Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review by John John

atheist parenting books for freethinkers secular reading materials for kids
The other day a reader named Frau M. suggested that we try the book Why Don't We Go To Church by Gail Miller and Rosalind Eagle, illustrations by Angela Seear. The mini-paperback costs about $15 from, slightly over-priced but about average for micro-published books.

I ordered the book off of and John read it for me. Here is his review of the book:

I thought the book was rather well-written with educated language, simple concepts, interesting and clever drawings, and you could tell that the author has knowledge on the subject. While the illustrations aren't overwhelmingly important to the story, they do illustrate some concepts in the book. I thought it was well-tuned for children rather than for adults. I would recommend it for kids of all ages, it is probably written for kids under the age of ten.

This fifty-page book is about an atheist kid named Dan who moves to a new town and starts school with some anxiety. He worries about making friends and fitting in to his new school.  

Dan makes friends with Alex, who identifies himself as a creationist. The boys have conflicting beliefs so when Dan decides to make primordial soup for his science fair project Dan fears that his friendship with Alex is in danger because of Alex's beliefs. He is right, there is quite a bit of conflict from Alex and Dan is frequently put on the spot at school among the other students.

It was an interesting scene when Alex invites Dan to go to church with him and Dan is put on the spot for his primordial soup project.

Dan is very confused as to why the idea that life came from soup was comical to the people at the church but he eventually learns that the science of life idea is one that the church tends to fumble on. As a result, Dan becomes better informed of the conflict between scientific knowledge and religious belief.

I would recommend this book to atheist and non-religious parents who have younger children because it has some complicated ideas that have been simplified enough to explain to children.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Very Damaging List Against Homeschooling

The post that brings the most people to my blog site is called "The Case Against Homeschooling".  Are these folks coming here looking for a case against homeschooling?
I'm happy to provide!

I'm not the slightest bit afraid to talk about those subjects that might expose the negatives of homeschooling.  Because, in spite of them, after all, it's always a choice.  

For goodness sake, parenting is rife with choices from morning until night!  How to educate, feed, raise, discipline, guide, let go of...decisions all over the place that each parent must make somehow.  As for the negatives below,  I have found, after twelve years of homeschooling, that almost every single thing on the con list below, somehow becomes a pro of homeschooling at some point!

I'm going to offer this little expose' in honor of all of those children and families who are about to begin and who want the total, unhidden, balanced truth.

This is my writing and I offer it as such, my story.

  • We live in a neighborhood with elderly neighbors, most of whom have lived in the same home since having it built forty years ago.  We have no children in our neighborhood except for the unkind kid who verbally attacks John every time they get together (isn't that boy nicely socialized?) and the other kid down the street who is the drinker and smoker.  We care about this second boy boy alot, but the kids don't want to hang out with him much; sometimes they still do. 

    But my point is that this means that we are ALONE.  We don't have a single neighborhood friend to play with.  While this isn't, specifically, a homeschool issue, it does effect our homeschooling experience because, unless we leave the house and drive, we don't get to hang out with kids daily.
  • The kids don't see other kids every day.  We see them often, maybe 2-3 times per week, on average.  Much more some weeks, less others.  However, this is not socialization, this is socializing. When we do get together with friends the time spent together is very in-depth and meaningful, usually.

    As for socialization, my daughter is in her first year as a dually-enrolled homeschooler at the local community college and her instructors have all commented on how mature and dedicated of a student she is AND she has made some fun friends quite easily. Today, TODAY she asked a guy for his phone number and he gave it to her.  ;)
  • Our house is a mess.  We are here in our home far more than most families.  Messes multiply around here.  We have more books and games and stuff than we need.  Mostly books.  Activities are spread all over my house as I type.  Several people are involved in several different activities that require space and time. So it's messy, but busy.
  • Homeschooling takes time.  Your time, parental time.  As the mother and major homeschooling parent in the house, I spend a great deal of time on planning, researching, and more planning.  It takes organization and a great computer.  There is no way around the need for planning.  

    Being a homeschool parent requires  footwork to find what’s available in the community, figuring out how to get information on your own, knowing how to access people who can answer your questions, and knowing how to communicate well.  These are are essentials skills of being a homeschooling parent. Being resourceful is essential.
  •  Can you support your child as they are?  They will be with you 24/7.  Can you honestly embrace the person that they truly are?  Homeschooling is like putting every problem into a pan and boiling it down.  Soon the problems are all that you can see...unless you find a way to commit yourself the the children that you have. You have to accept them so that they can accept themselves and move successfully into life.

    For many parents, this is the exact reason why they do homeschool, so that their children can experience acceptance and encouragement for who they truly are.
  • I don't know everything about every subject.  Again, planning, researching, planning.  Time well spent, but time, nonetheless.

    AND my kids can do math in spite of me.
  • Not everyone approves.  Can you remain dedicated to a lifestyle that often takes hits from family and friends and media?   People will disapprove without having the slightest understanding of it.  It is a lifestyle choice that people feel the need to give their two cents on.  Overall, people are very supportive and admire us.  But there are those folks who can't accept it.
  • Some learning objectives work best in group environments.  Homeschool groups and co ops are useful for many different types of these objectives, but there is still organization and planning involved. With a little initiative your kids can and will have some of the most wonderfully meaningful group experiences ever.
  •  Did I mention cost?  Some homeschool families spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on materials and optional experiences.  This type of cash outlay is not necessary.  I know very frugal families who homeschool extremely successfully.  But, as we all know, some great activities cost money.
  • When the kids are unwilling to work, this shows itself in many different ways, little gets done.  Lessons require a certain amount of willingness on the part of the child.  If your child is less-than-motivated, it's not much fun. Just like if they were in school.
  • Homeschooling parents have less free time or child-free time.  Privacy?  I get some, but I have to create it.  It's all about balance.  As a homeschooling parent, you will have to figure this one out.  Parents always need to figure this one out no matter how their children are educated!
  • Homeschooling through high school requires some more...YEP, research and organization and creativity.  People homeschool through high school every day, including my daughter!  It works.
  •  Homeschool families can be marginalized, demonized, and, generally, be treated oddly.  Living outside of the box is an honest expectation for families who choose this lifestyle.  Homeschooling parents learn to cheer lead whenever the need arises. At some point this outside of the box experience will become a point of pride...once you can let go of needing approval from those around you.
  • For some parents, the doubt comes and goes, but never really disappears.  It's the nature of the individual that matters.  I know of several parents who are constantly on edge about homeschooling while other parents I know are the freaking paragons of placidity!  Homeschooler's angst can be like having the world's worst friend in your own head!

    I'm pretty sure that this is more a personality issue than a homeschool one, specifically. But I mention it because our own personalities are very much a part of our family lifestyle.
  • There are no overseeing bodies to reprimand, guide, or support you.  So, you are, truly, on your own.  This can freak some folks out.  For others, it is a comfort.  I love it, but as first I was frightened.  It took me about a year to truly appreciate this part of homeschooling; having other homeschoolers to talk with made all of the difference. Now this is one of my favorite things about homeschooling, knowing that our decisions are our own and that our children are being educated with sense and reason rather than the fear that school standards reflect.
  •  Accepting the fact that children learn at different levels and different speeds.  They actually do.  Even when they are in school.  But it's more obvious in homeschooling.
  •  And, it is up to YOU, to your family, what gets into their lives.  Talk about a panic sandwich with guilt on top.  Very often you are going where there are no roads.  Get ready to steam your way down a path of your own construction. homeschooling. Believe me, you will be empowered!

That's my honest list AGAINST.  Being a parent means being constantly on the look out for the best thing for your child.  I hope this list helps.  I hope you realize that this list is intended to let you know, up front, some of what you will have on your place if you homeschool.  I hope the list doesn't turn you off...just be more informed! 

What About Socialization? 

Nope, I don't think that's a problem.  

Honestly.  When we get with kids, 
we experience the exact same things every group of kids does.  

The kids learn sharing, what a bully looks like, conflict resolution, 
popularity, peer pressure, etc. 
and the kids are just...normal.

Have I missed anything?
What "negs" would you add to this list?

This post is an encore post
and, as it happens,
not very damaging at all!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Do You Know What to Teach?

How to homeschool, secular homeschool beginning homeschool

How do homeschooling parents know what to teach their children? 
 (i.e. what curriculum, what publishers, which grade level, etc.)

That is the right question!!!

Before you purchase curriculum, do some homework! There is a lot of curriculum available to homeschoolers and it can be overwhelming and expensive if you don’t do a little research first.
What does your state recommend?  Look at the homeschool laws in your state using the Homeschool Legal Defense Association at this link:

At that website you will find so much information, you might just want to spend an evening reading on that site!

After that, think about why you want to homeschool.  Are you concerned that your child is “behind”, “ahead”, “lost”, not getting enough, getting too much, or the many other reasons that a parent might begin looking into homeschool.  Think of those reasons.  Materials are available for the struggling learner as well as for the motivated learner.
  • Do you have a scope in mind?  An array of materials that you feel are the right materials or subjects at this time?
  • Do you want materials that will tell you what to say?  Materials that are designed to walk you, the parent, through the lesson, and give you the words you need to explain clearly?
  • Do you want to proceed with “outside of the box” or non-mainstream ideas?
  • Do you want to work on lessons for hours each day?
  • Is your child ready for independent work?
  • Does your child prefer “hands on” materials, doing it themselves, being read to, lectures, reading independently?
Have you seen the Rainbow Resources catalog? When I used to shop for curriculum I would spend days looking at this thing! When our family first started homeschooling, the Rainbow Resources catalog was about a quarter of an inch thick. The last time I had one in my home it was about an inch and a half thick! Not much secular materials though.
Times have changed and homeschooling materials ABOUND.
All of these questions and more are a good place to start as you begin your search for your own style of homeschooling.  Some parents feel free to pick and choose materials from across the spectrum; some parents choose a “boxed” curriculum; some parents do not purchase specific materials at all.

You Don’t Have To Make This Decision Today.

I give you permission to take all of the time you need to look at the various lines of materials out there.  
  • Take as much time as you need to familiarize yourself with styles of learning.  
  • Take the time to work with and talk to your children and figure out together what WORKS with them and what direction would they like to go.  
  • Furthermore, get out there and make every effort to meet other homeschoolers, learn from them, talk to them, and ask every one of your questions!
LOTS of website out there that appear to be informational are often disguises for selling materials, so watch for that. I strongly believe that you need NO MATERIALS AT ALL to begin homeschooling.  None.  That’s right.  It can be totally free.

Let go of the fear this moment. Go read with your child.  And allow yourself all of the time you and your child need before purchasing or acquiring any materials at all!


How to homeschool parents know what to teach their children?

By taking the time to listen and to learn.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sing it Back to Me

depression and homeschool
I'm a bit of a depressive, have I mentioned that?

I have been struggling with it a bit more than usual lately, probably because of the weird sleep crap that I deal with regularly and partially due to the crazy schedule that we have been keeping around here. 

It's not a thing to worry about, just to know where I am with things.

The kids and I have been talking about it quite alot because it effects them dramatically. Jerry has been so helpful and supportive. I can't help but think that I might not be as wonderful about it as my husband is...

As for being a homeschooling family with a depressive mother, you can see from the openness of my blog that we do quite well. I have those periods, few and far between, fortunately, when the depression tends to get me down for a few weeks.  I'm experiencing that now.

In order to deal with it, the kids and I have made plans for their daily schedules. We have so much going on, as usual, and I don't want them to have to miss their activities because of my need to hibernate a bit. Though they, too, appreciate some down time.

We still get some lessons done. I enjoy reading and studying and the kids and I actually enjoy these days when we are home and quite intimate. We have been following interests with documentaries, books we are reading, discussions, and general quiet activities that stimulate our brains.

Also John has had a friend over to the house for sleepovers and these boys absolutely enjoy one another! Elizabeth is getting to school and work independently. 
We're handling it.

I may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
But, for now, thank you to my readers here.

You bring me joy.

Do you have a chronic condition that makes it difficult 
to homeschool or to simply PARENT?
How to you handle it?
What is difficult about it?


After doing a small amount of research, 
I'm SURE my symptoms are created by the Prednisone I am taking 
for my poison ivy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mandalas, Harmony, and Time

When our family returned home from Brisbane about six months ago I knew it would take us some time to adjust to being back home when we felt like our home was over there. I can admit it: we have trouble with change!

Elizabeth and John had such different ways of handling the drastic switch and if you have read this blog for any length of time you know that a great deal of thought went into adjusting.

If your family is planning on a major move, I highly recommend planning for the adjustment period. Give it time. Recognized the need for acclimating. It takes longer than you might expect.

In the meantime, now that we were home, Elizabeth was struggling to adjust.

Those many months ago I printed out about a hundred mandalas, bought her some fun pens and markers, handed her her iPod, PC, and pillow, and let her at it.  For about a month she could be found laying, sitting, leaning, coloring.

Some people didn't understand me allowing, encouraging her to take this time, and that is OK.
But this adjustment period allowed her to be in her head and in the world at the same time. It allowed her time to have friends contact her, family to visit, space in the house to adapt, and her heart to heal.

Six months later and those mandalas are still on our mirror wall in the front room, greeting visitors as they enter. Almost everyone exclaims at their beauty and creativity.

Helps Elizabeth to feel ....... at home.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jazz Hands!!!!!!!

Tonight: Elizabeth's Opening Night of Your Guests are Ghosts

Back in a few days!

Linda Garrett (Director), Elizabeth (Lin), and Ann Tschoe (Myrtle)

Live Today: Inhabit this Moment

This is performance week for Elizabeth's show and that means, of course, that I am crazy busy. I haven't been able to do much with lessons with John for a few weeks now so he and I have a system.

I leave a list of chores and lessons for him to do independently and we check them out each afternoon or evening when I am available. It is working out nicely, though John and I are looking forward to getting back into each other's days.

This week I have had him doing independent reading of some fiction, watching a US History series on Netflix, doing programming language classes with his dad, Algebra with his dad, a few chores, some handwriting, and watching TEDtalks. Takes less than two hours each day.
Then he is to spend time exploring something of interest to him, not a computer game.

Today John watched a TEDtalk given by Arthur Benjamin: A Performance of Mathemagic. He was entranced and went on to watch other TEDtalks by Arthur Benjamin just for his own interest! John was impressed with Arthur Benjamin's passion and love of math, with his ability to apply it in interesting ways, and with the fact that we have watched an entire The Great Courses class taught by Dr. Benjamin called The Joy of Mathematics!

You see, when I think of homeschooling, of any schooling really, I think of it as an opportunity to light a life, ignite interest, get minds stoked! 

Giving John the freedom to explore his own interests has created such fun in our week:  earlier this week he did some magic tricks and sleight-of-hand, today he's learning about Fibonacci.

Who knows!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Frau M. Suggestions for Freethinker Titles

 atheist parenting books secular
One of my past posts that bring a good number of readers to my blog is a post entitled Books for Your Skeptical Children. Parents are always looking for more and better way to move beyond religion in raising their children and this post lists a dozen or so titles for freethinking families;  
I think it's time we had more books!

Who will write some more?!!!!!??

In the meantime, a reader suggested a few more freethinker titles for your library. I have ordered these from just this evening and I'll let you know what I think when I get them!

Do you have any more titles of tried freethought books for kids or teens or adults?

Please share your library titles below!

Thanks Frau B!

In the Moment...

St. Louis
Currently I am:

Thinking:  About my sister who has just moved to another city, bought a house, started a new job, total lifestyle change, poison-ivied  to the max, and making the changes work

Enjoying:  A week where Elizabeth has had such engaging events at school and John has been enjoying his lessons.  And I am enjoying my book The Covenant by James Michener. I am learning so much about the history of South Africa. Did you know that Pinterest is a wonderful source of images of the actual people and places and events mentioned in this book?

Wearing:  A very loose caftan-type dress so that a garment doesn't abrade my poison ivy  (yes, in an odd sisterly-sharing thing, we both have poison ivy)

Feeling:  Calm, Happy, Excited about this upcoming fall and all of the things we are working on

Needing:  I really don't need a thing.

Wanting:  I wouldn't mind a nice biscuit to go with my tea. I would also like PEACE in St. Louis

Listening:  to boys wondering if frogs can have eyelashes, even if they don't have them already

Wondering: how Jerry's meetings are going and if he is enjoying being on the planning committee for our astronomy club and the upcoming major eclipse in our area in 2017. I wonder if any Brisbane friends will make the trip up to see the eclipse with us since we went to Australia for theirs!

Making:  an embroidery piece. I have drawn an image that I like very much and I'm working on transferring it to a piece of material so that I can embroider it.

Eating:  nothing

Drinking:  a lovely cup of jasmine tea

What are you up to??????

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thanks, Hitch

My family didn't go to church when I was a kid. But things got decidedly rocky in the family my Dad decided that he needed to get us to church to help deal with the painful things going on. 

At the age of fourteen or so, I was introduced to Catholicism: Ghosts (holy and otherwise), freaky bloody hearts in the wall art, angels following us all over the place, eating the "true" body of Christ, and the lot. In retrospect I am so grateful that I was a teenager before being introduced to the dogma of the religion because I truly wanted to believe. I tried to believe. My internal nonsense meter never did stop trying to get my attention, so I was old enough to have some skepticism.

The brainwashing of the Catholic church, though, is formidable. It took me years of doubt and questioning and the FEAR of doubt and questioning before I was finally able to find my way through that crap.

For my kids, being an atheist doesn't mean much more than hearing mythologies from around the world, cocking an eye, and saying "Okaaaaaaaay...interestiiiing..." I am proud to have raised them without the brainwashing.

The kids and I end up talking about belief systems pretty often, as it turns out. One can hardly hear the news, move through the world, and be present in the United States without being bombarded by religious messages from all sides. Happily, my kids don't have to battle the internal religious guilt or the many levels of frustration with the believers of the world spreading their particular brand of "truth" and "love." While living in Australia the kids had wonderful experiences with putting their atheism out there and having friends and groups be very cool about it.

Our family is a homeschooling family. One of the lessons that we do regularly is to read biographies. In the last few weeks, one of the people we read about and listened to was Christopher Hitchens. The kids both enjoyed his particular brand of hard core atheist speak. We listened to a few TEDtalks as well as a few talks on YouTube.

The Pay Off

One weekend we hosted a family of friends in our home in Brisbane. This family had recently moved quite a distance away from us and had made a six hour drive up for a nice, long visit. Let's call these friends the Cravats. 

The Cravats are a family that practice homeopathy and that have a nice, lucrative online business for homeopathic remedies for families, pets, and livestock. The family considers themselves spiritual and maintain some pretty unusual claims in their world view.

In spite of our vast differences of opinion we have enjoyed one another's company for the most part and our children have become good friends.

One particular night during the visit, while I wasn't listening very closely to the conversation that the kids were having, I did notice the volume begin to raise and the language start to get a bit anxious. The Cravat teens were insisting that one of their claims of chakras or auras or something was absolutely true. 

My son, a thirteen year old skeptic of the highest order, listened to the volume going up and listened to these unsubstantiated claims being made by his friends. In rebuttal, in his wise little old man voice, I heard him clearly say, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

The room was silent. My son simply smiled.

Thanks, Hitch.