Monday, June 30, 2008

Tax Credits: Blessing or Burden?

On June 3, U.S. Senator David Vitter (LA) introduced The Home School Opportunities Make Education Sound (HOMES) Act. The bill provides tax relief to families who home school their children by allowing them to take advantage of tax deducations for education-related expenses.
"All families should be provided with a full spectrum of choices when it comes to the education of their children,” Vitter said. "We need to take the necessary steps to remove the undue financial burdens that are currently placed on home school families. As individuals empower themselves to take responsibility for the proper education of their children, we should in turn provide them with the appropriate tools to do so. To that end, this legislation is a positive step in that process."
The HOMES Act would allow up to $2000 annually in tax credit for K-12 homeschool activities. Homeschool advocates are divided in their support.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) supports the bill,
"For years homeschooling families have paid a disproportionately high cost for education related expenses, as parents who homeschool their children fund not only their own educational materials but also continue to finance public education via their tax dollars. Hence, homeschool parents incur an inequitable financial burden in regard to their children’s education. The HOMES Act would help families subsidize homeschooling expenses and ensure that homeschool students enjoy similar rights and treatment to students enrolled in public education. If passed, this legislation would be the first time that the federal tax code provided homeschooling families with a tax deduction for homeschool expenses.
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) is against the bill on Constitutional grounds. Attorney Deborah Stevenson writes,

"The power of regulating educational issues is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States. Therefore, the power of regulating educational issues is reserved to the States respectively, or to the people...

"While on the face of it, many people might want to take advantage of a tax break offered under this new bill. Parents should ask themselves before succumbing to the enticement, however, what will this cost in terms of my freedom to home school in the long run? What will it cost in terms of my children’s freedom to home school their children in years to come? Is a tax break, or any federal benefit, worth the loss, or potential loss, of liberty?"

Your voice and opinion is just as important as the attorneys who often attempt to speak on our behalf.

Are you in favor of a federal tax credit for educational expenses? Is the financial benefit worth the potential loss of freedom in how the federal government defines who qualifies? Do the principles of limited government still have meaning in our lives? Or should we just accept that the federal government is going to use federal tax policy to influence behavior and be grateful that they are using it for our benefit?

Dana at Principled Discovery does a great deal of analysis of the bill and the various arguments and states that in general she disagrees with "the use of the tax code to influence behavior."

What do you think?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stealing A Father's Estate

According to the Denver Post, all it took was one allegation of abuse for 8 year old Josh Raykin to be snatched away from his home by state social workers who claimed to have his best interest in mind.

Josh spent a week with an Aurora foster family that required the Jewish kid to pray to Jehovah at each meal. They took away the Pokemon toothbrush and stuffed toys that his mom had packed for him. They shut off his shower after five minutes. And most days, he says, they made him wash toilets with a washcloth.

For one sleepless week, the Raykins made phone calls, met with lawyers and sat in Josh's room "taking turns breaking down." Human Services refused to allow them even one phone call to tell their only child they loved him, were fighting for him and would come for him soon.

Joshua has since returned home after a judge ruled that there was no inappropriate activity takng place, but he continues to have nightmares two months later.

Josh's mother and father both grew up in the former USSR. Josh's mother Melanie Raykin lamented,
"We live, we work, we're quiet, we pay taxes. We came from such a hard world to be free in a country where, just like this," says his mom, snapping her fingers, "they can grab your kid away from you right off your street."
Citing confidentiality, county spokeswoman, Nichole Parmelly, refused to comment on the specifics of this case saying,
"We only remove the child from the home when we believe or know to be true that staying in the home is not in the best interest of the child,"
These social workers obviously studied well when they were in college. Arthur Calhoun's book A Social History of the American Family, published in 1919 and widely used as a social service textbook set the stage for what happened to Josh and where we're currently headed as a nation,

"The family goes back to the age of savagery while the state belongs to the age of civilization. The modern individual is a world citizen, served by the world, and home interests can no longer be supreme. Children need not grumble if much of their father's estate goes to social purposes."

As Josh was being led away from his home, he screamed, "Leave them alone. They're the best parents in the world." Little Josh was about to learn that to some in this country, the state is the really best parent in the world and he has no place to grumble when they steal his father's estate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Homeschooling Can Be Abusive

This FOX discussion between Laura Ingraham and education expert, Dr. William Bainbridge regarding the California ruling, is a bit over the top in regards to manners; but it was interesting to watch Bainbridge assert that there needs to be a line between "responsible parenting and child abuse" and then in the same breath claim that homeschooling 16 or 17 year olds can be abusive and a violation of the child's fourteenth amendment right of equal protection. He believes that "no parents should have unfettered control of their child's education."

The ridiculous point he's trying to make, if only Ingraham would let him, is that no parent is competent to teach all the the subjects a high schooler needs and therefore the child is deprived of their rights. He then remarks that if homeschooling parents are smart enough to teach their kids then they should be able to figure out a way to get their kids into a private or charter school. I guess that statement is supposed to prove just how incompetent we really are. This wouldn't even be worth talking about, except that these are the "experts" that legislators love to call on to testify in favor of increasing regulation on homeschoolers; so it's good to know what they're saying.

Watching this video reminds me all over again why I gave up watching television 20 years ago, especially news shows. If homeschooling is abusive because of incompetent parents, then watching television is absolute torture because of incompetent "experts".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Defense of Homeschooling

Sometimes homeschooling advocates are a little over zealous in their defense of homeschooling; as a result, they potentially do more harm than good. Such might have been the case when the LA Times captured this quote from Rev. Wiley Drake at the appellate court rehearing regarding homeschooling in California.
"The Bible, our legal document, says the family is required to educate children based on the Scriptures," Drake said. "We're against government schooling in any form. People who put their kids in public school probably should be arrested."
If the LA Times quoted him accurately, this is exactly the sort of statement that the moonbats on the left like to use to portray homeschoolers as wingnuts that need to be regulated in order to protect our children from becoming wingnuts. Thankfully, Drake was outside the courtroom on Monday.

However, Debbie Schwarzer, Legal Co-Chair of the Homeschooling Association of California, was inside the courtroom and recapped the day's events,

"The arguments were long (two and a half hours in a hot courtroom) and thorough. he judges asked lots of questions, with some consistent themes. As soon as you thought you had one judge pegged as to how he or she was thinking, he or she would ask another question that made you wonder about your prior conclusion. They were reasonably generous about letting people finish their presentations or points even if they ran over a little on time.

"Some of the attorneys presenting made wonderful arguments that we loved. Others were potentially damaging. Most of the folks on our side did a really good job. One woman from Munger Tolles, who represented CHEA in our joint brief, made a presentation on behalf of all three groups and did very well. It is absolutely impossible to predict how the court will rule on this -- whether it will be narrow, sweeping, or something entirely different, and we don't want to feed any rumor mill. It's just too hard to read those tea leaves, although I am sure some people will
try."

The court's decision is expected by late September. In the meantime, Schwartzer encouraged homeschoolers to
"keep on doing what they've been doing, to keep showing the world a positive image of homeschooling, to educate their friends and neighbors about homeschooling, and to stay informed."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Baby Borrowers

Parenting is an eye-opener; so NBC has come out with a new reality TV show beginning tomorrow night, The Baby Borrowers that makes unmarried teens instant parents to give them a dose of real life. The show's intent is to teach teenagers how hard it is to parent with the hope that they'll delay parenting until they're ready. But what parent in their right mind would "loan" their child to another child to teach them that life lesson? The parents are able to watch from monitors and intervene if necessary.

Watch the video trailers. In Where's Happy Baby, one mother lays down the law and scolds the teen couple for their failure to parent properly at bedtime; telling the teen parents that the baby has bonded and they need to "suck it up and solve the need." Yet, the mother has just loaned her baby out who needs her comfort not some teen in training. Another mother intervenes when her baby has not been fed all day; she admonishes the teen that life's not about her any more it's about her baby. But that's not her baby and the teen knows it and so does the baby. Someone should be scolding the real parents of these babies, not the TV teens! After all life is not about them anymore. What life lesson are they teaching their own babies and toddlers?

My husband and I turned down an offer for Wife Swap, but giving up my child to a teenager rises to new levels of absolute idiocy. I'm just scratching my head at what people will do for a little fame and some extra cash. It is important for teens to learn how to be responsible parents, but that happens in a home under their own parents' guidance, not on a reality show that is anything but real life.

Parents Who Don't Parent

In a New York Times article, "Parents Who Don't Parent" a Chicago school teacher addresses the crucial stage development before age 3 and laments that these formative years are "left to the discretion, involvement and economic abilities of the parents" leaving many children, most notably urban children, at a social disadvantage when they enter kindergarten. The solution,

"To address this initial and rarely insurmountable inequity, free education ought to be mandatory at age 1, not age 5. (Parents who do not wish to participate can continue to home school or enroll their children in licensed daycares.) Early intervention is required to ensure that all children are activating and engaging their brains during these crucial years."
But wasn't that the reason free education was started in the first place, in order to handle the children whose parents were too poor to adequately educate them? A century or so later we can see that the result of this "solution", was that both rich and poor parents took advantage of the "free education" and an ever growing education monopoly was born, with wealthier districts doing well and urban districts in shambles. Why would any one think that the same thing wouldn't happen with universal preschool beginning at age one?

I also find it interesting that this article refers to the choice NOT to enroll the child in school or daycare as "homeschooling" and not parenting. From the state's perspective, the formative years before age 5 are simply to get the child ready to enter the state's system of indoctrination. Motherhood is God's plan for universal preschool, but the state is not content with that solution and seeks to parent for us. Sadly most parents, rich or poor, are willing to let them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

CA Court to reconsider ruling

The California Court of Appeals is set today to reconsider their ruling that required home educators to have a teaching credential in order to teach their children at home. The hearing pits the California teachers union against the governor and homeschool advocates across the state.

The most notable dissenter was the 330,000-member California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union. While insisting that it does not challenge the right of parents to homeschool their children, the association argued that state law requires in-home teachers to be credentialed.

"Parents do not have an unfettered right to dictate the terms of their children's education," the union's attorney, Priscilla Winslow, said in her brief. "A private school is not the same as homeschooling."Winslow said the arrangement in the case before the court - in which the religious school officials visited the home four times a year to certify the children's participation in its independent-study program - was an invitation to "educational anarchy."

Lawyers for the academy, Sunland Christian School, responded indignantly. While the teachers union looks to protect "its members' job security," attorneys at the conservative Pacific Justice Institute asserted, California's $40 billion public school system is floundering.

Even some supporters of public education think that credentialling all homeschoolers is unrealistic.
The 120,000-member California Federation of Teachers supports public schools and standards for instructors, but "it's not realistic to think that we're going to get certain groups of parents who choose to homeschool their kids to get a credential," said spokesman Fred Glass. "Why create a firestorm, a backlash, that draws time and resources away from the central project of educating children?"
This case began as a child welfare case regarding one family, but depending on the ruling could affect families all across the state. A decision is expected in 90 days.

Credentialing a teacher doesn't guarantee that a child will be well-educated nor does having a child in the public school guarantee against abuses by a teacher. Just ask the Ohio student who was branded by his teacher while in school or the kindergartener who was voted out of his classroom by his classmates with the teacher's support and encouragement.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The "Big Sort"

According to the Economist, Texas has a new city where 100% of the residents are Ron Paul supporters.
"His most ardent fans are invited to build homesteads in "Paulville", an empty patch of west Texas. Here, they will be free. Free not to pay "for other people's lifestyles [they] may not agree with". And free from the irksome society of those who do not share their love of liberty. "
This is all part of what author Bill Bishop calls in his new book, the "Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart". Bishop worries that Americans are becoming increasingly isolated from contrary views and succumbing to "a group think" mentality, separating themselves, and edging ever closer to extreme beliefs.

According to Bishop, it's not just segregation by home ownership in towns like Paulville that are leading to an isolationist mentality, but the internet, television, and (gasp!) even homeschooling!
"the home-schooling movement, which has grown rapidly in recent decades, shields more than 1m American children from almost any ideas their parents dislike....

"We now live in a giant feedback loop," says Mr Bishop, "hearing our own thoughts about what's right and wrong bounced back to us by the television shows we watch, the newspapers and books we read, the blogs we visit online, the sermons we hear and the neighbourhoods we live in."

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I read the opinions of those contrary to my own more often than I read those of people who agree with me. That's how I learn and challenge myself and what I think. Even on my blog, I welcome the comments of those that disagree and don't moderate out dissent. If my thoughts can't hold up against scrutiny, then maybe they're not worth holding at all.

I approach educating my children the same way. Yes, we teach our children what we believe, but I welcome the challenging questions my children ask. I don't want little Spunky robots who are just going to parrot what I think. I want them to learn to think for themselves. Yes, I want them to believe what I believe - not simply because I believe it is right - but because they do! With five teenagers in the house, this can create a tense family environment at times; but if what I believe is true, it can handle the tough questions of my teenagers. Truth always does and always will.

If Bishop is right and Americans are becoming "balkanized" it may be in part because some are not confident in what they know or believe and are finding security in like-minded people. However, looking at the diversity of Ron Paul supporters who are both on the right and the left of the political spectrum, I don't think that's what this particular community is all about. So it could also be that, like the Pilgrims, Paulites are declaring their independence and are willing to carve out a place where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are still the reason we choose to live in the United States of America - even if is confined to a few acres in Texas.

Facebook Says 'Yes' to Homeschoolers

The world would go on just fine if this announcement had never been made, but for 1000's of homeschool kids it has now become easier to join the popular social networking site, Facebook, without compromising the verification process or site security. From the Facebook Blog,

Back in September 2006, we decided to open up Facebook to everyone. Well, almost everyone.We realized Facebook would be most useful if more people were allowed
to join, but we also weren't willing to compromise the security of the site by removing all methods of verification, especially for high school students and minors. Unfortunately this meant that most homeschoolers weren't able to register. For security purposes, users under the age of 18 were required to affiliate with their current high school, but it was nearly impossible to extend this system to homeschooled users.

We've been working on ways to solve this—we want minors to use Facebook safely above all. Today, we're happy to announce that we've recently come up with a way for homeschoolers to join. We've created a new verification system—one that doesn't depend on being in a high school, but still provides the level of security we believe is required. So welcome, everyone, to Facebook.

I'm happy to see that this case of "discrimination" was resolved peacefully without a public outcry for boycotts and letters from lawyers demanding our rights. You can find my Facebook profile here.

And since we're in a celebrating good news here today, I'd like to say a public thank-you to whoever let their ownership of http://www.spunkyhomeschool.com/ expire. That URL was snatched up by a squatter long before I ever thought I'd need my own domain. I guess my year long sabbatical dried up the meager revenue stream from google ads and they let it go. But it's mine now. I'll be moving this site there eventually, but that will require more time and expertise than I currently possess. If anyone has any tips to make the transition a smooth one, please let me know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Obama wows "Michi-anders"

After a contentious primary battle with Hillary, Obama is working hard to win over voters in my very blue state of Michigan. He didn't start things off very well at a rally here in Detroit, where he said;



"To the world champion Detroit Wed Wings... To the Mosaic Youth Choir... To Obama grassroots volunteers, especially Michi-anders for Obama and Michigan Democratic future." Calling MichiGANDERS "Michi-anders" is a dumb gaffe probably due to fatigue, but not a serious mistake.

However, potentially more serious, were two requests by Obama campaign volunteers that Muslim women wearing head scarves remove them before being seated behind Obama at a Detroit rally.
"I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to,” said Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer who lives in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. “The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters."
Detroit is home to the largest Muslim population outside of the Middle East. Most Michiganders have grown accustomed to Muslim attire in our neighborhoods, schools, stores, and even at the pool. This blunder doesn't exactly play well in his desire to be seen as the candidate of hope and change. The campaign has apologized. Politico's Ben Smith has the details.

The Muslim/Christian tightrope Obama has to walk is going to haunt him throughout this campaign especially here in Metro Detroit where it's an incredibly thin rope. Too many slips like this could cost him big at the ballot box. Within miles of my home, there are large Arab communities where calls to prayer are heard five times a day, but ice cream trucks are banned for being too noisy; and large Catholic and evangelical communities where "Reagan Democrats" are in abundance and ripe for the picking. Religion is important to them all. How Obama affirms his Christian faith and at the same time handles the rumors that he is allegedly Muslim without alienating Islamic voters could mean the difference between a win or a loss in this battleground state.

It will be interesting to see if Obama is forced into a giving a faith speech similar to Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, Huckabee tosses out some free advice to his fellow Republicans. He said,
"Republicans will make a fundamental if not fatal mistake if they seek to win the election by demonising Barack Obama,"
Huckabee was apparently referring to race in his remarks, but he may have a point with religion too. He attempted to demonise Romney's religion and look where it got him.

Children At Risk

In preparation for a recent series of articles in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I had the opportunity to speak by phone with Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR). Mr. Wexler and his website are a wealth of information on the abuses of Child Protective Services (CPS) and how they are undermining parents ability to direct the upbringing of their children.

Our conversation took place just as the FLDS Texas raid was unfolding and over 400 children were placed in state custody. Highly critical of the various abuses by state officials, Wexler remarked that the definition of abuse has become anything the state says that is; and any parent that child welfare advocates suspects to hold beliefs that are out of the mainstream is considered suspicious, with children who may be at risk of abuse while in their care.

It became increasingly clear that the parents' beliefs were likely a key factor in the FLDS raid by Texas authorities, now we have a new story where Canadian child welfare authorities have taken away the children of alleged neo-Nazi's whose emotional well-being may be harmed by their parents' teachings.

Both of these cases demonstrate beliefs that are out of the mainstream but not necessarily criminal behavior; as such, the parents should be considered innocent until proven guilty of criminal activity. The parents beliefs alone should not give the state the right to remove the children to prevent possible abuse from occurring. It is the state's job to demonstrate that the parents are abusive before taking the children, not the job of the parent to prove that they are not in order to get their children back.

I agree with Richard Wexler,
"Being taken from everything loving and familiar is among the worst emotional blows that any child can suffer. It can leave lifelong scars. In addition, there is far more abuse in foster care than generally realized. Wrongfully removing a child from his parents can actually place that child at greater risk of child abuse and neglect.

If government officials are allowed to intimidate the FLDS or Neo-nazis and take away their children, who will they come after next? We are already seeing increasing scrutiny of homeschoolers in many states due to charges of "educational neglect" and "abuse," with calls from many quarters for increasing legal restrictions on homeschooling because our children are not under the daily watchful eye of the state in its schools.

Slippery slope? Maybe.

But remember, it only took one anonymous allegation for CPS to move in with tanks and guns and take over 400 FLDS children away from their mothers, and one "Hard Lemonade" at a Detroit Tiger's game for a father to temporarily lose custody of his son.

HT: Why Homeschool. More discussion at the Volokh Conspiracy

The Common Room, who has excellent coverage of the FLDS story, shares an interesting testimonial about CPS here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Changing the Status Quo in Education

Education may become an election issue after all. Jake Tapper at ABC News takes up the issue of school choice with Barack Obama. Here's a tanscript:

TAPPER: You talked about the need to change the status quo in education today.

OBAMA: Right.

TAPPER: But one of the ways that proponents of school choice say that the best way to change the status quo is to give parents, inner-city parents a choice. Why not?

OBAMA: Well, the problem is, is that, you know, although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom. We don't have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.

So what I've said is let's foster competition within the public school system. Let's make sure that charter schools are up and running. Let's make sure that kids who are in failing schools, in local school districts, have an option to go to schools that are doing well.

But what I don't want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools. That's going to make things worse, and we're going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country.

TAPPER: So it would help some kids, but overall it would be bad for the system?

OBAMA: I think it would be overall bad for most kids.
Obama makes it sound as if parents are given the choice to leave the public schools, they'd be getting out in droves, so much so that private schools wouldn't keep up with the increased demand. However, in a free society utitlizing free markets, increased demand will lead to an increase in supply. The reason there aren't more private and parochial schools is due to the government's monopoly on education and the money available to fund them. End the monopoly and introduce true competition and we'd have enough schools to fill the demand.

His comments also make me wonder, if he's elected President, will Obama put his daughters in the DC public schools or enroll them in an elite private school because he can? It also makes me wonder what Obama thinks about parents who opt out of insitutional education completely and choose to homeschool. Is that bad for the system and most kids too?

Monday, June 16, 2008

AWOL Fathers

A few years ago, I posted a small commentary on fathers and asked "Where's Dad?" only to be told by a few that I was "man bashing" because I dared to say that an absent father was a difficult situation for all involved and one which was not unique to just homeschoolers. But alas, I'm not a democrat running for office trying to convince voters that I'm a conservative family man.

Yesterday, in a Fathers Day sermon, presidential candidate Barack Obama had even harsher words to say to fathers, especially black fathers;

"They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it,"
and the same folks who were critical of my thoughts praised Obama's speech saying "parenthood is nonpartisan."

I guess parenthood is nonpartisan as long as a Democrat is doing the talking and proposing the typical democrat solutions. I remember 1992 and firestorm that was created when another policitian talked about the "poverty of values" that included unwed mothers and absent fathers. Only this politician happened to be a Republican, and many saw Vice President Dan Quayle's remarks as an intentional slam against blacks and hispanics.

I'm glad Obama recognizes that fathers play a vital role in our society, but I hope that if he makes it into the White House this will translate into responsible policies which don't encourage the very irresponsibility he speaks so strongly against today. I'm not holding my breath. For the sake of the children, the state seems very willing to take on the parents role.

As a side note, does a man with young children have the time to be a responsible father and an effective campaigner for President of the United States?

(See related article, Outsourcing Parenthood.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Homeschoolers and McCain

While the Homeschool Legal Defense Association waits to see if Obama responds to HSLDA's request not use the name Joshua Generation for their youth outreach, Farris is also lamenting the lack of attention John McCain is giving him and Generation Joshua (GenJ). GenJ was very involved in swing states to re-elect Bush four years ago, but according to Farris,
"We don't feel invested in his [McCain] candidacy and he clearly doesn't feel invested in us."
According to the McCain campaign, they will seek support throughout the evangelical community. "We're not taking that vote for granted," said McCain spokeswoman Crystal Benton. "We will continue our aggressive outreach into the community."

Ignoring conservative homeschoolers wouldn't exactly be a brilliant campaign strategy for McCain, but it wouldn't surprise me. Might it have something to do with the fact that HSLDA-PAC endorsed Huckabee in the primary and Farris publically campaigned for him, but they have not yet endorsed McCain in the general election?

And quite possibly it could be because Huckabee (a bit presumptuously) is claiming to be a man who started a movement and "his Army" is sticking with him to put pressure on McCain to pick him for VP? But given that Huck accepted a comfy spot at Fox, that's looking less likely.

I don't feel invested in John McCain; and quite honestly, a call from McCain to Farris isn't likely to change that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How much is too much freedom?

Should a private school that leases its land from the state be required to submit its curriculum for approval by the state? That's the interesting legal question that will eventually need to be answered after it was discovered that an Islamic school in Fairfax, Virginia was teaching that
"...apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.

The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists."
The textbooks mimic the education typically received in Saudi Arabia. MSNBC is running a poll asking whether this school should be shut down. Currently, there are over 13,000 votes with nearly 69% saying that the school should be shut down. I'd love to know how that breaks down in terms of political ideology - conservative or liberal - and the differing interpretations of the separation of church and state and the First Amendment.

The resolution of this question could have particular importance to homeschoolers (and really all parents) depending on how broadly this is applied. If the state can regulate an Islamic school because they lease public land, could they insist on approving or disapproving what is taught by parents that accept some form of state assistance, whether it be state aid like WIC or participation in a public e-school? Or what about a Christian church that leases a public school for its Sunday service? Are they subject to state approval for what they teach in their Sunday school?

In a related question, should the US reconsider what is "hate speech?" Not surprisingly, there are various opinions,

Anthony Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections "in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism." In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court's insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, disagreed. When times are tough," he said, "there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom."
"Free speech matters because it works," Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

The issue is topical due to a Canadian trial surrounding an article written by Mark Steyn, author of the book America Alone in a Canadian publication, Maclean's. Such articles are protected by the First Amendment in the United States, but Muslims hope that the Canadian government will be sympathetic to their claim that the article amounts to "hate speech." The Ontario Human Rights Commission said, "In Canada, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, nor should it be."

Mark Steyn counters, "The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they're not about facts, they're about feelings....Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

These are interesting cases with profound implications as international law continually affects our judiciary and their decisions on various cases.

HT: Michelle Malkin

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More On Obama -vs- HSLDA

The Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation (HSLDA) has posted a response today to the Generation Joshua/Joshua Generation kerfuffle with the Obama campaign. After identifying the trademarks that HSLDA holds and their various uses of the name Generation Joshua, J. Michael Smith writes,
"After hearing of this possible use of the name "Joshua Generation" by Obama for America, HSLDA's legal counsel promptly sent a letter to the campaign. This letter provided additional notice of HSLDA's federal trademark registrations, explaining that the similarity of the "Joshua Generation Project" name-as used with the proposed activities of the Obama for America campaign-is likely to cause confusion with HSLDA's GENERATION JOSHUA® marks. HSLDA also requested that the campaign promptly refrain from using the "Joshua Generation Project" name or any other name that is confusingly similar to HSLDA’s GENERATION JOSHUA® trademarks. This letter provided several days for the Obama for America campaign
to appropriately process and respond to this request. While HSLDA respects Senator Obama's desire to reach out to young people of faith, HSLDA is hopeful that the Obama for America campaign will respect HSLDA's trademark rights and honor this request. "
HSLDA does not provide the actual letter sent to the Obama campaign or state how many days the Obama campaign has to respond to their request. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eye on Education: What works?

CBS Evening News anchor, Katie Couric, is focusing on education this week in a three-part series, Eye on Education: What works? I received an email from producer, Eric J. Kuhn, telling me their motivation for the shows,

"With an alarmingly low high school graduation rate in this country (particularly in some of our larger cities) the "CBS Evening News" is taking a look this week at some programs designed to turn those bad stats around...and they're working. "
Intrigued that he would be sending a note to a homeschool mom with a graduation rate of 100% (so far), I replied and asked him if the series included a discussion of homeschooling as part of "what's working" in education? He promptly replied and said,

"There is not, but I think it would be really interesting if you brought that perspective into the story, you know? I can tell you that I then pass on your post to our producers and people inside CBS who want to know what others think and start a conversation on these issues."
I will say that any series that focuses on "what's working" in education that doesn't include a discussion on homeschooling is missing an important component of what is really working. Modern homeschooling has changed the landscape of education to the point where many school districts are attempting to mimic their successs with "public school at home" programs.

Tonights broadcast focused on a school in Dallas where according to the email,

"some students are now wearing GPS type devices to help keep them in school. It's an unusual approach that has so far yielded great results. Students click on their GPS device when they get to school and it tracks their every movement throughout the day, also giving them a 9pm curfew to be home."
A GPS would have come in handy when I had many toddlers running around my house, but if a high schooler has to wear a GPS in order to help keep them in school, I'd hardly call that a "success" story in education. It sounds like an expensive babysitter. But that's all I'll say at this point since I attended my children's symphony concert and wasn't able to watch tonight's broadcast.

Mr. Kuhn said he'd be reading, so if you watched the series and have any thoughts about what was said, feel free to share them in the comments section; and if you didn't watch the show, but would like to offer some feedback on why educating a child at home "works" and should have been at least been included, go ahead and share that too. CBS News is listening.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Is Obama taking a cue from HSLDA?


(Note: Post has been updated twice today.)

In an attempt to reach out to young evangelical Christians and Catholics, the Brody File exclusively reports that Barak Obama is set launch the Joshua Generation Project,
"The Joshua Generation project will be the Obama campaign's outreach to young people of faith. There's unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics. The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward."
Reaching out to young voters of any faith isn't anything new for a Presidential campaign; but is it a coincidence or intentional that the name for Obama's evangelical youth outreach program is strikingly similar to the name of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) Generation Joshua with a very similar purpose?

"GenJ gives young people an opportunity to put their knowledge into application by actually participating in election campaigns for those officials who share their views on the proper role of government and especially on issues such as parental rights and religious freedom."
HSLDA's program Generation Joshua has been an influential presence in many state and national campaigns for some time; some credited HSLDA's President Michael Farris and homeschoolers for mobilizing evangelical's in Iowa behind Huckabee and propelling him into the national spotlight.

Obama's Joshua Generation Project is set to launch in two weeks but there doesn't appear to be any presence on the web, which would likely be the primary vehicle for an outreach to young web-savvy voters. A google search turned up nothing and the most obvious URL http://www.joshuageneration.com/ is already taken by a Christian ministry.

In a related story, the NY Times reports today that both McCain and Obama are both attempting to win the support of religious voters. I think it's going to be a tough sell for both men.

UPDATE: Via Jake Tapper at ABC News, Roll Call updates the story with a quote from Michael Farris who plans on challenging Obama's use of the name,
"This is an improper invasion of our trademark and we've retained legal counsel to notify the Obama campaign to stop this," HSLDA's co-founder, chairman, and general counsel, Michael Farris, told Roll Call on Monday morning. The conservative group plans to notify the Obama campaign later today."
And what does the founder and former director of Generation Joshua, Ned Ryun, think about HSLDA suing Obama for infringing on their trademark?
"I started laughing. Sorry, I was there from Day One with GenJ; took the thing from an idea and created a national organization, so I know a little about it. It was five years ago, so I can't be definitive, but I don't think we trademarked the term "Joshua Generation." And at the same time, when the program launched, there was already a Generation Joshua in North Carolina; a local youth group of sorts. I wanted to buy generationjoshua.com off of them, but it didn't pan out. At one point after I started using the term GenJ, I thought maybe we should buy genj.com, and then realized it was already being used by a webzine for Jewish youth. I point all that out to reiterate: hardly an original name. Been around, been used by other people. So I guess Farris can go ahead and sue dozens of organizations, Christians, Jews, Barak Obama, etc. if he wants, but I think there might be a better use of time than that."
So who will blink first?

UPDATE II
: Generation Joshua is indeed a registered trademark of HSLDA. So will HSLDA go after both the Obama and the Christian ministry that use the name Joshua Generation or just Obama?

UPDATE III (6/11):
HSLDA responds.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Please Define "Birthright"

Question: What kind logic concludes that the chance to get a college education is the "birthright" of every American, but the chance to live if a baby survives a late-term abortion is not?

Answer: The twisted logic of Harvard Law School graduate, Barak Obama,

"As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama twice opposed legislation to define as "persons" babies who survive late-term abortions...Mr. Obama said in a speech on the Illinois Senate floor that he could not accept that babies wholly emerged from their mother's wombs are "persons," and thus deserving of equal protection under the Constitution's 14th Amendment."
When a baby is born alive, it is no longer about abortion but infanticide.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not be a privilege for the healthy but the birthright of every American.

Just what is Obama's definition of a "birthright?" After all, the only way that a baby can claim the college education Obama says he's entitled to, is if he's first given the chance to live beyond the first day of his life.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A (Re)Defining Moment

The Declaration of Independence says,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
No where in this text is there a guarantee of a college education, but that's probably because the founders wanted to leave room for the "change we've been waiting for" and the candidacy of Barak Obama.

Obama said in his victory speech, A Defining Moment for Our Nation, "the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America. That's why I'm running for President. "

Pursuing a college degree after high school is one choice among many for an American citizen. From what document does Obama derive the notion that a certain choice is now the "birthright" of all Americans? Obama's "defining moment" appears to be an attempt to "redefine" the foundational truths our country was built upon and shift the obligations and responsiblities of the individual to the federal government.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

NEA Endorses Obama

Why am I not surprised by this endorsement by Reg Weaver, President of the NEA?
"It's now apparent that Senator Obama has secured the necessary number of delegates to win the Democratic nomination," Weaver said. "With such a clear picture of what Senator Obama will do for public education and his commitment to partner with NEA on issues that affect our members across the country, every public school employee needs to get squarely behind the Obama candidacy."
The education platform of Barak Obama is the typical expand and spend rhetoric that most homeschoolers fight against because it increases federal control over all types of education. Obama promotes tracking students' progress to measure readiness for college and work and a requirement that "all schools of education to be accredited." Both of these policies would definitely be a thorn to homeschoolers if enacted.

John McCain's education platform appears to be a bit more general. He does speak quite about school choice for parents, but without providing anything specific he really doesn't say a whole lot. Education doesn't seem to be a priority for him, which could actually be a good thing if he manages to beat Obama.

Actually, education policy doesn't seem to be a big campaign theme this year for any of the candidates. Maybe now that the general election campaign is underway we'll get a better glimpse of what these two men have in mind for our children.

I often learn the most from those that think the least like me; so, if there are any Barak Obama or McCain supporters out there who believe their choice is the best one for homeschoolers, I'd love to hear why. And to the rest of you, I just have to ask,

Has there ever been a more dismal choice for President of the United States?

Update: Barak Obama gave a speech on education recently in Colorado. The title was "What’s Possible For Our Children." Any time a politician starts talking about "our" children I get more than a little nervous. You can read the full text here.

Education Week provides useful analysis of both Obama and McCain. In the summary of McCain, there is a brief mention of homeschooling as one of several education options to promote competition and improve schools.

Beginning Again

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking before a group of both veteran and new homeschool mothers (and one dad) at an end-of-year celebration. For the first time I found myself in both categories; I've recently graduated my first child and I am beginning the journey all over again with my four year old daughter.

I am always thankful for the opportunity to share the trials and triumphs that come from over 19 years of parenting and homeschooling, but now that I'm looking down the road at another 13 years of home education, I think I probably benefit more from the nervous excitement and energy of new homeschool parents than anything they might glean from my experiences. The sparkle of hope and eager anticipation in their eyes rekindle the fire in my own heart to continue to homeschool - even as my words are attempting to encourage them to begin.

Thankfully, there are many other veteran homeschool mothers nudging us forward to begin (or continue) to educate our own. Anne at Holy Experience provides an excellent road map to two new homeschoolers who sought her wisdom and advice. Here's how Anne suggests beginning the journey into Homeschooling:

Authentically. Live your life. Invite your children to join you! Read together. Pray together. Sing together. Work, bake, garden, chore, clean, sew, fix, build together. Don't fabricate artificial demarcation lines between schooling and living. Live a one-piece life. Live holistically.

Joyfully. Explore! Be awed by His World! Restore Wonder! Be a creative, thinking, exuberant person who spills with the joy of learning. Your zest for learning and life will be contagious--the children will catch it!

Curiously.Read, read, read. Fill the house with library books. Play classical music. Post the art of the masters about the house. Go for walks in the woods. Learn a new language, a new culture, a new poem. Everyday set out to discover again, and again, and again. The whole earth is full of His glory! Go seek His face...

Consistently. Consistently read. Consistently pray. Consistently keep the routine. Consistently live an everyday liturgy. Children thrive in routine. So do households. Have hardstops: times that you fully stop to pray, to read, to write. Regardless of what isn't done, what isn't finished. Make a full stop, do the needful thing, then return to meals, laundry, household management. Consistently be consistent.

That's all.

The curriculum doesn't really matter, so much. Use what works for you, how He leads you.Just make it part of your real life, make it a joy, make it all a discovery, and prayerfully make it consistent.

As a mother who is beginning again, the milestones Anne has laid out ring true to my weary veteran heart.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Should Homeschooling Be Illegal?

Under that absurdly inflammatory headline, Parade Magazine is asking their readers if homeschooling parents should be required to have a teaching credential in order to teach their own children. In an online poll motivated by the recent Supreme Court ruling in California, Parade set up the survey by creating a false dilemma in which they quote education author, Richard Kahlenberg,

"If upheld, the California ruling will send shock waves nationwide," says Richard Kahlenberg, the author of a number of books on education. He says the case "pits those who believe parental rights are paramount against those who place a premium on well-educated citizens."
Since when are parental rights and well-educated citizens mutually exclusive? And what exactly is a "well-educated" citizen? Is there really an agreed upon definition?

I once asked Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mike Flannagan, that very question at an education forum about revising graduation requirements in our state. He reluctantly admitted that no one had ever asked him that question before and then stammered out a very ridiculous answer about reading great books and visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was not a very impressive answer for someone charged with the task of overseeing all of Michigan's public school students and making sure they are all "well-educated."

As I have said in a previous post, Why Do We Educate

WHY we educate must be determined before we decide HOW to educate. The public schools have a reason to desire a uniform, "equal" education for its citizens. But an equal education is a fallacy because we will never all have the same educational goal. Thus, what one may call a success another would call a complete failure. This is the great dilemma of the public schools. "Equal education" only works with a uniform goal. A goal which works well for the state but usually leaves the individual out in the cold.

Credentialing is a method of control employed by the state and the teachers union in a supposed attempt to guarantee that all children are "well-educated" and to prevent "educational anarchy." But a quick glance at the graduation rate for the Detroit Public Schools (31.9%) shows it guarantees absolutely nothing, except perhaps increased enrollment in teacher colleges and unions.

If you consider what is being taught to many future teachers by Distinguished Professors of Education such as Bill Ayers, whose "leftist" social justice teachings are considered required reading in many course syllabi, credentialling may actually be a hinderance to many parents' philosophy of education. Incidentally, that's the same Bill Ayers that is good friends with Barak Obama. This makes me wonder where Ayers would feature in an Obama presidency, but that's a blog post for another time.

Currently, the Parade online poll is heavily in favor of homeschooling without a credential. Let them know what you think. Thanks to reader Kay, for sending me the link.

For additional reading on credentialing, Dana at at Principled Discovery considers whether Homeschooling Without Credentials leads to Educational Anarchy.