Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Care About Crystals

atheist parent  blog
This week on social media I have seen a meme, piece of clip art, whatever you call it, that is actually upsetting me. I don't know how much you are on social media, but it can be a cesspit of innuendo, uninformed rioting, super bad science, pseudoscience, mythology, bullshit, and unarguably the worst source of breeding, progenitor-type nonsense. And once one person shares some meme of questionable voracity, everyone shares it.

It makes me feel corroded and drained...and I just remembered that I recently told you how I felt such a strong need to post And Now for a Moment of Science on my Facebook so often. But it's not enough.

I have already whittled my Facebook friend list down to bare essentials +essential family. Yet memes like this one still appear on my feed:


Yes, grown ups, get out your collection of crystals
 with differing vibrations and cleanse them.

As Rachel, a woman on an atheist parenting group that I participate on at Facebook, said:



And why, you might be asking, do I care? Live and let live and all of that. This type of belief isn't hurting anyone!

Why Do I Care?

I care about this because so many of these people are adults with children. They are raising kids and passing this nonsense on to their waiting children, thereby crippling the minds of these children. I care because one of the smartest sciency kids I know just told me yesterday that she does not NOT believe in ghosts. I care because this crap is all over social media and is treated as fact. I care because ADULTS I know actually believe in genuine freaking guardian angels. I care because the weight of time and space this kind of thing gets is enormous.

I care. But what can a person do?


  Maybe I'm too grumpy to write about this... 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Camp Quest

Atheist parent, camp quest
Camp Quest (noun): 1. Summer camp beyond belief! 2. A place for fun, friends, and freethought for kids ages 8-17.

Have you heard of Camp Quest?

The Camp  Quest's website offers this bit as an explanation as to what they offer:  
Camp Quest in a Nutshell
Camp Quest is a place for fun, friends, and freethought for kids ages 8-17. Our camps provide a traditional sleepaway summer camp experience with a wide range of activities including sports, crafts, games, swimming, and campfires. In addition to our traditional summer camp activities, Camp Quest offers educational activities focused on critical thinking, ethics, scientific inquiry, philosophy, and comparative religion.Camp Quest is open to all children and teenagers within the age range, but it is particularly geared towards building a community for children from atheist, agnostic, humanist and other freethinking families. Our goal is to provide a place where children can explore their developing worldviews, ask questions, and make friends in an environment that is supportive of critical thinking and skepticism.

John went to CQ last year and he just returned from camp again this year. For yeeeeears, ever since hearing about Camp Quest, I wanted one of my kids to go away to this camp. Finally, last year, John went to camp and truly loved it. He found himself in leadership roles last year. He enjoyed an activity called Socrates Cafe, he loved chess, he loved the hiking and swimming, and the camp games and songs were his favorite.

These pics are from last year, 2015 Camp Quest.


John and a few friends

John and Charles

John and Laura

John and Sarah

This summer, 2016, John had what he called the best time ever!
When he arrived to this gorgeous camp at a park about an hour from Kansas City, he was put into the leadership group. The leadership group isn't just a euphemism for babysitting. He had regular meets with the leadership group, with his mentor Sarah (see pic above), and supervisory lessons in leadership with Jordan. I was impressed and John was honored and moved to be a better person.


While picking him up from camp today Jerry and I were incredibly proud and delighted to see how the week went for John. I talked to many of the kids today and I loved what one boy, Liam, had to say when I asked him about CQ. His reply: I figure I'll be back in 357 more days, so I'm happy.

Here are a few pics from Camp Quest this year. Notice that many people from last year returned again this year. If you are interested in locating a Camp Quest in your neck of the woods, look here.


Laura and John
John and Sarah

John and Sarah with some of their campers photobombing

The Amazing Mx. Captain Jack dancing down the line,
Bigfoot in the back
Counselor Mauricio, pretty sure he is NOT Jesus

Jordan, LT leader and all around Counselor Extraordinaire


  Have you or your kids had experiences with Camp Quest?  

Tell me about it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Chores and Allowance

atheist parent 

You know, I don't know everything. No one does. But I'm happy to share the reasons for why my husband and I chose to do the things that we did with our kids. Just as you do, we thought about it, considered and many options, and figured out what made the most sense for us, what fit into our parenting paradigm. 

As for chores, Jerry and I were raised very different from one another so we had a number of discussions to figure out what we wanted for our kids with regards to household required chores. Boring topic, maybe. But we talked and talked about these issues back in the day.

I came from a place where there was no mother in the house with myself and my three siblings (long story) and Jerry's mother worked full time, leaving her two boys to fend for themselves quite a bit. Both of us grew up with many chores and many responsibilities and no allowance. Is this better or worse for kids? I have no idea.

Jerry and I decided that certain jobs are necessary for simple house and family maintenance; these chores would be required. Clean rooms, tidying of the house, laundry, dishes, trash, etc. For other kinds of jobs we might negotiate payment, that includes generally some yard jobs and a few household jobs.

So we're not an allowance family. We have been known to pay for some work. I have often given pocket money, though not in a regular amount or time to call it allowance. No one expects it or count on it. The kids have had jobs as soon as they were able. People often give cash as gifts. Boom, your child has cash in their pocket that belongs to them and that they can manage.

Over the years each of my kids have opened their own savings, then checking, accounts and have saved quite a sum.

So, yeah, that's what we do. Works for us.
What do you do?

One Million Page Views

atheist blog

I'm sure my blog gets many hits from my memes on Pinterest, but still:

My blog hit One Million Total Page Views over all time this week!

Thank You!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Free Online Literature Discussions

atheist homeschool
Have you heard of Pinkmonkey?

The self-description of the website:
Pink Monkey is a "G" rated study resource for junior high, high school, college students, teachers and home schoolers. What does PinkMonkey offer you? The World's largest library of free online Literature Summaries, with over 460 Study Guides / Book Notes / Chapter Summaries online currently, and so much more. No more trips to the book store; no more fruitless searching for a booknote that no one ever has in stock!
You'll find it all here, online 24/7!
My sister, a high school literature teacher in a public school just turned me on to it and WOW was I pleasantly surprised. I'm already a big fan of lit summaries available at sparknotes.com, litcharts.com, schmoop.com, cliffnotes.com, softschools.com, bookrags.com, novelguide.com, thebestnotes.com, homework-online.com, etc., so it's no surprise that a new resource appeals to me.

Let me know if you check it out and find it useful.  :)



Friday, June 10, 2016

School's In

homeschool blog

John John has been at a local public high school this month taking driver's ed. That's about three weeks worth of classroom, driving simulator, and behind-the-wheel time. This class represents the very first time John has been in a formal classroom, the first time with a school teacher, the first time he has had to take notes in an actual classroom, the first time he has been in a classroom among other students, the first time he has been formally graded on work, the first time he has taken a test in a class, and the first class that resulted in an earned grade. Aren't you looking forward to hearing about his impressions of these firsts?

The Formal Classroom

The school that hosted this summer class offering is a fairly old school, probably built in the 1940's. We've been on campus a couple of dozen times for their public hours of swimming in the pool so John felt pretty comfortable being on campus. He was always on time for classes but he says that it was very common during this session of driver's ed for students to come in late or to miss class all together.

The Professional Teacher

This course was team taught, one instructor for the classroom days, one for the driving simulator days, and a couple of instructors on behind-the-wheel days. Each teacher, of course, had their own personality and teaching style. Many days John came home with comments about how unpleasant one of the instructors was.

One instructor was a guy who didn't seem to like teenagers much and who, specifically, didn't seem to know or care to know how to engage a classroom full of them. The other instructors, though, according to John, were pretty good, but boring.

Taking Notes

John has learned note taking skills here at home so he knows what he is doing there. After one lesson he was to turn in his notes to the instructor! He was concerned because the class had been a list of things and his note taking wasn't word-for-word, but rather key words to jog his memory, using some tricks to help himself to remember the content of the class.

He's seen the notes from several other students and his notes were quite different. John was nervous that the instructor wouldn't appreciate his notations but he did get the check mark feedback from the instructor that everyone else got who turned in their class notes. 

Being in a Classroom

Oh, the socialization.
Each day I would ask him about meeting people and participating in class and yada yada yada. And each day he would tell me that people don't talk in class, no one interacts with anyone else, and no one, I mean No One volunteers information in class. By the second week he started wearing an ear bud during class, just like everyone else.

He was somewhat disappointed that people weren't really open to talking or meeting new people.

Formal grading

In this class John was graded on two different things: driving simulators gave a computerized score and a final multiple choice test resulted in a grade. According to John John, the driving simulators were as poorly calibrated and as poorly functioning as you remember from your own high school drivers ed class. Every single simulator in the world must be at least sixty years old. I remember my own experience with them at the end of the 1970s when I thought the darn things must have been at least thirty years old. 

He tells the story of how he was on the simulator and he forgot to take the car out of gear for the entirety of the simulator session. He got a 72 out of 100 possible points.

Test Taking

I can't say the tests in this class even remotely represents true high school tests. The only tests John took were multiple choice except for a single occasion of drawing sketches of turn lanes.

Earned Grade

He did get an "A" in the class.

My Impressions

The class seemed pretty laughable to me. I can't say I recommend taking this class through this school district. John did feel that he learned a few things through the course. But most of the time in these past few weeks John has often commented on how odd classes are. 


John's Impressions

There is this artificial period of time for learning a set amount of material and it is highly imperative to dump the entire content of the course onto the student during this artificial time period. Furthermore, learning in the actual environment of the student, i.e. in the world-at-large, makes more sense than sitting in a classroom. Taking information apart and separating it from real life seems to make it difficult to find meaning in the content. And, lastly, classrooms seem to be places of spoon feeding information rather than places of discovery and true learning. 

Just one kid's observations. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Thinking of Homeschooling?

atheist homeschool
It doesn't happen very often in the things that I read, so when it does it's worth a mention. The Washington Post actually posted a pro-homeschool article!



My dear friend Edith-ann shared a link with me and I was incredibly surprised to see a positive post about homeschooling, not that homeschooling doesn't deserve it. It's just that most media focuses on the negative, as media tends to to. It's refreshing as he#* to have an honest news source report some honest homeschool stats. More than postive, actually. The author of the article, Allison Barrett Carter writes With the help of the Internet, home schooling has become normalized. In fact, with all my clicking and reading, I find myself excited about it.

That's how I still feel about homeschooling: excited. 

As the parent of two teens who are successful in their lives, I love the way the homeschool lifestyle has helped them to create their own sense of identity. It's a benefit of homeschooling that makes me swoon. Self Identity.

Elizabeth and Dr. Robollo 
As it happens, Elizabeth has been dually-enrolled at the community college and has just gained enough credits to graduate from homeschooling. Last night was the party. It was such a wonderful celebration of Elizabeth's accomplishments. But more than that.

One of her college professors was here at the party telling me about what a remarkable individual Elizabeth is, strong in herself, capable, unique. This professor told me that she can tell homeschooled students because of their maturity, passion, and dedication to their projects.

And that's a nice thing to hear.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Ghosts and Bedtime

atheist parent

Yesterday my post The Tooth Fairy elicited a really great question from one of my favorite visitor/friends, Janeen:
What do you do about things that aren't so friendly? Natalie, who is 10, is afraid of ghosts and is convinced our house is haunted. Sometimes, because of it, she's afraid to sleep at night and wants to sleep in our room. I don't believe in ghosts and neither does her dad but she's pretty convinced they exist and live here.

That's part of the problem, yes, that if you claim supernatural you open yourself up to the scary ideas too...  :(

But fear is a part of being human. Fear can keep us safe. I'm wondering if Natalie's ghost in the house might just be a manifestation of her fear of...something she can't control...just a thought.

I remember my daughter, at a young age, being frightened of scary things in her room. In fact, I remember my step daughter having the same fear...both about ages 7-11. I made up a bottle of water with some of my perfume and, boom, we sprayed Monster Spray around the room, with the comforting and familiar scent of me.

Read these Magical Thinking links or others you might find (though, I would avoid THIS ONE, lol) and you will see that Natalie is at the ripe age for it. The imagination is strong and kids are becoming more aware of their own powerlessness in the wide, wide world.


Four thoughts immediately come to mind.

  1. Fight magical thinking with magical interventions. Create something that is safe, a dream catcher type of thing. A picture of you holding her in a frame. Something she can hold in her hand. Art around her bed that feels protective... Seems counter intuitive, probably, but reality and logic aren't at work here.
  2. Reality and logic. ;)During the day time, when the fear isn't happening, talk about Natalie's fears, reminding her that monsters and ghosts and all nature of scary ideas are all fictional and imaginary. Include lots of other creatures that she knows are fictional: Zeus, Sauron, Ganesh, whatever she knows for certain to be imaginary. Include ghosts in that list whenever you discuss it. No flying horses, no unicorns, no little green men, no ghosts.
    With time and love she will find her way out of the fear.
  3. Ask some questions about the "reality" of the ghosts and try to figure out the thought process and its weaknesses. Where are they now? What are they trying to do? How do they get here? Gently address the impossibility of those things, ending each thought you consider with a hmmmm....let's give it some thought.
    Just a quiet little talk, let the conversation have time to process in her mind. I have faith in Natalie's ability to work through this ghost thing.
  4. Replace the ghost idea with something comforting.What would you think about playing comforting music at bedtime? I have a couple of ideas for CDs if you are interested. The idea is that the music be relaxing, soothing, and familiar. Listen to the music during the day too, in the background of your day, during hugs or reading time. Music that can be connected to feelings of safety and tranquility.


...Just a few thoughts off of the top of my head.

Does anyone else have ideas or suggestions for Janeen?
Thanks!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The God Delusion

atheist blog

So many people that I have talked to about the journey from Christianity to atheism mention Chris Hitchens's book The God Delusion. So many people read the book and got that final nudge from believer to apostate. I almost feel sad for never having read the book.

At the time I finally hit Total Atheist I was reading the book that completely changed my mind from believer to non-believer: The Bible. That book alone is enough for a thinking person to turn their backs on any and all belief in the book and its contents. 

The Bible is full of murder, cold-blooded murder by the so-called Loving Creator. For moral guidance the god of the Bible answers all problems with killing. Too much sin in the world? Kill all living things. Disappointed in his creation? Kill. Too much going on in Sodom? Send in the Divine Napalm. Want the Israelites out of Egypt? Kill all first-born. Israelites worshiping their historical calf god? Kill three thousand. Promised Land already inhabited? Kill man, women, young, old, ox. sheep, and ass with the edge of a sword and burn anything remaining. 

Yeah, I didn't read The God Delusion, didn't need it.  LOL
 Did you? 
 What did you think? 

The Tooth Fairy

atheist parent

When the kids were small I was far more uncertain of how to be a truly secular woman, how to be an atheist parent of integrity. Just as you do, I thought and thought about how to handle every single thing, especially those customary cultural things that everyone does with their kids in this country.

Santa, Halloween, Easter bunnies, the Tooth Fairy, fairies:  all of those dandy little magical stories we tell our children were swirling around in my head, begging to be considered.

I wanted to be honest and I wanted the kids to have the fun that the stories offer. How to attain both goals of honesty and fun?


The motley crew of
pretend we play.
My daughter was a huge fan of fairies. She believed in them fiercely. We had a small white ceramic house on the front porch that she would sometimes leave small notes in for the fairies to find. Sometimes they would leave her tiny treasures from nature. Personally I lost my taste for the ruse the morning we discovered a cockroach had taken shelter from the rainy night in the little ceramic house. But Elizabeth was in love with the fairies.

I remember the morning she woke up and ran into the room where I was. She was shouting with excitement Mom, I heard the fairy music last night just outside of my window!

I was struggling with the knowledge that I was perpetuating a false bit of magic. I tried so hard to be honest and to keep her mind free of falsehood. In fact, I remember my mom being very confrontational with me in those days with regard to my willingness to pretend fairies while being fully unwilling to pretend in a deity.

The Same Boat? 

I know that you, Dear Thinking Parents Reading This Blog Post, completely understand where I was going in those days. I got lost all over the landscape of how to handle these ongoing fantasies and my mother continued to point out the many places where I tripped over my own efforts of honesty and fun.

Knowing that magical thinking is a perfectly normal and healthy part of child development went a long way in helping me work my way through the struggles I was having. 

Eventually I decided that I was willing to play pretend and to appreciate that my daughter's magical thinking was very normal and natural and that I would roll with it until the first moment she displayed sincere effort to know what was real. For a period, the magic was real for her. I clearly remember the day she talked herself into believing that she could control the wind. The wind moved and she went with the magic without any outside suggestion. For months she and John John moved the wind with glee. 

Suddenly, Clarity 

One day we were driving down the highway, Elizabeth in her usual thoughtful way looking out the window. Suddenly she asked me, Momma, is there really a Tooth Fairy? I asked her if she truly wanted to know the truth and she assured me she did saying, It really doesn't make sense, does it, Momma?
 

A few more minutes passed as I waited to see what would happen next. She looked at me with tears in her eyes...the Easter Bunny? Fairies? Santa?

The house of cards we had built came tumbling down in a matter of about ten minutes. She was angry at the deception for about two weeks. I had heard about kids getting angry when they figured it out but I had never seen such a thing. But she was angry that her dad and I would deceive her in such a way. 

Two weeks later she was smiling and secretly colluding with me to continue playing the acts for John John.


A few years later Elizabeth and I were revisiting the moment of reveal and how it had made her feel. I asked her if, now that she knows the truth, she would have preferred playing the games or sticking with reality. I explained the struggle that I had with all of that. She smiled and understood. 

I'm glad we did it, Mom.