Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Beginning to Feel Alot like...the Holiday



Oh, fergoodnesssake, it's started again.

Is it REALLY a major statement for me to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannakah"?

Already I have heard it to death from some people that REJECTING the word "Christmas" is incredibly insulting and whatnot.  Seriously?
Seriously?

If you, for one moment, think that my choice of "Happy Holidays" is a part of some sinister plan or is, in some way, a condemnation on Christmas, then think again.  Fox News may enjoy creating WARS on ideas, but I do not.  Anyone who chooses to participate in any sort of war of ideas is already fighting a battle with themselves.

There are BILLIONS of people on this earth.  HUNDREDS or more different ideologies, philosophies, dogmas, and religions.  Anyone who sets out to claim a war of religion is setting themselves up to be a bully.  An angry bully.  It is audacity in the extreme to expect everyone to approve or agree with your actions.   So, relax, Man.  Honestly make an effort to enjoy the season without looking for the overworked cashier of every store in the mall to offer you kind wishes of your particular flavor of religion.

During this time of year, the Christians dominate the airwaves.  Most of us make many concessions to the loudly-proclaimed "Spirit of the season".  Most of us keep our mouths closed and walk through the mass-hysteria of commercialism wrapped up in a big Christian bow.  Most of us seek to enjoy the season for Goodness's sake.

If my custom of acknowledging the specialness of this time of year for MOST OF US is bothersome, I suggest you find someone else to carry you.  I am not responsible for upholding YOUR beliefs or for validating you.  I am honestly thrilled to be upholding my own.  And I am not persecuting you.  Seriously, you're barely even on my radar.

So, if you wish me a "Merry Christmas!"  I will heartily thank you for that.  If you send a "Happy Hannakah!" my way, I will accept that in the spirit in which it was offered.  And if you suggest that I enjoy my "Happy Solstice!" I will smile and know that you mean well.

My family and I enjoy Christmas.  We feel the peace, love, and joy of this holiday season.  I hope yours does too.

Happy Holidays.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stop Worrying and Love the Text Book

hool materials

I can't tell you how many books and curriculum I have tried in these nine years. From a hundred different publishers and with many different approaches. It's a dang jungle out there. And I'm not afraid to tell you what I have finally settled on. Maybe I can save you some time. 

Early in the experience I bought dozens of mini workbooks. Lots of pages of math and mazes and crosswords and sketching and whatnot. Very simple and handy when we were home. We read ALOT and went outside and did many things. We visited police, fire, hospitals, airports, train stations, etc. Lots of visits to woods, streams, meadows. Playdates filled our calendar.  The early years were fun and easy because learning is everywhere.

Soon I moved on to larger workbooks and a few websites. Learning is everywhere, so we were also very busy in our community. Museums, zoos, farms, parks, local historical places:  many opportunities for learning and having fun. Films, games, cards, scavenger hunts, creation of plays and performances galore.
Next, move into the phase of freaking out about materials.  Hundreds of dollars (thousands?!) spent on materials that would never be used. Fear and worrying in St. Louis. I guess it happened because I saw how quickly the kids were growing up and how frightened I felt about that.

I can honestly say that I wish I had had the courage to avoid this stage. The stage where I began questioning our methods. Am I doing enough? Are they learning enough? In hindsight, though, I realize that I needed this stage to get here! I bought many materials that were of exceptional quality, but still didn't feel like I had it quite right. I can highly recommend The Critical Thinking Company materials, though. Very high quality, secular, and generally fun.

All along, I have spent thousands of hours creating my own materials. Worksheets, packets, units, readings, writings, so many materials I don't even know how to characterize it. I ENJOY this, though, so don't think this is necessary. I completely enjoy exploring subjects in depth and creating unique "units" of study.

And now, today, I have decided to simplify. Textbooks. I have found used textbooks everywhere. Used curriculum sites, Amazon.com, yard sales, friends, and many other places (I'm veeeeery resourceful!)

I love textbooks. I feel comfortable with them. We can zoom through them at high speeds and cover lots of material in short amounts of time. Learning is EVERYWHERE, even in textbooksAt first I felt like something of a sell-out. Now I love them!

I still consider us ECLECTIC homeschoolers. My materials come from everywhere, and we still LOVE to read, but textbooks...I love them!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Case Against Homeschooling, Really



against homeschool, considering homeschool, why we homeschool
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.  Parents who send their children are choosing, alternative education options are choices, home schooling is a choice.  For goodness sake, parenting is rife with choices from morning until night!  Also, I have found, after nine years of homeschooling, that almost every single thing on the "con" list below, somehow becomes a "pro" of homeschooling!

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.  The other kid is the drinker, smoker down the street.  We care about this boy alot, but the kids don't want to hang out with him.  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.  Unless we leave the house and drive we don't get to hang out with kids daily.  I mention this one first because we've all been sick lately and are, quite honestly, needing to get out!
  • 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.  This is not "socialization", this is "socializing".
  • Our house is a mess.  We are here 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.
  • Homeschooling takes time.  Your 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 constant footwork to find what’s available in the community. Knowing how to get information on your own, knowing how to access people who can answer your questions, and knowing how to communicate well 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.
  • I don't know everything about every subject.  Again, planning, researching, planning.  Time well spent, but time, nonetheless.
  • 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.
  •  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.
  • 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.  Not just so you don't lose your mind, but so you can be a whole and healthy person!
  • 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 cheerlead whenever the need arises.  It's unfair, but there you are.
  • 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 is like having the world's worst friend in your own head!
  • 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.  Having other homeschoolers to talk with made all of the difference.
  •  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.

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, etc. and the kids are just...normal.


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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

He Ain't Heavy...Brothers and Sisters




I was thinking about reprieving this blog post on siblings called, appropriately enough, Homeschool Siblings.
And then something happened.

My son, who has been out walking with my daughter, came running into the house, angry, crying, shouting, hurt.  He and his sister had had a huge fight in the sidewalks of some other block.  He talked and shouted and talked until she got home.  She went into her room, he want into mine.
He talked with his dad and I for a few minutes before she sidled into the room.  Bravely, I thought.

They shouted and cried a bit at one another, then they started talking.
About their feelings.
About what they wanted from one another.
About what is hard.
And with respect.
There were a few detours, surely.

Jerry and I watched and listened and smiled.  Sure, they were still on different pages, but it had become very productive and kind.  And they were striving to be respectful and honest.

It was a moment that Jer and I will forever remember as being CERTAIN our kids are on the right road!
They had shown themselves that they knew how to fight, how to resolve a fight, and how to do this without hurting each other or losing themselves.

We are proud.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remember to Tip Your Wait Staff: Parenting


It's the end of the week and I'm looking back at the week in AWE at how much we did, even though all of us have been in various stages of "sick" for almost two weeks.

Being a homeschool mother is a fairly thankless task.  I don't actually expect "THANKS" from the kids or anything.  Well, maybe a little.  Kids just aren't aware of the work we parents do.  That's normal.  I certainly didn't appreciate my parents when I was young.

The thing is, as a homeschool parent, I am constantly thinking of the kids.  Preparing lessons.  Creating the work itself.  Driving us here or there.  Feeding or cleaning.  Arranging plans.  Keeping a calendar is a real TALENT!  Looking over work.  Working with the kids on lessons.  Frequent deep discussion about the world at large.  Researching everything.
Very little of what I do is not for my kids.  I KNOW.  All parents can say this.  I happen to be a homeschooling parent.

I admit that I am looking forward to that day, far in the future, when my children have children of their own.  I get that call I've been waiting for:

My Fantasy Adult Child:  Mom?
Me:  Yes, Honey?  How are you?  How are the kids?
My Fantasy Adult Child:  Mom...I'm exhausted.
Me:  I understand, Honey.
My Fantasy Adult Child:  How did you do it, Mom?  How did you do so much for us?  You were always there for us, calm, patient, creative, loving.  You were SO selfless.  You gave up so much for us and never let on.  I am so inspired by you and I'm sure I am a better parent because of you, Mom.  How did you do it, Momma?
Me:  Honey, what's going on?
My Fantasy Adult Child:  I can't do it, Mom!  I'm exhausted, I'm poor, and I haven't showered all week!  I haven't been able to find my purse for three days, I found my flip-flops in the dishwasher, the kitchen floor is so sticky I can tell what was eaten in the kitchen for the past week, I'm rinsing and reusing the same bra day after day because I can't find any others, and, yesterday, I made canned chicken noodle soup and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch...and dinner!
Me:  I understand, Honey.
My Fantasy Adult Child:  Mom, I completely respect and admire the parent you were and the person you are!  Thank you!
Me:  *smile*

Listen, I can dream, can't I?
At this point, the kids have many chores and help out a great deal.  But, for the most part, they are blissfully unaware of how much work it is to be the parent.  For every lesson they work on, not only do I have the carrying out of that lesson, I have the research for and the preparation of that lesson.
Right, Moms and Dads?

Listen, I'm sounding a bit...whiny tonight.
Let me dream about that fantasy conversation with my adult child.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am an Atheist

i am an atheist, atheist parenting


If you are here from Google, or if you are looking for information about atheism OR if you are an atheist. OR if you are looking for information about people who are atheists.
Welcome.

I am a full-on, no holds barred, non-agnostic atheist. The type that does not hold to anything supernatural. No devils, no destiny, no crystals, no chakras, no dream reading, no telepathy, no tongues, no candles, no singing, no spiritual warfare or end-of-times fears, no fasting, no prayer, no meant-to-be, no ashes and mumbled words, no need for intersession of any kind.  No spirits, no afterlives, no auras, no foot massages or body work, no universal life force, no feng shui, no alternative medicine, nothing.

No ESP, no tarot, no spiritual connections of any kind, no supernatural power of any kind, nothing paranormal, nothing metaphysical, no angels or demonic beings, no telling the future, no astrology, no secrets or hidden things, and no need to figure out why a "loving" deity would allow or create such pain and hatred in the world.

No special rituals. No special books. No special clothing, chants, incantation, laying on of hands, no internal powers, no esoteric knowledge, no herbs or spices, no substances of any kind. No hidden beings. No secret handshakes. No secret words to utter. No faith. No special days of the year. No secrecy at all.
Just the wonder of what IS.
And I DO mean the wonder.


It is an act of sublimity to look at our earth, at our solar system, at our cosmos and see it through the eyes of AWE, rather than through eyes that call it a miracle, finger-snapped into place by a deity.  Instead, the vastness, the magnificence, and the incomprehensibility of it washes over me like a total sacred experience. I feel connected to it. I am a part of it. I am star stuff.  The wonder of that never ceases to move me.

Our family is very science-oriented, specifically astronomy. Our opportunities to see deep space objects, to follow the movement of planets in our solar system, comets, and other objects help to support the "all natural" paradigm. The beauty of the natural works is truly without peer.


With the oncoming winter, the sky is darker earlier. Take this opportunity to get outside under the night sky and see what you can.  

Having rejected all religious dogma and all supernatural deities of all kinds, I can honestly say, the world makes sense! No need to rely on "faith" and accept "mysteries" that defy logic, ethics, and integrity.

I have been talking with a Christian friend who is moving down the path towards a more liberal and questioning way. He has struggled with this for at least a year or more and is now beginning to realize that the "truth" as he knew it doesn't work for him anymore. I truly delight in his transformation. He has become a happier and more kind person.

So, if you are here looking for a kindred, like-minded person, WELCOME.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

HSLDA




One of the blogs that I check with some regularity is http://homeschoolingunited.wordpress.com/.  This website had a recent blog post that suggests that there is a national plan for regulating homeschool on a national level.  Then, every single link offered in the post gave evidence against the idea.
Reason?
Why would this reputable sight post such rumor?

EASY.

Homeschoolers feel the need to constantly be on alert.  Is someone attempting to reduce our rights?  Has another special interest group (The NEA, for example) covertly attacking our rights to homeschool again?  Is another state putting the right to homeschool on the burner?  Is some state bill containing hidden language designed to reduce the rights of homeschoolers in special circumstances?

We are UNDER represented on The Hill and poorly organized.
I strongly urge all homeschooling families to join a homeschool group that pays attention to the political environment of your state and to maintain contact with your local representative!

The only National Homeschool Organization that I know of disbanded over a decade ago.  The closest thing we have it the Home School Legal Defense Association.   According to the HSLDA website, their mission is:


  • Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Through annual memberships, HSLDA is tens of thousands of families united in service together, providing a strong voice when and where needed.
  • HSLDA advocates on the legal front on behalf of our members in matters which include conflicts with state or local officials over homeschooling. Each year, thousands of member families receive legal consultation by letter and phone, hundreds more are represented through negotiations with local officials, and dozens are represented in court proceedings. HSLDA also takes the offensive, filing actions to protect members against government intrusion and to establish legal precedent. On occasion, HSLDA will handle precedent-setting cases for nonmembers, as well.
  •  HSLDA advocates on Capitol Hill by tracking federal legislation that affects homeschooling and parental rights. HSLDA works to defeat or amend harmful bills, but also works proactively, introducing legislation to protect and preserve family freedoms.
  •   HSLDA advocates in state legislatures, at the invitation of state homeschool organizations, by assisting individual states in drafting language to improve their homeschool legal environment and to fight harmful legislation.
  •  HSLDA advocates in the media by presenting articulate and knowledgeable spokesmen to the press on the subject of homeschooling. HSLDA staff members are regularly called upon for radio, television, and print interviews, and their writings are frequently published in newspapers and magazines across the country. HSLDA’s own bimonthly magazine, The Home School Court Report, provides news and commentary on a host of current issues affecting homeschoolers. And its two-minute daily radio broadcast, Home School Heartbeat, can be heard on nearly 500 radio stations.
  •  HSLDA advocates for the movement by commissioning and presenting quality research on the progress of homeschooling. Whether it’s in print, from the podium, or on the air, HSLDA provides insightful vision and leadership for the cause of homeschooling.
Members of the HSLDA are entitled to certain benefits for their membership. Upon review of the benefits, I found a link to current alerts and calls to action for homeschool families in order to not be blindsided by legislation hidden in jargon and buries in unknown bills.

I'm joining!