Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Audacity of Home

Willl Palin's nomination to be McCain's VP escalate the "mommy wars?"

Huffington Post writer Kim Stagliano, and mother of three, wonders if conservatives will accept Palin given her choice to put her career ahead of her family,

"So how does a mother of five children, especially one with special needs, accept the nomination for a job that will put her within a heartbeat of the Presidency and take yet take her away from the five heartbeats of her family for at least four years and still be considered conservative? If she were a Democratic nominee, wouldn't the religious right be attacking her already?

I believe in a woman's right to any career she desires. Yet as a mother of kids whose needs have taken precedence over my career for over a decade, I know the realities of special needs parenting. And I find myself asking a question that makes me feel like Donna Reed: Once you've chosen to have five children, and your infant has special needs, who needs you more, your family or your job? And if I can ask this touchy, old fashioned question, I wonder if conservatives will warm to a woman willing to make such a profound family sacrifice."

Obviously, as a mother who is raising six children instead of climbing the corporate ladder, I think staying at home to raise a family is the best choice and the most rewarding career. Children need their mother. But will conservatives reject Palin simply because she's chosen a different path - that of the working mother? I doubt it, most conservatives were looking for a reason to like McCain and Palin's nomination provides the reason.

Stagliano will be happy to know, however, that not all conservatives are warming to Palin. Vision Forum founder and homeschooling father of eight, Doug Phillips writes,
"I am confident that Mrs. Palin is a delightful, sincere, thoughtful, and capable woman with many commendable virtues. But in fairness, there is nothing "traditional" about mothers of young children becoming career moms, chief magistrates, and leading nations of three hundred million, nor is this pattern the biblical ideal to which young women should aspire."
Phillips links to an article which asks, Should Christians Support a Woman for the Office of Civil Magistrate? and answers with a resounding, no. Phillips is politically active and influential in the conservative homeschool movement, so there will likely be more critics of Palin in the coming months.

The larger question is how can liberal women challenge her decision to go back to work, when they would fully defend her decision to abort any of her babies prior to birth? And if we're supposed to reject Palin on her family choices, what about the Obama family choices?

Let us not forget, it was Obama who was critical of fathers for not being at home with their kids when he was only home ten days last year. Michelle Obama also admitted that her "peace of mind improved" when her mother began to take care of their girls. I feel a little bit like Gloria Steinham asking this: Should women really believe Obama will work for the best interest of the women in this country, when he can't even work in his own home more than ten days a year? Why are liberated women warming to a man who is willing to be so selfish?

If Stagliano expects conservatives to be critical of Palin for choosing to work, then she should also expect liberal women to challenge Obama to step up to the kitchen sink, help his wife, and be a dad. This is after all, 2008. Obama is a man of change. He should be leading the pack and setting the pace for all of the other workaholic, power-hungry, men in America and giving hope to the millions of wives with deadbeat husbands. He could even write a book, The Audacity of Home.

I'm sure this will be discussed in detail in Stagliano's next Huffington Post column.

This may also be of interest: Crunchy Con author and journalist with the Dallas Morning News, Rod Dreher, enthusiastically blogged about Palin's decision to educate her daughter at home using Alaska's IDEA program. One of the requirements is parental involvement, "To participate in our homeschool program, at least one parent/guardian must be in the home actively engaged in the education of the children."

I'm not sure how Palin can be a VP and home educate, I have a hard time keeping up with my kids and my blog! But then again, she probably won't have to do much cooking or cleaning in her new house.

More links from the conservative blogosphere:
Ladies Against Feminism founder, Jennie Chancey, strongly disapproves and asks "Have we completely lost our "righteous resistance?"

Kelly Crawford, decided to talk about Sarah Palin too, "The message is "women can have it all"...and it is a lie, because they can't."

Terry has been thinking so much about this her head hurts. She's still leaning toward McCain despite some reservations about Palin. She's has quite a lively discussion going here, too.

Now that she's had time to think about it, Holly a homeschooling mother of eight, says McCain's pick was a brilliant choice."

Kari says Palin's nomination has "made me take an even closer look at McCain.

I blogged about Palin's choice to homeschool at the Homeschool Blog Awards blog.

Sherry, at Semicolon, looks at Palin's ideas on a few issues and concludes, "For my money, she sounds a heck of a lot better than Joe Biden, and she looks better. too."

Author Bodie Theone wrote a very thought provoking piece about politics, abortion, and leadership. In her opinion, "Sarah Palin is a DEBORAH who says, "We will not accept corruption in our government! We will not discard a precious human life for the sake of ease!"

Classical homeschool author, Doug Wilson, opines "On the level of political strategy, this was absolutely a brilliant move. Not only was it brilliant, it was brilliant on multiple levels." He goes on to say that despite the biblical issues of women in leadership, Palin may be a Deborah.

Surprisingly even the Bayly blog had a nice word for Palin.

Stephanie says, "Wow, what a day for politics!" She thinks McCain's pick might have been a bit "reckless."

I enjoy reading the variety opinions on this nomination. There are certainly many aspects to consider. If you've blogged about it, leave a comment and I'll add it to the post.

More links:

After voting for Ron Paul in the Michigan primary, Sallie, is thinking about putting a McCain/Palin sign in her yard.

Kathy thinks ignorance of the Bible and the Constitution has created the mess we're in today.

Conservative speaker and author, Voddie Baucham, isn't happy and asks "Are Evangelicals thinking on this one, or just following in lockstep behind their fearless Republican leaders?"

Evers Ding thinks we might be asking the wrong questions about Palin. "If I, as a conservative Christian, vote for McCain/Palin, am I truly supporting her personal views on feminism or motherhood? I think not. I am simply saying with my vote that that particular ticket represents the best option for the advancement of a particular political agenda. And in this respect, we find ourselves in agreement with Palin’s positions..."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Worth a second look?

Marc Ambinder asks a fundamental question,

"whether undecided women, weakly partisan Democrats, independent suburban women, women between the ages of 30 and 50, will now take a hard second look at John McCain because of his choice of Sarah Palin.

I think they will."

My daughter, a first time voter, is now excited about voting for McCain. She's been coming into the kitchen as I've been staining my table telling me all about Palin; declaring that once I read about her, I'll like her too. She knows me pretty well, so she's probably correct that I'll like Palin. But will it get me to vote for McCain? I'm not so sure, there's only so much a VP can do.

I have to say, on pure political gamesmanship, this announcement was flawlessly done.

The Deputy Headmistress is excited about the pick, but still unsure about McCain.

Barbara Curtis is pumped up for Palin and links to her acceptance speech.

Fromer VP candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, thinks this makes for a very interesting campaign, some Hillary supporters are pretty excited too.

The buzz this is generating is going to create a few headaches for Team Obama who were hoping everyone would be talking about "The One" this long Labor Day weekend. Here's their reaction,
"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies — that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."
Does Obama, a former community activist, really want to talk about "zero foreign policy experience?" And what's with highlighting the size of her hometown? Palin is a governor now, with an 80% approval rating. What does Obama have against small-town hard working Americans?

Update: The Draft Sarah Palin for VP blog has some fun reading. Interestingly, the author, Adam Brickley, was homeschooled.

The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Campaign U. has a look at Palin and Higher Education. The comments are lively.

Victor Davies Hanson provides ten reasons McCain picked Palin.

America's Promise = Nanny State

The nanny state lives on in Obama's acceptance speech,

"Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and
provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe;
invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper. That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now....

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise."

Do we really need government's "help" to educate our children or protect us from unsafe toys? It's funny, liberals trust us to birth a baby (or choose to abort), but after that we become total incompetents in need of government assistance in order to know how to teach them, feed them, or what toys they should play with.

Obama's words sound less like the American promise of freedom and more like another promise, "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need."

As a Christian, I have an obligation to help my neighbor; but in a free society there is no mandate that I must be my brother's keeper. Greed and selfishness are wrong, but not a crime. Just how does Obama plan on making sure we keep this promise to our brother?

Perhaps when Obama starts taking care of his own brother, who lives in a grass hut in Kenya on a dollar a day, he'll be able to lecture the rest of us on our responsiblity to be our "brother's keeper" a little more convincingly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good Parenting or Abandonment?

Parenting is tough, and some days we say and do things we later regret. But if a parent makes a foolish decision, such as leaving his eleven year old son for a few minutes to calm down and then returns, should he be arrested for child abandonment?

Star-Telegram journalist, David Lieber, is the parent potentially facing those charges for leaving his eleven year old son a few blocks away at a restaurant after an argument. He told the first part of his story in his WatchDog column on August 15.

As a parent, I understand — as do most parents — how our children can say and do things that cause us to react in an emotional way. In our household, we call it "pushing buttons." My 11-year-old son pushed mine pretty hard.

We went out to breakfast the other morning at a restaurant. As soon as he had finished eating, he demanded that we leave. But I wasn’t done. I asked him to please be patient. He refused. I told him, not asked him, to wait. Same response from him. This went on and on and on.

I sent him to another table. I tried to ignore him. But my buttons were pushed. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stormed out of the restaurant and told him to walk the few blocks home.

I got in the car and drove off.

I was gone for several minutes, long enough to calm down. I doubled back to the restaurant to pick him up. By then, two police cars and a small crowd were gathered outside. A caring patron had called the police. My son had given his statement. He explained what he had done. The officer asked if any blows were exchanged. None were.

The police officer gave me a stern lecture about being a responsible parent. He said that it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for something to happen to an unsupervised child. He said, "As a journalist, you know this."

My son apologized to me, and I apologized to him. The officer asked if we were OK to go home. Properly chastened, we were.

All seemed to end well and that should have been the end of the story. Except that on August 27, David Lieber, was arrested on "two probable cause warrants, one for child abandonment with intent to return and the other for child abandonment/endangering a child" Both are felonies. He was released on $4,000 bond while the district attorney determines whether to press charges.

So now making an eleven year old walk three blocks is a felony? I had to walk further than that to my local elementary school when I was six! What has happened to our society that a parent can't take a few minutes to calm down and a child can't be expected to walk home without fearing arrest? Lieber has also been suspended from his writing position at the Star-Telegraph until this case is resolved.

I'm glad the other patrons were concerned about the child, but was calling 911 really necessary? In the "good ol' days", the patrons would have scolded the boy and supported the dad. As my dad often says, "This isn't the same country where I grew up."

(HT: Rob Dreher at Crunchy Con)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pray for the Drews Family

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.1 Corinthians 12:26
The Drews, a dedicated homeschooling family in Texas, are grieving the tragic loss of their three year old son, Christian, a sweet little man of God.
Yes, Jesus has one more sweet little angel to bounce on his knee. Christian, whom Marsha lovingly referred to as Dozer, passed away on Tuesday evening. He was a three year old boy wonder who was so excited to begin school in the coming weeks. He had only been a spectator to his brother's lessons so far but he was a quick learner...
Marsha is wonderful friend and encouragement to many in the blogosphere. Please lift this precious family up to our Lord in prayer. A dedication to Christian and information about ways to help the Drews family is available at Heart of the Matter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Homeschool Market

Dana at Principled Disovery wonders,
"How much the very existence of the “homeschool market” has changed homeschooling."
When I first heard about homeschooling back in 1981, I knew about a handful of curriculum providers. The products seemed expensive and some publishers made it difficult for individual families to purchase their materials. As homeschooling increased in popularity, so did the number of curriculum providers. Many vendors were homeschooling families who couldn't find what they were looking for, so they created it themselves and began to market it to other homeschool families. Realizing the opportunity, many establishers publishers began marketing their school curriculum to homeschoolers as well. The "homeschool market" was born.

And with birth of the market comes the "marketing." Dana points to one company that plays on our insecurities in order to make the sale. Other companies promises better results and higher test scores to get us to look their way. These marketing schemes are annoying because they work. All parents are insecure at times, that includes homeschooling parents. As a result, we all have a few shelves filled with products we're not using and wished we'd never bought. Very different than the homeschool families I first met, who had only a few choices and their shelves were usually lined with books from one vendor with a set of encylopedias nearby.

So, has the homeschool market changed homeschooling? I'd say yes. But despite my own impulse purchases that were sure to be the salvation of my son's spelling problem, the changes aren't all bad.

There are some companies that play on our fears or false promises of great results, but in their attempt to "sell" us something, they are also convincing others who might not otherwise choose to homeschool to jump in and begin to educate their children at home.

A recent news report shows that more blacks are choosing to homeschool and they've created organizations for support and materials to help other minorities choose to home educate as well. That's all good for homeschooling.

There are some vendors and speakers that are a bit annoying in their self-promotion, reminding me more of a televangelist with a bible in one hand and a curriculum catalog in the other, chock full of their books and tapes. But that's the nature of capitalism, people will use any approach necessary to make the sale - even declaring that their method is God's way. Despite their annoyance, they seem to fill need in a certain segment of the homeschool community.

The only vendor that I find most troubling is Uncle Sam. He appeals to homeschoolers by providing all the curriculum without cost, but with a higher price - government control. This is one snake oil salesman all homeschoolers would do well to stay away from. None of us can afford the changes state entrance into the "homeschool market" brings to homeschooling.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Do I think I'm always right?

This question typically comes up every once in a while, especially after a tense discussion. Past topics which prompted it were homeschooling, virtual charters, and Huckabee; the trigger this time was Obama and Infanticide. JJ asked in a comment,
"Spunky, are you honestly so self-satisfied you're objectively right in all your extrapolations and assumptions and judgments and condemnations about Barack Obama, and how disgusting/abhorrent he and his beliefs must be? I've wondered that before, reading your blog.
If you visit here, you know you're going to get strong opinions on a variety of topics. And in the event you missed it in my daily briefings, I said it straight up in my bio.
I believe I am totally right about just about everything I believe. Otherwise I wouldn't believe it. And if you think about it...you do too.
I'm confident but not arrogant. I share what I believe and why. So for example, writing about when I believe life begins isn't above my paygrade and if I think leaving babies alone to die is abhorrent, I'll say so. I hope it encourages and challenges people to further thought. Could I possibly be wrong about what I believe? Sure. I expose my beliefs to challenge myself as well. Patrick Henry said,
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.

If someone makes a compelling argument, backed by Truth, then I'm willing to examine my own beliefs in light of what they share. It's humbling to admit when I'm wrong, but in the long run I'm better for it. I want to be on the side of Truth, not being right.

I read a variety of blogs. I read the blogs of liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, atheists. They all hold strong opinions and believe they are right. It can be helpful to read well written ideas that present a reasonable argument on a given topic. I don't feel judged by any of them. I read what they have to say to get a different perspective and gain clarity on my thoughts. I don't feel threatened by them. I learn what I can and move on.

Aristotle reportedly said,

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Blogs seem to be one of the few places that people can candidly share what they believe and have others comment without being sanitized by "tolerance." So as long as the conversation remains respectful, I'm going to keep believing I'm right about what I believe and writing about it until someone can show me where I'm wrong. So far with Obama and infants born alive, that hasn't happened.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Compelled to Immunize

Who should have the final authority over when or if a child is immunize, the state or the parent?

Many parents, whether you homeschool or not, opt out of all immunizations; others (like us) delay and stagger the shots to minimize any negative side effects. A recent increase in the number of measles cases has many health officials are worried that if parents refuse to immunize their children, the whole community is at risk .

Skeptical of government mandates and leery of feared links to disorders from asthma to autism, parents say they’re exercising their rights to protect their kids from risk. But health officials say there’s no question that the risk of vaccination is far outweighed by the benefits of inoculation, and that those who don’t immunize endanger not only their own kids, but also the collective resistance that keeps everyone else safe, too.

“When more than 10 percent of a community opts out of vaccinations, it leaves the entire community at risk because germs have a greater chance of causing an epidemic,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There is a no national requirement to immunize all children attending school, requirements vary by state; however, there are exemptions. One of the groups that is not required to immunize to enter school are homeschoolers.
Certain vaccinations are recommended for babies from birth on, but they're required nationwide for admission to school, and, in many cases, day care or preschool. Home-schooled children aren't included in the mandate.
This leaves open the question, does the government have the authority to require all parents to immunize their children inorder to protect an entire community against certain diseases? It appears some state officials think so. From the recent California court ruling (PDF), we read,

While parents generally have a parental liberty interest, California also has recognized that the “welfare of a child is a compelling state interest that a state has not only a right, but a duty, to protect.” (In re Marilyn H. (1993) 5 Cal.4th 295, 307.) ...

"As against the state, this parental duty and right is subject to limitation only ‘if it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of the child, or have a potential for significant social burdens.' [Citation.]" (In re Roger S. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 921, 928.)

Does the failure to immunize create a signifcant social burden sufficient to override the parents? There are parents on both sides of the issue. Jennifer Margulis selectively immunizes and rejects the idea that she is putting others at risk,

"People say, ‘You’re putting my kid at risk, but that doesn’t make any sense at all,’” she said. “If the vaccine works, I’m just putting my child at risk."

Vanessa Parker, believes parents like Margulis are "selfish."
"When I say selfish, it’s because of all the other children that could be potentially hurt,"
What do you think, is the greater good of the community sufficient to allow the state to require all parents to immunize their children? We immunize, but I'm uncomfortable with the state requiring parents to do something which the parent believes is dangerous for their own child.

Correction: There is no national requirement to immunize. The requirements to vaccinate vary from state to state. I have updated the article with the changes in red. (Thanks Daryl. If you live in North Carolina, he has some useful information here.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on Obama and Infanticide

Following up on the post Above My Pay Grade?, here's a transcript of Obama on the floor of the Illinois Senate speaking in opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002. Here is what he said:
As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child - however way you want to describe it - is now outside the mother's womb and the doctor continues to think that it's nonviable but there's, let's say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they're not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved.
It's one thing to convince yourself that a baby inside the womb is a "fetus" and therefore "nonviable." However once the baby is born, he/she is no longer a "fetus" but a child deserving all the help that our medical community can offer. But Obama doesn't even want to call the baby a child or call in a second doctor to make sure that this is a live child, which could be saved, because that would be too big a burden on the original decision to end the life. Hear the audio here.

In other words, if a baby is scheduled for an abortion and the baby happens to come out alive, not limp or dead, then they should die because that was the original intent of the procedure. I guess it's not surprising coming from a father who believes that if his own daughters make a mistake he doesn't want them "punished" with a baby.

(HT: Redstate)

Update: For more detailed information see the article, Jill Stanek and the National Right to Life vs. Barack Obama. They provide another quote from Barack Obama refusing to call a baby born alive a child because that would mean that get equal protection under the law,
"Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a nine-month-old — child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it — it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute."
"If this is a child?" What else could a baby born alive possibly be Senator Obama?

College = Success

The idea that I had to go to college to succeed in life was ingrained in me from birth from my father, who was the first one in his family to go to college. But is college really necessary for success? Charles Murray doesn't think so and he's on a mission to change "reality."

"Q: You say the value of the bachelor's degree has eroded.

A: The B.A. is supposed to stand for a classic liberal education. That means having to read and understand some really tough texts. Well, there are lots of kids who are never going to be able to read Aristotle's Ethics and understand it. … You have colleges watering down courses, inflating grades, pretending kids are doing college-level work when they're not. By making a degree something everyone is supposed to want, we punish people who do not get one.

Q: Would you advise someone today not to go for a four-year degree?

A: The B.A., which has become a requirement to get a job interview, often has absolutely nothing to do with what the job requires. (But) the reality in today's world is that having the B.A. makes the difference. We have to change the reality.

I understand and agree with much of what Murray is saying; but changing the reality, if it is even possible, takes a long time while. The reality is, I'm not even sure I've fully accepted the idea that a college degree isn't necessary for my own children.

We've encouraged our children to get a college to further their education, but also with the reality that a bachelor's degree can provide them with more opportunities throughout their lives. But we've also explained to our children that to be successful, they don't need to have a college diploma. I know many successful people who don't have college degrees and I know many graduates with advanced degrees who I wouldn't consider a success in life.

It all depends on a child's goals and definition of success. Practically speaking, my advice to my children is to find something you love to do, do it well, and figure out a way to support yourself and a family doing it. And secretly I hope that includes a college degree, just to be on the safe side.

Is college for everyone? Probably not. But as my children have gotten older, I struggle with the idea that it's not for them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's next?

In my sixth grade autograph book, there is a signature from Mark S. and a comment beside it that reads, "to the girl who always wants to know what is going to happen next." He couldn't have characterized me any better. I hated not knowing what was ahead. I always asked the teacher what she had planned next. What was true then, is even more true today.

I am not a planner for every contingency just the contingency that I know is going to occur. I want to be prepared. However, homeschooling (and the Christian life for that matter) isn't programmed like sixth grade. We can't and won't always know what is to come; but that doesn't mean the outcome is any less certain.

I often find my sixth grade mindset creeping into my 45 year old brain. I fight the urge to want to know what is going to happen next. If I could just fast forward the video and know how this movie ends, then I could just relax, trust the Lord, and enjoy the journey. Sounds simple doesn't it? However, when I read the scripture, that just isn't how God set things up. Paul wrote in Romans 8:24
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
When a birthday is approaching around our house, I will often hear the honored child say, "I hope I get a ...." They are expressing a confident expectation of something good to yet to come. They never hope for what they already have. It is always something new. The expectation gives them energy and enthusiasm which permeates the entire household.

Many of us begin homeschooling with a similar expectation. We start with a burst of enthusiasm and energy that is built around the hope of something good yet to come. But just like a birthday, we don't always get exactly what we want - at least not right away. We start to experience things that don't seem to quite fit the expectation we had in mind. Our confidence begins to falter and our hope wanes. Before we know it, we begin to question the very calling that we were once so enthusiastic about - or at the very least the curriculum we are using.

When this happened to me I wondered whether homeschooling was going to work out for me the same way it had for others. Did I really have what it takes to do the job?The answer is no. I don't have all that it takes to do this job. That's where hope comes in.

We are often reminded to put our faith in God. But we must also put our hope in Him as well. I don't know "what's next?" That is the Lord's to reveal as I put my hope in him. HE began this work in me and our family. He will see it to completion. My hope is in HIM not homeschooling.

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Freebie of the day

If you're not a subscriber to Freebie of the day already, you might want to give it a look. Today's free giveway is "If I Could Do It Over Again..." Thoughts and Advice from Homeschool Families (PDF ebook)

We recently surveyed over 800 homeschooling families about what has worked well and not-so-well for them in their homeschooling activities. We got some remarkable answers from this survey. One of the most intriguing questions we asked was this: “If you could do it over again, what would you change about how you have homeschooled in the past?” We got some great responses to this question, with some tips and suggestions that are well worth considering by both newbie and veteran homeschoolers alike. This ebook is an edited collection of the best of these.
I'm not sure what I'd do over again if I had the chance, but here's an answer that I'm sure many homeschoolers will agree on,
I wouldn't spend so much money on different curriculum. I would find what works, stick with it, and convince myself that my children aren't going to miss out on something else that's out there.
It is so hard not to be tempted by the latest trends, isn't it?

The e-book is only available for free today. But if you missed it, don't panic there will be another great freebie tomorrow. Get all the freebie details here.

Above My Pay Grade?

"We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't end at conception . . . It's the courage to raise a child." Barak Obama (Father's Day June 15,2008)

When lecturing men from the pulpit, Barack Obama recognized that conception makes a man a father with the responsibility to raise a child; but this weekend, he wasn't able to tell Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church that conception makes a baby and deserves protection. He didn't even have the moral courage to say that birth gives a "fetus" protection.

Warren: "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?"

Obama: "Well I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity...uh....you know is...uh....above my pay grade."

What other decisions are "above Obama's pay grade?" We ought to know that too.

If he is uncertain about when a baby deserves Constitutional protection wouldn't he seek to err on the side of caution to ensure he doesn't violate the rights of a human being?

There are only three possible answers to this question, and each one poses a problem for Obama.
a) Conception
b) Some time after conception but before birth
c) After birth

He can't answer "a" because that would mean a baby deserves Constituional protection from conception forward and he supports Roe -vs -Wade.

He can't answer "b" or "c" either because that would mean that the very minimum "birth" is the point at which a baby deserves Consitutional protection. Does a baby born alive deserve Consitutional protection? The answer seems pretty simple. But not for Obama, a Harvard Constitutional law graduate.

Obama's Illinois voting record substantiates that even after birth he would terminate the life if the birth was the result of an induced abortion. While an Illinois Senator, he could have voted for a bill which protected a baby born alive and identical to the one offered by Congress and passed 98-0. But he didn't. Obama said on the floor of the Illinois Senate during one vote,
"the testimony during the committed indicated that one of the key concerns was -- is that there was a method of abortion, an induced abortion, where the fetus or child, as -- as some might describe it, is still temporarily alive outside the womb. And one of the concerens that came out in the testimony was the fact that they were not being properly cared for during that brief period of time that they were still living."
A "fetus or child" as some might describe it, is still temporarily alive outside the womb? Where's the lofty rhetoric speaking about the responsibility of the father and the courage to raise a child? Perhaps Obama believes a baby born alive is only 3/5 a person and therefore does not merit Constitutional protection. These babies, by Illinois law, are issued both a birth and death certificate.

This is a conundrum of his own making. Obama seemed oddly ill prepared for the abortion question that he had to know would come up.


This isn't even the election and Obama's disciples at the NY Times are declaring that McCain cheated. If Obama needs this kind of help just to get through a forum hosted by a church, perhaps President of the United States is above his pay grade.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Only in Detroit...

...does it take 19 days to sell a house with a list price of $1. It sold for $65,000 two years ago. Looters took everything including the kitchen sink and the boards covering the window openings. It cost the bank $10,000 to unload the house and close the deal.

....does the mayor of the city need a judge's permission to take off his tether and attend the Democrat National Convention. If he actually makes it to Denver, I don't think we'll find many more photo ops with Obama.


...Do over 30,000 people get stuck in traffic, on purpose, and call it a "Dream Cruise." There has to be some fun in this depressed town.

Captives in a homeschool

Time Magazine had an interesting comment from, Education and Law instructor, Rachel F. Moran, said who worried about the lack of oversight for homeschoolers in California,

"[T]his series of rulings does indeed provoke some uneasy questions. Right now, all parents have to do is file paperwork stating they are a private school. No one checks in on the students to make sure they are logging in a certain number of hours or passing certain benchmarks. While homeschooling is a "wonderful alternative," Moran says, there is a need for checks and balances. "We want parents to have the freedom to homeschool, but we don't want children to become captives in a homeschool that doesn't prepare them for work or civic engagement as a functioning adult," she says.

In an ideal world, Moran adds, the state should implement a few safeguards. "Hopefully, a way to monitor progress rather than an adversarial reality will be an outgrowth of this decision," she says.

Moran seems to have things a bit backwards. In a free society, the government does not monitor the actions of its citizens nor do we need government approval or oversight to exercise our freedoms. Do I have to fill out paperwork to excerise my freedom to decide what to feed my children or what they wear? The freedom to homeschool and educate our children is not a right granted by the state, but a freedom granted by our Creator from my status as a parent. Moran's comment provokes some uneasy questions.

What "benchmarks" of child development should the state use to measure a child's progress? What legal standard does the state apply to determine whether a child is progressing toward becoming a "functioning adult?" What is the remedy if a child fails a certain benchmark or fails to meet the state's standard for "progress?" What authority does the state possess to subject a parent to its standard over one of their choosing for the education a child?

Does the state have the right to intervene in the parent-child relationship simply because the child fails to meet an arbitrary standard developed by those whose interests may not reflect the interest of the parents?

The natural reaction to such a question is to say that someone needs to "protect the best interest of the child." Attorney and author, Kerry Morgan answers this objection in his book, Real Choice, Real Freedom

"The best interest of the child is secured when the state protects a parent's unalienable right from civil regulation and unwanted private interference, whether philanthropic or otherwise...

Absent the legal destruction of the marital relationship or a lawful adjudication of unfitness based on physical abuse, the civil government is not authorized to act in the "best interest of the child." Absent the existence of such legal disabilities, the "best interest of the child" is always protected by security of the rights of parents to care for and educate their own children. Governmental
interference, however, with the child's education abuses the unalieanble right
of a parent and is contrary to the child's best interest." (p. 47)

The freedom to educate our children is the natural right of the parent given by our Creator not the state. Parenting is not a partnership. The state has no authority to act in the best interest of the child, unless the child becomes a dependent of the state. But that won't stop some people from trying to do exactly that. As much as Moran worries about our children become captives in a homeschool, I worry more about all citizens becoming captives of the state.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another California Ruling

Homescholers who use Christian-based curriculum will want to listen up. While the 2nd California Court of Appeals ruling is getting lots of attention, there is another federal ruling that could cause homeschoolers some headaches;
"A federal judge ruled Friday that the University of California is permitted to reject certain Christian curricula as inadequate for meeting admission requirements.
The University of California (UC) system has decided that high school students who use certain Christian textbooks will not be considered to have taken the requisite courses necessary for admission to the University."
The disputed curricula includes textbooks from two of the largest publishers of materials to homeschoolers, Bob Jones and Abeka. How this ruling affects homeschool admissions into the university remains uncertain. But if texts used by a Christian school are rejected, the same textbooks used in a homeschool environment seem likely to be rejected.
"Jennifer Monk, the plaintiff's lawyer, condemned the decision as a threat to the religious freedom of Christian education. "It appears that UC is attempting to secularize private religious schools," she said. "Science courses from a religious perspective are not approved . . . if it comes from certain publishers or from a religious perspective, UC simply denies them."
The case will be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and could go to the California Supreme Court. I first blogged about this case in August of 2005 and then again in February of 2006. Stay tuned, but it may be a while before this is finally resolved.

Text of the ruling is here. (PDF)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Forced to Volunteer?

I wrote a while back about Obama's plan to require middle and high school students to "volunteer" 50 hours a year. Well, Obama hasn't even accepted the nomination and he's already forcing people to work volunteer for him.

The DNC previously announced that they were opening up the convention to the public and offering free tickets to Obama's speech. Nancy Pelosi, convention chair, said, "We are delighted to be able to open the doors of the convention to the public on this historic night," But it was a bait and switch maneuver. It turns out the DNC wasn't really offering tickets for free, they were providing them in exchange for "volunteering" to work for the Obama campaign.
"I got a call that if I want the tickets I have to volunteer two shifts of three hours apiece -- for one ticket. If I want two tickets, then it's four shifts of two hours apiece," said Berenice Christensen.
I guess Michelle Obama was serious in February when she said, "Barack Obama will require you to work." If Obama makes supporters work 6 hours just to hear him speak, I shudder to think what he will require of McCain voters if he actually gets elected! Will Obama make Congress "volunteer" in order to hear him hear him give the State of the Union too? And how many hours did the Germans put in to hear in give his "historic" speech to the citizens of the world?

Team Obama isn't even owning up to their own arrogance. (Not that I expected them to. ) Instead, they are blaming the volunteers and user error!

The Obama campaign insists that volunteering is not a requirement to get a ticket.

They said those who were told they must volunteer must have clicked on the opt-in button for "all-star seating" when they signed up for the tickets. If you click that button, then you are required to volunteer, but you get a better seat.

Nice way to insult your most loyal supporters. But according to one volunteer it's not just the confusion over tickets, the whole Colorado office is in disarray.

Loring Abeyta, from Denver, wrote, "I just read your article... about the confusion regarding tickets to Obama's speech, and the situation is worse than you reported. I went to the Campaign for Change office last Friday evening to earn three hours of credit toward my "All Star Credentials," and it was nothing but confusion. I went to one meeting where I thought I would earn my volunteer credit, and learned that I had gone to the wrong meeting and had not earned credit. When I told the volunteer coordinator how unhappy I was about spending my evening at the campaign office for nothing, she had nothing to say -- not even an apology for the confusion. It is utter disarray in that office and they have alienated me as a volunteer."

Abeyta's letter goes on to say, "The problem got worse today when I got three phone calls from three different people at the Obama campaign office asking me to bring food for the staff. I had signed up to donate snacks, but I didn't realize I was supposed to feed the whole staff. Just thought you'd want to know that the problem goes way beyond just the confusion about the tickets. I have no idea how Obama can win Colorado when the campaign office is such a disaster."

Fundraising must be really off if they make the volunteers feed the staff and bring snacks. How cheap! Where's their compassion for the common working man who puts in an eight hour day and goes straight to the campaign office after work? One supporter fumed, "My whole reason why I'm so mad about it is because Democrats need to act like Democrats...It's not fair. It's elitist. And they need to practice what they're preaching," Silly woman they are! Don't be mad, this is the change Obama wants you to believe in!

If Team Obama can't even be honest to supporters about tickets to a convention, do we really trust him with the country?

But of course the DNC has bigger worries than how poorly they treat their supporters. No, not the Russian invasion. This is even bigger. Apparently, there are not enough limos for attendees to ride around Denver. Just in case you're wondering, a limo gets 13 miles to the gallon in the city. Hey, maybe Obama can force every politician, media starlet, and dignitary to ride around Denver in a Prius or not be allowed into the convention and give free limo rides to the loyal volunteers.

Now that would be a change worth tuning in to watch.

(HT: Michelle Malkin)

Homeschooling...Now what?

The LA Times Blog asked some fundamental questions now that homeschooling has been declared a "private school" in California.

But few people paid attention to the second part of the court's decision last Friday, which is that home schooling isn't an absolute right, simply an accepted form of "private school," as it's been interpreted by the state Department of Education. Keeping kids safe from abuse and neglect is more important than home schooling, the court said....

"but the question is, how do we best give home schoolers the freedom to teach their kids, while making sure that children actually do get an education -- and, give those children some access to outsiders so that we know they're OK? Should the Legislature officially legalize home schools, but also invoke some light regulations, like home visits, or requiring some evidence that the children have been learning? Or do we figure that these cases are so rare, we should just let it go?"
Because the California court did not recognize an "absolute right" to homeschool, these are questions that lawmakers and California homeschoolers will have to settle.

The anxiety over protecting "unwatched" children from parental abuse and neglect is fast becoming the new reason to bring additional regulations upon homeschoolers in other states as well. Michigan homeschoolers dealt with the same issue in our legislature earlier this year. (See Truancy and Parental Rights.) Michigan, unlike California recognizes the "natural and fundamental rights" of the parent to direct the education of their children." The difference between natural and fundamental is significant when discussing parental rights.

Kerry Morgan, a homeschooling father and Michigan attorney, has written an excellent article, A Constitutional Amendment to Support Parental Rights? that explains the difference between a "natural and a fundamental right."

"A “fundamental” parental right can be burdened, abridged, or hindered by the state whenever the state can establish a compelling governmental interest. Clearly, a “fundamental” parent right is not much protection against the state legislature....

Parents have the right to direct the education of their own child. This right is not “fundamental.” We have something better than fundamental rights. We have been given an unalienable right. It is unalienable because it is given to parents by God. It is not a privilege granted by the legislature or the people themselves through an amendment process. In the exercise of their natural and unalienable right, parents are free from Federal or State interference, regulation and control. While parents discharge their parental rights within these limits, they are, by the law of God, exempt from interference both from the individual and from society. If they exceed these limits, however, and go beyond education into physically harming their children, they are not exempt from civil punishment.

As a homeschooler I'm thankful for the groups that are available to help us legally; however, we should not completely rely on outside groups to represent your interests as a parent who home educates before your own state legislature. As homeschoolers, we'd better learn and be prepared to provide an articulate response to calls for legislative oversight, or we may be facing "light regulations, like home visits" in order to prove we're teaching and not neglecting our children.

It's times like these when I wish I went to law school.

(HT: Daryl)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obama on Education Reform

David Freddosso at National Review Online looks at Obama's claim of being an education reformer against his strong ties to the Chicago Teachers Union in his article, 'They Wanted More School'.
"Obama has acquired an undeserved reputation for reform in education because he offers very mild rhetoric about a merit-pay program for teachers. Even here, though, he takes all of the teeth out of the idea by promising his allies that the measure of "merit" will not be determined by objective student achievement - "arbitrary tests" - but by some yet-undiscovered measure to be chosen by teachers' unions. It is the rough equivalent of President Bush developing a plan for oil prices in conjunction with Saudi sheiks or Exxon executives...

In The Audacity of Hope, he writes of CTU and the other unions whom he counts as allies: "I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away. I don't consider this corrupting in any way...

Like the other special interests who have invested in Obama, the CTU knows
he can be trusted never to seek real reform. He is a reliable partner who does not rock the boat."
The Chicago Teachers Union does not appear to be a fan of home education, even when the parent is using a public online charter school.

"There will be no P.E., art and music," said Chicago Teachers Union president Marilyn Stewart.

The Chicago Teachers Union says children need the classroom.

"You can't sit a child in front of a computer and expect him to learn things he needs to succeed in society," Stewart said.

Obama's candidacy soared on mantra of change, but there won't be much of that if Obama believes he "owes" the unions.

Freddosso's column is one of my favorites at NRO and this article definitely makes me want to read his book, The Case Against Barack Obama.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More On California

On Friday, the Second Appellate Court of California determined that parents do not need a teaching credential in order to homeschool their children. This is widely considered a landmark case and a definite victory for homeschoolers in California. However, after reading the court opinion, the case has left some some lingering doubts about what may be ahead for California homeschoolers.

In June, when the court proceedings took place, Presiding Justice Joan Demsey said,

"All of you recognize the issues before us are monumental, We're as frustrated as you are."
At the time, Judge Demsey did not elaborate on the source of her frustration; however, the court opinion (PDF) provides some additional clues.

It is important to recognize that it is not for us to consider, as a matter of policy, whether home schooling should be permitted in California. That job is for the Legislature. It is not the duty of the courts to make the law; we endeavor to interpret it. (Cf. In re Marriage Cases (2008) 43 Cal.4th 757, 780.)

Our first task, interpreting the law of California, is made more difficult in this case by legislative inaction...

The principle question before the court was whether a home school can be considered a private school....It appears that the statutory language, standing alone, is ambiguous.
The court clearly appeared frustrated with the ambiguous language and legislative inaction. Despite this obstacle, the court somehow concluded that since the legislature has acted as if homeschooling were permitted, "that home schools may constitute private schools."

The court opinion also discussed the "Constitutionality of of the Restrictions on Home Schooling" and found no absolute right to homeschool.

In this case, the dependency court declined to consider whether sending Jonathan and Mary Grace to public or traditional private school was necessary to preserve their safety because it believed that parents possess an absolute constitutional right to home school. This is incorrect; no such absolute right to home school exists. Instead, as we now discuss, parents possess a constitutional liberty interest in directing the education of their children, but the right must yield to state interests in certain circumstances. (p. 35)
Under what circumstances must a parent yield to state interests?

The court appeared to accept the argument that in cases of a dependent child (a ward of the court), the safety of the child cannot be guaranteed when the child is shielded from all mandated reporters of child abuse.

While parents generally have a parental liberty interest, California also has recognized that the “welfare of a child is a compelling state interest that a state has not only a right, but a duty, to protect.” (In re Marilyn H. (1993) 5 Cal.4th 295, 307.) ...

"As against the state, this parental duty and right is subject to limitation only ‘if it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of the child, or have a potential for significant social burdens.' [Citation.]" (In re Roger S. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 921, 928.)
Educators are mandated reporters and are believed to provide an "extra layer of protection" for the child. Therefore, the court concluded that the rights of the parents to home educate can be overridden and the dependent child sent to school.

The court did not address the potential restrictions the state could place upon "fit" parents or what parental decisions could have have a "potential for significant social burdens." That leaves open the real possibility that there may be other circumstances, besides health or safety, when the state can over ride the parents' constitutional rights. Does the "compelling interest of the state" permit a "fit" parents decision to homeschool without state oversight? That court did not have the responsibility to answser that question and put it back on legislatures to decide.

In the conclusion, the court once again expressed their frustration with the legislature's inaction with regard to homeschool regulation. They provided a brief summary of what is being done in other states and cited the "absence of objective criteria and oversight for homeschooling."
4. California Has Few Express Limitations on Home Schooling

We close with an observation that the fact that home schooling is permitted in California as the result of implicit legislative recognition rather than explicit legislative action has resulted in a near absence of objective criteria and oversight for home schooling. Given the state’s compelling interest in educating all of its children (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 1), and the absence of an express statutory and regulatory framework for home schooling in California, additional clarity in this area of the law would be helpful. (p. 44)
Will the legislature take the bait and begin to move toward a law specifically addressing homeschooling? That would be unfortunate, and no doubt with California's homeschool network a bitter battle to engage in.

For now, all is quiet again in California and homeschoolers can continue to educate their children at home. But only time will tell if the battle is really over or if legislatures will decide to clarify the law for the benefit of the judges but at the expense of homeschoolers.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Thomas Jefferson

Others blogging about the court ruling,
NHELD has issued a statement about the ruling, here's a brief portion.
"The bottom line is this: The requirement existed that credentialed tutors were required, the practice existed that parents homeschooled without having credentials as tutors, the Legislature and state agencies accepted the practice despite the law, the Court recognized this occurred and concluded that because it occurred, the practice was accepted despite the existence of the law. More importantly, the Court held that despite the Constitutional rights of parents to the upbringing and education of their children, the state can override that right.
Illinois Review has some additional thoughts and links.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

America is no longer what it once was

In answering a seven year old school girl's question about why he wants to be President, Obama said, "America is ..., uh, is no longer, uh ... what it could be, what it once was. And I say to myself, I don’t want that future for my children."





I'd love to ask Obama at what point in history were we a better nation and when did we fall? What period of greatness is he seeking to restore? At our founding, blacks were slaves. So I doubt that could be what he meant. Or maybe it was when the slaves were liberated, right after the Civil War. But there was still economic disparities, racial tensions, and civil unrest that lasted long into the twentieth century. Perhaps Obama meant when Bill Clinton was in office, before George Bush screwed it all up. But if that were true, then he should have campaigned for Hillary not run against her! It can't even in the last for forty years, because according to Michelle Obama, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."

What model of greatness does the candidate of hope and change want to bring into our future?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Good News for CA Homeschoolers

A California court upheld the right of parents to homeschool their children without a teaching credential. From the Mercury News,

"A three-judge panel overturned a lower-court order in February that had created an uproar among home-schooling parents when it required the credentialing. An estimated 166,000 California children are home schooled.

The Second District appellate court in Los Angeles ruled that individual parents, like private schools, are exempt from the requirement that those who teach children be credentialed by the state."

California Homeschool Network has more details,
Today's court ruling held that (1) California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education; and (2) the statutory permission to home school may constitutionally be overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared a dependent. Homeschooling, therefore, remains a legal educational option in California.
This is indeed good news for California's homschool families who can now begin the school year without this added worry.

The court ruling, Jonathan L. v Superior Court, is here. PDF (HT. Michelle Malkin who also linked back to me. Thanks Michelle!)

The Pacific Justice Institute and Homeschool Legal Defense Association have issued statements as well.

For an interesting mix of reactions from the general public (or atleast those willing to comment), read the comments section of the San Francisco Chronicle. It's amazing about how many people are "pro-choice" until it comes to educating children. If the natural right of the parents to direct the education of their children is abridged, what authority do parents in the life of their children? It all becomes subjective and up to the state to determine what is in the best interest of the child. It is rulings like this that demonstrates the importance of solid judges on the bench.

I haven't been able to open the PDF file of the court's opinion, but Dana at Principled Discovery provided this quote from the court ruling:
"Because the United States Supreme Court has held that parents possess a constitutional right to direct the education of their children, it argued that any restriction on home schooling is a violation of this constitutional right. We disagree. We conclude that an order requiring a dependent child to attend school outside the home in order to protect that child's safety is not an unconstitutional violation of the parents' right to direct the education of their children."
Update: After reading the court opinion, the court definitely has some concerns about unrestricted homeschooling in California. I wrote an updated post, More On California.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What are living books?

Another back-to-homeschool question. Reader Kim emailed and asked,

I read on your blog something about textbooks, and that we are basically boring our kids to death. What is a living book? I desperately want to break out of the "curriculum/textbook" mode but don't really know how to do that. I have been using Bob Jones for a couple years now. I really like BJU, they are very thorough. However, I recently realized just how much BJU is geared towards a classroom setting. It is a published curriculum for schools and teachers to use, it just happens to be used by a lot of home schoolers as well.

So, my question is....what kinds of curriculums are out there that are geared specifically for the home educator, not based on a class full of kids and having to teach lessons everyday in every subject.I guess I am looking for something that is easier for me to manage with my two kids, but just as comprehensive as a school program. I obviously don't want to slack in their education.

I first heard of the term "living books" while reading the Charlotte Mason series on education. (Available online here.) Mason encouraged parents to allow their children to read books of excellent literary value that inform and inspire a child's mind. She rejected as "twaddle" books that talk down to the reader or "dumb down" the subject discussed. Mason had little use for textbooks as a method of instruction.

Textbooks inform and are more comprehensive in scope, but not many people enjoy them and even fewer remember what they read after the test. In part, because the material is presented in short dry segments where most of the "thinking" has already been done for the reader. That's not to say that textbooks have no value. They do. But they are geared to a classroom where the children must all "be on the same page" both literally and figuratively with little room for thoughtful imagination or exploration. Mason's purpose for reading a book was was not simply to digest information but to foster noble ideas. Living books accomplish that goal.

The advantage of a living book is that it is usually written by someone who has a heart for the subject, often with first hand knowledge or experience. For example, reading the Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boon would be considered a "living book" about the Holocaust and World War II; a Bob Jones history text covering the 1900's would likely discuss concentration camps, Hitler, Germany, and perhaps contain a paragraph on Corrie Ten Boom, but it would not have the same impact on the reader as reading her biography.

Renee Meloche, author of over 20 children's books and a dear friend, summarized the inspiration "living books" provide this way,
Stories are some of the most powerful and influential things a child will ever encounter. Children should hear good stories, positive stories, and inspiring stories. Stories help children learn what it means to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. When the stories are true-about real people and real life-children should hear them more than once. They should hear them again and again, reinforcing the positive messages and incorporating them into their own character. I know from experience that the right story, at the right time, can literally change the course of a young child’s life. They’ve changed mine.
If you want to break out of the "textbook" mode and make your children's learning inspiring and memorable, there are a few curriculums that can help make that task easier. Depending on your budget, they can cost little, if you use the library as your primary source, or more if you buy every book.

Here are some places to get you started for general curriculum,

Ambleside Online (free online curriclum with a Charlotte Mason approach)
Tapestry of Grace (History and literature using literature in a classical style.)
Sonlight (History, literature, science using living books.)

Here are a few more recommendations for "living books" with a specific focus along with links to the author's blog.
A Child's Geography series by Ann Voskamp and Tonia Peckover
Exploring Creation science series by Jeanne Fulbright.
Christian Heros for Young Readers by Rene Meloche
The Christian Logic series by the Bluedorns

Here are a few websites that talk more indepth about living books.
Karen Andreola's sites Charlotte Mason and Homeschool Highlights.
Catherine Levinson's site, A Charlotte Mason Education is a very informative.
Melissa Wiley author of some of the Little House books is also a homeschool mom who endeavors to use living books with her family. Her blog, Here in the Bonny Glen, is a great resource (and just plain fun.)

The benefit of reading living books is multiplied when read aloud as a family. This week, I finished reading the French comedy Tartuffe by Moliere to my children. When the play began, both the children and I were uncertain if we would enjoy it. However, by the time we reached the last scene, we were all anxious to know how it would end for the hypocrite Tartuffe and his benefactor, Orgon. For our family of teenagers, who can be easily swayed by first impressions, this was definitely the right story at the right time. The story and the moral lesson will not be easily forgotten by any of us.

Finally, God's Word, is the best example of a "living book" available. Each word is carefully crafted by our Creator to instruct and inspire us to thought and to change our lives in accordance with His will.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)

Our goal for the books we read to our children should be similar, even if the books themselves are not perfect.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Seven secrets for a highly effective year

While the political pros and pundits are debating whether tire inflation affects global oil supply, many of us are debating more mundane matters like math and phonics programs and whether this is the year to "just say no" to buying anything new and use what we already have on our shelves.

Even though I've been homeschooling for over 15 years, I find myself having many "first times" this year.

This is the first time I have three children taking college classes and I don't have any control over their start day or their daily schedules. It's September 4.

This is the first time we are participating in a homeschool co-op with over 30 other families.

This is the first time I find myself a bit more anxious about how everything (and everyone) is going to work together and do what needs to be done. Climbing Mt. Homeschooling is challenging. Thank God for an understanding husband and Starbucks.

So for the second time, I'm posting my "secrets to a highly effective year" as a reminder mostly to myself, but maybe it will help others who are also feeling anxious about the upcoming year. I updated a few points with some new thoughts.

1. Begin when you're ready, not when the calendar says it's time to start. Just because the calendar says it's September doesn't mean you must begin. A week or two of extra preparation to organize things may be just the ticket for a more peaceful year. And around here, the fall is just too gorgeous to spend indoors. (I'm trying to keep this in mind for my younger three children who are not bound by the college calendar.)

2. Start with prayer. Commit your days to the Lord and be sensitve to His leading for each day. We have our plans, but He also has His. Make sure they match.

3. Talk to to your children, not just at them. It's easy to move into "drill mode" and forget that these are your children and you're their mother. A mom who constantly tells her children to "just go and do..." will eventually raise children that will want to "just go and do" anything to get out of their mom's way.

4. Be content in the moment. When you're doing an activity, whether it be reading a book to the children, sitting down for a well deserved rest time, or folding laundry don't allow yourself to become anxious about all the other things you could be doing or haven't gotten done. Trust that they'll get done soon enough and enjoy the moment.

5. Respect your children. They have thoughts and feelings too, take time to listen to them. Value their opinion and they will value yours. Respect their time. If they're really enjoying something, don't rush to the next activity just to cross it off the list. (I have found this to be so important with my teens, especially my boys.)

6. Smile. Lots and lots of smiles. They're free and they do so much for the mood in the house. When momma's happy, everyone's happy. Here's a post to help you put on a grin today.

7. Teach your children how to resolve conflict on their own. The post Help! There's a Bully in My House is how we taught our children. It has made our home a lot more peaceful. (This training has been a Godsend to our family now that we are all older and the habit of working out conflict in place. )

As I was posting this my fifteen year old son read the title and said, "Did you think of those seven things today, because we haven't had a highly effective year yet!"

And to that I say, that there's a first time for everything; so maybe this our year.

If you have any more thoughts to encourage others as they being another academic year, feel free to add them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Logic of Parenting

At the Classical Conversations parents practicum on Saturday, in the middle of the first session, I had a "light bulb" moment. I suddenly realized that I had missed the logic of parenting. I don't mean that parenting defies logic; although, that is also true. I missed the logic of parenting in classical terms. Let me try to explain.

The speaker was reviewing the three stages of classical education: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric and how they build upon each other to develop a well-educated mind.

The grammar stage is when basic facts and vocabulary are learned for later retrival. The speaker likened this stage to a filling the shelves of a grocery store with products. From a Christian perspective, the bible refers to this as knowledge.

The dialectic, often called the logic stage, is when ideas are synthesized and reconciled. This stage would be similar to following a basic recipe or model to learn how the facts fit together. The bible calls this understanding.

The rhetoric stage is the ability to correctly apply and effectively communicate the ideas. This stage was likened to creating a new recipe book. The bible would call this wisdom.

It was as the speaker was explaining why all three stages are necessary that I finally realized why parenting is difficult for me and probably many others. The logic was missing. I was taught the "grammar" of parenting. Basic facts like how to become a parent, what is a toddler, what is a teen, and how to avoid becoming a parent too early but that was about it. I guess it was just assumed that I would avoid becoming a parent too soon and that when I became a mom I would magically know how to handle a whiney toddler, or a challenging teen.

When I gave birth to my first child, I graduated from the grammar stage and moved directly into the the rhetoric stage of parenting. Out of necessity, I had to learn what to do quickly. I gleaned what I could from a book or a friend and then began applying apply it, without the benefit of understanding if what I was doing was the right approach for our family. I became increasingly frustrated, all because I missed the "logic stage" of parenting in my formal education.

I was never given the opportunity to reconcile various competing ideas and understand how parenting (and adulthood) works. Why? Because I was educated in a system where education consisted of academic subjects and other areas were sidelined. I practiced balancing alegbraic equations not creating a balanced home life. My education trained me to manage IBM but not a household.

Home education allows a child to move through all three stages of learning in both academic and non academic subjects, and not miss the vital stage - logic - in any of them. Over the years, my children moved from toddlerhood to learning how to parent a toddler. As young adults learning at home, they are in the "logic stage" of parenting (and adulthood) that I missed because I was educated in an environment where this was not practical.

Their passage through the logic phase has given them a better understanding in a variety of challenging situations; so that when they are parents themselves, the rhetoric stage, they will have the wisdom to know how to parent their own children. They have had the benefit of "practice sessions" for the situations they will face, but where the consequences of their mistakes not too costly. They will have a better understanding of how to potty train, cook dinner, when to call the doctor, and how to resolve basic conflicts. In essence, home education has allowed them to learn live as adults and parent responsibly.

That doesn't mean my children will parent perfectly. No one does. God's grace is available to cover our mistakes. But hopefully they will not be surprised by the challenges and struggles like I was and forced to learn on the job. It is my hope that home education provides them with the logic of parenting that I missed so they can walk in greater understanding and wisdom.

I see signs of that happening already. The other day, my four year old daughter told me that things are going to be a lot different when she's the mommy. I certainly hope so.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The One

So far, this is the best ad for displaying the lofty, vacuous campaign rhetoric of Barack Obama,


The Obama campaign said the ad was a "juvenile" attempt to distract from the key issues. That's a ludicrous charge. Any one who says "A light will shine down from somewhere. You will have a light upon you. You will experience an epiphany and you will say to yourself, I have to vote for Barack." has set himself up as the annointed one and the central issue of the campaign.

Meanwhile, there are some who are making a valiant attempt to make education, not Obama, the a central issue in this election. There are two competing proposals vying for the candidate's attention. Both proposals are from a more liberal political perspective and could potentially divide two key Democrat consituencies, civil-rights leaders and teachers unions.

The first initiative, Education Equality Project, is co-chaired by civil rights leader Al Sharpton and Joe Klein, Chancellor of New York schools. As the name suggests, the group's mission is to bring equity to education and closing the achievement gap, especially Latino and African-American children by calling for teacher accountability and maximizing parental choice. They have outlined ten core principles, number eight spotlights the hypocrisy of policy makers,
"Breaking through those forces requires the rest of us to declare that enough is enough. Our failure to educate our children reflects on all of us. We must call out policymakers who would never send their own children to so many of our public schools but who enthusiastically support policies that entrap other families in such hopeless circumstances."
The Educational Equality Project's proposal has earned the endorsement of notable Democrat and Republican politicians, including John McCain. They plan to be a vocal presence at both the Democrat and Republican national conventions.

The Economic Policy Insitute recently introduced their own education intitiative, A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. Their mission is to broaden the defintion of school beyond formal academics in order to "weaken the link between social and economic disadvantage and low student achievement." The group emphasizes the federal government's obligation in addressing a broad spectrum of social issues including: early childhood education, healthcare, and how students spend their time outside of school.
A body of research has shown that much of the achievement gap is rooted in what occurs outside of formal schooling. By and large, low-income students learn as rapidly as more-privileged peers during the hours spent in school. Where they lose ground,though, is in their lack of participation in learning activities during after-school hours and summer vacations. Such findings suggest that policy makers should increase investments in areas such as longer school days, after-school and summer programs, and school-to-work programs with demonstrated track records.
The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education task force also includes both Democrat and Republicans, including one of Obama's key education advisors, Linda Darling-Hammond. However, Obama has not endorsed either proposal.
An adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said the presumptive Democratic nominee agreed with the goal underlying both statements that schools need to improve for all children, but that the candidate didn’t state a preference for one approach or the other.
The proposals are very different, but not stating a preference is probably a good political strategy. If he endorses one over the other then he risks alienating supporters.

Many African-Americans are looking for real choices in education. They aren't likely to move away from Barack Obama, but the educational rift emerging among the left in education policy could be a potental thorn in his side and a real test of his political skills. In the end, Obama may prefer "juvenile" ads comparing him to Moses than "issue" ads comparing policies on education.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Classical Communications

Congratulations to my dear sister who just gave birth to her eighth child, Eden Joy. That now makes 24 neices and nephews in my family, all of which are homeschooled. We're becoming our own support group! Yesterday, I spent the day visiting my sister and her busy family. Her oldest is only 15 and my sister doesn't look much older than that herself. She's a blessed woman and I'm glad she's my sister.

I've enjoyed this summer tremendously, but I know fall is coming fast. Today, I'm off to Classical Conversations one-day parent practicum in Toledo for a bit of motivation of and inspiration to put me in academic mode. The guest speaker is Leah Bromen
Leah will discuss Leigh Bortin's new book, Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education, and present how we can successfully recover the "tools
of learning" for ourselves and our children.
I met the people from Classical Conversations at a homeschool convention in Columbus and enjoyed their selection of materials. Kelly, the accidental homeschooler, is also a fan of their materials. It should be a fun day.

The Carnival of Homeschooling Boy Scout Edition is up at Consent of the Governed if you're looking for motivation and inspiration for your homeschool.