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.

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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.