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

Such a nice boy...

Photo: Jay and Janet Thompson were nominated by their 14-year-old son, Eric, as Parents of the Year.

This was a sweet article. However, you know they are going to repeatedly remind him of this moment in a few short years...

Son: I don't know why you won't trust me! This is not fair! I hate you!

Parents: That's not what you said in 2005...

Son: Well, you MADE me do it so you could get more donations for your crummy youth center!*

[The above dialogue is completely fictional. I made it up. I also don't think the youth center is crummy. Please don't sue me.]
*See Editor's Note.

Thanks a mill

Daryl already scooped me on this (I hate it when that happens...Besides, it was off-topic AND in Mississippi. That's it. I'm telling Helen.):

"For the owner of a $100,000 home, school taxes will go up only $10, not $40 as previously anticipated."

Yeah, whatever. You already read about it...

WHY AREN'T YOU IN SCHOOL, YOUNG MAN?

[Aiyyeee! Sue the KMD photographer!]

"During a 45-minute presentation to the Mineral County Board of Education, Linda Marsh, Attendance Director/Drop-Out Prevention Specialist, gave an in-depth summary of attendance numbers throughout the county.

"I'm pleased we have cooperation from the courts and agencies," said Marsh. She added that other states don't have that privilege, don't have the same cooperation.

Part of Marsh's job is connected with the Department of Motor Vehicles."

Attendance is tied with getting and keeping a student's driving license*," said Marsh.There were 1,231 verifications of enrollment forms certified, four reinstatement authorization forms, 78 documentations for suspension and seven for hearing requests."

----------

* and funding! MS's Director of Attendance gave a similar presentation justifying why she should not be canned shortly before unleashing a litany of anti-homeschool comments.

I don't know if homeschoolers in W. VA fall under the "supervision" of the Attendance Office (like we do) but the license requirement is the same in MS. In order for a homeschooler to get a license, he/she must fill out an attendance form (PDF) and have it notarized.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Because they can...

Another private organization with ambiguous requirements is booting previously listed inclusive groups due to controversial descriptions:
Athena Members,

I just wanted to let you know what happened. About two weeks ago I received a letter from the AFHE (Arizona Families For Home Education) stating that our group was being removed from the AFHE support group list because of keywords like "wicca" and "witch". Since then I have been gathering information on the situation and have found out that they filed for 501 (c) (3) status, in other word not-for-profit status. After receiving a copy of the articles of incorporation for AFHE I found out that nowhere in the info does it say that AFHE is a Christian organization (not even that the board members are Christian which was their reasoning for removing Athena from the support group list). So I am going to pursue it and see what happens. In the meantime please forward this info to anyone you think may be interested and please email or phone them to let them know how unfair this is. If you would like to look at a copy of this letter you can either go to the photos section on the yahoo group or to the front page of the Athena website.

Stacy
A-T-H-E-N-A Moderator

Just say no...

ID gets the rough treatment in this op-ed from ARI:

The insistence of "intelligent design" advocates that they are "agnostic regarding the source of design" is a bait-and-switch. They dangle out the groundless possibility of a "designer" who is susceptible of scientific study--in order to hide their real agenda of promoting faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible "designer" is nothing more than a gateway god--metaphysical marijuana intended to draw students away from natural, scientific explanations and get them hooked on the supernatural.

HT: Mr. Criss

Patrick Henry College: Where never is heard a disparaging word...

...and the logic is cloudy all day. Everybody sing!

HT: Shay

Here's to your mental health, Minnesota!

This just in from Julie Quist of EdWatch:

Huge Mental Health Victory for MN Families: MN parents & children protected from mental health coercion & universal screening!

In two enormous setbacks for the mental health establishment (the pharmaceutical industry, professional organizations, and mental health front groups), universal mental health screening “at least once by age 3” was defeated as part of mandatory kindergarten screening in the 2005 Minnesota legislative session. In addition, thanks to the incredible work of House Republican negotiators and the informed, persistent work of EdWatch, Minnesota becomes the first state in the nation to prohibit schools from coercing parents to either medicate their children with psychotropic drugs OR submit them to mental health screening.

[Note: The EdWatch update of July 5th that reprinted the article New law can't force meds on kids referenced changes to a federal law (IDEA) that applies only to special ed students.]

No Mental Health Screening for Toddlers : The Minnesota Senate Democrats, acknowledging and supporting the New Freedom Commission’s recommendation for universal mental screening, did their best to require mental health screening for children as young as three years for kindergarten entrance. The legislation wanted to screen children’s “socioemotional development” to the long list of mandated screening items, not just by kindergarten entrance at age 5, but moving the age down to “at least once by age three,” which could conceivably have meant at birth.

The definition of “socioemotional development” was also incredibly vague. It said:"For purposes of this section, socioemotional screening means assessing a child's ability, in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations, to (1) experience, control, and express emotions; (2) form close and secure interpersonal relationships; and (3) explore and experience surroundings and learn from them."

It is impossible to accurately or fairly assess any of these criteria, especially in very young children. The Surgeon General Report on Mental Health [PDF] (1999. p. 1-5) confirms this when it says, “In other words, what it means to be mentally healthy is subject to many different interpretations that are rooted in value judgments that may vary across cultures.”

If this legislation had passed, it would have opened the door to incredible government intrusion into the lives of families by producing massive data collection of very personal and private information. It would have also screened these young children and their families based on political and religious values, attitudes and beliefs in the “context of family, community, and cultural expectations.”

Minnesota would have followed in the steps of Illinois. As of June 30th, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has on his desk the state’s final plan to “increase early intervention and mental health treatment services and supports for children: Ages 0-5 years…” Thanks to the efforts in Minnesota of dedicated legislators, and thanks to the phone calls, visits and emails of many, many constituents, Minnesota did not descend down that path.Groundbreaking Protection of Parents and Children Against Coercion

In 2001, Minnesota was the second state in the nation to pass a prohibition against school-led coercion of parents to drug their children with sympathomimetics, meaning stimulant medication like Ritalin and Adderall. That legislation stated that a parent could not be charged with educational neglect for refusing these drugs. It was authored by Representatives Barb Sykora and Sondra Erickson, among others, in the House, and by Senators Tom Neuville and Michele Bachmann, among others, in the Senate.

Since passage of that prohibition in 2001, continued incidents of coercion around the nation using other types of charges and other types of drugs, such as antidepressants, have come to light. The FDA has since then issued warnings on the ineffectiveness and dangers of psychotropic medications. In addition, mental health screening rapidly rose to prominence following the release of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health [PDF], which recommends universal screening “across the life span.” All of these developments clearly demonstrated that this very good and important 2001 legislation needed expansion.

Rep. Jim Abler introduced an amendment to this year’s education bill with encouragement from EdWatch. He also had strong support from other members in during both the committee hearing and conference committee negotiations. That amendment stated:"Consistent with section 125A.091, subdivision 5, a readmission plan must not obligate a parent or guardian to provide psychotropic drugs to their student as a condition of readmission. School officials must not use the refusal of a parent or guardian to consent to the administration of psychotropic drugs to their student or to consent to a psychiatric evaluation, screening or examination of the student as a ground, by itself, to prohibit the student from attending class or participating in a school-related activity, or as a basis of a charge of child abuse, child neglect or medical or educational neglect."

Changing to the word “psychotropic” covers all psychiatric medications, not just stimulant drugs. This and a complete prohibition of coercion of parents with charges of abuse or neglect or exclusion from school or activity makes the Minnesota law the strongest and best mental health anti-coercion law enacted in the entire nation. To our knowledge, Minnesota is also the only state in the nation that protects children and parents from mental health screening coercion. Sadly, Republican governors Jon Huntsman and Jeb Bush vetoed excellent bills with similar language that passed the Utah and Florida state legislatures, respectively. These governors gave away family rights to privacy and freedom of thought and gave in to the powerful pharmaceutical lobby and the rest of the mental health establishment.
----------------
Congratulations to Julie, EdWatch and families everywhere.

Friday, July 15, 2005

No new bloggage until Monday

I'm catching up with life, putting the finishing touches on my daughter's bedroom, and going out of town. Unless something unusual or irresistibly bloggable occurs, I'll be back here Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

That's nice. It's still not homeschooling.

According to this press release (it's really more like an ad), this "Home-School Technology" resulted in a "500-Point Turn-Around after Using Riverdeep's Destination Success(TM) at Home":
Looking for something that would turn things around for Kenneth, Henderson thought of courseware she was using with her high-school math students. "The district subscribes to Destination Math® and Destination Reading®, and we have access to it through the computer lab. I take my kids there at least once a week," Henderson said. Although her students naturally focus on Destination Math, she gives them time on Destination Reading as well -- and encourages them to use it at home. "Reading is a critical skill in math," Henderson said. "The math questions on the FCAT are written questions. If you can't comprehend what you've read, then you can't answer the question, even if you might know how to solve the formula."

Henderson had been impressed with way Destination Success' visual, step-by-step approach and real-world examples motivated her high-school students, and she thought it might help Kenneth, too. Because the district made the courseware available on the Internet, she knew she could log on at home. "I started using Riverdeep with him every night for at least thirty minutes," Henderson said. "That became part of our nightly routine." They usually split the time half and half between Destination Reading and Destination Math.

Sigh. Nevermind that the child was not pulled from school and registered as a homeschooler: If the district is using it in a high school lab, is it really Home-School Technology?

IT'S A TRAP!!!!

Starts off innocently enough. A group of parents wants to start a free, non-religious charter school. They attempt to justify their idea by citing the opportunity to provide another educational alternative in the district, their intent to utilize a curriculum that will fill in or prevent the gaps in knowledge children acquire in public school, restore integrity and rigor to learning by thinking outside the box and other such warm fuzzy treats. Sounds lovely.

However, the school is tuition-free because it is funded by the district, hence these are public school children.

The curricula are pre-approved by the state, through which all things are possible.

They somehow try (but fail) to sell the idea that this is good for the district because:
"...the charter school will be attractive to parents who home-school their children, or put them in out-of-district schools."
you don't fool me...

Charter schools are not private schools OR home schools.

Duct Tape Use #367,533, 821: Prom Attire

From Business Wire:

"Pablo Picasso claimed, 'Everything you can imagine is real.' After letting their imaginations run free, high school students, Krystal Long and Casey Isringhouse, are now realizing their prom outfits - reminiscent of Picasso's 'Girl Before a Mirror' and made completely out of duct tape - won them a college scholarship.

Long and Isringhouse, of Forrest City, Ark., were named winners of the 2005 Duck® brand duct tape Stuck at Prom® Scholarship Contest, and each was awarded a $2,500 college scholarship. Long and Isringhouse, both 18, designed, created and wore their artistic duct tape attire to Forrest City High School's prom this spring, and submitted themselves into the fifth annual Duck® brand duct tape Stuck at Prom® Contest. "

Click here to see the rest of the entries.

Another criminal hides behind homeschooling

Yet another abusive parent. I hope there is a special place in prison for him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

From the frontlines of the war against MMHS

The following was reprinted with permission from Julie Quist of EdWatch regarding two sources (President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and Resources Regarding Mental Health Screenings) posted by Susan Ryan on the NCSW Yahoo! list:

Dear Susan, Annette, and others,

I haven't contributed before, but I've been on the list for a few weeks now. Thank you for the good information.

I'm from Minnesota (EdWatch and EdAction) and we have been fighting hard against universal mental health screening for preschoolers here in our state in this legislative session. We just finished the education bill at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning, complete with a special session and a government shutdown since July 1st. The education bill still has to pass the House and Senate, but it will no doubt pass sometime tomorrow or Thursday. (Government is temporarily back in business.)

Mental health screening wasn't the hold-up for the legislation, but the delays have meant we've had to continue the fight from January 8th to now! We successfully kept out mental health screening! It was quite a major victory for us.

The legislation started out this way in January: "All children shall be screened at least once by age three." That would have included both mental health and state early learning curriculum standards which reflected things like gender identity, social activism, environmentalism, homosexuality, diversity, and vocations. Of course, it would have included not only non public and home school families for mental health screening, but it would also have included K-12.

From there, under pressure they cut the language back to "targeting" 3 year olds, but with no requirement to be screened until students entered public kindergarten. That let nonpublic school families off that hook for the time being. But the bill offered school districts extra money for every 3 year old they screened.

The final legislation was no mental health screening at all! We were able to cut way back on the rest of the screening, too, and on their plans to set up a total early learning system for all, including private providers. We called it the Nanny State. There's still way too much room for lots of mischief, but I have to say, we're in a much stronger position today than we were last January, and mental health screening was completely defeated! We were so determined not to have our state follow in the footsteps of Illinois. However, Minnesota is implementing social and emotional teaching already, and it's really tough to get a handle on it all.

That's why we're pushing a couple of things at the federal level. One is the Parental Consent Act (HR 181 -- 44 co-sponsors to date in the House) and the Child Medication Safety Act (HR 1790).
<http://edaction.org/2005/051205-mhs.htm>Parental Consent Act (HR 181) prohibits federal funds from being used "to establish or implement any universal or mandatory mental health screening program." States usually end up adopting whatever federal taxes will fund, so this would remove federal funding. That would help out the good people who were the guinea
pigs in Illinois, too.

Also, <http://edaction.org/2003/03Mar24.htm>an amendment was added to the 2003 federal special ed <http://edaction.org/2003/03Mar24.htm> (IDEA) bill. That applies only to special ed students. It gives special ed parents the final say in deciding whether children should be given Ritalin or other controlled substances. It bars states and schools from keeping students out of class in cases when parents disagree with a recommendation to medicate a child. That federal law <http://edaction.org/2005/070505-mhsa.htm>took effect July 1, 2005.

<http://edaction.org/2005/050205-HR1790a.htm>The Child Medication Safety Act of 2005, HR 1790) would extend that protection to all students. It would also extend protection against coercion of parents by schools to put children on all psycho-tropic drugs (like prozac and paxin), not limit the prohibition to just a few drugs (such as Ritalin), as stated in the special ed prohibition.

Since charter schools are public schools, all of this apples to them.
Julie Quist
EdWatch
------------

Thank you Julie, Susan, Annette and others for keeping up the good fight against MMHS. I hope this information gives others a clearer perspective and similar sense of urgency.

"Woman, 7 kids lose 'perfect' man"

From the Clarion Ledger (Gannett) in Jackson, MS. Tragic. This was the second head-on train collision in MS in about two weeks:
A widow with seven children, Genny Cain had prayed for the "perfect" man to find her. And he did.On Sunday, five weeks after their wedding, she lost him, too — her second husband in three years.

Mark Cain, 52, was one of four people killed when two freight trains collided Sunday morning in Yazoo County. He was the engineer on one of two Canadian National Railroad trains that crashed in the Anding community head-on.

Although Jenny Cain lives in Kosciusko, home-schooling her children on a farm that offers eggs and goat's milk for sale, she had been planning to build a place in nearby Sallis — on her new husband's land.

My heart goes out to this family.

RR&R Post #100: WOO-HOO!

Far be it from me to waste this sacred space on homeschooling tragedy, injustice or stupidity. Let us celebrate this mile(blog)stone with SHOES!

These fine specimens are from Salvatore Ferragamo's 2005 Spring-Summer Collection. Their timeless, practical, elegant, understated and neutral beauty are solidly constructed in Florence (Italy) of natural and man-made materials...exactly like this blog which happens to be located just a few short miles from Florence (Mississippi).

Coincidence? I think not. Get your own.

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

[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.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bloggers Beware

An older article from CATO institute that bears re-linking. Snippages:


Bloggers were one of the big political successes of the 2004 election. This motley group of opinionated writers used their cyber soapboxes to attack and defend the presidential campaigns and the two major parties. Their websites offered a fresh look at politics and implicitly undermined the Establishment media that so many Americans have come to distrust. In other words, bloggers used freedom of speech to improve American democracy.

Naturally the federal government is about to come down hard on bloggers.

If you care about freedom of speech, there are good reasons for concern. The FEC may conclude that allowing political advertising by campaigns and parties on websites will undermine the restrictions on ads in McCain-Feingold. Ads on the Internet would be a loophole to McCain-Feingold that the FEC should close.

But bloggers don't necessarily work for a campaign or a political party and thus should not fall under McCain-Feingold, right?

Don't be too sure. Bloggers often endorse candidates or parties in an election. Those endorsements are of value to the candidates and may end up being treated as a campaign contribution, subject to limits and disclosure. Bloggers may also contribute to a campaign by linking to a candidate's website or republishing a candidate's press release.

Of course, The New York Times can endorse candidates for office and promote their causes, and you might think that bloggers would enjoy the same First Amendment protections. But you would be wrong. The FEC has not given news sites or bloggers what is tellingly called "the press exemption" from campaign finance laws. What bloggers say and do may well fall under federal campaign finance restrictions.

My understanding is that small-timers like me who aren't necessarily "political" bloggers could be affected. Is this as scary as it sounds?

HT: Mr. Criss

The liberals are coming! The liberals are coming!

Interesting article on the political implications of the current population shift from blue to red states.

You want fries with that?

I've been belly-aching for some time about how g-sponsored charter schools are inherently bad (as opposed to just confusing). My main point of contention is the failure of the general public to see the lines blurred/crossed/erased once one allows the state into the living room. Well, guess who's in the kitchen:
Exercise and nutrition could be the focus of the next new charter school in the Oshkosh school district.

Having the focus on wellness at Merrill would help serve the students there, almost half of whom qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch in the 2003-04 school year, the federal standard for low-income students.
(Where have we seen that demographic before...here it is: justifying why schools should teach social and emotional intelligence.)
“It’s a trend because what we look at is the direct correlation between health and nutrition and good academic performance,” Schwegel said. Charter schools are focused on academics, Schwegel said, but with a unique method. “Our way is nutrition and health and stress management,” she said.

Schwegel would also hope to see all-natural foods as part of school lunches. The charter school would also stress eating breakfast. While Merrill offers a low-cost breakfast to all students already, Schwegel said a survey at the school revealed 50 percent of students still didn’t eat breakfast.

“We want to make sure they are eating properly, that they are getting enough health benefits,” she said. Schwegel also hopes to restructure lunchtime for students so that they eat in a more relaxed atmosphere at round tables where they can learn good table manners.
(I hear they considered candlelight and music but were concerned the teen pregnancy rate might skyrocket...ok, I made that up.)
Stress management and relaxation techniques could also be part of the charter school. Schwegel said studies have shown that students who do simple breathing exercises before doing writing projects are more creative and have better handwriting.
(wait for it.... wait... for... it...)
“Imagine if we did that before our [Wisconsin Knowledge & Concepts] exams,” she said.
HT: Annette

Get thee to a Santorum...

Pennsylvania tax payers have been picking up the tab for Sen. Rick Santorum kids to "attend" an online PA charter school (though not clear, apparently the children reside on the family estate in VA). The local PA school district wants a refund but won't be getting anything. It waited too late to file the complaint.

According to the local school district, it has paid out over $100,000 for the Santorum five. According to the senator, the amount in question is just $34,000.

So it's really not that bad. Undeniably, bilking the state out of $100,000 is just plain wrong. But, c'mon, $34,000? It just seems...I dunno...less wrong. Don't you think?

[me neither]

HT: Annette

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I'm a big fan...

HA! I knew it all along.

...and the Award for Snarkiest Letter of the Year goes to...

Earlier I said "For crying out loud, don't write letters." Fortunately, Dominick Cancilla (homeschool parent and husband to Deborah Markus of Killer Brownie fame) doesn't listen to me. He wrote:
Mr. Arnold:

I just read your article, "Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs," at NEA.org and I wanted to tell you that you hit it right on the head! There really is no reason to educate children at home, and certainly parents need to recognize that they have to rely on others more expert than themselves for many aspects of child rearing. These parents who question teachers' ability to teach are the same ones who "protect" their kids from "harmful exposure" by censoring their television watching and trust what they read in books or on the Internet more than they trust a doctor's advice!

Teachers are professionals who have years of training in how to handle a room full of children. What parent could do that? And if a family has only a few kids, a child can easily get so much individual attention that it will have no idea how to operate on its own in the real world!

Teachers also are versed in a wide variety of subjects, unlike parents. How many parents know enough about the subjects taught in grade school to teach them all? I certainly doubt that these poor, misguide parents can read and do math with enough proficiency to pass a grade-school-level standardized test, and you can't learn that kind of thing from a book!

And socialization -- don't even get me started! No matter how many play dates and group classes or field trips a homeschooler participates in, there are so many lessons that a child can only learn on a public-school playground! This is where kids learn to stick up for themselves, where they discover their place in society, and where they find out who their real friends are. I got a lot of teasing myself when I was in grade school, and the teachers didn't make a big deal every time someone called me a name like my mom would have if she were always hanging around. I learned pretty quickly that I had to take care of these things myself instead of trying to get "authority" to take care of them, and knowing that I need to look out for number one has served me very well in the business world. If I'd been homeschooled, I'd probably let people walk all over me instead of putting them in their place where they belong! And how will a homeschooler, without school-yard experience, know how to handle some idiot who cuts them off in traffic? What'll they do -- just let it go?

I recently read an article about a 13-year-old girl who was taken away from her family and put in a mental institution with no contact with anyone because she had behavioral problems in school. If that kid was homeschooled, would her parents have given her the isolation and anti-psychotic drugs she needed? And how will kids learn how to deal with cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol if they are homeschooled? Not that kids should be using this stuff of course, but if you keep kids completely sheltered from them, they're going to go nuts with the stuff when they become adults. The same is true about sex -- isn't that too important a subject to be left to parents to teach? Again, what does a parent know about sex that a teacher doesn't know much better, particularly if the parent is just going to blindly teach abstinence or have some other unrealistic expectation!

You're completely spot on about religion in schools, too. Parents should be fighting to get their schools more in line with proper religious beliefs instead of denying their child a real education. And you're also right about the stupidity of retreating from a fight. Who ever won a battle by boycotting? Gandhi? Now there's a man who didn't spend enough time on the school yard!

Finally, I think your best point is that teachers are the ones who are best motivated to do the best job possible. Parents are likely more interested in just keeping things running and avoiding problems than making sure that their kids get the best possible education! Teachers have job reviews based on how their students performed on standardized tests, for example, and homeschooling parents have no incentive to teach their kids this important skill. Teachers also are motivated to move their kids through the system, to avoid "controversial" behavior that might lead to a pointless lawsuit, and to get their kids to learn instead of wasting time with a bunch of unimportant questions. What parent has any of these?

Somehow I doubt that the true believers in homeschooling will be swayed by your article, but that's their loss. I'm pleased that someone with your obvious intelligence and standards is a custodian of our children. Thank you again for the revealing and entertaining article.

No, wait! There's more. Mr. Arnold responded (in full, unedited):

Dear Dominick,

I deeply appreciate hearing from you and receiving your fantastic comments and compliments concerning my article on the fallacies of home schooling. As you likely gathered from my article, it is a subject that is truly a thorn in my side.

I'm acquainted with a couple that have adopted two very cute and fairly inelleligent little boys, but they are turning them into social misfits by not allowing them to attend public school. The only friends they have are home schooled as well and social misfits also. They spend the great majority of their lives within the confines of their own home being home schooled so their lives won't be corrupted by the evils of this world. Perhaps their lives won't be corrupted, but it is primarily because these poor children aren't being allowed to have a life.

Again, I deeply appreciate your compliments. I often wonder if I'm getting the message across and just how it is being received. It is a fantastic boost to receive your letter. THANK YOU !!

My Sincerest
Appreciation,

Dave Arnold
We hear you loud and clear, Dave.

[still wiping tears of laughter]..."Gandhi didn't spend enough time in the school yard"...((slapping knee))...Poor Mr. Arnold. I almost feel bad for exploiting his ignorance by republishing this. Almost.

Here's your trophy, Dominick. May you long stand as a timeless memorial to snarkiness.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Happily home-schooled

From Daryl's new blog at HEM: A homeschooled teen defends and explains homeschooling in this enjoyable, well-written essay.
Home-schooling is the only form of education I’ve ever known, and I believe it’s extremely well-suited to my needs and my learning style. I’ll be glad when more people recognize that it can be and often is a great thing ... and that it’s really none of their business whether or not I do my schoolwork in my pajamas.
Snarky and pithy. I like her. Great read, unlike the NEA article below...

You're fired.

[was tentatively titled NEA=Not Educating Anyone]

Drivel from the NEA titled Home Schools Run by Well-meaning Amateurs. No analysis needed:
There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let’s say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all.

Same goes for cars. Not many people have the skills and knowledge to perform all repairs on the family car. Even if they do, they probably don’t own the proper tools. Heck, some people have their hands full just knowing how to drive.

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!
Yeah? Define "good teacher' then get a job in the private sector and see how fast your performance sends you to yet another gov't hand-out line: the unemployment office.

[For crying out loud, don't write any letters to this organization.]

HT: Amy

Solution to SEL

From an Objectivist. Of course.
Remember that teachers are responsible for teaching, and parents therefore have a right to demand more of the schools their children attend. Advocates of the Whole Language approach complain that parents want them to teach grammar and spelling and punctuation, and they seem to regard such demands as evidence that they are dealing with a benighted population. Be one of those benighted parents. When Johnny brings home a piece of writing on which Miss Apple has lavished her praise but not her instruction, take it to Parents' Night and ask her why Johnny is still spelling according to his own private system, doesn't know that an object of a preposition can't be the subject of a sentence, and has yet to write anything beyond a single page. And get angry when Miss Apple tells you that Johnny's self-expression and developing sense of himself as a textual producer are more important than spelling or punctuation, which are merely conventional. Bolder assaults are also possible. The students I tutor sometimes show me notes from their teachers in which the language is mishandled within an inch of its communicative life. Get in the habit of sending these notes back to the school's principal with your corrections. In other words, be obnoxious, if that's what it takes to make sure your child is being taught what he needs to learn by a person competent to teach him.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

In comments, Annette posted an interesting article published in Edutopia Magazine in 2003. It raises several questions relevant to MMHS as it relates to parental rights. But first, a few snips:

Like all communities, Plainfield has some students who come to school with emotional and behavioral challenges that affect their perseverance and success as learners. Too often, these challenges disrupt their focus on being successful in school. Disaffection, alienation, anger, hostility, and emotional instability influence the academic and behavioral choices made by these students.

Social and emotional learning [SEL] was the "missing piece," as Rutgers University Professor Maurice Elias has termed it. It has become standard practice for curriculum and instruction staff to embed SEL learning experiences into all new curriculum guides.

We can no longer afford to marginalize social and emotional learning in the context of a "No Child Left Behind" policy environment. Leaving no child behind requires school leaders to embrace the responsibility of nurturing the social and emotional well being of our nation's children.

This is one of the boldest embodiments of the Nanny State that I've seen to date: You're a terrible parent, so step aside so we can raise your children. [Nevermind that the average school struggles to teach Johnny to read. Now they want to kiss his emotional bobos as well as medicate his mental deficiencies?] Here are my questions:

Economics and culture play an indirect role in the way parents choose to raise children, but are these the two main obstacles "less fortunate" kids must overcome? And, in the absence of proper instruction at home, are schools the best substitute? If so, do we need a whole new program [SEL]? Wouldn't it be more efficient to just create and maintain a healthy learning environment that mirrors reality and naturally fosters the development of the mind?

"No" to all of the above (imho). If schools utilize the same principles to patch our children's psyches as they do to teach academics, the result will be children who can't read OR think. This article mentions moving away from standards based education in favor of SEL. In the current scheme of things, is that possible?

Schools are morally relativistic philosophical voids obsessed with political correctness. If there are no realistic standards for academics, will there be no standards for behavior as well? If so, how is that different from what we have now? If not, to what/whose standards do we adhere (besides those of Marx and Kant. After all, they're how we got here to begin with.)

Last question: Has anyone else noticed that the government's answer for "less fortunate" and "disadvantaged" demographics is to create artificial environments (welfare, NCLB, free market restraints, etc) focused on celebrating the most minute of accomplishments, only to turn those ill-equipped proteges out in the real world where their failure rates are much, much higher?

Friday, July 08, 2005

New federal law: Schools can't force meds on kids

From the Star Tribune:

As of Friday, schools no longer have the upper hand in deciding whether children should be given Ritalin or other controlled substances. A new federal law tilts that power to parents, barring states and schools from keeping students out of class in cases when parents disagree with a recommendation to medicate a child.

The law is provoking an emotional debate over the proper role of teachers and other school employees in trying to help children they believe are troubled. And it is taking effect amid growing concern over the exploding use of Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate. Production of that drug has nearly doubled in the United States since 2000, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The article follows the familiar story of a typical, mildly disobedient little boy whose adjustment to g-school confinement is considered normal, transitional and temporary by his mother. When she refuses the pharmaceutical intervention the school recommends, the usual threats are issued. Fortunately, she did not give in and instead went to considerable lengths to correct the school's actions in her son's case. Despite the new law, she has decided to homeschool.

HT: Debbie

Mental Health Daze

Google the phrase "mandatory mental health screening" (hereafter MMHS) and you'll be deluged with blog posts, articles, and op-eds. Most are against it. Several are for it. A few are ambivalent because they think we homeschoolers aren't affected.

In an ongoing series at News with Views* called Mental Health, Education, and Social Control, Dennis L. Cuddy, PhD attempts to trace the roots of MMHS back to the 1940s and the corruption to the doorstep of the pharmaceutical industry. I have not read the whole series, but what appeals to me so far is Cuddy's relentless resource citation obsession (I like sources) and his apparent lean toward free market solutions as opposed to preventive legislation.

With all this information scattered across this 15-part series, what can we do? Nancy Levant has a few suggestions. So does Devvy Kidd.

*For those who read with religious rhetoric goggles on, I am not familiar with exactly what "views" are used to analyze the "news". There is no "About Us" information, but a cursory scan through the site reveals a strong Christian right world view. Beyond the calls for prayer and scripture references, the meat of the series seems solid enough. If you get through it, let me know what you think.

HT: Annette Jurczak

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Can I see some ID?

In an informal interview process, TNR asked several conservative talking heads about their personal beliefs regarding evolution, intelligent design and whether/how evolution should be taught in public schools. Here's one:

William Buckley, National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I'd have to write that down. ... I'd have to say something more carefully than I can over the telephone. I'm a Christian."
Whether schools should raise the possibility that the original genetic code was written by an intelligent designer: "Well, surely, yeah, absolutely."
Whether schools should raise the possibility--but not in biology classes--that man was created by God in his present form? : "Yes, sure, absolutely."
Which classes that should be discussed in: "History, etymology."

[Etymology? How so? Via the Tower of Babel? Help me out. I fail to see how the origins of words and language would lend credibility to intelligent design...]

Others include William Kristol, The Weekly Standard; David Frum, American Enterprise Institute and National Review; Jonah Goldberg, National Review; and of course, Pat Buchanan

[User Name: Ramblinblogger
Password: Bloggity]

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Homeschooling demands of a prodigy

As disorganized, frustrated, and overwhelmed as many of us may feel on our worst days, can you imagine the rigors of homeschooling a 9-year-old child genius (links to video footage) or 6-year-old musical prodigy?

I wonder what Warner would make of these mothers. In particular, Marc's mother, Chloe, seems a bit issue-y. There is another version this article, but neither is particularly flattering to her. However, like reality tv, eccentricity is often achieved through creative editing, resulting in a much more interesting plot. On his website (set up with the purpose of securing a benefactor), there is a scan of yet another article that is kinder to Chloe. Neither the LA Times piece or Chicago Tribune article is mentioned. I point this out only because I wonder if she was treated fairly.

Paige's mother seems to be handling her daughter's varied interests well by providing her with a wide variety of stimuli (or maybe she had a better editor). Paige recently gave a 6 hour presentation on saving sharks. No doubt, both children are driven and enjoy the attention their unique abilities, but it's not without its drawbacks:
Marc knows that when he performs, most listeners are bowled over, and he expects attention. At a friend's party, Marc jumped on the piano amid the din of 35 people chatting. He angrily stopped when the talking didn't and ran into the backyard. When Chloe reached him, tears filled his eyes.

It's a party, not a concert hall.

It's music, they shouldn't talk.

Paige is currently homeschooled (unschooled, specifically) and Marc will begin home education this fall.

Modern Motherhood

This is a must-read. (And if it's also a "must register", ID: ramblinblogger PASSWORD: bloggity).

Ruth Franklin, Senior Editor of The New Republic, describes the plight of modern motherhood amid commentary on social and economic theory in this in-depth--albeit lengthy--piece paralleling three of the dozen or so books that "have attempted to analyze the miserable, manic, obsessive-compulsive state of contemporary motherhood" [Perfect Madness By Judith Warner, How She Really Does It: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms By Wendy Sachs, and White House Nannies By Barbara Kline] . Warning: within the first two pages, you will likely come to hate Judith Warner with an icy passion. According to Franklin...

"...[Warner] gave birth to both her children while living in France, where the prevailing assumption, as she describes it, is that women need to enjoy a rich life separate from mothering. On her return to the United States, she was appalled by the current culture of "total-reality motherhood," which she blames for, among other social ills, the rise in methamphetamine use by women, the current "epidemic" of sexless marriages, and even the tragedy of Andrea Yates, the Texas stay-at-home mother who drowned her five children."

In Warner's own words:
The ideal Mom, as glimpsed in Parents, in Brazelton, and at Gymboree, had no boundaries. She wore kids' clothes--overall shorts, and sneakers, and jumpers or smocks."
[HEY! Just what, exactly, is wrong with jumpers??...ok, just kidding...continue.]

She decorated her home in bright-colored plastics.... She played "synchrony games." She bought the Phonics bus. She read Spot's Big Book of Colors, Shapes and Numbers for the ten thousandth time, with gusto, because, if she didn't, her child might "mirror" her lassitude.... If she didn't, she risked finding her child one day staring out from his or her crib like the babies in her old psychology textbook, their faces frozen in a rictus of grief, some of whom died of despair over their separation from their mothers.
BUT, before you grab the optical mouse with that fluid point-click-bitch flick of the wrist, read the rest of the article. From attachment parenting to returning to work to mommy guilt to feminist disillusionment, this piece hits on everything (confirming and expanding upon several topics and experiences I've written about in the recent past...for which I don't claim original thought, btw. This is just a testament to how a WAHM in Mississippi observes the same phenomena chronicled by a senior editor at TNR...because they're really there.).

This is six pages long, so grab some coffee and settle down for some morning enlightenment (or validation...either one feels pretty good from the POV of a homeschooler!). Well worth the read.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Hey, batterbatterbatterbatter--SWING!!

I admit that until the Mississippi Braves moved to Pearl (just up the road from here), I couldn't care less about the boys of summer. That's not a raving endorsement. You can't help but notice a team that got whooped by the Montgomery Biscuits! However, this got my attention so maybe I need to switch to college ball:

Although playing for the Memphis Tigers during the summer has been a tremendous help as far as getting his name out to college recruiters, being home-schooled would normally hurt him as far as having a team to play with during the spring. However, his dad and a few other people did something about that.

"My freshman year we started a home school team," said the southpaw. "My dad had a lot to do with that just so that I would have a place to play. It's not nearly as competitive as what I'm doing in the summer, but it was a place to play. We've developed over the last couple of years into a decent team."

Apparently, he's developed into a decent player. LHP Tyler Whitney is being recruited by both the big schools in Mississippi and has caught the eye of several others, including LSU (My money's on Ole Miss: Great school. Great town. Great team. And close to Momma.). I enjoy reading positive stories about people who make things happen.

See? We don't need no stinkin' g-school ball...

TC: Daryl

Monday, July 04, 2005

TeenScreen: The Lawsuits Begin

It was just a matter of time:

Taxpayers better get out their checkbooks because school taxes are about to go up as the lawsuits against school boards start mounting over the TeenScreen depression survey being administered to children in the public schools.

The first notice of intent to sue was filed this month in Indiana by Michael and Teresa Rhoades who were outraged when they learned their daughter had been given a psychological test at school without their consent.

In December 2004, their daughter came home from school and said she had been diagnosed with an obsessive compulsive and social anxiety disorder after taking the TeenScreen survey.

Teresa Rhoades always viewed her daughter as a happy normal teenager. "I was absolutely outraged that my daughter was told she had these two conditions based off a computer test," said Rhoades.



HT: Terri

Happy Birthday, America

During the five years that Jack and I have been married, we always listened to John Ridpath's lecture on the Declaration of Independence. However, last year someone's three-year-old daughter unraveled the cassette tape, and my efforts to wind it back up were fruitless. We forgot to reorder it, so this year I'm going to ask Jack to read aloud from the beautifully framed print we have hanging over the piano in the living room. Maybe we will start a new family tradition.

While I was tooling around online, I found that NPR also has an annual reading, which might be interesting (if you can forget it's NPR).

Have a happy, safe Fourth!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

News from the Big Screen

Kids as young as 9 years old are being lured into taking a survey aimed at assessing teen suicide risk. The hook? Free movie passes. According to the sample questions in the article, I should've been looong gone (with the exception of #3, of course. I mean, you're kidding. Right?).

Although the answers to a few open-ended, highly subjective questions could result in treatment with psychotropic drugs, most parents are unaware because written consent if not required. The author of the survey? A psychiatrist whose suicide prevention foundation received $1,250,000 from a drug company to fund the survey.

And it gets worse, starting here:

TeenScreen's goal is to screen every kid in the United States.

Since 1991, the Columbia University Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has invested nearly $19 million in the "research" and development of the Columbia TeenScreen program. Who will reap the returns?

There are 47.7 million (47,700,000) public school students.

There are 5 million (5,000,000) private school students.

Gee. At least they didn't mention homeschoolers (...don't you feel better?).

Tip credit: Diane Flynn Keith

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Christian Reconstructionism"

More on this by Mary McCarthy
--------------------------------
If people like the Prides don't frighten you, this will:
Reconstructionism has expanded from the works of a small group of scholars to inform a wide swath of conservative Christian thought and action. While many Reconstructionist political positions are commonly held conservative views, what is significant is that Reconstructionists have created a comprehensive program, with Biblical justifications for far right political policies. Many post-World War II conservative, anticommunist activists were also, if secondarily, conservative Christians. However, the Reconstructionist movement calls on conservatives to be Christians first, and to build a church-based political movement from there.

Proud Mary

Since the link was posted in the comments, I don't feel so bad now. Read it and be amazed.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mary Pride's past and her involvement a lawsuit a decade ago involving a now-defunct homeschooling publication landed in my inbox about a week ago. It is both disturbing and damning. I've chosen not to link to it specifically out of respect for the woman she sought to destroy, but instead thought I'd include this paragraph from emails she posted on AOL during that time:

In her posts, Pride went as far as to compare "remarried persons" to child molesters and serial murderers, concluding that, if one could forgive divorce and re-marriage, "you should be willing to have a child molester run the nursery and a serial murderer stand there with a knife in his hand slicing the bread for the fellowship meal."
This is a small excerpt from pages of articles, analyses, and court transcripts. After reading it, I consider Mary and her son, Ted, to be a pack of lions who feed on the lives of dissenters, rendering them weak by exposing their personal lives, wrecking their professional reputations, and destroying their livelihood in an attempt to kill their spirits in the name of her twisted brand of Christianity.

If I am granted permission to publish the link, I'll gladly do so. This is a story every homeschooler should read. Meanwhile, this should provide some perspective.