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."