Monday, December 19, 2005

Ditto Mississippi

VaHomeschoolers’ Position on Section 522 of H.R. 1815

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) opposes Section 522 of H.R. 1815, and desires that this section of the bill be eliminated.

Background:
H.R. 1815 (patron Congressman HUNTER of California) also known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, recently passed both chambers of Congress and is currently in conference committee. Section 522 of this omnibus bill calls for the creation of a special policy for the recruitment and enlistment of homeschooled students in the US Armed Forces. Section 522 would
• Require the Secretary of Defense to prescribe a policy on recruitment and enlistment of homeschoolers into the Armed Forces
• Ensure that the policy applies uniformly across the Armed Forces
• Grant homeschoolers special treatment for enlistment, with no practical limit with regard to enlistment eligibility
• Permit enlistment of homeschooled graduates without a secondary school diploma or GED to enlist in the Armed Forces
• Prescribe a single set of criteria, determined by the Secretary of Defense, to determine whether an individual is a graduate of homeschooling.

Reasons for Concern:

Section 522 is not necessary.

• Homeschoolers are already allowed to enlist in all branches of the Armed Forces, and have successfully served in the Armed Forces for many years.
• All the branches of the Armed Forces already have policies in place for the recruitment of homeschooled applicants.
• Current DOD policy as of January 2005 already gives homeschooled applicants preferential enlistment eligibility, and affirms that homeschooled graduates need not have a GED to enlist in the Armed Forces. (see http://www.thsc.org/pdf/DoDLetter.pdf)
• Proposing new federal laws which involve special privileges for homeschoolers could create bad publicity for homeschoolers and for the Armed Forces as a whole.

Section 522 would lead to greater regulation of homeschoolers at the state level.

• Virginia law has no definition of “graduate of home schooling” and does not grant high school diplomas to homeschooled students.
• Section 522 would require Virginia and other states to adopt a definition of “graduate of homeschooling” and create legal requirements for “homeschool graduation”.
• Virginia school districts are not required to compile or maintain data on homeschooled students except as needed to ensure compliance with certain state laws.
• Section 522 would require school districts in Virginia and elsewhere to create and maintain databases of personal and academic information on homeschooled students for Armed Forcesrecruitment and enlistment purposes.

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) opposes Section 522 of H.R.1815, and desires that this section of the bill be eliminated.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mail call:

AN OPEN LETTER TO HSLDA’S MEMBERSHIP
~from Mary McCarthy

I have always felt that HSLDA has a right to exist, and if that’s what you want to spend your money on, I’m happy you have the financial means to do so. However, recent events have caused me to re-think my position. I was wrong to think that because I was not a member HSLDA did not affect me.

When HSLDA re-introduced their HoNDA legislation in the US House and Senate, they added a section related to the recruitment and enlistment of homeschool graduates to it. When it appeared HoNDA was stalled in committee they requested Senator Rick Santorum of PA to add a section that would give the Secretary of Defense the authority to identify for the purposes of recruitment and enlistment homeschool graduates to The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.

Scott Somerville of HSLDA recently wrote, “IF we fail in our effort to get section 522 signed into law, we’ll try something else, but we won’t give up. It’s been seven years already; it may be seven more years before we feel like homeschool grads have a level path to military service.”

There is a lot to think about in those two arrogant sentences. HSLDA will not give up trying to push federal legislation into law that affects MY child. That’s personal. That has nothing to do with a Christian’s right to homeschool their children, something I would be first in line to protect. It’s an attempt to target my child for recruitment and enlistment in the United States Armed Forces by a group of self-appointed, fundamentalist Christians pursuing an agenda they have determined to be part of their personal religion. Of course, they have a right, as individual Americans and as a lobbying organization, to do so. But I also have a right - as well as a responsibility - to protect my child from overly zealous political actions. That is the reason we have ELECTED representation, so the people can decide whether they want their children targeted by military recruiters or not. In a representative government, it’s not the purview of a handful of zealots to make any decision for my family.

Section 522 does not delineate between `homeschool students’ and `homeschool students whose parents are members of HSLDA’. This is personal and oversteps the bounds of representing a paid membership by an advocacy organization. It will affect every homeschool student/family in America, HSLDA member or not. HSLDA could not operate without the dues of its membership. It is what pays the salaries, builds the buildings, and – yes - funds the lobbying. Membership dues are funding the effort to identify for purposes of recruitment and enlistment MY child. Membership dues are funding the proposal which will give the United States Secretary of Defense the authorization to define what a homeschool graduate is. The members of HSLDA are ultimately responsible for the actions HSLDA and its paid agents take.

I cannot influence HSLDA decisions because I am not a member, so I have to plead my case to the members. Therefore, I do not think it unreasonable to respectfully request HSLDA’s members accept responsibility for the actions of their paid representatives and use their checkbooks to take back the power they have ceded to HSLDA. YOU have the power. I know many of you, and I know you are good, responsible parents who will `do the right thing’. Thank you.

Mary McCarthy

On your mark, get set, DIAL!

Here is the contact info for the house conferees compiled by Mary Nix.

BUT WAIT, first, what the heck is a conferee and what shall we do upon catching one? Put down the gun, Granma. A conferee is a negotiator who works to iron out differences between Congressional chambers concerning pending legislation. These particular conferees are hammering out the dents or making new ones in the 700+page bill that is HR 1815. At some point, they will discuss Section 522 and move to keep or strike it.

I, personally, will be calling until I reach each conferee to let him or her know that I object to Section 522 (reasons listed in my letter to Sen. Warner) and would like it striken from the bill. I encourage you to do the same.

– HOUSE MEMBERS ON CONFERENCE COMMITTEE
Duncan Hunter (R - CA) (Chair of Armed Services)
Phone: (202) 225-5672

Curt Weldon (R - PA)
Phone: (202) 225-2011

Joel Hefley (R - CO)
Phone: (202) 225-4422

Jim Saxton (R - NJ)
Phone: (202) 225-4765

John M. McHugh (R - NY)
Phone: (202) 225-4611

Terry Everett (R - AL)
Phone: (202) 225-2901

Roscoe G. Bartlett (R - MD)
Phone: (202) 225-2721

Howard P. “Buck'’ McKeon (R - CA)
Phone: (202) 225-1956

Mac Thornberry (R - TX)
Phone: (202) 225-3706

John N. Hostettler (R - IN)
Phone: (202) 225-4636

Jim Ryun (R - KS)
Phone: (202) 225-6601

Jim Gibbons (R - NV)
Phone: (202) 225-6155

Robin Hayes (R - NC)
Phone: (202) 225-3715

Ken Calvert (R - CA)
Phone: (202) 225-1986

Rob Simmons (R - CT)
Phone: (202) 225-2076

Thelma D. Drake (R - VA)
Phone: (202) 225-4215

Ike Skelton (D - MO)
Phone: (202) 225-2876

John M. Spratt Jr. (D - SC)
Phone: (202) 225-5501

Solomon P. Ortiz (D - TX)
Phone: (202) 225-7742

Lane Evans (D - IL)
Phone: (202) 225-5905

Gene Taylor (D - MS)
Phone: (202) 225-5772

Neil Abercrombie (D - HI)
Phone: (202) 225-2726

Martin T. Meehan (D - MA)
Phone: (202) 225-3411

Silvestre Reyes (D - TX)
Phone: (202) 225-4831

Vic Snyder (D - AR)
Phone: (202) 225-2506

Adam Smith (D - WA)
Phone: (202) 225-8901

Loretta Sanchez (D - CA)
Phone: (202) 225-2965

Ellen O. Tauscher (D - CA)
Phone: (202) 225-1880

Friday, December 16, 2005

Letter to Sen. John Warner re HR 1815, Sect 522

Sen. Warner:

Good afternoon. My name is Natalie West Criss. I am the founder of a statewide inclusive homeschool network in Mississippi and have several concerns regarding Section 522 from HR 1815 that I'd like to share with you:

1. Homeschool graduates who desire to to so are already able to enter the military as preferred Tier 2 recruits (which is essentially the same as Tier 1). Therefore, Sect 522 is unnecessary.

2. The organization (Homeschool Legal Defense Association) that authored Sect 522 represents less than 5% of the total US homeschool population. It is not the voice of homeschooling America. Yet, it continues to push the issue of "military discrimination" and call for Sect. 522 despite an overwhelming appeal from the national homeschooling community to stop.

3. The branches of the military are each looking for different skills and qualifications in its potential recruits for the purpose of filling its needs, not exercising its biases. Leveling the playing field by creating a special class called "homeschoolers" would undermine the military's authority to recruit based on its needs.

4. Treating homeschoolers as a special class will eventually require a federal definition of who is and who isn't a homeschooler. This federal definition, despite its original purpose, could be used by other federal agencies to force homeschoolers to comply with regulations above and beyond those in our home states.

Please remove Section 522 from HR 1815.

Thank you for reading,
Natalie West Criss

-----------------------

This is posted for informational purposes only. Please, do not copy this and put your name on it or "borrow" chunks of verbage. If you do not have time or the inclination to write your own, sign the petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/hr1815/petition.html.

Thank you!

So, what's the big deal?

I may not have been actively blogging lately, but I've been yapping elsewhere. Here is a message I posted to a national Yahoo! Group two days ago when someone remarked that Sect 522 didn't look so scary. While I was talking to one of PEAK's moderators about legislative events today, she also asked, "So, what's the big deal?" This post has become my standard answer:

Hi [Forum Member] and everyone,

I'm usually quiet in this forum since all the bases here are adequately covered by [Owner] and the [Forum] members. However, I want to take a moment to explain a few things that often get lost in translation regarding homeschool language in federal legislation.

States will oppose federal interference only to the degree that it does not affect funding. In other words, I don't believe we can count on a state to defend our rights as homeschoolers once a federal definition is put in place and a dollar value is attached to it (which is a natural progression of events. See highway funding and the federal push that raised the drinking age to 21. Reference the effects federal pressure has had on "state-mandated" test scores and attendance in public education). The feds threaten to withhold funding to those who do not comply. Although state do have the right to refuse, in reality, they rarely do.

Regarding Section 522 of HR 1815, the initial concern was that it would give the Department of Defense carte blanche to assign a federal definition to homeschooling for the purposes of recruitment. While that in itself does not sound threatening, the potential long-term consequences are. More on that later. In the meantime, Valerie at HEM NewsComm has uncovered several definitions of homeschooling currently in use by the Navy and Marines in their own manuals and on their official websites. They and the Army sites link to HSLDA as the defining authority in home education (so does the State of Mississippi's Dept of Education website, for that matter). So, essentially, HSLDA is defining "homeschool" for these federal entities. Again, a lot of people are asking "What's the harm there?"

Two things: HSLDA does not represent the vast majority of homeschoolers in this country AND the vast majority of homeschoolers in this country do not wish to be defined on the federal level, period. Simply put, we want no federal regulation and we want no interference from HSLDA.

[Natalie's disclaimer: the following is the opinion of the poster and should not be misconstrued as an anti-HSLDA rant.]

Here are the potential long term consequences: Sect 522 would allow the dept that oversees the armed forces to create ONE definition for ALL homeschoolers that will usurp any state-level definition (or lack thereof). Furthermore, as parents, citizens and homeschoolers, we will not have any say in just what that definition is and no recourse if we don't like it. Additionally, other federal agencies (Social Security, Homeland Security, etc) will latch on to this definition in the future, simply because it's already there.

Based on the fact that the military currently defaults to HSLDA's authority, odds are that a federal definition of who is and who isn't a homeschooler will come from an organization that represents a small fraction of the homeschooling population. That's not ok with me.

If that doesn't raise a sea of red flags, let me ask two questions: Under a federal definition of homeschooling, who stands to lose the most? Easy answer: We do. And who stands to gain the most? Not as easy, so here's a hint: They wrote Section 522.

Thanks for reading,
Natalie

HR 1815 and HSLDA: Connecting the dots

This is an email I sent late last night. The names below have been altered:

Hello [Support Group Person],

I'm Natalie Criss, founder of Parent Educators and Kids (PEAK), a statewide inclusive homeschool network in Mississippi. I've been tracking legislation, most recently HoNDA and Sect 522 of HR 1815. Since I've learned so much during my short time as an "activist" and regularly post my findings to various groups, including [Group Name], [Author Person] asked me to respond to your message regarding [Member's] questions.

First, let me make sure I understand what [Member] is asking. She wants to know why she cannot find information regarding HSLDA's involvement in HR 1815 on HSLDA's website. Essentially, HSLDA does acknowledge some activity in this statement from the newsletter she referenced in her original post:
"We expect the next defense bill, which is to be passed this year inCongress, to codify this arrangement to ensure that homeschoolers willcontinue to maintain preferred enlistment status and not be discriminated against when they seek entry into the military."

Although it does not name the bill, HR 1815 is that defense bill. It passed the Senate unanimously on Nov 15. Either right before or right after its passage (this is unclear, but I can look it up), Section 522 was added. It was written by an HSLDA staffer. Here is confirmation via Scott Somerville (HSLDA attorney and lobbyist) via his blog at http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Somerschool/51107/:

"I've been trying to talk to Caleb Kershner ever since I got back. Caleb is our staffer here who is most responsible for getting 522 into its current form. Caleb is a homeschool grad who has worked here for years, and recently graduated from law school. He works part time, and is down in DC a lot, so I just haven't been able to see him face-to-face since I got back. So, the simple fact is, I don't know HOW Caleb got this done. But I'm impressed.

I didn't really think we had a prayer of getting military language signed into law this year, but I've tried to be very forthright about HSLDA's ongoing committment to figure out some way to enable homeschool grads to enlist without having to take a GED or get 15 college credits. I'm amazed at Caleb's success so far. We'll see what happens between now and bill-sgning time."

Homeschoolers, both inside and outside of HSLDA's umbrella, were caught completely off guard by this bill, but the reaction was quick. Now, it seems that the anti-regulation forces (of which I am a part) may be succeeding in having Section 522 removed from HR 1815, but Scott says they are determined to fight on. This is part of Scott's reply to a recent post on a libertarian homeschool blog. If he sounds defensive, it's because he was addressing a tough crowd at http://cobranchi.com/?p=5837#comments:

"IF we fail in our effort to get section 522 signed into law, we’ll try something else, but we won’t give up. It’s been seven years already; it may be seven more years before we feel like homeschool grads have a level path to military service. We may have to start listening to our opponents better, and we may have to win over some folks who don’t like the way we’ve done things in the past. This issue is important enough to HSLDA that we might even be willing to eat humble pie if that’s what it takes to get the job done."

In other words, HSLDA is all over this bill and HR 3753 (aka HoNDA, a home ed-specific bill that HSLDA essentially admits that it wrote. Currently, the bill is stalled in committee where we anti-reg hsers hope it stays). Please note that HSLDA does not make any attempt to conceal its involvement when directly and specifically asked.

I and other legislative watchdogs like me are not specifically anti-HSLDA. As a matter of fact, we'd be on the same team if the organization was fighting against federal regulation, but it isn't. This is why many HSLDA members who are opposed to these bills are asking, "If HSLDA's purpose is to secure homeschooling freedom, why are they writing federal legislation?" There are lots of theories floating around, some of them downright conspiratorial, so I will not venture into that territory. However, it is a valid question.

The overriding concern about federal legislation is that when the terms "homeschooler" or "home education" are inserted into proposed federal legislation, eventually there will be a need to *define* exactly who is and who isn't a homeschooler. After all, in California there is no such thing as a "homeschooler"; only an option for parents to provide private instruction.

Federal definition of what constitutes "homeschooling" is precisely what we want to avoid, because federal law usurps state law (or lack thereof in reg-free states). Compliance may not be mandatory, but states often cave when funding is attached to the adoption of federal statutes (the way that highway funds were used to pressure states to raise the drinking age to 21 and, most recently, the way NCLB has been forced into the "state-mandated" standards for public education.).

When a private organization, like HSLDA, begins writing federal bills on behalf of homeschoolers, particularly when it fails to inform its 80,000 member families (which is why you won't find specific info regarding these bills on HSLDA's site prior to today's date), it ticks off a lot of people. The response has been less than supportive, to say the least.

I hope this clarifies the HSLDA-federal legislation connection. It gets more and more complex, but I can provide links to other resources if you'd like them. Feel free to contact me at my personal email address: http://b4.mail.yahoo.com/ym/peaknetwork.org/Compose?To=btrl8hnvr@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading,
Natalie Criss

Note 1: Sect 522 was added in early October, about 5 weeks before it passed the Senate.

Note 2: Rather than sounding mysterious in my non-explanation as to why HSLDA is involved in federal legislation, I should have said this: HSLDA presupposes the existence of governmental involvement in homeschooling and claims to attempt to secure the "best" language by authoring these bills. However, many of us do not want interference of any kind. Therefore, as long as HSLDA takes govt interference as a given, we will remain at odds.

Thanksgiving pictures

Christmas-themed floats and fall colors debut
in the creek across from my parents' house:



















My parents with Katie and Dagny on the porch swing
my father built:















Jack and I in my mother's garden:

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HR 1815: Act NOW

This just in from a group in VA:

VaHomeschoolers Legislative Report
December 14, 2005
by Celeste Land, Government Affairs

Special Report on Federal Legislation: Recruitment/Enlistment of Homeschooled Students & HONDA 2005

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) is a statewide homeschooling organization which normally does not lobby on federal matters. However, we do occasionally visit Capitol Hill when federal legislation could impact homeschoolers in our state.

On Tuesday, December 13, VaHomeschoolers lobbyists Scott Price and Celeste Land visited Capitol Hill and met with House and Senate staffers to discuss Section 522 of HR 1815 (Recruitment and Enlistment of Home Schooled Students in the Armed Forces) and HR 3753 / S 1691 (also known as HONDA 2005). In keeping with the mission of our organization, our meetings focused mainly on the implications of these bills from a Virginia homeschooling perspective.

Section 522 of HR 1815 (Recruitment / Enlistment of Homeschooled Students)

VaHomeschoolers opposes Section 522 of HR 1815 because the language on recruitment/enlistment is not necessary and would lead to greater regulation of Virginia homeschoolers. [You can read more about our position at www.vahomeschoolers.org]

While VaHomeschoolers was unable to confirm the exact status of the language in Section 522, we came away from our meetings with the sense that most legislators are blissfully unaware of the controversy within the homeschooling community surrounding this issue. Section 522 has many strong supporters on Capitol Hill, including HSLDA and possibly some influential Defense Department officials as well. This means that Section 522 is very likely to become law without further discussion.

The conference committee is wrapping up its work on HR 1815 and is expected to complete its deliberations any day now. This means that if you have concerns about Section 522, you need to contact your Congressman or Senator immediately.

HR 3753 / S 1691 (HONDA 2005)

VaHomeschoolers has specific concerns about certain language and phraseology in HR 3753 / S 1691 from a Virginia homeschooling perspective, and desires that these particular sections of the bill be amended or deleted as needed. (You can read more about our position at www.vahomeschoolers.org.)

HR 3753 / S 1691 (also referred to as the Home School Non Discrimination Act of 2005 or HONDA 2005) is an omnibus bill which attempts to address many different issues at the federal level. Some homeschoolers support the bill in its entirety, some oppose the bill in its entirety, and some take issue with certain portions of the bill for various reasons. (To learn more, go to http://www.vahomeschoolers.org/honda.PDF)

At first glance, the status of these bills appears questionable at best. The House version of the bill has been sent to a variety of different committees and subcommittees, any one of which could kill the entire bill. Meanwhile, the Senate version of the bill has been sent to the Finance Committee, a place where most bills die without much fanfare.

However, the issues and language of HR 3753 /S 1691 are likely to linger for quite some time to come. The original bills are largely promotional in nature. They publicize and call attention to the issues, and allow certain lawmakers to demonstrate their support for homeschooling through their sponsorship. Meanwhile, interested lawmakers can select the language for a specific issue in the original bill and quietly insert it into another bill which is more likely to actually become law. This is a common practice in Congress and has already happened at least once with this legislation, when the recruitment/enlistment language in S 1691 was used as the basis for the language in Section 522 of HR 1815.

Meanwhile, VaHomeschoolers has heard unconfirmed rumors that other language in HR 3753 regarding the Higher Education Act has been inserted into another bill on the Senate side. Clearly, homeschoolers who are interested in national legislative issues need to watch not only specific "homeschooling bills" in Congress, but also specific language from those bills, which may surface in surprising places at inopportune moments.

Recommended Action:

As always, VaHomeschoolers recommends that you read the full text of these bills carefully before taking any action. You can find the complete text of HR 1815 (Section 522), HR 3753, and S 1691 at http://thomas.loc.gov/. Contact your Congressman or Senator and let them know your views on this federal legislation. Contact information is available at http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and http://www.senate.gov/ . Virginia Senator John Warner is a member of the conference committee on HR 1815, and Virginia Congressmen Frank Wolf, Jo Ann Davis, and Virgil H. Goode Jr. are cosponsors of HR 3753. These individuals would be especially interested in hearing from their constituents.

Be specific when writing or calling your lawmakers. Tell them exactly what you like or dislike about these bills, which issues specifically concern you, and what (if anything) needs to be changed or addressed. This will help Congress take the most appropriate action.

------------------------

Info on an online petition from another group:

If you want to sign the on-line petition to protect homeschoolers frombeing defined by the Federal government do it now, it will be sent toSenate & House conferees today. http://www.petitiononline.com/hr1815/petition.html

The petition is against the language of section 522 in federal bill hr1815. The NHELD bulletin http://www.nheld.com/articles.htm#mostrecent explains further. HSLDA has been working on this legislation for 7 years now ,and it was slipped into the military appropriations bill while everyone was dealing with their reintroduction of HONDA legislation. They didn't even tell their members or post this bill on their website.

[snip] I had trouble getting my signature on the petition to go thru but used the email at the bottom and got added, so if you have trouble, you can go that route.

More information can be found at
http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/newscomm/ http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/newscomm/?p=195 http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/groupnews/?p=36
http://hr3753.blogspot.com/

You may forward this information.

Hat tips: You know who you are...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let's celebrate by looking at pictures from... Halloween! Yea!

At the Pumpkin Patch
Halloween Party and Decorations

This year, I am most thankful for patient people, like my husband (who hasn't fired me as his Assistant Editor OR wife...yet...I love you), friends I keep meaning to call (and I will, really. Soon. I promise.) and the PEAK moderators who have stopped asking and started planning without me (bless you).

I'm catching up. Really, I am. By January, I should be back to normal [i heard that].

Have a wonderful, food-, fun- and family-filled Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Things I want to blog

...but don't have time:

1. Why I hate PBS Sprout and the concept of The Goodnight Show
2. What I think of wordless cartoons that substitute unintelligible sounds for language
3. Great personal and PEAK pictures with relevent updates

Could someone loan me an hour? Just an hour.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Doing what needs to be done

MS Biz Column~November 2005
By Natalie Criss, Managing Editor
Metro Business Chronicle

There comes a time in our lives when we are forced to take on a job that we would rather avoid. Perhaps it's boring or thankless. We might consider it beneath us and loudly declare, "You couldn't pay me enough to do that!" or "I didn't go to college for this!" However, sometimes an opportunity comes along that allows us to shine in new, previously unimaginable ways. In return, we get far more than a paycheck or pat on the back. This is about one of those times:

Patricia is my trendy, attractive, never-married younger sister. She is a former high school cheerleader and pageant competitor who prefers to be called Tricia, wears Prada sunglasses, works at a high-end clothing store and attends The Aveda Institute where she will earn a cosmetology license in April. As the perpetual "baby" and resident girlie-girl of the family, she is-- by default-- the pretty one...the spoiled one (I am the smart one.).

Hard labor is as foreign to Tricia as Payless Shoe Source. For all her shifting priorities and puzzling sense of entitlement, I truly adore her. Therefore, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed her school and workplace in New Orleans, Tricia stayed with us for about six weeks. It was like having another teenager in the house. After her recent move to Charlotte, NC, I quipped that I was really going to miss her...shoes.

In an attempt to recoup her financial losses as well as provide some closure to an unexpected and unsettling situation, Tricia is back in New Orleans assisting in the clean-up effort. My sister, who took her first retail job solely for the discount on clothing and who frequently calls home for money, is alone in a hurricane-ravaged area wearing steel-toe boots. While I am justifiably concerned for her safety, I am not sure which part of the latter sentence initially horrified her most. However, she has adapted nicely.

For last two weeks, she has been sleeping on an air mattress in a hunting camp where she wakes up before 5am and drives 40 miles into New Orleans to ride shotgun through the city alongside a quiet, unassuming African American truck driver named Joe. Wearing respirators and HAZMAT suits, they pick up trash, load crates and dispose of household chemicals. When Joe was absent one day, she was allowed to drive a very large dump truck (equipped with automatic transmission, of course) all day. She was elated and called home immediately to relay every detail.

However, this highlight was dethroned by her recent confrontation with an internationally recognized journalist and his film crew as they blocked a street in the Lower 9th Ward near the 17th Street Canal break. Though I suspect she may have embellished the story a bit, in a nutshell, she won and they moved their operation back onto the levee as their permit specified. This happened less than an hour after Tricia exchanged words with a police officer following an incident targeting Joe that she perceived as racist.

My family has taken a poll and decided that she will either get elected to office or be killed. We're banking on her popularity among the big, strong construction crews and her common sense to see to it that neither occurs.

I was also concerned she would be targeted by jerks and chauvinists who thought post-Katrina clean up was no place for a woman. On her first day of training, Tricia reacted quickly and with appropriately controlled outrage after a crew-member made an obscene pass at her. Without providing too much detail, suffice it to say that she has not been propositioned again. Additionally, her creative use of language and metaphor as well as the offender's fearful reaction prompted the FEMA trainer to promote her to on-site supervisor. Apparently, her "excellent" communication skills are well suited for crowd control. Nonetheless, she declined the supervisor position after the second day because, she complained, once everyone understood the routines and chaos subsided, "It was boring."

Unbelievably, Tricia has been asked by three different contractors to stay on to fill more senior positions. Because the wages are tempting and the adventure is intriguing (to say the least), she plans to extend her stay and go home to resume school after Thanksgiving.

No doubt, hard labor has been a life-changing experience that has provided my sister with a new sense of connection and perspective by forcing her to deal with situations that would have once left her feeling powerless and victimized. What she once regarded as a stepping-stone to financial stability has opened up her eyes to the wealth of resources, knowledge and value she brings to the table both as a team member and as an individual. My family is both surprised and shocked at her newfound determinism. I believe we underestimated her. I think she did, too.

I wonder what other opportunities disguised as thankless jobs and dead-end careers are just waiting to be had by courageous women willing to take the plunge and make things happen for themselves. When the work becomes the reward, wonders never cease.

-----------------------

Update: Trish quit her job at Lillie Ruben and plans to stay in New Orleans until January. She is now a truck driver and continues picking up household waste in her steel-toe boots, HAZMAT suit and FEMA-issued respirator (...I hope someone takes a picture). Fortunately, she has left the hunting camp behind and is staying in a hotel in New Orleans.

The money she is saving will allow her to return to Charlotte and finish school without having to work full-time, which means she will be able to take advanced courses she previously missed due to her work schedule. After school, she intends to go back for her instructor's license, then get her foot in the fashion industry door in Las Vegas where she hopes to become a personal stylist.

Last, but not least, while she was staying with us, she completed an art project for The Salon Association's Beacon Award. The theme was beauty as personal expression (or something similarly vague). She chose shoes as her medium (can you imagine? For now, you'll have to. I don't have clearance to post the pictures.). Out of several hundred entrants, she won one of five spots to take an all-expense-paid trip to the TSA Awards in San Diego where she will spend face time with Paul Mitchell, Vidal Sasson, etc., discussing technique and the like. One of the celebrity judges remarked on her score sheet that he'd like to introduce her to his friend...Steve Madden. She is ecstatic. And we're proud.

Congratulations Patricia!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Back in the saddle

Howdy y'all,

I'm back! I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to shop for shoes. Can you? Of course not.

Western boots are in vogue this fall, but I live in Mississippi where, contrary to the great Manolo, boots are always in season. This handpainted boot by Lucchese is the perfect choice to indulge in the latest trends while distinguishing oneself from the local farm owners (not that there is anything wrong with owning a farm or wearing rugged, manly boots. I just happen to do neither).

You can expect to shell out a chunk of change for good quality boots, but why pay retail? These are 32% off at Zappos until November 18, so giddyup!

(and thanks for coming back.)

------------------------------

[Note to new visitors: Natalie regularly celebrates momentous occasions such as personal and federal holidays, accomplishments, bad moods, bar mitzvahs, Spring equinox, hormonal fluctuations, etc,. with shoe purchases. However, in an attempt to rein in the budget, she has taken to blogging rather than buying the appropriate shoe for the occasion. In keeping with budgetary constraints, all shoes blogged on RR&R are on sale. Links provided for those of you with no self control.]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

LA families affected by hurricanes are homeschooling

How do we find and help these people?

Really, you must...


... visit this secular homeschool site and join its forum. It's almost too good to be true; A sassy, stylish spoof centered around--of all things--the internationally recognized icon of homeschool motherhood.

Sarah Poppins, whose blog I'd somehow managed to miss until now, is the brilliant mind behind The Denim Jumper. The site looks great. The forums run smoothly. The registration process of painless. The people are full of humor and personality. There is a monthly book club. And it is inclusive. What's not to love?

BTW, if I had a body like this, I'd wear a denim jumper AND the thong!

HT: Concierge (but it's popping up all over the place)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Groundhog (Park) Day

I don't know about all my other Mississippi/Louisiana friends, but I am still having trouble dealing with this whole Katrina aftermath. Most noticeably, I don't seem to be firing on all synapses. "Rita who?" I almost asked someone who remarked that although she lingered a while, she wasn't so bad. I was thinking "ex-girlfriend?" and then "oooooh, right. The other hurricane."

I went to park day yesterday. No one else showed up. I was disappointed but determined to make the best of it. As I pitifully hummed the second verse to "Alone again...naturally", I spied a mom with a tiny baby AND a few school-age kids. I approached her and struck up a conversation (Nosy? Who me? I prefer to call this networking.) and found out that she is, indeed, a homeschooler. Her youngest four--ranging in age from 3 weeks to 9 years old--have and will never, she says, step foot in a government-run school although her oldest is 18 and will graduate this year from PS.

While our children played, we had a lengthy, pleasant conversation (which, of course, included my brief-but-oh-so-interesting PEAK pitch.) and learned that we have a lot in common, so we traded contact information. As they were leaving, she stopped to chat with a mom of four children entering the park. They seemed to be admiring each other's babies and gear.

Mom #2's oldest looked schoolish age, so --you know--I networked. Guess what: another homeschooler. No kidding! Another complete stranger with four kids ages 3 months to 5 years who also didn't like any of the homeschool groups she's encountered. Never heard of PEAK (I'd carry a sign if it didn't get in my way.) and thought it was a great concept.

We chatted briefly and I learned that she "graduated" homeschool right here in the Jackson area, and (because the conversation naturally led to difficulties she faced as a HEK decades ago) she mentioned that she received LSU's top academic scholarship (here's the part where I mention that Scott, who is defisking HoNDA at COD's place, thinks federal legislation is necessary to "protect" today's HEKs from discrimination... insert snide ironic comment). I gave her my contact info, then left.

Not bad for a no-show park day! Except...it wasn't park day. It was Tuesday. Park days are on Wednesday. Somewhere in the post-Katrina mental noise, my brain lost Tuesday. All day yesterday, from breakfast to bedtime, I thought it was Wednesday. As a matter of fact, I woke up today thinking it was Thursday and was fully prepared to take Dag to ballet until Jack called. Several minutes **after** that conversation about which of us was picking up my sister from the airport tomorrow/Thursday, I thought "tomorrow? Thursday? ...wait a minute... WHAT HAPPENED TO TUESDAY?!"

And just like that, I had an extra day! So...we went to the park.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Look what I found!

"The H.R.3753/S.1691 blog is an online source of information for people working to kill the bills -- again -- and keep homeschooling from being further defined by federal legislation. "

I've written my elected officials to oppose this bill (aka Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act of 2005 or HoNDA). Have you?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

PEAK in the Press!

We're famous! Well, we *feel* famous. Many thanks go out to Jeanne for including us in her Midsouth Homeschoolers interview and, of course, HEM for publishing it.

Also, here is a recent local piece highlighting our newest PEAK group in Starkville, MS.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Assume the position!

HoNDA is subjected to an aggressive fisk by COD.

More HoNDA info here.

Call, write, fax and otherwise harass your elected officials. This is one bill that must be stopped.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kill Bill

From a friend:

HONDA federal legislation

This is not a good bill for homeschoolers. It had died, but is now backagain as HB 3753. Both HSLDA and THSC support it. Read the article below that details the problems step by step. This is FEDERAL legislation and as such could undermine and reverse the gains that have been made state by state over the years. Just say NO to HONDA. Bad news for homeschoolers. These articles relate to the older version of the bill but the arguments still apply.

When contacting your represenatives to oppose this bill, be sure the state the correct new bill number HB 3753. This bill needs to be killed now!

http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/166.99/nd_clmn_tch.html

*** Legislators, left to their own devices, will understandably represent the mainstream majority rather than the homeschooling minority. Unless we educate them, most people assume that children need to attend a conventional school to learn basic skills and become socialized. Since the government oversees and regulates public schools, many people assume it should regulate homeschools in the same way. They also assume that homeschoolers want legislation that gives us benefits like tax credits or that supposedly guarantees that we can participate in public school courses or programs.

*** Legislation is very difficult to direct and control. Anytime legislation is introduced that includes homeschooling provisions (even if it is not a homeschooling bill as such), an amendment could easily be added that would increase state regulation of homeschools. It's not a question of what we could gain if legislation were introduced to give us tax credits or some other benefit. It's a question of what we could lose through the legislative process.

*** Once legislation is passed, government agencies write regulations that have the force of law even though they are not written by a representative body. Again, minority groups run the risk that regulations will reflect mainstream values rather than their own and turn the law against them.


http://www.homeedmag.com/HEM/205/sotch.html

HSLDA is presenting incorrect, misleading, and exaggerated claims for what the bill would accomplish. Even in the unlikely event that the bill brought a few small gains for homeschoolers, those gains would not be worth the risks of opening the door to federal regulation of homeschooling, creating a backlash against homeschoolers, and strengthening the power of the federal government. Unfortunately, HSLDA has a strong presence in Washington, D. C., partly because its headquarters are near D. C. Therefore, it is very important that homeschoolers who do not support this bill contact their federal legislators. Otherwise, we could end up with legislation that undermines homeschooling being supported by legislators who thought they were helping homeschoolers.

Homeschooling legislation recently introduced in the U. S. Congress would open the door to federal regulation of homeschooling, perhaps through required standardized testing; generate a backlash against homeschoolers; and encourage homeschoolers to rely on so-called experts. It would not result in the benefits to homeschoolers that HSLDA claims it would. Homeschoolers who oppose this legislation need to contact their federal representatives so they do not assume that HSLDA speaks for homeschoolers or that homeschoolers want this legislation.


http://www.cthomeschoolnetwork.org/HONDA.htm

Certain states, such as Connecticut, have little or no state government regulation of homeschooling. This bill will impose regulation over homeschoolers where there was no regulation before.


http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00BN9h

The HONDA bill would insert regulations affecting homeschooling into several laws that would allow the federal government to impose regulation despite the fact that it has no authority to do so. While homeschoolers do encounter problems from time to time, the resolution to those problems is not necessarily found in newly amended federal law. Those problems quite often are resolved through other means such as education of the uninformed and negotiation.

HT: Jeanne

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Yet another deadline distraction

I'm a classic movie buff, so I couldn't resist taking the Classic Dames Test. Upon discovering my classic starlet alter ego, I shall hereafter answer my telephone as:

Rosalind Russell


You scored 16% grit, 38% wit, 28% flair, and 28% class!

You are one wise-cracking lady, always quick with a clever remark and easily able to keep up with the quips and puns that come along with the nutty situations you find yourself in. You're usually able to talk your way out of any jam, and even if you can't, you at least make it more interesting with your biting wit. You can match the smartest guy around line for line, and you've got an open mind that allows you to get what you want, even if you don't recognize it at first. Your leading men include Cary Grant and Clark Gable, men who can keep up with you.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Terribly distracted

I've been neglecting the blog due to other obligations. Hopefully, we'll be back on track in a few days. Have a nice weekend.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Mississippi for President

Chrenkoff posted a reader's comparison of the ways LA and MS handled the aftermath of Katrina.
I really don't like to find fault at times like this, but one thing that was missing was a quick recognition that in such a situation the potential for civil collapse is nearly 100%. Once the weather settles, you need to immediately declare marshal law and send in the MPs. That's basically what Haley Barbour did in Mississippi - there were a few early problems but very quickly the MPs were patrolling what was left of Biloxi and Gulfport and keeping a lid on things. Back on Tuesday when I put on the news and we all saw Kathleen Blanco bursting into tears, I knew that was the wrong message and would bring trouble. Louisiana and New Orleans basically have those touchy-feely, "I'm okay, you're okay" soft-leftie types in charge. Their education took a few days and has been expensive.

So I hope you're Watching Mississippi. Highly recommended - we may have found our next President out of this (you heard it here first).

Well, it's not the first time someone has tapped Governor Barbour as a presidential hopeful. One of the political mags we read--either National Review or The New Republic, I forget which--has already made that prediction. Also, several Mississippians I know have said they read the governor's signing of the Ten Commandments bill (allowing the display of the Biblical text in some state buildings and which pleased the right to no end) as an indication that he may be gearing up for a presidential bid.

Before Katrina, it was difficult to gauge how effective Gov. Barbour truly is due to the fact that, in Mississippi, the legislature holds the lion's share of the power. In the face of unprecedented budget deficits, he attempted to brutally cut funding for education and Medicaid, which I supported, but was forced to compromise due to public outcry, political pressure and legislative stonewalling. However, he has not hesitated to rein in the legislature using special sessions and refusing to sign bills unless his conditions are met. Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Barbour has not allowed our elected state officials to emasculate him.

He has his shortcomings and his quirks, but I like him. His ability to handle the crises of Katrina has been down right admirable. I'd vote for him. Again.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mourning sickness

I don't think I can stand to look at another moment of television coverage, yet I sit there. When I'm not planted in front of the television, I'm on the computer checking Interdictor's blog and webcam. When I'm not doing that, I'm outside trying to forget what I've seen. I've been wasting a lot of time sitting solo on the front porch staring into space.

New Orleans is more than just some enchanted city to me. I have personal history in New Orleans and Thibodaux, a small town southwest of NO. My family moved to Thibodaux in the middle (literally during Christmas break) of my tenth grade year right before (literally nine days) before my sixteenth birthday. Needless to say, I hated my parents for several months after uprooting me from the town I'd practically grown up in, the buzzing metropolis of Mendenhall, MS. Seemed like as good a time as any to rebel.

BTW, my dad is a Southern Baptist minister. And, as I've stated many times before, preachers' kids get a lot of heat for being rebellious and mischievous, but --for the record-- we got it all from the deacons' children. No kidding.

We were close enough to New Orleans that our parents would let us take the car there but far enough away to feel safe from the big city crime. We knew the rules of how not to get mugged, where to park, where not to go after dark (as well as where TO go as soon as the sun set) and that--if the need arose-- we were never to take anything but a Union Cab (I don't know why, but everyone said so). We knew that city like the backs of our hands.

I fell in love hard for the first time in New Orleans, had my first child at Ochsner, saw my first off-Broadway play in the Saenger Theater. Even after I moved away, I kept coming back. Three weeks after I met my husband, we toured the French Quarter (after I subjected him to my 10-year high school reunion). When Dagny was still a nursing baby, as a gift, he treated me to a Diane Krall concert, so we all went along with my mother-in-law in tow as a sitter. I always thought that "one of these days" I'd have a second home in New Orleans (a dream my husband did not share. He thinks/thought New Orleans is/was too gritty.).

My Cresent City connection predates my birth. My parents met at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter at a mixer for the incoming students of NO Baptist Theological Seminary. Every single time our family went back (which was often), we heard it all over again as if my parents were talking to strangers.

Mom: (looking around) This is where your father and I met...
Kids: Yes, Mama, we know.
Mom: (gesturing) He was over there...
Kids: **sigh**
Mom: and I was over there...
Kids: mmm-hmm
Mom: I thought he was a jerk and he thought I was a snob, but I wasn't. I was just shy...
(at this point, mom yammers about what he was like in seminary, about the confusion surrounding a date my mom was supposed to have with my dad who was actually setting her up with his roommate, how angry she got at him...and finally...)
Mom: ...but I got him back for that...
Kids and Mom: I married him. [insert laugh track here]

(Come to think of it, I seem to remember my father being there, but I don't recall him saying anything.)

I became so conditioned by the association of beignets with this story that any time I went with friends to Cafe de Monde, I'd automatically say, "This is where my mom and dad met..." and they'd say, "Yes, Natalie, we knooooow..."

When I turn on my tv, this is not the New Orleans I see. It breaks my heart. The loss of humanity, both physically and morally, is staggering. But the fact that a city, a landmark for most of my coming-of-age years, no longer exists is incomprehensible. It adds a whole new dimension to my grief. I can't begin to put it into words.

Will New Orleans be rebuilt? And if so, will it ever be what it once was? As long as the port and refineries are salvagable, I think she's got a fighting chance to become even more vibrant than before. When the aquarium reopens, the sidewalk cafes resume business, and the city is bustling again, I'll be back in Cafe du Monde with my family and pestering my children.

"This is where your grandma and grandpa met..."

Friday, August 26, 2005

"They do not worship Satan"

Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But even if they did, so long as no one gets hurt, it's nobody's business.

Remember the Indiana judge who decreed that, as part of a divorce settlement, a couple could not practice Wicca with their son simply because he (the judge) objected? Well, it's been overturned:
The Indiana Court of Appeals today upheld the rights of parents to expose their children to Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion.

In its unanimous ruling, the court declared that a Marion County judge was out of bounds in approving a divorce decree that also directed the parents to shelter their 10 year old son from non mainstream religious beliefs and rituals.

And the author clarifies:
Wiccan beliefs center around the balance of nature and a reverence for the earth. They do not worship Satan.

HT: Debbie

Thursday, August 25, 2005

PS grads not ready for college

In an article from this week's EdWeek:

Even though more than 80 percent of the 80,000-plus high school students responding to a recent survey expect to go to college after graduation, far fewer are shouldering the kind of academic preparation they need to succeed there, the survey results suggest.

“I think our data give a wake-up call to high schools to say we need to make our courses more challenging,” said Martha M. McCarthy, the director of the High School Survey of Student Engagement, which is conducted every spring by Indiana University Bloomington. This year’s results were released Aug. 17.

Yeah, that's it. Make the classes harder. Give more homework. Brilliant! Wait. Scratch that. Apparently, classes aren't tough enough, but fault lies with the student. From another column in EdWeek:

One of the reasons for the disconnect between high school graduation and college readiness, the report by the Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT says, is that students aren’t taking the right curriculum to prepare them for college. Also, the available courses themselves may just not be rigorous enough, it suggests.

“The message does not seem to be getting through to students that if they want to go to college, they need to take more-rigorous courses,” Richard L. Ferguson, the chief executive officer of ACT, said while releasing the report during an online press conference.

Email ID: blogpasswords @ peaknetwork.org (no spaces)
Password: homeschool

Insights into the mind of an edu-ex-pat

I mentioned the post from Ex-Pat in which he called for support of public schools, then cited our favorite custodian. The conversation continues with an exchange between Ex-Pat and COD. Very interesting.

New Flash for MS Homeschoolers!

Peggy Petersen endorses homeschooling! It seems that Mississippi's Director of Compulsory Attendance doesn't think it's such a bad idea after all:
Q: My son was expelled from a public high school last spring. I thought I was going to be able to enroll him this month but I was told he has to stay out for a year. What am I supposed to do with him until the school says he can come back?

A: Peggy Peterson, director of compulsory school attendance in the state Department of Education, said a lot of parents who are able to do so will home school, if they can't get the child in a private school setting. Otherwise, they have to wait out the expulsion until the child can go back to school.

Apparently, it's good enough for her when the PS system doesn't want the child.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A way with words

I thoroughly enjoyed Jeanne's latest post at Home Works. Grab some coffee and pay her a visit.

Guess who's back in the press...

Super Dave, the anti-homeschool custodian, has been cited by this guy as a laudable critic of homeschooling. COD has more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More great reviews of Ready, Aim, Right!

From Ed Cline, the author of numerous historical fiction novels, mystery novels, and philosophical non-fiction articles:
It often seems today that the voice of reason is trying to make itself heard above a howling, never-ending hurricane of perilous irrationality. It shouts, it pleads, it warns, it explains. Sometimes, it even damns the stubbornly, consciously deaf. It knocks on the doors of men's minds with the same persistence that the hurricane rattles and buffets those doors.

But most people, it also seems, can barely hear that voice because they have taken refuge from the endemic irrationality in reason-proof states of mind. They cannot be blamed for fearing the hurricane; they seem to think that the irrationality is a natural phenomenon, and that they are powerless to stop it. They think their only option is to ride out the storm and pick up the pieces after it has passed. Regrettably, when they lock out irrationality, they also lock out its antidote. The number of American periodicals in the print medium that consistently promotes reason in men's affairs can be counted perhaps on the fingers of two hands. Almost without exception, these are conservative publications such as The New York Sun and the Washington Times, which unfortunately leave reason behind when the subject is abortion, the promotion of "family values" as government policy, and religion. Perhaps the only newspaper
in the country that does not exhibit this dichotomy is The Orange County
Register in California.

Jack Criss, career editor, journalist and former talk-show host, is also one of those exceptions. Ready, Aim, Right! is a collection of his writings covering fifteen years of shouting, warning and explaining in a variety of prominent Mississippi business publications. However, Jack Criss does not plead, whine or beg. Should the welfare state be abolished? Yes! Should the government, local and federal, get out of the lives of Americans, and protect their rights instead of violating them every day and every where citizens turn? Yes! Should the government cease its policies of fraud, deceit and extortion via Social Security and the income tax? Yes! Should the government abandon the education racket that accomplishes rampant illiteracy at the cost of billions? Yes!

Where in the original Constitution, Criss might cause a reader to ask himself, is the clause or article that grants the federal or any state government the power to "manage" the economy and the lives of Americans? And if such a clause or article exists, wouldn't it nullify the balance of the Constitution? He refuses to allow Americans to forget their rights and the original purpose of government, first enunciated by the Founders. Wherever he detects dishonesty, scams, lies, and outright robbery by career politicians and bureaucrats, Criss is on top of it, exposing it all. He does so with style, wit, frankness and integrity, virtues no longer apparent in most journalists today, either in the print or the broadcast media. His is a voice that should be heard and heeded.

We hope Criss's next book project will be a collection of his radio interviews, which should also make interesting and infuriating reading. They are discussions with notables ranging from populist demagogue Jesse Jackson to philosopher of reason Leonard Peikoff.

He also received a national review here and another local one here (<--the JFP comments were a riot).

Someone who (almost) gets it

Retired Mississippi English teacher, Jan Busby, nails the myth that more tax money will fix schools in Mississippi (or anywhere else for that matter):

Beware, taxpayers - especially parents - what government affords you and your children in the name of "education."

The Mississippi Department of Education has now asked for millions more tax dollars to be added to a budget of billions. It is absolutely mandatory that intelligent, concerned voters ask and receive answers as to how these billions will directly help our children. As you discover how the money in the state budget is used, you will be amazed.

Can I get an "amen"?
Well, not so fast. She lost me here:

Though I, too, dread April 15, I want to pay my taxes to the American government that protects me, makes me free.

Education should provide the groundwork for our government - our democracy.

As usual, I write this in the spirit of concern, for education is still my passion. And public education is absolutely necessary. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

So, homeschool.

I disagree with the latter statement for obvious reasons but take unique exception to the two above it. Taxes and systems of gov't don't make or keep us free. And I don't think our gov't (once again, not a democracy, hello.) should be in the business of educating children. Nor do I think said education provides the groundwork for said gov't. Nuff said.

Other than that, it's not so bad. Worth a read.

HT: Mr. Criss

Monday, August 22, 2005

Alive and kickin'

...and so has the whole house. Switch plates, phones, faucets and drawer pulls have been hosed down with antibacterial solution. Cushions have been sprayed with Lysol. Toothbrushes have been replaced. Bedding and sick clothes have been laundered (or burned). AND the ominous "Quarantined" sign has been removed. I'm kidding about the bonfire and the sign, but I do believe we're all going to live.

Over the last few weeks, we all ended up with something. Two days "after the conference" (aka ATC, a period of time during which I've been told lots of strange things can happen), I started going downhill with what I thought was a summer cold. Jack contracted a stomach virus which he passed to Dagny, whose unrelated "summer cold" developed into a super-strain of resistant sinus infection that didn't initially respond to antibiotics. Katie, as usual, didn't come down with anything but suffered frequent bouts of "get me outta here!" syndrome. Who can blame her after putting up with a bunch of moaning, groaning people who grunted demands at her constantly to fetch blankets, remote controls, the phone, tissue, etc. Mostly, she avoided us like the plague...no pun intended.

Post-recovery has been interesting. In a household that literally lives, learns and works together, the effects of recovering from a multi-member illness warrants a new entry into the journals of psychological phenomena: post-germatic-stress disorder. The guilt of letting so many things slide, from deadlines to homeschool to PEAK activities to housework to bloggage, has left me with the feeling that I've let people down. Yet, I've been so unmotivated. I think, "I really should [fill-in-the-blank]" and then I do nothing because (a) I'm still tired (b) I'm paralyzed by the sheer volume of things that could fill in that blank or (c) a previously missed episode of Good Eats is on. I'll get moving right after I take a nap/make another list/finish watching this show. I even have a lap desk with a cushy bottom, pencil holder and a flexible light so I can nap, scribble and click any time of day without getting off the couch (I'm an even bigger baby in person).

Well, I'm up! We outsourced the housework, laundry and yard, which I highly recommend when life gets crazy. I made and wrote belated thank-you notes to be mailed Monday right after I return library books. To get the homeschool wheels turning, we made pink play dough, took the telescope outside to view the moon, created a nature journal and started a science lab geared toward tracking and maintaining the nitogen cycle in Katie's new fish tank. Tuesday, PEAK is having a planning meeting. We're also planning a Not Going Back to School party in early September. I've cracked open my cookbooks so that I can get away from chicken nuggets, sandwiches, PopTarts and microwaved meals. The pantry and frig (which I cleaned out myself as I was too embarrassed to let "The Maids" do it) have been restocked. And, LOOK, I'm blogging!

On a scale of 100, I'm running now at about 85%. I have two days left of antibiotics, a recurring headache, and an unshakeable need for a long nap every afternoon. But, I'm finally off my duff crossing things off my lists. And the TV is off.

Thank you all for your thoughts, comments and emails.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I'll be back...

Going offline very temporarily due to a lovely case of strep accompanied by a rash in an ever so flattering shade of rose.

Wash your hands immediately after reading this message.

HT: Dr. Joe

Thursday, August 11, 2005

You're ALL crazy

Well, not all of you. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, just half of you are nuts. bonkers. wacko. touched in the head. lacking a few marbles. two nickels short of a dollar. coo-coo. missing a few screws.

OR maybe it's just this survey that isn't playing with a full deck. Funded almost entirely by the govt (the rest by pharmaceutical companies), one of the lead researchers and professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, Ronald Kessler, remarks rather passively and without irony in an interview with NPR that reactions to life's ups and downs (moving to a new city, ending a love relationship, etc) qualify as mental disorders.

How depressing.

In an article published in the Harvard Gazette, Kessler says:

"No one would be surprised to find that 99.9 percent of the population has had a physical illness sometime in their life," he points out. "Physical illnesses are often mild and short-lived; the same is true of what we call mental illnesses. But what our study shows is that these disorders have an impact on Americans as common as physical maladies such as diabetes and heart disease."

But what about "disorders" that are the analogous to emotional hiccups, like curricula dementia? Mental hangnails, like homeschool legislation anxiety? Common colds of the spirit, like dealing with unsupportive family? The good professor laments:

... many people turn to nonmedical treatments without proven benefit. About one out of three patients relied on sources such as spiritual advisers and Internet groups. "You wouldn't rely on your priest for treatment if you had breast cancer," commented Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, major supporter of the $20 million survey.

$20 million??? Now THAT is insane.

None of your business

That's what public school officials are telling parents when they ask questions like:

Do you intend to talk about adult sexuality to my kindergartener?
Why won't you notify me if you plan to discuss sexuality?
Who gets to decide when and what my child is exposed to regarding adult sexuality?

One parent refused to leave the school unless he was given answers...and was arrested. He spent the night in jail and is scheduled to go on trial.
Parker is contesting the charge. Why? After his arraignment, he stated, "I'm just trying to be a good dad." During a May 11 appearance on the FOX News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Parker expanded on this statement, saying that he wanted his son "to play on the swing set and make mud pies. I don't want him thinking about same-sex unions in kindergarten."

Parker's attorney, Jeffrey Denner, points to a larger issue -- "the role of family and what kind of encroachments government can make into children's and people's lives."

Otherwise stated, schools are usurping the parental role of teaching personal values to children. They are not acting as educators but as guardians, "in loco parentis" (in the place of a parent). Some schools clearly consider this function to be their right, even over parental objections. Thus, Estabrook defends its "right" to teach Parker's son to accept same-sex marriages.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Cross-pollination or cross-pollution?

I read somewhere that there are seven kinds of homeschoolers. Though I'm not sure about that, I do know that reasons for homeschooling are as diverse as the families who practice it. Therefore, it is no wonder that there are conflicting views in the movement. Some are better defined than others and a few overlap. Sort of like opposing teams within different divisions, some I watch because it's Sunday afternoon and there's nothing else on while others are rivals whose heated match-ups attract a lot of attention no matter whose side you're on.

As long as it remains civil, this is a healthy, necessary exercise. I welcome it, because profound discussion happens in those debates. Ideas are exchanged that force people--even those not directly involved-- to look beyond what they know (or think they know) to consider something else. For those new to homeschooling, these debates serve as an introduction to homeschool history, crash courses in (internal and external) homeschool politics; for others, a guide to legislative activism. For all of us, these conversations create better homeschoolers.

However, there are online forums out there that seem bent on shutting people up. I don't know how long this has been going on, but I felt it within days of joining HSWatch about two months ago and witnessed it first hand this week on the NHEN boards. Both groups give deference to the same members, express the same views and employ the same tactics. I don't speak for the entire membership of those groups, but I will spell out what disturbs me:

This harkens back to the issue of withholding support from those who unknowingly violate ambiguous rules or don't adhere to purposefully vague descriptions. Granted, private list owners can make their own rules. However, unevenly enforcing the rules, exhibiting blatant favoritism toward those in agreement, enacting an unofficial policy counter to the group's description to ban dissenters at will and allowing key members to strong-arm others into silence by tossing around words like "libel" is --in my opinion--intimidating, unethical, controlling and vindictive. Contrary to their descriptions, groups engaging in these practices are not interested in information and diversity.

Just this week on NHEN, I was following a thread on Protecting Homeschool Freedoms & Clarity (something near and dear to my homeschooling heart) in which the moderator quickly took a belligerent tone with the author. I thought it was uncalled for but guessed that perhaps there was some personal history that I was unaware of. Thinking that this might be one of those "Sunday afternoon, nothing's on" confrontations, I revisited the thread later. It had been significantly altered. Whole posts, which were civil and relevant, are missing, thus changing the context and cohesiveness of the entire exchange. Given the "inclusive" nature of NHEN, I wondered if it should change its motto to "Controlling the way the world sees homeschooling."

In the course of the debate (Page 3), the moderator chastised the author for quoting directly from HSWatch (which is against the elist's rules) and predicted dire consequences for her "given the readership of these [NHEN] boards." The author of that thread is now on heavy moderation at NHEN and was, as predicted, banned from HSWatch. Shortly thereafter, the moderator became confrontational with yet another poster who dared to disagree. This moderator, whoever the hell she is, NHEN and HSWatch certainly don't seem interested in a dialogue with diversity or presenting a whole picture of that diversity. That's fine. Just change your description and don't forget to include your mutual affiliations or common punitive policies.

The latest development stems from a post from an HSLDA lawyer to NHEN which has been cross-posted to HSWatch by the NHEN moderator. In it, he defines libel at the request of two members who are at odds (the two at odds in the above paragraph, that is). An HSWatch member, who obviously didn't know better, objected to the cooling effect such a veiled threat would have on members of HSWatch, to which the list owner responded (and, for crying out loud, I'm not quoting her) that she didn't mind having a lawyer on the list defining libel if it made people think about the consequences of their words...not exactly a raging endorsement for the practical discussion outlined on her group's homepage. In other words, shut the hell up. Or else.

These two groups seem to have formed an alliance befitting a dysfunctional episode of Survivor: Homeschool Island. Why? Good grief, I don't know. Control? Self-preservation? I don't think there is a grand scheme in place, but I don't think it's a coincidence, either. Again, just my opinion.

I will say this: By giving the floor to one side of a multi-faceted debate and deliberately silencing others, both serve only themselves, risk sacrificing their credibility and are of no use to me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mississippi Homeschool Day was a success!

PEAK sponsored its first ever statewide event Saturday at the Edison Walthall Hotel. Members from all five regional groups attended with their families. It was a fulfilling, enriching, enlightening experience. Truly a testament that families with diverse backgrounds could come together--in a state considered by many to be impossibly conservative and fundamentalist--to not only learn from but also thoroughly enjoy one another.

We kicked off with a poolside welcome reception, sponsored by the Metro Business Chronicle, where families who have communicated online throughout the last year finally met face to face. The children were relegated to "swimming" in the hot tub due to a sudden, unexpected chemical reaction that left the pool the color of PowerAde, obscuring the bottom of the pool and dying the skin and hair of previous swimmers blue (I wish I were kidding). However, the abundance of food, conversation, board games, and bubbles provided enough entertainment to keep this blogger/event planner from having a nervous breakdown.

Saturday started early (especially for me) with breakfast at 7:00 AM. Workshops began at 9:00 AM and lasted until 3:00 PM, after which Jeanne Faulconer gave a stirring keynote address. It's hard for me to pinpoint my favorite moments, but here are a few:

--All of the PEAK moderators were there, only one of whom I'd met in person previously. We were able to sit down together and talk about the future of PEAK, and it was wonderful to be able to LOOK at them and hear their insights and ideas (I can't believe I didn't get a picture of us all together.).

--My mother, a public school teacher (it's ok, guys, she's safe) came in from the Delta to attend three sessions on algebra and Cuisenaire rods. Now she not only enjoyed it, she also got to meet other homeschoolers and see firsthand what I've been up to for the last few months.

--Seeing my friends, whom I'd met before, meeting each other. Watching everyone sharing ideas and stories. Confirming that friend-matches that I'd made in my head were right on.

--Watching Sam and his little brother perform impressive karate maneuvers by the (inaccessible...did I mention that?) pool as I talked to a couple who are about to set sail on a boat they built. We marveled at how our daughters, both of whom are remarkably shy, talked as they worked on a jigsaw puzzle together. Later they took over the hot tub and insisted that we have breakfast together the next morning (hence the early start the next day).

--Knowing that three of those attending are public school affiliated, and realizing that they were being exposed to something new in a very positive way.

The workshops were interesting and interactive. I led a discussion on Homeschool Basics. Several attendees suggested that Robert Shinn, who gave an intense and quick-paced talk on Common Sense Algebra, write a book or even an algebra curriculum. Karen Slovak led two demonstrations using Cuisinaire rods, which were a mystery to me until I attended her fraction workshop (apparently you can use them for teaching algebra, too...great topic for next year!). Vonda Keon (aka Lady in the Barrel) talked to several people about teaching children of multiple ages and accommodating those with special needs. Jeanne Faulconer, our keynote speaker, conducted sessions on homeschooling styles, how to best utilize your home to homeschool, and sent off with a moving keynote address on how to adjust our mindset to that of a minority.

The children were well-mannered and well-behaved. When they weren't attending sessions with their parents, they were huddled around a table making crafts, sitting in circles playing cards, working on personal pieces of incredible anime art, translating song lyrics from English to Russian, (no kidding), or testing the laws of gravity with my new favorite game, Jenga.

I have to say that, despite a couple of minor hiccups, I was surprised at how seamlessly the event flowed. It's one thing to plan an event and quite another to watch it unfold before you. I can only thank the speakers who came energized and prepared, the attendees who were anxious to participate and network, the kids for being absolute gems and Earl Gaylor of the Edison for giving us such great rates on hotel rooms and meeting space.

I also want to extend my warmest, most sincere thank you to my husband whose business not only sponsored our Welcome Reception and gave me a half-hour spot on his radio show, but who also has been patient, loving, and understanding throughout the chaos of the last several weeks. Without his support both of our educational efforts at home and of my wacky support group endeavors, none of this would have been possible.

Latest MS Biz column: August

Capitalism: creating our own empowerment zones
By Natalie Criss
Assistant Editor
Metro Business Chronicle

There are a lot of people in this country who don’t know the first thing about capitalism. Many default to the “greedy pig” stereotype, because they don’t know any better. Others, particularly Marxists, believe that capitalism oppresses certain classes. Some claim to be capitalists simply because they are successful business owners, despite their rape and pillage of taxpayers to obtain their status.

None of these people really understand what capitalism is or what it can do. Whether it is to rein in “crooked” corporate executives, level the playing field by eliminating “unfair” competition, or redistribute wealth to the “disadvantaged,” they all presuppose the existence of government interference in the market. Their assumption is based on their common belief that capitalism unfettered is bad. Why?

Americans, particularly minorities (which includes women) have been sold a message by the media, our state and federal lawmakers, and our universities that we cannot do it alone: In order to start a business, we must have grants. To secure a job, we need regulations to protect us from discrimination. To jump-start ailing economies, we need empowerment zones and corporate welfare.

One of my favorite websites is Capitalist Chicks (http://www.capitalistchicks.com/), which is run by two women. Its purpose is to highlight women in capitalism. Their attempts at edginess are a little annoying, but considering that the younger of the two is in her early 20’s, I’m just glad to see a young capitalist woman in action.

Each month, the Chicks chose a theme on which to base their monthly features. In the introduction of the current theme, debt management, they say, “Taking responsibility for your retirement and your future not only seems distant, it seems daunting, and most people believe it's too big and confusing to figure out on their own.”

Ah, there it is: the creeping anxiety of decision-making and subsequent postponement of thought. “I'll not think of that today. I'll think of it tomorrow, for tomorrow is another day,” sighed Scarlet O’Hara. Well, fiddle dee dee. I do believe we’ve just hit upon the real reason capitalism “doesn’t work.”

Capitalism is the result of thoughtful, engaged, rational minds. Therefore, paralysis brought on by indecision is the biggest threat to capitalism. Failure to think has dire consequences.

If American women and minorities in business decide not to meet the daunting task of decision-making head on, we give that responsibility to someone else. If we trust someone else to act in our best interests more than we trust ourselves, we are giving away our freedom. Government is all too happy to fill that role.

We are not entitled to grants funded by taxpayer money. We do not need special status to succeed. We should not expect the government to fight our battles, fill our bellies, prop up our businesses, jump-start our economies or raise our children.

The most effective empowerment zone is headquartered atop our shoulders and extends to the borders of our personal space. If we don’t utilize it, the oppression and obstacles we have overcome in the past will pale in comparison to the ones that await us in the future.

Copyright Business Ink 2005. Email Natalie to request permission to reprint. Or else.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

APB: The Other Mother

Theories on what happened to Julie's blog:

--She finished the book (what do you mean "what book?" [slap]) and has gone into hiding while she mourns.
--She ticked off HSLDA (just kidding! just kidding! juuuuuust kiiiidding!! please don't hurt me).
--An unfortunate technological glitch which destroyed everything but our fond memories. Let us pause for a moment of silence...

Seriously, what happened??

Mississippi Homeschool Day 2005

It was great! I'm still giddy.

I posted something earlier today. However, while I was driving around town carting kids and groceries, I realized I didn't say enough about the sessions, there were people I didn't thank, several details I glossed over...my internal perfectionist panicked, so I took it down.

I promise a full report with pictures and details within hours. Until then, I have to go. I'm currently obsessing about my unprotected, not-backed-up collection of digital photos.

(Is this what it's like to come down from the ATC high? I have this insatiable urge to reorganize our media cabinet ...alphabetically ...by category ...with my new label-maker. Quick! GIVE ME A PURPOSE, something to do, a task to complete. [twitch. quirk. twitch].)

If you need me, I'll be burning CDs.

(...I wonder if placing embossed labels on the disc would be a bad idea...[twitch])

What a latte bull...

A Utah school board saw witchcraft in a coffee-drinking teacher. Now she sees religious discrimination:

Jensen, 46, taught high school English at South Sevier High School in Monroe for three years, receiving the Teacher of the Year award just before she was fired at the end of the school year in 2003. One of two non-Mormon faculty members outside of special education, Jensen knew she was different, but had no idea the ax was coming and only a faint idea about why until the rumors started leaking out after she filed a lawsuit.

Minutes of a 2003 school board meeting just received by her attorneys tell the story. Superintendent Brent Thorne is recorded recommending against renewing Jensen’s contract for 2004 in a discussion that ends this way:

“She also believes in witchcraft and paints her windows in her classroom black. Halloween is her favorite holiday and she doesn’t hide the fact that she prefers the dark side.”
HT: Johnny Terry

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Attention book-loving homeschoolers:

There's a new place online that combines the love of reading with light and humorous commentary and delicious homeschooling snark (much of which is for sale in her storefront. Look! Here's a T-shirt for Daryl-->).

To say that Deborah Markus loves books is truly an understatement. At her new site, Words On Us, she writes about why she owns multiple copies of her favorite reads, the virtues of used books, fulfilling literary obsessions, and other indulgences, including this telling snip from her local library sale adventures:
"I leave these sales when not only has it become painfully obvious to me that I can't carry any more books, even in my teeth, but when those around me are moved to offers of help. Then and only then do I stagger over to the tally-up table. Ahead of me today was a man holding a good selection, including one volume I had considered and ultimately left behind. I resisted the urge to snatch the book indignantly out of his hands and demand to know who the hell he thought he was."

Fellow bibliophiles will also find the infamous recipe for Deborah's Killer Brownies (published here first, folks!) as well as the proper ingredients necessary to create a book club for adults. Deborah also offers tips and topics for getting the most from library-sponsored children's book clubs. As you may suspect, she is active in all of these (both brownie and book club consumption).

Deborah's style is disarming and engaging much like (and I almost hate to say this, knowing the comparison has certainly been made before:) an irreverent Kathleen/Meg Ryan from You've Got Mail. She is The Book Lady. Her vast knowledge and specific recall of books is astounding, really, but without all the high-brow, pseudo-intellectualized blather. She wants to read, absorb and share; not intimidate. Well, mostly.

Click on over and visit the only place on the web where you can find a detailed book list for introducing your children to Royalty and the Middle Ages AND pick up a "Yes I homeschool and No I am not a right-wing religious nut" bumper sticker and T-shirt.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I do

...think HSLDA's recent "marriage" amendment to its application (top of page 2, item J) serves as further proof that it is less concerned with preserving the rights of homeschoolers and more concerned with forwarding its brand of Christian conservatism. But, at least they have the guts to put it in writing:
J. Because of HSLDA's active involvement in preserving traditional marriage,
persons involved in same-sex marriage, civil unions, or polygamy are not
eligible for membership.

I wonder how close divorcees were to inclusion in that statement...

HT: Shay

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Intermittent Bloggage

Due to PEAK's first annual Homeschool Day on July 30, I'll be in and out of the blogosphere all week. After the event, I'll update with pictures and a full report.

Til then, I'll check in periodically. Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Counting sheeples

Jeanne said, "Reminds me of how cyber school corporations (and the gov't) perpetuate the idea that parents need 'experts' and 'curriculum' that must somehow be unavailable to them without paying lotsa dough for 'professionals' to help them."

So now we have people who will develop a "sleep plan" for your child:

We believe that a person's emotional response to parenthood and their child's developmental needs require equal attention. Parenting is too important a job to take on alone [emphasis mine]. The Soho Parenting Center is a place where each family member can receive the support, insight and companionship essential to a more fulfilling family life.

The Soho Parenting Center provides a variety of services to meet these needs. Parents who have become part of our circle feel that their involvement in our center has helped them to share their joy, tolerate their confusion, understand change, ease their loneliness and express love.

Caused from, what, being a parent?? The poor things.

HT: Jeanne