Thursday, January 26, 2006

Linking Log: Jan 25

Carnival of Homeschooling: Week Four in The Common Room

Canstruction: Architectural and Engineering feats (pictured left: Manhattan Can Chowder)

Imagining the inner workings of a terrorist's mind: The War of the Hotels (TNR ID: ramblinblogger Password: bloggity)

Lots of governors mentioning pre-kindergarten in their state-of-the-state addresses (Ed Week--registration required)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Perspective on the SB 2514

Long overdue update: SB 2514 died in committee.
From H.S., a MS legislative committee volunteer:
I realize that this particular Mandatory Testing bill will probably not go anywhere (though what I've not yet figured out is how fast it might get anywhere if it does pass the Senate education committee this week or something). But I went and double checked anyway, and indeed, not providing "education as required by law" is considered neglect; hence, should the law pass, then in addition to registering with the SAO, you will be liable for neglect if you do not do the mandatory testing. This is smelling more and more like a teacher's union thing, isn't it - but that means trying to fight it means homeschoolers fighting teachers...

i) An absence may be excused when it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the superintendent of the school district, or his designee, that conditions are sufficient to warrant the compulsory-school-age child's nonattendance. However, no absences shall be excused by the school district superintendent, or his designee, when any student suspensions or expulsions circumvent the intent and spirit of the compulsory attendance law.
(5) Any parent, guardian or custodian of a compulsory-school-age child subject to this section who refuses or willfully fails to perform any of the duties imposed upon him or her under this section or who intentionally falsifies any information required to be contained in a certificate of enrollment, shall be guilty of contributing to the neglect of a child and, upon conviction, shall be punished in accordance with Section 97-5-39.

§ 43-21-105. Definitions.
(l) "Neglected child" means a child:
(i) Whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, neglects or refuses, when able so to do, to provide for him proper and necessary care or support, or education as required by law, or medical, surgical, or other care necessary for his well-being; provided, however, a parent who withholds medical treatment from any child who in good faith is under treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall not, for that reason alone, be considered to be neglectful under any provision of this chapter; or
(ii) Who is otherwise without proper care, custody, supervision or support; or
(iii) Who, for any reason, lacks the special care made necessary for him by reason of his mental condition, whether said mental condition be mentally retarded or mentally ill; or
(iv) Who, for any reason, lacks the care necessary for his health, morals or well-being.
I hadn't thought of that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Carnival of Homeschooling: Week Three

At Why Homeschool. Looks great.

AND Daryl's post made this one!
Thank Noodliness for that (and Henry Cate).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Mississippi Bills (SB 2514 and HB 310)

SB 2514: "The State Board of Education may establish student testing proficiency standards for promotion to grade levels for students in home instruction programs which are equivalent to requirements applicable to public school students."

History: Introduced by Sen. Sampson Jackson and sent to Senate Education Committee on 1/12/06
Status: In committee

HB 310: Seeks "To clarify that any child who attains the age of 17 during the school year shall be required to attend school for the remainder of the school term, and to delete the provision allowing a parent or guardian to disenroll a child from kindergarten;" Note: Currently, compulsory attendance begins at six years old.

History: Introduced by Rep. Cecil Brown, Chair of the House Education Committee, on 1/06/06 and referred to House Education Committee
Status: In committee

Both bills are here:

HT: Hilary S.

The PBS post I neglected to finish

Thank Joe for the inspiration.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

MS Biz Column: Get back to work!

By Natalie Criss
Assistant Editor
Metro Business Chronicle
MS Biz Column: December 2005

In the words of Todd Rundgren, “I don’t want to work…I just want to bang on the drum all day.” According to a lengthy special advertising section in the December/January 2006 issue of Working Mother, that’s exactly what 700 attendees did at Working Mother Media’s Best Companies for Women of Color Multicultural Conference 2005. In celebration of diversity, tolerance, and trust, some of the country’s top female executives danced and banged on bongos.

The purpose was to set the tone for the entire conference, the theme of which was Trust: A Business and Cultural Imperative. Apparently, this was a bonding exercise (obviously because we women are emotional creatures who need to bond in order to trust) that served as an analogy demonstrating that the individual/drummer is the part of a whole/“drumming orchestra”.

The ideas and myths of multiculturalism spread far beyond the advertising section of a magazine and have made their way into boardrooms and classrooms across the country. Ask a middle schooler if he or she has an opinion regarding diversity and examine the origin of the answer closely. Likewise, compare the words of Working Mother conference attendants throughout this column with the views of homegrown family, friends and neighbors. For those who want to be fair-minded, the politics of diversity are accepted as common knowledge, conventional wisdom would have us believe.

Diversity, minority, and tolerance are all words that used to mean something laudable until leftist pundits hijacked them. Diversity, which once represented generic variety, as in diversity of thought, now means “different but equally important” and opens the door wide for relativism and subjectivism. Minority is now synonymous with special interest group. Tolerance has become a negative stand-in for courtesy and respect. Now trust is being twisted into a state of vulnerability that supplants reliability.

In results-oriented careers (which includes all private sector jobs), the outcome of such muddled language is confusion and entitlement. One returning attendee of the Working Mother conference remarked to panelists, “I followed what you said [last year] to a T, and it worked. I found a sponsor. I got a promotion, and I know it was only because the CFO knew my name and who I was.” Only because. How sad that this young executive doesn’t include her hard work as a possible explanation for her advancement; sadder still that others are left to wonder if she was promoted not for her track record but for her minority status.

With all this relativism, subjectivism, confusion and entitlement, who decides what is fair? What have we done to ourselves, our standards of excellence, our work ethic by buying into the politics of diversity? Initially set up to protect us and promote equality, are we getting what we deserve or shooting ourselves in the foot?

Some would argue that we deserve more simply because we are women or non-white. One conference speaker insisted, “White corporate America has a responsibility to do right by women of color. And women of color have a responsibility to exercise the power that we have to attack the issues that haunt our lives…to change our own condition. Corporate America needs to act and understand that if you’ve seen one woman, you have not seen us all.”

How many contradictions and flaws in logic are in that one statement? I counted seven.

Additionally, the politics of diversity does not unite women or minorities under a banner of equality as effectively as it divides us into rivaling, bickering groups. Another conference attendee and Director of Worklife Diversity at a large pharmaceutical company lamented that, during same-race discussions, the white women in her group were focused more on gender issues than on race. She then challenged “all white women who put their energy toward gender [to] put it toward race,” which is laughable. For whom should they advocate, their own white race or hers? It doesn’t matter.

The women at Working Mother Media consider their conference a success whereas I view it as a microcosm of the corruption and inconsistency inherent of the politics of diversity.

“Workplace diversity” does not have to be a controversial subject. As a matter of fact, the real goal—to remove barriers to productivity—is not controversial at all. But isn’t this issue far too complex for a one-size-fits-all plan of action? Not at all. Removing subjective criteria and relativistic expectations will reveal accurate, consistently true solutions. We may find that we had the answer to this equation all along.

The key to career advancement is work. It is that simple. Sure, networking is important, but it is only through consistent performance that reputations are proven and trust is earned. If a person works harder, better, and more efficiently than coworkers, competent superiors take notice. When the opportunity for advancement arises, candidates are weighed against a company’s results-oriented goals. In the end, either the productive worker wins or the company loses.

In a market driven economy, the odds are already in our favor. So please, put down the drum and get back to work. That is the real ticket to success.

Copyright 2005. Business Ink. For permission to reprint, email

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bernstein on Book TV tonight at 10PM EST

From the website:

On Sunday, January 8 at 10:00 pm

The Capitalist Manifesto: The Historic, Economic and Philosophic Case for Laissez-FaireAndrew Bernstein

Description: Andrew Bernstein talks about the benefits of laissez-faire capitalism and gives an overview of the advancements created within capitalist societies. He argues that, unlike fascism and socialism, capitalism is beneficial because it embraces the idea that individual rights are paramount. During his presentation, Prof. Bernstein discusses the work of Ayn Rand, John Locke, and a number of other social philsophers and defends against critics of the late 19th Century industrialists widely referred to as "robber barons." Includes Q&A.

Author Bio: Andrew Bernstein is a visiting professor of philosophy at Marist College in New York. His work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Times, and several other publications. He is the author of the novel "Heart of a Pagan" and has written CliffsNotes guides for three of Ayn Rand's books. For more information, visit Professor Bernstein's website:

Publisher: University Press of America 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200 Lanham, MD 20706

Buy the Book

Saturday, January 07, 2006

What the Criss family will be doing this weekend:

Building this.

Apparently, Santa thought we'd have a much better time assembling it together than having the children experience the letdown of seeing it completed under the tree. Just so you know, this is an exercise in family bonding that has nothing to do with anyone's inability to manage time.

After the paint dries, we get to decide if we're competent enough to wire it, then furnish and decorate the interior.

ETC: A week. Or two. Three, tops.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Capitalists are often the worst enemy to capitalism."

...says Dr. Andrew Bernstein (author of The Capitalist Manifesto), in reference to Microsoft's action against a popular freedom blogger in China. This story surfaced last week and Microsoft is experiencing quite a backlash. Google and Yahoo! have been cashing in on the Communist giant as well.

Just another example of how brilliance and innovation can easily be turned into weapons by those with the wrong philosophy. It's enough to make me join the Open Source movement.

Don't do anything "drastic"

See note below.

For heaven's sake. According to Cathy Hayden, education columnist for the Clarion Ledger (Gannett), homeschooling in Mississippi as a response to anything but extreme cases is "drastic." Excerpt from her Aug. 15, 2005 column:

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.

Please note, I personally know of two families who are homeschooling children who were victims of school violence but were suspended just like their attackers due to the schools' zero tolerance policy.

HT: Valerie

Update: Here is the letter sent to Ms. Hayden by PEAK member, Vonda Keon:

Ms. Hayden,

I read your response on Jan 2 and the reference to homeschooling options as being "albeit a little more drastic." I have been homeschooling since 1998 and I didn't consider it a drastic decision then nor do I now. I saw some things happening in the public school system that didn't please me therefore I exercised my right as a responsible and capable parent and made the decision to homeschool my daughters.

They are not sheltered nor are they behind the times. My 'drastic' action has resulted in two extremely intelligent young women whose national tests scores are high off the charts compared to their conventionally schooled counterparts.

People homeschool because sometimes that is the only option when their child is the one being 'LEFT BEHIND' and no one will do a thing about it.

Mrs. Vonda
Bruce, MS

And here is the response she received:

I consider hiring a lawyer and homeschooling as a response to a principal refusing to move a child to another classroom drastic in comparison to going to the school board.

Cathy Hayden
Education reporter
The Clarion-Ledger
Jackson, Miss.

Sure, lady, going to the school board is a piece of cake. And I'm sure the parents would consider hiring an attorney as a mere formality since this *obviously* wasn't a big enough deal to warrant homeschooling.

NOTE: After another email to Ms. Hayden, in which Vonda described several "drastic" incidents in public schools that have led to parents' decisions to homeschool, Ms. Hayden remarked, "I agree. But I was responding specifically to that person and not in general about home schooling."

While it's not the most ingenious defense, it's not exactly damning either. Ms. Hayden isn't a threat to homeschooling; she's just not informed. Although I do have a hard time believing that a writer would target specific individuals when answering letters in a column published in Mississippi's largest newspaper, rather than taking an official stance on home education, I think her response indicates that she doesn't get homeschooling anymore than the average public school supporter.

And that's ok.

Obligatory ID post

It's been a long time, but this is a must-read. Binswanger does a great job of dissecting the PA judge's decision as well as providing context and background for those less familiar with the ID debate. Binswanger notes:

By any rational standard, Darwin's theory of evolution is perfect. And "testability" is not the criterion of science. But kudos to the judge for putting his finger on the main issue: certainty without omniscience. The strategy of the ID movement is to argue for the injection of the irrational based solely on the (often spurious) claim that there are a few cases in which we don't yet know the full evolutionary story.

The argument of the ID people goes this way: we don't yet know how the bacteria's flagella evolved, therefore we don't know Darwin was right, therefore we can equate Darwin and the supernatural.

The judge's whole opinion is quite long, and so are my excerpts, but they are well worth reading: it is inspiring to see what an honest, clear-thinking individual can figure out.

Indeed. Check it out.

HT: Mr. Criss

Space travel technology

Update: fixed link. (Singing: I get no kicks from free forms. Liability risk doesn't thrill me a bit...)

This is off-topic, but I get a charge out of these things:
The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine.

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.
Can you imagine? How fast would that be (in layman's terms)? Anyone...Anyone...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Shiny thing alert! Shiny thing alert!


No! Don't click it! Wait! Come baaaaaaaaack!

Well, I tried. To those of you who have no idea what the hell I am talking about, welcome to the insider politics of homeschooling. For the rest of you, I think we know what we're up against.

It seems that while Scott was busy defisking HoNDA at CODs place, Section 522 was getting settled into its new digs in the hopper as part of HR 1815, courtesy of HSLDA. I hear it's enjoying the view of the Oval Office from the President's desk right about now.

Newbie translation: HSLDA wrote a bill that was homeschool specific alleging that it would help eliminate discrimination in universities and the military against homeschoolers. While it was in committee, we regulatory opponents thought we'd successfully killed it (again. First time was in 2003). In the meantime, HSLDA had slipped the military section of HoNDA into a 700+page long defense bill. We were distracted and didn't pick up on it until it was too late. Now that bill will pass with a section granting homeschoolers special status (click here to see why that's a bad thing).

As a result, several homeschoolers who firmly believe that ANY federal regulation regarding home education is a threat to that freedom in this country have decided to band together. The goal is to help streamline communication and align our resources so that this kind of thing doesn't sneak up on us again. Similarly, homeschoolers in Mississippi who realize that we are the only people who can truly protect our rights are organizing on a statewide level.

I think it is very important to note that neither of these is an anti-HSLDA effort. Our common goal is to secure and safeguard our freedom to homeschool by opposing state and federal legislation that will directly or indirectly place limits those rights. Since HSLDA writes federal legislation that puts homeschoolers in the crosshairs of the federal government, we are--by the very nature of our actions--working against each other. That's an irrefutable, undeniable fact of reality.

Because homeschoolers tend to be opinionated cusses, we argue a lot amongst ourselves. We push each others' buttons and get personal. However, when it counts--just like family--we come together and we get it done.

Unless we get distracted.

And there's the rub. Some people are very crafty at orchestrating distractions (shiny things, as someone recently called them). Others wear their personal causes on their sleeves and dare their allies to insult them, resulting in a feud that diverts attention, energy and resources from an already precarious attempt to this effort aiming to provide solutions to issues that plague us all.

I'm not into issuing ultimatums, but I will say this. If you're not part of the solution, you're contributing to the problem. Suck it up, people. Get over yourselves and think about what's at stake. Choose your friends and allies carefully, because--to continue the analogy that got this most recent mess started--the fox is in the hen house. And he's not looking for eggs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Eat at Olga's

For my birthday, we took the whole family out to eat at Olga's, a family-owned restaurant that serves authentic Russian cuisine. Located in a small strip next to a scrapbook store, we'd heard that it's elegant with dim lighting, candles, a piano player and less than a dozen tables were one of the best kept secrets in the Metro. Olga, the owner, is the cook at one of the large country clubs that Jack's investor frequents. Olga always speaks highly of Jack and his publication, so we'd been meaning to stop in for some time.

We'd never been, and I'd never had Russian food, so I ordered the three-course Russian meal. The first course was a crab meat salad, the second was borsch, and the third was my entree (a filet with a Russian flair). I discovered that I actually like cabbage, I love beets, and I only thought I'd had a great filet before I tasted Yuriy's (Olga's husband is the cook). It was divine, perfectly seasoned and cooked to specification: between medium and medium rare. Everything was so fresh and felt so light (even after an appetizer, bread, three courses and dessert, I was pleasantly full...not miserable). Just simply wonderful. It is my new favorite place.

While we were there, the International Space Station was expected to pass right over Jackson. Another group just a few tables from us informed their waitress (bless 'er heart) that they'd be getting up to go outside to see the ISS pass overhead and joked that they didn't want her to think they were skipping out. We announced that we'd be following them (it's a small restaurant, so the word "announce" implies that we were speaking loudly or eavesdropping. Of course, we did nothing of the sort. Hrmph.). The waitress headed back to the counter to inform the owner that some satellite was passing over the restaurant and that everyone would be leaving afterwards, which brought a curious and anxious Olga out to mingle after having just mingled moments before.

At around 5:42 pm, there was a mass exodus outside as we all--waitstaff included-- gathered in the parking lot looking skyward. Upon locating Venus, our reference point, the waitress said, "That's a planet? I always thought they were BIG like THIS" (hands cupped and held apart as if describing the size of a basketball). Suddenly, there it was--a small, shiny disk gliding across the dark blue background of space. It was awe-inspiring. The girls thought it was neat. Jack smiled contently, no doubt thinking of the incredible minds (past and present) that contributed to such a technological feat. I was struck by the thought that I was in a Russian restaurant standing next to and laughing with its Russian owner in Flowood, Mississippi looking up at a space craft that was home-away-from-home to both Russian and American astronauts. If I'd been drinking, I'm sure I would have thought of something profound to say here. Unfortunately, Rankin is a dry county.

After reseating ourselves and finishing our meal between warm chats with the owner, the piano player stops mid-song and does this flourishing cadence up the keyboard and ends in a rolling chord...yes, it was time for the Birthday Song. I usually hate this part, but I have to tell you, it was touching. There was no hokey version or obnoxious clapping rhythm; just the traditional Happy Birthday accompanied by a piano. It was like having family gathered around singing. After the English verse, Olga sang to me in Russian while holding my candle-lit cheese blintz. It was beautiful. And delicious.

As we left, Katie told Olga how much she loved hearing her sing in Russian. Dagny hugged her and said she loved hearing Olga sing in Spanish (because--thanks to Dora--if it's not English, it must be Spanish). And we vowed to come back soon and often.

I smile every time I drive past it.

[Click here for Olga and Yuriy's story. This article is over two years old. They no longer serve lunch, and their menu is dominated by Russian fare. But I think it captures an essence of who they are. Maybe I'll write one soon!]

Happy Chri-bir-anni-new-year!

And I don't say that in the spirit of political correctness. Christmas may be over, but I still had a birthday and wedding anniversary (34 and 5, respectively) to celebrate before we kissed in the New Year. Having a post-Christmas birthday used to be a drag, but I now see it as an opportunity to "allow" my loved ones to combine my birthday and Christmas present...but only if it's a really big gift. I'm accommodating like that. :D

We had a beautiful Christmas that consisted of three days of gift-giving, two large meals, and lots o' familial love. I received several beautiful things, but one of my favorites is a pink T-shirt with the following quote from Ayn Rand: The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me. Love it. Among other things, I got a year membership to the local Y (for the whole family) and a nice, big gift certificate for a local designer shoe place (yippeee!!!).

Things aside, it was our best December yet. This is the first year that we pre-planned where we would spend what holidays and with whom, which allowed us to see both sides of our family while significantly reducing last-minute guilt/stress and the need to travel. Jack's office party was well-attended and much fun. Earlier in December, PEAK successfully pulled off its first fundraising event in the form of a Holiday Open House (ours), which meant the house was clean, organized and decorated early (unprecedented!). We took the girls to see the puppet guild's performance of Peter and the Wolf. And Jack surprised them with a limousine tour of the Metro area's Christmas lights, which was relaxing, romantic, and beautiful. We all loved it. All in all, this is the first Christmas that I was able to focus on my family without being distracted by too many commitments or my inability to manage time. By this point, I am usually exhausted, but it felt (and feels) wonderful.

I believe it is an adequate reflection of our whole year. 2005 has been quite eventful and fulfilling. For example, Jack's paper--Metro Business Chronicle-- and my homeschool experiment--PEAK--both turned one year old. Jack has made the Chronicle quite successful, and PEAK has become a statewide homeschool network. Both are promising to keep us busy in 2006 with new projects and broader focuses (that's all I'm at liberty to say...[EG]).

On the personal front, Jack set out to realize two dreams in 2005. Unfortunately, he was unable to speak at TOC's Summer Seminar due to health concerns, but he considers it an honor to have been invited. He did, however, successfully train for and complete the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's TEAM in Training before his 40th birthday--resulting in a thousands of dollars raised for LLS and a 47-point drop in his cholesterol! He will continue his Objectivist studies and marathon training next year, because it makes him, I do enjoy being married to a man with such a fit mind AND body. Additionally, he has talked me into training to walk a half-marathon and raise more money for LLS, so have your wallets ready, folks.

Due to my sister's post-Katrina six-week stay, which ended on the heels of the holiday season, homeschooling has been hit and miss at best. However, both girls are pursuing their own interests vigorously. Dagny believes herself to be a prima ballerina and has embraced tap (which I think she didn't care for initially). She is also showing all the signs for "reading readiness,"which we believe will take off in the coming months. Her current obsession is Sue the T-Rex (awakened after we saw the traveling Sue exhibit at our local science museum) and all things dinosaur. She also excels in impersonating animals (her turtle face continues to crack us up, no matter how many times we've seen it!). In 2006, she will participate in an upcoming homeschool drama workshop that will, no doubt, further add to her unique expressiveness.

Katie loves electronics, science and horses. This year, Katie will participate in PEAK's first science fair with a project on the sound barrier. She will also begin learning about computer programming and robotics at home, which is also a new fascination (and quite foreign to me, so it will be interesting for all of us). Our plans for riding lessons were put on hold after Katrina damaged several barns on our neighbor's farm, which will take several months for him to rebuild. In the meantime, we will visit two new stables and finally fulfill our summer promise of riding lessons. At a glance, it may look like we're on track, but we truly need to recommit to a more purposeful home education in 2006.

Other than our lack of disciplined learning, I met and exceeded my goals for the year. First of all, PEAK has outgrown me. We currently have seven branches located across the state, something I did not set out to accomplish and certainly didn't do alone. In 2006, we are filing for non-profit incorporation. I maintained my column in Jack's paper without getting kicked off for screwing up deadline (this year, I'll be better at managing my time. That's my only resolution.). I made friends both far and wide and made connections in the homeschooling world while the girls have established relationships with kids across the Metro area.

I've learned and grown in many unexpected ways due to homeschooling, group management, writing, and of course, through endeavors with my husband and children. All give me an immense sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I could never have imagined or achieved "out there." I hope to continue that in the new year.

May 2006 be a good one for all of us.
Here's to your health!