Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Are you pro-testing?

After reading about the direction of education reform in my posts Fourth Purpose of Schooling and Jeb Bush joins the Chorus, CJ asked the question,
What can we do about this issue? We know what's coming down the pike - how do we prevent it from happening?
The answer is simple but not easy. Quoting again from John Taylor Gatto's website (emphasis added),
As powerful and well funded as this monster is, it is at the same time, ironically, very delicate. Locally, it only takes a few determined people with staying power to temporarily grind these engines to a halt, sending reverberations of dissonance into every level of the system. Think only of the multi-billion dollar standardized testing aspect of the thing; with relatively little investment of time or money a well-orchestrated campaign to sabotage these instruments could be launched and prosecuted over the Internet. You need only think back to the mass of teenagers who brought the war in Vietnam to a premature conclusion, to see that an essential lynchpin of the fourth purpose system -testing -could quickly be destroyed. The fallout from such a termination would rock systematic schooling with unpredictable results for the stability of the institution.
Courage - that is what is needed. Do you remember Tiananmen Square of 1989? The bravery of one Chinese citizen to stand before the column of tanks halted their progress and inspired the world. We must exhibit the same courage to stand up before the test and say, "
We will direct our children's education not an army of educrats in Washington and their battery of tests. "
Parents don't have to homeschool to halt the reforms (but it helps!). They just have to be willing to say "no" to the test. (I have yet to meet one parent in our area who likes the time and emphasis spent on the exams.) The question is do we as parents have the will say "no" to the test and the bribe to take it?
What will the history books record about this generation? Will they see images of parents standing in front of the "tanks" or sitting on the sidelines as the "army" rolls on by?

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The State of Education

Who said this?

Education has never been a national responsibility in our country, and school systems should not be operated by an agency in Washington.
No, it wasn't a conservative homeschooler from Michigan. I was only 15 when this was said - too entrenched in the system to speak out against. It was said by Al Shanker in 1978 during the debate over the creation of the Department of Education by President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Shanker was the head of the American Federation of Teachers.

(Continue reading here to find out who else supported his position. The names will surprise you.)

Andrew Coulson of FoxNews.com picks up Mr. Shanker's quote and suggest that Mr. Bush begins his speech tonight with the same words. Coulson explains,

President Bush should therefore issue a wake-up call to the American people, explaining the harm we have done by delegating our educational responsibilities to ever higher and more remote levels of government -- from marginalizing parents to shortchanging the poor.

Our nation was not built on a foundation of federal, or even state-level, intervention in schooling. It was founded on locally operated independent and semi-public schools that were directly responsible to the families they served.

Too bad President Bush won't be saying this tonight. It would be interesting to see if those who opposed the creation of the department in '78 would have the courage to applaud his remarks today. Some of them are still in Congress...and they are NOT conservative Republicans.

(Thanks to CJ for the Fox tip.)

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Carnival of Homeschooling

It has been a whole year since SpunkyHomeschool began. So much has changed around the blogosphere since then. My first "blogging buddy" was Anne at Palm Tree Pundit. And we still read each other a year later. She is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling this week. If you haven't visited Anne before this is a great time to get to know a homeschool blogger in Hawaii. Why anyone in Hawaii blogs is beyond me but I'm glad she does. My entry was the Fourth Purpose of Schooling.

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Jeb Bush joins the chorus

Jeb Bush has an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal. In the article he outlines his Five Rules for School Reform. (Reg. req'd) Here's an excerpt,

Our proposed reforms will bring rigor and relevance to middle schools...

We're also looking to revamp high schools to better prepare students for the future and for post secondary education by creating career academies, where students can major or minor in math and science, or fine arts, or on career and vocational skills, depending on their goals and interests. The goal is for students to graduate knowing what they want to do with their lives...

"Rigor with relevance" is the new buzzword around the nation. I wrote about a similar proposal in Michgan here. It matches those of Florida in many key areas. Governor Bush's reform is part of a push nationally toward one core curriculum and test. The first step in that is to require all the states to require "rigor with relevance" in the middle and high school level.

More information on career academies can be found at the North Central Regional Education Laboratory. (This laboratory is one of 10 such centers divided by region and funded by the Department of Education.)
In career academies, each student takes a core of academic courses, and receives workplace exposure and career counseling, all of which integrate occupational and academic material based on an occupational theme. Students develop individual occupational and career goals, but do not earn formal, occupational skill credentials. Local employers help design school curriculum, donate equipment, and provide mentoring, and summer internships.
Again, a similar proposal is in place here in Michigan. I have our state's grant proposal. In the proposal the stated goal is to have the students select their career by the tenth grade. (I have not been able to find the document on the internet.) Then continue on into their "chosen" field in either a college, vocational, or job apprenticeship programs. The standardized tests help determine whether the child is "choosing" appropriately for their abilities. Colleges and employers work together to determine eligibility for acceptance based on core curriculum performance and test scores. Notice who is designing the curriculum...employers in partnership with the state. Just as Gatto talked about in the Fourth Purpose of Education.

(Spunky's note: I understand that this is not an exciting topic to write about. I would much rather spend my time writing about other topics. But understanding what is really happening in our country takes a willingness to learn and think about things that may not be the most glamourous. If we don't take the time to learn we are at the mercy of those that do know what all this means. I would much rather play offense then defense any day.)

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Fourth Purpose Schooling

My head and notebook are full of quotes and thoughts after listening to John Taylor Gatto and Rob and Cindy Shearer this weekend. The speakers dovetailed each other very nicely. Gatto gave us the state's vision for our children and the Shearers inspired us with a Godly vision for our children. The weekend left me inspired and challenged.

For those who may not be familiar with the John Taylor Gatto, he was the New York State Teacher of the Year on three occassions. After he was selected, he wrote an editorial I May Be A Teacher But I'm Not An Educator in the Wall Street Journal (read it here). In the editorial he quit his teaching postion saying that he was no longer willing to hurt children. He then began a quest to speak out on what's wrong in education and how the state educational system is actually dumbing us down to serve the needs of the state.

Gatto's talks were centered around the theme of "Fourth Purpose Schooling". He introduced each purpose in his first talk The Underground History of American Education. (You can read his whole book of the same title here. )

From the public's perspective he outlined the four purposes of education:
1. To make good people.
2. The make good citizens.
3. To allow each individual to be their personal best.
4. The managerial goal of social efficiency.

Gatto believes we have moved past the first three purposes in the United States. He asserts that we are now in the fourth purpose that of a managed economy directed by the state and its largest corporations. (This was first introduced in the late 1800's by the NEA's Committee of Ten and its suggestion of core curriculum standards.)

The partnership between the two will create a way to manage the economy and people toward the benefit of those entities. The large corporations define their needs and the state creates employees to fit those needs. Gatto describes on his website how this is accomplished,

All of us are to be made perfectly and dependably manageable, using every trick of psychology, social pressure, or brute force known to history.

To bring about such a result requires that most of us have to be infantilized - made childish - lifelong if possible. School has been the training laboratory for this project for between fifty and one hundred years, depending on the location. It is the most ambitious piece of social engineering in modern history, and has been a brilliant success in reaching its goals. Of course, these are hardly the goals of ordinary citizens, of families, of religions, or of cultures, but they most certainly are the goals of management, whether of business, army, or government.

If all of this sounds a bit far fetched and conspiratorial then let me remind you again of the words of Governor Jennifer Granholm from my state of Michigan. She said this in her state of the state address last Wednesday evening.

Now, when it comes to education, we will have one overarching goal: to become the best-educated workforce in the nation. To do that, we will give our children the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and in the 21st century economy.
Governor Granholm then went on to applaud our state education officials for creating a core curriculum that will facilitate that goal. That is Gatto's determiner of a fourth purpose school. Track the location from which the school takes its orders. The further from the building that a decision is made the more it becomes a school designed for a purpose other than true education of the children. Its purpose is one where the needs of the state and its workforce trump those of the student. Are the needs of Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and General Motors the best way to determine what our children are taught?

I will in future posts talk about some of the other things from the conference. I encourage everyone to read the Underground History of American Education and gain a greater understanding of the quiet social revolution taking place right before our eyes. You may not agree with all he says but he will definitely get you thinking.

This "reform" has implications for our society as a whole. Those of us who homeschool will be affected by the educational structure that is required for a managed economy. Standarized testing is the oil that makes the engine of this type of economy run. The state needs compulsory schooling and testing to ensure that all children are taught what they need to know to be a good citizen in the global economy managed by the state. (Note: Homeschooling is not desirable in in a managed economy. Just ask a German homeschooler Shiela Lange.)

A Good Life?
Governor Granholm in her speech defined a "good life" this way,

The foundation of a good life, of course, is a good-paying job.
Governor Granholm spoke as if this statement is an obvious truth. That may be true for her but it isn't my definition of a good life. Is it yours?

I wish I could write more about this. But I have to get to the education of my children. We are starting World War II today. Germany and Hitler are the topics of this week's reading.

Read more around the web
Ann at A to Z of Homeschooling also has a nice round-up of essays written by Gatto.

The Hoover Institution has an overview of the implications of the decision by the Committee of Ten in an article called The Traditional High School by Jeffrey Muriel.)

Chris O'Donnell did a chapter review of The Underground History of American Education last summer.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Odds and Ends Before I Go

Gatto in Grand Rapids
I'm leaving after lunch to go to Grand Rapids, MI for the Mid-Winter Home Educator's Conference. This is a smaller conference and not nearly as frenetic as the bigger conventions. John Taylor Gatto and Rob Shearer are both giving talks. The Deputy Headmistress of the Common Room is going to be there. Sallie from Two Talent Living is also nearby. I hope to get a chance to meet up with them. This conference is a great way to beat back the blahs of winter. I'll be back Saturday night.

Here are a few other odds and ends to think about....

This isn't my goal. Is it yours?
Governor Granholm gave the State of the State address Wednesday night. Here's her stated goal for education,
First, we must make sure that every parent who’s watching tonight can afford to send their children to college. To achieve our goal of a workforce that's second to none, we must be first when it comes to giving citizens access to higher education.
A "workforce second to none" is NOT why I educate my children. I'm sure I'll have more to say on that topic when I return.

If your expertise isn't high school that doesn't mean you can't be in a book. You can publish one of your own. There is actually a way you can turn your blog into a book. They call them "blooks". Lulu is a site to help you if you're interested in learning more. I have seen a few homeschoolers use this service to publish curriculum as well.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
If e-books and blooks are too high tech for you then check out the winter issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. It should be arriving in mailboxes soon. I have two articles in this issue. Successful Bloggers and Homeschoolers and an article featuring HomeschoolBlogger.com bloggers: Karen at Wired Wisdom. , Ann at Holy Experience, Cindy Downes, Patricia Hunter, Jane Bulivant, Shiela Lange, and Donna Booshay. They are all excellent bloggers with something to say. I'm excited to be able to introduce them to a wider audience of homeschoolers who may not even know what a blog is yet.

There's also an article by Bruce Shortt author of the book The Harsh Truths of the Public Schools. This issue also contains loads of information on the subject of writing. Including an article by Herb Meyers author of the book How to Write. I am currently having my 15 year old son read his e-book which you can download for only $1.99. (Note: He doesn't pay me to say that. )

HomeschoolBlogger.com News
Don't miss this week's featured blogger, ChefMommy. It's a new blog for exchanging recipes. Great idea. I hope it takes off. Now if they can come up with a way to get if from screen to the oven I'd be in blogging heaven.

Vigilante Dad
David Swafford, an irate father, punched a teacher's assistant for allegedly inappropriately touching his 15 year old daughter. The father had this to say,

"I'm not real proud of what I did," [said Swafford] "You have to protect your children, and my daughter does not lie to me."

"If some other parents would do this, maybe some of these pedophiles would crawl back under rocks where they belong,''

Punching wasn't the best response but honestly can you blame him? The teacher was still in the classroom despite the allegation. What would you do? (Update: Turns out the daughter may be totally accurate in her story. Thanks to BlestWithSons for the heads up.)

Update on the Vermont Judge
Do you remember the Vermont judge who gave a 60-day sentence to a man who repeatedly molested a seven year old girl? Well he's since changed his mind on the sentencing. .He now says he will increase the sentence to at least three years. With dumb decisions like this is it any wonder why fathers like Mr. Swafford decide to take matters into their own hands?

Super Bowl XL
If you read that and thought of a large bowl suitable for munching popcorn then you probably don't live near Detroit or follow pro football. Detroit's gone crazy for football. But you can't really blame us there hasn't been a serious pro football game in Detroit for a long time. Needless to say I won't be watching. But it is fun to watch the politicians spruce the place up for the company. Our highways have never been this clean. Unfortunately, the real mess in this state isn't the highways.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Boys in Crisis

When the "educational establishment" calls something a crisis watch out. That usually means someone has to do something to fix the mess. But what happens when the "crisis" was created by the very ones who want to fix it? Do we just go on letting them meddle and experiment on our children until they get it right? Sorry my children won't be guinea pigs in their laboratory.

Twenty years ago girls were in a "crisis". Now it's the boys turn says a cover story out in Newseek Magazine.
By almost every benchmark, boys across the nation and in every demographic group are falling behind. In elementary school, boys are two times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and twice as likely to be placed in special-education classes. High-school boys are losing ground to girls on standardized writing tests. .....
And the list of woes goes on all the way into college. There are plenty of solutions offered by PhD types to this crisis. They now say we can't treat boys and girls equally anymore. Now "boy friendly" classrooms or segragated learning is the key to helping our boys. But won't that bring us back to where we were 20 years ago? Won't that just lead to a "Girls in Crisis"? Are we solving anything? Of course not. But that doesn't matter. It sounds good right now and that's all that matters.
One of the most reliable predictors of whether a boy will succeed or fail in high school rests on a single question: does he have a man in his life to look up to? Too often, the answer is no. High rates of divorce and single motherhood have created a generation of fatherless boys. In every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, an increasing number of boys - now a startling 40 percent - are being raised without their biological dads.
That is the real issue. And despite how hard Uncle Sam tries he will never make a good dad. The sooner we all accept that fact the better.

Update: Some boys are fighting back the schools' bias against boys. How? They're suing the schools for discrimination. (HT: Joanne Jacobs)

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It's A Wonderful Life

I had a "George Bailey moment" last week. We were visiting a new church. When I walked through the door a gentleman walked over and greeted our family. "I think I know you, he said." I looked at his name tag. The name was familiar but the face was older than the person I remembered. I told him my name. He smiled broadly and said, "You led me to Christ 25 years ago. I wondered if I would ever run into you again. "

We often go around wondering whether what we say or do matters. It does. People are listening. It may take years before you ever know it. Sometimes you may not even know this side of heaven the impact you've had. But it is happening every day. Lives are being changed right before our very eyes. It truly is wonderful to be a part of HIS life in the lives of others.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Those were the days

PC World released it's list of The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years. Number 27 brought me back to my college days. Does anyone else remember using the Commodore 64? Or am I dating myself to the museum of ancient history along with punch card readers. Please don't tell me you don't know what those are!?! I have literally watched macho college guys reduced to a puddle of tears as 1000 cards fall to the floor. "All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put those cards back in order again." If you don't know what I'm talking then count your blessings and quit complaining about how hard your school work is. You don't know how easy you've got it. Gosh! I sound just like my parents!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Outsourcing Parenthood

Edwonk (one of my favoritie Edubloggers) had a post today about how the schools that use the National School Lunch Program will be required to have a "student wellness policy". He reminded us that just about every school in the United States uses this program. So they will all have to come up with a plan to curb childhood obesity and improve wellness. USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel said the plan is necessary because,

We all realized we're seeing overweight and obesity in children, and we realized there was a role schools could play in helping with the problem,".
There was a similar story almost a year ago that prompted me to write a post called Outsourcing Parenthood. It's been a while since I posted this. But I like to rerun it every once in a while as a reminder of how we got to the point where the schools are now developing "student wellness"policies.

Outsourcing Parenthood

A few months ago a mother came to me all excited. She began to tell my about an experience she had in her daughter's elementary school.

It was around Christmas and her daughter came home from school telling her mom all the wonderful stories her teacher had been reading to her. Sadly, the daughter lamented however, none of the stories were about the real meaning of Christmas. The daughter asked her mother if she could come to her class and read to her a story from their shelf about the birth of Jesus. The mother thoughtfully replied that she would love to but that she would have to check with the teacher. The daughter seemed satisfied. The mother approached the teacher about the matter. The teacher told her that any extra reading material had to be cleared by the principal. The mother appealed to the principal who then consulted with a guideline for reading. After a short wait the mother was granted her request on the grounds that the birth was historical in nature. The mother was thankful.

Not wanting to burst her enthusiasm I told her how glad I was that she was able to read to the children. The mother's excitement puzzled me. Why would a mother seek the authority of someone else to read a book to her child and the classroom? The answer is obvious, of course. The mother was not the authority in the classroom. This is as it should be. The mother is not there every day and the teacher must keep control of the room and the principal must keep control of the school. The mother rightly sought their approval because that is the system that she submitted to when she allowed her daughter to attend.

The question is, why would a mother knowingly yield her authority to someone else to the point where a simple request for a story would require the approval of three others? Simply stated, the mother has outsourced her parenting.

We heard alot about outsourcing jobs in the last election. Everybody was worried about the number of jobs moving overseas. Yet, a bigger problem is brewing right here in the US. We are outsourcing parenthood. Parents are knowingly giving the job of raising their children over to another.

No parent would readily admit this of course. But the increased reliance on day care, before school, and after school programs demonstrates something else. We want the schools to provide nurtritious lunches without ever thinking we should pack the child one ourselves. We want the schools to bus our children to school without ever thinking that we could drive them ourselves. There are companies that will send a day care provider (paid for by the company) to the house when a child is ill so that mom can still go to work. On the weekend, daycares will provide overnight care so that the parents can go out on a date or catch up on house work.

When I was growing up we all went home for lunch. Then in the schools began to take on that responsibility. The parents were thankful. Then the schools began to provide clinics. The parents were thankful. Then the schools began to teach health. The parents were thankful. The schools began to teach sex ed. The parents were thankful. The schools began to parent for them. The parents were thankful.

The educational establishment is no longer bashful about becoming the parent. Consider the bills just introduced in Rhode Islandthat would "require school districts receiving state aid to include in their plans strategies to decrease obesity and improve health and wellness of students." Since when did obesity become a school issue? When the parents began to outsource parenthood that's when. And just what does "improve health and wellness" mean. It doesn't matter, the parents are thankful. It is one less worry for them.

The schools are not the only arena that parents have outsourced their parenthood. We don't want the inconvenience of monitoring our children's viewing habits so we expect others to rate the shows for us and then we will decide based on their standard. Never mind that their standard is not ours. They saved us the time necessary to do it ourselves. We feel good that we have done something and we are thankful.

We rely on internet filters to strain out the filth from our computers. Sure they miss some things that we wouldn't approve of but we're willing to make the trade off for the convenience of not having to monitor ourselves. We can go on with our own business because someone else is "parenting" the children and we are thankful.

Don't misunderstand, I am not saying that these things are not helpful. But we have come to rely on others rather than God amd His standard to define parenting and the standards by which we raise our children.

As a Christian, I am called to a higher standard. God has given me these children and I take that responsibility seriously. Society may make it easy to oursource parenthood but God will still hold me accountable.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Carnivals and Bloggers

Homeschooling Carnival
The Common Room is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling. She employs the wisdom of one of my favorite writers, Charlotte Mason, to help categorize the posts. Here's a sample,
"..we might hope that, instead of shutting up our books when we leave school or college, each of us, under ninety say, would have his days varied and the springs of life renewed by periods of definite study: we should all be students, the working-man as well as the man of leisure."
Other bloggers of note....
Tim Challies had an excellent post called The Profound Blessings of Blogging. Here's a quote

Too often people gauge the success or failure of a blog or a particular article within a blog by how much interest and attention it gains. Sites that receive a lot of traffic are assumed to be better than those that gain only a handful of readers. Articles that generate 100 comments are deemed better than those that receive only 5. I feel that this betrays a wrong attitude. It could be that the greatest value in blogging is in the hearts of those who write. The time they spend in sweet fellowship with the Lord writing and studying should bring them great satisfaction. If God chooses to use a site or an article to touch other people's lives, then may He receive all the glory.
Update on Jackson Bortz. Please take a minute to go and encourage this family. They buried their five month old on Sunday and Department of Family and Child Services didn't even have the decency to bring their older brother to the funeral. Amazingly, the judge said in court yesterday that DFCS doesn't need to follow the judge's orders. So DFCS is unaccountable and above the law. I love my country but I fear my government comes to mind right now. To come up to speed on this case read From Tragedy to Nightmare.

Blest With Sons is talking about American Idols. Not the TV show but the TV itself. She's examining our infatuation with entertainment. Very thought provoking. I wrote about our family's attitude toward TV in a Don't Control the Remote.... My husband, Steve, also wrote an article a while back called They Didn't Have TV During the Civil War.

Steve also wrote up the story of how our family acquired the Civil War diary of his Great Great Grandfather. It's an amazing story about how God orchestrated the events and used e-bay to connect our family with this heirloom bible. God Still Works Miracles.

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A Final Thought on End of the Spear

I did go see End of the Spear with my older children. I don't plan on doing a personal review of the film. However, I did find an interesting interview Mart Green, Founder and CEO of Every Tribe Entertainment, did with Christianity Today in 2004. His vision for Every Tribe Entertainment is bring quality, inspiring stories to the big screen. He said,

We have to compete with other films by making films of quality, but we're also looking for great stories. That doesn't mean we wouldn't mind having a Tom Hanks in our films, but he'd still have to serve the story. The story will be the star.
Sadly, I think that Mr. Green achieved his first goal of making a quality film but he missed it on the second goal. The star has become the story and not the other way around. That's unfortunate because Nate Saint's story is powerful. He should not have to play under study to any actor.

Blogger Jason Janz at Sharper Iron had a conversation with Mart Green you may also find interesting.

Related Post: End of the Spear

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The purpose of an education

Christine Miller is doing a series on Beating Homeschool Burnout. Here is a quote from part three: Less is More .

The purpose of K-12 education is not for a child to learn all there is; the purpose is of K-12 education is for a child to learn well those things which enable him to go on independently (this means without you) to learn all there is, or all he will need. In essence, a true education teaches a child to recognize and identify truth, to analyze the statements of others for truth or falsehood, and to communicate truth to others effectively.

Piling on more to please a parent's sense of accomplishment, to look good in front of
others, or to assuage a feeling of guilt adds nothing to a child's true education.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Move Toward National Standards and Curriculum

This is not a glamorous post but it is very important that this information be known. Please read the entire post. The changes being introduced will significantly impact homeschooling and education in general.

There is a serious shift in education that is not only reforming education but the American ideal of a parent's right to direct the education of their children. Quietly placed in an appropriations bill is a student aid program that will significantly expand the federal government's role in education.
[In] what could be an important shift in American education: for the first time the federal government will rate the academic rigor of the nation's 18,000 high schools.
The purpose is to offer grants to low-income college students who complete an "academically rigorous" program in high school. To some this looks like the "generous" federal government helping the disadvantaged. And it does do that but at a cost to our freedom. It allows the federal government to monitor high schools and their curriculum. In order to qualify for the grants the high schools will begin to tailor their curriculum to the requirements of the federal government. Thus a de facto national curriculum and standard evolves. (This goes beyond No Child Left Behind which just mandated testing but allowed the states to develop their own tests.)

Of course the federal government doesn't see it as an expansion at all. (When do they ever?)

"I do not see this, at all, as an expansion of the federal role," Sally L. Stroup, an assistant secretary of education, said in an interview. Washington, she said, would not impose a curriculum, just judge programs of study outlined by states. "Our job is to make sure that those are valid standards and valid programs," she said. Furthermore, states and communities can decide on their own whether their students will compete for the grants. "We don't force people to do anything," Ms. Stroup said.
Their claim that they're not forcing people to do anything is ridiculous. They just say you won't get federal money if you don't. (A bribe is a parent's way to get their children to do what they want. The same is true for the government.)

This should concern EVERY parent who has children and cares about their education. By allowing the federal government oversight of our nation's schools we will effective have a national school board and standards. Local control and parental involvement will become non existent.

The federal role in education is continually expanding even though the US Constitution provides no such role. This role will continue increasing over time just as it did when government began the take over after World War II. As these "standards of rigor" are developed at the federal level they will become the standard used in college admissions, scholarships, and job requirements.

The Constitution outlines no role for the federal government in education, and local control of schools is a cornerstone of the American system. But Washington's role has grown since Congress began financing college studies for World War II veterans. Several laws increased federal aid to education, including the landmark National Defense Act of 1958, but specifically prohibited federal officials from assuming supervision or control over programs of instruction....

As homeschoolers this will have an impact on us as well.

Another problem is that private school operators believe that the legislation renders their graduates ineligible by saying applicants must have completed a "program of study established by a state or local educational agency and recognized by the secretary." The bill "would inadvertently exclude over 5.3 million private K-12 school students," the National Association of Independent Schools, which represents some 1,200 private schools, said in a letter to senators last month. The same legislative language may also exclude parochial and home-schooled students.

Keep in mind that the standard implemented by the federal government in high school will trickle down to what is taught in the primary school level.

A national standard of education is a death blow to democracy in America. I hope parents take the time to get informed and decide what type of country they would like their children to inherit.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. - Ronald Reagan

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Learning to Cheat

Students are cheating in school. No surprises there. Cheating will always be a tempation. The difference now is that schools are now making it legal. With the help of wireless PDA's and cellphones students are now logging onto the Internet and logging in A's in the grade book. High tech cheating is an issue in many schools. However it is mostly in the aflfuent ones where these devices are common. Quoting from the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition (1/21/06) the solution seems to be to just let them cheat.
Change the rules and make it legal. In doing so, they're permitting all kinds of behavior that had been considered off limits just a few years ago. The move, which includes some of the country's top insitution, reflects a broader debate about what skills are necessary in today's world - and how schools should teach them. The real world strengths of of intelligent surfing and analysis, some educators argue, are now just as important as rote memorization.
I guess personal integrity and perseverance to master something aren't skills necessary in today's world. Not only are the students allowed to look up answers for themselves, they can beam the answers to their fellow students. The teachers don't consider it cheating because they are allowing the students to do it. So why test at all? Just give them a worksheet and have them look up the answers and discuss their findings.

At a school in Denver, kids join together and share even on multiple choice exams. According to teacher Karen Waples,
"It doesn't hurt, she add, that it has the side benefit of relieving the stress that students say comes from keeping all the answers in their heads."
So what's the purpose of teaching anything if we don't want them keeping the answers in their head? What's hilarious is that while they are allowed to beam the answers to each other in class, they will still receive an F if they talk about the exam. So low tech cheating is forbidden but high tech cheating is OK? And what do the students think about this new development? Oren Kantor a senior at the private Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida said,
It makes it easier to get a better grade." Oren says he wouldn't have had time for 18 holes of golf last week if he'd had to prepare alone for a project on Hamlet.
After all we can't let our education get in the way of what's really important now can we?

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Friday, January 20, 2006

End of the Spear

Is anyone else as disappointed as I was to hear that the producers of the movie End of the Spear cast Chad Allen as the part of both Nate and Steve Saint? I'm not a big movie watcher but we were looking forward to seeing this movie. We have read so many books about them. Then I read this post over at Tim Challies and this one by Jason Janz and I had to take a step back and think a little more about it.

Good actors draw you into the story and make you believe that they are the person they are playing. You forget they are actors and are drawn into the drama. He is using his role in the movie as a platform for his lifestyle. That's what makes that difficult for me. Now if and when I go see the movie I will be also thinking about Chad Alan and not just the what happened to these men and the work that God did in the Auca Indians; thus my disappointment.

This is a controversy that didn't need to happen and is casting a cloud over an otherwise excellent story. My friend who has written a children's book on Nate Saint is seeing the movie right now. When I told her about this, she was as disappointed as I was. I will be interested in hearing her opinion.

Al Mohler shares his thoughts here.

Update: My friend just returned and she thought it was not a problem. She was drawn in to the story and not distracted at all. Chad Alan's part was minimal and 95% of the movie focused on the Aucas and Steve Saint as a little boy. The story is compelling and she definitely would encourage others to go see it.

Global Consumers of Education

We are told constantly that we need prepare our children to compete in the global economy. That American children are falling behind so many other countries. John Stoessel's 20/20 special highlighted Belgium but it could be said about many other countries. So I thought it was interesting that the Koreans are sending their children to the US to escape the "education rat race"

More and more Koreans are choosing to split their families to try to escape Korea's gruelling school system, which is based on endless hours of rote learning, in favour of a better education and a more balanced life abroad for their children.
This often leaves the fathers in the native country while the mother travels abroad with the children. They pay a high price in the loss of national identity and transferring of individual family values. But to some this cost is worth it.

Outsourcing: Homework
Meanwhile, here in the US many of our students stay right her but travel electronically to other countries for homework help. Many parents who are frustrated with the high cost of tutoring here in the US have found that online tutoring is cheaper and just as effective. There is one big difference. These tutors live often live in India or some other country. Companies such as Growing Stars help children complete homework and study for tests. In order to offer a more cost effective service the teachers are located in Inda. They work via the internet on " virtual whiteboards" while the teacher guides them through their studies.

The UN Saves the Day
Maybe we ought to just have the UN establish a Department of Education. That way we can have global standards and everyone everywhere can learn the same things. Oh wait, Bill Gates already thought of that. He is already working with UNESCO to develop and implement global curriculum and standards. Beginning with universal primary education. Bummer, he always thinks up the good ideas first. And now maybe the Koreans won't have to leave Korea to get the same education as the Americans. We will truly become a world where....

aucun enfant n'est laisse
nessun bambino e lasciato
no se deja ningun niƱo detras
No Child Is Left Behind

Viva the UN!

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Learning to socialize

Daisy left this comment under my Pros and Cons of Homeschooling post. Her concern echos many that I have met so I thought it merited a post and not just left in the comments. She wrote,

As a less than outgoing future homeschooler, I am concerned that my son won't meet enough people outside our small social circle. It is (or seems to me to be) important for a child to learn to socialize with many different kinds of people. Socialization concerns are actually the only con on that list that worries me at all.
The myth that children who are homeschooled are not going to learn to socialize has been largely dismissed. It is necessary for our children to learn to get along with many different kinds of people. However, I don't think you need a large social circle, or a classroom, to learn proper social skills. In fact, I actually believe that can be a hinderance. How many of us interact with 20-25 people who are all the same age everyday for six hours? A classroom is a manufactured environment with little resemblance to the "real world".

Proper social skills are learned in a variety of formats. When a child learns to respect others, he can apply that to any age group. When a child learns to listen to another's opinion without getting angry, he can apply that to any age group. When a child learns to stand alone for what is right in the face of opposition, it can be applied to any age group.

My encouragement to you is to decide what you want your child to become and teach it to him. Let him learn and practice these skills in the home. As he masters the skill he will begin to apply it in the various situations he encounters. Don't look for the encounters without first teaching the skills. It is then that your child will learn the proper social skills. This is proactive parenting not reactive punishment. There is a place for correction but it should not be our only tool for teaching our children.

Our schools have it all backwards. We throw our children into a classroom and say sit still. Without ever teaching them how. We say be quiet when the teacher is talking without ever teaching them self control. Our cafeterias are filled with unruly children because in many cases no one took the time to teach them proper etiquette. We assume that they will just know it. The chaos in the cafeteria shows that they don't.

We would never think of expecting a surgeon to operate on a live human right after reading a book on human anatomy. First, we train him on a few cadavers to make sure he's got it down. Even someone in a less risky situation like a waitress receives some training before we throw her in front of hungry customers. Yet, somehow with our children we expect that they should "just know" what is expected of them.

The time to teach self control is not at a wedding buffet line. When your children spy the desserts but you want them to eat the meatballs. A battle erupts and no one ends up enjoying the meal. Teach and train them at home about what is expected of them. Let them practice and make their mistakes there. Don't let the situation do the teaching. Public situations are a blessing and a direct result of proper instruction before you leave the house.

Define for your family what it means to have a well socialized and disciplined child. Then begin to teach those disciplines (and more) first and then your child will be graceful in any social situation.

Previous related posts: Who's Missing Out

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pomp and Stupidity

It's not just the students in public school that are being left behind but also our college graduates. According to a new study many college grads can't handle many complex but common tasks associated with everyday life.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

"It is kind of disturbing that a lot of folks are graduating with a degree and they're not going to be able to do those things," said Stephane Baldi, the study's director
at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research organization.

In order to get a "higher education" it is assumed that they had the basics in their previous schooling. Apparently that's not a valid assumption any more. Of course the remedy for this lapse in learning is more government monitoring and oversight. At least that's the opinion of Joni Finney, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education,
"This sends a message that we should be monitoring this as a nation, and we don't do it," Finney said. "States have no idea about the knowledge and skills of their college graduates."
So now we'll have national testing for college grads. The state needs to make sure they we can balance a check book and price compare at the grocery store. They have only had 13 years to educate the general population (K-12) and they still don't know what they know!? And these are the people who want to teach my kids! I don't think so.

Hat tip: Spunky Jr.

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Teaching About Difficult Topics

From this week's Christian Carnival comes this question from Ron Stewart,

I have a question to pose though about whether or not we should be teaching our children about hell at a young age. Is this right? Okay, multiple, related questions. Are we shortchanging our children by hiding this aspect of our faith? Is hell something to avoid on grounds of maturity, or are we simply afraid to talk about a rather unpleasant topic (to say the least)? I'm beginning to wonder.
I'd like to broaden his question a little and discuss teaching our children not just about hell but many difficult topics. Children have a natural curiosity and wonder about all that is going on around them. Their questions are spontaneous. Usually triggered by an event, observation, or something they read. Some "why" questions are provacative and deep. The kind that make a parent think, "are they old enough to know about that yet?"

Anyone who reads the bible aloud to their children will introduce some difficult and deep topics. Sometimes deeper than a parent wants to go. And just as Ron wonders, should they even go there at such a young age. Hell is just one topic. But it could be death, adultery, or intimacy in marriage.

Here is the one place that I think homeschooling excells. Their questions are captured immediately and and someone is available to answer. Maybe not always to the satisfaction of the child but not dismissed as irrelevant or ignored. Together parent and child can search out an answer.

I remember one such "questioning" time for our family. I just had my first miscarriage. It ignited many questions from my chilren. Where is the baby? Why did the baby die before we got to hold it? Along with those questions were the prayerful ones that also came. After the miscarriage my daughter prayed that the very next day I would wake up with another baby in my tummy. She then looked up at me with tearful eyes and said, "Mommy God can do that can't he?

The questions flowed and we were there to hear them all. One humorous question came from my son. The miscarriage began to spin his brain into high gear. One day he said, "Mom, if you and dad had never gotten married would I still be here. I mean as Joshua but maybe just born into another family but still me?" (I could see the "where do babies come from" discussion coming.)

"Well, not exactly." I replied. "You wouldn't be here if mommy and daddy hadn't gotten married. You're like a puzzle that God fitted together. He takes the pieces and puts them together to make you. " (I was hoping that this would satisfy him.)

"Oh, is that like that song we sing (he begins to sing) 'DNA is what you say. It makes you what you are today?' "

"Yes, that's right. We can get a book on that at the library." (Hoping to steer the conversation toward DNA.)

Undistracted my son said, "What did dad's DNA just leap into you one day and you were pregnant?" (Um yeah.)

Let's face it the thoughts are there. They want to know. It's the conversations that can be difficult. We can't avoid them. Nor do I think we should. When a child is asking the questions someone needs to be there to give guidance in the answers. When a child is not around someone willing to listen to all their questions for many hours, these questions are left to linger. Some go unanswered and are forgotten. Or worse left to be answered by someone else. I am thankful my children ask the tough questions. But I'm even more thankful we are able to be hear them all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More on the Pros of Homeschooling

From an English Professor
In my previous post I highlighted a list of pros and cons. I agree with the majority of commenters that the cons just come with parenting. As far as the pros I would like to refer you to a much more reasoned essay written by a Professor W. A. Pannapaker, For Professors' Children, the Case for Home Schooling . He is a college English professor with three young children. He has a unique perspective as an academic who actually supports homeschooling. Here's a peek,
I have spoken with more than a few professors who say that home schooling is dangerous: It is a threat to public education, it is anti-feminist, it isolates children, it is a form of religious fanaticism, it is a means of avoiding diversity, and - most withering of all - it is an instrument of ideological conservatism. They sometimes joke about home education by mentioning horror films such as Carrie and Children of the Corn.
And that's just the warm-up. The essay excellent. My compliments to Daryl for getting permission to print the whole essay.

Out of the mouth of babes
For me, the pros were summed up in a statement my daughter made a a few years ago. The house was a mess after a busy day of activites. As we were cleaning up she said, "Mom, it's a good thing we homeschool. Who else would you have to help you clean up all this mess!"

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The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

A reporter for the ChallengerNKY in Northern Kentucky says,

Homeschooling isn't for everyone. Anyone considering this option for their children should consider the following pros and cons before making their decision. Currently only 22 states in the United States require standardized testing of homeschoolers. Kentucky is not one of these states.
Thankfully, Michigan doesn't require testing. Although, it comes up in the legislature perioically. Here is their list of the pros and cons of homeschooling.

* Customized education
* More family time
* Family values taught
* Pressures of peers, competition, boredom, and bullies avoided
* Improved communication between parents and children
* No busywork
* Well-rested children
* Life skills learned by example

* Demands on time and finances
* One parent often gives up career and income
* Being with children 24/7
* Limited extracurricular activities and sports
* Socialization concerns
* Living outside of the norm
* No quality control

Why is living outside the norm a "con"? As I learned from a preacher long ago, "Noah went into the boat a minority and came out the majority." There is something to be said for not following the crowd."

What do you think? Are these accurate? Is there anything you would add to either list?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dispelling the myth

Intel has just selected homeschooler Julie Boiko as one of 300 finalists in their nationwide science talent search. Winning over a skeptical reporter from the Mercury News:

Sure, I was an eye-roller.

I mean, we all know about home-schooling, right? Wacky families on the political fringes. Protective parents sheltering their kids from reality. Hopeless nerds who break out in hives at the thought of a school dance.

Then Julie Boiko hit me right between the eyes. OK, she didn't punch me. She's too cool. Too collected. Too practiced at smacking down the questions about being 17 and home-schooled since kindergarten.

"Truthfully, I've never felt I had to prove myself,'' she says, "or disprove any stereotypes.''

No matter. She's done both. Sitting in her living room, Julie is confident and outgoing. She wears her blond hair over her shoulders and she wears her smile constantly.

And she has plenty of reasons to smile. She has the chance of being one of 40 to go on to the finals and a scholarship worth $100K. Julie has already been accepted at a few universities. I'm excited for her and her family. And grateful that she, like many other homeschool children who may never win these kinds of awards, is showing that homeschool children aren't the anti-social nerds that some people want to believe they are. Even the ones who never go on to college but choose to stay home and become moms like Crystal at Biblical Womanhood.

(HT: Joanne Jacobs)
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What are you reading?

Palm Tree Pundit has started her 2006 book list. Gena (TOS Publisher) commented that since she spends so much time online she doesn't read a book nearly as much as she used to. I still do. Although, when I first started blogging it did decrease for a little while. I make it a point to still read good books.

I divide my book reading into three categories; Inspiration, Information, and Vegetation. I usually have one of each going. Depending on my mood that's how I decide what to read. We usually have a family read aloud going as well.

Inspiration: Those are books that challenge me to think about my life and walk with God. The best ones convict me and inspire me at the same time. Right now I am reading The Disciplined Life by Richard Taylor. It is my annual read.

Information: These are books for learning about new topics or subjects. On Writing Well by Zinsser is my current read in this category.

Vegetation: This is a book for sheer pleasure and fun. I don't have one in this category at the present time. I guess this may be where my blogging as taken over. Any recommendations?

Family Read Aloud: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck.

What the Spunkettes are reading: My children are moving into World War II. So most of their reading is centered around that time period. The younger girls are also reading many historical diaries. The older ones are finishing Babbitt and will begin To Kill a Mockingbird. The boys are also reading the Left Behind Series.

The General of Spunky Homeschool (aka Steve) is reading a biography called General John Brown Gordon, Soldier, Southerner, American. He was a southern officer during the Civil War. (My husband was definitely born at the wrong time.)

And if what we're reading bores you all together then here's what constitutional scholar Robert Bork recommends as his five best books on the Constitution. His own book "A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault on American Values" (Hoover, 2005) sounds pretty interesting too.

But if you're like Gena and want to do all your reading online, check out this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. Henry Cate has the ABC's of Homeschooling all ready to go.

Update: Read this post from Dominion Family on the importance of reading.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Eighth Grade Boy Dies

Christopher Penley, 15-year-old was shot by police after brandishing a pellet gun. I pray for this family in their time of grief. From CBS 5 News: Here's the comment from a neighbor whose son was friends with the young man who died.

Kelly Swofford, a neighbor whose 11-year-old son is close friends with Penley, said he visited their home Thursday night and complained that "people were picking on him at school. I told him he needed to talk to his guidance counselor."Her son Jeffery said Penley talked about wanting to die when the two had breakfast Friday morning. He said Penley had been fighting with another boy, allegedly over a girl.

Obviously, the neighbor did not know the seriousness of this child's problems. But it is interesting that the young man told his friend to go to the school's guidance counselor and not his parents with his concerns.

College Bound

A reader emailed and asked, "We are currently involved in a book study, which has been thought provoking. I agree with a lot that the author says, but there are somethings that I think it is wiser to not make a sweeping statement, but to let people do as the Lord leads them. One the question of whether girls should go on to school is one that is of particular interest as my daughter is approaching college age. She is highly academic and it has never really crossed my mind that she need not go. In the book Raising Maidens of Virtue by Stacy McDonald there were some thoughts shared that I would like to quote to you:

From the book: 1 Timothy 5:14 "I will therefore that the yonger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. "

Notice that instead of instructing younger women to find a specialized training or learn a trade, he encourages them to marry, bear children and guide the house. .....So if singleness is not the Scriptural norm, and marriage and being a keeper at home is, doesn't it seem logical that marriage and homemaking should be our focus of training? If we want to train to do something well, we train for what we expect we will actually be doing. If a Christian man wants to be an engineer, we don't see him running off to auto-mechanic school just in case he is ever laid off. He trains diligently for the desired result and trusts that God will equip him for any emergencies that might arise. Women who train to be breadwinners can expect to be very good breadwinners, but not necessarily very good breadmakers...or homemakers.

So, what are your thoughts? I don't want to send my daughter to college because that is the default and I don't know what else to do. This is the reason I went to college and that was a less than ideal reasoning.... " - A homeschooling mom

This is a question that keeps popping up every once in a while in discussions around our home and with our friends. To me there is no "right" answer. To say that scripturally an adult woman should stay home and marry would mean that all those who don't are in disobedience to the word of God. I'm not ready to say. However, I do feel that as a culture we are too quick to assume that once you graduate from high school that college must be the next step for either a man or a woman simply because they turn 18. I believe there is more to it than just the passing of years that should decide whether a young adult goes on to college.

When my oldest daughter was younger I used to say, "We'll let the Lord decide when we get to that point." As that time grew closer it hit me. What if the Lord brought someone into her life at 16 like he did for my mother and she was married at 19. Would I be willing to accept that as the Lord's will? Because of my strong academic background it was easy to accept that college could be the Lord's will. But marriage at 19 being God's will? Could I accept that as God's divine plan for my daughter?

I don't have an easy answer. I know many will say that they just can't sit home and wait for Mr. Right to come knocking at the door. What are they going to do in the meantime? We are content to let our daughter stay here as long as she feels that is what the Lord desires and not any longer than that. She can hear from the Lord very well. Does college mean that we are not preparing her for family life. Not necessarily. With the proper guidance before college and a steady walk with the Lord, college can be an asset to her and her family. I don't think this is an either or propostion.

So I guess in answer to this mom's question I would say that the scripture is clear that younger women ought to marry. At what age that happens exactly and what she does in the meantime depends on her and her obedience to God's direction in her life. Going to college does not necessarily contradict this scripture. Nor does it mean she is being trained to become the "breadwinner." So, if college fits then great she'll go with our blessing. But if not then we are open to the best that God has planned for her.

For all our children, we don't have the idea that they MUST go to college right from high school. They MAY go. But I would be just as happy if they took a missions trip for a time or did something else. There are many options available to our young adults. I'm not limiting God with just what our culture says is the norm.

There are other considerations if college is chosen. I hope to get into that at some point as well. But I'm going to have to leave it here for now.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

20/20 show: Stupid America

I managed to muster up the energy to watch the whole 20/20 episode Stupid in America: How we cheat our kids. Here's some things from my notes:

Favorite quote came from Kevin Chavous of the Center for Education Reform. He said, "America doesn't know what it doesn't know." And that's exactly the way many in our government want it to stay. The perfect dependency class.

Public School Police: The most amazing moment came when the parents voluntarily let officials in from the California school district in to see if the children actually lived there. What on earth are they thinking when they let them in their bedrooms?

Choice seems to be the solution: Parents have a choice. They are choosing to have the government take their money and their children. While it doesn't seem as though we can do much about taking of the money, I don't understand why these parents are waiting for the government to give them school choice. No education is better for a lot of the children shown here. Can the parents do much worse?

Kipp Academy: They showed the school that I blogged about in Poster Children for the State. No surprises there.

Belgium Education: They really made our school children look bad. But then so did Jay Leno so I can't fault them too much. The NEA could learn from the administrators there about competition and monopolies.

Union Leaders in New York: Their meetings looked more like a student pep rally. I laughed out loud when the leader (missed her name) said that those who criticize the union don't care about the children. And I'm assuming that's why she consented to working an extra 10 minutes a day in their new contract. Because she cares so much more. As Stossel is fond of saying, "Give me a break!"

Homeschooling: Disappointed they didn't include that segment.

John Stossel said at the end he's hoping to start a debate on public education. I hope he does. His forum has been active. The comments predictable. Here's one poster "correcting" the errors of Mr. Stossel and showing his bias toward the religious right. And of course, we are to believe the NEA has no bias of its own. Yeah right.

Another commentor blamed the parents and wanted to rename the show Stupid Parents in America. He said, "What we need is for someone to stand up and broadcast a show about stupid parents in America!!!!!

And just where did these "stupid parents" get their education?????????

A Peek Behind the Monitor

As promised, here is how our Friday the Thirteenth went.

6:30 AM - Wake up to the sound of my husband already working at his computer. (He works from home.) Think about getting out of bed. Thought passes. I roll over and go back to sleep. ( I stayed up after the Education Forum the night before to work on my next article due on the Jan. 15th and Friday's featured blogger.)

8:00 - Wake up, take 2. Steve is still hard at work to make a 1PM deadline. Kristin is up and babysitting at the neighbors. Other children are all still sleeping. They also had a late night the previous night. I let them sleep. Check email. Read Proverbs 13. Verse 4 convicts me, "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, the soul of the diligent is made fat. (I was a sluggard today and slept in.) Kristin arrives home she gets on the computer to post entries. Sky is gray and it's raining. Rain in January. Wierd.

9:00 - Children are all awake now. They lay around for a few minutes. Elaina starts singing, "My bible, my bible, I have to find my bible." I don't bother inspecting their rooms. I just remind children to pick them up and shower. Steve asks me to make him eggs and toast. (He only has eggs and toast when he is going to miss lunch.)

10:00 - All the children now want eggs for breakfast. I cook some for everyone and put dinner in the crock pot. Kristin and I work on featured blogger for HSB, send off emails, and check blog. Others clean up kitchen and start their work. Katie is working on her math. Lizzy is helping Elaina write a letter to grandma, Jason is on his keyboard in the basement. Josh is somewhere. I'm not sure what he's doing.

11:00 - Toss in laundry. Josh is now in the basement with Jason. He is playing his violin while Jason plays his drum. They are practicing an orchestra piece along with a CD. Lizzy brings me two over due items from the library. They are videos at a dollar a day. We get in the car immediately and get them over there. Meanwhile, Josh gives up on practicing his violin with a drummer. He can't hear himself. He starts practicing alone.

12:00 - Back home, it's leftover pizza for lunch. We have an early lunch because they have homeschool band rehearsal. I read The Red Pony by Steinbeck as they eat. They're all grossed out when I read how they have to treat the sick horse. Why during lunch?

12:45 - I take three of the children to homeschool band rehearsal. Kristin and Jason do schoolwork.

1 :00 PM - Steve leaves for his appointment. I put Elaina down for a nap after reading her Bless the Lord. Go down the basement to clean and listen to Rush. Other two work on unfinished work from the week. Get a strange marketing call from someone telling me how to increase traffic on my blog. No thanks I say and hang up.

2:00 - UPS knocks on the door. A heavy box is brought in. The next issue of The Old Schoolhouse has arrived. They sent MANY copies. Distracted we sit and read for a little while. This issue is all about blogging and writing. It looks excellent. I send an email and check my blog.

2:30 - Back to basement for me and school work for them.

3:00 - Others arrive home from band. Hungry as usual. I check the BBQ pork in the crockpot. Children have a snack. Katie makes a salad. I remind Kristin to update my blog with a few things. I want to take a nap but instead go back to the basement to work some more with the boys.

4:00 - Steve's still not home. Elaina wakes up. Everyone starts munching on the cucumbers in Katie's salad. I continue cleaning in the basement.

5:00 - Interrupted by a phone call. It's Jake and he says he wasn't supposed to call me. Whatever, I give the phone to Kristin.

Shortly, the phone rings again. Someone claiming to be Tim Challies (without the Canadian accent) is worried about my daughter. There are hints of laughter in the background. They blather on about salvation and the assurance of something and ask me if my children are ok. First a call from someone worried about my traffic, now someone else is worried about my daughter? But this one's a hoax. It's Agent Tim, and a few friends trying to give me a hard time. (I think they're just looking to increase traffic to their blog.) We have a great conversation.

5:30 - Dinner time.

6 :00 - Clean up dinner. Write a post about Jackson Bortz . (Please read this.) Steve tired from a long day takes a nap. Clean up. and check email and see what Kristin did on my blog.

7:00 - Steve and I chat about the day for a little while. My friend calls and we help her set up a blog for their mission trip to Korea.

8:00 - Play Yahtzee and answer an email and read. I'm exhausted and just want to go to sleep but I'm trying to stay awake to watch the 20/20 Special.

10:00 - Watch the 20/20 Special. I should have gone to sleep. The children watch it with me. Then it's off to bed.

This is a pretty typical Friday. Wtih band I don't plan on doing a lot of other things with the children. They are free to finish up their schoolwork or do other things.

Other who participated:
Tami at Tami's Blog writes about her Friday the 13th.

Did you write about your day? Let me know and I'll update the list!

Friday, January 13, 2006

From Tragedy to Nightmare

Save Jackson Bortz:

This story is so sad. And the state's response is turning a tragedy into a nightmare for the Bortz family. Their infant, Dylan (5 months) has died and their older son, Jackson, (age 3) was taken away. Here's an excerpt from the first post that tells the story written by the grandmother Randi St. Denis,
"Two weeks ago, Rachel was holding Dylan in his baby seat and Jack ran past her in the kitchen. Rachel lost the grip on the baby seat and Dylan fell to the floor. Both my son Matthew and I were eye witnesses to this. Rachel and I quickly picked Dylan up and applied ice to his head. All he had was a tiny bruise under his eye and a slight puffiness on his eyelid. Five days later we found him in his bed not breathing. Sadly, the bump on his head from five days earlier caused his death and we are grieving beyond imagination.Now DFCS (Department of Family and Children's Services) has stolen our grandson Jackson away for no cause."
They are fighting to get him back. They have set up a website Save Jackson Bortz where you can read all the updates. They are part of the Georgia Home Educators Encouragement Alliance. They are asking for prayer and an email / phone campaign to get the attention of the DFCS and bring home their son.

Toddlers or Teens which is harder?

A while back someone was introduced to my son. She complimented him and asked me, "What do I have to do to have a teen like that?" I said, "Have a baby at 40." She rolled her eyes and said no thanks.

Let's face it, who else can spit up on a teenager and get away with it? And there is nothing more humbling than 15 year old boy walking around with a pink diaper bag. A real trend setter. I have come to believe that it takes a toddler to help raise a teen. The teen learns real quick how awful it is to have someone around who believes that life revolves around them.

And now thatI have teens, I sure do wish I had one around when I had five children, seven and under. I honestly don't know how I did it without losing my sanity. (OK maybe I did and no one wants to tell me.) My two year old daughter is being trained in many of the ways that I just didn't have the time for with my others. And many of the things that I fretted over with my first born (like are they breathing) I don't even think about with her. I can't believe I once even ran the vacumn under my daughter's crib while she napped just to check her hearing.

But now that I have both a toddler and a teen, I'm trying to decide if one is harder to parent than the other? I'm not sure. The toddler years were more physically demanding but the teen years seem more mentally demanding. To be honest I haven't found either one to be "terrible". For the toddler years, I remember thinking this will never end. For the teen years, I think this is all ending too quickly.

What age has been the most challenging for you?

Reminder: Today is Friday the 13th. I'm keeping track of our day today. I'll post what happened in our home tomorrow. Want to join me? I talked about it here a few days ago, and here's my first Friday the 13th from last May.