound-or-two creep.

Fear not, it is not difficult if nipped in the bud. Lets not think about slowing metabolism, inability to exercise, or the need for chocolate. Stand strong with me. Somehow we will eat less, move more, and eat small amounts of super-dark chocolate.

This has been a public service announcement.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Teaching to the Test -- Its a Good Thing

Its nice to the know that the education writer for The Washington Post uses level-headed reasoning when writing on the topic of standardized testing. He doesn't know why people demonize the idea of 'teaching to the test' but 59.2 million google hits tell him that there are a bunch of sissy alarmists out there.

So why do we still talk about how terrible it is to teach to the test? I think it comes from our fear of the unknown. Those of us who are not teachers don't know what is going on in our children's classrooms.

Why don't they know? My state's standards of learning are available on the state's Department of Education website. My county also have a website to help parents keep in the know. Is the author indicating that these websites aren't enough to let parents know exactly what is going on in the classrooms? If so, it might cause us to wonder what use these standards of learning actually have.

Why don't the parents know what is going on in their children's classrooms? I have a hard time imagining that the author is claiming to be a bad parent who doesn't pay attention to what his kids bring home from school in terms of class assignments and projects. Is it that the schools don't share this information -- shroud it all in secrecy? Well, that would be fearsome indeed.

The author continues his thinking with --
And teachers don't know what harm might come to them from the test results, as interpreted by often-wrongheaded people such as principals, superintendents, politicians and, particularly, parents.

What? Principals and superintendents are wrongheaded with regard to test results? As the managers and executives of the educational system that is downright terrifying. Shouldn't they be able to understand the test results?

If parents don't understand the test results, it makes sense to me that they wouldn't support teaching to a test the results of which they don't understand.

Why is teaching to the test so bad? Perhaps for the same reason that asking "will this be on the test" is so upsetting to teachers. It means the students aren't learning in a meaningful way. It suggests that the material isn't really understood; the students don't care about it; and they just want to get a good grade on the exam. I can't tell you how many things I learned for tests that I forgot almost immediately after taking the test, because, well, I forgot them.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

PE and Music

As I was making a purchase today at a museum shop, I asked if they offer a discount to homeschoolers as I heard them offer another customer a teacher's discount. The sales clerk was very nice and said that she would. She started chatting with me about homeschooling. Its always so interesting to hear the different responses and questions that people have when they learn I homeschool.

This sales clerk hit me with a question I hadn't previously been asked -- she wondered about physical education and music. The PE part was a no-brainer. My kids get to play at playgrounds far more than they would if they were in school. My eldest takes a gymnastics class. In nice weather, they play outside a lot with other kids -- tag and hide n' seek being favorite games.

Music was a bit harder -- what do we do for music? We listen to a lot of music -- all different kinds. Suzanne spends time with a book titled, Story of the Orchestra and has listened to the CD a bit. We love the Classical Kids CDs and they've learned bits about some major composers. We have a piano and piano instruction books in the house and I've plucked out some tunes with Suzanne though she has mostly worked on her own. I'm thinking my kindergartner has had more exposure to "Music" than she would have had if she was enrolled in the half-day kindergarten program offered at the public school in our district. I suppose some private schools may do more in the music department, but people aren't usually thinking about private schools when they ask homeschoolers these kinds of questions.

I couldn't help point out the concern that many public schools are cutting back on PE and music in order to allow more time to review before tests like the SOLs.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rethinking Homeschooling

After reading this article in today's Washington Post, I'm very concerned that I'm denying my daughters important socialization lessons by homeschooling them. I was especially bothered by this:

In the affluent McLean elementary school where she used to work, girls judged one another on whether they had a new Louis Vuitton bag.

How will my daughters ever succeed in the world, let alone get ahead, if they aren't exposed to this? I've got to stop coddling them.

In other news, drugging your kids may have a downside. Who knew? Well, maybe its not so bad.
[A] spokeswoman for the advocacy group Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, cautioned that patients should not be alarmed by the warning.

I might add that smokers should pay no attention to those little warnings on the side of a pack of cigarettes. Its alarmist and for some people nicotine is an important part of a very effective treatment for the rigors of modern life.

"[Patients] should definitely not stop taking their [ADHD] medications," she said. "They should consult with their clinician if they have questions, but for so many people these medications are an important part of a very effective treatment."

And for many pharmaceutical companies, they are an important part of an effective shareholder return. I wonder if there is any connection between advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies? Probably not.

Friday, February 03, 2006

And I Thought He Didn't Love Me Anymore...

...Robbo hasn't been around in a long time. So long, in fact, that I decided to go back to my husband. It was beautiful while it lasted.

Well, just as Mr. unclimber and I were settling down to a nice reconciliation, this pops up. Not only does Robbo seem to be showing some interest, he's inviting me into the mud-wrestling pit with some minx named Ann. Well, Robbo, if thats what it takes...

Seriously, I think it would be so much fun to go to a cocktail party filled with Ann's commentors. FUN people, I think. At least it would be a packed party, unlike my little soiree over here at unclimber. Wow, and I was worried that I'm a control freak.

Now, if you don't screw up your kid at the tender age of 5 or 4 or 3 by institutionalizing them, then, yes, you will have a Nailah. But I wouldn't believe it either if I were them. Many kids in school do have interests as diverse and deep as Nailah's, they just don't have the time to pursue them since so much time is spent lining up, shutting up, and filling in bubbles with no. 2 pencils.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Homeschooling is in the House

Its supposed to sound like some sort of party cry, but it really refers to several homeschooling bills that are in the House (and Senate) of the Virginia General Assembly. I volunteer as a legislative monitor, so thats one reason why I haven't been blogging much recently -- my computer time is spent at the LIS.

Stephanie over at Throwing Marshmallows talks about one of the bills that would give parents who don't have college degrees and who homeschool their kids another option -- an easier option for filing than they currently have. Non-degreed parents may homeschool legally in Virginia, its just that currently, they have to provide additional information in order to prove their ability to teach. In essence, the statute is saying that a college degree is proof of the ability to teach. This, of course, is laughable, some of the most ineffective teachers/professors have the most advanced degrees.

I feel strongly about this issue, I think that those who do not have college degrees should not be subjected to increased requirements in order to homeschool. Homeschooling is a big step, one not taken lightly and without a lot of consideration. There are safeguards to ensure the children are learning -- parent credentials aren't rationally related to the ability to homeschool. If its acceptable to require more from non-degreed parents, what is to stop the state from deciding that a college degree is not sufficient evidence of ability to teach? Why not require a degree in education or teaching certification or some other kind of test? Why not make the demands on homeschoolers just as insane as the demands on public school students to prove they are learning? And don't feel safe if your kids are in private school, they're next. Or maybe you can buy your way out of state interference.

A similar bill was before the GA two years ago and passed both houses before the Governor amended it to include some BS (and I don't mean a bachelor's of science) that non-degreed parents must have made a certain score on the SAT or some other test in order to file under the easier option. Basically, he destroyed the bill -- I don't know why he did it, maybe he meant well, but he destroyed it. Because of the amendment, it failed in the GA and went away, which was good since no one wanted it after he'd amended it.

I talked to an acquaintance of mine the summer after that episode and she told me she called her reps about that bill, expressing her opposition because she thinks that those who do not have college degrees should not be able to homeschool. She did not understand that the law allows non-degreed parent to homeschool and what the bill would actually do -- she thought non-degreed parents couldn't homeschool and she was expressing her opinion that it should stay that way. And she's calling her reps to weigh in on bills when she has no idea what the heck she's talking about. I'm glad she's not homeschooling despite her education degree.

If you're in Virginia and you know what I'm talking about and you agree with me -- call your reps. If not, never mind; things are just fine without your input. I know I should urge you to speak up whatever your view. I'd be all for democracy if it was democratic, but the statute as written isn't.

Just Another Reason I Don't Like School

Mr. unclimber alerted me to this post, I don't think we'll be getting that book from the library. And, no, it would not make a funny gag gift for us.

Roger writes:
I'm reminded of a story Maurice Sendak told me about a time, years ago, when he and Else Minarik (the author of the Little Bear books) were doing a school visit together. Minarik was reading Sendak's Pierre aloud to an auditorium of kids, and, as kids will, they were all soon lustily shouting along with each "I don't care!" As Maurice told it, she came offstage afterwards and said "Jesus Christ, it sounded like the Bund."

We don't do school, but I've noticed in places as watered-down as Vacation Bible School that when kids are together, mob mentality rules. Whats worse, the adults encourage it. Our openings at VBS were a pep rally to get kids 'psyched' for the day (like they really needed that considering we were going to feed them a sugary snack within the hour). First, the kids were encouraged to get noisy. Later, they'd be admonished for being noisy and told to quiet down -- and the groups would be compared to each other. "I really like the way the first graders are being so quiet." And we complain years later when the kids are so dependent on peer pressure?

Back to the blog post I was discussing. I also agree with the first commentor on the post who had this to say upon visiting a school:

I felt far too many of teachers were spending more time focusing on making the children obey rules rather than TEACHING them the things the children need--and deserve--to know.

I only excerpted a small part of the comment, go read the rest.

By the way, the blog is written by the editor of the Horn Book magazine, which is a great magazine if you're interested in children's literature. There are some interesting articles on the website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Spirituality of Locality

not my term, but I love it. Madcapmum wrote a post about it, saying in part:

In Madeleine L'engle's book "A Wind in the Door", much hinges upon a certain creature's willingness to move from its juvenile life of freedom, to its mature phase of being rooted and immobile. A child will live or die resulting from its decision. It resists, it wants its freedom, it wants to see everything, experience everything. But in the end, it is persuaded to go on, to become more through forgoing that freedom, and through its roots to bear fruit for the nourishment of others. That's what I've been called to, I think, to be still, to sink my roots deep and forgo a multitude of experience. Perhaps that isn't the call everyone experiences ( I'd be quite astonished if it was), but it seems to me that many people don't even recognize it as a possibility.

That's it, my "spirituality of locality". I haven't explained it entirely to my own satisfaction, and there are probably things that later I'll remember and wish I'd included, but good enough to be going on. I try to grow up by staying close to home.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Memories of the Preschool Decision

Three years ago, I decided not to send my kids to preschool. Of course, this has morphed into a decision not to send my kids to school -- for now, at least. I'm now involved with an inclusive homeschooling group in my state and direct my volunteer energies there. I'm also following the issue of universal preschool as it rears its head around the country. But long ago, I volunteered briefly with the Family and Home Network (FAHN). During that time, the executive director (a wonderful, friendly, intelligent, interesting woman) mentioned that she had homeschooled her kids to high school. It was the first time it occurred to me that homeschooling need not continue through the end of high school. For whatever reason, this made it easier for me to open my mind to it.

As my friends began to send their kids off to preschool, I wondered whether that was something I really wanted to do and I didn't want to do it just because 'everyone else' was. Luckily, going to the FAHN office regularly got me looking at the articles from past issues of Welcome Home magazine. I found a packet of articles about the preschool decision and read them avidly. From one of them, I saw listed in the bibliography a book by David Elkind, Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk. With a title like that, I could not resist.

Well, my interest in at-home mothering quickly changed into an interest in homeschooling, which is why I stopped volunteering at FAHN -- well, that and I had just given birth to my second child which took up a lot more time than I expected. Soon after, I started joining homeschooling playgroups and reading a lot about it. A few months after that, I started volunteering with the state homeschool organization.

Anyway, I'm on one list that sends daily tips and activities for those who choose to forgo preschool for their children. I was so interested to see one of the articles from the preschool packet I had gotten from FAHN linked in the e-newsletter. The article is posted on the Universal Preschool website.

Anyway, I was tickled to read the article again and found it just as inspiring as I had the first time I read it. If you're interested in other books I read way back then, read an early post of mine. Beware if you read any other early posts, I was very adamant that my personal choice was the right choice for everyone. I've softened a bit -- you live your life, I'll live mine.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Terror Alert Level

Terror Alert Level

Found this on a site listed on the back of a thank-you card I received.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Okay, I just wanted to share my absolute addiction to Bride and Prejudice. I'm not sure how I stumbled across it but Netflix had something to do with it, so I added it to our queue along with all my husband's gloomy-British Isles-put on subtitles even though they're speaking English because we can't understand them-stories of families who've lost a member films (Millions, Dear Frankie, and the one I left the room for, In America).

Anyway, I loved the Bride and Prejudice. Its a musical Bollywood/Hollywood adaption of Pride and Prejudice. Gorgeous sets and costumes and great music. And family friendly -- there are perhaps two references and an Ashanti dance number that don't thrill me with respect to the kids viewing, but otherwise, its great. So, I had to have the DVD and the soundtrack. Along the way, I took some Amazon reviewer's recommendation and picked up a Bhangra CD. Fun, fun, fun!

Another favorite thing was an expensive German board game I got for the kids called Bella Lanella. I'd been eyeing it in the catalog for months and was not ready to part with the money, not knowing whether the kids would like it. During the Christmas season, I felt more generous. I was really happy with the purchase. The kids love it and I find it really fun and interesting, too. However, the game is only for two players, but with a 3 and 5 year old, an adult can be involved because the 3 year old needs help (at least mine does).

Bliss out.

My Intentions

So, I've been thinking I should follow up on this since I said I would. But then I thought that I really have only one intention and that is to bring more balance to my life.

Our lives are pretty busy these days. My kids are still very young 5 1/2 and 3 and we spend most of our week socializing. I occasionally feel I should be 'teaching' more or something. Our days include hanging out -- lots of free time while I putter around doing household chores or a yoga tape. Meanwhile the kids play with each other or separately or get out some materials and do art work. Suzanne spends a lot of time reading or otherwise looking at books. Gabrielle has started spending more time looking at books. I love reading to my kids but Gabrielle is still a bit difficult and will often whine while I try to read to Suzanne. Its frustrating. I've made it very clear to Gabrielle that I don't expect her to sit and listen while I read if she does not want. She may play quietly or go elsewhere and play more loudly. Still, she interrupts. However, sometimes I can read a quick book or two. I hope that it is a phase but I also have to figure how how to deal with a dd who is maybe not so literary and more activity based.

I'd also like to balance out my emotions so that I don't react so much to the frustration and impatience I often feel.

The only other clear area I'd mention with regard to balance is the holiday season. We had a great holiday, but it was too busy and overwhelming -- I'd like to calm that down a bit and enjoy things more. I look forward to reading more of Stephanie's posts about the holidays.

Namaste -- or as my brother-in-law says "you're nasty."